Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Favorite Poem

I'm not much for poetry, can't write it, so I don't read it much. Frustrating. I have seemed to stumble across some lately and here is my new favorite.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pardon My Train Wreck

A man like me is dead in places
Other men feel liberated

-Elton John-

I’m at the computer tonight because I read a poem a friend’s dad wrote and it made me want to write. I thought about trying my pen at a poem, but that ain’t me. I love words, I just can’t make ‘em dance. What I can do, what I do really well, is talk about me. This is probably going to be a train wreck, but I’m going try and walk through, as honestly as possible, what my experience has felt like and who I feel like I am in and because of it.

The line above is my favorite line from what is probably my favorite Elton John song – how’s that for honest? This is pretty much how I feel all the time. The reverse is also true.

I’ve talked a lot about the anger that followed my dad’s death. Anger that came hard and fast. Anger that took over and drove out all else. I knew I couldn’t control it and I didn’t want to give it up. I didn’t trust God to take it and I was afraid of what I would feel with it gone. I was confused and afraid, so I hid it. Buried it deep so no one would know or be hurt by it. I was wrong on both counts. When you do that with emotion it does funny things to you. It changes you. This anger ate away at joy and hope; it left me numb and cold. At first I liked it. It was better to not feel. In that way anger gave way to apathy. After all of it, this is what I still struggle with. I don’t care much anymore. I have a hard time getting excited or sad or anything. I’m dead in places.

At least I think that’s what’s happened. I often think maybe I’m not so much dead in those places as I am lost. I think maybe something’s gotten crossed in there. There are times I get emotional, it just never seems to be at the right times. I didn’t cry when my daughter was born, but I sure can’t watch The Biggest Looser without a hanky. What is with that show? I don’t have control of it anymore. I have a leak. I don’t know how to express emotion when its appropriate so it comes out at wired times about strange stuff.

I mentioned in that last post that things are never ok again, and I stand by that. It’s been the most surprising thing about all of this. It turns out people are unique and irreplaceable. Having a daughter doesn’t make up for losing a father. She made her own place, she didn’t take his.

I’ve come to an interesting place, just now. I’m finding that I’m still afraid of feeling anything - or at least uncomfortable with it. I was just about to write a little about my daughter, but I stopped because I knew I would get emotional about it. Weird. Maybe the issue isn’t that I buried emotion before, maybe it’s that I created a habit of burying or avoiding it. I still do it. I’m doing it right now. I’m going to park this and move on.

I may be dead or broken in places most people are not, but I’ve also gotten to experience God in ways that have changed and restored me. I’m not good at the Christian thing - apathy isn’t an asset in this endeavor. I want to read the Bible, I just don’t. I want to pray, I just don’t; At least not very often. Again, I think it’s because I don’t want to deal with the way I feel or why I don’t feel. The problem with the Bible is that it is truth. People respond to truth. You have to deal with it. I don’t want to. Not yet, and certainly not all at once.

I hope this doesn’t sound too depressing. I feel like I do a lot of bitching on here. I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I’m generally at my most somber and introspective when I write. I struggle, yes, but I would rather fight and know than never be challenged and just say that I believe. Mercy and Grace and hope and love aren’t just things I’ve read about in books. I have and do wrestle with and live in them. I have lived - life hard and fast. I have had everything I know torn down around me. Through it all God has been faithful. He has pursued and loved me more fiercely than I ever could have imagined. He has recklessly poured out grace and mercy. He has restored hope and delivered on his promise of freedom. I’m free to embrace life because in the middle of all the mess it’s made I’ve found some good things.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Say What?

A friend of a friend’s father just passed away and my friend asked me what they could or should say to their friend. My first reaction was there is no right or wrong. It’s a terrible situation, one filled with pain and anger and fear. Words can’t make those go away, at least not our words.

I thought about it a while and decided that while there is probably nothing you can say that will magically help, there are some things that you probably shouldn’t say. At least there are things that pissed me off when they were said to me. Please understand that this is just how I feel or felt. I just thought it might be good to get it out there in case someone is in this situation and has no idea what to do.

First, don’t say you know how they feel. You don’t. I’ve been in close to the same situation as her friend and I don’t know exactly how he feels. You don’t know - no need to lie about it. People who have lost somebody like to tell you that you can’t see it now, but it will all be ok. That’s total shit. Please don’t do that. My dad died like eight years ago and it isn’t ok. Its better, but everything is not ok. He will have times when he feels ok, but then he’ll buy a truck or build a fence or get married or have a kid or get his commercial pilot’s license and suddenly it won’t be ok again. There are things a man should be able to share with his dad, in those moments, the big moments, his absence is palpable. There’s a small shadow in the corner of all these moments, in the midst of joy and triumph sadness lingers. That is not ok. Don’t ever say it’ll be ok, you can’t know that. If losing a loved one teaches you anything it’s that nothing is certain. If they are like me suggesting things ever will be again will just piss them off.

I personally don’t like the, “they are in a better place,” or “they aren’t in pain any more” lines. It’s hard to explain why I don’t like them. I think maybe because they make me feel selfish. I wanted my dad back more than anything. To point out that he is better off now made it feel like I was being selfish by wanting him back. Like I would rather him be here suffering instead of me. The other problem there is; what if they aren’t in a better place. I know it’s ugly to think about, but not everyone is. It’s just a bad topic to get on all together. For me the pain and anger of those first few months was almost too much. I didn’t know what to do with it, but I couldn’t think about anything else. I know it sounds bad, but that made it about me. I couldn’t see past my own pain. I got tired of people always asking how my mom was doing, I know it was the worst for her, but it was hard on all of us. Let them know you care about their family, but your focus needs to be on the person you are dealing with. It’s about them. When you talk too much about how sorry you are or how you hurt for them or how you can’t imagine how their mother is making it, it makes them feel, or made me feel, like my pain was being downplayed. That made me feel selfish and gave me an avenue to direct all that anger inward. During the worst of it I was angry at and didn’t trust God, but man, I hated me.

So what do you do? I think you tell them you’re sorry. Tell them you love them, and hold them as tight as you can for as long as they’ll let you. Be honest and real. Create a safe place. They have to know its ok to be angry and sad. They also have to know its ok to laugh a little to. My friend asked if she should try to make him laugh. I said not to try and make him laugh, but allow him to laugh. They have to feel safe expressing whatever emotion they feel, burying it only drags out the process.

If you want to know how to just be there for someone - how to handle the situation with grace and love, ask Kyla and Daniel and Claire and Aaron and Ryan and Danny and Anthony, they were my breath - my safe place. I don’t remember specifics of what they said or how they said it, I just know they loved me well and that’s how I survived.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Good Thing

It blew my mind, it bled me dry, it hit me like a long goodbye,
and nobody here knows better than I that it’s a good thing.

It’ll fall like rain on your parade, laugh at the plans that you tried to make, it’ll wear you down till your heart just breaks and it’s a good thing. It’ll take just a little too much. It’ll burn you like a cinder till you’re tender to the touch.

It’ll follow you down to the ruin of your great divide, and open the wounds that you tried to hide. And there in the rubble of the heart that died you’ll find a good thing. Love is a good thing.
-Andrew Peterson-

This song hit me hard. I’ve felt all of those things. I’ve said the long goodbye; had plans blow up in my face. I’m worn down and broken, burnt and tender, wounded and exposed. I’ve been sifting through the rubble lately trying to make some sense of it all. Trying to find a reason to hope – something to hang my faith on. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me. I know people who can just believe. Who seem to hope by default. I’m a Christian, but I don’t know how to just live it. I have to choose it. Every day, I have to choose it again and again. Sometimes it seems like such an obvious decision and others it takes everything I have. It doesn’t come natural to me.

This song, or the truth it contains, is huge for me because it makes that decision just a little easier. I understand that God is love, I feel loved by him. It’s just that I’ve never thought about it being the power of his love that drives me brokenness. I know this is a necessary part of the process for me, but with the complexity of God it’s difficult to be sure what about him is wreaking this havoc. I’m not sure I’m really getting to it here. The difference seems so subtle as to at first appear irrelevant, but the distinction couldn’t be more powerful for me. I know God is love and I thought that it was out of love that he chose to do these things to me. Like he was actively burning and breaking me. It’s more that this is just what happens when the created is loved by the creator, when imperfect is loved by perfection.

The only thing I can think to compare it to is the way my love makes my daughter feel safe. I don’t tell her she’s safe, at two she wouldn’t understand it anyway. She doesn’t see me lock the doors of know that I have a gun in the dresser. My love for her doesn’t drive me to show her these things so she can feel safe, but when she lays down at night it’s my love the allows her to sleep in the dark. God doesn’t break me because he loves me - he loves me and that breaks me. The difference is subtle, but it’s what allows me to sleep at night.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Live Big

Just look at the ground on the grassy hill. It’ll lift you up but it holds you still, ‘cause gravity binds us but glory defines us—it’s the greater pull of a perfect will ...
It’s so full of meaning, alive and careening into the grace of the great unknown. I’m stuck down here. …up and away to the great wide open, adrift in an end­less ocean, in a bliss of mystical motion. I have found this much is true: love alone can carry you.
-Andrew Peterson-

It’s no secret that I love Andrew Peterson. Something about the way he writes. I think he says things the way I would say them if I could – or he says things in a way that reaches me. Sometimes I feel like the songs are his but the words are mine. I feel like I’m seeing things that I knew or should have known all along, but somehow couldn’t express or identify. I learned last night that he has an album for kids. I think my daughter will like it someday, if this next one is a boy I imagine he’ll eventually enjoy it to. I love it now. It was on in the car today and I enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed any music in a long time. It’s probably that I’ve regressed so far spiritually that I have become like a child, but in between all the silly there are powerful truths. Kids are silly and young and so they like fun and adventure - they don’t dream because they are young - they dream because they haven’t forgotten how. We were made for adventure and dreams and pirate ships and imagination. None of my jeans are grass stained and I rarely make gun sounds when I fly. I want to live – live big.

I want to slay the dragon and rescue the princess. I want to live the life I’ve forgotten. This gravity binds us, but its glory that defines us. To live big, in his will, carries us with grace unto the great unknown. I want to fly.

I became a commercial pilot two weeks ago. It’s the realization of dream. In the pursuit of that dream I have done and seen things very few people will ever experience. Up and away into the great wide open, I’ve escaped the bonds of earth and danced the clouds. I’ve been engulfed in blackness and thunder. I’ve seen beauty and power - felt free and weightless. I’ve been both conqueror and completely insignificant. I have been breathless and speechless and giddy. Somehow in all of that I began the think it was work and study that propelled me. I got lost in the effort and forgot the dream. The truth is: it was never me. It was and is always about the greater pull of a perfect will. It’s not a dream I had, it’s a dream I was given. I forgot.

God, forgive my forgetfulness. I have nothing to offer this journey. This is your dream, your story, your will. My efforts are futile; it’s your love alone that carries me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pt 2. Backwards

A good friend at work says she believes in God, but she doesn't want to go to church because she doesn't want to be a hypocrite and she isn't ready to stop living for herself (I'm paraphrasing). Earlier in a crazy moment I had told her to do something, not asked, told and not overly nicely. I apologized later and said I should have asked and probably said please, her exact words were, "I don't mind obeying people I know and like." She has is backwards. She thinks she needs to have basically become a Christian before she comes to church. She thinks she needs to come to a place where she puts God's desires before her own and then try to get to know him. It won't happen that way.

To know Him is to know that He is good. It’s that knowing that starts to make it possible to value his glory above your own. You'll never be willing to obey someone you don't know and like. She is waiting until she is willing to obey before she tries to know Him. Church is, or should be, the ultimate come as you are place. Learn him; know him, then decide if you want to obey him. There aren't many promises I can make, but I know enough to promise her (and you) this: Christianity is difficult. It won't solve all your problems. It doesn't provide a life that is easy. Christianity is a decision, a very personal and often extremely difficult decision. It’s a decision that you have to make over and over every day, but if you find in yourself the desire and strength to make that decision it will lead to joy and purpose and life. The first thing that we have to decide is whether or not we want joy and purpose and life more than we want fun and sex and alcohol and parties. For what it’s worth, I have of all seven.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

pt. 1 What I Know

The next three posts are kind of part of the same process for me. I'm going to divide it up and post it over the next couple of days. I hope you stop back by for the rest.

These days have been quiet for me -long and . I haven't done the things I've needed to do to stir the waters. I've been absent - far away and busy. Even the days seem quiet - still and lonely. It’s cold and dark now, I don't feel or think - I just do. The motions are easy but rest is elusive. There are faces I don't know - parts of a story that can't be mine. There is a fog - cold and quiet.

Something has moved. Pebbles dropped in a still pool. The ripples are small, but the water is moving. It’s hard to make my way back to the pool, but I know there is healing there. I've heard stories - been asked questions - been invited, challenged. I feel almost brave enough to hope - could there be light, warmth, and healing enough for me?

A friend recently lost his newborn daughter. I haven't spoken to him since, but I heard he spoke at the memorial service. I can't imagine having strength like that, but I know where it comes from. This is the kind of story that penetrates, that finds you where you are and forces you to think. It wakes you up and brakes you. I don't like to think about what I would do in his situation, but I can't help it. I know in the moment I wouldn't be as strong as I've heard he has been, it takes me longer. I think in situations like these the only question is whether or not you believe that God is good.

I don't believe God kills. I believe we do. It’s difficult to accept death because deep down we all know we aren't supposed to die. We weren't created for it - we choose it (or chose it). I don't believe my friend’s daughter chose it, just like I don't believe my dad chose it. Adam and Eve made the same choice we all make. We choose our glory over Gods, our wishes over His plans. In this way we choose death, every day. We have created a fallen world, destroyed paradise and replaced it with a sort of nursing home. We are all dying here. God chose not to abandon us this fate. He provided a way out. He gave up his glory and came to live among us. While here he didn't choose death, he chose life, over and over every day for 33 years he chose life so that when he did finally decide to meat death it was ours he met and not his own. He took our death - he met it as sacrifice and conqueror. Death has been defeated - we have life and hope and grace and mercy freely available to us. We just have to choose it.