Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Windows, Horses, and Bowling Birthdays

Somehow in this post I get from my father's final blessing of me, his death, my trip to Missouri, up to this past weekend and my son's birthday. Like ripples in a pond, and honey drizzling down through the layers in baklava.

So, a lot of the past two or thee entries have come in the context of my trip to see the eclipse, and the processing of my father's death which occurred during that trip with my friend. That was about two months worth of time between my father's death and the trip, so, for what ever that is worth. But these current days, and these last few posts, are like the ripples extending outward from probably one moment in particular, and my father's passing in general. That particular moment occurred about three or four weeks before my father died, during a final visit when I went up to the old, home town to see him, to tell him goodbye.

We spent a small period of time, maybe two hours, talking, primarily with my stepmother while he remained in the bed. Sensing or trying to read the moment for when I knew she must be tiring, or my father tiring, I got up to go tell him goodbye. My wife followed, ever having my back -- though honestly I didn't expect it of her, nor anticipate it. From his hospice bed my father reached up, took our hands in his, and conferred a blessing upon us. He told us we had good kids, and were doing a good job, and my wife deserved some of the credit for that as much as I did (me being the stay at home parent, her the working parent). He then invited us to return anytime, welcoming us back.

One of the issues we have always had in the past with my father was how he would often ask us to return for a visit when he evidenced no satisfaction or gratitude when we had come to visit. This time however my father, in those brief two minutes if it were that long at all, was so absolutely accepting (as if no past tensions between us mattered), so welcoming and open-armed in heart -- without qualification or expectation or onerous, burdensome requirement -- so freely loving, well, he was the very picture of Christ and Christ's offer of forgiveness. Pure, free gift and grace.

There are windows into Heaven, and that moment was a window. I am convinced that while I was only vaguely aware of the moment, my father must have been more cognizantly nearer the presence of God than ever before, and as with Moses at the burning bush we were on hallowed ground. I do know, in that moment, that I had had a father I never have felt that I have had before, and having a father in that singular moment was so profoundly good that even all the years of not having had one could pale of diminish the moment of having it. I think even my wife had a father in that moment, or in the very least received a fatherly blessing which recognized her contribution as well as conferring other things.

On the trip to Missouri my friend asked if I had felt a mantle being passed from my father to me, and I said I surely felt the mantle of that of being more a father to my own family (as opposed to any mantle within my own father's household).

Somehow all of this fits into this weekend, or this weekend fits into all of this. Well, a very busy Saturday more than the whole weekend.

I have for some time been researching (as I may have mentioned elsewhere) horseback riding lessons for my daughter. This past Saturday the entire family took a trip to the place which offers the riding lessons for a tour, an attempt to get a gauge of the owner and the venture of riding lessons itself. I liked the owner and her ethos (with an emphasis on teaching everything about horses, from grooming and care on up through dressage and various forms of riding particulars). In a sense I was trying to look through a window at what it would be like for my daughter, in the hopes of providing her confirmation of her desires and this particular path. This was a very practical step forward, a foreshadowing or picture into the experience suggestive of my earnest partnering and commitment to the project of equipping her. Surely a picture, a window of the father-heart of God for us all.

What makes this tour so episodic in the narrative of the weekend is that this tour was a sort of "additional" to my son's birthday celebration preparations, and all the events and context surrounding the Saturday's plans.

Up until Friday morning I had no clue what form of party we were going to have for my son. I was defaulting to cake and ice cream at the house, hoping I might clean at least one bathroom prior to. Further complicating matters was the fact my son's best friend, a girl down the street, was having her birthday that same day, and my son and daughter both wanted to attend. Friday morning, from out of the bue, an idea struck me that there was a bowling alley that hosted kid's parties, and it just so happened the place had an open slot. This slot turned out to be right before the friend's party (held elsewhere). Providential doesn't quite cover it, if you follow my drift. With plans in place I invited specifically and only those close relationships which seem to most bless my son. (I had at least had the sense to order a specialty cake earlier on Thursday.) Friday evening found me at home with my son while my wife and daughter surreptitiously went shopping for gifts, party favors, and so on.

My daughter was quite precious about the whole affair, using her own money to buy a truly thoughtful gift (and fitting one it turned out), as well as bending herself to stuffing the party favor treat bags. Hence, Saturday we get up, rush off to the horse stables tour, come home, have lunch, rush off to store to pick up the cake and then on to the bowling alley (all whilst my son had no clue to the plans for his surprise), and after the party, on to the little friend's party.

My attitude towards my son in all of this was one of wanting to see him honored, yet found myself grateful for the love bestowed upon him. I was blessed by those loving my son. I wanted significant relationships for my son, and invited for him (surrounded him with) those relationships which seem to be entirely life giving to him. I manufactured the experience (well, you know), brought the people together, supplying it. Surely that is a picture, a window of sorts, into the father-heart of God for us.

And yet how does all this link together, how do the first and largest ripples resemble the last and smaller ripples? How do I get from my father's blessing of me (in all it's picture of Christ's grace extended to me) to this picture, these pictures of the father-heart of God for us all (and those moments from which they derive)? From the sense of a mantle within my own family to lives and blessing of my children? From the existential to the imageric?

This morning, writing, I don't know if it does, or, at least, if it does for me. See, I think this blog post is actually, somehow, about my wife (where my last post was similarly about my sister-in-law). Throughout this weekend my wife was present, despite a toll it took upon her. She wanted to be a part and made herself an active part, even though it messed with her nighttime work schedule. My moment with my father was also a moment with and for her, to her blessing. In all of the lives of my children she RATHER HONORABLY AND VALIANTLY plays a part. Beyond being the bread winner, beyond being a support who anchors or balances me, she influences our children's lives. Sometimes silently; sometimes sonorously. She is a motive force. Her presence in our lives are such that she and her influence are not ever absent. Take its motion from it and wind is only air; take my wife from the picture and the family is not a family. More so, to me, I would not be the father I am without her, her influence and support and building up of me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Out to the Gate

Of my sister-in-law I have an inestimable esteem. A product of the same formative context as my wife (of whom none other, in my eyes, equals in terms of worth or deservingness of admiration, and this not simply for coming out of that context but definitely in part for such), has silently carried many a mantle within her family-of-origin.

My sister-in-law, like in the fashion of most ambassadors in their own roles, is a sort of gate to her family-of-origin. She just occupies that role, that function. Whether this is intentional on her part or not (if it just be something of her core being out of which she just naturally operates) I can't say, but it did certainly (as on numerous occasions in the past) add dynamic to her presence in my children's lives this past weekend.

Whereas most ambassadors are merely functionaries sent (on the behalf of a sending sovereign) in the intention of fostering relationship, my sister-in-law herself sought such relationship with my children clearly from out of her own being. Put differently, my sister-in-law was self-sent, out of her profound love of my children, and in no other desire than for relationship -- whether  she acted in the role / function or not.

Maybe in risk to my nuance through reductionism, I'll make the simple yet fine point: my sister-in-law herself chose to come be a part of my children's lives, across many a physical and emotional gulfs (into relationaly unsettled seas), because it is the sort of self-initiating person she is. Yes, that ambassadorial aspect of her is attendant to her simply loving my children and wanting relationship with her niece and nephew, but (attendant or no) it adds dynamic to that simply loving them. She loved my children beyond just being their aunt "from my wife's family," but was ambassadorial concomitantly to/with her auntly affections. She was intentionally my children's aunt.

 But this is just the prelude, the tip of the iceberg, the setting of the stage for why, in this moment, I feel such an inestimable esteem for my sister-in-law. The iceberg itself is what lies hidden beneath the frigid waters, and though you know its presence by its surfacing tip, the iceberg's breadth lies in a greater and colder body.

When my father was passing, in his final few weeks of life, it was heavily impressed upon me to listen to his heart, to hear in his final words to me whatever he would be saying to me. In the moment when I entered his room to knowingly give my final goodbyes (for that day's visit, and for the last time in his life and in mine) my father gripped my and my wife's hands, and blessed us. It was a simple statement about how well we were doing with our children, what good kids they were, and how we were welcomed to come back anytime we liked.  The heart in his words, behind his words, of his words... his heart... was one of utter and free acceptance, where all the past and past  mistakes and past hurts were utterly absent; where no expectations existed, no qualifications or delimiting criteria existed. Just free, utterly accepting welcome. The identity inherent to a blessing of a father coming in the words of affirmation of myself as a father, of my wife and I as partnering parents.

In that moment I had a sense of God, of His free welcoming, His unqualified giving, His total acceptance and accepting blessing of me in His love and in His forgiveness. As with my father I was brought in, am brought in.

From out of the earlier trip with my friend, the trip up to see the full eclipse, came the externally-processed "expression" of part of the nature of the blessing: the experience of having stepped into more fully the mantle of "father" -- to my own children. My children are my life; my children are me.

Along with the tenuous relational and emotional contexts into which she was coming, various health issues and the ubiquitous exigencies of modern life were all lending to what I would have expected to be a debilitating fatigue for my sister-in-law, the sort of which I wouldn't want to have give from out of to others. My sister-in-law, however, not only gave out of exhaustion and deficit, but lavishly gave, lavish to the point of exorbitant lavishness. She took them swimming, had pizza with them (their favorite food); he took them to a rock-climbing and bouldering gym; to a bookstore (and they both love books); to enjoy ice cream and scenery. My children were blessed, and in the process, I too was given an exorbitant grant of time free of the responsibility of care-taking my children.

Very very easily I can see the father-heart of God for us in the ambassadorial-intentioned bringing of lavish blessing (at a greater-than-normal cost to herself) heartedness of my sister-in-law. She is, from this weekend, a picture of the father-heart of God to me. And just as it is my heart to bring all those blessing to my children, so can be seen in my desire to enable their aunt (through my permission) to spend time with my children a picture of the Father-heart of God to see His people blessed through His people. There are many pictures of the father-heart of God coming out of this weekend.

My esteem, however, for my sister-in-law rests not merely upon simply how she modeled the father-heart of God, nor upon what she did, or upon the greater understanding of what she did as that is contextualized by her fatigue and exhaustion, or even upon the degree of lavishness with which she revealed the breadth of her heart. No, my esteem for her rests upon the fact that she came, that she is "one who comes to" ... to my children. Just as my father showed me "acceptance," she shows me "coming". It is who she is: "she who comes to". Christ called himself the gate, despite being the one who came to us.

Now, I have to add a caveat, because let's face it, 4 people read this blog and 3 of them are family. My sister is also an incredible aunt, no less estimable than my sister-in-law. My sister is different, but no less estimable. What I needed to process in this post, however, is not something correlative to my sister and who she is and how that is a model of God to me.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labors of the Day

I didn't sleep well or much at all last night. That has left me quite as you would expect for a middle-aged man.

In this particular moment, on this particular morning, I am feeling quite as I did in those moments of my road trip to Missouri, to watch the most recent full solar eclipse. In those precious moments I felt as though I were fully in a moment of waiting. Strangely it was also a feeling of journeying, but maybe I confuse the one for the other.

Ultimately it was a sense that all was pushed out, and I was nowhere but in the moment, able to be nowhere else but there, then, in no control of circumstance but entirely unthreatened by my lack of control, and untempted by any desire to control the circumstance. If we found ourselves stuck in traffic, it was what it was, and just happened to be that that was what I was doing in that moment in that place. There was no requirement to be any where by any set time. I couldn't be where I was going any faster, and going slower and getting there later just was more circumstance in which I might find myself unable to do anything about, and no where near an immediate concern. What is is what was, and what would be would be what was.

It is a precious freedom, that feeling of journeying, of waiting. I'll call it journeying. It is a release of burden, and quite the feeling of being carried. Standing, perhaps, on the heaving prow of a mighty and heavy ship charging through the waters, supported by its deck and strength. It (that road trip) was (today is) that salient sense which I think is attendant to (and part and parcel within) that notion of "the blessed man for whom a Fatherland is yet to come, yet seen and longed for from afar." Perhaps in this is the closest kinship (as a fellow man) I have to the patriarch Abraham -- and to all whom have come since him, and to all who have yet to come after me.

I need that feeling this morning. I need that orientation.

Several of the very few that read this blog have asked why I do it, why I blog, what is it, why the detached tone, and what is my aim through it all. Some noted the repetitious nature of the entries, and went so far as to ask if I really believed or incorporated all I said in each entry, or were the posts just my processing those ideas for myself? All good questions. But a question has it's time, and that question's answer may yet have another time or times.

This weekend was Labor Day weekend. Friday, end of school, found us having a playdate in the midst of which we delivered yet another baby rabbit to a new home. This saga is nigh drawing to an end, and we have only one baby and two adults to rehome. My daughter and my wife are increasingly relieved with the extrication of animals from the household. The playdate was successful for all concerned, in that the mothers who had gotten a girls' night out as a result had had a good night, and none of the children left my household having spatted or any the worse for wear under my care. Indeed, I think new friendships were cemented, and blessings went forth.

Saturday I spent the day trying to actually nail down what has been put into motion for my daughter and son, in terms of arranging those ongoing extracurricular activities in which they'll be participating this school year. For some time it has seemed important to involve my daughter in horseback riding. She loves horses, as it seems many little girls do, but maybe in ways or for reasons beyond what other little girls commonly do. It is important to her, and seems to fit into her desires to be involved with animals and therapy and animal rescue / rehabilitation.

Horses are, like otters or dolphins or dogs, a particular path. Me, I am a bird guy: I connect with birds, find them beautiful and ... well, just the animal I connect with the best. I can't say my daughter is (or is not) a "horse-person" like I think myself a "bird-person," I mean, honestly, we haven't been around horses yet, but I know this is a particular path for my daughter. There a defining here, of her, by virtue of the particular path, and that most importantly is what I am intentional about giving her. If we were "sports people" we would be, would look like "sports people." For now it seems my daughter is a "horse person" and thus I am putting her "into" that, setting her into that. Saturday I spent calling stables and riding studios.

For my son I sought out jiu jitsu studios, though, honestly, he is not at that developmental phase where such specific activity-based identity is forming. He is known (by his teachers and by those adults who have spent time with him) as a little man of character and of integrity and of empathy. I am thinking this foray into mixed martial arts may just spool up more his inherent leadership personality. If nothing else, for him, I am just delighting. His path will be, about that I am certain, and this (like my other efforts on his behalf) is my attempting to proactively maintain the pace. I say maintain the pace because already, I feel, he outstrips me as a man of character, and he challenges me (by virtue of himself and his value) to be a better father than I am, to be more than I am. Just to win being worthy of being his father. I don't deserve him as a son, I know, and so I try to justify if only a little bit more the faith he places in  me, since he deserves that effort on my part.

Some reading that might hear only self-condemnation. Really, though, it is the most selfless I know being, because it is focused on the fullness of his value, with little focus on myself -- I feel only his value, and feel any worthlessness. A proud father of a son would hear what I am saying.

I think maybe, where with my daughter I am intentional as she needs me to be (and where I show (cue the refrain) the father-heart of God for us all to her), I showed it to my son on Sunday, where I was protective of him. We were on the church playground after church, and some older boys were throwing pecans and pebbles at each other. One parent already had asked them to stop, and I was almost quivering with a desire to call them on their behavior, but was allowing them the choice to do right by that parent and all the rest of us parents. When at last they threw a rock which hit my child I reared up in the full baritone, drill-sergeant-like voice for which I am known, and in not a small amount of authority yet gentle firmness, expressed they had thrown a rock after being asked to stop, it had hit my son, and had hurt him, so they were to forthwith stop.

In that moment I was fully controlled, but quite certainly defensive of my son. There was no limit to the extent to which I would have gone to protect him, though I limited my response to the situation -- the situation leading up to the event, and the situation of the event both. In that moment my son knew the (heart of) protection for himself which I certainly feel is God's father-heart for us.

Those moments of this past weekend are like the countryside of the areas through which I have been driving recently. They have all slowly changed un-alteringly into the similar landscape of this present moment. And all these and this present moment of this morning -- the moment of waiting and of that sense of journeying -- are like the similar, un-altering landscapes of that one larger, particular area of the Ozarks through which I drove with my friend: varied in appearance but of the same form, the place I was in but which was not the home yet to come.

One is anchored in the release of journeying, as I was in the road trip with my friend, in the purpose if not of the journey then in the purpose of journeying itself. More than being on a path for a reason, maybe, it is the reason for Path itself. Path itself is expression, is identity manifested. Path is journeying a corporate journey; individual narrative traipsing along meta-narrative. My friend and I, more than being on a road trip next to each other were on similar journeys on the same journey. Missouri looked to him like the land of his forebearers, while to me it looked like something else. The journey itself, however, looked the same: we both were men of a certain age facing the deaths of our fathers, facing our own foreignness to the Land; facing the land and the Land without our fathers in it; facing fatherhood fatherless; both of us facing the waiting for an as yet to come Fatherland.

Like the memory of an echo the question by some of why I blog resounds, and it is still yet the time for an answer. I am still traveling, still in this moment and this circumstance of today.

I am absent from my friend, have been since we got back. It is not the only absence I am feeling. My father is dead; my Fatherland is yet to come. Those are two different kinds of absence. As I write this at my office window, a hummingbird perches upon the foot rest of the feeder, and I am struck by the beauty of its lines. I seldom get to see them sit still. During the eclipse, just as the full blackness ended and that tiny, tiny crescent which for all its slightness showed the immense magnitude of the sun's brilliance to light the world with even a fraction of itself, a bird had sounded. It was the most beautiful event, the bird song, and it dwarfed the experience of the eclipse for me. I am a bird person. As the eclipse ended my road trip with my friend rounded a bend in course alone, and we looked to what was next -- which was a meandering route home. In some ways we had always been looking towards home: looking backwards, looking forwards, looking down, looking up, looking onwards -- all looking towards home.

There's a tension, then, that is at the heart of journeying: the being right there in the moment, and the considering what is to come; the looking along the road, and the looking down it. A tension of pushing out of everything but being right where you are (and being fully, only there), and a moving to where you are yet to be, where you yet long to be. It doesn't mean stopping; it means moving. You have to be moving to be where you are, and stopping is moving in the wrong direction.

Relationships are themselves a form of journeying. Some continue, some end. Some, the healthier ones, change, and all (if residing in that tension of journeying) find the release of just being in the moment, not subject to unchangeable circumstance (of the unchanging other), while yet still looking onwards to what the two as one are being made to become. The path of the relationship, maybe the Path which is the relationship,  the sub-narrative following the meta-narrative, it is the particular manifestation of journeying, the path of Relationship itself. Like with my friend and I, where Missouri was seen differently by both of us, so too the Landscapes of Relationship between two people -- but both look onward to an as yet known fatherland, an as yet known relationship.

It seems that in our closest relationships we have to erect distance-producing boundaries, ironically, in order to draw closer. More ironic still is the fact that the closest we could ideally be would be unboundaried, or rather, without needing boundaries. It is peculiar that desiring closeness, or boundary, or distance all seemingly produce something opposite of what we seemingly want. That maybe is because , when such is happening (as getting different than what we want) we are actually desiring something different. Desiring closeness produces boundaries, while desiring boundaries produces distance, and desiring distance sometime produces closeness. Desiring distance is not desiring separation. Desiring boundaries is not desiring isolation. Desiring closeness is not desiring dependency. Desiring separation, isolation, dependency is not desiring relationship. However, desiring something other than Relationship in a relationship is to desire not more than separation, isolation, codependency. Desiring relationship is desiring identity, or is (in the very least) desiring that which is identity producing.

Back to my reader-friends questions as to why I blog. The most I could answer would be the answer a stranger and first time reader would have of this blog: it is a blog written to strangers, a blog about a man who himself is befriending those strangers to himself, not the least strange of whom are himself (in the day called Today) and his children's future selves.

If I've written you in the writing of me, then you may be the hardest of all for me to love, but I also find I have the greatest compassion for those who find it hard to love themselves, and "doing," or blogging, is the exercise of that compassion. At most I would hope to teach that compassion to my children, knowing I am an eartherly father.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rabbit Envoying

When we originally got the male and female bunnies -- which have produced now two litters -- I had always envisioned (somewhat cheekily) populating my neighborhood with "wrascily varmints," darting hither and thither through front yard and park field. The reality of such has been staved off by the father bunny (fortunately?) passing quietly into that long goodnight of rabbits from time immemorial. Beyond his eldest bunny son coming of age to copulate with mother and sibling alike and thus producing even more rabbits to get rid of, my daughter is assuredly done with the whole affair or rabbit re-homing and of rabbits in general. The stress of continually caring for them has now far exceeded the cute novelty of rabbit procreation and of tiny little bunny paws wiping tiny little rabbit faces.

Put rather differently, my daughter is rather ready for the rabbit saga to come to a rendered end. Hitherto my desire has always paralleled my daughter's in her capturing and bring the bunnies inside, diapering them for free-ranging within doors, and other such little things. But now that her desires have shifted I have found myself both wanting still to aid her and also applying myself beyond her ability (to her chosen desires to re-home the rabbits). More simply put, I am taking up the project in my greater ability, to greater effect, because she has neither the ability nor opportunity to do so. Because I love her, and want for her, I am working to effect and bring about her desired ends. I do so enthusiastically not just because I love her but because I understand her both to be making a mature decision, and because I know it to be a decision profiting the whole family. Fewer animals means less stress for the household all around.

The simple, real rub is this: I have access to social media like NextDoor and Facebook (and so on) to which my daughter has no access, along with having time and the ability to arrange transport and so on. I am wanting for my daughter's efforts to re-home to be effective, and not limited to her limited abilities to accomplish her desires, and I can go further in my efforts on her behalf. I am happy to do so, and I want her to be able to succeed in her efforts. She can reach out to a few friends at school, I can reach out to 8000+ people in the area.

Undeniably there is in this a picture of the father-heart of God for us all: He wants for us to be as fully effective as He can enable us, and He desires to go before us on our behalf. Just as certainly as I am going before my daughter and making a way (desiring to do so), so too with Him on our behalf, out of His fatherly love. He is quite generously lavishing of affection in this way, and earnestly committed, no doubt.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Last Swim

So, last Saturday was the last Saturday before school started, and one of the last days of the community pool being opened. Kids hadn't been swimming since my injury at the pool, and so going for one last swim was high up on the kids' priority lists. Fortunately I had recovered enough that making it from the car to the poolside was only moderately taxing, and that in itself was a small blessing to me.

The thing about it is this: I wanted my children to be able to have carved out for them not only an experience they wanted, but also (more so) I wanted them sheltered. What in Sam Hill and Tarnation does wanting my children sheltered (whatever that means) have to do with swimming before school starts? Well, let me "spell" your mind for a bit and tell you.

For some time during the past month both my children had been increasingly aware and considering the encroaching school year, and what they mean. My daughter recognizes this is her last year in elementary and that much of "childhood (read "elementary-sized" schooling) will have to end. My son, ever the empathy-filled champion has been concerned over the possible knuckleheads who may populate his class, especially previous classmates.

Amidst all the preparations and forward-looking I wanted to take a moment to just be with my kids, in the way we had been together when we were (more or less) living day-to-day or in-the-moment during the Summer. I wanted more than to merely safeguard that moment of time together, and that fun together, I wanted to safeguard them, to shelter them in that loving time spent together. I want that for them in every moment, intend such in every moment, knowing some moments they experience will not be sweet swimming moments, but moments of troubled, tumultuous rapids in life.
This desire to provide sheltering I very much thing is the father-heart of God for us all in and through every possible moment -- even those when we can not or do not receive the freely, "expectations-free(ly)" offered sheltering. Even in my most anxious of thoughts and moments I see the father-heart of God wanting to provide this sheltering moment, such that the defining narrative of that moment is one of that sheltering and not of the surrounding or impending tumultuousness.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shoes and Calves

As I have discussed in years past, part of the Right of Passage (into formal schooling) now turned Ritual of Confirming, along with buying school supplies, has been to go Back to School shopping. Unfortunately, a day after writing my last post I tore both my calves going off a diving board -- right before tax-free weekend. Yes, the pain was excruciating, and yes you can yell obscenities in pain beneath the water. Suffice it all to say I can not drive even, as it risks the lives of all in the car, even where I to bite through the pain. So, this year, it fell to Mom to have to take the kids shopping, which, as a night-worker, is kinda like for the rest of us going into crazy crowds at 2:30 a.m..

One thing that had been on my heart for my daughter was her getting new shoes. She is one of those kids that wear her shoes well, to the point of wearing them out quick. And, let's face it, she is ever growing, sprouting into a young woman... with bigger feet. Given that I could not go the best I could do was to want for her, along with her, and then rejoice with her over them. I think had I gone my heart would have been no different than it was in staying: her needs and her wants were my project as if they were my very needs and my very wants.

There is a bit more nuance here. My daughter's style choices were, are fully her own. Her particular expression(s) or creative fashion choices are her own, and, more saliently, are what she herself picked -- she, herself. It would not risk overstating the matter to say that (even beyond her getting clothes she wanted) I wanted for that expression to occur. This is not to say I wanted her identifying through her fashion, but rather, that I wanted a fuller, more dimensional reflection of herself, even reflecting in her clothing (wherein the clothing style choices may only partly accomplish such). I wanted her equipped, blessed, and ever more reflected in fuller and fuller ways.

So, when she came home with the Doc Martin-like Ox Blood colored boot, I think I must have squealed as she must have squealed finding them in the store. It goes without saying this is A picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and He is able: able and active and certain to bring such about.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

That Time of Year Again, or, a glue-stick is a glue-stick

It has been a summer, a summer which didn't begin for me until my father died, and a slow to start as a result, though for my children it had been in full effect since even before the last day of school. Well, here in the household, the children are counting down to the beginning of school, all of us sharing some apprehension (though not the same kind of apprehension) at the dwindling count of days. Pretty typical stuff: kids have enjoyed summer laxity, and worry what the new school year will bring. For my daughter she is concerned with what this year means in terms of the middle school years to follow it; my son merely apprehends having to deal with the same headache of knuckleheads with whom he has had to put up in the preceding years. For neither of them is it a fear of school itself, and for that I am relieved and happy.

My daughter, it seems, has formed a notion of middle school which likely is sourced in both the dramatic and negative narratives of those who have preceded her, and (sourced in) that subtly woven  mythos (throughout American culture) of struggling tween years. Simply put, it seems big and and unknown, and everyone says it's horrible, whatever will she find? Can she hope to find? And so fifth grade year is a totem both of what is ending and what is to come in her mind.

I've done my best to assuage her concerns while also being careful not to dismiss them. It seems such respects her person, and provides a foundation for her building a sense of the value of her own personhood. Somewhat to the ends of assuaging some degree of  her concerns and mooring her sense of self,  and somewhat because I wanted to revel while I still could in the unchanging facets of our relationship, we went, Saturday, to the store to purchase our yearly school supplies.

Rather than pouring salt in a wound or highlighting the scary totem this yearly ritual has always been meant to remind and confirm at least some components of her identity. The first time we bought school supplies it was a right of passage into her life as a student, and each subsequent time it has been a remembrance and a re-upping. It is the message of the repetition, however, upon which turned this experience.

I wanted my daughter grounded, moored in what is, and what is true about her, and what is certain in my love for and my protection over her; in what is true despite the changing circumstance; reminding her even of what it is that the process of becoming (and the rituals which harken to that process) is really about. I wanted this ritual to be ever deeper, ever more confirming, ever more stabilizing, all while ever more vision casting. I wanted my daughter to experience that repetition of blessing and confirming, even more so in her current moments of doubt and concern and uncertainty.

And let's put a point on this one particular experience: I wanted and was thoroughly prepared for her to be equipped really really well. I wanted for her success, and to see she had everything in this moment she needed. There's not a lot of difference between gluesticks, or between composition notebooks, at the end of the day, and if that is all there is needed in order to equip her needs, I wanted it for her no less and just as much as I wanted her having a secure sense of herself. The same holds true in reverse: I want her as secure in her sense of self, and am willing to work to that end, as I do in ensuring she has the school supplies she needs. It is "unique economy" to attain to both ends in the same yearly shopping ritual.

I can say, without hesitancy, this is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us all. God is a good father, who wants us secured in our sense of self and our sense of the immutable truths of His heart for us and the secure nature of His relationship to us.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Percy, not the medicine




This Summer has been the summer of demigods, dead bunnies, and demarcating. Bombastic thunderstorms have battered baby bunnies hearts, resulting in burials and bemoaning, and the brutal Texas heat (despite all our best efforts with frozen ice buckets) has resulted in a dead daddy bunny. Infuriating little brothers have incited ire, direly requiring personal boundaries be demarcated. The demigods dwell within the novel series by Rick Riordan, "Percy Jackson," and -- despite the deaths and the delimiting  and all the other "D's" of this summer --  are the most delightful. I could not "re-iterate" the point enough, all alliteration aside, how enthused my daughter has been in reading this particular series: she will have completed the five book series (having read several of the books in the series twice) by Summer's end.

When pressed on the matter my daughter says she loves Riordan's style, how he writes. Given my daughters own desires and interests in writing, as well as my own, and given as a writer I understand the connection between a writer's voice and the styles of other writers, I can see great merit for my daughter in indulging this interest of hers. Indeed, I have hovered in waiting for that moment when it is time to go to the local book dealers and get the next in the series.

Beyond just conveying support of her through indulging her interests, or just wanting her blessed with something she enjoys, I want to encourage her interests. It goes beyond just endorsing an interest in a book series: it is endorsing her and providing that ground from out of which will grow her unique person, especially as it involves her as an author  (if as such she seeks to become). Honestly, she came home so frequently this past year atwitter with having written new stories in class  -- stories the caliber and talent of which smacked a grin upon my daddy-proud soul -- and wanting to read them to me, that it behooves me to not take lightly at all any effort I could do to provide such enriching experience. I mean to say that, at the end of the day so to speak, I want to have done all I can to enable her development, to have made a way for her to grow into those areas she emphasizes or values.

To these ends it is really to say the I am wanting to as fully enable my daughter to be as fully herself as she can be, and I want, I am excited and waiting for the opportunity to do so. I see where she is in her unique personhood good. In every area possible. I delight in my duaghter, and who she is, and I intend that she should be all of who she is. It is nothing short of my delight to do so, and I condescend (in the positive sense of that word) to partner in this. Just as I recently talked about peeling potatoes with her, so too in this. I want her being her, and not even her limited understanding of what that is will stop me. In this is very clearly seen a picture of the father-heart of God for us all.

Realizing I personally am fallen and with limits, I have to look to where I am growing in (or even out of) my own deficiencies, and proactively seek to equip and enable her in those areas within her, that she may be more fully herself (even as I am becoming so, myself more fully me). What I am coming to learn of my daughter is that she is impressively, well, better minded than me; she has better perspectives and better attitudes, better assessments of her actions in a situation, how they mean something or should mean something. For instance (and harkening the to "demarcating") the other day her brother was of course being a little brother, and she, in annoyance, snipped at him.

Many parents would stop at parenting the behavior right there, telling the child not to act in a certain way, without enabling the child to act, much less enabling the child in acting towards a certain end (like being kindly self-controlled). That sort of behavior-parenting is what produced the deficit in me which, I hope rather, to be an area of enabled proficiency in my daughter, just as it is coming to be so in me (as I am coming to learn it).

So, what that looked like was asking my daughter what she thought of the situation, what she thought of her actions, in terms of where she wanted them to go. Then it was a matter of identifying what was happening emotionally (and physiologically) as it was happening, and how to identify the trigger, and what to do when the triggering is noticed. Essentially, while I am detailing it all rather poorly, what I did was to enable her to identify the triggering moment and how to navigate forward, averting the emotional loss of control in a productive way.

The point here, really, is not that my parenting is so grand, but that even in my parenting which involves behaviors of which I am being parented through I am wanting and looking to equipping and enabling her. It is not enabling my betterment in and through her, but enabling her being better. I think, with God, that is why it is said we are being made by Him to be more like Him -- because He is not fallen as we are, limited as we are, broken and wounded and hurt as we are, but "perfect". But this point is for those who hold to Christ, and not so much for those readers who don't.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fireworks like Bunnies

Recently I have sought to make the point that, despite my own issues with my father's dying or death, my father-heart for my children remained ever present and ever intentional. Indeed, the relevancy of the undaunted caliber of my father-heart underscored the value of my children in my eyes. I love them, and my heart is for them. I could indeed continue that tack into emotional winds, as the experience of being a fatherless son is very much an ever-present contrast to all I experience of life. I will not do so, however, except to draw the point: my electing to no longer discuss my state as a fatherless son is for the sake of turning to focus ever increasingly in my thoughts on my children, even in spite of any outlying and contrasting emotional contexts. And that point is made simply because I am ever plumbing new depths of appreciation for my children, and that crowds out to the point of irrelevancy all matters for which Hope (in the purest biblical sense) does not disappoint.

We of the household have been looking (with varying and relative degrees of apprehension and expectation) to the birth of new baby bunnies. Those bunnies happened to have been born round about midday on Fourth of July.

 


 Leading up to this celebratory event my daughter had run the gamut of possible worries, from it being a potential false pregnancy to it being a litter of stillborns to our utterly and completely misidentifying the signs. Being fairly certain either birth or impregnating were imminent I suggested the idea of separating the male from the female, and aided my daughter in the "creative" use of a large dog kennel (a once-gift from the beloved San Antonio aunt) turned upside down in which to house that male. We made efforts, even, to purchase yet another water bottle late one night from the store, despite my reservations that the kids were getting to bed later than desired.

With my daughter vacillating between worrying and merely trying to stay abreast of the situation, I figured it was good to help her with searching more thoroughly for information on rabbit behavior to deduce the meaning of the signs which we clearly were seeing. It is not that she hadn't tried, at my urging, to so search, but she didn't have near the luck I knew I would, knowing better how to more generally phrase a specific question. Sure enough it turned out the signs we were seeing were a mixture of behaviors, but still very clear indicators of one hormonally-supercharged, preggers bunny. Pulling fur, for instance, out of herself with which to line the nest is a sure sign of pregnancy hormones, but pulling the fur out of the other hutch-mates is not. Let that be a life lesson: "things" are never simply reducible down to one singular thing.

Well, the Fourth of July found us doing or regular neighborhood festivities put on by the MUD, and
when we got home my anxiously expectant bunny-momma trotted outside to visit the hutch and check on the momma bunny. The mother bunny had given birth to five babies, four of whom were alive. My daughter asked, like a proud godmother, if we would like to come see the bunnies, and it was with great intentionality I went with her.

You see, the bunnies were always meant to be her project, to learn the effort and expense of keeping an animal. There are other lessons therein, but explicating them here is unnecessary. All that the bunnies were meant to be for my daughter they were meant to be for her to assume the effort in. But honestly, I love my daughter, and I am not going to ask her to do anything that I find good for her and then abandon her to the project. Nor am I going to fail to humble myself and rejoice in her successes or matters of rejoicing. Indeed, it is tantamount, as it was that midday with the newborn bunnies, to rejoice with my daughter, and "look in on" the matter(s) in appreciation and joy.

To put a finer edge in that sentiment: when it came to appreciating along with my daughter the moment of her joys and fruits of her labors (in this case the fruits of her enthused caretaking of the bunnies), aye the appreciation of the very substance of her life activities of late, well, it was both my honor and my very serious (war-like serious) intent. Not even the heaviness of my father's death then a month long weight on my soul was enough to buffet me from my love and bent towards my daughter in her project.

That condescending humility for being with us in the projects to which He has called us is very much a picture of the father-heart of God. He doesn't call us to a project and abandon us to it, but very actively and intentionally desires to be a part of it with us, even as we assume its leadership and responsibility.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bunnies, and Father's Day

Saturday of Father's Day weekend I buried my father. He had died the Thursday before.

Thus ends a narrative which is both not-mine, and was Me -- that part of me who was that man's estranged son. In some ways, the sub-narrative of his month-long decline, and his 3 year-long bout of stage 4 cancer, has merely been an irrelevant narrative, against which the narrative(s) of my fathering of my children have (in contrast) stood out. This is to say, despite his dying, my father-heart for my children has remained and cohered, unfettered and undimmed, ever increasingly trenchant, shining beyond the pale of looming loss. 

Now, oddly, in my conscious thoughts this ended narrative seems overshadowing, in a sort of irrelevant relevance, as oxymoronic and self-contradictory as that may seem. On another level, I know that that narrative element of me as a fatherless son -- which, honestly and arguably, has been the case for most of my life -- is nowhere nor in any manner defining of anything about me and who I am, about my being. This is definitely a new emotional dynamic, and one the light thereof (or shadow thereof perhaps) in which my own fathering of my children is to be seen.

Let's just say it thus: before burying (leaving to bury) my father on Saturday it was important to me to help my daughter feed her rabbits. We had been out of pelleted food for a few days, the news on Thursday of my father's death and the immediate trip up to gather round my stepmother having thrown off all plans and opportunities to visit the grocery store. My daughter's efforts to solve her own problem by pulling the long native Texas grasses in our yard were laudable, but I knew we had stores of vegetables in our lauder which could be used. Broccoli. Carrots. I elected the cost to the family was something effectively negligible, being willing to make it up in later moments once home from the day trip, with its 4 hours driving and several hours of ... soul-draining activity.

Tending the rabbits is something I had given my daughter to do, something she had chosen and embraced. But it was also something which, especially in that moment, I wanted to enable her to do, in a way which "broke open the bounds" -- that is, expensive organic food "meant" for the family (and which in her mind was not allowed for so common a purpose). More so, her project, because it was her's and involved her, was important to me, and I could make that happen.

Tending the rabbits, feeding them organic broccoli, is a little thing, but it was my desire to do so for my daughter which was important, in light on what was emotionally in my face. What I am really wanting to be driving at, however, and which I have only intimated, was that it was a choice for the family, on behalf of the family, to support her in my daughter's project; a choice for the family to esteem her projects needs valuable enough to contribute to. Because she is valuable to the family it is valuable for the family to esteem her worthy and worthy to partner with. I made that assessment in that way, with those feelings for her, almost in spite of what was staring me emotionally in the face (that is, burying my own father).

There is in this a picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and may the Spirit of God and you suss that out together.

With my son, well, he is ever the empathy-filled little 7 1/2 year old man, and he would come sit on my lap during the funeral and whisper into my ear, "I am sad, dad, for you, because your dad died." You know, it was vitally important to me to receive that heart from him, and more so to honor it and acknowledge the profound attribute of it in him. Vitally important, but the best I really managed to do was embrace him, and thank him, and tell him in paltry ways how proud of him I was for doing so.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Has Started

We have had 12 days of Summer Break now, with this past Saturday being my and my wife's 11th wedding anniversary. I awake each morning wondering, has my father died in his sleep or is today the day. This is not a morose speculation on my part. It is merely that circumstance which is something of an emotional setting, or (actually) more a backdrop of an emotional setting. It is by no means a defining element, except perhaps by virtue of its irrelevancy in defining how I perceive my role and my calling as a father. Said differently, it is important only because it can't be seen as important: I will be a father to my children, I will father them, despite my morning questions.

When in school my daughter would come home telling me of her successes in the regular soccer game played during recess. It are these experiences which inclines m daughter to consider playing soccer as a recreational activity. So, we went and bought her a soccer ball, and make a regular activity of kicking it around now that Summer affords us so much time.

Along with such activity I have also acquired a pool pass to the community pool system for our family. There are a total of four different pools in the system, all connected with the community center through which we have played recreational volleyball. I didn't get the pool passes just for the children's sakes. I got the passes for the family's sake. It was not about exorbitant blessing of individuals but about that which builds the family unit together.

I personal think there is something encouraging said to, some encouragement built into my daughter and my son by seeking the family's good -- the family of which they inextricably are a part. If nothing else my daughter will feel she is a part of something, and her identity will have the dynamic of being part of something which is the family. She will feel, hopefully, that is she is brought into decisions for the family, brought into work and into blessing which is sought for something great, a part of which she very much is. My choice for the family, in that sense, is also a choice for her. It is creative, and she is brought into that: creative of something she very much is a part of.

Cue this blog's refrain: I do very much feel this seeking to build up the family unit is a picture of the father heart of God for all of us. He is concerned with our individual interests but seeks that blessing of the greater body -- a blessing necessarily profitable to the individuals absolutely. Necessarily blessing the individual through choosing to bless the whole, the unit doesn't preclude either engaging in the individual interests, as taking the time to kick around the ball -- it just doesn't take the precedence.

Making a jarring left turn here in the flow, my son wanted to go get the mail yesterday -- mail which was being kept in bulk at the post office (kept because we had not been collecting it for some time). He was looking expectantly to some hoped-for and unsolicited package to have arrived, and who doesn't like such things? Getting the mail hadn't been a priority for me, simply because, well, it's just not a relevant thing to me these days. But it was relevant to my son. His older sister is entering a new phase of life where, soon, she will undergo physiological and cognitive changes and start to develop a social identity, whereas he is more fully coming into that place where his older sister has been: needing to see me making him a priority.

As I have frequently said, if I were to be writing this blog about him it would likely be more of a blogging of my failures. My son is so very much more than I feel I properly maintain awareness of in my actions towards him, and resultantly, so very much more than I adequately bless. In that dearth I can say I see a picture of the father-heart of God, if only a picture in contrast: God's blessings come to us in full awareness of our persons and our value, awareness ever present in the fore of His mind. Knowing my deficit here I have taken pains to sow into my son his building up; or, said differently, I speak into him identity and true statements about him himself when I can. If nothing else this willingness to recognize the different emotional places occupied by my children at the same time (and the willingness to act relative each in their respective places) is a picture of the father-heart of God for us all.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Making The Lunches

My daughter frequently asks me if she may perform some chore around the house, like doing dishes or cleaning a bathroom. Not only is my daughter being very proactive, not only is she seeking responsibility, not only is she respecting place and asking permission, but she is doing so out of who she is. As a ten year old this is rather admirable, and suggests to me (along with frequently proven other facets of character, so proven over many repeated instances) she might reasonably be relied upon for babysitting her younger brother.

I said she could be relied upon, but I intentionally have chosen for her not to perform such a task. See, it is not just a matter of trustworthiness, and definitely more than her being too young to be left unattended. I have more faith in her character (not to "get into stuff") than I do in some much older children that I know, older children of babysitting age and whom are frequently left unattended.

No, for me the salient issue is that I want for her to have the fuller experience of being her age, unencumbered by the weight of responsibilities that naturally go along with the tasks she has rather demonstrably proven capable. I know she is capable, like I said: she has, with my supervision, fixed dinners for the family, and assisted in my efforts to fix dinners; she has been "put in charge" (again, in my presence) of younger children; allowed to operate laundry and dishwasher machines. Thus she has been allowed the experience, but only and intentionally under the auspices of my responsibility. Yeah, some fine nuance there.

I allowed her those experiences because I wanted for her to have a sense of doing, a sense of ability, a sense of experience. All of that (and more) I wanted for her as the child she is, with all the freedom (and release from responsibility) that she, as a child, should have. Her experiences of those things should be equipping, ever and only, at this age. I don't want a weight upon her shoulders she shouldn't have to bear: the weight of being depended upon, the responsibility of being depended upon.

Last night my daughter asked me for permission to make her and her brother's lunches for the school day. This morning I decided to grant this request. My daughter is quickly coming to that age when it is more equipping of her sense of self to actually allow her the responsibility that comes with being depended upon for something. I already know she can, and already trust she will do an admirable job. But this is paving the way for her increased role within the family unit, and folds her into the functioning of the hole (the whole which is the family). And I definitely and definitively want for that expansion of her person, and blessing to her sense of self.

Cue the historic refrain of this blog: I definitely see a picture of the father-heart of God in this for us all. His timing, unlike ours, is perfect and infinitely loving, His plans even more so.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Toy-R-Us

There is a good deal of nuance here. As I mentioned in my last post, my father is dying. He went into home-hospice / end-of-life care this morning. I've been processing now for about two weeks the fact he now has two to four weeks left. I can only describe this poorly, but it is like a big, heavy rut sack has been plopped down, and I must somehow keep marching when I am not sure how to carry the thing.The rut sack's weight takes all my attention, even as I try to focus on the cadence and the journey goal as I try to outpace the treadmill beneath me, and get past the elasticity of the rubber band-like bungee cord snapping me backwards. Yeah. Something like that.

HOWEVER, again, this is only relevant as a background feature, a contextualizing counter-weight in the spinning mobile of my current emotional moments. I am pretty emotionally and intellectually foggy as a result these days, suffice it to say, and it's like an emotional head-cold. SO, when my daughter last week asked if this past Saturday we could make a point of spending a beloved aunt's birthday gift-card (long overdue for use), it went without saying we would do so. I let her roam the large box-store, and make her decisions. My son wanted a new fad thing, and I agreed. Honestly, this decision to go to the store was made because I knew it was an affirming one for them, it was right to do so, and wanted it for them before it was ever brought up, as I have done in the past so frequently.

Despite my thrust to be making decisions on the basis of what is good for the family as a whole, it was certain in my heart I wasn't going to deny this good to my daughter in singular focus on the family-as-a-whole's good. While it was the most I could come up with doing, it was also the highest priority, sought with the highest intent. That was that, no deeper message than that.

I wanted my daughter to do with her card as she wanted, taking a back seat to the perusal of items and direction in wandering. I was just along for the ride, intentionally so. I took pains not to speed us up, or to rush the decision. And despite all that was going on in my emotional landscape, all else was tabled because i felt and wanted that she, my daughter, be allowed this autonomy and discretion. It wasn't my money, but hers; not my time, but hers. She was worthy of my serving her through the act of getting her there, even.

I think this is very much a picture of the father-heart of God, the desire to serve for the sake the other's sake, the active and intentional taking of a backseat for the child to have a sense of autonomy (as opposed to a distant and disinterested watchmaker).It is not an effortless distancing but an active and participatory following, for the sake of building up, a leading by being led (allowing myself to be led). I think the intentionality is a measure of that father-heart, attesting to a higher level of involvement, especially given the intentional effort to be present (as opposed to a lugged around piece of parental driftwood).



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Going to the Ranch

This weekend we had to take a trip out of town, a trip which took us to the town and county where at my maternal family has a roughly 500 acre ranch on a significant Texas river. The significant part denotes something to those from Texas: it is an actual flowing river that can actually be (and is) dammed along its route. Suffice it to say this makes going "to the ranch" quite enjoyable for the family. Some might call it a farm -- it had been both. We can hike, hunt, fish in the river, shoot, and generally get away from things.

It would be helpful for you as a new (first time) reader, if you are so, to read my "Good Friday" post now, then come back. In that post I discuss my estranged father, and the relational dynamic and its history.

Read it yet? Suffice it to say, my father is a stranger whom I know, but for whom there is a profound sense of respectful alterity. Maybe that's one decently  detached, descriptive, clinical way to put it. Another way is to say my estranged father is a stranger whom I know, and I can not fathom his experience. A stranger whom I know, and who has less than a month now to live. My estranged father is dying.

This post is not about that at all, but what this post is about can not really be understood, I don't feel, without knowing that contextualizing fact that my estranged father is dying, and I was going to visit him. That whole sub-narrative is relevant for the emotional subtext of my actions: it is this sub-narrative's relevancy in itself, because of the narrative concurrence with the story I am telling here,  which brings my story's point home a little bit more. Kinda like the unknown detail which characters never know, and which the audience only finds out in the epilogue, except in this case the epilogue for me came first (but not as prologue).

I took my family out to the ranch, with the intent of their having a day. It was my goal, before I would do anything else, to see to it that they were well established and "set up" at the ranch. Given it is an old ranch house with quite a number of peculiarities only I after a 40 year lifetime of visiting could account for, it was really important I get them settled. Important to me, necessary for them.

Despite all else I had in store for me personally that day, seeing to it that I provided quality family time (dog included) -- and in the process of which that I established my family in the house, as part of the rare treat of being at the ranch we were getting -- was most important. It was the one thing I was doing, in a sense, and everything else (with my estranged father) was tangential to that family (sub)narrative. Nuanced differently, the narrative of my family is the one narrative I am not only telling here, but the only one I am concerned with, and establishing them in the particular chosen experience of a day at ranch was my father-heart above all else (even above my own personal issues). That it was being done despite my personal issues underscores that heart I am trying to say.

"Anywhoo", as the modern-day bard sings, we got to the ranch, I unloaded the car, readied the house and rooms they would use, until I was satisfied they need only entertain themselves, and left for my personal errand. I made a point to return from said errand with enough daylight to ensure we would get to set Mom up for shooting practice, and set the kids up for river activities.

Now, being at the ranch is a rare occurrence for us, and if left to my druthers there were quite a number of things I would have wiled away my time doing, had I been alone. What was important to me to do, however, was that I engage the children in what was fun for them. Again, I aim with my words to underscore the importance of the time together, as oriented around what the family needed.

So we, the kids and I while Mom shot, set off "frogging" -- frog catching. Simply, it was just being with my kids, being present, in what the family was needing (in terms of family time). When Mom was done shooting she came by, and I did my level best to set up the fishing poles having forgotten the bait. My daughter, I think, would have preferred only to fish, but eventually she too participated in the frogging. It was simple, precious time, and it is what the family needed.

In a profound way this strikes me as the very father-heart of God for us, this heart to establish His children, His family, His people in bonding time together, over and around those simple activities which (in themselves) have the significance of being something all the members easily enjoy together. The emphasis of God's father-heart being the orienting the goal of bonding family time around what is important or necessary for the family.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Weekend, 2017

Easter Weekend for the kids began last Thursday (right before Good Friday), with them having a three day weekend. As evidenced from the last post I spoke at our church's Good Friday service, we had a restful Saturday, and Easter Sunday after church we spent the afternoon with some family friends whom the children and us parents just adore.

Since on Good Friday the kids and I were watching some neighbor kids for a friend (who didn't have childcare for the day), and we had the service that evening, we didn't get to do much in way of quality family time. I decided I would take the kids with me to the store that day, since I had to go to purchase a few essentials, not the least of which (granted) was candy to fill the plastic eggs we would be hiding for them for the yearly egg hunt. Among these items for which I went to the store I made doubly sure to get the traditional egg coloring kits which Mom wanted, and some frozen pizzas for our weekly "Family Movie Night" -- which, fortune would have it, Mom was actually able to attend, her nighttime schedule falling just right (this rotation) for her to be there.

Suffice it to say the day and the evening was geared around the activities we would be doing as a family, with each of us set to tasks to that end. Surely I wanted for them to have the fun they wanted in Easter Egg hunting, but my real priority in the store and with the activities of Saturday were those activities which were to be enjoyed as a family unit, and which were more yearly traditional (beyond just sugary indulgent). The point of the traditions and the activities all was shared communal experience as a family, which is a blessing to each individual member of the family, as well as strengthening of the family as a whole.

Very easily I see the father-heart of God in this attitude, the father-heart for His church. That we are, as the Apostle Paul prayed (out of the father-heart of God for us), to have the power together with all the saints to know the height, the depth, the breadth, the width of His love. The point, in my heart, with my kids, was not the tradition itself for the tradition's sake, but the tradition for the sake of the blessing and strengthening of the family. Each family member cherishes the events, is blessed in through and by them, blessed as part of a greater family, but it was for the family which the actions were undertaken. That is very  much a picture of the father-heart of God.

Good Friday, 2017

In keeping with a long high church tradition of Good Friday services, my church maintains its own Good Friday service. What this amounts to is a service in which the seven last statements of Christ on the cross are taken and reflected upon (in our church by different speakers). The flow of the evening has at first a worship song, then a reflection, then a moment of silence, and then repeat, working through each reflection that way. This year I was asked to take the first reflection, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." The following is my reflection from that service. I do find this exceptionally fitting for a father-blog.


Good Friday Service, 2017


“Father, forgive them they know not what they do.”

I was four years old, my sister only a little over 6 months, when my father left my mother. He left her with a four year old, a 6 month old, a brand new motel business. and a brand new puppy, which was eventually re-gifted by him to my paternal grandfather.

It would be twenty years before a Christian Counselor  would put a word to the feelings and issues with which I struggled for those 2 decades since my father had left. He said I had suffered “abandonment” issues. That explained a lot. He also spoke to a  fear which I had harbored but never articulated. “Kevin,” he said very emphatically, “you did not make your daddy go away.”

Cue the “A-Ha Moment” … That’s indeed what I had felt and believed in the hidden, secreted shadows of my heart.

“Father, forgive them. They not what they do.”

When my father left, he opened a chasm in my mind, in my heart, between me and him, and his entire side of the family. Their taking sides fueled that sense. With his new marriage he communicated he didn’t want our old family. Woe be the day my half-sister was born - he had the new kid he wanted. Soon, my dad and I easily just lost touch during high school, and he was all but forgotten by me throughout college.

It was after college, when I had been walking with Christ for roughly a total of 8 years  my father reached out to me through my maternal grandmother. His father had died, the funeral was impending, and he wanted to see me there. Leave it to Mark Proeger to tell me I should go to the funeral and speak grace to my father. Allow me to be frank, here: I was going out of obedience and only because it was “right” to forgive as I had been forgiven. I did not go seeking for nor  I was thinking it was going to be some grand hallmark moment in which we would embrace and broken tears would stream down our face washing away all those years of hurt feelings.

I’ll leave out the part where I got to my home town and, frantic, had to call Mark to remind me why I was there. I’ll leave out the awkward reunion at the funeral hall. I’ll leave out sitting next to my grieving father, or the awkward ride to the graveside with a teenage half-sister  I just plain didn’t know.

The family left the funeral services and went to my father’s restaurant. It was there, somewhere in the kitchen that I pulled my dad aside and fumbled through some hybridized proffer of forgiveness and forced gospel presentation all sorta mushed together. It was then that I learned, one year prior to my having received Christ my father had received Christ, right there over one of his restaurant tables.

I don’t think I knew what to do with it right then, that revelation that my father had accepted Christ, and at best I was scared for what it meant. You would have thought I would have been happy to have my father back, but he was only a stranger whom I knew.

What did happen was this: In that moment between my father and I Christ had become a bridge over a chasm, suspended by the cables of His broken body, girded with the iron of His shed blood, trestled at its two ends by the wood of a splintery cross. We had Christ and Salvation in common. Both oddly and understandably it was more than we had ever had.

“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

There’s a verse from the Epistle to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-9:

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,b 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  

In recent years since, i’ve wondered how much More I might be as a person if I hadn't been so emotionally stunted by my father not thinking rightly enough of me to have stayed. On a particularly grumpy-at-my-absentee-dad sort of days, one of those days on which I felt equal enough to God to have any place to be angry, God spoke somewhere deep in my spirit that I could not understand my father’s experience.
It wasn’t a sense like “Forgive him my son, he knew not what he was doing,” but, it was a sense more like “you can not know his experience, you can not know what it was like to have had to walk even one of the very miles walked in his moccasins.” So to speak.

In such an emotional place as that I had and have to ask, ‘“Father, forgive me, I know not what I am doing… I know not what I am doing when I hold him to some expectation that he should act or have thought of things differently and acted in a different way.”  

It is funny thing but from a that place of not counting equality with God something to be grasped, that forgiving-because-I-Don’t-know seems right.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Carnival



So, Spring Carnival time is upon us, or had been upon us last week. Friday saw the annual elementary school carnival booster event, and Saturday the local MUD/Community Center Easter Event.



My daughter had brought home from school the form for purchasing tickets early, and come the day the of long anticipated school carnival -- truly the biggest day of the year for the school community as a whole -- we were ready to go. Mom was actually off work and wanted to attend, but had her mentoree to go visit, so we waited at home until Mom could get back and go with us. It was a delightful time, made all the more so that we got to go as a family.

The next morning, Saturday, found us with local community center's Spring Egg Hunt, and a last minute invitation to yet another spring bash held at a county children's advocacy center (for whom I and the children had done some training video acting work in times past). It quickly struck me that, for the greater context of the needs of all the family and given the very predictable schedule we must maintain, we were going to have to forego one event or the other. In order for our family to work, it must work in a certain way which accounts for the two very different schedules of daytime and nighttime lifestyles, along with all the practical exigencies of life (like grocery shopping, and folding laundry). My daughter was really wanting to go to the children's advocacy center event, my son the local area egg hunt, and me to somehow work in all the chores before mom woke up.

I did my best to explain to the kids the predicament, and then made efforts to ensure that within the constraints of our day we got the most out of the opportunities. With Mom asleep at home, I rallied us for the local area egg hunt, ensuring we got a prime starting position nestled in the shade while we waited (I have a ginger-haired, sun-wilted daughter after all). I allowed the kids to steer our path through the events, and did my best to engage them through the events. I know at one point the kids will likely outgrow the thing, so, it is also with forethought I tried to maximize the time we had together.

We got home, ate lunch, and then my daughter wanted to play a game. Not only was this an activity I enjoyed doing, but it was something of an opportunity to secure a moment of quality time with her individually amidst the exigencies and constraints of the day (my son content to play Legos in his room alone). Initially I had planned to go grocery shopping, but I knew from experience the routine of our day would not have allowed this sort of focused time later, so the game time became number one priority.

 I asked if we could play Chess and she consented, however a little forlornly because she has yet to win a game against me. Soon into the play I made a decent move which locked up several of her pieces, wresting momentum of the game, and she became disheartened. However, several moves existed for her which would have wrested momentum back, and put me on the run, as it were. Without telling her what the moves were I coaxed her through thinking through them, intentionally with a mind to helping her grow in her skills as I enjoyed the time with her -- I wasn't all that concerned about winning.

Well, long story short, the game was won, the day proceeded, chores were participated in by all communally, and the day played itself out. I think the point here, for me at least, is seeing a sort of model of the father heart of God which looks to the needs of the greater community and of the individuals simultaneously. He looks to the good of the community as a whole, while still loving and engaging the individuals (and their personal desires). It's shepherding, essentially, leading us ALL to lie down in comfortable pastures.




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Field Trip

It is getting slightly more difficult to write this blog these days -- not for want of material but for the expansiveness of it all. My daughter seems to be entering a new phase of her life, and my sense of where this blog is going is shifting. I suspect I will be learning a new rhythm.My daughter in this "immediate season", I feel, is learning how to speak her mind, and in a larger sense is soon to enter into forming her social identity. It causes me to feel like a parent of a coming newborn, albeit in this sense of a newborn social identity. Attendant to this are likely going to be all the woes of transitioning and of "becoming", but I am well ahead of myself, and well beyond this particular post.

This past week the kids both had their Spring Time Field Trips scheduled on the same day, and both to extremely distant locales. It meant having to decide between the two to which I would go. Compounding the issue was a later afternoon schedule conflict which required me to not be able to attend whichever for very long.

My daughter's trip took her to a state museum, whereas my son's trip took him to an educational farm. My daughter appealed to me to attend with her, of course, but my son's teacher was somewhat counting on my "booming" presence, and on our ice cooler with wheels. In my mind I yearned to do both, but my son I felt was deserving of the dotage his sister had received at his age, and the building up in his person such dotage produces. More importantly, perhaps, was the overriding exigency of the fact my wife needed the car later that day, and whichever I chose would still find my presence limited. So, ultimately, my decision was one which I felt was going to have to be the best, and maybe not the best not for either one in particular, but best in terms of which course met the needs of the entire family.

In many respects I do see in this a picture of the father-heart of God: the desire to love with equal ardor, and simultaneously the intense love to seek the good of the whole ultimately. Invariably this may mean that it appears some will be "loved" disproportionately, but that is appearance only.

I did intend and do intend (and communicated the intent) to want to make it up to my daughter by one day pulling her out of school and going on a daddy-daughter field trip, one which she and I could uniquely enjoy together. She is, after all, the one with whom I could enjoy the opera, or the ballet, or the museum. Not so much my son. He is more of the "gun range field trip" type.