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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gotcha Day, 2015

 Here's a rather gushy tribute to the 3rd member of our tribe. Written for Gotcha Day 2014, and updated for Gotcha Day 2015. Updates are in red for no real reason at all.

'cause I'm fancy like that.


Came into our lives 3 years ago today, June 16, 2012.

And this...

Pretty much stole our hearts the minute she walked through the door.


Began leaving puppyhood behind far faster than we might have liked.

But, this...

Was fast becoming the friend, packmate, and companion we were hoping for.

And so this...

Was her one year anniversary. Gotcha day, 2013. She'd grown tall and beautiful, but still...


Is the apple of her daddy's eye.

Just like this...

Will always be.

Yeah, even that.


Has her daddy wrapped around her back paw, and has from day one.

Happy Gotcha Day, Beka Valentine Olson. We love you.

Hugs and doggie bacon strips, Momma & Daddy

Friday, April 03, 2015

Re-Post: From Good Friday, 2014

Written a year ago, these are all my thoughts about Good Friday wrapped up in one post. And even with all these words, I have no words...

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open his mouth;
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so He did not open his mouth."
- Isaiah 53:7, TNIV


If I'm oppressed and afflicted, I run the gamut from heavy sighs to outright yelling...

Unless it's a spider. Then I scream like a little girl. Or a little boy. Or whoever screams like that. Yup. Right. That.

So, silent in affliction? Not so much.

Lots of us are familiar with Isaiah 53 - the chapter about the Suffering Servant. Or at least know these words:

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed."
- Isaiah 53:5, ASV

But last time through this passage on the Daily Audio Bible, the words that rang like a bell for me were about His silence in affliction. 

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open his mouth."

Silent? Ok - maybe if someone obnoxious were getting in my face someplace in the grind of daily life. Getting snitty as we stand in line at the store. Taking umbrage to something I unknowingly did, my appearance, or my general presence in the world. 

Silent, after another driver engages in a display of boneheadery that proclaims to all the world just what the riders of the clue bus look like? No... 

(Although I do try to do some ventriloquism, as I mutter about their habits, their intelligence, their heritage, and their general existence while trying not to move my lips, lest they see that I'm yelling... to NOBODY.)

Silent? In affliction? Nope. Can't pull that one off.

My beloved carries on arguments with technology. She holds debates with databases, takes umbrage to unruly laptops, and tells off the GPS in kind but firm tones.

Silent? Nope. Much quieter than me? Good gravy bones, yes. 

"He was beaten, He was tortured, but He didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, He took it all in silence."
- Isaiah 53:7, MSG

I not only can't pull that off, I can't even imagine how to comprehend how anyone could do that. I can't at all understand how someone, anyone could be that afflicted, punished, humiliated, tormented, tortured...


And NOT say anything.

Now, I know - He DID say things. We have them recorded in the Gospels. I'm sure there were gasps and groans and cries. 

But did He pitch a fit? The kind of which I would have fully indulged in? The kind that would have made my voice go hoarse a couple minutes in?


"Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, He took it all in silence."

One more twist, kiddos...

The one word that He could have uttered, that I, in all of my yelling, screaming, writhing, and general pitchy-fitting might have uttered without doing any good... 

The ONE word that He could have uttered, that would in fact have changed everything...

The ONE WORD that was His to utter, with all rights, with all authority, with all of Heaven ready to respond the very second it was upon His lips...


Of any of the sounds, cries, gasps, or words that He said, all through that awful ordeal, He never said the one word that would have ended it all.

And that made all the difference.

I could not endure in silence, yet I'm left with nothing BUT silence in response. I have no way to process this, so I close my mouth, hang my head, and am overwhelmed. Gratitude doesn't even begin to express it, no other words I could write will help, so as He accepted the pain in silence, I receive the gift...

in silence.

"What language shall I borrow, to thank Thee, dearest friend? 
For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

Oh make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be, 
Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee."

- O Sacred Head Now Wounded

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Rob and The 2,000 Year Old Letters

Ok - let me be clear about something - I have no issues with Rob Bell. 

I think he may have "jumped the shark," but that's just a private conviction...

Between me and you, that is.

Recently, being fabulous and "all that" with Oprah, he responded like this when asked about the church accepting gay marriage, in a quote from the article on

"We're moments away," Rob Bell said. "I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone."

This statement didn't shock me - I have personal thoughts about issues like this, and the place to air those is in very private, between my Father and me.

But the bit that DID make me wince a bit?

"...the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense..."



Gee, Mr. The Rob, what other defense do I have? When most everything I know about God is what I read revealed in His word - those "2,000 year old letters."

Oi to da Vey.

Now, lest you accuse me of taking him totally out of context, and that he was just referring to the bits of those 2,000 year old letters that he deems culturally irrelevant while still having a profound respect for other bits...

Re-read what you're accusing me of, and consider the lack of logic therein.

Now, I admit to a certain amount of bias - after all...

I'm in love with a certain book. 

And I love the whole of that certain book, including those "2,000 year old letters," and the ones that are much older. The letters that, oddly enough, Rob himself can be heard quoting in his Nooma videos, or teaching from in his sermons.

Sorry - that almost crossed the line into "snarky," and I don't want to go that way...

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Instead, to show how much I love that book, let me refer to one of the foundational phrases of the denomination I'm a part of - the Evangelical Covenant Church - that describes how we view our lives as people of faith:

Where is it written?

That phrase reveals one of the main reasons I love our church - the encouragement, yea expectation, to "search the scriptures and see if these things are so." There is both a danger and a great freedom in belonging to a church where people are allowed, yea encouraged, to search the Word and decide for themselves what these things are saying. To bear the personal responsibility of answering a question from Jesus: "How do you read it?"

Can you actually point to scripture that supports your position, or do you find yourself simply dismissing the Word as culturally irrelevant?

Now, I'm the first one to admit that one has to interpret the Bible within the context of their time, their culture, while applying it to our time and our culture. Do we follow the letter of the Levitical law, for example? So if one lifestyle is prohibited, then so are tattoos. Or you can cast your wife aside as easily as a beast of burden. And let's not forget offering up your children as human sacrifices...

(For the record, sacrificing children [or any humans for that matter] is abhorrent to God - He says so numerous times, mentioning that practice as one of those detestable things that show how far His people had fallen.

Abraham and Isaac? Nope - special circumstance, unique lesson, never repeated again. One time thing, for a specific purpose. Context, baby - context.)

Anyway, so go the various arguments toward how out of step the Bible is with our current world.

And that's pretty poor scholarship, to tell the truth. Baby, meet bathwater. You'll both be thrown out now.

There, saddlepals, is the danger of not taking the Word as a whole, but grabbing one example here and another there, and using this quote and that quote to prove your point of how absurd the whole thing is. Once you add in context, history, and looking at the whole picture, it becomes obvious just how silly those arguments can be.

Consider tattoos, for example - this was a slave race, recently come from Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, so marking themselves up with tattoos wouldn't be very sanitary. (What - you think all those references to "rashes of the skin" or "when mold appears in a house" or "emissions" *shudder* are there just to be silly? Nope - it's hygiene 101 for a bunch of former slaves who have no clue how to take care of themselves.)

That's all a side note, by the way... 

The major point about "no tattoos" is the associations hooked to the tattoos - the connections to worshiping the gods of Egypt or other aspects of their lives under slavery. Those would bring back connections to a life that needed to be left behind, as God remade these slaves into His chosen people, a new nation.

If you look at a lot of the prohibitions in Leviticus through that lens, all of a sudden the argument about "cultural irrevelance" becomes a little silly. In that time, in that place, in that culture, it makes sense, as God taught them to be a unique people after generations of living as slaves.

Here and now? We aren't likely to associate a tattoo with our former lives in slavery, which could lead to a return to that oppressed life. Granted, some of my generation and older still see tattoos as a mark of rebellion or something, but give us some slack - we're learning. I actually have seen some that were quite beautiful.

If you think that this line of thinking and interpretation of the Word is a whole load of Calbert-flavored hooey, well, you are certainly entitled to go that route. But, you might not understand something called a "trigger," which might be helpful. I shall elucidate...

A trigger, especially for someone who deals with mental or behavioral issues, is something that can trip you into a place you left behind. I have a number of those, both for food addiction and for dealing with depression and bipolar disorder. And sometimes, another one pops up out of the blue and ambushes me.

(Want an example? We had to put my gigantic recliner out on the curb after I lost 240 pounds - I'd sit down in it, and my behavior would revert to when I spent 6-8 hours in it at a stretch. Couldn't work through it, couldn't re-wire around it, so it had to go.)

So I totally get this picture of restrictions designed to help you leave a former life behind.

And, that connects to something else from the newer 2,000 year old letters, where the discussion of not eating food sacrificed to idols comes up. Irrelevant? No - idol worship with its rituals (both seen and obscene) is where some of those early Jesus followers had come from.

That food, offered to an idol, would snap them back to dark behavior and a hopeless life - In other words, a trigger.

Thus, stronger believers are told to set their freedom aside to help weaker brothers and sisters. Just like my dear ones wouldn't encourage me to eat an entire pizza in one sitting, or try to get me so emotionally worked up that I have a major mood swing and then plummet afterward, the ones who know me best help me avoid those traps - they lay some of their freedom aside to help their weaker brother.

Hmmm... Seems pretty relevant to me.

The Bible IS relevant, if we'll take the time and discipline to consider the whole Word, instead of treating it as a buffet and grabbing out the stuff we really like or pointing out the nastiness of the stuff we don't. Context is a beautiful thing.

- Depart to Bunny Trail... -

Bible believing peeps, don't be thumping your desktop or doing a fist pump whilst shouting, "Yesssss!" to what I just said. We're as guilty of doing the snatch and grab thing with scripture. 

For example, have you ever really read Jeremiah 29? The whole chapter?

Did you know that the much-beloved verse 11 doesn't promise relief from a tough situation or trial? It gave hope to Israel that beyond the suffering, beyond the exile, there was a future. The tough stuff was coming, the exile would happen, and things were going to get ugly, but Israel would live on - there was hope and a future in store. It's not a "get out of suffering free" card, but an assurance that God's got this. Maybe not in our lifetime, maybe not in the here and now to relieve our suffering, but ultimately?

He's got this.

It's still a great verse, and a great encouragement. But maybe not quite what we thought it was. Agree? Disagree? How do you read it?

- Return from Bunny Trail... -

So, what about the whole Gay marriage thing that The Rob was commenting on? Where he declared the 2,000 year old letters culturally irrelevant?

Nope - you're gonna have to do your own homework on that. I do have an opinion about it, and I have cuddled up with the Word - both Old and New Testaments, well within the framework of context - and I have a position that seems to be in harmony with what I see in the Bible. And there I leave it.

What I do know, in my 55+ years of wandering around this here mudball, is that I've yet to find a question or situation in my life that the Bible doesn't speak to, directly and eloquently. 

Sometimes, it's in a single verse that speaks to me in a private, moving way. (I wouldn't use a single verse that speaks to me in the quiet to try and hammer home a point to someone else - first of all, that's not my job, because the Word can speak for itself; and second, there's a difference between a verse reaching me in private, and studying to teach others from the Word.)

Sometimes, it's a number of passages, connected in history or context, or perhaps connected through the overarching story of God in His word, that shed light on Him, His character, His heart, and how much He cares about us.

But you can't see it that way if you're just grabbing a piece here, a chunk there, and never see the Word as a whole story. You see, it all connects to show us the Father's heart.

Irrelevant 2,000 year old letters? Nope - not even once.

Sorry, Mr. The Rob, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em. I may be taking your comment out of context, but the fact that you uttered that phrase says that there's something underneath worth noting and pondering. I may be one of those fools that culture loves to label intolerant, weak-minded, incapable of rational thought, or using a bunch of fairy tales to base my existence upon...

But those 2,000 year old letters haven't let me down yet. They form the only reality that allows me to make sense of these days and this culture. And they give me a way to live and love others in these days and in this culture. Irrelevant? No - not to me.

As for you?

How do YOU read it?

"Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world
They resound with God's own heart
Oh let the ancient words impart"

"Ancient Words" - Michael W. Smith

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


In the course of listening through the Bible in a year, thanks to the Daily Audio Bible, one will come eventually to a romp through the book of Isaiah.

(Truthfully, we're nowhere near that book now... These writey-bloggy-thingies sometimes sit and bake for a month or two or six before they see the light of day...)

You know, I'm not sure if anybody has ever used the phrase "romping through the book of Isaiah." Most people wouldn't use the word "romp" to describe a trip through any book of the Bible.

(But, as all the world knows, I ain't "most people." Nor "some people." I are a "people," but that's about it.

"I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam." *toot toot*

Now hand me that can opener - I gots me some spinach to eat.)

So - romping through the Bible. Not usually thought of as a "romp."

Though... there IS the Song of Songs...

Never mind. Not gonna go there. Nope.

Anyway, some verses from Isaiah 30 caught my attention:

GOD, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you've been unwilling to do.
Isaiah 30:15 (MSG)

Usually when something like this catches my attention, the Lord is having a word with me. In this instance, the phrases "turn back to Me," "settling down in complete dependence," and, the one that really hits me - "The very thing you've been unwilling to do."

Yeah... that. 

Ok - I'm finally getting the "settling down" part. I've learned that my life works a whole lot better at a slower, mindful pace. If I don't take the time to stop, to contemplate, to mindfully approach every day, then I get lost in many ways.


Settle down in complete dependence?

Nah - I'd rather squirm and cry and weep and moan and smack my hand against a wall - all of which are really, really bad for my emotional balance.

"A troubled mind and a doubter's heart.
You wonder how you ever got this far.
Just leave it to Me - I'll lead you home."
- Michael W. Smith

So, "settle down" = very good. "In complete dependence" = very good, though I'm not even close yet.

Settle down in complete dependence? I know that it's good - in fact, the best way to go about living... And yet, it's "the very thing I've been unwilling to do."


How stubborn am I? How unwilling can I be? Read on, kids...

You've said, ‘Nothing doing! We'll rush off on horseback!' You'll rush off, all right! Just not far enough! You've said, ‘We'll ride off on fast horses!' Do you think your pursuers ride old nags? Think again: A thousand of you will scatter before one attacker. Before a mere five you'll all run off. There'll be nothing left of you— a flagpole on a hill with no flag, a signpost on a roadside with the sign torn off.”
Isaiah 30:16-17 (MSG)

Yup - very stubborn. Slow to learn, slow to listen, slow to trust.

What do you think of those last two pictures - "A flagpole on a hill with no flag, a signpost on a roadside with the sign torn off?"

Oi to da Vey...

What do I think of those last two pictures?

I don't like them. Not at all.

They scream futility to me - as the Teacher would put it, "a chasing of the wind." All of my running, all of my flailing, and all of my refusal to just settle down and depend is pointless, useless, and a waste. It leaves behind an empty flagpole and a signless sign.

If it ended here, if this were the last word, the door slamming, then hope would be gone, and I'd be lost.


As God, who is rich in love and mercy, does so often, He holds out hope. Emptiness doesn't have to be the final word...

Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you'll find it's grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he'll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he'll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” You'll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You'll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good riddance!”
Isaiah 30:19-22 (MSG)

I probably should break those verses into chunks, to allow us all to take them in piece by piece... But I just can't. There's such a wall of amazing there that I just can't bring myself to split it up.

Tears are over, grace is abundant, and the Master is keeping us safe, guiding us and helping us - "Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right."

Awesome upon awesome upon awesome.

And, in a quote from a DC Talk song ("Jesus Is Still Alright"), "Now we come to the payoff." -

Our response to all of this...

In the light of all this wonder, we look at all the garbage we've surrounded ourselves with - all of our toys, doo-dads, stuff to impress, attitudes, assumptions - any and all of the crap we make into a cheap blanket fort, trying to keep the Master from getting too close.

Get the picture? No? Ok - work with me here, kids...

Imagine every little corner of your world - external AND internal - suddenly being thrown into the full and glorious light of God's reality, letting you see just exactly what you've accepted as "real" life... Take a look at all that refuse, see how small your reality is, and before the shock and shame can overwhelm you, know that the Master is already wiping away the tears of His little child and taking you into His arms.

And we respond in the only way possible when confronted with the loving, intimate presence of God our Father:

We immediately throw all our idols, all our junk, all our stuff that was trying to take His place (and failing miserably...) in the dumpster.

When the light of the Master fills your eyes, everything else can be seen for what it really is - trash. Nothing else compares. Absofragginlutely nothing.

"So let it go and turn it over to
The One who chose to give His life for you.
Just leave it to Me -
I'll lead you home."
- Michael w. Smith

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

I Wonder Why I Wander

Nomadic career path.

That's perhaps the most eloquent summary of my journey thus far.

It certainly beats the heck out of "Aimlessly searching for purpose," "Futilely looking for something he'll never find," or "Has no idea what he wants to be when he grows up, and shows no signs of ever growing up."

Yup - nomadic career path. Much nicer.

 Nobody likes to live an unsettled life... At least, nobody I know.

Ok - there are those who really like change, new challenges, new situations, and new cars. Or obscenely tum-tum upsetting roller coasters like my neffypooh, who really has issues.

Not so much the Calbert. Especially the roller coasters.

We (Most of us, many of us, some of us, the old personages among us - of whom I am chief...) like things familiar, comfortable, and sort-of-predictable. At least, as predictable as life gets for we humanpersons...

Which is pretty unpredictable, actually.

Maybe we like the predictable because it give us some reassurance that when things are unpredictable, there's some predictable to help calm down the unpredictable. Kind of like drinking milk after biting into some sort of mind-numbingly hot pepper, like the Ghost Pepper - reputedly the hottest pepper humanpersons can possibly endure, with a lot of agony. Or so I've heard - I wouldn't go near one of those boogers with a ten foot... um... something that's ten feet long.

Why someone would choose to consume something that turns your innards into a seething cauldron of pain remains a mystery I will never comprehend. *shudder* Yet one of my good friends chooses those incendiary culinary options on a regular basis. He bewilders me. I love him - but he bewilders me.

So predictable ain't bad, except for those who thrive on unpredictable, spontaneous, roller coasters, and Ghost Peppers. The Master have mercy on your amped-up souls, cast iron digestion, and burned-out taste buds.


So - nomadic career path? Certainly something I wouldn't have chosen. Not really one of my aspirations for my future. Not really on any list of anything I would have checked a big ol' YES to.

And yet, my Father seems to take delight in making sure "predictable" isn't really part of my daily existence. For certain things, yeah - He gives me a few. Daily Audio Bible? Yup - part of my day. Eating, sleeping, etc. Yup - got those covered.

Sense of purpose? Of calling or passion or direction? Not so much.

Career? Goals? Upwardly mobile status? Nope.

Interests? Hobbies? Which musical instrument to play? Which instruments to not play?


Nomadic is more how I roll.

"I see me rollin', I hatin'..."

(Ok - hatin' might be too strong of a term, even if it is a song quote. But "strongly dislikin'" or "finding moderately objectionable" don't really flow. 

I didn't choose the thug life - the thug life chose me.


And for the first time in my constantly wandering path, I may actually be close to somewhat of a revelation of a possibility of perhaps an understanding of why I wander...


I'm never supposed to look at the world the same way twice.


Yeah - that was my reaction too.

Let me put it this way - if you've read more than a couple of these meanderings known as The Whistler's Wonderings, (also known as the Fluffy Goodness...) you'll notice that I seem to have a unique view of the world, of faith, and of wonder.

There are other words one could use to describe it... like "skewed," "whacked," "semi-disturbing," or even "weird."

And no, I'm not offended by any of those. Truthfully, I think they all apply in some way or another.


Now, this may be a load of Calbert-flavored hooey... but in my slanted view of reality, (Oooh - "slanted." That's one I forgot...) this comes closer to helping me understand why I'm never allowed to "settle down" in one place than anything I've pondered my way through.

So here's the deal - Those few, short-lived times when I've had a regular job, I tend to settle into a routine, a groove...

A rut. I'm like a little wind-up toy on a track - wind me up, let me go, and I'll follow the track around, same direction, same steps, same same same.

A big ol' honkin' rut.

And I quickly lose sight of wonder, of beauty, of God's hand moving so gracefully in everything that passes through my day. I forget just how much I've been blessed, the gifts I've been given in all their diversity and wonder (and strangeness...), and I start seeing the world the same way, every day, same ol' same ol'...

And I'm not supposed to do that.

If the scenery never changes, I don't look at life from different angles, seeing different views of God at work in so many ways. If I'm buried deep in a rut, I never look around to consider how this thing of faith continues to work as everyday life, with all its challenges, doubts, and struggles.

If I get settled in one place, I don't see the wonder of God at work right here, right now. I lose the view of my Father's gentle hand, nudging me in so many different ways.

And I forget how much He loves it when I make refrigerator art for Him. In fact, I sometimes get so deep in a rut that I don't make art at all.

So, He keeps me moving, knowing all the while how uncomfortable it is.

He doesn't let me put down roots, even though He knows how much I long for some little space that I can call "mine," because He'd rather have me see all of creation as "His."

He keeps me unsettled, continuing my nomadic path, because if I don't wander, I lose sight of His wonder.

What He has given me is a purpose... a vision... a dream... (For the first time in my life, perhaps?)

I want to spend my time telling His stories, pointing to Him from all the different twists, turns, angles, and strange viewpoints that He leads me through.

I want to communicate His wonder, His mercy, His goodness, His grace... And show how He is so very active, so very involved in it all - right here, right now.

I have no idea what that vision will look like, or if it even is valid. I have no clue how it could become reality. I simply know that it is my passion - using all the diverse gifts that He's given me, from that unique viewpoint He's brought me to ("strange," "slanted," "unusual," "weird..."), and with all the childlike delight and wonder He's put in me.

I want to tell His story.

I want to share His wonder...

As I wander.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mara ("Bitter")

A friend of mine was preaching a sermon from the book of Ruth, and asked her friends in the social-media-interweb-internet-thingies which character they identify with most from the book...

Now, being a guy of the manly male persuasion, my options are a little limited. After all, there's only one really manly man character in Ruth - that would be Boaz, the kinsman redeemer.

(Unless you want to be the dude who was more closely related, who had first right to buy the field, and take responsibility for Ruth, but decided that he didn't want to, so Boaz was able to buy the field and be the kinsman redeemer, and everybody lived happily ever after...)

(I really should have looked up his name, since that would have taken way less time than writing out that whole thingie above, but as all the world knows, that ain't how I roll...)

(HAH! I did look it up, and we don't even know his name! He's just called "the kinsman" or "the family redeemer." I RULE!!!)

(This time, anyway...)

So for a manly man of the male persuasion, there's Boaz. Or "Kinsman Redeemer #2" as they would put in the final credits.

But if I'm honest, I identify with Naomi.

Specifically, I identify with her when she says:

“Don't call me Naomi,” she told them. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”
Ruth 1:20-21 (NLT)

Mara - Bitter. 

Unfortunately, that's been me for a long time now. Perhaps far too long. And perhaps I've finally come along enough to look at it, write through it, and at least attempt to deal with it. At the very least, I'll have put a face on it. Sometimes, that's the toughest step.

It seems to me, in my limited but yet extensive career in Maraology, that when bitter invades our lives, we have some choices...

We can live in it, like Naomi "call me Mara" seems to be doing here. And perhaps we come to believe it defines us.

Who could blame you? I mean, look at Naomi - the circumstances, the losses, the pain, the frustration. "And the award for Best Mara in a Tragedy goes to..."

When someone we know is crying Mara, we can totally understand it. Usually. Sometimes. Maybe. But as time goes on, as they seem to live in it, we may find ourselves backing away, shaking our heads, or quietly muttering amongst ourselves.

We can defy it. We can get in people's faces, we can wear our Mara like a badge of honor, we can make the world rue the day it dumped in our Froot Loops, and we can take the posture of "Kickin' Mara and takin' names."

And, in our defiance, perhaps we're putting Mara on steroids. Marazilla. *Rowr*

When someone we know is defying Mara, we can totally understand it. Usually. Sometimes. Maybe. But as time goes on, as they wield Mara like a club, reducing all the world around them to rubble in their defiance, we may find ourselves backing away or quietly muttering amongst ourselves.

We can let it pass over us. And this would seem to be the "ding ding ding" moment - the right answer that makes you today's Mara champion. Let the bitter pass over, don't let it settle and grow roots, just let it go.

(The first one of you who begins humming "Let It Go" will be immediately escorted out by security. And by "Security," I of course mean Beka wielding the Tongue of Slobberyness and the Flashing Ninja Paws of Destiny. *shudder*)

But bitter seems to have a way of launching sneak attacks. Even when we think we've allowed it to pass over, to "flow like water" (to quote various martial arts teachers, including my Tai Chi teacher), it has a way of creeping up on us and playing Whack-A-*Calbert.* (Insert your name *here* - or don't if you prefer the mental image of Calbert being on the receiving end of the Whack-A. I'm here for your entertainment.)

So we may *say* that we let it go (Watch it - I'm still listening and Beka is standing by...), only to have Mara lurking in the background, waiting for the right moment to strike. And the only person we're fooling with our "it passed right over me" attitude is ourselves. Others see the totality of our world, and as time goes on, they may find themselves backing away or quietly muttering amongst themselves.

Disclaimer: I'm more than aware that each of these scenarios have been played out by various and sundry folks, who then managed to either work through it or embrace it, find grace, and move on. I'm just not among them. At least, not in this zip code.

*** time passes ***

Sometimes, I find myself writing through something like this, and I hit a wall - the words flow, then just stop, slamming up against a brick wall. There's no more to be said at that moment. And I shake my head at myself and wonder why that happens - I seem to be making progress through something, only to run into a wall just when I'm in the fast lane toward clarity...

Perhaps not clarity. That'd be giving Steve (the Mental Hamster) too much credit. And he's NOT fancy that way.

Anyway, I hit one of those walls at this point, packed up the ol' iPad, and headed off to other things, wondering where all this bitterness was going... And as usual, my Father had a destination in mind. He just wanted me to listen a little more carefully.

There is another option, and at first glance, it's going to seem like the worst one of all:

We can accept the bitter.


Told ya.

If you feel your indignation rising within you, ready to heave forth a mighty torrent of contention, disagreement, or at least mega-trolling, pause thou thy poison pen (keyboard, etc.) and hear my tale, ye lords and ladies.

Acceptance is NOT surrender.

Acceptance is NOT apathy.

Acceptance is NOT weakness.

"Alright, writey-boye, get to what the hork it is, that I might load my catapults of refutation and lob stones at thy ramparts."

Wow - I seem to be stuck in medieval mode. Sorry.

Acceptance is a simple acknowledgement that we were hurt, regardless of how, why or by whomever or whatever. And that there are wounds and scars from the hurt. And that we don't have to live damaged, bleeding, and crying.

It can be all three at the same time...

We can live in it - and accept the fact that there are scars. Every time we see those scars, there's a reminder of pain and bitterness. It's a part of our history, thus it's a part of us. To refuse that is to try and perform plastic surgery on our own bodies - trying to excise the scars and make everything purty. Doesn't really work, and can go horribly wrong.

So we accept the scars, the pain, the hurt.

We can defy it - and accept the truth that there's no need to drag the bitterness around like a little kid with a wooden ducky toy trailing along behind them. Just because there's bitterness in our history doesn't mean it needs to be in our present. (And yes, I'm so tempted to go for various quotes from Kung Fu Panda 2, so save me the effort and just go watch it, ok?)

So we learn from it, and realize there's no honor in wearing a badge of Mara.

We can let it pass over us - and accept the fact that our hands aren't big enough to carry all that weight, all that bitterness, all those hurts and scars.

The hurt happened. The bitter came. And I'm not strong enough to deal with it all alone. So that's where I have to climb in my Father's lap, cry on His shoulder, get angry, scream a bit, and learn what His comfort feels like in this confused, broken world, to His confused, broken child.

Apologies if this sounds like the point where someone just threw in a pithy churchy God-thing at the end to make it a neat little devotional, but in my world, this is the only way to put Mara to rest.

It's the only reality that gives me any hope of moving away from Mara-ville into Calbert Acres.

Call me Mara? Sometimes.

But thanks to my Father's grace, Mara isn't forever.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The 40 Year Long Way 'Round

I think I might start a series called "My Weekly Butt Kicking from Pastor Craig."

Nope - too wordy.

"Pastor Craig Kicks My Butt."

No - just doesn't seem right.

"Kickin' with Craig."

Aahhh - that's the ticket.

(If I was cool and hip and in the know, I'd put something like #kickinwithcraig, but I'm not, so I won't.

Although I might see if I can get my peeps from First Cov to use it. Hee hee hee...)

Let us proceed with the kickin'...

Craig has been working through a series in Exodus called "The Great Escape." (And you should really check it out... the link is right here, and you can find the whole series and more CraigAwesomeness at the First Cov website.) So on a Sunday past, we found ourselves headed out from Egypt, and smack dab at the Red Sea in a sermon titled "Freed To Follow."

We also found out that Craig has never seen "The Ten Commandments." Imagine - never seeing Charlton Heston saying "Let My People GO!" or Yul Brenner saying "Heck NO, NRA Boy!" or Edward G. Robinson being his usual gangster self, only in a tunic, sandals, and a head thingie.

Perish the thought. Craig got some watchin' to do.

Anyway, part one of the kickin' came in this little factoid:

If the Hebrews had went a direct route, they could have hit the Promised Land in just a few weeks.


God the Master knew that they weren't ready to deal with what that road would bring them, so He took them the long way 'round...

The 40 year long way 'round.


Yeah. 40 years of mercy wrapped up in wandering, complaining, learning, and manna.

(Ba-MANNA BREAD!! Ah, Keith Green - we miss you!)

40 years teaching former slaves to be a free nation following God the Master.

Cal's takeaway kickin' from this: When God is refining us, training us, and shaping us, it'll take as long as it needs to take. Not a second more than necessary, but not a second before we're ready either.

Even if it takes 40 years...

Part two of the kickin' is...

God is NOT a travel agent. (I love this picture, Craig!) We don't come to Him, with our destination all picked out, all the things we'd like to see, and all the amenities we want included, so that He can make it all nice and smooth and hopefully cheap.


He takes us along the route He decides, to the places He wants us to be. He makes the plan, not us.

I think of it this way: We are deployed. We're sent to where we're needed - either to be the agents of change for the Kingdom He needs us to be, or to places where our training continues.

We're sent - sometimes for short assignments, sometimes long. Sometimes relatively calm places, where we can rest and learn, and sometimes into the middle of conflict, where we face challenge and struggle on all sides.

For the record, this is the only reality that helps me make sense of my nomadic life path - never staying where I'd like to stay, never allowed to put down roots or feel like I'm in my "place." He keeps me moving, keeps me unsettled, and continues to deploy me where He wants me to go.

And, slowly, I'm finally accepting it. 

So far, it's been since 2006 - the 8 year (and counting) long way 'round. Truthfully, it's been much, much longer - the 32 year long way 'round since my best friend became my bride, and a longer long way 'round since leaving my home town and coming to Grand Rapids - I guess I'm really on the 55 year long way 'round, and there's no end in sight.

Which brings us to the third kickin'...

The cloud and the fire.

Every step of the 40 year long way 'round, God went before them.

Not behind, watching them hit struggle after struggle. Not above, sitting on a cloud in a long white robe watching the little ants go marching one by one...

But, before them.

Ahead of them.

Already knowing the way ahead, already knowing the challenges they would face, and already providing what they would need to keep going.

Oh, and hearing their muttering, complaining, and general crabbing all along the journey. Imagine a 40 year session of "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?AreWeThereYet?"

Every parent who read that just had a major shudder. I know you did.


Yeah. Whee.

Oh, and don't even get me started about the gold cow. Edward G., you're goin' DOWN...

(That won't make any sense to folks like Craig, who've committed the egregious sin of never having seen the movie. And yet, I still love you.)

God the Master plans the path we need. God the Master know just how long it will take to bring us through the lessons and assignments needed to have us end up just where He wants us.

And God the Master goes before us. Always.

Thanks, Lord. Message delivered by your servant Craig, and received by your kiddo Calbert.

#kickinwithcraig - a hashtag whose time has come.