The First Thing

Haven’t posted a lot of new things lately, but if this current work assignment has given me one thing, it’s a lot of time to think. What I’ve been thinking about the most lately is that things are different now for me then they’ve ever been.

This has come to pass in stages rather than all at once, but I honestly believe that nothing at all would have ever happened had it not been for the first thing. And that thing was realizing that I mattered to the One responsible for everything, that the one who crafted the stars had also been responsible for crafting me in all my flawed and imperfect glory. And I don’t mean just knowing in my head. More importantly, this realization was a truth I felt in my heart since I met Him.

The best way I’ve ever seen that represented is in a scene from the tv show, The Chosen:

Mary Tells Nicodemus about the difference Jesus made in her life and I’d say it was a similar experience for me:

I was one way, and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened between was him.

Not exactly the same for me, of course, but similar.

I was one way, and now I am completely different.

The thing that happened in between was him.

Good

Since my niece’s memorial not long ago, I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot. My sister made a comment that my niece was the first granddaughter for my parents to come along, and then the first to join mom & dad.

I thought about my mother because with the exception of my brother, all the rest of us siblings were gathered in one place, with a great many extended family members there as well.

I could count on one hand the number of times that had happened since my mom checked into ward 2 East for her final stay–maybe even one finger.

It was a terrible last few weeks and months for mom–for all of us, really. It wasn’t like in the movies, where the sick person cracks jokes right until the end. It was ugly, and she hurt, and we couldn’t help her. We hurt, watching her die, and there was nothing to assuage that pain, either.

I remember what an awful son I was during that time. Right when she started to get really sick, I’d gotten a job I liked at a local steak house, but had to quit because I needed to help take care of her. I resented it, and resented having what was supposed to be the fun part of my life encroached on by my mom’s cancer.

I wanted to goof around with my friends, and play, and have a girlfriend (well, that finally did happen, but it wasn’t easy, and for some reason I never told her about my mom). I wanted to enjoy the time after my high school graduation, but that was when things really started to go bad.

So I did as little as I possibly could of her caretaking, in order to still be some sort of teenager. I missed a lot, and I regret it terribly. I spent–no, wasted–a great many years crippled by self-loathing because of how I’d treated my mother over her last few months.

And this is one of the places where I experienced true inner healing, where God reminded me of who I was to my mother, and who I was to him.

The healing came in the form of a memory, and a sort-of vision.

The sort-of vision was this. At the moment I came to faith, I was kneeling on a smallish wooden dock with the knees torn out of my Levi’s. I remember having a slide show of my life scroll before me, of all my transgressions, sins, and times of darkness one after another. I pounded the dock with my palms and cried out to God, wondering if the world was a place I even belonged.

I felt the warmth of a hand on the back of my neck, and a stream of words in my heart.

You are meant to be here

and then the warmth flooded down my arms, and swirled through me, and I struggled to my feet.

I wondered if someone had slipped something to me and on the heels of that was this is God and this is love and this place was where I belonged for a time, because work had been prepared for me to do, and all I had to do was lay my burdens down. So I did.

It was only the beginning, and there were still quite a few hard times to come, but I think if it hadn’t been for that experience, I never would’ve had the other. I never would have remembered that day in the hospital.

The memory came to me quite a few years after I came to belief. It was 2007, I think, and it was during a church service at CVCF, right around Easter. Pastor Mike was talking about how he’d led his mother to Christ, sometime soon before her death. He talked about his mom’s last few days in the hospital, and how they used to play old school, big band music in her room.

It made me think about my mother, and her room–her death-room, as it turned out. Pastor Mike mentioned how at the moment of her death, the song “Cheek to Cheek” by Fred Astaire came on. He spoke of the peace he was able to find with the knowledge of his mother finally being home.

All the guilt I’d ever felt about my own mom came rushing back, and I got up quickly at the end of the service so I could scurry out.

At the door, the overwhelming urge to sit back down with my friend Ron came on me, and I did exactly that. “Could you pray for me?” I asked him. “I don’t know what about.”

I both heard his words, and didn’t hear them as he prayed. I couldn’t tell you a thing he said today, but that was when the memory rushed into my head and my heart, and I

picked up my brother in my old Mustang II, that had passed through many hands. We had to get to the hospital because it was time for mom to go. I hurried, and let my brother out in the front while I parked. please, don’t let me miss this, too. Pleasepleaseplease. I remembered running up stairs, and following a painted line on the floor to the nurse’s station, and then turning into her room. The girls were there, holding her hands and touching her leg. My brother stood at the end of the bed for a minute, and then turned and rushed out of the room. “Where’s Tommy,” she said.

“I’m here, mom.” I said, and I looked on the cork board next to her bed. My prom picture was pinned there, and I remember looking at it as she said the last word I ever heard her say.

“Good….”

She didn’t die that day. She lasted until February 27, 1987, and then quietly went home while my sister Valorie was with her in the middle of the night.

I don’t know why it took me most of my adult life to remember that, but I’m glad I did. I’m glad my friend Ron was there, and I’m glad he just let me grieve for a few minutes. I literally cried on his shoulder almost until the second service began. But I also felt a wound begin to close.

It was a start. And here I am today, where I never even thought about being.

Another family gathering is in the works for next month, and it occurred to me at the memorial that my niece did something in death that hadn’t seemed possible until that Saturday afternoon in Old Town, and it was truly miracle.

She got the band back together.

Wouldn’t Change a Thing

I’m not such a fool I’d say I’m glad for any of the negative or painful or bad things it turns out I’ve been made to endure over the course of my life—I’m no masochist. But I do wonder what would have happened had they worked out differently.

I look at my life as it is today. I see the people I know and love and I also consider the people who love me.

I wouldn’t change anything if it meant some part of today would be gone.

To my way of thinking, it was all worth it—with no question.

In My Life

I’ve lived nearly as long as both of my parents did in their lives, but I feel like I’ve got a few things on the plus side of the situation.

I’m very grateful.

Mainly there’s this:

While it’s true I found the love of my life after 40, I did find her. Or rather, that’s when God brought us together.

It makes me appreciate her all the more.

We could have not met at all.

And to lift a line from “As Good As It Gets,” she makes me want to be a better man.

Let me introduce you:

This is my wife.

So is this:

San Diego used to be my home.
Now home is where we are together. And where our family is.
My life is full.

And God is Good.

Love In The Time of Quarantine

So like probably everyone these days, I’ve had a considerable amount of time to think about things, and I’ve done more than my share of navel gazing. Perhaps all of us have done a little of that.

What I’ve been thinking about the last couple days is pondering love. Perhaps not just the dictionary definition, but the actual meaning.

To quote the ancient dilemma posed by the Roxbury guys, “What is love?”

I think scripture has a few pointed thoughts on the matter. Take 1 John 4:7-12, for instance:

So God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. I don’t feel much is perfected in me. But scripture tells me it could be.

Think a little more about what love really is. From 1 Corinthians 13, we have this timeless little chunk of wisdom, heard during many–if not most–wedding ceremonies.

It occurred to me that in every place in this passage you see the word love–or where reference to love is made–Jesus also fits, and makes perfect sense, especially considering the previous passage from 1 John.

God is love, and Jesus is God.

What if we put our own names in those same places.

As in Tom is patient, Tom is kind. Tom does not envy. Tom does not boast.

If we are honest with ourselves, saying such things regarding ourselves and our own fallen natures does not ring with the same truth as it does when we speak of Jesus. That is probably true of any of us.

We aren’t perfect and we can’t be. Only one person can be.

Quarantine or no quarantine, we cannot love perfectly. But we can love Jesus, who knows a thing or two about loving, and that cannot and will not be affected by a virus.

Lord, help us to love like you. Not concerned with self, not thinking about who loves us, but who we can love. And more even Than that, who we can tell about your love?  Father, may we spread your love like a virus. May it leap from person-to-person

Airborne.

 

 

 

 

What’s Difficult

Here’s what I’ve been struggling with a bit lately. This Corona virus business and the various and quite understandable issues (social and otherwise) associated with it are beginning to weigh on me a little.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly social person, but this health and very potentially real economic crisis has forced me to real how wrong I was.

By that I mean almost every part of my private and professional life is very heavily dependent on social interaction, not social distancing.

What the heck does a person do with that?

I guess we have to forge a new normal. What that looks like will be different for each person. For me, church and interaction with friends and fam was the largest part of my life.

And then all that just vanished like a fart in the wind.

Yes, it’s difficult. My hope is that I, that we, can surmount the current circumstances.

Yes, I miss friends and family terribly. But it seems that virtual is—hopefully just temporarily—replacing actual.

We all have to find a way to live with that.

For my family, we have found ourselves leaning more heavily on God than ever before. Now, no longer on the brick and mortar of the church and the people within it. Rather, on the actual person of God himself.

No, it hasn’t been easy. But it is possible. That has made it possible to relate better to my wife and family and friends in the sense that it’s a lot easier to appreciate them for the people they actually are because it’s possible to see them better now that I don’t just see them as I expect to.

That probably won’t make sense to most people, but I guess it boils down to the fact that not as much is blocking my view anymore. And I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to deal with that.

It ain’t easy.

But it’s possible.

Let’s work together to figure out the details.

Not Gilded

I’ve been sitting here thinking about a few things tonight, some of which I think are true, some of which I suspect might be true, and others that are dubious at best.

What just occurred to me is that I could fill a couple phone books with what I don’t know.

The plain truth is that as fantastic as I think I am at times, at my very best I am naught but a run of the mill and fallible man.

At worst, I am a self-aggrandizing schlub who harms people sometimes, whether he means to or not. Pain one causes to others, even if it isn’t physical, cannot be excused Sufficiently to make it ok.

On the heels of that, here is what I do know without any question at all.

God loves me anyway.

I could approach him smothered in sin and garbage like Magic Shell ice cream topping and he would just reach out to me and say, “Come.” Matthew 11:28-30 told me again what I needed to know.

That’s the thing, you know. We think we have to approach him in our finest.

I feel like that myself. Like everyone else, I’m well aware of my own flaws, my own shortcomings. It sickens me to think of it. It sickens me because as I sit here tonight I am also fully aware of the measure of grace apportioned me.

And that gift came to me as I am right now, not as I wanna be.

I want to be a better man. A better husband, better friend, and Lord knows I wanna be a better father.

All good motives.

But even if I’m not, I’m beloved by God. Tonight I needed to know that, and needed to feel it even more.

Yes, Good Lord, yes, I want to be better.

But even if I don’t suddenly find myself gilded in 24k sunshine, Jesus has more regard for me than I’ll ever have for myself.

Why, God? I wonder.

What’s special about me?

I love you, he says, and his voice seems to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

You don’t have to be perfect, or ready.

and gold

Tonight I was thinking about the interesting course my life has taken over its course so far. All the sudden turns, the peaks and valleys. All the drama, comedy and tragedy.

And it is true that while there were quite a few dirges given voice from time to time, there were also some grand arias.

These began with a gentle and almost tentative whisper which came in the form of an unassuming email from a humble young woman in Arizona.

And tonight I thought without doubt or question that every last thing in my life was worthwhile, because my life this day would not exist had those things not happened.

So while life may be a crucible, at the end of it comes refining.

And gold.

#Nobaddays

It’s a little past 0200, and I’ve been sitting here in the dark for hours, waiting for the sky to lighten up and for the sun to peek over the horizon. It seems like it never will.

Statistically speaking, I know that isn’t true. The sun always rises in the end, on the righteous and unrighteous alike.

How much time do we spend, really? How long do we wait for the sun to rise in our lives, literally and figuratively speaking.

You know what I’ve learned from quite a few miles of bad road in my life?

Even when it doesn’t seem like sunrise is coming, it always does.

Morning by morning, new mercies I see. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Yuma, or San Diego, Or Honolulu, or anywhere.

The sun will rise in your life.

My friend posts this hashtag a lot, and I’m only recently realizing the truth of it:

#nobaddays

I think of my wife and spectacular sons and just want to thank the Lord for my crooked path.

#nobaddays

I See

From where I sit, I can see the test item. It’s pretty cool, but I can’t talk about it or I’d have to kill you. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind killing you. I’m just too pretty for the hoosegow.

But seriously.

It bothers me a bit that I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve lost a lot of my wonder and amazement with things.

I’m not ok with that.

Am I jaded? Maybe so. Life does that to you, or it can if you let it.

I’ve just seen so many amazing things in my life, both at work and personally, in my home life. I see my older boy destroy the drums at church all the time. He’s so gifted, and good.

I want to look around and tell people to pay attention!

I watched my youngest climb out and do a combat roll. He bit his own cord! Well, maybe not that, but it was pretty amazing. And he is SO smart and doing so well in school.

He’s handsome like my wife’s family, and gets his short legs and reading abilities from me I guess.

Also very amazing.

A couple weeks ago I watched the sunrise over the desert at another test. Every second of the sunrise. And got paid a couple days later.

But sometimes, I can’t see that stuff.

I see a house payment coming, or that I need to be more present at home. More Dad and not as much…father.

I see that I can be a better husband than I have been. Or a better friend.

I need to get better at entreating God to help me do those things.

I need to be there more for these amazing people. All the time.

God, I love them.