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Archive for the ‘Epiphanies’ Category

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I might possibly be the world’s most unlikely (if not boring) eclectic. How ironic is that? While my lifestyle and appearance may not show it, the selection of music in my phone’s “iLibrary” just might. I was reminded of that as we drove off yesterday with Santa Fe (aka, Eclectic, USA) in the rear view mirror and a Dixie Chicks tune playing for the start of a long drive home.

I was thinking about a myriad of things, like not stopping in at Santa Fe’s Dragon Tattoo and Body Piercing (a real place) for one last (lasting) souvenir, but I digress. I was thinking about the week. I was thinking about the lives of those we briefly encountered, if not visited at length with. I was thinking about my all too soon too be grown family, the relationships we share, and how they have been shaped by my decisions and actions. Then the song started playing…

I wished I was smarter
I wished I was stronger
I wished I loved Jesus
The way my wife does

I wish it had been easier
Instead of any longer
I wished I could have stood where you would have been proud
But that won’t happen now
That won’t happen now

There’s a whole lot of singing that’s never gonna be heard
Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow

Think I broke the wings off that little song bird
She’s never gonna fly to the top of the world right now
Top of the worldI don’t have to answer any of these questions
Don’t have no God to teach me no lessons

I come home in the evening
Sit in my chair
One night they called me for supper
But I never got up
I stayed right there in my chair

There’s a whole lot of singing that’s never gonna be heard
Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow

Think I broke the wings off that little song bird
She’s never gonna fly to the top of the world right now
Top of the world

I wished I’d a known you
Wished I’d a shown you
All of the things I was on the inside

I’d pretend to be sleeping
When you come in in the morning
To whisper good-bye
Go to work in the rain

I don’t know why
Don’t know why’
Cause everone’s singing
We just wanna be heard
Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow

Wanna grab a hold of that little song bird
Take her for a ride to the top of the world right now

To the top of the world
To the top of the world

“What an intensely sad tune”, was my thought as the music concluded. Knowing there was likely an unpleasant experience behind the writing of it, I looked into the rear view mirror again to glimpse at my family. I’m not the perfect dad or the perfect husband. I’m not sure such exists, despite what I see in others I know and my desire to emulate their choices and outcomes. I have made mistakes. I wish I could change a few things.

“How I provide” has been one of the things I’ve thought over in the past, but I’m not sure I’d change much in that regard. I could have made more money in my career thus far, but I made a choice some time back.

There are those in this world gifted and blessed with the ability to manage certain high levels of outcome and expectation. I sometimes envy those people. I also expect and believe that there are things in their lives that are missing, and maybe things they wish could be. I am confident that my gifts and calling are to another point and purpose, and my wish and goal is to continue that exploration and pursuit.

Ephesians 4: 1-13:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Sitting back today at a roughly 1,000 foot elevation in a house with a mortgage and some older cars, I wouldn’t change much. I’ve led a fairly charmed life, in many ways, and I am grateful. If anything, I would have given more time and taken less. Thankfully, there is still time to do so, at least for today.

Cause everone’s singing
We just wanna be heard
Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow

Wanna grab a hold of that little song bird
Take her for a ride to the top of the world right now

I was blessed with a brief “top of the world” experience this week. There’s no good reason for me to not repeat it every day, no matter the locale. Call it the eclectic thing to do…

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Actually, I do. Maybe I go to extremes to avoid going to extremes. Once upon a time, in a land not so far far away, I might have said that in reverse. Comprende?

So, as I thought on this earlier today, the words of a Billy Joel tune rattled in my head:

Call me a joker, call me a fool
Right at this moment I’m totally cool
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife
I feel like I’m in the prime of my life
Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast
I don’t know how long this feeling will last
Maybe it’s only tonight

Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot
Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got
Maybe I’m headed over the hill
Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill
Tell me how much do you think you can take
Until the heart in you is starting to break?
Sometimes it feels like it will

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
You can be sure when I’m gone
I won’t be out there too long
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Out of the darkness, into the light
Leaving the scene of the crime
Either I’m wrong or I’m perfectly right every time
Sometimes I lie awake, night after night
Coming apart at the seams
Eager to please, ready to fight
Why do I go to extremes?

And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes

I can relate, and not. I think I will keep going, especially for today. As the words to a Mandesa song related to me as I turned the key to the Jeep a few moments ago this morning Why am I waiting for tomorrow…?”“. I don’t think I am.

Darling, I think you know why.

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Scars are funny things. Do you see the one in this picture? I’ve been up and down this street a number of times in recent years, but it was not until I went last night into the center structure with the gray plaster facade and saw the courtyard behind it that things didn’t match up for me. I then stepped across the narrow street to try and gather a better perspective.

All of the neighboring buildings, save this one, are the same architecture: tiled tilt roofs, architectural detail on the windows, classic off white plaster, etc. And the building in the center? It screams 1960’s non-descript Eastern European, almost Soviet era styling. When you go inside, the structure is more modern and new, but is absent the classic styling details of 17th or 18th century Europe. The style is so different, the large oil on canvas portraits of the former Cardinals of Vienna stand stark and out of place on the cold white walls lining the long straight hallways.

So, what happened?

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Well, this is largely conjecture on my part, but I’ll work from what I know. This courtyard/compound houses the Archdiocese of Vienna, the home of the Catholic church establishment for the region. Behind the compound lies Stephansdom, the large Catholic cathedral for the city. Sometime around 1944, Allied bombs shattered the classic roofline of the Dom and set a subsequent fire to the structure. I can only assume that one of the bombs from that same raid took out this section of the neighboring compound.

While Stephansdom has been rebuilt and restored to a level indistinguishable from the original to most persons from the current era, the office building cannot make that claim. In an era of shortages, limited resources, and subsequent priorities, the lot occupied by the building likely sat vacant for many years, and then was rebuilt in the most pragmatic way possible during an era when “style points” didn’t matter. Hence, a scar remains on the landscape, and yet, most don’t even give it much thought or attention.

So, what’s the point? I would suggest people are the same way. Scar tissue, by it’s very nature, grows quickly and fills the void left by an earlier injury. And, with scar tissue, style points don’t matter. Much like our plain gray building, the strength and function of the scar is often stronger than what it replaced. Given time, those who see the scars may even forget they are there.

And yet, the scars remain. Had I been speaking with a native of an era gone by in Vienna last night, they likely would have had stories to tell. For those of us walking up and down the proverbial side streets of life with those we know, we should be mindful of the scars, and the experiences that they reflect. We should also respect the strength that comes with them.

Story is when a character wants something, and overcomes conflict to get it. I witnessed and pondered just such a story this time by, and I feel better attuned because of it.

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Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God
. Micah 6:7-9

Travel makes me think. That may sound odd, but time away from my own element, especially extended time spent with strangers, many of which do not even speak my native language, causes me to reflect and consider things in ways I normally might not under more routine circumstances.

The realm of material things has been a consistent theme recurring on this trip. It began a week or so back during a visit to our campus by international travel writer and PBS personality Rick Steves. His message prompted me to “pack light” and make the current trip with nothing more than I could carry with me comfortably. With the possible excuse of carrying something with me to deliver for a friend, one bag became two, and yet an item or two of clean/not worn extra clothing went back into the bag as I packed tonight for the return trip coming in a few hours. Oh well, more room for Shokolade and Butterkerks to make the trip home, yah? I digress.

As I prepared to board the connecting flight to leave The States on Saturday, people were clamoring to gather their “Duty Free” purchases. That word for taxation takes on a whole “double entendre” context when it comes to buying for ourselves.

Back to my original point. The joyful and loving house church gathering I was blessed to attend yesterday was studying from Ephesians 5:

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.

As the discussion of these verses followed their reading, the conversation focused heavily, if not solely, on the concepts of greed and idolatry. At least, that’s what my sleep deprived ears gleaned from the one who was translating the dialogue into English for me.

Wait. What about the “heavy sins” that command so much of that text? These were my thoughts. We (my Euro based American missionary work friends and I) discussed this all over lunch, a very nice lunch, complete with extended time, sunshine, and ice caffee. “Europeans just don’t see the need for a bunch of stuff” was one of their insights. Touché. In exchange, most live on less, in turn buying less, in turn feeling better about their smaller spaces, in turn having more free time from cleaning, insuring, self storing, garage sale-ing, and so on, and so on, and visa-versa. And they don’t mind sitting, and sharing, for hours over coffee, and Communion, and prayer, and loving consideration, all before any of them worried about lunches not yet planned or eaten, and it already being after 1:30.

Covetousness, Idolatry. These were words they used. I even heard some of them switch to English for our benefit. Maybe these are “heavy sins” as well?. After all, they are included in Ephesians 5 right along with other “immoralities”.

If it takes you away (consumingly so) from time with God, it is an idol. These were their thoughts. If it takes us away from one another, equally so? These were my thoughts.

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God
.

Duty free? Not hardly. Hauling home the shokolade and butterkerks may be more taxing than I first imagined…

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Jake and the fatman

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“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

“The vanity of others runs counter to our taste only when it runs counter to our vanity.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“Perception and reality are two different things.”
― Tom Cruise

Something must be amiss in the world when I am quoting Poe, Nietzsche, and Tom Cruise all at the same time, and this picture paints it in a thousand words. On second thought, make that two hundred pounds worth of paint.

We all have an impression of ourselves. We also all have a blind spot. More on that in a moment.

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Jake and the Fatman was a television series that ran from the late 80’s into the early 90’s. I always wondered why someone would name a show like that. I guess this picture, too, paints a thousand words, and the show’s title sums it up in four. I see a slick well dressed character known as Jake, and I see a fat man. Rest in peace, William Conrad.

Around the time the larger in life Mr. Conrad died, another soul was being born. Her parents named her Hannah. Somehow, the church secretary in a little town in West Texas heard and wrote down that a baby boy had arrived, and that he had been named “Jake”, and it was announced to their little world as such.

Fast forward 20 years. The kid we jokingly nicknamed Jake is all grown up and in college. While she was channeling her internal “Mushu” last fall and was off saving China, several of her college buddies were off studying in Europe. It just so happens that I was there with them for a week, and thus we have the picture up top.

I was looking thru (some would call it creeping thru) some of Hannah’s friend’s web posts some time ago, and I saw this picture. My immediate thought (truth be told, no joke)? “Who is that grumpy looking fat man walking behind Hannah’s friends?”. Dramatic pause, gasp, arrival of reality realization: “That is me”.

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You see, all of my younger life, I was indeed a fairly skinny, below average waist sized man. Today, “off the rack” popular average middle age man sizes fit a little more snuggly than I would like. Blame it on way too many Wiener-schnitzels from Figelmueler that week in Europe, among other things.

My point, or points, today? I still, in my minds eye, see myself as that young skinny guy playing with little Jake on the deck not so many moons ago. That is my perception. Adjusting what I think and feel to the reality that is seen thru the camera lens of others? That should be my reality, and I should encourage and allow myself to look at situations from other’s perspectives.

And, I need to be OK with all of that. It appears to be reality.

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

“The vanity of others runs counter to our taste only when it runs counter to our vanity.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“Perception and reality are two different things.”
― Tom Cruise

Ich habe das Wiener-schnitzel“.
– Bing

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The 46 Defense

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The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation. The formation comprises four down linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized by Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. Today the scheme is currently used on a regular basis by the New York Jets head coach and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, son of Buddy Ryan.

The name “46” originally came from the jersey number of Doug Plank, who was a starting safety for the Bears when Ryan developed the defense, and typically played in that formation as a surrogate linebacker. (definition “courtesy” of Wikipedia)

Yours truly turned 46 today, and I find myself of late feeling more connected to the Chicago Bears of old, and other last century phenomenon.

I’ve always considered myself a kid at heart. I remember having a talk with boss/mentor “Coach Steph” half a lifetime ago when she was not that much older than me, and asking her when she stopped feeling like a kid. Her answer? “You don’t, really”. Good answer/good mantra for life, in some respects.

But, you see, you can’t only play the game on offense, because to do so at this age would indeed offend. Even the great ones step away from the game and move on to “grown up careers”.

So, while I wish to and plan to remain a kid at heart, with all of the bad jokes, puns, and analogies thereto appertaining, I have to learn to play a little defense, and the schematics that go with it. You see, if I don’t, I will find myself “getting offended” as old men often do, and I need to provide myself the structure to stay in the game and come out a winner. One can only score so many points in a career.

Enough for the stretched analogies and ramblings for today. Today is my birthday, and I feel like dancing. Let’s celebrate. How about joining me for a little “Super Bowl Shuffle”, courtesy of “da Bears”…?

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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? I wonder what he saw? Did he look below the surface? Did he ever think he might be wrong? More on that in a moment.

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Touring a museum has only given me goose bumps twice. Once was in Europe in 2008, while viewing relics of history from an event that changed the world. The other time was today when I accompanied my kids to the 45th Infantry Division museum here in OKC.

I’ve always wanted to visit this museum, thinking it to be a nice collection of old tanks and airplanes. Little did I know how much more was there to be seen. As I was looking in a mirror hanging in the Germany exhibit room, a museum docent approached and said the chilling words: “That is the mirror that Hitler groomed himself in on the day that he killed himself in the Berlin bunker”.

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What did I see in the mirror today? A guy wearing an OCA t-shirt, an EMHS hat, and an OC jacket. Each piece reflected something about me, but were largely just a uniform of externals. What is going on inside the man? What is he about? What does he say? What does he do? If history remembers him, will it be for good or for bad?

How about the mirror’s previous owner? What did he see? What did he think, delusional though he may have been? While it was chilling to look at myself in his mirror, a mirror simply reflects what is currently before it.

What about the lessons of history? I love studying and examining history, and I love the veterans that remain with us and were recently honored during their day a week or so ago. As I have visited other lands and met the generations of citizens who call their home something other than the USA, I wonder what they are thinking. What do they see in us today? What do they think? If we look in the same mirror, do we see entirely different views? Who is right, and who is wrong? Absent an obvious moral issue, do people really see that clearly?

The following pairings of pictures reflect images of the time, the mid 20th Century war to end all wars. The second of each pair is an image from today in the museum in middle America, a reflection as we see it in the mirror of history. The first of each pair of images is from the museum in Europe, albeit not from Germany itself.

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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? I wonder what others see? Do we look below the surface? Did we ever think we might be wrong?

Touring a museum has only given me goose bumps twice, and today was one of those days.

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