Friday, 26 December 2008

A Long Time Ago...in a childhood not so far away (but actually 1152, and worth every word)

Some of my friends recently did top 5 lists on their blogs and I think that's great but by the time I got around to it all the good answers had been taken, so I passed. Except for this one thing: most had Star Wars on their list of movies they wished they'd seen in the theater.

Check mark, suckers.

And not only did I see it in the theater, I saw it three times in the theater. I was five, but I was there, and I remember it clearly. In fact, the first time we went to see it, it sold out. I was standing with Brent in a line about a hundred people long when the manager came out and announced it was sold out. This was my first trip to the movies and back then they didn’t do multiple screens, so Brent, in a quick moment of inventiveness, took us to see Pete's Dragon instead. Which I also remember clearly.

People may say, “Neil, there’s no way you can remember that.” But back then…no dvd’s. No vcr’s. No cable. We didn’t have media at our fingertips in a constant stream. Saturday morning cartoons were all we had, a moment like this was revolutionary for a five year-old.

So Star Wars is the second movie I saw In The Theater. And the first I saw multiple times. To say it marked me is understating it. Imprinted is a better word. I’m not one for dressing up and conventions, but I am a FAN. I played Star Wars for years after that…standing on my friend Thad’s bed to swing across the chasm in the Death Star…fighting over who got to be Luke…every Wednesday night on the church playground where the tire-jungle-gym was our Millennium Falcon and the tractor was the Xwing…I had the Darth Vader carrying case for all my action figures. Han Solo had lost a head somewhere and I didn’t care. Leia could kiss his neck…I drove around on the Thursday before Ep. IV reopened to every theater asking for the manager, saying, “I know it’s “opening” tomorrow, but I also know you usually get the reels on Tuesday…” At the third theater, the manager said, “be here a 11:45, bring your own food.” So I saw the rerelease of all three the night before, at midnight…I saw all the new ones at midnight…Jar Jar didn’t bother me that much…in Ep. II when Yoda comes tapping in with his cane, my heart started thumping. When he lit that laser sword (how do you describe a moment of fruition you’ve been imagining for twenty years?)…I drove to Walmart at three in the morning after that to buy the soundtrack…and even though the writing was crappy at best, when Ep. III came out, it was a milestone event, I had spent my whole life with this story, and it was finally concluding. I was closing a book I had been reading for thirty years.

Then I had some kids and the adventure started all over. They watched the originals with mixed results, but Star Wars found it’s groove with Jacob in the Clone Wars. He loves it. He was Luke for Halloween this year. He plays Star Wars on the playground with the neighborhood kids. So a couple of Saturdays ago we’re at Brent and Mil’s, and what has magically appeared in the toy closet? My Darth Vader carrying case? I haven’t seen that thing in at least ten years, and Jacob is glued to it. Of course he doesn’t recognize any of the figures. He looks at me like I’m crazy when he holds up who he thinks is Count Dooku and I tell him it’s Obi Wan. The Moment though, is when he finds Yoda and asks me where his lightsaber is, and I explain to him that when I was his age, Yoda didn’t have a lightsaber, how long I’d waited to see it, and how old he (Jacob) was when I finally saw Yoda Light It Up.

With kids you can never tell what sticks. I couldn’t tell how interested Jacob was in my story about Yoda’s lightsaber, but he asked if we could have lunch at Mimi & Poppy’s on Sunday (because he wanted to play with the Star Wars figures…YES!!!) But Sunday morning rolls around and we’re walking through church and he sees his friend Jacob Boyd and proceeds to recount to him every detail of the Yoda story.

I’m not sure who told him, but somehow he knows there’s Star Wars stuff at Disney World. And that’s all he wants to do. I remember the “Star Tours” ride, and while I don’t think it’s anything to write about, I want Jacob to have a great experience, so I’m committed to making it as awesome as possible. Day 2 is Hollywood (formerly MGM) Studios day. Jamie picks up the show times for the day and tells us there’s a Jedi training show over by the Star Tours, starting in five minutes. I think, “A Jedi Training Show? We can’t miss that!” So off we dash.

I don’t know what I was expecting…honestly I don’t think I even got that far. I just didn’t want Jacob to miss the show. What I got easily ranks in the Top Five Moments of Fatherhood, right after the four births, replacing Jacob’s first hit in baseball for number five.

The Jedi comes out and tells the crowd he’s here to train younglings in the way of the force and he starts pulling kids on stage. At first I thought it would be three or four, and although Jacob had shouldered to the front and was jumping up and down, I didn’t think he’d make it.


But he took about fifteen or so, including Jacob, and I thought, “Okay, this will last for a minute or two. It’ll be great.”

But then they start handing out robes…


…and lightsabers, and he’s teaching them a sword routine…


…I’m running like mad, trying to get a good angle against the sun, and then the music starts, the stormtroopers come out…

…and then this guy…


Neil’s interior monologue: “Attention, attention, we’ve entered a new condition.”

Still it’s not registering what’s going to happen. I think “this is awesome! Jacob’s on stage with Vader, and he’s going to get to see this guy fight him!”

Then they start lining kids up…


…And my childhood fantasies are fulfilled in my son.



To say it was dusty out there…well, I was a little emotional. He was awarded a certificate promoting him from Youngling to Padawan. I’m framing it for him.

It’s a little dusty right now.

So Jacob locked lightsabers with Darth Vader and now he’s a Padawan.



(edit)

I took over 500 pictures at Disney, and you’ll be able to see them on my Facebook in the next few days. More stories to come.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Asher the Basher (But actually 351)


Alright. It’s time to climb out of the rathole I’ve been spiraling down for the last 2 months.

Sunday morning I’m sitting in the Toile (pronounced TWALL) Chair in Shannon’s and my bedroom, putting my shoes on. Next to the Toile Chair is Shannon’s dresser. And on top of the dresser are some pictures of Shannon and I. Asher bebops in and here’s our conversation:



Asher: What are you doing?
Me: I’m putting my shoes on.
Asher: To got to work?
Me: No. We’re going to church.
Asher: I don’t want to go to church.
Me: You don’t?
Asher: I want to go to school.
Me: But it’s Sunday. We’re all going to church.
Asher: I don’t want to go to my class. I want to go to school.
Me: You don’t like you’re class?
Asher: (picks up a picture from the dresser of Shannon and I with Jacob at about 2 and Lorelei at about 6 mos.) who’s this?
Me: Who is that?
Asher: Mommy and Daddy.
Me: That’s right.
Asher: And that’s Jacob and Piper.
Me: No. That’s Lorelei when she was a baby.
Asher: That’s not Piper?
Me: That’s Lorelei.
Asher: Where’s Asher?
Me: You weren’t born yet.
Asher: (Pointing at Shannon’s stomach) In mommy’s belly?
Me: No. We hadn’t even thought of you yet. You just…weren’t.
Asher: And this is a band-aid! (producing a band-aid out of nowhere. The real reason he’s come in.)
Me: (shaken out of my wonder of trying to remember life before Asher, laughing) Yes. It is.
Asher: Put it on!
Me: Okay. Where?
Asher: Thumb! (which he sticks in my face.)

(I do. It’s the largest size band-aid they make that doesn’t have the words “gauze pad” in it. It wraps around his thumb and wrist.)

Asher: That feels better!
Me: Good!
Asher: (picks up a clay jar from the bookshelf and takes the lid off. Then sips out of it.) That’s good coffee!



I can’t believe how awesome he is. I wonder if God is utterly delighted by my antics the way I am by Asher’s. I hope so.

Monday, 10 November 2008

write or die.

If you're like me, you'll see this as a blessing in terror, or an awesome mind game--pick 'em. I'm trying it right now.

And does anyone else feel like they're cheating on Studio 60 when they watch 30 Rock?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Zachariah

I went to Eastern Europe last January where I had the privilege to the Mirga's. They live in a tiny Roma village without running water. This is the video I produced about them and their son Zachariasz (pronounce Za-har-y-osh). One correction to the video: Zachariasz is their 4th son, not their third. The first was still-born, the 2nd and 3rd both died from this same mystery disease.




I got this email this morning.


I am very sad to have to say this, Zachariah died last night.November 5, 2008.
Zachariah was a gift from God with a purpose!!!! We may not totally understand right now why he had to live a short life, but God's plans are perfect.
Zachariasz (His Roma name) caused many of us to be on our knees before God in petitioning prayer for many months. The many trips to the hospitals became times of Ola sharing her faith and the gospel message with many other parents who had very sick children too. Ola is a faithful wittiness for the Lord.Andrzej is a bold wittiness to all also.

Please pray for Ola & Andrzej Mirga as they arrange the funeral and suffer the physical loss of their son Zachariasz.
Please pray for God's grace & peace that passes all understanding.
Please pray
that God will be glorified through all of this. Pray that the mouths of the mockers and unbelievers will be stopped. Pray that they will see God in this and not be confirmed in their minds that our God is not real.
Ola Mirga, last night told me to say to you all "Thank you all for your prayers for me and my family!!!!"
Z Bogiem, Jerry & family




Here's the prayer (and a couple of pics from the prayer exp) I wrote for Zachariasz last May that was prayed at all our camps.

LEADER: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
His love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
RESPONSE: “His love endures forever.”
LEADER: Let the house of Aaron say:
RESPONSE: “His love endures forever.”
LEADER: Let those who fear the LORD say:
RESPONSE: “His love endures forever.”


LEADER: Your love endures forever, regardless of life or death. Regardless of where we go or what we do, your love endures forever. We pray that your enduring love will crash over Andrzej, Ola, & Zechariah like a tidal flood. We pray that it soaks them through, that it saturates them, and that when they walk through their village of Szaflary, it drips off their fingertips and leaves puddles in their footprints; that Szaflary is marked, stained by the overflow of your love for these children of yours who cling to you with their very lives.
LEADER: In my anguish I cried out to the LORD,
And He answered me by setting me free.
RESPONSE: The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is with me; He is my helper.
I will look in triumph on my enemies.

LEADER: Father, they have endured unimaginable anguish, and they cry out to you. We add our voices to theirs, fervently hoping and praying that you will hear and set them free. Set them free from the fear of losing their son. Be Andrzej’s helper, be Ola’s helper, give them triumph over their fears, over their anguish.
RESPONSE: It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in princes.
LEADER: Father the doctors are baffled. The hospitals have no answers. Andrzej & Ola’s only choice is to trust in you, to take refuge in your shadow. It’s in your hands. Any miracle, any cure comes from you. Only you can save Zechariah’s life.
And it’s easy to pray that you save Zechariah’s life. It’s easy and we pray it with urgency and expectation. Most High God will you please save this little boy’s life? Jehovah Rapha, in the name of Jesus, by the power of Christ, we pray that you will heal Zechariah.

But we also pray the hard prayer. Even as our hearts cry out for Zechariah’s life, we pray as Jesus did, on the Mount of Olives: we pray for your will. We pray for your glory. We pray that your desires are accomplished and that Andrzej & Ola will glorify you no matter the outcome.
Jesus Christ we trust that you hear our prayers and intercede on our behalf. Jesus Christ, you are the greatest of all time. Amen.


Please pray for Andrzej and Ola as they continue to love and serve their neighbors through this hard time.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Life Change equals proof, and other stuff (but actually 395)

My friend Michael wrote this today. I started to comment on it, but my comment grew longer than I feel is appropriate for a comment, and is really a whole other thought, and since I haven’t posted in forever, I thought it would be appropriate as it’s own thought. Please read his post first.

(edit)

I think people say they want one thing and do another. I think it's easier to watch "The Biggest Loser" and feel good about eating a salad than it is to work towards a healthy lifestyle. I think it's easier to sleep in and watch football on Sundays than to commit to a community. Easier to show up five minutes late and leave five minutes early so you don't have to talk to anyone.

I'm not being pessimistic, I just know my own tendencies, and know that most people will say they want depth, but won't go deep because it's not convenient. Depth in action is scary because it requires life change. And this is my greatest struggle as a leader of a group. When God exposes brokenness (usually my own) and I ask hard questions in my class, people tend not to come back. The struggle is that I know it's not up to me, it's God's work. My role is to speak the name of God into their lives and then to pray that they listen.

But that doesn't make me feel any better about the thousand that say they want depth and community, but then only ten show up for it. I know my job is to focus on the ten and I do. I love the ten to the best of my ability. I am content with what God is doing and who he’s bringing. The reality is I can’t handle more than that right now. I know God is protecting me, protecting Shannon and the kids.

Dr. Peterson wrote “a person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way.” I guess the 990 just aren’t disgusted enough yet.

Michael, I think you’re right. More than ever people want proof of the remedy before they’ll buy. And the only proof Christianity has to offer is a life well-discipled. So I’ll keep working with my ten, hoping their lives will prove to ten more.

Monday, 13 October 2008

FOM running log (but actually WAY over.)

I spent the weekend at Ridgecrest producing one of Lifeway’s Festivals of Marriage. What follows is a running log of my weekend.

Thursday Oct. 9

4:00 pm: Pull out of the Lifeway parking lot. Nashville traffic. Awesome. But the car’s got an aux line in. Now if I only had an 1/8” cable…

4:30 pm: The ankle’s bothering me pretty bad. I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t recall doing anything to it. Pulling off around the Hermitage to get a new wrap, a cuppa and some drugs. And if I pass a Walmart? Perhaps a 1/8” cable…

5:30 pm: Who am I kidding. I got the other stuff 45 minutes ago. I NEED that cable. I’ve got “Growing Up Live” and “Studio 60” and a 6 hour drive ahead of me.

6:00 pm: Back on the road. Was the cable worth two hours? At least the traffic’s thinned out.

7:30 pm: In goes Peter Gabriel’s “Growing Up Live”

7:35 pm: Holy Crap Growing Up Live is brilliant.

7:45 pm: BRILLIANT!!

9:00 pm (eastern): Pulling off in Knoxville for some food. Talk to Shannon for a few minutes. Ankle feels worse. I tell her I might have to go to the doctor when I get back.

10:00ish pm: Have had a religious experience with “Growing Up Live.” Seriously, I found myself wishing we sang Peter Gabriel songs in church. In goes “Studio 60.”

Friday Oct 10

12:00 am: Pull into Ridgecrest. Check-in and see the “Watch out for Bears!” flyer, it makes me chuckle, even though my ankle feel like someone hit it with a sledgehammer. Decline the meal plan. I’m in Black Mountain baby!! My Father’s Pizza! The Madison Inn! The Dripolator! El Camino! Thai Basil! I’m a Black Mountain local!

12:10 am: Two FOM couples check in right after me. In their defense, the room numbering in the Mt. Laurel hotel is bizarre and has absolutely ahnothing to do with floors. But they take the elevator the conference level, where there are no rooms. I look at their room number and tell them where to go. They’ve got a cart so I let them take the elevator without me. Mainly I don’t want them to see me limp. One of them asks me if I’m a “famous christian singer.” I find this bizarre but merely say, “no ma’am, I just work for Lifeway.”

12:15 am: Of course my room is at the end of the hall. I start to laugh the pain is so bad. And perhaps I need to visit the ER in the morning…

12:30 am: I’m giggling like mad because I can’t get my act together as I keep leaving stuff on the opposite side of the room. Grit my teeth and go back down the hall to get some ice.

12:45 am: Icing my ankle doesn’t feel as good as it should. Spend some time writing to give the ice time to work.

2:00 am: Turn off the computer and take the ice off my ankle. Ice didn’t seem to help a bit, but if I can get to sleep it should be fine.

Unspecified time: Awakened by pain in ankle. Can’t find a comfortable position.

5:30 am: Can’t go back to sleep. Take the Gayle Cocktail (4 ibuprofen, 2 acetaminophen. To the makers of Advil & Tylenol (respectively), I’d be happy to give you credit if we can work out some sort of promotional consideration). Manage to drift off to sleep after awhile.

Unspecified time: OW! Cramp! Cramp! In the same calf! Sweet mother Cramp! I can’t stretch it out because I can’t flex my ankle! AHHHH!!

8:00 am: Alarm. There’s no way I’m getting up.

8:45 am: Up, can hardly stand to put weight on it. Hobble to the shower. Call Satterfield to tell him what’s what.

10:00 am: Compromise with Shannon by telling her we’ll find a doctor or nurse at FOM registration to look at it. If it’s bad enough I’ll go to the ER.

10:15 am: Into the Black Mountain Rite Aid to buy a cane. That’s right, I bought a cane while at Ridgecrest. How many people can say that?

10:29 am: The lady at McDonald’s tells me I was the cut-off car for breakfast. Ha HA!! I’m awesome. Suck on that car behind me, I’m gettin’ the last Sausage Mcmuffin!

11:15am: My computer tells me it’s going to take 10 hours to transfer 2 gig worth of Propresenter background files off the Lifeway server. That shouldn’t be a problem at all. (Event starts in approximately 8 hours).

5:30 pm: Haven’t left my chair, ankle one big continuous throb. Spent the last six hours entering songs into Propresenter the hard way. Seriously, this is why we have interns. The network kicks me off about two-thirds of the way through the transfer. I guess that’ll have to do!

6:00 pm: Hobble up to the booth. Putting the show together, finding backgrounds, actors still haven’t shown up, and Mark tells me they have tech cues. The two RCC house guys can’t get the speaker’s mics to work. House opens in thirty.

6:10 pm: Slamming announcement slides into Pro. The tech guys just unplugged the wireless receiver rack and are hoofing it downstairs. Mark is having a panic attack. House opens in twenty.

6:15 pm: I’m barely ready to run media for the night. Actors show up. Mics still not patched. Oh wait, the screens aren’t on.

6:20 pm: Pro freaks out, nothing on screens. I’m having a panic attack now. Mics still not patched. House opens in ten.

6:22 pm: Get the screens working. Sound is a crapshoot. Mark has clumps of hair in his hands.

6:25 pm: Restart my computer. Screens go black while this happens. Mark about loses it until I tell him that was supposed to happen. Mics still not patched. House opens in five.

6:30 pm: House opens. Slides and preshow music roll. Mark brings up the drama’s light cues. Mics patched (we hope).

7:00 pm: Go flight. Show starts, people laugh at the video.

7:04 pm: Mark’s mic doesn’t work.

7:07 pm: Here’s a dirty little secret, I’ve never run Propresenter, Media Shout, or Powerpoint for any show or worship service. This is a lot of pressure!! My backgrounds are haphazard, and I discover, too late, that some of them wash the words out! Plus I’ve never worked with this worship leader, and while his notes say what he’s going to do, he doesn’t always follow it. Wait, what’s wrong with those backgrounds? Why are they so glitchy???

7:25 pm: The guy running lights sees something goes wrong with the wireless rack downstairs, so he takes off to fix it right as the drama WITH LIGHT CUES starts. It’s chaos in the booth as the sound guy and I struggle to cover it.

9:00 pm: The carnage is over. Plan time with the techs on Saturday to make sure the sound issues are worked out well in advance. Apologize to Mark, promising it’ll be better then next night. Set an appointment with the speaker in the morning to work out the rest of his slides. Talk with seminar leaders for a bit.

9:45 pm: Say goodnight to Mark, head into Black Mountain for food. Talk with Shannon, who’s working a puzzle with Jacob. Don’t want to wait at My Father’s for pizza. Get some Taco Bell. Head back to RCC.

10:30 pm: In the room, take the Gayle cocktail, watch “Charlie Bartlet” which I think is pretty decent. Obviously draws from “Ferris Bueller” and “Rushmore” but I like Anton Yeltsin and RD Jr. always great.

Satuday Oct 11

12:45 am: Think about writing. Think better of it. Turn off the light.

7:00 am: Alarm. Ignore

7:45 am: Meeting in forty-five minutes with Speaker. Have to get up.

8:30 am: No time for breakfast. Ankle feels better today. Meet with speaker, get notes for slides.

9:00 am: Make slides, finish entering songs, build show for tonight. Find Sports bar in Asheville to watch football.

11:10 am: I’m late! I’m hungry! I’m getting a caffeine headache! Hobble up to Clouds for a RCC “Starbuck’s” cuppa.

11:30 am: Headed into Asheville for football and wings. This is the one thing I want to do for myself this weekend.

12:00 pm: Pull in to the place right as OU/Texas starts. I’m awesome. And LO! What’s this? .25 wings? .50 oysters? Yes!

12:30 pm: I’m a multitasker. Eat wings, reencode background vids so they’ll play right. Read through a play a friend has asked me to direct. Keep an eye on TX. The Michigan couple next to me is not having a good time.

3:40 pm: Game runs long, no time for a shower. But TX wins, So I’m okay with it.

4:30 pm: Meet the tech guys, who ASSURE me the mics are good to go. Finish reencoding vids. Preselect backgrounds to go with songs. I’m awes.

6:30 pm: Doors open. Mark is much calmer. I am much calmer.

7:00 pm: Service goes off mostly without a hitch. Mostly. Worship leader freestyles a little more tonight.

9:30 pm: Seminar leaders make me feel good by calling Mark out in front of me, asking why I’m not writing this year. Mark takes my cane.

10:00 pm: Tonight it’s Wendy’s. Pushed my lunch too far to go to My Father’s tonight. Of my daily $35 meal allowance I have spent $34.72. I’m awesome.

10:30 pm: Room. Gayle Cocktail. Watch “Redbelt.” Wendy’s forgot the spoon for my Frosty.

Sunday Oct 12

12:30 am: Holy cow. Mamet delivers the goods. Chiwetel Ejiofor rules. Amazing.

7:30 am: Alarm. Up. Shower. Pack. Ankle feels MUCH better today.

8:30 am: Head into Black Mountain for food. I AM GOING TO THE DRIPOLATOR. I CANNOT LEAVE BLACK MOUNTAIN WITHOUT EATING AT ONE OF THE LOCAL PLACES I LOVE.

8:35 am: Dripolator doesn’t take credit cards. Crap.

8:36 am: Turn around, I’ll pay for it out of my pocket.

8:37 am: I don’t have any cash. Crap. Crap. !!

8:38 am: Settle for the gas station. Boo.

8:40 am: A guy approaches me as I get out of the car and asks for change. I offer to take him inside and get him something to eat. He says the owner will call the cops if I do that. I have one dollar. I give it to him.

9:00 am: Back at RCC, finishing slides and backgrounds.

10:15 am: Mark starts the giveaways. A church brought 32 couples. That’s awesome.

11:10 am: Speakers do the “longest married/shortest married” thing. There’s a couple here who’s been married eight days. Wow. Later I find out that a couple has been coming off and on to the FOM for seven years. The guy finally accepted Jesus last night. Amazing.

12:00 pm: It’s all over. We pack it in.

1:30 pm: Texas Roadhouse. We get steaks bigger than our heads.

2:30 pm: Quick stop at the ‘Bux for a cuppa. On the road. Listen to the Mamet commentary track on “Redbelt.” That guy’s the deal. More Studio 60 after that.

7:00 pm (central): Nashville. Lifeway. Home.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Breaching Whales (but actually 722)

My bro-bro’s PJ and Mike and I have a theory that we’re like whales. We like to swim in deep water, but every now and then we have to surface and just blow it out our blowholes. (hee hee) I’ve been pretty deep lately. I’d say the broken arm post was me starting to come up. The last post I was breaching. I can’t be sure, but at least tonight I feel like wallowing on the surface, smacking my tail around.

Either there is an alien growing in my ankle or I’ve cracked/broken/torn something, and I have NO IDEA HOW! I was explaining to Shannon that every now and then it gets a little stiff, but usually goes away. Tuesday morning I got up and it was kind of stiff. I didn’t think anything about it and went about my day. Wednesday morning I got up and it was stiff. I went ahead and worked out, and it was kind of twingy, but not too bad. By Wednesday night I could hardly walk. Now it’s swollen and I can hardly stand to put weight on it. And I can’t for the life of me figure out what I did! Here’s the funny part: As I drove to Ridgecrest tonight to PD an event this weekend I told Shannon I might have to go to the doctor on Monday. In and of itself that’s not so funny except as hobbled down to my room I thought I might not make it to Monday, I might need to go to the ER tomorrow. This part isn’t funny either except I remembered that at some point in the recent past I gave my insurance card to somebody who was taking one of my kids somewhere, and I can’t remember who. So I’m at Ridgecrest without my insurance card, and my ankle’s mysteriously the size of a softball. It’s sound terrible, but I keep laughing about it, so it must not be that bad. Of course it’s 1:15 in the morning, and I’ve been up since 4:30.

So I’m pretty sure I had a worship experience the car tonight with Peter Gabriel. I say pretty sure because I was singing at the top of my lungs, grinning like the village idiot while driving the North Carolina hills. I was “listening” to “Growing Up Live.” “Listening” is a word used here to mean I had the DVD in my cpu playing through the car stereo. (I would steal an occasional peak at the screen.) I have to say, whatever you’re doing right now, stop it. If you’re sleeping, wake up, get in the car and rush to your nearest purveyor of live concert DVD and purchase this. Stop reading!! Put the computer down and rush, I say, rush to get it. Barilliant. Brilstinkinliant. Kevin Jordan, I blame you for not introducing me to this sooner. I could have seen this years ago! And why doesn’t Kevin have a Facebook so I can properly berate him?

Anyway, I say ‘pretty sure’ because I’m having a fantastic time singing with Peter Gabriel, and I think to myself, “you know, people talk about what they hope Jesus says to them when they get to heaven, but when my time comes, I hope Jesus shows up singing ‘Solsbury Hill’ to me.” And then later I thought, “and my response to Him will be ‘In Your Eyes’

He’ll sing:

My heart was going boom boom, boom
Son, he said, grab your things, I’ve come to take you home.

And I’ll answer:

In your eyes, the light, the heat
In your eyes I am complete
In your eyes, the resolution
Of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes, I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
The heat I see in your eyes

And I realized I was worshipping in a way that’s very rare for me: I was completely unconscious of it. And I think those are the sweetest moments for me: when find myself ten feet deep in worship without the slightest idea of how I got there.

One final thing. I got here (RCC) around midnight. On the check-in counter is a flyer with big letters at the top saying: “Warning! Bear Sightings!”

Go figure.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

500 words of random drivel (but actually 451)

I’m really trying to like “Fringe.” I really am. But it’s really kind of terrible. Apart from the J.J. Abrams injected unknown/supernatural/thriller elements there’s nothing good about it. And I mean “ah-nothing.” I could forgive the clunky dialogue if the character development was any good. I could forgive the cardboard characters if the plot was any good. I could forgive the paint-by-number plots if the story arcs were any good. I could forgive the frozen tv dinner story arcs if…you get the point.

I’m terribly disappointed in it, and while I want to go on detailing it’s failings, I feel it would be belaboring the point (for me) and boring (for you). I haven’t yet given up on it, but I don’t know why. I keep hoping it’ll get better, but I don’t see how unless someone wrests control from everybody involved with it (except Abrams. He gets to stay). I think it’s because there’s nothing else on (I gave up on “Heroes” a long time ago). Maybe “Crusoe” will be better, and I’ll probably watch “My Own Worst Enemy” just to see how they handle it. I like Christian Slater well enough—he’s got all the makings to be a great action hero in the Bruce Willis vein, if he’s tough enough, and that’s the question mark.

With all that’s on the plate (see posts 1 & 2) there’s not much time for TV, but I’m the sucker that’ll plop down and find SOMETHING to watch. A couple of years ago I was convicted about my TV addiction, so I cut it out except for football. And I was surprised by how little I missed it. Yet I feel it’s important for who I am and what I do (lest I become like the Hollywood execs & producers who are COMPLETELY out of touch). On Demand, the DVR, and seasons on DVD have become my main avenues. So I don’t watch “The Office” in real time. I missed “Chuck”, which I hear is good.

So all that to say…I have no idea what. I told you this post was drivel, didn’t I?

But then after Fringe I had the weirdest dream about bears. I knew I was dreaming, and inside my dream I was camping and someone warned me about bears, and I said I knew all about the bears. Then (still in the dream) I fell asleep and had a dream about a bear attacking me and how to handle it. Then (still in the dream) I woke up to a bear attacking me and I handled it exactly like I did in the dream (inside the dream) and it worked. Then I woke up.

Bears in dreams. Weird.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

So Lorelei Broke Her Arm... (but actually 589)


It actually happened Sunday, but I kept forgetting to take pictures with the cast, and now it turns out that’s a good thing as a trip to the orthopedist today revealed that she broke not just one bone, but both of them down in her wrist.

We were at the zoo for the opening of the new playground. But it’s actually more like a playmegalopolis. It’s three stories. It’s got a corkscrew slide from the top. It has cargo nets and tunnels and secret passages and more monkey bars and spider webs than I could count.

Lorelei and Jacob were on the zipline. (Not really a zipline, but a rail that has a track with a handle on it that you can ride back and forth.) My mother was with them and it was Lorelei’s turn. Mom pushed her, and evidently pushed her hard enough that when Lorelei reached the end of the rail, it hit hard enough for her not to be able to hold on. She fell and landed wrong.

MOM! THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!! I PUSH THEM TOO HARD ALL THE TIME. DOWN THE STAIRS…OFF THE ROOF…YOU NAME IT! Seriously, anyone could have done it. I have always pushed them on those contraptions and they always fall it. They’re kids. It’s what happens. And need I remind you that I’m the one who caused Asher to faceplant off the swing just a week ago?

Here’s the bad part.

We put an icepack on it but didn’t think it was that bad. So we continued our merry zoo day. Lorelei and I had a particularly good time in the snake/lizard/frog/spider house. When we got home that night and she was still complaining of how much it hurt, Shannon took her to the emergency room and LO! Broken arm. But the quacks at the ER told us it was just one bone broken. I’m suing. But they did also splint Moosie’s arm (Lo’s stuffed animal), so they get points for that.

That was the end of the trauma, but merely the beginning of the drama. Lorelei got home and told Jacob he couldn’t give her a hug because her arm was broken. She wanted to sleep in her sling. She told Shannon she “can’t do ANYTHING!” because of her arm. My favorite: “I can’t read!” She walked into class Monday morning sharpie in hand for cast signing. Monday afternoon this girl who can’t read because she has a broken arm is swinging in the back yard. Later that night she couldn’t eat her ice cream (chocolate with sprinkles, whipped cream & strawberry sauce, “just so I’ll feel better”) because it was “too hard.”

And then comes bath time.

The Ziploc bag/
rubberband ghetto rig failed spectacularly and the ER splint got pretty soaked. “Inconsolable” is the word I think most aptly describes Lorelei’s reaction. I’m talking out-of-control sobbing and wailing. But the orthopedist appointment was this morning and now everything is right in the world thanks to the sweet pink cast. Although she can’t do anything.



I know my attitude is pretty cavalier. But I figure I’ve got four kids. It’s not a question of “if” or even “when” but “how many” and “how bad”. And considering Shannon’s and my liberal “freedom to fail” policy that we have with them, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a broken bone.

P.S. Jacob just said, "Mommy, I want to break my arm and get a cast like Lorelei's..."

And here’s Asher as a dragon.


Monday, 6 October 2008

An open response to non-churchgoing believers (but actually 13 c's & some change)

Hi Chris (and those who confess to being like him),

As I read your blog many things came to mind. But as I began my comment I realized it might be longer than your blog and thought that might be a little much for a comment. So I decided to give it full rein and let it be what it is. A lot of people will think I’m criticizing you. I hope you take it as encouragement.

When I was at SL Fish and I would often talk about how we felt our little traveling family was in many ways more like a church than the ones we attended. We spent MASSIVE amounts of time together talking about life and faith, eating, having devotionals and corporate prayer. We attended hundreds of worship services led by the best pastors and worship leaders out there. It felt a lot like church, and like the church should be. But it wasn’t the church. It wasn’t the church because I never made the decision to be there. I never humbled myself before God and submitted to his process, his plans. I didn’t do any of that because it was my job. Sure, I worshiped, I prayed, I learned. But I was working the whole time. I never submitted myself to God’s ordained community. I’d go to church and feel dead inside, disconnected. “I’ve sung this song a million times. I’ve heard this sermon over and over and over!” I’d leave frustrated, feeling as if church just wasn’t for me.

But singing songs and listening to sermons has very little to do with being a member of a church. What I finally learned to be the truth about the church is not the trappings: the building, the songs, the teaching. It is about commitment to the body. It is Ephesians 5: “just as Christ loved the church…Be subject to one another.” When I subjected myself to the body…when I (as Ms. Ten Boom says) obeyed, my feeling of commitment to the church developed. I spent a year keeping two year-olds, and I loved my church.

When Jacob was born we took the hiatus that we feel we deserve because WE JUST HAD A BABY. And when we came back I felt it all over again. Disconnected, world and church-weary. Every class Shannon and I went to we didn’t fit. Frustrated, our attendance wavered. And then I read this:

“Whether we like it or not, the moment we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior…we are at the same time a member of the Christian church…Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ…Membership in church is a basic spiritual fact for those who confess Christ as Lord...For Go never makes private, secret salvation deals with people…We are a family in Christ.” (Peterson, “A Long Obedience…, 175)

And I know you know this. You say as much in your post. But the next part is the one that got me.

“…So the question is not ‘Am I going to be a part of a community of faith?’ but ‘HOW am I going to live in this community of faith?” (ibid, 176, emphasis mine)

You don’t get to choose. You have to be involved. The only thing left up to you is how. And I know you know this too. Your acknowledgment and admission of your sin says as much. So I started teaching a class. It was a class I started for all my friends who felt the same way I do. I figured we could all get together here inside the church instead of outside. But none of my friends came. And for six months the class was on life support because I refused to submit myself to God’s plan for the class. Then, in the midst of my frustration, a funny thing happened. People started coming. They weren’t my friends. But they weren’t church-goers either. They were recovering addicts. They were outcasts that didn’t fit elsewhere. They had lived through harrowing and messy divorces. They were single looking for a community, not a date. They were married and were trying to figure out how to be married. They were broken and painfully aware of their brokenness. Our prayer requests didn’t contain health and wealth concerns. We were praying for people caught in addiction, people who were desperately alone, people who needed a community. I felt like I was swimming in the ocean with no land in sight and I heard God whisper “this is your church.” But I was so uncomfortable with these people! I liked my little insulated SL life. I didn’t want them wrecking things! And then I read this:

“You say that you have almost nothing in common with these people. But isn’t that just the point? YOU have nothing in common with them, but God does. This just happens to be the way that God goes about making a kingdom, pulling all sorts and conditions of people together and then patiently, mercifully, and graciously making something of them. What he obviously does not do is pre-select people who have an aptitude for getting along well and enjoying the same things. Of course you don’t have much in common with them. The church is God’s thing, not yours…The church is not a natural community composed of people with common interests; it is a SUPER-natural community. And the super in that word does not mean that it exceeds your expectations; it is OTHER than your expectations, and much of the other is invisible to you… (Peterson, The Wisdom of Each Other, 26-27).

When I read that and got over myself, I saw this rag-tag group of irritating and disturbing liars and narcissists for what they are: a God-collected group of beautiful believers. And it was never easy and I was ALWAYS uncomfortable but I was never closer to God and have never had such a tight-knit group of God community (or the church, if you must).

We moved to Nashville. We moved to disconnection. Again the world & church weariness. Again the frustration. I wanted to find a “cool” church. But none of the “cool” churches had a good kids program. Or they were too far away, or in bad neighborhoods. “Cool” churches in the hood are fine if you’re 24 and single, but for a 35 year-old father of four? Not so much. (And the whole “cool churches in funky neighborhoods” is a whole other discussion).

The church we kept coming back to was the church we grew up in and this absolutely galled me. I like the preacher well enough, but I’m not wild about his style of preaching. The worship is too adult contemporary. I don’t find many people like me here. I didn’t want to go to this church.

But here we are. Instead of if we choose how. We choose obedience, and we’re waiting for the feeling. It’s not the ideal church for us, but it’s God’s thing, not ours. A new class, new people, new challenges, new awkwardness, but I’m already fiercely protective of them. I still find small talk impossible as I try to get to know them, but I know that God’s in it, and that’s enough.

And there is the option of starting your own church. You could absolutely do that. I hear the ATL dream team is giving it a go. But I think that, like me, you’ve noticed our nation is filled with thirty year-old mostly empty buildings. We’ve got plenty of churches. We just need to be subject to one another and commit to them. We need to find one, roll up our sleeves and get to the work of allowing God to mold us into being part of his community.

I hope you take this in the manner in which I wrote it. I like you quite a lot and believe you’re one of the good guys that gets it. I know you already know all the answers. That’s not the problem. The problem is living them. The problem is getting over ourselves and realizing that being ministers doesn’t make us above it.

Engage. Participate. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Especially when it’s uncomfortable. Open yourself and see what God will do.

Friday, 3 October 2008

http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifOld College Friends

This from one old college friend. (He said it right in this post.)

Going to have breakfast (right now, I'm late!) with another.

Caught up with a third on the phone the other day.

Nostalgia? Don't think so.

Richness. That's what I'm feeling.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The elevator and the swing set 2(but actually 534)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the lady in the elevator and Asher falling out of the swing. I guess the thread is the unexpectedness of life. You’re cruising along, the weather’s great, you like what you’re doing, then bam! You fall out of the swing. The question is, what now?

Yesterday Asher wanted to swing. And he wanted to go fast. And he wanted me to push him.

(smile)

I’m not a big fan of using my blog as a devotional tool—there’s guys a lot better than me doing that. And that's why I read them. (Some of them are bookmarked on the right!) But today…

Jesus talked about having faith like children, and we theologize that and hermeneutic it and put it “into practice.” But I really think Jesus was saying, “LOOK AT THE KIDS!! They don’t make it any harder than it already is! They take it as it comes, deal with it as it hits, forget it as it passes! Live like that!”

Asher fell out of the swing and busted his face up pretty good. He came up crying. He wanted me to pick him up and hold him. He wanted his mommy. We pulled the grass out of his nose, cleaned him up and held him until he stopped crying. He wanted his blanket and “do” (pacifier). He wanted to sit on the couch and watch Diego. And then the next day he wanted to swing again.

In other words: he got hurt, grieved the moment, got comforted, then got back to work. The key here is that he wanted me first, then his stuff.

We don’t do that. We get the crap kicked out of us and go looking for solace and comfort everywhere BUT God. In the Asher analogy, when we fall off the swing we don’t go looking for our Father. We lay on the ground and wail. We grab the lighter fluid and the matches and burn the swing set down. We clutch the pacifier and blanket and live on the couch in front of Diego.

Sure we turn to Him, but it’s usually after we’ve talked to everybody and Oprah first. It’s after we’ve self-medicated with our numbing agent of choice. It’s after a month of living in funk of self-pity.

I got on the elevator with someone going to six and asked if they knew who the lady was and they didn’t. I don’t know what I was hoping to accomplish. I think I just wanted to know her name. I’m sure she’s fine and was just emotional walking into the building for the last time, but I still wish I could talk to her again. I wish I could encourage her to run to and be held by her Father, and let Him pull the grass out of her nose. I wish I could tell her to watch a little Diego (because we all need a little Diego) and get back on the swing.

(edit)

It’s flawed, it’s messy, it’s all over the place, but it’s in there somewhere. And I just used three phrases that mean the same thing.

And here's Seth's blog, where he learned something from his kid too.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The elevator and the swing set (but actually One Large even)

I got to work early this morning. Walking in I held the door open for a lady I don’t think I’ve seen before. I can’t be sure because there’s a lot of people I don’t know that work here, and I tend not to pay attention. She said thank you and then when we got on the elevator she asked me what floor I was on. I said five and she pushed it, as well as six for herself. She looked at me and said, “this is my last day here.” It’s 6:30 in the morning and people don’t normally talk to me in the elevator. I think I said something profound like “really?”

Her: I’ve been here twenty-five years and my job got deleted.
Me: (oh wow am I not prepared to have a conversation like this) Well, what are you going to do?
Her: I don’t know. Probably cry a lot.
Me: (trying to be funny, but also inspiring) You should do something awesome like go to the roof and throw stuff off. (it doesn’t work)
Her: (starting to cry) I just don’t know.
Me: (swimming in it) I’m sorry.
Her: thanks.

The elevator reaches five and the doors open.

Me: I hope it’s a good day.
Her: (fully crying now) thanks.

And I got off the elevator.

(edit)

Yesterday I got home from work and I don’t know what it is about the drive home, but by the time I get in the driveway EVERYDAY I’m fighting, like shaking my head and yelling out loud fighting, to keep my eyes open. Something about the drive home just exhausts me. I put the car in park and have to immediately get out or I’ll fall asleep in the driveway. Crazy.

So when you’re sleepy tired like that, the last thing you want to do is…well, anything. Jacob and Asher were out on the play set and something happened and Shannon was feeding Piper, so I got nominated to go outside and manage the issue. So I drag myself outside and intervene—I don’t remember what it was about. Maybe the plastic shovel for the sand box. Anyway I get out there and Jacob disappears to do something else, leaving me with Asher, who now wants to go across the street to play with the fifth grader.

I convince him to stay by starting to swing. Once I start swinging, he of course wants to swing. Asher loves swinging. He just loves it. He’s not big enough to get in the swing by himself, but yesterday I taught him to stand with the swing on the back of his legs and reach high on the chains and pull himself into the swing. He’s not strong enough to pull himself into the swing yet, but with just a fraction of help from me he did it. And now I’m fully awake and have forgotten that I’m a selfish jerk. It’s a beautiful afternoon and I’m really enjoying being with Asher.

He loves swinging. I know I already said that, but I really can’t emphasize that enough. He loves going high. So I’m pushing him and he’s laughing and we’re talking the way a thirty-five year-old dad and a two year-old son do. We’ve done this a lot and it’s something we both really love.

Then he fell.

I play it back in my mind and I can’t identify what went wrong. I pushed him exactly as I had pushed him for the previous ten minutes. He reached the bottom of the arc and then tumbled backward out of the swing. I can only guess he let go of the chains. He did a back flip and appeared to land on his hands and knees.

As a parent you learn to recognize the difference between when they just fall down and when they’re really hurt. He only fell like two feet or so, and the grass is thick where he fell. So I played it for “just a fall” and waited that fraction of a second between the actual event and his response to see if he’d come up laughing or crying. He came up crying so I scooped him up and headed for the house.

We can talk about how I played this one wrong, but I think you already see it.

We’re walking up to the house and he’s got a good cry on. We reach the steps and I think he’s probably had enough time to cry the scare off, and any pain that might accompany it. So I say, “that was pretty scary wasn’t it?” He cries his yes. “Ye-he-ess.” And then in my best conspiratorial voice I say, “but it was kind of fun too, wasn’t it?” I get an emphatic no through the tears. I still haven’t looked at his face.

We get inside and Shannon says, “he fell?” And I say yeah. Shannon walks around behind me to look at Asher. “Neil, he’s bleeding!”

I am the worst parent ever. This at least ties with the time I dislocated Jacob’s elbow.

I set him on the counter and now it’s pretty obvious he didn’t land on his hands and knees. He landed on his face. He landed face-down in the grass. Face-planted in the truest sense. He’s bleeding out his nose and mouth. Not a lot of blood, but enough. He’s got bruising on his forehead, nose and upper lip. His upper lip is fat and his nose looks broken. He actually has grass up inside his nose. We’re pulling grass out of his nose.

Like I said, worst parent ever.

And that was the worst of it. He’s got all his teeth. He didn’t bite his tongue and he can breathe through his nose. Nowhere near what Weston went through with the bathtub incident, but still…

(edit)

These two things are somehow connected, the elevator and the swing set. I can’t see how yet, but there’s a thread there I need to pick up.

Monday, 29 September 2008

An open and flawed rant about Hollywood producers (but actually 354)

So here's this from Don Miller.

And it's funny in that, "I couldn't think of anything else to write about today" way. But the part that gets me is the Michael Poryes interview. I'm not sure which part is scarier:

1. He' a mega-Hollywood exec responsible for the biggest tweener show on tv. But he doesn't watch content on the web. THE ONLY TIME HE SEES WEB CONTENT IS WHEN MILEY SHOWS HIM SOMETHING!!!

2. "House" is his favorite show. Okay. He doesn't come out and say it, but you only reference the stuff you think is awesome. And this was his reference. Now, I'm sure "House" is a great show. I know lots of people who love it. But for me, it falls into the whole "CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Blah Blah Blah" dumpster. It's not a show other writers talk about (Arrested Development, The West Wing, Lost, The Office). So this guy loves "House", which is fine EXCEPT HE'S SUPPOSEDLY THE GATEKEEPER OF WHAT'S COOL FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG TEENS!!! And he doesn't watch content on the internet. Did I mention that?

3. His son cracked the whole portable screen technology for him. He says it like he didn't know people were watching movies like that. AND HE'S GOT AN IPHONE!!! Hey buddy, you know you can watch movies AND get the internet on that cool little gizmo, right? YOU CAN WATCH CONTENT OFF THE WEB IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND!!!

And this is the guy responsible for Hannah Montana.

It's no wonder every episode reminds me of "I Love Lucy." (Don't get me wrong. "Lucy" was a great show. Groundbreaking in its day--45 years ago.) And has anyone else noticed that while the sitcom in its traditional form is dead, Disney is the only network that continues to produce shows in that format?

(Sigh) Why do I even bother?

I understand he doesn’t have to be the cool one or the one most in touch with the audience. I get that. It just galls me that guys like this control what gets on TV. It doesn’t make any sense.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Bono on the Fed Bailout.

how about this?

Quoted from The American Prospect.

It's extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion dollars to saved 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

- Bono, rock star and anti-poverty activist.

Advent Conspiracy

I first heard about Advent Conspiracy two years ago. It changed the way I see things. I'm going to make a concerted effort for my family to participate this year.

Monday, 22 September 2008

No Press for Character (but actually 418)

If you’re a fan of the NFL, football or sports in general, you know the story of what happened in Denver last Sunday with referee Ed Hochuli. If you don’t, you can find it here. Do I think the NFL competition committee should make it possible for referees to correct mistakes like this during the game? Absolutely. But I’m more concerned with the integrity and character that Mr. Hochuli has shown. I wish more people were talking about it.

Hochuli blew the call. Knew he blew the call but couldn’t do anything about it. He apologized publicly for his mistake. He spent the week fielding—and even answering—hate mail from fans. Then on Sunday he flew to Baltimore, put his stripes on and did his job.

This is the kind of guy I hope to be. I wish guys like him would get more press for how they respond to the adversity they face. But because there’s no meltdown, because he didn’t do anything else to cause a headline, because he did exactly what a man of integrity should do, the culture monster lost interest and went looking for juicier fodder.

And this is what I don’t get about our society. We all say we want better role models for our kids. We lament the lack of integrity found in Hollywood, on football and baseball fields, on the hardwood. We talk in public forums about the need for better values, better morals. And then we get what we ask for. A guy like Hochuli passes through the headlines for something he did wrong. He responds in EXACTLY the way we say we want our heroes and role models to respond. But we don’t take notice. We all but ignore him.

Why? Because he didn’t rush out of his house without his cell phone with a gun in the glove compartment? Because he didn’t refuse to do his job? Because he didn’t act like a spoiled celebrity? I can’t think of any other reason.

Isn’t this the kind of role model we want for our kids? He does his job, admits when he makes a mistake, and then gets back to work. Why isn’t Ed Hochuli at the center of our national conversation right now?

Situations like this expose how broken and upside-down our cultural machine is. Which in turn exposes how broken I am, because as much as I want Hochuli to recognized and heralded, I’m scanning headlines for the latest on VY, waiting for the next meltdown.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Now this you gotta see.

I can't believe this happened. (Mom, click on the "this", it's the link to the blog I want people to see.) I gotta think about it.

Friday, 5 September 2008

double-long ramble (but actually 960. YIKES!)

It’s been two weeks since I’ve written anything. Awesome. I’ve got 500 lb block of cheese kind of writer’s block.

So here, a ballast-blowing emergency writing exercise. The stream of consciousness. The only rule is you can’t stop.

I’m still flossing, so I’ve got that going for me. And I’ve even begun exercising. I’ve resorted to getting up near-Starbuck’s early to make this happen, but I’ve been at it a week and I don’t hate it, which I usually do. Except the alarm at 4:30. I do hate that. And I hate rushing to bed so I’ll get up at 4:30. I’m not a morning person, but everybody else I work with is.

Shannon and I constantly talk about our need to exercise, but we never do. We claim victory when the kitchen is clean and the kids are all in bed. Sometimes just when the kids are in bed. But recently I’ve noticed that I get nervous on the stairs. The kind of nervous when you’re carrying something and can’t see the stairs. But I’m not carrying anything. Maybe that’s a bad sign…

Football has finally started. Finally. Again. Finally. It’s the new Christmas for me. And although the Olympics took the edge off my Jones this year, these last two weeks have been pretty jittery. But finally, salvation in the form of the G-men/Skins. Let’s just acknowledge how bad the ‘Skins looked. It’s the first game, sure. New coach, sure. But dear Lord this is the NFL!!! And when you’re down two scores with five to go you don’t hand the ball off!!! YOU CERTAINLY DON’T HUDDLE! You throw outs and screens and GET OUT OF BOUNDS. You HUSTLE to the line! These guys are getting paid astronomical sums of money and when it came time to get it in gear they looked like my movers that took TEN HOURS to move me one mile. Even I know when you’re down two scores you go to no huddle somewhere between six and five minutes to go.

But it’s football so I’m glued to it to the very last tick even though the ‘Skins have no chance but have FINALLY started playing with some urgency. I’m yelling “what’s the point? You blew it!” at the TV and I don’t even care about the ‘Skins, but still I’m not changing the channel because it’s football.

And then we have the RNC. Any person who ever studied Theatre History will be able to tell you that plays written in Renaissance and Post-Renaissance eras were over-written with frequent plot summaries inserted because of the nature of how plays were viewed back then—with people constantly coming and going, much like today’s sporting events. And this is exactly what the RNC was to me. I watched Giuliani out of the corner of my eye as I cleaned the kitchen, then gave Palin my undivided attention. Giuliani told me all about Palin. He told me all about McCain. Then Palin came out and told me all about McCain, (even using some of the same lines). Then she told me all about herself. Basically recapping what Giuliani had already told me. Last night I flipped b/n Cindy McCain and the ‘Skins debacle. She told me all about Palin. She told me all about her husband. Then we get a video. And what a video. I mean wow. A video that tells us…wait for it…all about McCain. And finally, McCain himself. It’s was like the Beatles. People went crazy. People were crying. He gets up and proceeds to do what? Tell us about Palin? Yes! Tell us about himself? Yes!

I know this is their moment. I know this is primetime and maybe the only time they may get the attention of a large part of the country. And I know there are distractions. I know people are idiots. But for the love, do I really need the “said no to the bridge to nowhere” line six times in two nights? Do I need four speeches (just the ones I saw, I’m sure there were others) and a video to tell me McCain spent five years as a POW?

I KNOW I’m a West Wing junkie. And I know EXACTLY what that qualifies me for when it comes to political speech writing, especially at the national level. But I really think I could have done a better job writing McCain’s speech. The opening was good. The respect to Obama was great. The personal recounting of his time in Hanoi was good, when he talked about his fundamental shift in perspective. The outdated policy stuff was excellent. But I would have stopped him there. I would have had him say something like this:

We’ve been here four days. You’ve heard a lot of speeches about me: about my life, my campaign. About our strategy to relieve your financial struggles, about our strategy to make good for our boys and girls fighting overseas, for my sons, for Sarah’s son. You’ve heard about our plan for energy alternatives. You’ve heard about our plan for schools, for teachers, for families. You’ve heard about how we will make a better America. And you’re going to hear a lot more. Senator Obama and I will discuss the issues for you in just a few weeks. But tonight I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for your belief in me. Thank you for your support. I love our country, and I’ll do everything necessary to see we right the economy, right the war on terror, right the environment.

And that’s just off the top of my head.

(edit)

There you go. Random ramblings and an off-the-cuff speech for the RNC.

I’ll eat my way out of this block yet.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Asher goes to the hospital (but actually 496)

Asher had minor minor minor outpatient surgery on his ear this morning. We got up at 4:30, which sadly for me is not nearly as early as it used to sound, and popped Asher and Piper in the car, with leaving grandpa on the couch to get Fric and Frac off to school.

Asher is a trooper.
Asher is a champ.

We walked into the hospital and waiting room no problem. When they took us back to the pre-op he got a little freaked out, but after being there for five minutes he realized nothing bad would happen, and reverted to his awesome personality. He played on the rolling cart and slid around in his socks, being the Big Hit that he normally is everywhere he goes. He told the anesthesiologist that he’s not The Man. But he did say he’s the King of Rock. We sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for an audience. He got his meds in him and it got funny. When they came to get him he was singing and talking to himself.

The surgery and post-op together were shorter than the time we spent in pre-op. We were in the car thirty minutes after they took him back for the surgery. No drugs, no drops, just keep the ear dry for a few weeks.

As easy and painfree as this was, you still get a little antsy. I take stuff like this in stride, but I never like it. I get the little worry flutters in my stomach. But Asher’s at home now sleeping, and he’ll enjoy a day of sprite and jello on the couch with Diego on the big screen.

I came on to work and checked my feeds, and was smacked to my knees for these families and how blessed Shannon and I are. This is a link to my friend Michael’s family blog about his four year-old who is in remission from Leukemia. While they’re over the worst, they still live with it on a daily basis. And this is a link they put me onto. Please, please pray for this little boy and his family.

The truly hearbreaking thing that I can’t get past, is that he represents thousands just like him that I’ll never hear about. And most of those don’t have any kind of support system.

I cannot hug my children tight enough.

(Edit)

I started reading Narnia to Jacob last night. My dad read them to me when I was his age, and it’s something I plan on doing with all four of mine. One chapter and he’s hooked. He knows the story a little from movie and toy commercials and the Chik-fil-a books, but when I told him there are seven books, and all the stuff he had heard and seen was part of only two, he got excited. When I told him the fifth book explains how the lamp post got in the middle of the woods, his eyes got huge.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Parenthood 5: Road Trip (but actually 550)

I’ve started and deleted this installment three times, which is kind of the opposite point of a blog. I know. But it all sounds wrong. I can’t quite get my mind around it. I know God loves my kids. I know He’ll guide them the way He guides me. I trust Him.

I trust Him.

But still, I feel like I’m playing chicken with Him over their future.

I trust Him with the big stuff. That’s what it is. I’m not worried about relationship and growth and all the stuff I probably should worry about. If there’s one thing the Starbucks Years taught me, it’s to trust God even when there’s no earthly reason to. Even when everything looks and feels wrong, He taught me—he whispered in my ear—“do you trust Me now?”

So that’s capillary action for me, and I trust Him in the same way with my children. I don’t worry about their relationship with Him. Maybe I should, but I don’t.

No. It’s the little things I’m struggling with. But those little things turn into big things. Momma Phelps needed an energy release (and a break!) for her hyperactive son, so she sent him swimming.

I trust that God’s going to lead my kids to a relationship with Him. I trust that he’s using me as a part of that process. But gymnastics or taekwondo? Swimming,? Tennis? Drama? Golf? Dance? Baseball? Piano? Soccer? Wait. Not soccer. There’s no future there.

It’s not that I don’t trust God with this stuff. I’m just not getting a lot of direction here. Paul doesn’t exactly cover water sports when he talks about Spiritual Gifts. So I end up stepping onto that spiritual interstate, this time for my kids, willing to barrel headlong toward God, willing to take the devastating crash, because it’s important enough. They are important enough.

And it’s not because I’m one of Those Parents. This is not a vicarious living thing. I couldn’t care less about whether it’s football or badminton, journalism or ice dancing (okay, not ice dancing). I just want to help them find That Thing that they love and are passionate about and excel in. I want to help them succeed, but more than that, I want them to love it, and love God through it.

I blink and suddenly I’m sitting in God’s passenger seat. I’m no longer barreling at Him—we’re barreling together. Without taking His eyes off the road (which is really my kids), he says, “you know we want the same thing. I’m as eager to see them discover It as you are.”

Then, with His eyes still on the road (my kids), he picks up a bag of sunflower seeds from the bench between us (God’s driving a big old land yacht, like a Caprice Classic. But it’s been converted for bio-diesel, of course.) and offers them to me. “It’s a long trip,” he says. “Spit the shells out the window. I like the breeze.” He flips on the radio and it’s Costas doing his Saturday morning radio spot, talking about the Olympics. “How about that Phelps?” God asks. He gives me a sidelong glance, and then He laughs.

I’m laughing with Him.

If my kids turn out to be Olympians or if one writes the Great American Novel? Bonus.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Parenthood pt.4: Meta Chicken (but actually 561)

I feel like I’m locked in a meta game of chicken with God.

When Michael Phelps was seven his mom enrolled him in swimming because Michael had been diagnosed with ADHD and she needed an activity to help release some of his excess energy. Michael’s parents divorced at nine. At eleven Michael’s swim coach comes to his mom and says, “it’s time we started training for the Olympics. Or he can walk away.”

Of course she says, “whatchu talkin’ bout? He’s eleven.” But she agrees and four years later, at fifteen, Michael Phelps is in Sydney, swimming in the 100m freestyle final. He doesn’t medal, but we all pretty much know the story from there. Couple of things I notice:

1. It’s impossible to say, but with another coach would we have “Michael Phelps?” What if the coach had had a bad year? What if he was looking for another job? Would Phelps have been just another kid? The greatest club sport swimmer in the history of UMASS? (In an interesting footnote, when Phelps chose Michigan, Bob Bowman (the coach) became the head coach of the Michigan swim team. Now that Phelps has graduated and is moving back to Baltimore, Bowman will be the CEO of the swim club Michael will swim at.)

2. What if mom had said no?

3. What if she’d dropped him at the rec center to play basketball instead? Did he have a say? Did he choose swimming? Did he ever want to quit? What if he did? What if they had let him?

I’ve played this game of chicken with God before: In which we barrel down the spiritual interstate at each other to see who will ditch first. Of course He doesn’t ditch. God’s not the ditching type. And He’s not so much barreling toward me because He’s God—He barrels away omnipresently and I choose to step in His path. I can get on board or get smashed by the God barreling.

But somehow it’s easier for me to play this game when it’s just me. I’m pretty comfortable with my actions and the repercussions that go along with them. I can deal with the mistakes and life course-locking decisions I’ve made. I’m content in and understand the whole “God’s in charge and I can’t screw that up, even with this pesky free-will thing on the side”. I think part of it is also that I’m 35 and pretty much know who I am by now. I know there’s still some radical stuff out there for me that God hasn’t barreled at me yet, but I know I’m never going to be an Olympian. While that’s terribly disappointing for me, I can (finally) accept it as reality and live with it.

But now I’ve got this seven year-old who probably won’t be 6’4” and isn’t interested in the piano. Behind him is the five year-old who’s only interested in being a princess. (In China if you don’t exhibit world-class gymnast tendencies by five, after two years of intensive training, you’re relegated to the Old Navy factory or something.)

And I’m thinking, CRAP!!! We’ve got to get them started! We have to find THE THING that they’ll be brilliant at!

Asher I’m not so much worried about. He’s going to be huge. He’ll be an outside linebacker for the Titans. That one’s sewn up! Whew!

(Edit)

Pick up here tomorrow.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Is that Bob Costas I hear? Must be time! (but actually 500 on the nose!)

I’ve decided to embrace my nature and admit that I’m a huge sucker for the Olympics. In the past, every time they’ve rolled around I’ve been cynical and unenthusiastic. But every time, at literally the first note of the opening montage, with the first image, at the first word of Bob Freakin’ Costas’ amber-toned opening monologue, I’m hooked. I’ll stay up till two in the morning coasting the NBC channels, flipping between archery and women’s team handball. I’ll watch rhythmic gymnastics. I’ll watch the freakin’ trampoline. I love the Olympics. I spend two years completely blasé, and then sixteen days in rabid adoration. Clockwork. It’s time I admitted it.

And every Olympics I discover new sports to be crazy about. I discovered men’s volleyball in 1988. In '92 it was fencing. In '96 rowing grabbed me. In 2002 I found Curling, which still fascinates me, and Speed Skating. '04 brought me water polo. 2006? One word: Biathlon. And now? In 2008? I can’t wait.

I have a confession to make. I’ve already started. Did anybody else get hooked by the trials? I couldn’t tear myself away from those. We’re talking about some serious drama. Amanda Beard makes the Olympic team on her last shot? Dana Torres is older than me! And she’s going to Beijing.

Maybe the best thing about the summer Olympics, though, is that it provides the perfect distraction for my normal August routine of checking nfl.com every three minutes for football updates. I mean, August has to be the longest month in the year. Not only does it feel like I live on the planet Mercury, but I’m toyed with by football, which starts but doesn’t REALLY start. The NFL in August is like fat-free sour cream: it resembles the real thing in name only.

Really though, this year is the first Olympics Jacob and Lorelei will remember. That’s what I’m excited about. I was talking to Matt about this and he said he felt like the Olympics weren’t that big a deal anymore. And sure, without the U.S.S.R. some of the political tension has drained out. Staggering the Winter and Summer games has diluted it’s impact some. But part of it is just that we’ve seen ‘em. We’re not impressed anymore. But not for Jacob and Lorelei. I remember the magic and majesty from my childhood that went along with this world event. Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton. Flo-Jo, Matt Biondi and Greg Louganis. The Dream Team. The Paralympic archer lighting the torch in Barcelona. Muhammad Ali in Atlanta. Kerri Strug vaulting with a bad ankle and sticking the landing WITH ONE FOOT!!! In Sydney a Wyoming farm boy named Rulon Gardner came out of nowhere to beat the THIRTEEN YEAR UNDEFEATED Greco-Roman wrestling champion, Russian Alexander Karelin. Karelin hadn’t surrendered a point in ten years.

That’s the stuff I want. It’s the stuff I’m eager to share with my kids. And its starts tonight.

Also, I can’t wait to discover a new sport.

Addendum

Getting some questions about the source of my last post.

http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008808020333


The article will give you the background, but it's the comments that set me off.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Cuts (but actually 495)

Alright.

Let’s talk about it.

I work at LifeWay.

I am personally affected by six of the one hundred. My boss, four coworkers and my father-in-law. My boss and my father-in-law volunteered to retire. Two people have a job today because these two men stood up and said “I’ll take it.” The severance and retirement packages they’ll receive is irrelevant. They’re like Brett Favre. They don’t do it for the money, they do it because they love what they do. And while Mr. Favre loves throwing a ball, these men love serving people. My boss is the ONLY boss Fuge has really had. You want to talk about the unknown? They’re sacrificing the thing Culture identifies them as so that others (like me!) can keep their jobs. Of my four coworkers? While shocked and saddened, to a person they choose to look at it through the lens of God, instead of their own. They want to make sure they finish well. They want to make good handoff’s, because they love and care about who they served, both client and coworker.

Yesterday I went to a meeting in which my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss walked through the process by which this decision was made. And while he was clear in his method and reason, while articulate and forthright, it was evident how painful it was for him. He grieves over the decision. Say what you will, but I believe him.

The truth is I don’t know many people here at LifeWay. And the stories people are telling about corruption, hypocrisy and legalism may well be true. But the people I work with? They are servants. They believe in our calling and in what we do. Some days they drive me crazy. Some days I want to drive my yardstick through my eye over how insane they make me. But isn’t that true about anywhere you go and any place people work together? At least I know that it’s that way here because of how committed and passionate my friends and coworkers are about what they believe, about how good they want our product to be.

I’ve been following the comments people are leaving in various places concerning the LifeWay “story.” It just infuriates me the things people say. How small and petty and spiteful and bitter they are. But as I sat down to refute the things they said, as I rushed to call them out, asking if the view was good from the cheap seats where no hard decisions have to be made, I stopped and thought about the bitterness in my own heart. The bitterness I still feel toward old bosses and jobs. I realize that I’m no better than those leaving the hate-fueled comments. Given a forum to do the same over some of my old jobs, I’d be hard-pressed not to do the same.

I am so freaking broken.

Onetimothyonefifteensixteen. This is my prayer, for myself and my bosses, past and present.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Parenthood pt. 3: Where Neil gets Existential (but actually 548)

I often wonder about famous & historic people’s parents. I wonder what kind of relationships they had, the famous people and their parents. I know greatness is often born out of adversity, but surely some greatness is born out of security and positive environment. But I wonder about say, Billy Graham’s dad. (I’m sure there’s a book, multiple books, but I haven’t read them so humor me.) I wonder what Mr. Graham did to help shape Billy into the man he would become. And I wonder if that might be my role. What if my role isn’t to write the great American novel? What if I’m not the next Billy Graham? What if my job is to raise the next Billy Graham? I think of the carpenter Joseph. God tapped him to raise the Savior of the world. Did Joseph do things differently than he would have because he knew? Would I? Whether he did or not, it’s an awesome responsibility, to be the earthly role model for the Savior. I look at the genealogy of Jesus in first chapter of Matthew. There’s some names I recognize, but a whole lot that I don’t. Yet they had a role. Their role was to be an ancestor of Jesus, which is important. It could be argued that without them: no Jesus. Of course that’s ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s the way God chose to bring Jesus here, so it’s kind of a big deal. And I’m rambling.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: would I be content sacrificing my dreams of significance if I knew that one (or all) of my children is a prodigy or world changer? A .44 caliber mind in a .22 caliber world? And since it’s impossible for me to know that on the front end (God didn’t send any angels concerning my children’s upbringing), am I still willing?

It comes down to two things: love & trust. Do I love my children more than I love myself? Do I love Jesus more than myself? Maybe I’m the biggest jerk in the world, but I have to be honest, so I have to think about the answers. If the answer is based on my actions, I could be in some serious trouble.

And trust. I see Jesus holding his hand out to Peter to get out of the boat. Except it’s not Peter, it’s me. And I’m out of the boat already, but I’m not in the ocean, I’m working at Starbuck’s for two years. Jesus holds out that hand and says:

“Do you trust me now? Even if nothing looks or feels right, even if you think your location and/or life situation sucks. Do you trust me now? What if you spend the rest of your life making coffee? Do you trust me now? What if you never Make It? What if you live and die in obscurity? Do. You. TRUST. Me now? (and now, in what I think of as my post-Starbucks life) What if you spend the rest of your life mowing your yard, raising your kids & making funny camp videos? Even now? Do you trust me?”

Anyway, this is the kind of stuff I think about when it comes to my kids and my dreams.

(Edit)

Missed a few days, but still feel pretty good about this whole attempt to write daily. I thought 500 words would be hard, but I'm obviously having trouble staying under it. I think it might be a new goal, to stay under it, because I don't want to waste your time.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

New Mexico is my new favorite state. (but actually 84)

New Mexican tidbits.









1. You have to pass through a government run checkpoint to enter the city of Los Alamos.

2. Locals call Truth or Consequences “The TRC.”

3. The name IS the draw for “The TRC.”

4. South N.M is lousy with giant killer black beetles.

5. Here’s the tarantula we found in White Sands.











6. There are U.S. border patrol stations sixty miles inside the Country.


Finally finished the script we’re shooting. Maybe I can write again. Like in the three hour car ride back to Glorieta tomorrow.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

3: Later v. Absolutely (but actually 554)

I read an article about this subject, being a good parent. Basically the guy said that when he was growing up his dad would drag in from work and collapse on the couch. Whenever he (the son) would ask his dad to play with him: throw a ball or anything, his dad would say “later.” The guy said now that he’s grown up he totally understands how his dad felt, but when he’s tired and on the couch and his son comes and asks him to play, he remembers, and he says “absolutely.”

I want to be that dad, and I try. “Tickle monster” is a favorite. Jacob and I play a mean Ratchet & Clank, and Lorelei and I color Disney princesses like pros. But I find myself saying “later” to way too much.

Shannon and I talk about them being teenagers a lot. We talk about the kind of parents we want to be. We don’t necessarily want to be the “cool” parents. We want to be the parents their kids can talk to, the parents that their kids want around; the parents their kids respect, not because they’re told to, but because we’ve earned it. And I think we’ll be those. I hope we will. I spend a lot of time thinking about the education I want to give my children—the stuff they won’t learn at school or church or with their friends. How to make awesome salsa. Music and movies. How to shoot & edit good video. What the word relationship really means. I can’t wait till their old enough to appreciate Aaron Sorkin.

But that’s just the thing. I can’t wait. It starts now. It started when they were born. If I want them to listen to me when they’re thirteen and eighteen and twenty-two, I have to listen to them now. I have to make them a priority. Even if it’s easier to park them in front of Noggin. Even if I don’t really have time to color because the script isn’t finished and I’m leaving town for a week and the yard has to be mowed.

I’m a dreamer and have big dreams. I have major goals I want to accomplish. And I look at people that have accomplished stuff like that and I wonder what kind of parents they are. I wonder if they have sacrificed their relationship with their children to Make It Big. Or are they Superhuman? Are they amazing artists or professionals AND top-notch parents? Do they sleep? Is that my problem? I sleep too much?

I like to think I’m superhuman. But maybe I’m just mediocrehuman. What if I don’t have the chops to be both? Can I live with that? I know I’m going to wound them in some way. Many ways. I’m too broken not to. It’s unavoidable. But I also know that one of my biggest dreams is to help them find their passions and cultivate those. Will I sacrifice my dreams to cultivate theirs? It comes down to my major character flaw as a dreamer. When I look at the romantic Big Picture I say “absolutely!” But in the day to day? In the moment by moment living out of that Big Picture? I say “later” way too much.

(Edit)

Not done yet. One more day, I think.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

2: What a mess. (but actually 642)

Of course as soon as I posted yesterday I started freaking out about what to write for today. I considered posting something previously written, but thought it was too soon to do that, since it’s only day two. You, The Reader, might not know, but I would, and I’d feel like a cop out. Piper (9 week-old daughter) cried out around 3:15 this morning and I lay awake for the next hour thinking about What To Write. And then I started thinking about my upcoming trip to New Mexico and what a butt it’s going to be to try to keep this up while I’m out there. The consequence of this was oversleeping.

Awesome.

But that’s the deal. It’s what I signed myself up for (“foolish!” he thinks now).

So what to talk about?

I had lunch with an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in years. Of course there was the slightly awkward “we used to be best buds but that was fifteen years ago and now we’re catching up and kind of feeling the situation out” vibe. But really, it was just great. He’s recently (four years or so) begun a deepening relationship with Christ and his passion and joy were etched on his face and in his words. It was beautiful. Even more beautiful is his desire to serve, to do whatever his Lord and his church need him to do and, as an extension of that, the impact it’s had on his family. How it is changing his wife and molding his children.

Later Shannon and I were talking about the blog and flossing and good habits and she said “it’s about discipline.” She pointed out that we have crappy discipline and we agreed that we have to be more disciplined in our own lives if we plan on doing anything other than scarring our children. But how does one go about being more disciplined? And THAT made me think about a conversation Ben Moon and I had a couple years back about the difference between commitment and discipline. (I’ll write about that tomorrow.)

Raising a kid is like drinking from a fire hydrant. Keep them clean, keep them fed, baseball, taekwondo, golf camp, swim lessons, zoo camp, soccer, school, after-school clubs, reading, homework, bike riding, computer: and that’s just one. We’ve got four. Shannon doesn’t recall the last time ALL the laundry was done. The dishwasher runs at least once a day, and only once leaves the sink full of dishes. Shannon’s friend’s son (he’s six) is already doing piano recitals. Piano?!? Crap! Our kids aren’t doing anything musical! We’ve got to have some sort of music education!

We don’t read enough with them. We don’t sit as a family for dinner enough. We don’t have a “Cohesive Parenting Strategy.” We talk about doing these things. A lot. But between laundry and cooking and dishes and baths and practices and a job that travels…

(Edit)

This is messy. I wanted this to be about the decision to be a good parent, an involved parent, about making “being a good parent” a higher priority, but all I’ve done thus far is show what a lousy parent I am. And I’m over my word limit.

This is me living, as P.J. says, naked & unashamed.

So I guess I’ve gone from not knowing what to write about to having too much. I’m going to put a cap on it here and pick back up tomorrow. For those of you who think it’s okay for me to go over my limit and that I should just keep going…that’s kind of the point of this whole exercise, and this blog in particular. Being a better parent is about being responsible. And being responsible is about setting limits. I’m already past my word and time limit today.

So tomorrow…