Friday, May 30, 2008
In high school I would make fun of my friend, Jeremy who liked to hunt. I was living in the redneck south, and so, well, we have a lot of rednecks. And he was one of them. He came from a long line of them. Hunting went deep for all of them. It’s tradition in their family to hunt. He hunts on the same land where his family moonshined years ago. He’s a whiskey drinking, boot wearing, skoal in the back pocket, George Strait-kinda guy. And I was not. Never had any intention to be one.
I was a bit more sophisticated. More white collar. I liked golfing. And tennis. A chai latte, with no foam please. Oh, and extra hot too.
Hunting was not in my DNA, and the way I saw it reserved exclusively for the people of the world who had trailers, and who liked to put old cars as yard ornaments in the front lawn. The word buckmaster, makes him drool. I’d be happy with a Bobboli pizza. I dismissed Jeremy, went on to college, got married, moved to Colorado, seemed very fine with how things were turning out, apart from my past, and all that sort of stuff. I didn’t see my need for rednecks, or this hunting thing.
It was a few months back when my friend, PJ, invited me to his house. “I want you to watch a video.” Guys only. Ok. I was not expecting what came next. Or how I would react to it.
The video was “The Truth, Big Bulls 10.”
Sounded either really dirty, or an unknown passage of scripture. I watched as what appeared to be Bubba, and his buddy filming an elk hunt in Colorado. It was homemade, and had all the expectations of some southern drawls that I had known so well. But as I started watching, I kinda got into it. There was a pretty nice herd of elk. Huge antlers. They get that big? “Oh, wow, he’s calling that in?”
The men were in the middle of beautiful land. Nothing around them. But these giant bull elk bugling and calling them. They slowly got closer. I inched into the screen. Waiting. Watching. And wondering what’s next.
Then there was silence. A shot. And then all of a sudden, the men were staring at each other. These big burly men turned to little school girls jumping at each other. They were frantic. Trying to squeeze in places that should not be squeezed together, especially men. And these type of men. It was like… what is going on? Should we turn this off?
They were jumping up, hugging, holding each other. It was weird. Almost freaky. One guy started crying. Telling stories in the camera about the trip, what he was feeling. They moved closer to the bull, and it all began all over again.
I wanted to laugh, and yet I felt like I had just witnessed something deep. And as weird as it sounded—spiritual. I don’t know what it was, but there was something in it. Something I started thinking about.
I wanted to hunt.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I loved what Charlton Clarke, one of the two counselors with us, shared to our group. Sharing your heart, crying is one of the most masculine, manly things you can do. Gosh. Isn't that missing in so much of our understanding of a man.
A man named Richard Rohr says, show me a young man who can weep, and an old man who can laugh.
I am in the presence of brave young men. Eager, and hungry to know their story, and the God who is still writing it. I feel I am on that journey myself. To cry... says... I can't make it better. I can't change what happened. And it hurt. It affected me. I needed something that did not come. Not to blame. Not to push our anger towards someone else. But to sit, and experience the suffering, and sorrow of our sin, a fallen world, and what often happens to us as a result. There was beauty that night, strength in weakness. Tears of sorrow, for joy coming in the morning. I love these young men, and their brave hearts to explore who they are.
Dan Allender says at the length we mourn and weep, is the extent we party, and find joy. and I feel excited to see where we will continue to experience those two extremes, and all that is in between.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
And if there is ever a picture of our 20's and 30's and 50's, and where we take our life, and what we finally discover is true. A real metaphor. Here it is. Maybe fly fishing tells the story of our lives more than we know, and maybe that is why our guide Ron has requested when he is old and crippled, that we would just take him down to the river in his wheel chair, and fish.
When folks begin to fish all they can think about is catching that first fish.
Then as soon as they catch that first fish they have to catch another...
Then it becomes about "how many" fish and I caught 20 or 40 or 80 fish!
Then it becomes about "how big" and catching that +20 inch fish, then the +25 then the +30....
Then it becomes about "the exotic" either fishing in some exotic place or catching something unique.
Then there seems to be a shift and it becomes more about the fishing and less about the fish... just getting out and catching "a fish" becomes the only goal just to prove that you still have what it takes.
The final stage has very little to do about the fish other than they are there. Catching is just a bonus. Fishing becomes larger that any fish and more that any quanity. Being out with the smells, sights, and sounds is all that becomes important...
A time to renew the soul and hear Gods voice.
I love the ending of a River Runs Through It. Some of the most poetic words, and haunting desires.
Monday, May 05, 2008
I decided to bring my fly rod here to South Carolina. Unsure of what to fish for, never doing it out here. Just hopeful. The other night I woke up at 2 a.m. I am not like this kind of person, casually waking. Going in for some coffee and a read. But, I just knew there was something I was supposed to be up for. God stirring something. I am starting to learn the difference between, I can’t sleep. And God is wanting to speak to me. Something in the spirit. I knew, or at least had this feeling it was that.
And so I woke up.
And before long, I heard… “Go fish.”
I found it quite odd. It was late. Dark. Nothing moving outside. But I grabbed my fly rod, put on the fly I had made the day before, and went to the back porch, and down to the water way just 10 yards from the backyard. And I fished. In my head, I am thinking, I am fishing because God wants me to. I am thinking one thing. A big one. Something is out in that river that is going to be large. And so, I had naturally grabbed my net. God wants to wake me to give me a gift. Something very large as a gift. But a few minutes into it, nothing is happening. I am a bit confused. and well, disappointed.
But as I settled in, I started feeling the rhythm of the rod. I mean, really feeling the rod. Its movement. Listening to the sound of the whipping back and forth. Line going through the air in the night breeze. The zing of it. I could not see my back cast. Only feel it. And hear it. The line loading each time through the eye lits, back and forth, back and forth. In perfect rhythm. It was dark. So dark, I could not see where my line went into the water, only feel it. All I can say is that for the first time, I felt things I hadn’t. I wasn’t focused on a spot on the river, or if anyone was watching, or if I was moving my rod right. It was just this moment, where I stepped into a new place. A new rhythm really, all my own. All the men before me, the adventures, experiences behind me. Just me, this river somewhere that I could not see, and what I felt like was God that called me here.
And so, trying to get ahead of God, and know what he was up to. I thought, this is it. The moment I land one. Its beautiful. I am ready to tell that story. Experience it. Take it in, maybe cry on the shore with the fish. But nothing. I moved down a bit. Then across a bridge to get in some deeper water. Almost trying to make it happen. Help God out. Maybe he meant over here. Or there. Down here? Gosh, its getting late. Where is he? Where is my fish? Its 4 a.m. now.And then I heard it. The voice, small one. But as loud as clear and in focus as the whipping of my rod.
“You are a good fly fisherman.”
Whoah. For real? I mean… I am feeling it. Really less self conscience then ever before. And, ya know… wow. So great, now lets find it. I kept thinking… that is not it, is it. What about the fish. The big fish I woke up for. Where is it? Over in this direction? Maybe one more cast… but I realized why I wanted the fish. So I had proof. So I could say, I caught a fish, and I am good. I know what I am doing. I can tie a fly. And fish in the dark. I really didn't even take in those words. I just moved right into looking for the fish again. Waiting for what a good fisherman gets... fish.
It wasn’t until the next day, when I realized why. God wanted to tell me that. Not you are good, and here is your prize. I have been digging into this place of perfection in my life. God has been. After me in it. For me, that is what I wanted to hear. “You are so good, you got this fish. I wanted to give to you.” I was expecting a reward of a prize. The words... that well... it was nice. but what does it get me?
Its crazy, because I have been doing a lot of outdoor things, fishing, hunting, and I tell you, I am learning so much. How to walk in the woods, call a turkey, tie a clouser minnow, and track a deer. Things not like me. Not in my previous nature. But I haven’t any luck in getting anything really, besides some fish.
But, I think, that is some part of what God is doing. Can I be a good fly fisherman without holding up a prize? I hope… and can I be a good fly fisherman without landing a prize Red Fish? I think that is what God is saying…
“Xan, you are a good fly fisherman.” Not because you get trophies. But because you just are. Gosh, really? That almost sounds like... well... love. and not about performance... but, about who I am. and what I am. You love me God… because I…. well, do this or that, and a few more of this. No. I love you, Xan. Because I just do.
Dang. I am only trying to receive that. And those words from God.I love what God is doing. I really need that. To believe his words, his voice. and what is happening. Not by results. But by his process. and just by believing him.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
I was watching a documentary about the missing years of Jesus. 12 to 30. For real. That is a long time to go missing. Or not written about. To get 3 intense years in the scriptures, and 18 that are just nowhere to be found. It leaves the mind to wonder… this report was great. It really was. So many great scholars. From universities, mainly protestant and mainline. Weighing in on the topic. One thing that came up was the tight knit communities. How during Jesus time, the town of Nazareth was small town. I am talking real small town. Ya know the small towns that know everything about their neighbors business, along with a few thoughts of their own? Well, think an even tighter community, and even more talking. This is Jewish, family, traditions, close knit, and lots of relationships happening between everyone. They relied on each other. The estimate is Jesus was born into a town of 500. So… we assume, everyone knew their business. Close. Tight.
There is an interesting story there. When Jesus comes back at 30 in his ministry. Everyone knows him. One gospel refers to him as the carpenter. When you grow up knowing him for assumingly 20 or 25 years as that, its hard to see him as anyone else. The Christ? The savior? Gosh, there is an understanding of why it was so hard for them to believe Jesus was the messiah, and the king they were waiting for through the prophets. He was just the guy they used a few years ago to fix their roof. Or add an additional room. This guy, running around town claiming to be the Son of God? It could be hard. Breaking those experiences.
What is unique is the story in the gospel about Jesus coming back to the town after travelling around at 30 with his pose, those disciples. Jesus was getting some attention, and being noticed. Growing in celebrity status from village to village. But what is unique is a text in the scriptures about how they respond to this in his hometown. In their Jewish culture, they were supposed to identify with their father's household. It was their custom. My wife would be considered… Jayne the daughter of Jeff. And I would be the son of David, and so on. The household would bring the association through the man. Well, what the teaching brings out is that Jesus is not identified this way. He is considered "the son of Mary."
There is a bit of an argument of why those words. But one common belief is because the town knew something was up with Jesus. And Joseph. The husband of Mary. And the father of many other children, was not the father of Jesus. We know that the Holy spirit revealed itself, and through an angel to Mary, and to Joseph about the baby, being conceived through the Holy Spirit. But God didn't tell the town. Or anyone else. We just kinda assume people knew this, for what Jesus becomes. But they don't. and they don't even get it years later, when he is walking around town and going into other villages claiming to be the Son of God. In one account in the gospel, it speaks "isn't this the carpenter?" They know him well. But for other reasons. Not his Messiah complex. But his earthly living. He is just a worker. Named for what he did for those missing 18 years.
I have been wondering a lot about how we learn to deeply know the Father in heaven. And one thing that hit me through this is that Jesus at some level, was born under incredible controversy in the town. Imagine the gossip. The women talking, and sharing their tales of what might have happened. Maybe they thought Mary had a rendezvous with another man. Or even, just to have gotten a little close, before their wedding night. Whatever came, you can bet the town carried that gossip better than US Weekly, and the paparazzi. This is small town living. Imagine all the housewives at the time, walking around town sharing the news of how Jesus was born before 9 months of Jacob and Josephs marriage. And all those weird fights and confusion they had about that time. Don't think the town wasn't wondering, and talking behind their back.
Here is the amazing part of the story. And the part we forget. Kinda like as we think back to World War II, we already know the outcome. America invades at Normandy, and it goes well. They move in, and we know we will win. But they didn't at the time. And there were many questions, many fears that the war could be lost. Much was up in the air. But that's hard to understand now, knowing all the facts. But they simply did not have that information. And that really changes everything.
It's the same with Jesus. They had a different perspective at the time. When he is born, and what the time doesn't reveal yet, is that Jesus is the Son of God. We don't really know what that would have really been like. To be born the town controversy. To have all these unknown and mysterious labels surrounding your birth. To be the talk, like a Jerry Spring episode of a paternity battle. Who's son is this? Know one really knows. And I bet, the person who was even a bit confused, and had to live with this was Jesus. Imagine him at 5. 9 years old playing with friends. Fishing down at the Sea of Galilee. He must have heard the news. Some kid just straight up asking… our parents wonder who your father is… We heard it wasn't Joseph. When did the Spirit reveal this to him? When did his mother? Joseph? The scriptures aren't very clear. And I wonder about that. Was that what really made Jesus know the Father. Really seek out, and explore who he was. He was the one man faced with more questions about his family. And who he was. More than any other person. Where did that search take him? That longing to understand… almost like that is what God had him bear. Seek out at the temples, and as he read the Torah, and the Holy Scriptures. It was all there. Who he really was. But it had to be revealed to him, over time. I bet God wanted him feel the weight of it, for so long. God wanted him to seek it, explore, and really deeply long to interact, and know who he really was. Until one day… after all his study, his prayers, and growing in wisdom and stature. He began walking in this. Deeply. Abiding. Resting. And living out this identity as the Son.
He was perfect and sinless. So he was pure at a young age. But he was still a boy. A boy who deeply longed to know his Father. And that came. It probably was a process. Growing into it. And understanding what his role was, as God's son. The sacrifice that he would be called on to make.
It makes more sense when you hear of the story of being near his hometown, when he is teaching the people. His mother Mary, and all his brothers and sisters arrive. The whole town is like… Hey Jesus, your family is here, do you want to go talk to them. Shut this down, to be with them? And Jesus says, who are my brothers and sisters? He is saying, those who know God, who abide and do the will of the Father, those are my family. He had to find that out the hard way. By truly searching that out. He finally understand that those around him, gathered, were his true family.
I love this, because truly, if there was ever a man who felt orphaned, abandoned, or had a father wound… who really needed to know His Father, Jesus went through it. It is everyone's deepest longing. To know their father. To be loved by their father, to be delighted in, and enjoyed. It's the story of the Prodigal Son. We need that so deeply. And of all the people, it was Jesus that had to take that journey.
And although we look at it with passing, as if Jesus knew all along. But I think its why the baptism really was so impactful to Jesus heart. For a man who spent his life as a boy, surrounded in controversy. With confusion, and fear of the town not knowing who this boy was, and whose father and house he was born… "son of Mary." That day when he arose from the river, the words, and the longing of his heart was spoken, not just in a dream to his parents. But out loud, and to all those around who witnessed it. Audibly. And clear. "This is my son, with whom I am well pleased." I can't imagine what those words did to Jesus. His father has spoken. Named him. His own. And his delight in him. The whispers of controversy, were silenced by the voice of the one who finally could reveal to the world, who this fatherless child… really was. His own.
And Jesus didn't just kinda act confused. Or pass it off like did anyone here that? Or brush it aside, because it was too much to take in. He received it. Because after all he had been through, he knew. And yet this was the confirmation he needed, that every man needs to hear. It is true. You are a son. Adopted into the family of God. He lived in that identity. As Gods chosen son. The one true son. And the most beautiful part of the gospel, is that his sacrifice gives us that right. That heir. To be called sons of God.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
I have been learning to tie a few flies for trout in Colorado. But this is new. Saltwater. My friend, Timm, helped me grab the pieces I needed for before I left. And so, yesterday, I tied a few pieces of dyed buckskin, beads, thread, and I made a skinny clouser minnow. It is fun to throw out something you tied on your own. In looking at the fly, I actually am thinking I could use my wifes blonde hair to tie one as well. I can’t think of a more sexist or less racy feminist thought than catching a fish with your wife’s hair. But, I don’t believe that is at the heart of it. Gosh, I hope not.
So there I was in the backyard, on this beautiful water system going up and down the area casting. I was feeling quite proud. Confident. And like I really had a clue at things. Other men, construction workers looking on from the condo next to us. Kinda displaying the talent. Casting a bit further. Showing off.
So, a few yards down an old lady comes out. Intrigued as well. Wow. What are you fishing for?
Hmm… in trying to turn the question to my gifts, I somehow just responded, this is a clouser minnow. Proudly knowing it was me that tied it. Oh no. What are you fishing for, she said again.
Oh, yeah know. Pause. Um. Well, I actually don’t know.
It kinda threw out all the wind from under me. I am trying to catch something. I just haven’t a clue what. And then as I kept casting, it made me realize, how do I know this is the right fly? Or the right area of water? And then it made me wonder if that is why I am even out here. Yeah. I want a fish. But I think I am having as much fun, tying something, practicing my casting, and enjoying it. Maybe something in the grace of it, and the experience of doing it on my own. Trying at least.
There is more to go. I need a guide. I am looking into that. I know now, I cant do this on my own. But there is some beauty that I am in part, picking up the rhythms of fishing. Of casting. And tying. Now, I just need a guide. As that older lady mentioned, to help me know what I am fishing for. But what I should have said was, “its much more than just a fish.”