Rick and Monique

Monday, January 26, 2009

Nothing Changes

Fail Pictures, Images and Photos

Nothing is new underneath the sun.  I sometimes long to retrieve my days.  I want to make better choices.  I just listened to a choir piece I was part of almost 18 years ago now...my song played for me here in my living room...my voice of 18 years ago streamed to me this morning.  I tried to feel like me back then.  I tried. What I knew then exists only in shadows of ghosts.  Still, I want to change some choices--and yet by them imagine what I know now?  

I watched a play at the Civic Center called Spring Awakening.  It's a "coming of age" play about a teenager's yearning to experience and learn, to ask questions and experience what life offers.   It's also about a parent's and teacher's yearning to control information, hoping that a simple "You can't do this!" or "You should do this!" sufficiently moralizes and emboldens a child's life growth pattern. The play was written in the 1800's.  It plays between a group of students taught at a strict school and between sons, daughters and their parents.  Christianity stands at it's heart.  

I thought I'd feel persecuted.  I didn't--no in fact I felt more resolute than ever before.  A young girl asks her mother about where babies come from.  The answer she gave was that babies come from loving her husband very very very much...

Parents are often so tepid about sensitive information and their children. So many of them won't even do their children the favor of dreading they day they enter the "real world." I don't blame them. So much can go wrong.

But the girl thought that having babies was about loving her husband.  She tried sex and couldn't believe she had become pregnant...it wasn't how her mom had described.  Another failed a class at school...actually he was failed because he was "different..." kind of an artist, a wild-haired playboy--someone who had the insight to know that there was more to life than school--he wanted the part of life that was hidden from him.  His parents felt that nothing was more important than his education, ignoring that all of life was an education.   When he failed his coursework his father said "What will I tell the people at the bank?  What does your mom say at Church? That my son is a failure?"  He reached for a sweet woman who encouraged him by saying "There are many successful businessmen who did badly in school..."  But his parents couldn't change their "plan" and turned their backs on their son...he commits suicide.  The parents of the pregnant girl did everything they could possibly do so that their lives would remain the same...would follow the plan...would look right in church.  They forced her to "deal" with the child and took her to someone that would help her get rid "of the sin that was committed".  A playwright from the 1800's tells a story that includes abortion.  Another young lady is beaten every night but she doesn't mind...it's not so bad she says...it's the part of her day that isn't "rote", that allows her to feel something.

I didn't feel persecuted.  I felt resolute.  The play doesn't bash Christianity.  It does expose the type of Christianity so many have practiced over the years.  We've pursued Holiness as if God is playing a trite game of cat and mouse with us.  We pursue righteousness for us and for our children as if we don't already have it...as if we're playing a trite game of cat and mouse with our children, our church families, and others around us. While the story tells every tragic tale imaginable in the 1800's, I found the parallels to 2009 stark and clear.  

And so I intend not to live a stoic life.  I intend to tell you what you need to know when you need to know it.  I don't make righteousness succumb to my plan.  It wells up within me and explores life while I change.  Two stories from the bible.  The story of the five loaves and two fish--can you imagine the insurmountable surprise at every full basket made from five loaves and two fish? Holiness builds and explodes joyfully throughout the world.  The other story comes from Mark 3. Jesus is preaching and people are calling him crazy, out of his mind...even that he was the servant of Beelzebub.  Mark writes that Jesus' family were calling for him...imagine why for a moment...people are saying He's nuts, crazy.  Imagine that that rumor spreads through the crowds, including the places were Jesus' family stood.  Isn't it plausible that they were embarrassed and wanted to get Him out of there?  Don't you think they might've thought he was in great danger? Jesus' is told they're looking for him and He says "Who are my brothers and my family...all of you in this group are my brothers and sisters!"  This was new information...good information...information they and we all need to know.  Jesus would not be pulled from a potentially embarrassing situation. His family might've simply wanted everything to go back to normal.  Why do things have to change?  

Change and glory go together.  It's interesting to note that the parents and the teachers were played by the same people, while all the teenagers were played by different people.  In the adult world everything stays the same...but it shouldn't.  Ignorance isn't bliss.  Forced ignorance means we deprive our children of untold benefit and issue the potential of untold harm.  I'm not saying that information comes in a flood.  There's a certain day you'll have to tell your children about money, about stress.  And eventually you'll tell them about about love, about sex, finances and about accountability.  You're not going to enjoy the conversation you must have with your son or daughter about sex.  But you're really not going to enjoy the day when they engaged in behavior they really knew nothing about.  Teaching them finances remains a difficult proposition.  But the day they go bankrupt is the day you'll wish you'd taught them financial responsibility. There's something called the "snowball effect" and I'm telling you a child engaging in an act you never told them about will snowball down a steep and dangerous hill. Eventually your children leave your home and they'll need to know things.  They're going to fail and they should know from experience that you have their back.  They're going to try new things and you're going to have to have instructed them about new things.  They're going to question God and you're going to have to be ready with a loving answer, lest you become a worthless gong or clanging cymbal.

A noteworthy element--35 audience members were allowed to sit and watch the play from the stage itself...I realized halfway that the 35 became part of the set, further enhancing the exploitation, vulnerability and exposure of the teens.  The audience was never acknowledged giving the idea that these kids had no idea they were there.   Those same thirty-five spectators are watching your children too...I'd rather your children know they're there.  

So much can go wrong.  But I'm grateful my parents hoped knowledge would do me good.  It did.  I dealt with knowledge badly sometimes...I really did. But it was better than being blind-sided without it.  They didn't know everything, and thus neither did I.  But they gave me what they knew. 

You were not given a spirit of fear and timidity, but one of courage and power.  But then why are there so many parallels between 1811 and now?

Nothing changes under the sun.  Everything changes under the Son.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama and the Grand Inauguration

An inauguration for the ages. The most security, the highest entertainment value (and celebrities for what they're worth), the greatest amount of pomp and circumstance. Gleaming, hopeful millions tread the mall that they might one say say that they were there on the day a black man became President. I'm engaged. I get it. History made.  I get it.  

I'm handicapped which puts me in a minority. Historically people like me were disregarded, thrown away, committed into mental institutions, persecuted, experimented on, rejected, forgotten or killed. Even today--save the trees, save the whales, kill the children.  Man of every color, even the black man have historically given the "retard" and "crippled" little time and even less respect. Some spiritualists, dualists, Polytheists, magicians, sorcerers, and tribes around the world historically and currently believe that a baby born handicapped is curse, or may mean that the "gods" are unhappy.  

Today, I find a lot to like.  Organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation abound. People are generally better.  Sarah Palin found many citizens who don't and won't discriminate against her Downs Syndrome child. The handicapped tell inspiring stories.  I don't know everyone.  But I know plenty like me with Spina Bifida and plenty with handicaps of other kinds who don't whine, who are generally determined and whom provide greatness, love, joy and wisdom in their prospective circles.  Yet people say, "That's a great story," and yet those same people stare at me/us at the mall, on the street and wherever else. We don't dream of high position. Maybe now we can?  

So, yesterday was an historic day says my sister and she's right.  I am happy that Americans broke one ceiling yesterday and I'm elated for those who are now allowed to dream.  I truly am happy for all of us for that one reason.  America sufferes greatly under racism's tentacles. But one happy blogger ogled wistfully that yesterday's euphoric event brought transparency back to the White House and Oval Office.   I heard the same word on the news--Transparent.  
Transparent.  Obama transparent?


Besides that President Obama's life, his political, business and religious relationships, his religion itself and his political career itself have been cloaked in shadow, I guess he's transparent enough. Despite the fact that he hasn't really had to answer the tough questions but blew them off instead, I guess he's open enough. Besides the fact that even cabinet members are somewhat suspect--one, for instance, being suspected of tax-evasion issues, another intertwined in the Blago scandal, another who rewards donors to her Husband's library, an Intelligence chief who's actually spent very little time on intelligence, and one former nominee who resigned his nomination because he's under federal investigation for "Pay-to-Play" schemes in New Mexico, Obama seems honest enough.  There are other cabinet issues as well.  Despite that there have been questions about Obama's trips to Kenya, about his attitude toward his brother there, about whether or not that constitutes "Foreign Relations" experience.  Transparent? An open book?  Despite his "Change" mantra he looks an awful lot like the previous administration--spender (Bush), emphasis on social programs (Bush), a "more of the same" Washington Cabinet (Bush), and a Vice President Biden who has proven ruthless, especially in light of Clarence Thomas and others--the very things they've accused Vice President Cheney of, ruthlessness I mean--true or not. Obama seems to stand on his own two feet...I guess. I don't really know...if you really look, no one truly knows who he is. He seems to have said a lot about not much. And some things toward which he has been clear, I'm not sure I'm happy about. Lastly, despite his vast executive and leadership experience (not really, I'm kidding), I guess I don't know exactly what we got ourselves into...not really. Even the best eyes can't see through fog.

But I'm loyal. I honor my leaders, as always. But I promise to be critical of them.  I'll be a faithful citizen as always. I won't treat Obama as unmercifully as so many treated President Bush. I posit that President Clinton's actions certainly did degrade and de-value the Oval Office as evidenced by how readily Americans and others heaped slander upon its trusses over the past eight years. People viciously and energetically degraded, derailed, ridiculed and mistreated a sitting President, President Bush--We then mustered enough energy to elect someone surrounded by shadow and clouds. What honor does that leave for the American people? Even the speeches before yesterday's inauguration were unkind toward the last administration, and the millions in the mall screamed joyfully at every disparaging word. I won't be that, but I will be critical. I know where my loyalty lies. I'm American to the bone. I love my freedom like I love fresh, cool air. We'll wait and see if Obama feels the same.

Did we elect Obama simply to break a ceiling? I doubt it. He's got a great smile.  He certainly carries confidence and swagger into the White House. Fact--the ceiling broke and that inspires me. He's black, I'm handicapped.  We don't have to think twice about that do we?  Will we stop clamoring about color? Maybe not. I'm still thankful. 

And I'm still suspect of the means to his end.

Friday, January 16, 2009

All Men

Well, what can I say?  Here I am on the other side of something.  The last two or so weeks were filled with every kind of thing it seems. We celebrated Monique's birthday in style, beginning with a birthday card. From there we enjoyed a couple's massage, she had a great time with Anne-Michelle doing a pedicure, then enjoyed her favorite dessert at her favorite place, The Cheesecake Factory, and ended with a night of games (her nearly favorite activity) with friends. It was a great day and it was one of many points where I understood how great she is, how honorable her character, how fruitful her life. She leads by example.

The latest excitement began Wednesday morning when I received a call from Anne Michelle..."Rick, I fell and hurt my ankle bad, can you pick me up and take me to the doctor?" That call began a three hour run to her school to the Doctor, to Monique's work then to our house where she has been tended to since. She has an ankle fracture and sprain. Painful. I kind of understand what Monique has to go through now when I get stubborn enough to try and move without my crutches or whatever...   A-M's a stubborn one she is, but I can hold my own and am working hard to keep her honest! I've been where she is so many times now--and I've probably been way too stubborn for half of those. So I understand life on the opposite side of wise. She'll appreciate me in the end. I'm glad someone ELSE is the invalid for once.  Monique and I have enjoyed taking care of her.  However, she wants to help, she wants to work, she wants to feel productive. But she's being wise (for the most part) and has been a delightful addition to the house, although I think she's looking forward to getting to her own house. Friend Julie P. came to visit Wednesday night to visit Anne Michelle and to help her pass the time a bit. She's another example proving that "the Body" works to heal itself just as A-M's body is working to heal itself.  The swarm of cards Julie brought with her allowed us to play a fun game of "Hand and Foot" together.  We split into teams, A-M and Monique and Julie and I.  
Julie and I got shellacked.  But we had fun, A-M's attention was diverted, and we'll live to play another day.  

Hopefully we've led by example. Her trust in her doctor and her friends bears fruit for sure.

Anyway, that story leads me to a couple other interesting notes about my last two weeks--well my Dog, Dutchie, learned how to ice-skate in the back-yard--interesting--I think I'm going to take her new skill on the road! Do you think I could strap her to the motorcycle? 

I digress--where in the heck did that come from anyway?  It just happens to be a funny story that really has nothing to do with the theme of the blog--but it's funny!  

Dutchie the Ice-Queen certainly attracts interest, but my focus are three conversations.


One with a man named Peter, who above all seems to hate being placed into a box where one can only think a few specific things about God and where questions of God are irreverent and irresponsible. I have to admit, I don't appreciate life in "boxes" either. We've had a friendly yet somewhat complicated conversation about our views, and while I disagree with some of his positions and presuppositions, the conversation has been upbeat and enjoyable. Even though we disagree, I learned by example that by example all men will know, all men will see, all men will hear Christ in action. I hope others can tell by the conversation how it is to have a conversation without beating someone to a pulp. He wants the ability to ask questions, to find God outside of "Christianese" and to revel in the Mystery. I want him to be comfortable with truth and absolutes, to tend gracefully to the body and to know that no matter how hard we try, everything seems to lead back to the God of the bible. He's formulated thoughts and questions I had yet to think and ask.  I'm grateful.  Important, though, is the example set into the conversation. Hopefully to others we bear good fruit.  Explore Peter's blog at  http://www.emergingchristian.com/ (click the link) and possibly find your own conversation.


The second happened on one cold, slippery day when my bride turned the Saturn around the corner down the block from our house and slid hard into the curb. The car was normal before, somewhat discombobulated after. Instead of anger we decided that the "accidents happen" track was easier and more graceful. It worked. It probably wasn't great for the car (we couldn't get it fixed until Monday) but we had to take the interstate to and from downtown Saturday night. We could've again decided on disappointment, anger and frustrated conversation. I could've lectured her on snow driving techniques and the like. Instead we had some fun. You know what your voice sounds like when you stand in front of a fan? Sounds like you've got a rattle in your throat? Well, our car shimmied voice-altering hard and we had some good laughs on that one...it made music lots more fun to sing for some reason! Hopefully we bore fruit with each other...lead by example we did...saw Christ in each other we did. The car was re-combobulated the next day (can one re-combobulate something?) and all was well (Thanks to a very timely Christmas Gift).


The third conversation happened this morning. Neal, Joe and I get together every Friday morning. These are two of my favorite people and I'm more than privileged to know them. We talked about "getting it right" this morning for awhile. I'm giving a sermon on Sunday and I told them that I couldn't believe how hard it was sometimes to practice what I preach! Lead by example. By my fruits they shall know me. The other guys gave their own examples and it went on like that. More importantly though, none of us are individualists...at least we're learning not to be. These guys have their careers, lives and their moments let me tell you, but they are connected by the hip to the body of Christ knowing that communal living achieves personal growth more fluently, more efficiently and more abundantly--I'm tellin you I'm watching and learning--others probably are too--live by example.

So, now the song--"All Men Will Know" by Acappella. I learned of the song this morning and absolutely loved the song.  I don't believe in accidents. I've seen too many examples this month where one's example seemed to play out in front of me like a vision. I think I was supposed to reflect on what all men should see in me and what I enjoy seeing in you. Sometimes I expect better of myself, sometimes I expect better of you but at all times we live life together. Today I'm grateful for the opportunity. All men will know, all men will find, all men will see that I am His.

Just listen to the song.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Life in the present

My turn to write a blog!  Rick has been after me for quite some time to contribute.  So... after 95 entries (give or take) here is my first contribution (I dare not expect he'll let it be my last!)

I could write about resolutions... it's that time of year.
I could write about what happened over the holidays -- visits with friends and family, presents and the real meaning of Christmas.
I could write about what trips we have taken during the past year (or more)
I could write about work, motorcycles and other bikes, being tired of snow and ready for spring, or how much fun I have on Facebook.

Instead, I shall write about a brief lifetime of lessons learned.

Lessons Learned:
  • A car accident can change so much...  a career, functionality, pain levels, contact with doctors, new knowledge, sleep
  • You can't plan your life, you must just live it or you will always wish to be somewhere or some time else
  • God is not safe, but I am safe in His hand... He will do His will and it may be painful, wonderful or sad, but no matter what, the evil one can never snatch me away from my Father.
  • Friends are dear and should be told such things...  what years may have been wasted or lost as I have learned how to be a friend, to be sweet and loving, to strive to show my true feelings to my dear friends.
  • I have an amazing husband... a man of strength, of deep character, loyalty, love and adoration for his God, his wife and his family & friends.
  • Life is about the little things... the stories of friends, sharing a moment or a memory, a hug, a back rub, the sympathy from your dog, an unexpected word, card or gift, a backyard firepit, the amazing simplicity of nature in all of its complexity
And yet, with all the lessons learned from the past and my hopes for the future, I am watching a movie with my dearest love tonight.  He gently strokes my hair and I need nothing more.  Life is to be lived in the present.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Wind

The words in the song say something like "Party like it's 1969". I can't even remember who wrote it. There's an old Blues tune by the same name. New Year's Eve I partied like it was 1939. I did. The average age of the party was somewhere well over 60.

Christmas celebrations define a time "when", right? At least Christians celebrate an event which doesn't move. It is the birth of Christ. The events within that story happened within that year. The birth of Christ didn't happen one year and then again ten years later. Even if you celebrate a winter soltice, or a fat guy in a fat suit riding in a fat sleigh with energetic reindeer, including one with a shiny nose, they all have something in common. They don't change. Soltice is, we know that. Santa never ages or grows any fatter (but who can really tell at 2 a.m. when he slides down your chimney right?). New Year's is different. In fact it's the only celebration that celebrates the passage of time, not the time "when". Even your own birthdays mark the day you were born, a day frozen in time. New Year's feels like wind. We're prompted to set resolutions, talk about the unknown, relish in all that was last year with friends, family and hoards of New Year's letters received and written. We don't just get cake and a favorite meal, we celebrate with feasts of great magnitude! There are a great many songs about the New Year and only one about my birthday.

And so it was the New Year's Eve. We partied like it was 1939. We'd invited some of our younger friends, but none could come for one reason or another. So I partied with Don, Herm, Jerry, Glen and others, most who've seen a much greater life span than I. Oh, I played games and messed with the tots that night of course. I had a busy and playful night. But I loved my time with the old guys.

They remembered a day back here or there. Days when Newton Iowa was this way or that way. They remembered days when simple illnesses were major events. I heard one story about life before World War II and I found out that people's attitudes or ways of being weren't much different than they are now. So these old guys--I suppose some of them only have a grunt of life left in their bodies. But we talked, smiled, laughed and groaned about the winds that blew on other days well beyond my memory and I'm glad for it. I studied history in school, but I experienced some of it on New Year's Eve. Don begins many of his sentences with "Well ya know" and Glen often starts with "Why..." and not in question form either..."Why, back when I was 13 we worked..." and so on. They pray in "thee's" and "thou's" and a person like myself learns a little about reverence that way...yearns for that kind of reverence even.

I learned about days before fast food, a time when everyone had a garden and no one minded weeding and everyone loved to sneak a strawberry off the plant as they worked. The stories were blissfully familiar to them. I nodded and laughed as if I understood the wisdom offered by time. I told a few of my last year's motorcycle stories and Yellowstone stories and others, and they nodded and laughed too; maybe I gained some street cred, like twelve year old Jesus at the Synagogue.  But then they remembered riding their own bikes, about how mechanics weren't around every corner, about how they had to figure it out themselves. I'm thankful for mechanics...but I can see how I might benefit without them.

These guys are somewhat trapped by yesteryear and overwhelmed by today and yet tonight they'll all watch the six-o'clock news in digital high definition without wondering much about "where it all went."

But I'm thankful for winds, for parties with old and wise guys who are my old and wise friends, and I'm thankful for the day after, simply because I was with them. But I'm most thankful for the stories. Maybe one day a young lad will sit by my side listening to me regale about my own days--about the winds I remember.

So it was a great night and an unexpected night. The clock struck twelve, we prayed together, I kissed my lovely bride, and drank my champagne.  Then I lay in bed and I thought of the old guys. I would've enjoyed the company our usual crowd, the "yunguns" the old timers call us.  But as it was we might not have spent much time isolated into our own young circle because the golden morsels leaving the lips of the old guys would've mesmerized them too. I hope I remember the things I learned this New Year's night. I hope to party with them again because that is a great, fun, funny, knowledgeable group of guys. And I hope that every time I go outside, that I can hear the wind blow.