Father’s Day in Yakima

For about ten years, now, I’ve been getting this pain in my neck every once in a while. I imagine it’s some kind of pinched nerve, or something of that nature, but since it’s only occasionally, I never sought any kind of treatment for it. I call it my “tourette’s neck,” because it sometimes makes me jerk my head to the side when it happens. It happened during our wedding ceremony and it was all I could do not to jerk and twitch. I didn’t, thank goodness.

It hasn’t happened in a while, which is good.

Last August, I had my right rotator cuff surgically repaired, and it has never been the same since, not really. I have my range of motion back, but it still hurts pretty good most mornings, like maybe Dr Peare forgot to put something back in.

Over the past week or so here in Yakima, both things have been bothering me, on and off. My shoulder, especially. I know Jenny has been having a hard time of it as well, and I’ve been missing her and the boys something terrible. Last week, I went to a church Jorge told me about, and it was amazing. It’s called Changing Pointe, and if you’re ever in Yakima, that would be the place I’d send you. Last week it was about “Surviving the Pressure,” and it was right on point (I need to get Jenny to listen to it). At the end of the service, Pastor Eli did an altar call, and probably 30 or so people came up. Never seen such a response to an altar call. He prayed for everyone, and found a way to lay hands on each and every person for just a few seconds while he did it.

So another week went by, and every day I missed Jen a little bit more. I had lots of time to think, and what I mainly thought about is how I have to do better for my kids. I’ve got the providing part down, and God has really blessed my wife and I financially over the past year. The part I struggle with is leading my family–in giving them an example of what it looks like to really love God, and give everything to him. I mean everything in the sense of myself, by the way.

Today, father’s day, the sermon was the second in the Surviving the Pressure series, with an understandable segue toward what this day means to fathers and children. There was a slide presentation for Pastor Eli some folks made, and while it played a man on the praise team sang a song the Pastor had written, and it was really beautiful. I was a wreck before the sermon even started. Plus, my shoulder was burning, and I kept jerking my head around like one of those Roxbury guys on SNL.

Two quotes from his talk stuck in my mind (regarding fatherhood. He talked about witnessing his own father praying for his family–earnestly praying for them–in the small hours of the evening one time, and how he thinks about that when he wonders what do about being a parent), the first being this:

Fathers, what do your children see you doing as an outlet for pressure?

Crap. My kids see me get mad, or lash out in some way, or simply retreat and clam up.

The other was, Dads, don’t lose heart. Find a way. Lead the way.

Exactly what has been on my heart lately. In fact, it would be fair to say this was one of those times when it seemed like a pastor was talking directly to me the whole time he was in the pulpit. And the thought that occurred to me today was in the form of the Sanctus Real song “Lead Me,” which absolutely destroys me every time I listen to it.

So that was in my mind when Pastor Eli got to the end of his sermon and to the invitation part. I don’t remember much of what he said at that point, exactly, but it was something about dads and pressure. And leading. And finding a way. I thought about going up there, and then decided against it. Then I figured there would be thirty people again, and I could be relatively anonymous.

The urge to go was almost overwhelming, so up there I went, and you can probably guess what happened. It was just me. So there I was in front of the stage, and the music started swelling loudly. He placed his hands on my head and began to pray–I couldn’t hear a word he said, but it didn’t really matter. He placed both of his hands on my neck for a few seconds, and then on my shoulders. Had my stress and tension been that obvious?

I couldn’t hear his words, but I could feel them. My shoulder loosened up, and my neck stopped twitching. I stood there for a few more seconds, and then he shook my hand and that was it.

I went out to my rental car and listened to the voicemails my kids had left while I was in church. Started crying like a schoolgirl again, and then I sent a video message to my wife for them to listen to (it took me two tries before I could do it without tearing up).

So if I take nothing away from this trip except some extra per diem and a couple of paychecks, in the end I did realize what the most important thing was:

Finding a way. Leading the way.

How can I expect my kids to behave in a way I don’t behave myself?

How can I be an example to them if I do not follow the example Christ set before me?

I have some work to do.

Here’s Changing Pointe’s Vimeo link if you have some time:

http://vimeo.com/changingpointe

Funny how sometimes things just fall into place.

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Bionic Dad

Father’s day is coming up once again, and I am understandably thinking about my own father. Every time you turn on the TV, there are Father’s Day commercials. People post them online, and tell you to grab Kleenex before you watch. Inevitably, I will watch, and often end up a little (or a lot) on the misty side. The commercials all show dads doing dad things, and what usually tears me up is that I don’t remember a lot of that with my own dad. This is not to say that it did not happen, only that I don’t remember it.

My father was from a different generation than a lot of my friends parents were, and he was much older. He was 39 when I was born, but he looked and acted much older. The irony there is that he was younger than I was when my little guy was born. Anyway, it seems to me that the generation he came out of was not so…nurturing and…”touchy-feely” as a lot of men–a lot of dads–later became. I don’t remember a single instance of him talking about his feelings, or anyone else’s. It wasn’t his fault–it was just how things were.

So most of the memories I have of feeling nurtured or loved on concern my older sisters. I suppose that is often the role of women in the lives of boys. It certainly was in mine. Consequently, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my sisters. It made sense to me then, but I have no idea how it made my dad feel that I didn’t want to be around the house much. I never had the opportunity to ask him. Not when I was old enough to understand that my behavior toward him might have been hurtful in some way. He died in 1984, when I was 16. He died before I learned to drive. He didn’t see me graduate. He didn’t usher me off to college (nobody, did, actually. I didn’t start until I was in my 20’s, and I didn’t graduate until this year).

Recently, though, I have been actively trying to remember things, and looking at a lot of pictures, and little snippets of Dad have been coming to me. Rising up in my memory like little slips of paper with things written on them.

Dad sitting in the kitchen with a BB gun, waiting to shoot a mouse.

Dad driving through Jack in the Box to get me pancakes before we went out on his sailboat.

Dad making me rubber band guns in the garage.

Dad taking me and one of my friends to see the first Jaws movie.

Dad finding me when I got lost at the swap meet once.

Dad taking a washer or dryer in his arms and wrestling it out of the back of his pickup.

Dad seeing a swear word on a rock at the bay and draping a towel over it so my mom wouldn’t have to see it.

Dad teaching me how to pull the guts out of fish.

He didn’t often–possibly ever, that I can remember–tell me he loved me, but he sure showed me an awful lot.

I remember listening to him getting ready for work and drinking coffee and talking with my mom. I would go out to the kitchen and say goodbye. We would do that whole “see you later, alligator” thing, and I loved it.

So there was a lot of good there, I just needed to go looking for it. There’s much more than the things I shared above, but I’m keeping them just for me.

I wonder what I would say to him given the opportunity?

I think I would certainly tell him that I loved him. Part of me would have wanted him to be different, but an even bigger part would have wanted me to be different. I suppose I was just being a typical adolescent and teenager, but that doesn’t excuse anything. Of course, had I known he only had a few short years left, I would have perhaps tried to do things differently. I didn’t know, and consequently I wasn’t the person I would have wanted to be.

I can’t live in the past, though when days come around like Father’s Day and Mother’s day I think to regret a few things.

What I do know is that I don’t want my own kids to wonder about me later on in their own lives, so that means I need to be a better and more significant part of their lives now. My generation is touchy-feely, and I need to get off my ass and touch and feel (in a non-creeperish sort of way, of course).

So as you might have guessed, I’m feeling pretty sentimental right now. I haven’t seen my kids or my wife in almost two weeks, and it is weighing on me something terrible. I hope the conviction I’m feeling now does not leave me, but stays burning in my heart.

I want very badly to be a good dad.

To that end, I know that some things need to happen. I need to depend more deeply on God, and not on myself and my own understanding. I need to turn to God, and trust him more (I don’t think we can ever do that enough). I need to stop thinking so much about what was lost and think about what is–thanks to His provenient Grace–yet to come. I need to think about God’s promise, given in Joel 2:25 to “repay the years the locusts have eaten.”

Absolutely no credit to myself, but I feel like things are looking up in that regard. Over the past week, all of my siblings, finally, are in touch. Yes, it is via social networking, but that is a very big something for us, and I feel that more good is to come.

There are only a few weeks left in this program, and then I will be home. And I can begin to do things like seek his truth for my life in scripture–along with my kids. They need to see that is important to me, and I need to show them.

I can’t turn back any clocks, and I don’t think I would want to if I could. What I can do is my best to be different.

Better, stronger, faster (ok, no, I’m not bionic, but I’ve always wanted to be. I liked that noise it would make when he did bionic stuff on the show–sort of a ch-ch-ch-ch kind of thing).

So there I go again. Out of place humor.

bionic