Thursday, January 28, 2016

Something Which Happened at School...

     For me, growing up in the household in which I did, during the cultural context of the late 1970's and throughout the 80's, there was an unspoken expectation that little boys would just have little girlfriends. And things were just about that clearly defined -- no explanation as to the nature of the relationship, or answer as to why I should have one. As I grew older I would watch as my family would tease the younger members of the family (the six or eight year old nephews) about if they had little girlfriends at school. It puzzled me.

     Part of my driving parenting philosophies is that of the "Axiom of Pink Elephants." The axiom basically states that, if you don't want them to think about pink elephants, don't tell them to not think about pink elephants. What is the first think you think of when you hear, "Don't think about pink elephants." That's right, you think about pink elephants. Simple really. But do note: this is not anywhere near the notion of "Not talking about the elephant in the room."


     I had made the intentional decision to not "make a point," not to make a "pink elephant" so to speak, of girlfriends and boyfriends. Let sleeping dogs lie and all that... that is, until they get up from the porch and charge you. Well, I had made that point to not make a point, and then, well then, something happened at school.

     Whilst picking my son and daughter up from school, my son, in an excited furtiveness, proceeds to recount the experience of having a little girl tell him she likes him, and wants to be his girlfriend. So, I asked the obvious and only question a father could ask, "what did you say?" Very emphatically, and maybe somewhat proudly, he replied he told her he didn't like her and didn't want a girlfriend. 

     The story was even more amusing when it was recounted, by my son at my prompting, to his mother (who works nights and wakes late in the afternoon/early evening). The knowing, bemused glances exchanged between us, the subtextual humor we vibe off of together. Hey, they are six years old, in kindergarten: a few well placed comments and instruction, and all will be well, no need to take a pink elephant and turn it into a golden calf. I don't recall what my wife said, but remember it was sagacious, and amounted to saying good for him, he was too young.

     I guess, in that moment, my attitude toward my son was one which forestalled judgement -- especially of the issues at play, knowing the deeper significance of both romantic love (the likes of which, developmentally, my son is too young to experience or deal with), and the nature of the situation (for my son, in his emotional landscape) as being more about his being proud of his response than anything else.

     Putting slightly more of a finer point on it: knowing the complexities and scope of the issues I also knowingly (and compassionately and understandingly) elected to focus on the emotional landscape of my son, the landscape through he viewed the situation. I was amused with his being so proud of himself, and was accepting of him, wanting to grow him emotionally (where needed), or keep encouraging his direction (of growth), facilitating it even. 

   
      I very much see God's father heart in this experience, His desire to be open to us, to be accepting of us, to wanting firstly to intimately know us through our experience. I think we see this in the story of "Greatest Commandment" from the New Testament book of Matthew, 22:38


"34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”"
Specifically, the emphasis on loving your neighbor as yourself, as the second greatest commandment (itself like the first), to me, shows God's judgement-forestalling, accepting heart concerned with the personal maturity and growth of the doer, the one counted as Son and Daughter.



bonus post: Pronouncements and Pontifications

     The human mind is good at making pronouncements, craves to do it actually. I think this tendency is part and parcel to the task given to Adam and Eve in the garden, the task of "naming." God spoke, ex-nihilo, Creation into being, and gave humankind the very similar gift and task of  speaking into conceptual being (ex-nihilo out of a consciousness which is pure, untainted by sin or conceptual divorce from intellectual intimacy with the mind of God) the "identity" of things -- whereby notions of identity necessarily involve some understanding of the thing's nature.

     

     I, this morning, am want to make certain pronouncements. I've had a double shot of espresso sunk into small coffee, and am feeling, deceptively and likely erroneously, primed to do so. Rather, I am want to make one pronouncement, and one pontification, neither of which have much to do with this post. Not directly. And yet, perhaps, as with much of life, there is always more going on than that of which we are immediately aware.

     The pronouncement I want to make is that fathering and parenting are different. Fathering (and Mothering, as they are not so indistinct) is more about conferring and safeguarding a sense of identity and personhood in the minds of their children, while Parenting is primarily the task of developing behavior. Perhaps, though,  Fathering/Mothering and Parenting are not so distinct as I am want to make them, but that the human mind loves categories.

     Suffice it to say I found myself needing my wife's behavoir-focused perspective on a situation to see elements of it which I was missing. I never want to parent my children to the exclusion of fathering them -- meaning, I never want focus on correcting behavior at the expense of conferring and safeguarding identity. In this moment I needed to see the type of tree making up the forest I was looking at, and my wife was indispensable to me in this regard.


     The pontification is this : I think the job of "Naming" in the garden is more like child-rearing than it is a process of intellectual abstraction -- all intellectual activity, for that matter should thus be like child-rearing. Child rearing is hands-on, involving relationship and investment and effort. It involves behavior modification, which, in the soul and psyche, is akin to cultivation and gardening in the land.Child rearing also involves fostering identity, building up and encouraging. "Naming," or dominion, in the land, involves both manners of action in such a fully engaged relationship with the thing "named" or over which dominion is held. But, in an ancillary fashion, the intended "help-mate," dual-sex relationship, in one less about sexuality and more about perspectival symbiosis -- men and women think and feel differently and symbiotically, needing each other in our limitations. (Otherwise, why not a-sexual or poly-sexual creatures damned to the limits of their incompleteness of prescience?)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

of Rocks, and Knocks on the Door

     It was Saturday, after some fairly cold days for this area, and my children were ready for some exercise. My son wanted to play "Commando" -- no surprise there -- while my daughter wanted to ride her bike -- no surprise there either. Of the many neighborhood parks there is one which is well shaded, with a nice level little foot path of crushed gravel, and not overly frequented. My children, at this one little park, could easily be allowed to run (or ride) amok but all in safe proximity and without concern of running over others. So, off we trekked to the park.


After playing for a while both children approached me. There is a large stone erected in the front of the park, fairly flat, consistently thick, like some slab of rock cut to be like a table with a corner cut off. Like some cold-blooded, hoody-wearing lizard I had stationed myself leaning up against the upright stone, both blocking myself from the northerly wind and saturating myself in the radiating warmth of it and the sun behind me. Both children wanted to climb the stone which come to about clavicle height on me.

     In my younger days, when I had, let's say... "less mass between my center of gravity and the rock face," and had more confidence in my ... "indestructibility" (read, "thinner, and younger"), well, in those days I used to do a little rock climbing with buddies. I had done enough "bouldering" to know some basic principles, and had enough knowledge that I had something to share with my children.

     After clambering about unsuccessfully a few moments my daughter was somewhat ready to hear what I had to say, and with her willingness to listen and desire to sit atop the new found challenge, she applied herself in humility to the lessons I had for her.

     To be honest, the moment for me was less about her learning some skill, and more about her being with me, and me wanting for her fullness, even in the small instance of climbing the rock. Granted, part of that fullness I wanted for her was her willingness to learn, and the development of her sense of accomplishment and self in accomplishing a task after facing a challenge, but more so, it was just a desire to be with her in the experience, and for her to know my willingness to be there with her.

     I think I can see the father heart of God in that moment, the full and fuller desire to be with us, to want to be with us in and through experience, wanting but not forcing upon us, initiating and pursuing, all the while focused on us, knowing the good He has to bring to us.


     This morning's verse which strikes me -- and very specifically a single verse at that -- is from the New Testament book Revelation 3:20 --

"120'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me."

God wants to be with us, coming to the door, waiting at the door, knocking and initiating, all because He wants to be with us. And He wants to be with us where we are, in our context, being with us. In a magnificent way He humbly, graciously, acceptingly, welcoming way embraces our being with Him in the same moment He is with us. Perhaps more saliently is that what He is wanting in that moment is for our good, and our fullness.

     As an aside, I don't think it surprised my daughter that I wanted to teach her "bouldering," and in that blessed child-like self-orientation she assumed naturally that I just would so want, no doubting of the fact. I personally think I would like to have that kind of blessed self-orientation which still expects, un-guardedly and un-doubtingly and trustingly that God so wants to love me and be with me... that I would open the door to the knocking as easily and as expectantly as she might.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Piggy Banks and Pokemon Cards

     Growing up in the late 1970's and early 80's, I remember baseball cards came in packs of chewing gum, and some kids had Star Wars trading cards. I never got much into trading cards of any kind, at least not beyond an interest and fascination with the graphic design appeal. I was not much of a sports aficionado, and so the whole collecting and trading element was lost to me. Of course, as a child who cared so little about such things I didn't see the allure, and thus the lack of the sense of an intense competitiveness or dog-eat-(trading-ignorant)-dog peril is also not a part of my recollection or nostalgia.

     My son was introduced to the Pokemon Card Trading Game by other children at church. I never got into the game or television show, but knew it involved some fairly complicated elements, and so all I knew of it was that it was not something to go idly into doing. I suspect my warrior-hearted son was drawn to the "battle" and "power" components, and maybe mostly to the graphic design element (characters look cool), but beyond that he was not too savvy. He errantly, idealistically even, thought that all the other boys traded only good cards for equally good cards, and that there was not any reason to doubt someone would do otherwise -- like taking advantage of his ignorance of what was relatively good and not good.

     So, with his brand new Christmas gift of a Pokemon Card set my son set out to enjoy the fellowship of his church cohort on the playscape. (Honestly, I don't know if any actually play the game as it is meant to be played, and just trade the cards.) Within less than five minutes, and knowing my approbations and cautions about not trading his best characters, he had been duped into trading his very best character for one of lesser value/strength/ability. Not even two lesser cards, just one. He came over to me to show off his bounty.

    Immediately I went into pappa-bear mode. I approached the group of children, ascertaining that what had happened was that one older boy had swindled my son and then immediately turned around and traded that ill-gotten card for others with another boy. My son's prized card was lost. I laid down the law with the other children, in the presence of my son: they were not allowed to trade with my son, and I was displeased. My son was feeling the bite of injustice and frustration, and screamed at me to take his cards away. Picking him up I carried him off to a quiet space, and explained I was trying to keep him from being taking advantage of, and that he was not in trouble. I was trying to explain, as I had so often warned, that it wasn't safe to trade if he didn't understand what was good or not.

     I told my son I could go to the parents of the nefarious boy, and attempt to get his card back, or we could resolve to choose relationship over possession, and just avoid such interactions of trading in the future, and that if he chose that route, I would stand with him by going to get a replacement deck. He resolved to only trade with his best friend, a boy I suspect is as likely clueless as my son, but just as equally decent and un-predatory as my son. The lesson which I was hoping was underscored in this moment was the lesson of choosing relationship over possessions.

     So, when Monday came around, and school was over and snack at home had been eaten, I wrangled the kids into the car and off to the store we went for the replacement deck. My daughter (at some point) had been wanting and asking for a piggy bank, and may even have asked that day if she could get one. It did not immediately register that she was asking for it that day. Once at the store, my son was amenable to the deal that he use his money, and I would match the funds.

     It was not until after purchasing the cards, on the way to the car, that it registered with me that my daughter had made a request for a piggy bank earlier. I think it was a prompting by God / check in my spirit than it was a matter of my own awareness and remembrance, but, at any rate, we immediately turned around and went back inside. This began something of a search, involving some out-of-box deductions on my part using a price scanner on a randomly misplaced piggy bank to find the location of other piggy banks. From the limited selection she picked an acceptable model, and I bought it for her outright (whereas I had not done so with my son).

    The point of all this, i think, is that my daughter had been talking for some time about getting a bank account for her money, which she saves very well. I mentioned to her in a conversation that a bank account was good, but that there was benefit at her age to having quick and ready access to cash, and that a piggy bank might be the best option for her.

     My daughter had been wanting to do something mature and responsible, and had even listened to my wisdom in the matter. While I was hoping the lesson that I would stand with my children (when they made good decisions consistent in the wisdom I had previously offered them) would be a lesson that both learned that day, I think it was my daughter's desire to be responsible, and my fatherly desire to aide her in that choice, my fatherly desire to guide and foster her in her efforts to be mature which is the most salient of issues in all this.

     My daughters desires to be and to act maturely are something I want (excitedly so) to support and foster. In this I can easily see God's father heart: He desires to aide us, and joyfully aides us, as we come to Him seeking to be mature or "godly," and He doesn't require of us to provide the "funds" (resources of emotions, will, strength, whatever) to do so.

    There are several verses which come to mind, but one in particular captures me in this moment: Philippians 4:6

"4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."


Knowing the Lord wants to do what is consistent with what is good (what is consistent with His nature), and actively seeks to do so... will do so...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

     So, this weekend, Sunday January 17th to be specific, was my birthday. I turned 42. Both kids had been excitedly looking forward to it, and repeatedly asked permission to be allowed to stay up late over the weekend to finish making the gifts they had planned for me.

     I had known I was missing an opportunity to be a blessing to several people on Saturday by not attending / serving at a spiritual retreat. Long story short, I had felt led to be a part and to serve for some time, and didn't take advantage of a last minute provision of childcare (which would have freed me up to do so). So, even now I am feeling out of step with things, and yet intentional about not missing such opportunities again. Suffice it to say, it wasn't until later Saturday evening, when I was less distracted over my missed opportunity, that I had had any quality, focused time on my kids.

     Once my wife was off to work the kids and I began working on making my birthday cake. My favorite cake throughout my life has been the pineapple upside-down cake. It is one of those things which harken back to the days of childhood, and innocent delight. The cake, however, was also an integral part of her birthday surprise for me -- a surprise which involved an extravagant gift (of a replacement wedding ring for the band I had lost years ago), and a day retracing some of our most memorable dates. On one of these dates my wife had made this cake, along with a favorite meal, and had a pick-nick for me.

     As I said, my wife had gotten busy before heading to work, and was not able to make the cake with my daughter, and so it fell to me (unbeknownst of the plan) to make the cake. One of the issues was that we needed to go to the store to get a forgotten item -- the brown sugar. Then it was back home and to the labor-intensive project. I was intent on my daughter being a part of the project, standing in the stead of my wife for her.

     To make the cake you have to melt butter in a glass pyrex cake dish, then lay down a layer of brown sugar, which will become the top layer, and "glue" / strata for pineapples and cherries. After this sugar layer you arrange the pineapples and cherries, this cover it all with the special cake batter. The cake cooks upside down. After cooking, then cooling, the cake is flipped out of the baking dish onto a cake plate, with the carmelized brown sugar and pineapples and cherries on top.

     While making the cake my daughter had knocked over the jar of maraschino cherries, spilling the liquid contents over the counter. Immediately she began to go into panic mode. Immediately I made her stop, take five deep breaths (as the syrupy red liquid creaped along the counter), until she found some center and calm. It might have been just as much an exercise for me as it was for her. At any rate my daughter desired more to be finishing the final touches on her present to me, and so I bade her release from the task and full blessing to go do what she felt she needed, but only after some amount of participation.

     I wanted my daughter to have a sense of inclusion in the process, just as she wanted to have a sense of inclusion, as well as release to do what she felt needed to be done. And while the lesson of breathing (when a mistake was made) may bear some further reflection (at another date), what I think is important for my thoughts now is that, while she wanted to finish her presents to me I still asked her to serve me in serving her mother in a project which would be bringing honor to someone else (namely me). Kind of like the opportunity I felt the Lord had given me to serve and honor someone at the spiritual retreat (to which I missed going).

     A quick reader could see I might need to extrapolate from my attitude about my daughter's mistake to mine, especially since I am extrapolating from hearts desires as a father to God's heart for us, but that is not what I am working out right now, not where I am at.

     As I said, I wanted my daughter to have a sense of inclusion in something for which she later would be honored (for her honoring of me). You can say I want her honored, and honored for the honorable characteristic of honoring others, being an honoring person. That's kind upside down, in a sense: the honor I am wanting for her goes on the bottom, so to speak, in the process of serving others, only to have it later revealed and made visible.

     There is a verse from the Old Testament scriptures which illustrate the fatherly heart (mine, and the Lord's) about which I speak, found in Isaiah 62:2-12

"2The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate. 3You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken," Nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate"; But you will be called, "My delight is in her," And your land, "Married"; For the LORD delights in you, And to Him your land will be married. 5For as a young man marries a virgin, So your sons will marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you. 6On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; 7And give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.The LORD has sworn by His right hand and by His strong arm, "I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies; Nor will foreigners drink your new wine for which you have labored." 9But those who garner it will eat it and praise the LORD; And those who gather it will drink it in the courts of My sanctuary. 10Go through, go through the gates, Clear the way for the people; Build up, build up the highway, Remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples. 11Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, "Lo, your salvation comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him." 12And they will call them, "The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD"; And you will be called, "Sought out, a city not forsaken.""

The Lord desires that it be done, and though the way it be done seems upside down it still makes a sort of sense. God is good, and and getting honored in any way other than as comes in the fashion of the way He does things is not good, nor real and dependable. And perhaps that is how to understand a similar text of scripture, Hebrews 12:7-13,

"7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 12Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed."


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Going Fishing...

     It was Saturday, and I had no plan nor sense of what to do with my son (and, by extension, my daughter, necessarily in-tow as she had to be). I tend to use the mornings for my son, since he is best in the mornings, and afternoons tends to need naps.

     So, it was Saturday, I had no plan nor sense of one, and was pushing the default, fall-back activity certain to entertain my son and bring him a sense of my "presentness" with him, as well as his value: going fishing. And he was game, but had been talking for a while about getting a particular toy M-16 rifle sold at Academy. He had spied the thing a few weeks back while we were shopping for the bikes for which their grandmother (my mother) had given them money at Christmas. Suffice it to say, it was a persistent desire on his part, and he was wanting to use his own money, and asked if instead of going fishing we could got o Academy so he could purchase the gun.

     Sure, I wanted for my son to develop a sense of the value of things, maybe even grasp the relative value of money. More importantly, however, it seemed it was, well, important to my son -- he wanted to do this thing, and I was the enabling vehicle, literally and figuratively speaking. In the moment I wanted for him to be able to exercise this ability, to be enabled, knowing the good coming from such went beyond even acquisition of a new toy -- he would find his desire to do being met with my desire to see his being able (to do) thus made to happen. Truth be told, I was a little proud and a little impressed with the maturity-tending chutzpah on his part.

     The story doesn't actually stop there. Turns out my son, while loving his new toy, also had wanted to purchase some Legos, his other toy-of-interest, and (from what I could gather) a particular Lego set he had seen while grocery shopping with me. He hadn't asked at the time of going to Academy if he could do so, and when he eventually did, going shopping for the Legos became a matter of finding the appropriate time to do so. Since it was effectively the same matter as getting the gun, I saw the need to honor his desire, but the opportunity didn't come until Sunday evening.  When he did get the chance, however, he was as equally pleased as he had been with getting the other toy. At any rate.

    There is a verse which sits with me right now: from the New Testament book of Galatians, 5:22-23, which states,

"22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
Particularly the notion of patience sits with me, but, I think the point I am want to make is this: it seems only with, through (manifesting, holding, exhibiting, being in) the fruit of the Spirit will we come to see God's heart in answering our desires. And that's that, I think, I suppose. Only with / in patience, say, will we see God's heart to answer our desires.

     And that is saying something more nuanced than saying we have to have patience to see ourselves getting what we want, patience to see our prayers answered. We have to be in patience in order to see God's heart and desire for us.

   

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lessons

     Growing up I would often imagine myself imparting some sage wisdom to my children (whom were likely enthralled with the moment). It is one of the driving memories and thoughts of my childhood inclinations and bents to fatherhood. Now, I don't know about all that. I hope my children will ask me for wisdom, but that more out of a desire that they would have the humble enough character and personal growth to know they can (and need) to ask for wisdom. And it is not to mention that their asking for wisdom (from me) means I have accomplished making myself a safe place for such in their eyes.

      Often, however, I am seeing the reality that, the more my daughter expresses her desire to "either own a pottery studio, or be a stay at home mom," I am needing to instruct her. Growing up, my mother taught me how to iron and use the washing machine, and I taught myself to cook, and while such things are included in the notion of lessons, I think it is the notion of giving lessons about which I am writing today. And, there are lessons I am wanting to impart to my son, albeit slightly less specific to calling and vocation.

      Specific examples are hard to come up with at the moment. I frequently explain to her why so often, because her brother is more active in the morning yet needing often an afternoon nap, that we use the morning to focus on him, while she and I may do focused together time in the afternoon. Likewise I explain about how marketing works, explaining why we do the things we do in the store.

      I want to sit with and instruct my daughter; our activities together, when done with the lesson in mind, are about more than just quality time together and skill development. The time together become more important, more valuable, more ... significant (or even holy) because I recognize in the moment it is good for her (or him, my son) to have this lesson, to be poured into for blessing them,  fr securing or ensuring their future calling. The lessons are not a down payment on but a "locking in of" more of all I hope for them to have, to be.

     Easily I can see God's Father Heart for us in this: His lessons go beyond conferring the promise of the calling (though they do invariably confirm the calling). His lessons are according us the value of the calling and ourselves for the calling, giving purpose and importance in the moment relative to the calling. The lessons are holy moments revealing His Will, yes which involve us and our value, but are purposeful development of us that we might have all He intends for us. That is a love-act, a service-in-love bespeaking His want for us to have His promises and desires for us, the importance of ourselves to be developed in those promises and purposes.

     There is a passage in the New Testament book of 1Corinthians 4:4(b)-7(a) which oddly comes to mind about the above point:

"but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. 6Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.7For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive?"

The thrust of the passage, and it's situational context (of factioning within the Corinthian church along the lines of Gnosticism and apostolic affiliations) not withstanding, what is important I think is that God has chosen, and God intends, what He has given, and while it for now remains unseen, it is certain for us, and He will reveal it (what is hidden in darkness, the motives of men's hearts) that praise from men will come to Him, but that our role is humility in waiting, recognizing in humility the purpose in the moment.

     I have risked saying too much. There is something about the hidden, the unseen, receiving and purpose (purposefulness which lends to even the holiness of a moment), and humility (not counting oneself equal with God) which is the lesson here. May the Lord beyond my many words show it to you, as I myself struggle to grasp it for me.

     

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Spring Athletics

     So, I volleyball is starting up again in the Spring. This was a bit of a surprise, as the scuttlebutt had been that it would not happen. Immediately I became excited, and it was more a matter of wanting to share in the excitement with my wife (and proper decorum as a spouse and parent) that I proceeded to wait to sign my daughter up. I waited all of a day, until both could be seen and apprised. I have just finished the online checkout for the season.
     When I approached my daughter and asked if she wanted to play, there was no hesitation. We both remembered the advice her coach gave the team at the end of the season, which was to "try many different sports" since right now they are "learning how to be athletes." My daughter wondered if maybe she shouldn't try basketball because of what the coach had recommended. I told her I could look into it.
     There is a seriousness and an excitement about this volleyball season for me, for both of us -- maybe it is best dubbed an excitement wearing a very serious countenance. Meaning, of course, we are giddy and very intent. And yet, truth be told, it was the willingness to listen to the coach's wisdom and consider something different, for the sake of the goal of developing as an athlete (in light of the fact of the giddy intentness) which impresses me most right now about my daughter, and is something for which I want her to be honored in, and (as a result of) to give to her. Said simply, my daughter wants something good, and more than just wanting the good thing of volleyball, she is listening to wisdom and wanting a deeper, more good thing in the moment (that of learning to be an athlete), and because of that I want her to have it -- I am intent.
     I see how this is God's heart as well, His simultaneous delight and pride and intent (His Will) which partners with us to give us good and better (deeper) things. Which of you if his son asked for bread would give his son a stone, and how much more does your heavenly father want to bless you, to paraphrase the teaching of Christ. And, come to think of it, there may be some illumination here for another, oft repeated teaching of Christ found in the New Testament gospel of St. Matthew, 6:32,

"31Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  34So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

God respects, admires, appreciates... loves the heart seeking the deeper thing, and is committed to giving it to the point of making it His mission. My daughter is wanting to be an athlete, a better athlete, and it just so turns out there is no Spring girls basketball league. We might try a different sport if I can find one. The point is that, at the moment, she is getting to play volleyball (it might be flag football), but whatever she plays it will have the fun and excitement and friendship she had found in volleyball in the Fall. Maybe there is more to be said, or I have said more not in the arena of what I am wanting to say (about how seeking the better thing is good, and How God honors that). I have an appointment however and this post deadline, and this blog is like polaroids of an ongoing narrative... there will be more to say.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tom-Tom Honor

     My wife asked me a question last night which I have been asking myself for a while: why do I only seem to write about my daughter, and not about my son. I didn't have much an answer, except more often than not I am needing my wife to shed insight on the emotional landscape of the child most like her, that is, my son. It is not entirely satisfying as an answer, but this is post is not about why I don't write about my son, so it needn't be. I just have acknowledged to you the reader my recognition of the phenomena and also prefaced a short piece about my son, which is to follow.

     My son gives gifts. These gifts are typically the leftover things he has, maybe which have held some mild interest in his mind at some point, perhaps. I recognize in the moments that it is important of me to respond in the right way. I think I know what that way is: humbly, graciously. Later they likely find their way somewhere he won't discover them, but also where they don't clutter my already overly cluttered living space. But he remembers he has given them to me, and it would do well to remember back to him. Maybe once I figure out what it all means I'll do better.

     But, occasionally, there are times when he is giving me something special; times when the moment of the giving and receiving is important unlike other times. I recently posted about "A Son's Honoring," in which he had given me a GI Joe figure and vehicle. This post links that somewhat in heart, and I encourage you, the reader, to check it out from the post list. At any rate, the other day was no different my son, as somber as an excited and proud-of-himself six year old boy can be, bequeathed to me another such "honoring gift."



     See, this was an old toy "Indian Tom-Tom" drum from the 70's, obviously, and part of the massive trove of saved toys I had given him (as I had always imagined myself doing, from even as a young pubescent boy). From a graphic design standpoint, I had loved this drum. It just had that nostalgic "feel" to it, and I had even saved (what essentially was) the long shoelace that wrapped around it keeping both rubber ends on the thick, pasteboard-like tube (and which kept coming off). 



     So, when he offered it to me, with writing which had utterly decimated the image, ruining the effect and potential future use to which I might graphically or decoratively put the thing (not to mention the misspelling of so much), well, you might suspect the worse from me. It was, however (and unexpectedly) a moment when I found myself searching for "what it all meant". My son, with a mixture of seriousness and love all tinged with excitement pointed out each word, making sure I saw it and knew what was communicated. He explained to me it's intended purpose (which itself showed some thoughtfulness and forethoughtfulness on his part). He put effort into it, put himself into it, hinging intent for (and significance of) me into the gift. Most importantly, however, he had put himself fully into the gift.


     It was important to him, and that importance became the thing for me, it redefined it. A man doesn't deserve such a treasure, and I say that honestly and with no tropishness -- a man does not deserve such honor from a son, at least not as I can see in my brokeness as a person.

     I write the following hesitantly, knowing my son is a better man then me, and that this lessons to be drawn are numerous and deeper than what I draw. Seeing my heart to want to receive the core of what was being given, beyond and in spite of what it was, thus redefining (or just merely defining it correctly) the thing, I think I understand God's heart of mercy for us. 

     At any rate I am given a view of what is important, and that is heart and intent above all else. As an artistic aside, I happen to love nostalgic cowboy art, and have been wanting decorations of the same for my office, likely unbeknownst to my son. Arguably this new pen holder Tom-Tom functions just that way.