Saturday, July 17, 2010

John Muir's Father

I have been reading about one of the great wilderness prophets of America- John Muir. From what I have gathered, it seemed the mountains were a place of healing for him. He went west for something that seemed difficult to fully trace from his past, but as I came upon this letter written to him by his father after an article was published, I am reminded all the more of what, despite tremendous shame, he birthed for many. His father was a heavy reformed calvinist...

My Very Dear John,

Were you as really happy as my wish would make you, you would be permanently so in the best sense of the word. I received yours of the third inst. with your slip of paper, but I had read the same thing in "The Wisconsin," some days before I got yours, then I wished I had not seen it, because it harried up my feelings so with another of your hair-breadth escapes. Had I seen it to be God's work you were doing I would have felt the other way, but I knew it was not God's work, although you seem to think you are doing God's service. If it had not been for God's boundless mercy you would have been cut off in the midst of your folly. All that you are attempting to show the Holy Spirit of God gives the believer to see at one glance of the eye, for according to the tract I send you they can see God's love, power, and glory in everything, and it has the effect of turning away their sigh and eyes from the things that are seen and temporal to the things that are not seen and eternal, according to God's holy word... You cannot warm the heart of the saint of God with your cold icy-topped mountains. O, my dear son, come away from them to the spirit of God and His holy word, and He will show our lovely Jesus unto you, who is by His finished work presented to you, without money and price... And the best and soonest way of getting quit of the writing and publishing your book is to burn it, and then it will do no more harm either to you or others.

Muir's father through beating and memorization had Muir memorize all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament by 11 years old. As I read these words above, it made me grow to love Muir as a man even more. Much of Muir's words have such biblical imagery that open the natural world in a way that Emerson and trascendentalism was trying to get away from. Muir was bringing the gospel words in the places he was going. He was preaching something that at his father's level had no worth, and was outside of God. And yet, he was using the language and opening people to the beauty of creation.

There is a story that as he spent time in Yosemite Valley there was erected a church for services for the guests. He would ask the question, why would someone worship in such a man made structure, when the temple of worship was all around them.

I just got back from 5 days of fly-fishing with 14 young men. Many of them it being the first time to hold a fly rod, and catch a trout. On one day, we caught 231. Native greenback cutthroat trout. The most amazing red and greens.

The man who led us into Rocky Mountain National Park was Ron Smith. One of our guides for Training Ground. He is 63, and been fishing those waters sense he was five.

Ron reminds me of John Muir. He has a hard past with religion, but somehow, it always comes back to that, much like Muir. No matter the past, no matter the pain. The metaphors, the images, the heart always has the gospel in it. Many of our southern friends were a bit taken by Ron, since he doesn't fit the classic christian man. But one of my favorite quotes from the weekend is when Ron looks around the group during one of our times together in the evening all huddled together and says, "I meet Jesus every time I catch a trout. If I catch 15 trout, it's like I am re-born 15 times that day."

I love the John Muir's of the world. Men who are a bit outside the norm. On the edges of what most would consider "in." And yet, you can't even begin to count him out. He is the prophet pointing to Jesus, much like Muir. And I am saddened as I read those words about Muir's father, that little did he know what his son was offering to the world.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Unity amongst brothers.

Psalm 133:1 - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity."

We live in a day where there are many sons, but there are few fathers to guide those sons. I can think of nothing deeper, no ache common to man than to be affirmed, blessed, and guided into his place as a man. It takes a father to do that. God sets himself up that way. He uses the language of father describing himself.

I love the line from Iron John by Robert Bly, "A land with no fathers demands a king." We too easily fall prey to that thinking, worshiping idols over seeking fathers since none seem to be around. It seems the case from Israel's first king Saul, who everyone wanted to be their great deliverer, onto present day Obama. Everyone is so disappointed he has not lived up to his potential as king.

I think its because we need more fathers, not more kings.

I find myself doing that more often than I wish. To be near a king, to be around power and prestige is far too often a denial of the true fathering I need to grow into the man I need to become. A king is like a genie in a bottle instantly granting you wishes. A father is more a guide to grow you up. I'd much rather take the safer route of just being instantly zapped. Then walking out the pain and process it takes to become that man.

But, we find ourselves in a world in need of fathers. We have a king. One set in the throne above now guiding all men who look to him. We need fathers guided by our king of kings passing down the blessing of the Father. But few of them seem to have been through the agonizing process themselves from a son to a father, and live the day to bless the sons.

And here lies one of the issues of unity in brotherhood. While brothers can bless one another, it is the father's blessing we are after. There appear few who can give it. We are like refugees starving for food clawing on one another when the food arrives. Or is spotted. Who will get it? I must claw my way through the crowd...

There is a book by Bob Sorge called Envy. He explains that most envy comes from brother-to-brother relationships, sister-to-sister. We are not usually as envious of fathers, as we are the sons around him. The reason Cain killed Abel? Jealousy, envy of a brother for the fathers blessing. There is the story of Joseph. Why did they sell him? He was the most loved. His brothers despised that.

Sorge explains the issues of the day is between brothers and the blessings.

My biggest yearning is to be blessed, by God, by good fathers, and yet so is everyone of my brothers who are equally starving for the same. All deserving of the same. The question is, can we all be blessed, is there enough food to be passed around, or does just one of us get that? Are all our lives of equal importance, or are there just a few the king has in mind for greater things.

I think of that scripture in the Psalms about living in unity with brothers really grabbed me tonight as I read it. How truly a beautiful thing that is. It means a king has come, and fathers are blessing sons. It means they can respect and enjoy one another. Cheer one another on. Bless each others success, and pray for their struggles.

I think somehow that is what SHALOM means. It will finally come at the King's coming to finally restore us as fathers and sons, filled with the blessings. I pray till then, unity can come through more fathers blessing more sons. I think the more food we see, the less we will be crawling on one another thinking there is only a few sources to find it. We will most certainly be feasting at a large table. And I am glad there will be plenty of food. The wedding feast of the lamb. That's going to be one big meal with lots to go around.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Searching for knowledge.

I was at a little coffee place I frequent in the mornings today. Every Monday through Friday a group of retired gentleman gather there to talk about just about everything. One man in particular who is in his 80's is becoming quite an interesting man in conversation. He is always asking me what I am typing on my laptop, and no matter what I say, he seems to know about it. In fact, he said he had thought awhile about getting on facebook, but he realized most of his friends were dead. I laughed at his joke. But realized, he wasn't kidding, he is as alive and interesting as any man I have met.

Well, we were talking about Teddy Roosevelt today, and he said, you know he is a progressive right. Well, kind of I said. And he went on to tell me about the movement, and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR. I was kind of interested in learning about it and I said, "I need to look more of that up." And he just stared at me and said, "Well, I lived through it."

And it just kind of hit me staring at him. That I hadn't even thought of saying, tell me more. Or what was that like. Or did I even connect that there are people alive, and men alive sitting at coffee shops right next to me that know these stories of the past. I was going to google it. He was it.

I love technology. I really would love one of those ipads. But I wonder how man screens we are getting our information from, instead of seeing who is right before us. Or who we could talk to. I need to practice the art of asking and listening. and sitting. versus all the knowledge at my finger tips get the quick facts gathering life. I am sitting on my laptop in a coffee shop full of googles with real stories within them.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Kentucky Derby - where would you sit?

I have been watching ESPN today, as they broadcast the Kentucky Derby. I must confess I forget how men and women dress for things like this. The large hats and dresses. The suits and ties. Then there is the infield. It has been raining for the entire day, and the place looks more like woodstock. People out there partying, wearing green hair, shirts half off. There are mint juleps inside under all the air conditioning and probably PBR out there in the rain.

I have wondered, where would I belong? Which group would I want to enjoy the Derby in?

It just made me realize how there can often emerge two worlds. Two sides of people. The haves and have nots. Both are there, enjoying themselves. Different drinks. Different outfits. Different perspectives of the track. of the weather.

Where would you go? Run out in the mud and get dirty? Or put on your derby hat and head into the grandstands and high society and mix with a few celebs and business tycoons?

Sometimes I kind of wish for fun sake, we could toss them around a bit. Shake the place up and everyone switch roles. Maybe the little men on the horses would become the great men in the stand who are the wealthy owners, and the slightly overweight owners would head down to those horses they are watching in their binoculars, jump on the horse, and ride them around the track in all that mud covering their expensive italians suits.

That is a race, I would like to see.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Church Many Tribes

I just opened a book written to the Church from a Native American offering his vision of some of the issues facing the clash between Native Americans and us Anglo-Europeans. It is a fascinating book, I find myself highlighting most of the pages. Isn't it fascinating that as the people of God's Kingdom, we have never asked what did His original inhabitants offer to us as a way of understanding the Kingdom?

The book's author, Richard Twiss of the Lakota Sioux tribe says this...

"It may be difficult to hear or to accept, but I believe that because of clashing cultural worldviews, the Anglo expression of Christ and His kingdom has said to the Native expression of Christ and His kingdom, "I have no need of you. I don't need your customs, your arts, your society, your language, concepts or perspectives." If you look at a thing and cannot identify any value in it, you will have no perceived sense of need for it. And if you have no need for it, then you get along without it.

He is sharing that after explaining, or maybe asking why there are no native americans today in major christian leadership roles across our country?

It is a great point. What does God want to teach us through the original native people of this land as an expression of worship, of Kingdom thinking?

I just have really been enjoying a deeply reverent, Kingdom minded, and Christ focused Native American who I imagine, might be one of those voices we might need to listen to.

If you are interested, the book is ONE CHURCH MANY TRIBES, by Richard Twiss

And a few vides on youtube...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Laying a stone.

I was watching Ken Burn's National Park series tonight. It is so well, well done. Evoking so much longing. It also reminded me of the wonderous beauties of some of the places I have been fortunate to go over the past few years. One of them a trip I took with my wife, Jayne, to the Grand Teton National Park.

We were headed up paintbrush canyon, heading to the backside of the teton range from the park entrance to the east when there was a worker laying trail. There is a need in the trail system to upgrade the trails, and for many of the workers, they camp back in the parks, and work longs day, chipping away rocks, and setting up and rebuilding worn trails. I tell you, it is a back breaking job. Long hours. Sweat. No showers. Heavy lifting.

We stopped to talk to one of the guys, and I asked why he did it. He was laying stones over a small stream bed, rocks that were the size of tires, each one having to be cut, and rolled into place.

He said something of the sort, like, I get the satisfaction of coming back here years later, to see the work, and knowing what I am doing will be here for many years to come.

I dont think I will ever forget that moment. In the midst of what seemed like a horrible job, I heard him explain the connection to the place. Putting something in place that will last many years, even beyond him. The cost was worth the pain.

I need that reminder these days. I want to live that kind of life. So much of what we do, so easily is washed away at the next rain. the easy stuff easily can be washed in the next storm. only to have to be rebuilt, replaced. and often it simply is lost.

I don't know how many boulders any of us can put in place in this life that are eternal. It is grace we can do any. We sure can't make a mountain, or build a entire trail system on our own. but if we grit our teeth, and we sweat it out, and pay the cost, I think we each have a stone or two to lay.

I am in a time of my life, where I am feeling the weight and the cost of placing a few stones in their seeminly right place in the path. Its not sexy like it was a few years back. I mostly feel the cost, the pain, and the weight of the stone, and the pain of my back.

Maybe that is what we all are given. To prepare the path, and lay the stones we are given to lay. Some of us think we have to carve and cut the whole trail, others just want to use the trail, without carrying any of its cost. and some are just laying down pebbles, that will soon wash away.

I imagine for that man, the greatest joy is coming back. Walking up that trail, and seeing those stones he lay. The enjoyment of remembering that season of hard work. Seeing its place and purpose in the scheme of it all. I need that reminder these days, and I am looking forward to the day I can walk the trail, and see the stones I helped cut and roll into place, along with the so many others who offered theirs along the way.

I guess for me right now, that is one of the great mysteries, where is this trail going? If someone came by and asked of where I am currently in the path, I would probably have to admit, I am not all that sure. Its headed in that direction, as I pointed. I know its good. I just am here, doing this part.

I think of that day, when we can walk that trail, as it is finally complete. Fully restored. It will be fully paved.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Editing my life .

I am two days away from turning in the final edits of a book I am working on due out this July 1st. It is my second book, and one thing I find is that the last read through is the toughest. It’s the last moment to make changes.

When you are writing stories, for me, mostly personal ones for others to read, it is always a bit of a gasp. It seems that our lives are lived by our interpretation of what is happening. How we view the events of our lives. To tell them word by word, and sentence by paragraph, and form them into chapters, and a book, is in some essence to tell them a certain way. Interpret them. And sell them to people. Give a certain way for people to interpret their lives.

I think that is what is always the hardest for me. I think God's invitation into our lives is to continually reinterpret what is really happening. It is so hard to have the lens of God, as St. Paul says, we see through a glass darkly.

It’s funny because I did a television show for my first book. It was all quite a rather weird experience to be on Christian TV, and feel like those televangelists in those gold chairs. There was a moment when the host had me look into the camera, and really bring the thunder. It was all rather odd to me, but I did it as asked.

They gave me the complimentary copy of the show. And to this day, I have never watched it. I could watch myself in this moment I think, but to watch myself in a moment past, is to look at what I know now, and kind of do a, "oh my gosh, what was I thinking, what was I doing."

I am already reading through it, and feeling that again. Xan, why did you say it that way, or, is that really what that moment should be explained as? And yet, for that moment in time, I wrote it. and I thought it. and it will remain in print, till those moths come and destroy them.

I had heard awhile ago, that one pretty big Christian author who wrote a very popular book as a young man, doesn't recommend his book to people anymore. instead he recommends another book he wrote later about the subject. that makes a lot of sense to me. the older we get, the wiser we hopefully get, and the less we find we know. which is what makes us wise, but makes us feel stupid for all the things we said when we "knew" so much.

And so, this book is my knowing, and will have to be undone by my living on. but I think what I am trying to learn is to allow my writing, like my life, to be a work in progress. of where I am, when I wrote it. it’s kind of like knowing when you are taking a picture that somehow in 40 years; people are going to look at your clothes, or your haircut, and laugh. and say, you wore that? you kind of know that will be true, but you haven't any clue why or what they will say about it. it looks right for the time.

and so it is with this book. it is me, in this moment, of this time. an offering of a perspective that will likely change. and yet, it is worth the sacrifice to bring it, and share it, because I guess we are all in that process of changing and growing, and by the time I realize how foolish it was, it will have been replaced by other fools writing books on other areas we think they have all the answers for. till the next one comes along.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Everything falls apart.

I have been learning a few lessons these days. I guess the lessons are always there to learn, its just a matter of when we are ready to see them. When we have had enough. A good man I like to read says, "we learn by prayer or by suffering." And for most men, the only pathway is suffering. He wish it weren't true.

There is a mentality I think in most men, that is both for his good, and his vice. It is, I can fix it. I can make it better. I can change the world.

I think its probably good to get a sense of that. My generation seems to believe it. We can make a difference. We go out and live for purpose, passion, get involved in social causes like no other generation. We have a great optimism. I love to believe this has been true of my life. I have believed.

But one hard lesson to learn, all things break down. Our bodies. Our bank accounts. Our dreams. Our understanding of just about everything. I think it has to. I think that is part of living. Part of coming to that end of ourselves.

I think one of the things we must find is to see the world as broken, but fixable. To see a world with questions, and believe there are answers to be found. But there is something important I think, when we remain in hope, a hope beyond our own hope, that the world is also breaking down. and we can't fix it.

I realized today how many things I have written down, and then crossed of when it was accomplished. I have this sheet that has a top 2 big things for the day, 5 people to call, 10 things to do. Its kind of my guide to keep me on track. Keep me moving forward, disciplined, focused.

I dont know how many things I crossed off, probably in the 1,000's by now. But I think with each one crossed, I felt that much closer to some finish line of completeness. that somehow I could cross enough tasks of that I would come to the end of them all, and I would find myself at peace, and ready to rest.

But dang it, the lists are growing, the email box is getting more full, and the demands are ever more, and I still can't get my truck's oil changed, and the dust, it just keeps collecting. I wipe it off, and it keeps coming back.

I think I am going to have to learn to find peace and rest in the midst of the tasks yet to be marked off. or the emails to be gotten to. How does one take a break, when that hours of work, could help pay the light bill? is it fair to just take off, and go be with the trees, and your soul, and the one who calls to us in the midst. it is so, so hard.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making a person.

I am still so caught in the mystery of the making of a person. Meaning how two people, make one really tiny person. it is what happens every day, but somehow when you make your own, it all makes sense.

I seem to have spent the majority of my life, building stuff. as a boy it was legos. a little older and I was working on complete baseball card sets. then it was a remote control car. then a salt water reef aquarium eco system in my room. then other things. i am tinkering with a business right now, and growing a ministry. which gets me to tonight. laying on my bed, exhausted from what seems like a lot of building, a lot of making.

well, jayne and i have been sleeping with our little girl, kruzie in the bed. trying it out, her lying between us the last few nights. so here i go to lay my head, from what seems like 3 long years of making things, with a few pauses, and there is this little product of my and jaynes making.

it seems so surreal to me. so much work is required in making things. things break down. you need more money. problems occur. re-thinking, re-strategizing. it seems the natural part of anything creative is lots of work. it requires a lot, and you have to put in the sweat. nothing just happens. but that to me, is the greatest mystery of lying next to this little girl. I helped make her. but it was probably the simplest making ever.

and maybe that is what is so complex to me. the most amazing, unique, and remarkable creation, is a person. and somehow, we do the deed, the stuff comes out, goes to the egg, and the rest, just happens. and then one day, you look over on your bed, and there is something created. that is alive. and real. and a soul. moving and breathing.

it is the most complex and intricate making. we make them. but, there is so much evidence, there is someone else so much more in the process than me. i think that is what is so amazing, while everything else is prone to break down, and rust, and come apart, without attention, this little one is growing, and changing, and while there is plenty of hands on, and doing, it is like this natural thing God has set up. God makes it all grow.

I am not sure if this is "making" sense. But I think I feel so grateful that God is growing this little girl. most of what I make, tends to fall apart, at some point. and yet, there is such evidence, not this time, not this one. I feel outdone. outdone. and yet, I feel so honored that I get to play a part in continuing to make her. make and grow her into what she was made for, and who she was made to be with. her little makers (mom and dad) and her Big Maker.

I just had to get back up from the bed, and say that.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Take the pacifer.

My wife and I over the past few days brought home our much anticipated daughter, Kruzie from the hospital. It is hard to put all the words and emotions to her. She does some pretty basic things that would not make you blink if it were from a dog, or a person, but when it is your own, to watch her sleep, or even push out a "dirty" you can't help but see her as adorable. We are blessed, and so enjoying this new little one. I am excited to see how it will change our life.

There are so many reflections to write. Good, bad, selfish thoughts, frustrations. Great joys. It is a flurry of places to go. But this morning I am starting at my little girl, and she wont take her pacifer. She is staring at me. Frustrated. What about, I could not tell you. I imagine its gas. Maybe she is too tired to sleep. Maybe she knows her father is thinking of other things, and not her. Kids are smart, right?

You see, I like to accomplish things. Do things. And I tell you, a baby is like the anti- of all those things. It is a great juxtaposition for my life. She is staring at me. Beckoning me back, asking me to look at her. She has no words. Just kinda these sweet grunts. She can't even smile yet. Now she is in my arms, as I try and balance her on my chest, while putting my hands to this computer. She is now about to fall off. Hold on.

Ok. better.

I did this the other night, balancing her on my knees. and working late into the night while she was asleep. I was told by Jayne that is unsafe. So I am going to put her back in her little baby seat thing next to me.

It would probably be easy to justify that this is the time of a babies life where momma is only needed. I can go on, and get things done, and try and make more money, so I can pay for all these things coming down the pipe. thats certainly what I feel. what seems the easy thing to do. work more and harder.

but I do love the issue of my two worlds. one that just wants me to stare at her. the other that requires my intellectual thoughts and management. I forgot the other. probably much like how I forgot God is wanting the same. to wait. to sit on the lap. and stare. and enjoy.

And so I want little Kruzie to take the pacifer, so she can be pre-occupied and I can get back to work. and on the other hand, it feels like a great thing I need more of. a baby who needs me. who just wants to stare at me. and I probably, honestly, just need to stare right back more. and enjoy. I can already see that being a great challenge in the years ahead. will I work with her on my lap. will I plug her into a pacifer, a DVD, a flurry of activities at school, and in life, or will I enjoy her. and be in her presence.

so, as you can imagine. I probably need to go do that.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

How to respond to Haiti?

I have been pondering the great problems, and pain, and death in Haiti. And have wondered what is the appopriate response? Of course, mercy, Lord, mercy. But as they begin to ask the question what shall we do? And all the money comes into the country, what is the appropriate response?

There is one side... that this was God bringing judgement. Pat Robertson.

He got pretty slammed for bringing that up. It was a classic right-winger super conservantive comment. It would have come from someone, seems in this moments they are always looking for an uncompassionate christian to feed the angst. Robertson played into it perfectly. And his statements were quickly written off. How dare he?

Donald Miller offered another take. Saying Robertson didn't represent his voice. He offered a very articulate message about Jesus caring, and having compassion. And talking a lot about the issues of christian leaders today, and how they get into their position of leadership.

It felt weird to me. Because there is the old school thinkers of Roberton's era. Then my generation who gravitates to a voice similar to Miller. But as I read both, I felt they each made great points, and yet, they both had some truth to them. Could it be true there was something really dark to the Haitian culture, even propigated by our own colinialism? And could we bring compassion like Miller said, while thinking of this ias something incredibly dark, that Robertson could have been on to something?

I didn't know what to say, because obviously you have to back up it up, to make a response to a response. But then I read an article in the NY Times from a man outside evangelicalism, and who has little to gain in the voices of Christians, but just seemed to offer simple clarity. It was a mix of all the issues of what has happened to Haiti. And to me, would be a great image of what as Christians, those who feel called to go, and serve, and fight evil, would be worth reading...

Haiti and the Voodoo Curse by Lawrence Harrison

Monday, January 11, 2010

Making people.

Jayne and I are expecting our first little baby in about 4 weeks. There are a lot of things I can relate to in life, and dig up the associations, and feelings, but fathering a child, cleaning its butt, looking at a child with my own reflection, along with my wife, is not one of them. I can relate to people going through suffering, I can relate to people driving Jeeps, guys trying to walk out their story as a man.

I can relate and understand in part many things, but one of them is not being a baby, or having a baby. And I have never been a father. I mean, I guess I have offered in part the heart of a father to the young men we work with at Training Ground. But that is ages 18-25. So I am doing everything in reverse. I am starting with a child in an age I can't recall, and have never had to do. I have never wiped a dirty diaper. Or dressed a little girl. Or gazed at something that is literally part of me.

I went into the nursery the other day, and it just all kind of hit me. This was my future. I looked at all these little dresses and colors, and I saw my impending fate. I am a father. I have been for the last 8 months. But as that head pokes out, I think there it will finally hit me. and as she gets swadled in pink, and we drop her in the crib, it will all rush in. Do I have any idea what I am doing? Have I really read much? Listened to the parenting classes or all the advice? Well, kind of. But since I dont really get it, that this is all happening, its hard to really take in something.

I dont know what to expect. But I tell you. Jayne is ready. and I think I am getting there too. We looked at each other a few months back and admitted we were kind of bored in life. Not that we dont have a good life, but just a bit boring. I get the sense whatever is coming through and peeking out, she will not be boring.

And so I am told to rest. Rest as much as I can. sleep. go on dates. enjoy the last remaining days. your life will never be the same. I toast to that.