Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cup runneth over.

I've always loved Christmas.  One of my "love languages" is gift giving.  I haven't done as much of that lately as I have wanted, but I still like to do it.  Around Christmas we get into the "must assert what the true meaning of Christmas is" mode.  It's not wrong, but I think societally, Christmas is about Jesus, it is about giving and getting gifts...even though there are some families who can't participate in the commercial aspect of Christmas.  It's about the commonality of all of us celebrating the holidays.  I've reached the point where I like watching others celebrating Christmas so much, that I actually forget I have gifts too.  Soon and very soon, I'll want to be the one who brings people over to my home and feed the family, creating new traditions.  I just will.

I'm very thankful for the many blessings I've received during this holiday season.  Good friends having their first baby.  Good friends getting married.  Even the death of an amazing friend.  While I may not be thankful for his early entry into God's Kingdom, I'm so glad to have known him for the time I did.  This is quite an unpolished blog entry, but I like to do some writing so stream of consciousness unedited here.  I'll end up by shamelessly plugging that I'll be preaching at KMUMC this Sunday at both traditional services and am blessed to have been asked to do so.  I could use extra prayers as I wrap up the writing/reflection and prepare for the delivery of God's word to God's people.  After Sunday, I'll post my sermon here so you can read it, if you so choose to.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

If it's not your cup of tea...

If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t drink it.  The existence of a cup of tea "I don’t care for", just doesn’t affect the cups of tea I do care for.  I am particularly fond of tea that has some type of “fruity” infusion taste.  For example, right now, I have a box of Tazo Wild Sweet Orange.  Maybe next time I will buy some Peach White Tea, or go straight Orange Pekoe.  All probability I won’t buy Earl Gray.  I just don’t care for it.  Even though I don't care for it, I feel that the existence of Earl Gray enriches the variety of life.  But here’s the thing.  Just because I don’t like Earl Gray, it doesn’t mean that it’s not your favorite, nor that I think you are wrong for liking it.  Not at all.  Even though I don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that it cheapens the existence of the flavors of tea that I don’t like.

To come from a different angle.  Nicki Minaj.  Right.  I really really really dislike her music.  Strong enough to question that you can even call it music.  My current taste for music is actually the Pandora station I put together by starting with Norah Jones, and adding some Harry Connick, Jr.  For me, the end result is an awesome station that plays the aforementioned artists plus Michael Buble, Sinatra, Etta James, Maroon 5 covering "The Way You Look Tonight," and others of this ilk.  I like this mix a much as I don’t personally have taste for Nicki Minaj.  But the existence of her art in no way cheapens, nor lessens the value of the others’ art.  It just doesn’t.  Her music, in fact, adds to the rich depth that encompasses the realm of music.

Earl Gray tea?  Nah, I’ll pass.  It’s not my cup of tea.  Oh, it’s suits you?  Great!  I’m glad we can have a discussion about how we both enjoy tea, even if the tea is different.  May I suggest that if it’s not your cup of tea, then don’t drink it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Change (Full Circle?)

Approximately three years and almost a month ago, my contract ended with VCU Health Systems as a Resident Chaplain.  Since that time, I have been a stay-at-home dad, and have experienced all the magnificence of serving that role, and also some of the hardships regarding personal identity, social interactions, career development, etc....  I've had the wonderful experience of candidly writing about being a stay-at- home dad.  Shameless Plug.  Most of all I've had the up and down struggle where I want to go back to work full time and having a difficult time finding employment, not ready to put the little one in school.

As the munchkin shows daily that she is, and has been ready for a preschool environment, I've allowed myself to really strive to go work full-time especially since the relocation to TN.  As I made it Facebook official yesterday, I've been hired; and I am so lucky/thankful and I am actually blessed enough to land a "dream job."

(This is where the Full Circle part comes in.)  I'm going back to the place where I started my employment the summer before my 9th grade year:  the Y.  I put about 10 seasons in at that facility, and when I left back then, it was reluctant.  Yet my journey through today has equipped me to go back more prepared and ready to actually "go back".  So, full circle?  Sure.  Giving back to the organization in the exact facility (with some updates/additions/improvements); giving back to the "home community"; and through some new programs some giving back to my elementary school/high school/undergrad and other schools in those systems.  Excited?  You better believe it!

Now here is the hard part:  change.  I'm a creature of habit.  I like my routines.  I have overall enjoyed the past three years and one month of non-employment/part-time employment.  So on Monday, as I really commute to work for the first time, I'm taking the munchkin to preschool (at the church where I used to be Youth back.)  All of that, well, scares and excites me, while eliciting a sadness regarding the end of our partnership in crime AND the fact that in a blink of my eye, she'll be 18 and going to college.  Wasn't it just last month when she laughed for the first time?  Last week she started walking?  Yesterday talking? This morning riding her bike?  Yeah, it feels that way.  She's so small, but so big.

So as I readily and excitedly head back to the realm of full-time employment, I also drag my feet and envision her new teacher having to tell me, "She'll be okay.  Aren't you late for work?"  I'll agree.  Rip it like a band-aid, and tearfully shuffle back to the Jeep, hoping that the one mile drive to work up Cook Drive gives me enough time to recollect myself.

Monday.  It'll happen.  We could use an extra prayer or two.


Speaking of Full Circle.  When I started this stay at home gig, sometime after my wife reluctantly trudged off to work, but prior to 8am, Little Bit would wake up and need to be fed.  I dutifully changed her, fed her, and rocked her right back down for the early(not time to start the day yet) nap.  We would tuck in on the spare bed, pillows/wall blocking her on the right.  My right arm shaped liked an "n" pulling her close to me.  Essentially she was tucked in against me.  We would sleep and log another 45min-60min of sleep.  Slowly that dwindled and changed.

Today, while the Munchkin was refusing to take an afternoon nap, and I was trying to get one in before I lose all nap privileges, she shuffled down into our bedroom and hopped the bed.  I asked, "wanna take a nap?"  "In mommy-daddy's bed?  Sure!"  She scooted under the covers and scrunched right up to my right side, just like we used to do.  Perfect way to end this chapter for me.  Hope she'll try again tomorrow and Friday.  Full Circle.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sage wisdom.

Somedays, it just hits me that I've missed gaining so much wisdom by not fully appreciating the day-to-day hanging out with a three year old.  Today is Friday, which by the end of the work week for the employed means a reprieve from work.  Patience is usually thinner on Friday, but people are given a break simply because it's Friday.

For me, sometimes Friday signals the end of the week where I'm not rocking it solo wrestling the ball of pure energy (sprinkled with a dash of sass, and on this Friday, attitude.)  I'm a little short with her because of the attitude, but here's the kicker, she's short with me too.  She's a bit tired, ready for mommy to be here with "a T-shirt" because the t-shirt signals home for the day/weekend for the munchkin.  Then, just when I'm at the "you're going to have an early nap!" moment, she pulls out the extended grace.  I'm asked, "Can you help me with the bwocks?  I want to build a swimmy-pool castle with you."  I might have been suckered in, but really, the next block of time spent was more positive and loving than expected.  So suckered in?  I think not.

Grace.  Not giving you what you deserve.  I probably deserve a melt-down for not showing my usual kindness.  Yet, there she is with her humidity adjusted hair, sitting in the floor with her blocks.  Thanks munchkin.  Even though you're too young to understand the words, your gift to me will now be extended back to you, your mother, and any other soul I come into contact with today.

I need to pay more attention.  The Lord (and my wife) gave me three+ years spending time with this magnificent creation; and sometimes I just don't see what's in front of my face.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hope is a Dangerous Thing.

So, I don't know if the phrase is a cliche, famous saying or what, but I believe it's true.  Think about it.  To be candid, my high school football team, normally doesn't have a winning chance against the cross-creek rival.  Yet every year we hope that this will be the year and the kids play their guts out.  Hope.  It's the busting your butt every day at a job you hate, just because you hope your children won't have to.  Hope.  Hope for change, gives people reason not to commit suicide, or to battle addiction, or to face the horrific effects of chemo.  Hope instills drive to do the impossible.  When hope is non-existent, people quit.  In the right hands, hope is truly dangerous.


So, I've been thinking again, which as I might have mentioned before is dangerous.  I feel like out of all of God's magnificent creation, that the most sacred of it is humanity.  Man/woman was/is made Imago Dei, in the image of God.  Nothing else is, I feel that is a trump card.  Internally, I'm placing the sacred person in juxtaposition with the sacred text of the Bible.  As I read in an article that interviewed one of my former professors, he stated something akin that the Bible should be a moral conversation point for dialogue and not the end of the discussion.

I think, too often, the Bible is used to end the conversation in regards to peace, love, and justice ignoring the sacred Imago Dei of those who are different than us.

Just a thought.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Of Dents, Baggage, and Marriage.

Today is our 9 year wedding anniversary and now at the end of the day after we had a late dinner of Hibachi takeout, the Muses have my creativity flowing.  Yesterday I screened Cars2 with the little one and there's this scene with Mater.  He's confused as a spy and is given some equipment to disguise him as any kind of truck imaginable.  Problem is is won't work properly with his dent in his fender.  He refuses to fix the dent because each and every one is "valuable" because he got them hanging out with his best friend.

So here's the thing.  We all have dents.  We bring dents to the table and we get new ones along the way.  Another way to think of it is we all have baggage.  We all are cracked, broken, scarred, etc....  We have them, we earn new ones, and we even dish them out to others.  Simply, we aren't perfect.

Marriage isn't one of those journeys where you choose to embark because you hope the person you are with will change.  Bad news is that they are who they are and they're not changing.  That quirk that annoys you will continue to annoy you.  If you can't communicate now, you won't communicate later on.  If you don't like his/her personality, it's not going to change.  Good news is that they are who they are and they will change.  Well, not really change, but grow; and being married means that you are willing to grow and change with them.

More than nine years ago, I "met" my wife.  (We knew of each other prior, but we "met")  I became infatuated immediately.  The more I learned of the dents, fragments, and scars she brought to the table, the more the infatuation grew into love.  We created new dents with each other and decided that we would endure this journey together for the rest of our lives on this earth.  We make new dents all the time; and honestly, some of them hurt.  Here's the deal, she loves me for all my dents, all my brokenness, all my scars, new and old; and every day I look at her and think, "Let's do this again."

Candice, I'm not the best with words.  I'm worse with emotions.  I'm worst at putting them together.  Thank You for all the dents we've made together.  I love you much.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Without the valley, would you appreciate the mountain?

So, normally, we're a low-key family...even with a three year old.  This AM, we had a nuclear melt-down in Target.  She wants to push the "shoppy-cart" now.  No problem, but after not paying attention and bumping into the thirteenth end-cap, knocking stuff off, it was time to cut it out.  Yeah, we were "those people" in Target this morning, if you were there too.  Well, I apologize.  Then we hit up Trader Joe's, no problems through the store.  The cashier placed our box of nectarines on the bottom of the cart, which needs to be redesigned because right behind the Jeep box slides out, flips over, and the fruit is on the ground.  Awesome!  * begin sarcasm font* Thankfully the cart wrangler asked if he could take my cart.  Thank  you, but I did park next to the cart corral.  *end sarcasm font*  Not too bad, yet we had another meltdown at the County Clerk office.  No wait, not there long, but she decided to sit in the red chair when we were finished...and she dug her heels in about not leaving.  I actually found it quite comical looking in the other offices and seeing the "I hope they're not coming in here" looks on the employee's faces.

All that to say, it was a "difficult" morning in comparison to most of our mornings.  Things have moved in a positive direction (if you care).  I had help washing the Jeep, and had to help wash a tricycle and a princess bicycle.

But here's the sickeningly positive spin I'm putting on it today:  If these days didn't exist, would I appreciate the days where things went as smooth?  It's also like appreciating that full night of sleep you get after a long stint (or even one night) of not sleeping well.  So, even if your day is junk today, I'm not going to tell you to get over it, just remember on that good day where things are swimmingly, appreciate it.  Positive self-talk at it's best.  I hope your day is going well, if not, well, there's tomorrow.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

People and Life

This morning, I forced the little one to ride with me down the Greenway.  I enjoyed the almost crisp fall-is-on-its-way morning bike ride listening to Ms. AnnaB name every part of the Greenway after some area of the Island of Sodor.  We hit the park on the way back and after a few minutes a gentleman (grandfather) and his grand-daughter strolled up to play too.  I sat and began to talk with the man and found out that his kids were military and he convinced them to do grad-school at UTK so he and his wife could help watch the little ones.  Long story short, he said his life has been blessed and enriched beyond measure by being able to do this for his kids and spent his retirement years surrounded by his grands.  He made my wheels start spinning.

I spent most of 2011 wanting to go back to work.  Part of the reason is financial, part is me wanting to just work, and part is wanting to prep her for the world of school.  My wife keeps telling me that I'll never look back on this time and wish I had spent it different...and she's right.  I've done some jobs and thought, "Wow, what was I thinking?", but not this one.  I have the rest of my life to work.  Now that doesn't mean that I don't want to go back to work, I just don't want to "sell my soul" for something that is not fulfilling.

Thinking back on 2011 I also started thinking about the people I met within the past year.  I'm one of those "loner" friends (also read as bad friend).  This past weekend was the first time in 10 plus years that I had seen one of my very best friends from high-school...which was AWESOME by the way.  So I was re-acquainted with thankfulness for friends.  I would like to take a moment to publicly thank the people I met in Richmond, VA late 2010 to early 2012.  These friends were those who I knew for a few months, but came over on a triple digit heat day to load our belongings in a moving truck.  These friends were the one's who splurged on pizza for us instead of me splurging.  These friends selflessly moved heavy objects knowing that since we were moving to a different state, I couldn't repay the favor.  Thank you.  And that is a "thank you" that is two months overdue.

As I sit on my couch, watching Sid the Science Kid, and being fed raw carrots by a three year old; I want to be thankful for friends old and new, thankful for the fact that my wife has tirelessly carved a place for me to stay at home with the little bit, and try to remain thankful that when I don't get an interview/callback-that our family is being protected from something beyond my knowledge.

In the end, whether I've desperately searched for a job, or enjoyed time to nap daily and improve my culinary skills, I wouldn't change the time spent.  To be cliche today, Time is Love and I wouldn't have changed the time spent the past few years.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Crazy times?

Earlier today, I, without deep thought, posted "these are evil times" upon a friend's Facebook status.  Even though I claim to be deeply spiritual, I'm usually not prone to throw words which often have supernatural connotations around.  It's somewhat uncharacteristic.  So I thought about it.  Much of my thoughts today have been spurred with the news of a young high schooler in my hometown who took her own life earlier this week.  Vague news spread like wildfire through all of my, and my wife's connections back home.  Next thing we know there's an anti-bullying awareness march in her memory that garnered, according to the local paper "thousands" to march.  Yet, the head-line read:  "No link found between girl's death and bullying."  I don't believe it.  Grassroots movements don't begin and get thousands to follow without some foundation of truth.  When it starts from the ground up, there's a reason.  Evil times?

I'm not one of those who looks back at high school as "the best times of my life."  It was school.  It was mandatory, and at the end of the day, I was glad to go the Y for swim practice, teaching swim lessons, and lifeguard alongside people whom I consider the greatest friends cultivated.  School.  It's become one of those places where, as a parent, I don't look forward to sending my child.  I want her to have friends other than me, but to quote a good friend of mine:

we will be homeschooling...and yes, we will be sheltering them until we have trained them and they are ready to face the evil that is in the world. I refuse to throw my five year old into what Christian pastors have called a "war zone" and "a pagan culture." My five year old is not equipped or mature enough to make it in "the world." It is our job as her parents to shelter her. A friend told me last night, we all shelter our children, it's just a matter of how much we shelter them is different. We have an abundant amount of reasons why we are choosing to homeschool our children...but I know this, if I send them away for 8 hours a day, I can't protect them...their hearts, their minds, or their bodies. I saw a father of a child in Columbine take the blame for what happened to his son. Why? Because he sent his child there every day. He now homeschools his other children. We can't protect our children from God's providential plan for their lives, but we can ensure we don't purposely send them out there to learn how to deal with it before they are ready. Besides how can I train them in God's ways, "when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up," if they're never with us? Deuteronomy 6:7

School.  It's not a place that's safe.  It never was really.  I think we all come out of high school with various scars, but now we keep reading news report of kids getting bullied to death, teachers sexually assaulting kids, coaches practicing players to death, etc....  But this isn't all that's got me going this morning.  In a relatively small town close to the urban area where I live, not much makes the news...except in the past month:  one teenager killed over selling a dimebag of weed, twin 2 year olds killed by their dad (who then killed himself), another DV situation where a woman was killed.  Lest we forget the dad who killed himself and sons this past week in Washington, and the list grows and grows and grows.

As a parent, at least today, I'm struggling with how to protect my daughter long enough to equip her for this world...and how do you honestly equip someone for this world?  Half the time, I don't think I'm equipped for this world, and as of now, I feel I'm decently adjusted to my existence.  Well, if not, I at least haven't earned a diagnosis from the DSM-IV.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Virginia lawmaker: Children with disabilities are God’s punishment to women who previously had abortions.

This little jewel was discovered last night by my lovely wife.  She worked at a specialty Children's Hospital for approximately 3 years and upwards to 99% of her clientele were Children with disabilities.

So the gist is that Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R) said:
The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically.Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children...In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”  Are you basing this on fact?  Can I see the study?  But what really gets my skin crawling is "there's a special punishment Christians would suggest."  Christians?  I'm Christian, and the characteristics of God post-Jesus doesn't point toward a vindictive, vengeful God.  Oh, there's Biblical evidence of God being this way, but at some point in time (approximately 2000ish years ago), God decided to rewrite the script by pouring himself into the vessel of Jesus, exemplifying love to all of humanity.  By the way, the OT scripture he's referring to is Exodus 13.11-16 and/or 22.29.

Point is, you shall "redeem" all your first-born, which essentially means, in regards to animals, you sacrifice a sheep for a firstborn regards to people, well, you pay a sum to the priests at the temple....which none of this has to do with abortion, an increase in handicapped children, or "nature taking vengeance."  

Go away.  Oh, and if you're interested in learning more about this magnificent specimen of....  Here's his web-site complete with bio and contact information.

Personal Salvation and the Kingdom of God.

I've been part of an interesting conversation on one my good friend's Facebook page regarding personal salvation and the Kingdom of God.  Essentially, my friend was eschewing the audacity of many folks who will make a statement such as, "If he/she were a 'real' Christian...."  and how arrogant that kind of statement makes.  (Another one that chaps my khakis is:  "I tell you out of Christian love...." which then somehow enables and excuses the person to be a complete jerk and hide behind their "faith".)

I made the comment that my salvation is between me and God, no one else.  Succinct but not entailing my complete developing theological perspective.  The discussion then entailed further how American society has placed an over-abundance upon personal salvation with the neglect of the community of faith and the Kingdom of God.  I'm of the opinion that salvation is still personal, and part of the "fruit" of personal salvation involves partaking in Kingdom of God and the ever-present community of faith.  There is the personal aspect and, to an extent, it should be tempered with the community and vice-versa.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Little Timmy Tebow

If you know me, you know I don't give a rip about football.  I wasn't a default TN fan b/c I'm native to the state, nor did I become a default Colts fan b/c of Peyton.  Either way, unless you've been under a rock, you know who Tim Tebow is and what "tebowing" means.  (yeah, I know I'm a bit late weighing in on the commentary, now that the furor/support has simmered down.)  At the very least Brother Tim has brought Christianity to the forefront of more people's minds than any Megachurch leader, academician, hate-filled protesting church, or end of world self-proclaimed prophet.  Whether you like the fact that he kneels down and prays or don't, you have an opinion about it; which I think is amazing for a kid who is just doing what is natural for him.  You may quote the Gospel of Matthew deriding him for not "praying in private."  You may hate that your football is now intertwined with conversations about God and religion.  Point is, with more and more pews empty on Sunday mornings, Tebow just brought his faith into the limelight.  I don't necessarily agree with all of his tenets, and really disagree with some of the arm-chair theology he has sparked, but in the end.  Tim has made us think about the nature of God, and how worshipping God, praying, and football relate to each other.