Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm Still Here

I am not missing in action. I've just been spending a lot of time in prayer and doing some house cleaning while Amy is out of town visiting various relations.

I've been getting rid of clutter in our house, in my mind, and at least temporarily on this blog.

Right now we need to tidy up some things...on all levels.

I'll be less cryptic before long I hope...but writing has fallen to a lower priority right now...talking to God has taken a larger role.

Prayers for wisdom, discernment and patience...if you can spare 'em, we can use 'em :)

Bless you all...I promise the 9 or 10 people who still read this blog that I'll be back to bore you before long.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nightmare On Aisle Four

I'm not a big fan of Halloween, but I've never been against kids taking part in the activities, and I certainly made the rounds when I was a kid, although it was a prerequisite in our household to collect for UNICEF if we were going to go enlist the neighbors help in rotting our teeth.

Although I've come to dislike the entire concept of sending kids door to door begging for candy, the reason in recent years I have opted to turn off our porch light, and draw the shades on Halloween, is that I don't like having our dogs go nuts barking each time the door bell rings, and sometimes I have this wild idea I might like to sleep instead of being barraged by trick or treaters.

Still, we never prevented our kids from taking part in Halloween, although as they grew older they often opted to take part in organized activities with their various church youth groups as part of "Fall festivals" or other euphemisms designed - I suppose - to clearly show they weren't taking part in events associated with the devil, or witchcraft, etc.

Our kids values were instilled 365 days a year, I don't think we ever gave any thought to the idea that one night of dressing up and acting goofy was going to turn them into the spawn of Satan. Still when our kids did "trick or treat" they didn't dress up as anything gory, and the extent of our home Halloween decorations - if we had any - was a pumpkin which usually no one ever got around to carving into a jack-o-lantern.

It was the same way when I was a kid...I remember dressing up as a "hobo" a lot, and I think the most sinister looking costume I ever had was when I dressed up as pirate.

Even with the skull on the pirate's cap and the little dangling pirate on the costume's vest...I wasn't going to frighten a lot of folks, although I find the image a little disturbing now only because I appear far more "chunky" than I ever recall being.

Our kids dressed up for years as M&M's in costumes that Amy made for them. There's a certain odd irony to that, dressing up like candy to go beg for candy.

Anyway, these days it's a different world. We have neighbors who put a lot of effort into decorating their houses for Halloween, far more than they do for Christmas.

To each his contribution is I haven't gotten around to mowing the yard, so our house looks a bit haunted.

I was in a store the other day killing time and I wandered into the "Halloween aisle."

I was literally stunned. Almost the entire aisle was overflowing with gore and blood and very graphic creepy stuff. The Halloween candy was in another part of the store.

I'm not talking spiders or even skeletons...I mean the aisle was stuffed to the rafters with masks of decapitated heads with spears or swords sticking into, out of, or through them. Simulated blood was on everything...there were eyeballs, and coffins, and one of my favorites, a "bloody hand candle" that once lit, dripped what appeared to be blood rather than wax, and carried the guarantee that once the fingers burned off there would be realistic "stumps of bone" behind.


It's not like I was offended, I was more intrigued. I wondered if there was a Superman costume, or a fairy princess, or well anything that wasn't dead which a parent could choose for their kid to dress up in and anything that didn't scream, howl or bleed with which someone could decorate their home. The short answer: not really.

Finally, and I mean by this point I was digging around, moving stuff out of the way as the latest Halloween gizmos were wailing and screaming apparently set off by my movements, trying to find anything that didn't seem to have been inspired by the indigestion of Wes Craven.

Finally, I managed to spy something that appeared to be fairly tame. A mask that didn't have blood dripping from it, or eyeballs dangling from the sockets. There was no sword, hatchet, or spear protruding from its skull.

Still, I couldn't help but think, "This is the only choice?"

A mask promoting Burger King?

I'll be turning out the lights this Halloween and drawing the shades...not so much because I don't want to hear the dogs bark or that I need sleep.

I'm afraid every time I answer the door I'll be greeted by another nightmare...from Walgreen's.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Something In Our Erik

In my Father's house there are many, many rooms
In my Father's house there are many, many rooms
And I'm going up there now to prepare a place for you
That where I am, there you may also be...

- Rich Mullins

Things didn't go as planned with Erik, whom we thought would be a well entrenched member of our "Upper Room" family by now.

We were set to least on our end - well, we hadn't gone into a mad cleaning frenzy like we might have done...eventually - but there were some delays in Erik being able to leave where he had been staying and soon Amy and I both started having some reservations. Something wasn't right.

Amy and I talked, and prayed...we prayed for wisdom, we didn't want to jump to conclusions but we also wanted to make sure we understood God's intended role for us in Erik's life.

In one of our initial conversations, I had told Erik that he had to be honest with us and himself if this was going to work. I also said he had to respect our home and respect himself.

Amy reinforced that message quite a bit as well, and I think it was gnawing on Erik a bit.

Last night Erik was finally honest.

After I told him that we felt like his "story" didn't always add up and that maybe he needed more help than we could provide, he called Amy to tell her he knew we couldn't let him move in with us but he had made a decision. He also detailed the demons he had been denying.

After work this morning, I picked up Erik and his few belongings, took him out for coffee and we talked about opportunities and accountability. My talk was intended to encourage him to utilize all the resources that would soon be available to him.

I gave him the advice I have given a lot of people: No matter your situation, what you get out of it will depend on what you put into it.

We talked for a good while, I didn't want to rush him. Before too long though it became apparent he was ready to take the next step so we took it together.

About 15 minutes later, I walked with him through the doors of the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. I stayed as he filled out paper work and was "evaluated." Then I was told I could go, in fact I had to go, Erik would be staying.

We said goodbye too quickly but they were serving lunch and time was running out...right after lunch Erik will be put to work. He will work 40 hours a week in a safe, clean, regimented and Christian environment. If things go as hoped he'll keep up that schedule, along with meetings, counseling sessions and classes for six months.

We'll be very much a part of his life during that time - after a required period of isolation passes.

His routine will be strictly monitored, as will his breath, and some bodily fluids...and he will be steeped in the word of God.

It's a good place and a good program where thousands of men have started their lives anew.

I can make no promises because I don't know what our lives will be like in six months. Erik can't make any promises now either - he knows he must take things day at a time.

However Amy and I have both told Erik that he now has "family" who will stand by him, and if he stays true to his stated intentions and the rules of his new home, there may very well be a room in our house for him one day.

We are certain God wants us in Erik's life.

It just took a little while to realize it wasn't a room in our house He wanted us to was room in Erik's heart.

What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! I've always longed to live in a place like this, Always dreamed of a room in your house, where I could sing for joy to God-alive!-Psalm 84:1 (MSG)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Enter Erik The Fresh

Admittedly, Amy and I needed a break when it came to our "Upper Room Ministry" after Shell happened and especially after "all Shell broke loose."

Thao is still living here, and we'd adopt her if she'd let us, but she's got an adventurous soul. We might have convinced her to stick around a little longer, but I suspect the wanderlust of a soon to be 23 year old whose desire is to explore the world may win out over our selfishness. We'll love seeing her soar into a new season if and when that time comes...but we'll pray she always remembers that she has "family" here.

No matter what, we have unused space and soon some of that room is going to be occupied by a young man named Erik, with whom we've been talking for several weeks. Erik has been through a lot, much of which parallels struggles I have faced. He hit rock bottom in California, and then got up and got out, but his demons are far from conquered. In truth, they're still nipping very close to his heels and he knows it.

Erik is 28...but due to tragic circumstances he was essentially left to find his way alone in the world at 18 and like many people, myself included, took refuge in some dark but easy to find places...for too long. I don't think it would be unfair to say that his life "stalled out" and then sank.

He's not going to be low maintenance...he's broke, unemployed, has no car, no driver's license - in fact I'm now thinking he may not know how to drive.

On the upside...he does have a puppy...a pit bull.

I met with Erik this morning to get him to a job interview. We did a little makeover on the way with stops at Goodwill, Amy's ironing board, and my clothes closet. He looked quite respectable by the time I dropped him off and Monday he'll find out if he got the job.

If not, there are other jobs...and there's plenty he can work on (including our yard if need be - he's a big guy with a back that doesn't ache) until the right opportunity arrives. Amy and I have bounced around some other possibilities we may explore with friends and neighbors, especially until I can teach him to drive and he gets a license.

There's no questioning the fact that with Erik we're stepping out of the boat. He is genuinely in need of stability which is what Amy and I have vowed to God we would try to provide to people truly in need. However, although our desire is to give such folks a foundation upon which they can rebuild their lives, we also have learned - sometimes the hard way - that we can become enablers far more easily than saviors if we're not careful to draw boundaries.

We also know we can't "fix" people. That's up to them...and God.

Erik needs a fresh start, so on Monday or Tuesday I'll "help him move" when I get off work. Before dropping him off today I asked how much "stuff" he needed to move and he said, "Well I left the clothes you bought at your house, me, my backpack...and a puppy"

Can't get much fresher than that...

I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. - 2 John 1:5

Monday, October 08, 2007


At the hour I drive to work I'm used to seeing all sorts of things many drivers do not experience or at least hope they don't.

For example, I assume everyone else on the road is drunk because I've seen a bunch of drunks over the years, a couple coming at me driving the wrong way on the freeway.

I also see a lot of road construction which is done in the dark of night to minimize the impact on most drivers...the drunks and I don't count.

I mention that only because earlier this week I vowed to get back onto a "personal" road which I believe will be better for both Amy and myself in the long run. Quite honestly, so far that was easier to type than to do.

It's alright, I have become used to pushing my timetables aside when more important matters conflict with them.

The young man I mentioned in the previous post and the family now caring for him certainly qualify as a higher priority.

My not so regular "regular schedule" is already out of whack...and until we have a firm grasp on how best to shepherd our friends through this time my "idealized" schedule is going to have to be implemented incrementally it seems.

I probably should have realized there might be a few bumps in my mental route to a semblance of normalcy when I groggily drove into work on Monday and saw a flashing highway sign alerting drivers - me and the drunks - to upcoming construction.

I almost turned around to get a camera from home because I found it so funny at the time.

Now I'm thinking it was more poignant than humorous.

The sign read: "Construction ahead. Use open lane."

Like there's some other option?

I will get my routine in order soon, but right now my path is being dictated by situations over which I have little control...and callings I can not deny.

I will be patient.

I will follow the signs I see from God knowing that they will always lead to the "open lane."

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. - Ecclesiastes 11:5

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Walking Back To The Truth I Know

I lead a very disciplined life in some ways...and an amazingly undisciplined life in others. At work, I am a linear thinker, I know what time it is at all times because I have regular deadlines which have to be met...usually there are several deadlines an hour.

I am completely undisciplined regarding sleep, exercise, laundry...well, let's not go too far down that road.

In any case, one of the things I am disciplined about outside of work is caring for Amy. We've made great strides with her health, but there are still things that are very overwhelming for her, and I try to be disciplined in being of some help keeping those things at bay.

One way I'm convinced will help her, and she agrees, is to get her to adhere to a regular schedule as much as possible.

Amy has good days and bad days and then there are days when life gets in the way of everyone's schedule. However on some good days, I think Amy may try to overcompensate for the previous bad days. The result is a cycle that doesn't work...I think we've both come to terms with the reality of that, but it's hard for her to change that pattern nonetheless.

My nagging her certainly doesn't help, and worrying about her makes her worry about me and then we're into this no one sleeps, everyone's worried thing which is truly comical.

So to cut to the chase, I haven't been as successful as I wish in helping Amy get disciplined about sticking to a schedule...or at least more of a schedule.

Over the past several weeks, heck maybe a couple of months now, this has been weighing on me a lot. I've done a lot of praying...a lot of talking to God.

In the past week or so though I decided I need to try something else.

I need to get "me" on a schedule.

So I've been prepping myself (we've had a few distractions this week which admittedly slowed me down) to return to the path that has always been the most successful for me.

That path includes walking every day, and a form of fasting - although it's really more adhering to a strict, yet simple menu of foods that has some Biblical basis - I'd mention its inspiration but I've been down that path too, and I still get emails from people who think I'm an expert and that would only be another distraction.

I usually adhere to these disciplines during the Lenten season, but I've come to believe I need to apply them to this season of my life.

Although I have been mentally prepping for this change, because it will be somewhat radical at first, in truth about the only real step I've taken is to put a new collection of songs on my tiny mp3 player which usually accompanies me on my walks.

I read a post from my friend Chuck this morning, which seemed almost like affirmation and it also reminded me of a time some years ago when Chuck was in a different season, and we exchanged a few emails sparked by something I wrote.

A lot of things have changed since then, but one thing hasn' need to always rely on God first.

I think I'm due for a refresher course.

So, I'm going to take the first steps this afternoon on what was once a very familiar path in hopes it will keep me a bit more disciplined in all things, including how best to love and care for my wife.

Oh, I'll still be talking to God, but I think I'm going to spend a lot more time listening to Him now...even if my little mp3 player is blaring away at the same time.

"Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." - Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Death In The Air

He died a slow it wasn't unexpected.

Still I mourn a little today.

I mean I knew it was coming, I saw it years ago. He died from a variety of causes including technology, lies, other people's incompetence, and wounds inflicted as he was stepped upon by the feet of small minded people with big heads. In the end he outlasted most of those people, but the damage they did to him on their way to oblivion ruined any real chance of survival.

My apathy toward his well-being also played a large part. I had several chances to play the game a different way, make demands and make sure he received proper recognition. Some folks took notice anyway and made offers which might have given him more life, a bigger life, and certainly more money. However I would have had to follow him, and those offers were never timed quite right. They had great potential, but also would have required great sacrifices. I wasn't in a place to take a gamble, so I turned those offers down for him. I let him live in the background because I could afford to do that and he had no ego. I don't really regret that, except maybe just a little bit today.

He was only supposed to live for a week anyway.

Who knew he'd fly for the better part of 20 years?

In the end Corporate Cookie Cutters with their own career agendas controlled his fate. He outlasted most of them but not before they had gutted and devalued him.

Today he said his final words and no one noticed...he had become a soulless voice long ago.

I noticed. I couldn't help but notice.

So long Chris Michaels...I know you're as happy as I am that you've finally been put out of the misery imposing shackles of the unimaginative.

It was a pretty stupid pseudonym after all...and it sure lasted longer than I ever expected.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I've Gone Mascot Mad!

I've become infatuated.

Not to worry...I've become infatuated with a website called Prep Sportswear.

I wasn't a big fan of sports in high school or college...and the only teams I really keep track of now are the Cowboys (hey, I paid my dues) and the Spurs with whom my fanaticism is well documented.

I went to R.L. Turner High in Carollton, which is right outside of Dallas. Turner had the "Fighting Lions" which is not exactly a team name that appears to have taken a great deal of thought.

The last thing I need on earth is another t-shirt, however at Prep Sportswear I could get a "Turner Fighting Lions" t-shirt if I did want one.

But there are plenty of other high schools around the country that have certainly more thought provoking team names.

Oh, hang on...I've only started and I had to stop myself because I was having too much fun.
Too twisted to be a Pretzel? Maybe Beetdiggers make you blush. Not to worry....the choices are endless..

Maybe you want a high school t-shirt or sweatshirt that's more dignified, something that better befits your image in society.

Not a problem.

I could go on and on.....Okay, I will but only for a few more I promise.
I don't even want to consider how one cheers on the "Cheesemakers."

Those questions are for more thoughtful minds than mine....

Personally, after spending WAY too much time looking around at the various high school mascot names, I think I've decided on the one that at least is realistic, doesn't pump kids up with false self-esteem, and gives them a goal that they can likely achieve.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Another Waxing About Waynes...

There are few things I can take credit for, including the following link, my friend Kim sent it to me.

I did try to see if I could get the code for the embedded video, but as is the wise thinking of many media companies, the site has made it very difficult to make a "viral video" out of something they've produced.

I'm familiar with this logic...believe me. You certainly wouldn't want to have thousands of people spreading your videos and publicizing you all over the Internet...goodness, what would happen then?

Anyway, although I don't claim to be the only person to have had some thoughts about people named "Wayne" - I will point out that this guy is only now catching up with a well proven and documented "axiom." Although he is doing so at a very rapid rate which should be applauded.

Oh, and don't worry...he has a nose.