The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Reconnection


One of the "gigs" I find myself in lately is working at the airport...

I pause to allow you, dear reader, to be a tiny bit envious. I don't blame you at all - Honestly, I do an internal happy dance every time I get to use the phrase, "I work at the airport."

**Woo hoo!!**

See? There I go again.

As someone who really does get geeked at the opportunity to hang around an airport, there are a number of sights that I don't think I'll ever grow tired of...

-- The glow of lights on the landing field - since I work nights, I get to see them every time I arrive.

-- Lights in the control tower as I walk toward the terminal. Again, I get to see them every night.

(I'd really really REALLY love to get into the tower sometime, but I don't think that'll ever happen - I don't even think the "I'm a newbie and got lost" excuse would work, let alone the "What do you mean this isn't the bathroom"? excuse. Either of those would probably lead to me getting an ever-so polite talking to by the fine and friendly folks in the blue uniforms with the shiny badges...

Ain't nobody got time for that.)

Back to the sights I see...

-- Looking at planes going up, coming down, and parking at the gates.

(Did I mention that I get geeked about being at airports? I did? Good...)

(I'm going to ask my boss if there's any chance I could also train to work on the ramp - I want to be one of the cool kids in the reflective vests with the magic glow sticks of authority that have the power to steer a big ol' plane nose onto a little mark on the concrete.

That'd be fun. Also might induce slight moisture in one's neither regions - this would, after all, be a big ol' plane nose, heading STRAIGHT FOR YOU. 

**Woo hoo!!**

But with great power comes great responsibility - no making the plane do donuts or something just to see if the crew would actually do it. Bad Calbert. Very VERY bad Calbert.

Besides, I think the pilots would just run my sorry hiney over, and rightfully so.)

(Did I mention that I get geeked about being at airports? I did? Oops - my bad.)

One more sight at the airport that I don't think I'll ever get tired of: Watching people. Watching passengers as they disembark - sure. Although at the hours I work, the look on their faces is usually something like, "FINALLY!!" It's still worth watching, but let's face it - by the time they pass by little ol' me, they're rung out and ready for their jammies.

But the folks I especially like to watch are the people who are waiting for someone to arrive. It's always changing, from men and women waiting to catch sight of their beloved coming around the curve of the exit, to groups of folks waiting for someone to return from far away. Sometimes they're a bit wrung out too, having been shoved into extra innings when the plane they're waiting for gets delayed for an hour... or two...

That all seems to melt away though, when whoever they're waiting for comes around the bend and into their line of sight.

(And don't even get me started about how teary I get when one of the amazing men or women of the armed forces comes home... *sniff sniff*)

They hold signs, they bring flowers, or they greet their loved one with the biggest hug imaginable. Children run to mom or dad, families wrap their arms around grandparents, and friends have long looks into each other's eyes as they measure the time since they last saw each other.

They reconnect.

And I ponder this:

When I'm apart from those I love, even for a short time, am I as overjoyed to see them as someone waiting for a passenger?

I often say, and yea verily I still say, that my beloved's smile lights up the room for me.

-But-

Do I remember to tell her that?

Or do I let the ho-hum routine of each day take that away from me? Do I fail to bask in the brightness of that smile, because the daily grind has ground me down?

Too often, all that passes between us when I see her is a simple "Hi." Then a "Hi" back. We get in the car, we drive home. We carry our stuff in from the car, the way we do almost every single day. We may chat a little, or talk about something we need to do. I might chatter about my day, or she might chatter about hers.

But, if I'm honest, far too often we don't reconnect - not like folks waiting at the airport. And I think I lose something along the way because I don't make the effort to show her my absolute joy at being with her once again.

So, am I the only one who might get ground down with the daily routine like this?

No?

I didn't think so - we all miss so many opportunities to reconnect.

There's another example of reconnecting in our own home - our beloved BekaV. And she never, ever gets bogged down in the daily grind. She doesn't even know what a "grind" is - all she knows is that she's a dog and she's totally geeked to be one.

(Did I mention that I get geeked about being at airports? Twice? Only twice? You got off easy...)

Every time we've been away and she's been in her pen, (It doesn't matter if it was an hour or all day...) she has her little ritual of reconnection... She comes out of the pen, usually to me first, and ducks her head, rubbing it along my legs, pressing into me with those ridonkulously strong legs hard enough to knock me over if I'm not careful. She wants me to touch her, to hug her and pet her.

Then she runs to my beloved for the same treatment.

Then back to me.

Then back to her.

Then back to me where I mention that she should go outside with momma, and she finally runs full-tilt to the door, where momma has been patiently waiting.

Now, if she didn't get enough affection, she'll sometimes run back to me for one more cuddle, and then I'll get her going toward the door. She finally goes out, and the ritual is completed.

- Except -

When she comes back in, she's not quite done with me. She'll run in, come find me, and do more head ducking until she's satisfied.

Thus endeth the ritual of reconnection. Amen. Woof woof.

So, let me add to my ponderable thingie:

When I'm apart from those I love, even for a short time, I should be as overjoyed to see them as someone waiting for a passenger coming in after a long flight.

OR as a certain fur-clad cuddleball, wanting to duck her head, get some lovin' and try to knock me over with her powerful legs.

Yeah. That.

So, the next time I've been away from my beloved, I'll run up to her, bump my head into her knees, and almost knock her over with my (not-so) powerful legs.

Wait - something about that doesn't seem right...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron

When a file meets metal, some beautiful things can result...

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

"Iron sharpens iron" can be the productive work of a file in the hands of a jeweler, or it can be the destructive work of two swords clashing, producing only sparks and damaged blades.

There is a signal that Vicki can give me when necessary - and it's likely that she could do it right in front of you and you'd totally not catch it.

(And no, it's not a swift kick under the table. You've watched too many old comedies.)

The signal is to let me know that I might be getting too excited, or too "into" something, and might be allowing my emotional balance to slip. It's not a slap, not a "Stop it!" or even a "Dude - dial it back!" It's simply a gentle encouragement to be aware, to assess, and to dial it back if I find that the balance is indeed off.

How do I know that's exactly what it means? Or that she's not saying something more forceful when she gives me The Signal?

Because we decided what the signal means when I gave her permission to assist me in that way.

(And don't confuse The Signal with The Look - bane of all husbands everywhere, capable of burning one right through their eye sockets all the way down to their shoes.
*shudder*)

There's another signal that I share with those that I trust and love, again giving them permission to assist me.

When and if I see The Signal, from those few I have trusted with it, I know that my response must be one of gratitude, as I take stock of my emotions and regain control.

And it takes a lot of love and trust to open yourself up that way, so that your reaction to even subtle correction isn't like a spoiled, tired toddler in the cereal aisle. 

*WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!*

Yeah. That.

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

I notice something here right away - It's not just any random person who gets to come along and start scraping along on me - it's a friend. 

In the over 4 years now since my surgery and my ReBirth, the support of so many people has mean more to us than we could ever express. The way they've joined us in giving praise to God for this amazing gift has carried us through all the tough stuff and straight into absolute gratitude. Their enthusiasm, care, concern, questions, astonishment and open-handed support have kept us on this new path with great joy.

- But -

With the best intentions, some folks turn into the Plate Police.

They don't mean to, I'm sure - they're excited about my new life, and they want to see me live into this and not go back. And they've probably either heard the stories or known someone who had "the surgery," and then regained all the weight or ended up heavier than they were before the surgery, and are now sicker than they ever were before.

So, because they know or have heard of those people, they intensely want to make sure their friend Calbert doesn't end up that way.

Enter the Plate Police.

And I enter the goldfish bowl - my intake, my existence, my choices become open to public scrutiny.

And that's hard to live with.

They do this with the best intentions, usually quietly, simply observing, but sometimes asking piercing little questions. ("Can you really eat that?" "Isn't that going to make you sick?" "I thought fat was bad for you... that really doesn't hurt you?") It's all intended to help, to remind me to stick to what I'm doing, but the problem is they haven't been given the green light to help in that way.

Those stories they know about others that have had "the surgery?" It could be one of a number of procedures - and each one has a different maintenance plan. What I'm eating at any moment? It's all a matter of the balance for the whole day, not just one meal. Quantity? It depends on what I've eaten so far that day, how far off or behind I am on my protein balance, and what I'm doing after the meal I'm eating - sometimes I overload on protein because it's going to be a long time before I can take more in, and this will help me get through.

And yes, there are procedures where one must live a low or non-fat diet for the rest of their life. But that's not the case for a DS patient - in fact, I have to have a certain amount of fat to keep my system functioning correctly. I have to practice moderation, just as everyone does, but a little handy fact helps: Of the fat I take in, about 80% of it passes straight through.

Yes, that does tick off some of my fellow surgery patients who have to live non-fat for the rest of their lives. It also ticks off some of the "non-altered" humans who know me. 

Let me state one more time how much I appreciate the support from friends and family. Vicki and I can't thank you enough.

But sometimes the only way iron can sharpen iron is when it's in the hands of a close friend. A friend whose been given "permission" to wield the file, polish the metal, and help to refine who and what I am. 

So saddlepals, consider this:

To be given permission to speak into someone's life, to help them see their blind spots or to challenge them in their walk is a gift - a gift that comes with great responsibility, that isn't given lightly, and that is earned way, way before it's given.

It's the result of walking together deeply, intimately, and with great love. It's a byproduct of loving one another, not a perk of being a Jesus follower. And it's not lightly given. To open yourself to that kind of input from someone else takes a lot of trust, knowing that their heart is one of love.

And it's usually a two-way street, knowing that as they speak into your life, they trust you to speak into theirs. After all...

As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reassurance From Looking Back


Sometimes, when we're struggling to accept our own value and worth as bearers of Imago Dei and dearly loved children of our Father, a look back will change things.

Lemmie 'splain.

I'm a musician, so a big piece of my creative life is found in the pursuit of creating and performing music. 2 CDs of my own, playing on a number of others, part of the worship team at 1st Cov, as well as one of the organists - yeah, music is a big piece of my creative life.

A really big piece.

With fluffy topping.

But no sprinkles - that'd be silly. 

When someone close to us made a low-key, offhanded comment, they really didn't know how deep of a hit to my core that was. I don't know if they had inventoried just how few of my CDs had actually sold, or were basing this comment on the fact that I still didn't seem to be working, providing income, taking care of my family, or otherwise justifying my existence. Whatever - they were prompted to speak.

And thus they spake:

"So... I guess you're not going to be making any more CDs."

(And yes, the host would say at the point, "Ooh - sorry. That wasn't in the form of a question.")

So, with that one statement that they did spake, lo my Ship of Battle was struck broadside, and verily did sink.

"C (for Calbert) 32.5."  *pause for counting all the heck the way over to 32, then seeing that the little thing was indeed jammed onto the space between 32 and 33* "Hit." *sigh.*

I guess putting my train transport on P-9 3/4 was a dead giveaway...

No, I'm not blaming the total tailspin in my musical world (and losing a lot of my creative output) on this one little comment. Nothing in the world is as simple as that. It's just how gestalt** tends to work - a little something here, a little something there, a pile of CDs over here, no one coming to a coffeehouse gig there, etc. The whole weighs a lot more than the sum of the parts - it weighs enough to sink a battleship.

And slowly, things shut down. I stopped planning the new CDs (the hymn series), even thought I already had laid it out to four CDs, and had some arrangements slotted for each of them; I shelved the next Christmas album; and basically I walked away from creating my own music and finding places to perform it, just playing the occasional gig that shows up.

The biggie - at those few gigs I stumble across, I don't play many of the songs that I put on my first CD. In other words, I stopped playing my own music.

This, then, indicates a problem.

Forward by a couple of years...

As the music world continues to turn, the idea of digital single releases comes into reality - being able to release not only an album, but singles digitally, avoiding some of the expense involved in producing a entire CD at once, and having it printed.

That can result in being able to release new music frequently, instead of waiting years (and years) for a whole new project, thus helping build your audience and spread the word about your music.

Unfortunately, that can also result in the music sounding like it was made in your back room, without taking the time to be refined, polished, and generally made presentable for public consumption.

Ain't nobody got time for that...

It was always my intent to do a second Christmas album, called "Christmastide." My "WhistleWonder: The Carols of Christmas" album about Advent - the time leading up to Christmas, and "Christmastide" was intended to be more of a celebration of the day itself. So the other day, I listened through the cuts that exist for that project - either as sketches or as full songs, thinking about the possibility of releasing some singles for the Christmas season.

And, with all modesty intended, the following thought thunked its way through my head...

"Some of these thingies are pretty darn good."

If you know me at all, you understand how unusual it is for me to say something like that about my own music. If you don't know me at all, well...

First - Hi, I'm Cal.

Second - my attitude about my own giftedness can be summed up in my life statement:

Never Believe Your Own Press Releases.

So, for me to find good, yea even joy, in listening to something I created? Pretty astounding. Pretty darn astounding. Pretty darn honkin' astounding.

With sprinkles. Who cares if it's silly - it's worth it, dadgumit.

So this thought that thunked in my head opened a little window, let a little light into a dark place I had closed off, and reminded me that I am gifted, that God gave me these gifts for a purpose, and I really do love using those gifts to make refrigerator art for my Daddy.

If I'm able to polish some of those nuggets in time, I'll get them out through my connection with Loudr, and you better believe my 4.78 peeps that read the blog will not only know about it first, but get a little special somethin' before anybody else - because you guys ride this ride with me. And I loves ya more than my luggage. (That's a quote from the Pioneer Woman - by the way, Ree, I'm still looking for that invite sometime to come play for your peeps there in Oklahoma. A man's got to dream, right?)

So here's the thing we can all carry home:

We can sometimes find affirmation, reassurance, or at least some hope from looking back.

(This, by the way, is why you hear me say a lot about "raising stones" - putting up those reminders of where God has shown up in undeniable ways.)

We can (and should) raise stones of places or times where we were so in His arms that the world seemed to go away for a while...

Where we found such peace and delight that we were free to make refrigerator art without any inhibitions and bring them to our Daddy, saying "Look what I made for YOU!!", seeing His delighted smile when He takes our finger painting and sees a masterpiece...

Like a couple of CDs, for example - "Angelica's Waltz," an album about restoration right on the heels of being laid off and having the wrecking ball take everything out from under me; and "WhistleWonder: The Carols of Christmas," expressing a deep love of Advent, and the need to prepare for the King's arrival all year long. They're a couple examples of my finger painting, hung on His refrigerator with joy. Regardless of how many I've sold, or how many people know about me because of them, the main point is they are expressions of love for my Father, and that's all they need to be.

So, my dear ones...

Feeling like your ship got blown out of the water? Having trouble seeing yourself as the wondrous, gifted bearer of the Image that you are? Forgotten that our Father loves His kiddos, and He loves it when they make refrigerator art for Him?

Take a look over your shoulder. Look where your Daddy has moved. And look at those times where you held up something less-than-perfect but filled with love, and said "Look what I made for YOU!"

Remember His delighted smile. And go create.

** Gestalt - "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Beka Is SO Weird (A Humorous Interlude)


The following scenario plays out pretty much every time a certain furry critter in our house gets her hungry on. And it's something she's done since she became a part of our family...

So, here's the drill...

She wanders over to her pen, browses through the various things in there, like some sheets she can toss around or lay on, a couple of toys she can chew on, her water bowl (always an important part of her daily requirements), and then peruses the bowl o' kibble.

*hmmm...*

She'll sniff around the bowl, analyzing the kibbley fragrance therein, then gently reach in, pick up a few nuggets of kibble goodness...

And bring them out to the rug in front of my chair, munching them there.

If things are up to m'lady's usual standards, she'll head back into the pen and proceed with the rest of the meal.

If she's unsure, she'll head back into the pen, pick up a few more nuggets of kibble goodness, bring them back out to the rug in front of my chair, and once again sample the kibble du jour.

After the second tasting, the possible outcomes could include:

Another sampling o' kibble; A final decision to commit and munch down the bowl (and yes, I do mean that literally - she'll down the kibble, belch thunderously, and grab her bowl to fling around...); Or, she could decide that she's not really in the mood for kibble, whereupon she'll grab some of those sheets I mentioned and bury her bowl under them.

We've never had a dog who had such a complicated process in place to decide things in matters of the munchies. I'm not sure if it's the Ibizan Hound equivalent of casting lots, or the doggie version of the Urim and Thummim, or... um...

No clue. I got nuttin'.

But none of our previous dogs have engaged in such a complicated ritual...

Two of them were certified Hoovers - put the bowl down, doggie proceeds to suck up the kibbley goodness, hopefully taking time to chew at least a little.

(The second of those, Ezzie the Wonder Dog, had to have some help to slow her down - a bowl with obstructions she had to dig around, or a kibble ball she had to bat around to get the food out of. She still horfed the stuff down in an alarmingly rapid fashion. Ah well.)

The one between the Hoovers, Kira (our Husky, and absolutely momma's girl...) was a slow and dainty eater, totally on her terms and her schedule.

So no, we've never really had one like Beka. The whole "take a taste test, then consider what to do next" thing is all new to us.

And really weird.

Where did she learn this? What inner calling or instinct led her to pretend she's at Costco on a super Saturday sample day, "where kids eat free always?"

I'm sure that I'll never know.

(Don't laugh - I know someone whose idea of taking the kids out to eat was just that - hit the samples, hit 'em multiple times, and repeat until the kids are full. Really really REALLY embarrassing... and I wasn't even there. Just heard the tales afterward. *shudder*)

Although I don't think that dogs have immortal souls, I'd be delighted to be wrong about that and meet up with Beka someday where the lion and lamb lay down together.

And I'd be even more delighted if the Narnia model turned out to be true and we could talk with our furry friends.

And I'd ask her, "What the HECK was that all about??"

Now THAT would be heavenly.

I've been trying to think of a spiritual application for this whole bundle of fluffy... other than "Taste and see that the Lord is good," that is.

So far, nuttin'.

And maybe that's alright. Sometimes we can just observe the oddities around us that make us wonder, and leave it at that. We can ponder the quirks and craziness, the weird and wonderful, and simply sit back and smile. No deeper meaning needed - just enjoy the little things  reminding us that God has a really great sense of humor.

Oh - watch out for the kibble burp. It'll arrive about 30 seconds after the kibble goes bye bye. Yowza.

And if you value your sanity (And sense of smell - or so I've been told, since I'm incapable of experiencing the full impact...), DON'T be standing behind her when she goes into a full-length stretch. Trust me on this, my peeps. *shudder* Trust me.

Just stand back (Well away from the stern...), wonder, smile, and enjoy God's weird world.

Sometimes that's enough.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You - Follow Me


When I have nothing better to crab about, I'll mutter to my beloved that "I shouldn't bother with this writing crap, since nobody reads it anyway. Besides, everybody writes, everybody blogs, and everybody and their distant relatives is working on a book. So why bother?"

And I'm finally starting to get it through my thick noggin that all that negativity, spewed out with extreme prejudice, is harmful to my beloved. It may (or may not) provide me some relief, via "venting," but it's pretty much a soto voce stream of negative that gathers in her personage and festers.

So it's all well and good (or not) for me to launch that poopy out there, but it's not good (or extremely not) for her. And since I really do love my beloved more than myself (or at least am trying to), I need to head that stuff off before it blasts out my pie hole and smacks her.

All of this has nothing to do with anything I'm thinking about in this present post-thingie, but it's still true... Just not related to this.

And yet...

No. Not really.

On we go...

Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, “Master, what's going to happen to him?”

Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you? You—follow Me.”
John 21:20-22 (MSG)

The last words of Jesus to Peter... "You - follow Me."

Calbert says, "Master, if I write all this stuff including fluffy silliness, weird humor, and occasional insights that You interject ('cause I sure can't take credit for the good stuff...), what good is it if nobody reads it? If nobody comments or Likes it or Shares it, or nuttin'?"

And the Master says, "What's that to you? You - follow Me."

Calbert says, "Master, why would you ask me to write? It brings no income to our household, it doesn't give me a good answer to the question, 'So, what do you do?', and it causes a bit of eye-rolling (granted, mostly internal eye-rolling) when I respond, 'I'm a writer.' Then comes the whole,'So, what do you write?', and I say, 'Um, fluffy goodness? But... I'm working on a book." (insert more eye-rolling) And then, 'Oh - what kind of book?', and I say, 'Well... it's kind of my story, about how I've been ReBorn.' (insert sound of crickets and silence), so... what about all that, huh? What about that, Master?"

And the Master says, "Dude - that was a run-on sentence the likes of which would have made Paul scratch his head and weep with confusion. Let's simplify...

You - follow Me."

And Calbert says, "Well, what about...?"

And the Master says, "Which part of 'You - follow Me' was unclear?..."

(insert sound of Calbert slapping his hand over his mouth)

"Better. By the way, just to tie something up from what you were thinking about back at the start of this thingie, spewing all those negative thoughts and comments not only messes with your beloved's head (who, by the way, is My dearly loved daughter, and I'm not really delighted when you do that to her...), but it's really bad for your head, and it takes your eyes off the one and only thing that matters... Which is?..."

And Calbert, removing his hand from over his mouth, mutters quietly, "Me - follow You."

"Bingo."

(For the record, I'm not one of those who imagine the Master with blonde hair and blue eyes, but I do imagine dialogue with Him sounds a lot like dialogue in my own voice and manner of speech. I'm fancy like that.)

So, my dears, can I ask you something?

How do you feel when nobody seems to see your hard work, but everybody fawns all over someone else's little effort?

"You - follow Me."

What commentary comes to your lips when some personage makes the "Bonehead of the Month" move right in front of you on the highway, causing you to slam on brakes, almost get crunched, and put every nerve in your body on edge? Especially when they continue on, oblivious to the chaos they just heaped on your plate?

"You - follow Me."

What about the loneliness that comes from feeling like everybody else is "in," and you're "out." You're not only a square peg, but the round hole has been filled in with concrete and is now used as a skate park. You're on the outside, and you can't look in - you can only imagine what wonderful things are going on in there, and you're not invited.

"You - follow Me."

You struggle - physical struggles, mental struggles, financial struggles, or just struggling to hold on to a little hope, a little light in a very dark world. And you seem to be surrounded by people who live totally perfect lives - no issues, no struggles, no darkness. Just light and hope and life.

"You - follow Me."

Is that easy? Is it too simplistic of an answer to our complicated brokenness? Are we trying to apply a gauze pad to a missing limb?

It can certainly seem that way.

- But -

The more you practice it, the more you press into it, the more you accept it as the only reality that makes sense, the more it becomes the only reality that makes sense.

It's freedom in three little words.

It takes off the chains, removes envy from the equation, reminds us all that we are all equally blessed and all equally broken. It becomes hope in the dark, love in our loneliness, and a lifeline when there doesn't seem to be one.

Three little life-changing words...

"You - follow Me."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Entry-Level Attitude



So, here we go again...

I am once again wading into the turbulent waters of part-time employment. Lord help us all.

And, as He seems to take great pleasure in doing, God led me to one job, only to throw in a sharp left turn at the interview, putting me in a different job at the same place that seems to fit me better.

He's fancy like that.

And as the paperwork gets going, uniforms get ordered, and my lengthy tainted background is scrutinized, I think about work...

(About that "tainted background" comment: I kid, I jest, I make a funny... really. No need for anybody who's reading this in connection with a background check to think I'm anything but what I seem to be - slightly quirky, with a weird sense of humor, but totally harmless. Really.)

It's an "entry-level" job, paying a little more than minimum wage. Perhaps not as many hours as I would have hoped, but it's a start. And it leaves some windows to find a second job to fill things in a bit more, or to sell all sorts of stuff and dial our house and life back to better proportions. It also leaves room to write, create, and pursue some of the other "things" God seems to call me to.

Again, He's fancy like that.

So, as I think about another "entry-level" job in my mid-fifties, whereas many of those in a generation before me were well-settled in their careers and the only dramatic change they anticipated involved retirement and a pension, (Not so for this boy and his "nomadic career path" - I really love that description of my journey thus far...) I've arrived at a bit of a revelation:

Having an "entry-level" job doesn't make you an "entry-level" employee.

(Note: I didn't say it was a profound revelation. Nor a groundbreaking revelation, a dramatic revelation, or even a startling revelation. I'm a simple man, and simple stuff is revelation enough for me.)

You can excel, you can shine, you can reflect your Creator at any job, anytime, anywhere.

("Anytime, Anywhere" happens to be a pretty awesome song by Sarah Brightman... And since it's based on Albinoni's Adagio, which happens to be one of my favorite pieces, the awesomeness is twofold...

But the Proofreader doesn't let me listen to that piece too often - the Albinoni, not Sarah Brightman - it may cause weeping, could trigger depression, or result in Calbert being even weirder than he usually is.

Ain't nobody got time for that...)

This rambling line of thinking was shaped in part by our pastor, who shared a story from How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Gill. Now, I'm not "A Son of Privilege," and I'm part of the Biggby Nation, but still - I saw some dots to connect, and found myself on this train of thought.

More like a boxcar, actually.

One that could easily be pulled behind the Little Engine That Could.

Without making him break a sweat, that is. Or oil. Or whatever it is that Little Engines break out in.

Anyway...

The jobs I seem to be able to get these days are considered entry-level - they usually don't require experience, don't bring a lot of bacon to the table, and tend to have a bit of turnover.

The reason I seem to live at this level in this season of life?

Because in the two areas that, for me, could be called "career paths," (if you have a particularly broad definition and view of that term...) one is in music (performance, not teaching or anything else that would be practical and marketable...); and the other is in broadcasting (radio, actually). But if I were chasing my radio dreams, I'd either be told that my voice is too Winnie-The-Pooh-esque to work in mainstream radio, or I'd be doing a typical radio lifestyle, moving from station to station and town to town - a lot. (For a pretty clear reference on this, listen to Harry Chapin's "W-O-L-D." Way too accurate description of radio life.)

Actually, in this modern age, it's more likely that I simply wouldn't get hired, since only people with astonishing voices get hired, and ship their voice tracking over to whatever station hired them without ever setting foot in the building. If you have a great voice, you can be on many stations at the same time, through the modern miracles of digital audio and technology. And you can make some pretty good coin in the process. Sort of.

If you don't have a great voice, well, that's where we get back to the point of this fluffy goodness...

Entry-level jobs, then, seem to be my gigs in these latter days of my life.

-But-

That doesn't mean I'm an entry-level employee. After all, this ain't my first rodeo... Not by any stretch of the imagination. Even my imagination, and that IS saying something.

No, I'm one of those older folks working an entry-level job, thus denying poor suffering little high school students the opportunity to get their first job experiences, or suffering little college students the opportunity to buy Ramen noodles. Sorry, kids - I got a mortgage, you don't. End of story.

And truly, so far in my entry-level career wandering, the jobs I've had aren't ones that somebody who's on their first time around the block would tend to get. Being a Systems Monitor (my previous gig) may pay minimum wage, but the job requirements demand that you bring a lot more than that to the party. (Including a flack jacket, especially when entering the pharmacy. But I digress...)

My new job calls for integrity, attention to detail, and a willingness to deal with crabby people late at night, sometimes telling them things that they don't want to hear at the end of a long day of travel, and to still remember they are Image bearers, worthy of love and respect. Again, an entry-level job requiring a more-than-entry-level attitude.

So, in the light of that truth, I raise this stone to help me remember:

I may have a so-called "entry-level" job, but that doesn't mean I'm an entry-level employee.

And by rising above "entry-level," I give glory to the One who lifts me above entry-level in all areas of my life.

Entry-level? No - I'm exactly at the level my Father wants me to be at, right here, right now.

(The cynic in me really wants to insert a comment here, to kind of balance the Polyanna-esque vibe of that last statement... It was almost too "bright and cheery" to be something I said, let alone actually believe.

And yet, I can't - I said it, and I believe it.

"He who dealt it shall smelt it."

There. Balance has been restored to the Force...)

Let me say it again, since I do actually believe it - I'm exactly at the level my Father wants me to be at, right here, right now.

And that's enough.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Remarkable

Riding around Mackinac Island. Pretty remarkable...

I've allowed my life to become unremarkable.

*insert cricket sounds, as most of my 4.78 readers think, "I never really thought of his life as 'remarkable,' so really, nothing lost there...*

And yet, my peeps, there was a time when I thought my life was indeed remarkable. When the potential seemed endless, the possibilities boundless, and the future was so bright, I had to wear...

Something.

It was remarkable. And I allowed it to slip away.

"Oh great - it's going to be another one of those 'I'm so sad, I've let everything slip away, oh poor sad miserable me' posts. Lovely. Time to click over to some puppy videos..."

Hang with me, puppy peeps...

This isn't a "I'm so sad, so miserable, so wretched" post, but rather a "Hey - wait one crab kickin' minute! What happened? The awesome was right here just a little while ago - where the heck did it go? I'm gonna saddle up, ride that awesomeness down, hogtie it and drag its sorry hiney back here, dadgumit!" post. 

Now you're excited, aren't you?

Meesa too.

So, a little background comin' at ya, to help y'all understand why I suddenly seem to be waking up from a deep, awesome-free slumber.

I owe it all to The Animal.

As usual here on this little collection of fluffy goodness known as The Whistler's Wonderings, I make up fanciful names to refer to real honest-to-goodness folks roaming around in my odd existence. Probably not necessary - since I have 4.78 readers, I'm pretty aware of who they all are, and that none of them are members of the Creepy Stalker or Those Who Know Them club, so anybody I mention on this thing has little to worry about from paparazzi or other lower life forms...

Except for spiders. And you're on your own with them, my peeps. *shudder*

Anyway, I change the names just on the odd chance that a member of the CSoTWKT club does sneak into our merry readership, and then engage in the aformentioned-but-not-really-mentioned stalking thing.

Where was I?

Oh, right - The Animal, who has a remarkable life. How do I know that?

Stalking.

Just kidding. Really. No need for any sort of legal action or anything. Nope. Nothing creepy here.

Anyway, The Animal is a friend of mine, and looking through their images/videos/media on *insert name of social media site* is like watching a National Geographic documentary on high speed in your own personal IMAX theater with the volume on "11."

Wow. The Remarkable hath been brung.

Not to reveal details, but the list of images/video/media may or may not include: Dogs, water, a chrome gazing ball, snow, horses, bonfires, smiling personbeings, Smurfs, fish, selfies, tans, inspirational scenery, twins, whooping bottom and taking names, pineapples, shellfish, trees, Oompa Loompas, things being eaten, babies, cardboard, distant places, more selfies, outrageous stunts, random personbeings, energy drinks, cans of *processed meat product*, strange facial expressions, more fish, and a guy named Lars.

Note: that list began with the phrase "may or may not." Take that to heart, my peeps.

"Wow," sayeth I once again. Strong in the awesome is The Animal.

Now, exposure to that kind of remarkable can propel a personbeing in one of two directions:

1) Absolute despair at the mundane, useless level of your existence.

2) Absolute indignation at the amount of awesome sauce you've allowed to get flushed down the biffy of your existence.

Or, put another way, you either get depressed or fierce.

I've tried depressed - it rots.

So I think I'll take fierce for a spin, and see how it rides.

When I was in the first year after my surgery, when the weight was dropping off at the rate of around 6-8 pounds a week and I was seeing the light outside of my prison cell for the first time in my life, I decided to pursue some things that could be called "remarkable."

Like...

- Traveling Route 66

- Riding the lakeshore trail in Chicago, or at least the trail that crosses the drawbridge in Grand Haven

- Playing mini golf

- Taking Tai Chi classes, and becoming a "practicer" of Tai Chi, doing it long enough and well enough that I could justify someday owning an "official" Tai Chi outfit - probably in silky blue

- Riding long distances on my trike, perhaps even doing a half century or (*gasp*) a full century, getting fit and fast enough to justify getting a fast road trike, to really haul tushy down the trail

- Walking around the Museum of Science and Industry under my own power, instead of in a wheelchair
- ...Or the Shedd Aquarium
- ...Or the Field Museum
- ...Or just about anyplace else in Chi-Town

- Going to Disney World / EPCOT / whatever-else-the-heck-they-got-going-on-down-there

- Walking around Festival in Grand Rapids... haven't been back since June 2010, when I still had to use the wheelchair. After that day, it went down into the basement and hasn't been out since.

- Taking walks, playing outside, and just generally doing adventurous stuff with my Beloved
- ... And with my dog
- ... And with both random and not-so-random personbeings all over the place

- Working out, maybe lifting some weights, and getting fit... a little... sort of... at least, as fit as a saggy 50-something can achieve without extensive plastic surgery...

- Snowshoes, and the legs to use them

- Doing the DalMac bike ride, from Lansing to Mackinaw City, including riding across the Mighty Mac!

The list goes on, but note - thats a decent amount of remarkable right there, dagnabit. And honestly, if you look through my images/videos/media on *insert name of social media site*, you definitely will see a little of the remarkable.

Really, if you look at my "Before March 30, 2010" pictures and my "After March 30, 2010" pictures, there is an abundance of remarkable.

-But-

It's not enough. Not nearly enough.

I've allowed a couple of years of "remarkable" to turn into "unremarkable," and slide toward "pretty mundane," landing squarely in the land of "meh."

As I said, I'm going for "fierce" this time around, instead of "depressed." And the last thing I want to do with my ReBorn life is to let it all flush away into the land of "meh."

Or Ohio.

So this remarkable list of stalled awesomeness is challenging me to get off my formerly-huge-now-primarily-saggy hiney and get back to chasing the remarkable.

So, I shall chase. I shall pursue. I shall generate my own list that may or may not include a guy named Lars. And all it took was a nudge from The Animal, delivered via *insert name of social media site.*

Of course, if The Animal delivered that nudge in person, it would leave a mark. And bruises. And perhaps a need for triage...

'cause The Animal is fancy like that...

And remarkable.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Lesson From 106

Sunrise over Lake Huron. Magnificent.

As in, Psalm 106...

"They traded the Glory for a cheap piece of sculpture—a grass-chewing bull! They forgot God, their very own Savior, who turned things around in Egypt..."
Psalms 106:20-21 (MSG)

"They worshiped their idols, were caught in the trap of idols. They sacrificed their sons and daughters at the altars of demon gods."
Psalms 106:36-37 (MSG)

I am ridiculously short-sighted.

Not nearsighted - ok, a little in my right eye, but mostly astigmatism is how I roll - but definitely short-sighted.

I can't seem to keep the bigger picture, the long view, in sight. I almost always choose the smaller, the immediate, the "right here in front of me, right now," instead of choosing those things that don't make me feel all fuzzy and happy right now, but have great rewards in the near, distant, or way-the-heck-out-there future.

Short-sighted.

Dave Ramsey says that being an adult is having the ability to delay gratification toward a long-term goal.

Anybody who knows me knows that I are a child. Totally.

I'm getting better, especially here in Life 2.0. I'm learning that the long-term is so much better than the "now," making for a more joyful life and reducing the amount of whining about the widgets, doo-dads, and other crapola that I've surrounded myself with over the years.

*sigh*

So yeah, I have no finger to point at those who threw over the glory of God for some dumb cow statue. The ones who denied the power of God that brought them out of Egypt and through the sea, and instead set their eyes on the golden widget, doo-dad, thingie that was right in front of them.

How much wonder have I thrown over at the altar (cash register) of a big ol' electronics store, craft store, music store, or *insert name of your favorite consumer house of worship here,* totally forgetting the glory of the One who wants to lead me onward to a greater goal, a deeper walk with Him?

How many widgets, doo-dads, thingies, or crapola have I allowed to blind my eyes, to eclipse the glory?

Really, it's not just stuff that can blind us, making us trade the glory for some dumb cow... It can be relationships, media, or desires for what others seem to have that we don't - anything can become cow fodder, if it comes between us and the glory of God.

(Cow fodder, not cow exhaust, just to be clear. Two different ends, two different sets of problems.

You're welcome.)

What is there in your life that can cause a total eclipse of the glory?

("Turn around, bright eyes...")

(What? You didn't get that? You are dead to me, and to tons of '80s music video fans. Look up "Total Eclipse of the Heart" - Bonnie Tyler. Absolutely weird and cheesy video that was cool and captivating back in the decade where MTV stood for MUSIC tv, instead of "angst, reality-not!, and programming via shock value." I miss the 80's...

A little.)

Anyway...

Note the way Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message: "They traded the Glory for a cheap piece of sculpture..."

Traded. Not neglected, ignored, forgot about like a bunch of dumb sheep, or had a brain fart of epic proportions - but TRADED.

As in, willingly exchanging one thing for another.

Kind of like when the kid next to you offers to trade their sandwich for your cupcake, and only after the deal is done and they've already swallowed the cupcake whole, do you discover that you now have a pickle loaf sandwich. WithOUT catsup.

Pickle loaf - not offensive necessarily, but compared to a cupcake? Fuhgeddaboutit.

On the other hand, pickle loaf rolled around a baby dill pickle with cream cheese? Mmmm. Ok - I've only had this as ham wrapped around a pickle with cream cheese, but I'm guessing pickle loaf would only enhance the picklessence of the dish.

Dang - I've really got to remember not to write when I'm hungry. In other words, every three hours.

It's fun being me.

So, it's kind of like "They willfully, knowing exactly what they were about, exchanged the Glory of God for a piece of cheap sculpture."

It's like me trading a Lake Huron sunrise for a garden gnome. *shudder* They're cute, but the beauty of the sunrise over Lake Huron is some deep dish beauty right there.

And a garden gnome is NOT a gift that keeps on giving. Nope. Not even a little.

So, saddlepals - look around. Got any doo-dads, widgets, thingies, media, diversions, or crapola that has eclipsed the Glory? I know I do.

It's never too late to de-clutter. And just like the sunrise hiding behind the clouds, God is there, patiently waiting for us to put down the distractions...

And turn around. ("Bright eyes... Turn around, briiiiiiiiight eyyyyyyyyyyyyes."

The 80's. Miss them I do. A little.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Undistracted



"Sanballat and Geshem sent this message: 'Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono.'  I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: 'I'm doing a great work; I can't come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?' "
Nehemiah 6:2-3 (MSG)

Why should the work stop just so I can get distracted?

*Typing away... W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

Hmm - wonder if there's anything I need to know about in the ol' email?

Nope. Nada.

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

Oh - I haven't Tweeted that I'm working. Better keep that social media flood alive and well, lest my efforts in building a "tribe" and a "following" all collapse and I have to start building my media empire all over again.

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

Wonder if anybody Liked that picture of the pickle relish we were canning last night? I think I'll check. After all, that status isn't going to update itself.

What's this?

FUNNY DOG VIDEO!!!

- time passes... and passes... and passes... -

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

Technically, crochet is one of the things I do, right? Part of the whole "Jack of a FEW Trades" gig, right? So it counts, right?

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

So is paracord braiding, for that matter. Or wire wrapping jewelry. Or messing around with music, right?

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

Maybe somebody needs to narrow down the ol' job description... And by somebody, of course, I mean ME.

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

YouTube is NOT in the job description, however - even when supposedly doing "research" on the aforementioned crochet, paracord, wire jewelry, or music.

But it IS entertaining. And hey, everybody needs a brain break, right?

Right?

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

Sigh...

You may wonder, are these scenarios from collected experiences, gathered over time from my struggles as a self-employed but under-motivated humanperson, one with all the drive and self-discipline of oh, a rutabaga?

(No - come to think of it, a rutabaga has the discipline to get its head up out of the dirt eventually. Me? More like "happy as a clam buried in the sand."

Without most of the happy, for the record.)

Anyway, the truth is that all of these aforementioned scenarios were gathered from one writing session. THIS writing session.

Yeah.

My focus, concentration, and attention span are pretty much a piƱata. Hanging from a 50 foot tree. In a gale-force wind. And I'm down below, blindfolded, with a broken yardstick.

Whee.

Hang on a minute - let me finish that row of half-double crochet edging, then we'll carry on.

*insert famous "waiting" music from well-known and much watched (by the elder Niecelet) quiz show where the answer must ALWAYS be in the form of a question...*

There. Didn't even split the yarn OR drop a stitch. Yay me.

What was I saying?

*W-h-y... s-h-o-u-l-d... t-h-e... w-o-r-k... s-t-o...*

Oh. That.

"The wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. It had taken fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work."
Nehemiah 6:15-16 (MSG)

Fifty-two days.

Fifty-two. That's a five and a two. Together.

Wow.

Evidently, undistracted work is productive work. Who knew?

Did I say "undistracted?" That's not really accurate, is it? If you read the whole story, you see that the work was hardly "undistracted." Working with one hand, holding a weapon in the other doesn't really qualify as "working without distraction." Not even close.

And yet, with the efforts of priests, goldsmiths, and all sorts of people, working and defending their families all at the same time, the wall was completed.

In fifty-two days.

*insert sound of various and sundry excuses for not writing, not posting to the blog, and not working on the book being flushed down the biffy with extreme prejudice*

Maybe the key, if there is one, is the what their enemies realized when the work was completed:

"When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work."
Nehemiah 6:16 (MSG)

They knew that God was behind this work.

Now, I may believe that God wants me to write. I may acknowledge that it doesn't really matter if anyone else reads these words, because He's the one who compels me to work through things with writing. And though I really try not to pay attention to how many (if any) read, comment, or "like" my ramblings, it really is true that the words are His, to do with as He wants, and to put them where He wants them to go.

-But-

Do I believe, do I acknowledge, do I KNOW that God is behind this work?

And if I do, if I really go "all in" and believe that He is doing a great work through my efforts at this keyboard, with these words and thoughts...

Then how can I let little things like email, tweets, status updates, or even funny dog videos take me away from this great work?

Perhaps I don't believe, I don't acknowledge, and I don't really KNOW that God is behind it. Or can't bring myself to believe that He would do a great work through a rutabaga like me.

So, maybe it's time to believe, to acknowledge, and to KNOW that God is at work. Right here, right now...

Through a rutabaga like me.

Or a rutabaga like you.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

TBT: The Forgetful Mirror

"Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like."

James 1:23-24 - The Message

There are a few podcasts that are part of my routine - I check them out regularly, load 'em to my iPod ('cause it's a little tough taking an iPad on my trike), and listen to them either during the day or at night before bed.

One in particular usually starts my day, and sometimes ends it: the Daily Audio Bible with Brian Hardin. I usually listen as soon in the morning as my schedule allows - on my morning trike ride, while knitting in the living room, or at a coffee shop or bookstore preparing to write.

At first, I thought "well, this is just for those who want to take the 'easy' way - being spoon-fed scripture instead of reading it for themselves. Not really studying - not 'real' devotions, just an electronic fix that doesn't really change a life."

And I was wrong. At least for me. For others, your mileage may vary.

What this has done is help me establish a morning routine - a regular path that I follow. Beginning my day focusing on God and His word, and that starts to penetrate the rest of the day. A particular verse, or a section of the story coming back to mind, giving me time to reflect and apply.

Which brings us to Solomon and James. (wouldn't that be a great name for a folk singing duo?)

We're in First Kings, watching the reign pass from David to Solomon. We approach the apex of glory for Israel - the building of the Temple and the rule of the wisest king ever... and then we watch it all fall downhill from there. From David, with a whole heart for God, to Solomon, half-hearted.

And it makes me wonder, which one am I?

I (like so many other kids raised in Sunday School) do a bit of sneering at the Hebrew children - watching the Red Sea part, then hang out with the gold cow. God provides bread, and they whine. God delivers, they turn to idols. "What, are they idiots?" I hear myself ask.

Solomon - given wisdom from God, along with long life and riches. And after an amazing start, down he goes. Just like the rest of his people's history.

Or mine.

For I'm the guy who has received such abundant grace from God's hand that it staggers the mind. I've seen my entire life and history re-written in just over a year. Chains have been shattered, my story made new, and God's goodness shown so hugely that I have no words to describe it.

And 5 minutes after hearing His word, I get irritated with the person who just cut me off on the highway. I get peeved when the piece of bread I just buttered falls on the floor. (buttered side down, of course) I sit in front of the TV or the computer and allow my brain to turn to mush. I wander through my world and wonder why I feel so alone. Through conscious or unconscious choice, I turn away.

Half-hearted.

I look in the mirror, walk away and forget what I look like. Probably there's a little dot in my Bible next to James 1:23 and an arrow that says, "you are here." I cry for God's word to illumine my path, then I tie a blindfold over my eyes. I plead for His voice to sing over me, and then I plug my ears. (no matter that they're Bose earbuds - they're still earplugs at times)

I'm Solomon, without the wisdom or the riches. Only one wife, but she is a hottie, so we've got that in common.

What listening to the Word each day is doing is keeping the mirror in front of me. In fact, when I'm being a boogerhead, you'll sometimes hear me mutter, "mirror" or "Solomon." The mental health professionals call that self-talk. I call it giving myself a private butt whooping. Or semi-public - I have no shame. Usually. Sometimes.

Father, give me this day what I need for this day. Keep the mirror in front of me Lord - don't let me turn away and forget who I am in You. Remind me when I turn away, catch me when I close my eyes or plug my ears, and lead me in Your way. What I need today, for today. Each step, each hour, each minute. Thanks for the gift of Your word - help me stay grounded in it, and close to You.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Becoming

This is me, doing my own "becoming..."
To my friend the Poetess, with whom a three-hour conversation seems way too short...

Mid-fifties seems to be an interesting age. Or so it seems to me, having been perched in the absolute center of mid-fifties for a few months now.

There's the obvious stuff: Only 10 years to Social Security (which, more and more, seems to mean "the all you can eat cat food bar..."), you now have to be on the lookout for the places that start offering the senior discount for us youngsters on the senior set, and you really do start to wonder if *insert name of whichever drug is being mentioned on whichever commercial* is right for you.

My doctor, the Zena (Warrior Princess) of the medical world, albeit a whole heck of a lot taller, would say, "No. No, it's not right for you. Stop watching those commercials, and DO NOT go to their website for more information. Now get up on that exam table before I bring the hurt."

I love my doc.

Anyway, the ski lift of life has dropped you at the top of the hill, slammed the door behind you, and is preparing to deliver a swift kick, sending you flying down the slope with only one ski, no poles, and all the grace and poise of a young Jerry Lewis...

Without the talent, comic timing, or mad skilz.

But it's not all bad...

A good friend and I sat down for a short three-hour conversation. We graduated in '77, from the well-loved Oscoda High School, where the mighty Owls pelt the opposition with the fury of their droppings.

Let's see YOUR school mascot bring that kind of punishment. HAH!

And we were talking about how many folks from school have connected with us on Facebook, and what a strange but cool thing that is at this stage of our lives. To our surprise, (Mine, anyway... the Poetess is a much kinder soul than I...) we seem to desire those connections, even welcome them, where perhaps we wouldn't have years earlier.

And those connections aren't just about shared experiences, but go beyond - where people we know are now, where life has taken them, and the kind of things they have learned along the way.

We're all becoming.

"Huh?"

I, in typical Calbert style, mentioned that maybe the reason we all seem more open to connecting with each other, is that we've had a lot of the dumb knocked off of us over the years, a lot of the pretense, and a whole heap of the attitude, leaving us a little wiser, more aware of grace received, and more willing to extend that grace and love to others.

We're all becoming.

"Ah... Um... Wait - what?"

We're more able to connect with others, because we've become more open in these years. Some of us have been through deep and horrid waters, bringing their lessons of wisdom and endurance, and some of us are right in the middle of those currents. Some of us, one very recently, have fallen from our number, and are missed. And some of us have learned that the regrets we've been carrying all these years are useless weight, so we finally get rid of them and find freedom in the process, freeing us to share that light with others.

We are becoming.

And really, isn't that just a small glimpse of the life of faith and trust Jesus calls us to, when He says, "Follow me?"

(Especially the bit about having the dumb knocked off us... I speak for myself here...)

I was thinking (and the Poetess mentioned this too) that it's sad this place in our lives didn't arrive sooner - the openness, the freedom, the grace and caring. But, we both admit, the view from the age of "double nickels" is not really possible back in your thirties or forties. Maybe it's a fifties thing, or perhaps it's different for each one of us. Some of us arrive at this place a little sooner, some a little later, and sadly, some might miss it altogether.

You have to drop a lot of stuff to have your hands free and open.

I do think in our walk of faith, though, that it can arrive a lot sooner. The Word of God can do a lot to "knock the dumb off," and fill that empty space with wisdom, love, mercy, and grace. If we open the Bible, really get into it and pay attention, that is.

Me? I'm a slow learner. It's all pretty much arriving right here in the exact middle of my fifties.

I'm becoming.

And by God's grace, so are you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Lies Beneath



So, I sent my resume off...

To St. Louis.

Missouri, not Michigan.

Wha?

I know - I don't understand either. And I'm the one that dun did the deed, so I'm really in it deep now.

In all fairness, the job description is such a fit for me that you could put my picture next to it and it'd be a match.

On the other hand, that'd drastically reduce the amount of interest in the position, so no, probably shouldn't do that.

But it has made me wonder why I would find a job so far away so appealing. Especially since if by some random alignment of something or other, I was offered the job, and then accepted it, in all likelyhood, I'd be going solo down there, leaving my Beloved and BekaJo here in GR. So yeah, you'd think, that's a deal breaker right there.

Not to mention the expense of a 2nd household. Granted, we'd be going to two incomes, but we'd be running two homes. Well, one home and one little tiny apartment as cheap as I can possibly find one. Enough room for a bed, hopefully a table, and a buttload of whistles.

But not the tuba. At least, not at first.

So yeah - should be a deal breaker. No questions.

And yet, it's not. At least, not in my twisted little brain.

So after some pondering, I think I've finally hit on why I'd even consider such a move. Besides the obvious, that is - that I'd enjoy working for the company, be working with a product I couldn't be more excited about, and some full-time moola would help the whole "dig ourselves out of a deep financial hole" thing.

(Not to mention, hopefully, a staff discount on instrument purchases... *swoon*)

Besides that.

I think the appeal is, I'd escape the chaos. I'd have a clean slate, someplace different, leaving behind the clutter and the reminders of my sometimes-dark existence both before my new life, and at times in these first 4 years. I'd move to a different space, not surrounded by all the clutter that has choked my world, not reminded of jobs lost, sorrows felt, and hard changes endured.

Blank slate.

Now, that could be a good thing. It could be a "reset," a chance to get rid of some of the bad habits that have crept into my new life, and to rebuild the movement I need for going on. And sweeping away every distraction could create an environment where the writing would flourish. (At least, as much as it can flourish whilst holding down a full-time gig.)

-But-

It could be a bad thing. It could create an environment where I grow away from my beloved, creating a different life that doesn't include her.

Overreacting? Probably. I've never been in a situation where my daily path might lie nowhere near hers. I know people do it all the time, and they do as well as is possible in that situation...

But I also know me.

And sometimes I don't trust me.

It all might be academic - I have no idea if the folks in St. Louis would even be interested in interviewing me, I have no idea what the result would be, and I don't know what direction we'd go if an offer was made.

But it's been helpful to think through it, and identify what might be holding me back right here, right now. To see where my weak spots are in this life, here in GR, and to see the need for a reset.

And to see right up front the possibility that if I'm not careful, not mindful, I could be ditching my best friend.

And Beka.

Like I said, I know people do this thing all the time. And somehow life continues. It takes strength, determination, and awareness, but it can be done.

Skype, IM, FB, and all the other wonders of this present age - they can help to shrink the miles and keep the connections strong. My beloved has vacation time, and this position also includes vacation, so there are those times.

Not impossible, just unknown territory. The unknown has been known to give me the heebee jeebees.

hee hee hee

So this position would be interesting, a huge learning curve, something that I would love, and something that I would be a little nervous about. All jumbled together in one big ol' bag of fluffy.

As long as it's not an "escape," an attempt to get away from (what I might see as) my cluttered, depressing, pointless, and stalled life, then that's ok.

-But-

If it IS an escape, something to "change my life" that would ultimately damage my marriage and shatter everything that the Lord has built in me so far, then no. If a reset is needed, it'll have to be done right here, right now, one pile of clutter at a time, one day of striving to sort out how I become unstuck at a time, and one step of learning self-discipline at a time.

Hard, slow, seemingly futile work. But things that I've been sadly lacking most of my life.

As I said, this all might be academic. And actually, it already is. If the Lord wants it to happen, it will. And if He doesn't, it won't. We're listening, thinking, and praying, and rest in the fact that He loves His kids.

So how do you feel about major life shifts? Is it an adventure or something that is ridiculous to endure?

It's supposed to be an adventure. And like all adventures, it has twists and turns that nobody sees coming...

Except for the Storyteller - He knows exactly how it'll come out. And I trust Him, since I have no clue.

Hey - maybe I can add that to my coat of arms... "Cal The Clueless," written in latin and Old English font. Stylish, yet brutally honest.

Something to think about. I've got a lot of those lately...

Whee.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Random Conversations

"Don't look up... For the love of doggie bacon strips, don't look up."

It's amazing the things you hear (and see) in a coffee shop. The full range of interaction and conversation, from loving and happy to moody and snarky, from impatience dripping with teenage angst to hackles raised over political and religious debate.

It's fun, and weird. As long as one is sitting on the sidelines and isn't drawn into the danger zone, that is...

(Go ahead - tell me that you didn't at least hear a snippet of Kenny Loggins in your head with the phrase, "Danger Zone..." I don't believe you. 

Or I do believe you, and am jealous of your self-control and focus. You be the judge.

*humming "Danger Zone" as he turns back to the keyboard* )

For example, this morning in a northern town on vacation, perhaps the type of town immortalized by Dream Academy (now you're humming "Life In a Northern Town"), I got to be a silent observer to the following interactions:

1) A couple of elder statesmen discussing local events. These same gentlemen might accuse the womenfolk of being gossips, but dudes - you really give them a run for their money.

2) A teen and her mom / aunt / other female personage. Their interaction made me wonder: Does the teen du jour always treat the female person with this level of, well, disrespect, or do they just have a really quirky relationship and all is cool?

Or a rather weird mix of both? One will never know.

And finally...

3) The match of the century, with the gregarious, jovial senior dude attempting some engaging (yet trivial and fluffy) conversation with the middle aged dude reading the paper.

This one was a doozy.

I don't know what reading materials were on his table, but middle aged dude evidently was reading the political section. Senior dude, who already was displaying a tendency to engage any and all in mindless chit chat, decided to make a comment about some political hot topic. Perhaps it was in reference to an article in the paper, perhaps in reference to something else on the table, or perhaps his tendency to chit chat was just set on "drivel-tastic!"

Whatev.

Middle dude, by his concise, polite, but still forceful response, answered the comment AND made it pretty clear to all but the conversationally tone deaf that he really wasn't in the mood for chit chat, gregariousness, or slightly snarky but innocent commentary.

Senior dude, it would appear, was among the conversationally tone deaf.

Now, I admit that I did not look in that direction, especially since most everyone knew that the train was coming, and senior dude was standing on the tracks. So, I don't know what prompted senior dude to launch this next salvo...

Perhaps it was frustration in being politely and respectfully dismissed.

Perhaps it was the big dog syndrome, the need to mark the territory that the little dog just piddled on with a stream of flood proportions.

Or, as I might have mentioned, perhaps there was more reading material on middle dude's table than just the paper, like a Bible for example, and senior dude decided to lay down the hurt.

In any case, he rolled out a founding fathers quote, something about how the biggest wall should be built between religion and state, and sat back in smug satisfaction, bladder empty and tail wagging.

(I will, of course, NOT quote the quote. My skill with mangling quotes is known throughout the world, and I don't need to display it once again... You're welcome.)

Senior homie would now be playing the role of "one-legged man in a bottom kicking contest." And the odds were NOT "ever in his favor."

Let the whooping begin.

Middle homie, again in polite and respectful tone, proceeded to unload. Articulate, sure of faith and conviction, and impassioned, he fired off his position and thoughts in a direct and forceful manner, with a connected stream of communication that would have made the Apostle Paul (the undisputed master of the run-on sentence!) grin from ear to ear.

Middle dude brought it, including the horse he rode in on, the saddle, related tack and horsey thingies, AND the kitchen sink, which has nothing to do with the horse, but yet seemed to fit somehow. Weird.

And he had a cheerleader. Who I hadn't mentioned, until just now. Like, right now.

Let me introduce you to...

Grandpa dude.

He and grandson little dude were enjoying a donut trip together, when the big ol' can of whoop bottom was opened.

And grandpa dude was definitely taking sides.

So middle dude's presentation was punctuated with nods of agreement, verbal affirmations, and a hearty "Well said, sir" at its conclusion. It was kind of like being ringside at a Holy Ghost revival meeting where the preacher is bringing the word, and the congregation is responding in a very verbal manner.

"GLORY! Uh-HUH!"

Get ye down. (And then, get ye back up again.)

As I said, senior dude was the one-legged man at a bottom kicking contest.

Middle dude was wearing steel-toed footwear.

And grandpa dude was cheering him on.

The hurt, brung it was.

Middle dude wrapped up, grandpa dude grinned, and a hush fell over the room as middle dude picked up his stuff, said a polite "Good day, sir," and left.

Having witnessed such a fine display of hiney whoopery, grandpa and grandson also made their exit, grinning all the way.

And now, the weird part. 

Perhaps we should call it the *insert whichever party or persuasion that provides you the most humorous value* rebuttal, which always seems to inevitably follow whatever speech you just heard.

Senior dude is now alone over in the corner. And yes, I am so TOTALLY not looking in that direction, keeping my head down over my crochet and iPad, letting my face remain neutral.

And I hear muttering, soto voce, from the corner.

"Soto voce?"

Oh - you don't know that one? Hmm... I could direct you to Google, but I'd never get you to come back, so let me handle this:

Soto voce (SO-toe vo-CHAY) = "half voice." Not really a whisper, but definitely a softer voice... Sort of.

Google (or a Jedi) am I not. Village Idiot am I. Powerful in the fluffy have I become.

Anyway, back to the muttering...

We were deep into instant replay, where points were being refuted, arguments responded to, and victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. The replay and rebuttal took well over five minutes, whereas the salvo from middle dude was over in about two.

So instant replay isn't really "instant." Who knew?

I did hear two words clearly in the midst of the muttering... "Jesus freak."

So, I think that the big dog found his reserve tank, let fly, and reclaimed his territory in the name of gregariousness, joviality, chit chat, and freedom from religion and that other crapola. Perhaps he revived his deflated personhood and mentally crowned himself Da Man once again.

In any case, he then shuffled off, engaging the unsuspecting in more cheery, trivial stuff, muttering all the while.

It's amazing the things you hear in a coffee shop. You should try it sometime.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Looking Through Their Eyes



This is dedicated to friends who have taken the call to go into the world literally, either full-time or short-term, including such folks as our dear Hannah, the Z's, Baby Sister, Madman and his family, the Guatemala team from First Cov, the Barbers, Bubba and his bride, Mr. Z, Wally and the amazing folks from Compassion Int'l, and the whole host of others who have left home to see the world through God's economy.

Also to that great group of friends, the Living Witnesses, who traveled to Jamaica for 21 days of concerts, and having our eyes opened in ways that stay with us, 30-some years later.

Thank you.

"Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
Proverbs 29:18 (ASV)

We need you.

We need what you've seen and heard.

We need to be reminded that the Kingdom comes, not just to folks who look like us, who live near us, or who have the stuff we have, but to folks who don't look like us, who live far away from us, and haven't even heard of some of the stuff we "can't live without."

Some of them don't speak our language, or they speak our language in ways that we don't recognize or understand.

("Hey, mon - take it easy!" - a phrase we heard a lot in Jamaica. I also heard the phrase "Hey fat mon - how much you weigh? Four, five hundred pounds?" I was closer to three than four back then, thank you very much. But, to those folks, I was a sumo. Good times indeed.)

When you get back (or got back, whichever applies...), you'll be dazed. Then spilling over with sights, sounds, tales, and challenges. Perhaps some of us who haven't been where you've been, haven't seen what you've seen, might get a little impatient with you.

(Dare I use the word "snitty?" Is "snitty" an official word? Is there some dangerous potential for an epic typo in using the word "snitty?" Am I eternally thankful that the Lord chose a proofreading ninja to be my beloved spouse? Oh heavens and great gravy bones, yes...

And so are you. Trust me.)

Truthfully, you'll probably get a little impatient with us too. Having been through what you've been through, you'll come back to us and our "first world problems," and you'll want to yell at us and smack us upside the head, because you've seen reality, and returned to the plastic, pretend world that we think is "real," and you'll want to scream.

And that's alright. If you don't want to yell at us, you need to go back and spend more time in the "real" world, so that you come back ready to be all up in our grills about all the piddly poopy we hold so dear.

See, that produces a couple of good things, that kind of indignation at how "our" world is...

In YOU, it produces patience, as you learn how to communicate the urgency and passion of what you've seen, without the head slapping and yelling.

(Right, Baby Sister? Love ya, little one... *insert hand hug here*)

In US, (As in the group of people you return to, not the U.S.A. - though the country I live in could certainly use a big dose of your vision..) it slowly opens our eyes, helps us begin to see God's world through God's economy (Thank you Wally, for teaching me that phrase!), and gives us a gentle (or not-so-gentle) butt-kicking into what Kingdom life looks like, right here, right now.

And we need that vision. Just as much as you need the patience to share it with us.

If you think about it, it's a symbiotic relationship. Not in a gross, parasitic kind of way. Or even a "bird living on the rhino's back, getting rid of bugs and such" kind of way. Nobody's chowing down on anybody else's bugs here.

Unless that's how they roll where you went / are going / are preparing to go. *whew* Tenses are... well...

... tense.

(Did you hear about the fire at the circus? It was "IN TENTS!"

Get it? In TENTS?

Say it out loud...

There ya go. Now you're groaning. You're welcome. Dumb jokes are always a shout-out to Elder Niecelet and Neffypooh. Always.)

Anyway, back to the parasites...

"If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed."
Proverbs 29:18-19 (MSG)

When we don't see what you've seen, we stumble all over ourselves. We're tripping over furniture in the dark, stepping on Lego bricks, and muttering choice words, keeping them well below hearing threshold, lest they fall upon sleeping ears. We're fancy like that.

- BUT -

If we who were "left behind" (Note: NOT capitalized, lest the pileup of copyright lawyers be nigh unto deafening...) hear the stories of God at work all over the world, then slowly our eyes open, our hearts open as well, and the body of Christ becomes aware of just how far His hands and feet need to reach.

And every time you encourage us, challenge us, remind us and enlarge our vision, you do the same for yourselves. After all, if we don't raise the stones, if we don't tell the stories again and again of how God has moved, how He showed up in marvelous, real, tangible ways, we quickly forget.

"WHAT?" I hear you cry... "After all I've been through / am going through / am about to go through, how could I possibly forget how I saw Him at work / see Him at work / will see Him at work?"

*whew*

Well kids, it's been 4 years since God totally rewrote my whole story, changed me from the outside in, and reversed my history...

And I forget that on a daily basis.

The phrase he put in my heart right after surgery, "My chains are gone, I've been set free," becomes a dim part of my past, a memorable phrase in a song long-forgotten. Those promises, the ReBirth, becoming Tabula Rasa, all the stones that I HAVE raised... gone with the next flush of the biffy.

Only when I re-tell the stories, only when I dwell in the places He has led me, only when I remember that "the old is gone, the new has come," only then do I live in the "real" world, right here, right now.

Your mileage may vary. But, if I might put my reputation as Cal the Questionable Prophet on the line here, I don't think it will.

If we don't remember the stories and tell the stories, we fail to live the stories.

To those who remain, listen. Drink deep the vision of our loved ones who've seen things we can only imagine or see on social media. And see the world through God's economy.

To those who return, tell and live the stories. It's for your benefit, as much as it is for ours. We all need to tell, we all need to hear, we all need to live the truth of the Kingdom...

God at work. Right here, right now.

"All believers, come here and listen,
let me tell you what God did for me."
Psalms 66:16 (MSG)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Breathe On Me


"Breathe on me, when you're not strong.
And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on..."

What?

It's "LEAN on me?"

Well... That was awkward...

But mangled song lyrics have never stopped me before, and they shall NOT stop me now...

You have to know somebody pretty well for them to breathe on you. Pretty darn well. Pretty amazingly darn well.

And if they did breathe on you, by accident or on purpose, you'd have to trust them an awful lot to not respond by freaking out, shuddering, or otherwise giving loud body language indicators that you are totally and completely creeped out.

Ewww...

And I haven't even brought up the whole "morning -or-otherwise breath" issue. You're welcome.

(For the record, breathe all you want around me - without a sense of smell, it's pretty much impossible to knock me over, even with dragon breath.)

(But breathing on my face is still creepy. Just sayin'...)

So let's go to the reason for all this pondering, and then I'll inject the usual Calberti level of fluffy and weird into it...

"He spoke to them again and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.""
John 20:21-22 (NLT)

Cue the fluffy and weird..

Beka the dog can put me right to sleep by breathing on me.

Yup - fluffy AND weird. Well played, Calbert - well played.

Thank ya... thank ya very muchhhhh. Uh-HUH!

(You know, Elvis impersonations don't translate well to the written page. Good to know.)

And although it's weird, it's still true - Beka can put me right out by breathing on me. No, my dog doesn't convert oxygen to knockout gas. (Although that would be a cool super power.) I think it's more the rhythm of her breathing, and the closeness.

Um... you're still flatlining the weird-o-meter, big boy.

Let me explain. Or at least make lighthearted commentary to accompany the weird.

Beka usually sleeps with me, since if she sleeps with me, she keeps me on my side, and I don't have sleep apnea episodes. There are other tricks one can use to achieve this, but the only one that seems to work for me is the accidental one - when Beka sleeps with me, I stay on my side and keep breathing.

Have I mentioned I love my dog?

Anyway, besides the side benefit of having a medium-sized but very long-legged beastie putting out the heat of a small sun next to you on a freezing winter night, the other major thing I've noticed is that when Beka breathes on me, I go right to sleep.

Why? Well...

Perhaps the rhythm of it, the cool, warm, cool, warm cycle of inhale and exhale, contributes to my journey off to snoozieland.

Perhaps the sense of peace and relaxation that comes from knowing that this loving, fluffy medium-sized but very long-legged beastie is sleeping comfortably and soundly right next to me encourages me to do the same.

Or perhaps all this specualtion is a load of Calbert-flavored hooey. You be the judge.

What isn't hooey, I think, is the fact that feeling the breath of another living creature is a personal, intimate thing.

(Especially if it's the breath of a bear, 'cause you're about to be an intimate part of it's digestive operation. Yikes.)

(There's a meme I saw on Facebook that makes me laugh - it's a picture of a bear, and it says "I don't always kill and eat things, but when it do, it's because they are things and I'm a bear.")

Anyway, getting back to breathing...

Jesus breathed on the disciples, and said "Receive the Holy Spirit." I suppose you could see that as the Spirit being breathed into them, or God's spirit coming in like a breath, or something like that...

But in usual Calberti fashion, I've got a tilted view on it...

What if Jesus was speaking to those He loved in close proximity, so close that they could feel His breath? What if these words weren't spoken, but whispered - "Receive the Holy Spirit." 

After loss, after despair, and after restoration, what if the Disciples just couldn't get close enough to the One they loved? Close enough to feel His breath as they spent time together?

Like I said, my view is probably a little tilted. All I know is that feeling the breath of another living creature is a personal, intimate thing. 

And Jesus was and always is personal and intimate. We're the ones who draw away.

Stuff worth thinking about, eh wot?

Meanwhile, I'll be over here, snuggled next to the medium-sized but very long-legged furball, feeling her breathe as I fall asleep.

"You just call on me, brother, when you need a friend. We all need, some-bod-y to breathe on..."

"Cal?"

Yes?

"Get away from me."

Sorry. My bad.