Poem: For Those in the Midst of the Ordinary

I’m up early, having given Luke a bottle, and I thought I would try to blog before heading off to work. It’s not turning out to be so easy. I’m out of the habit, and I don’t feel like I have anything to say. Life has not been particularly eventful (trip to the hospital aside), but it has been full: Full of children, family, work, and home. Full of the ordinary. Those occasional moments of emptiness have made way for a crossword with Kerri, not blogging.

Not that I feel bad for any of this. It is, however, a bit odd. I look back, and I know my mind has been turning. I’ve been reading and thinking. I just don’t have anything to show for it here. (At least not now.)

I know what I’ll do. I’ll offer a prayer and a poem:

For those in the midst of the ordinary,

Those whose days are bound up in the mundane,

I have neither the wisdom to explain

Nor pow’r to alter. With you I tarry.

With you I sit. Common scenes pass our eyes,

and well-worn phrases pass between our lips.

‘Tis same, walking this path of many trips

‘Til sun sets. And when ‘morrow sun does rise,

We walk and speak just as we did before,

Common days and common lives lived once more.

What I Wanted To Hear

I heard a sermon in the last few weeks on marriage, something like “Three Reasons Marriages Fail and Four Steps To a Sound Marriage.” The specific church isn’t important, because I’m fairly sure the same sermon would have been delivered almost all of the churches we have recently visited. I heard everything I expected to but not everything I hoped to, so I write the following not to gripe (I hope.) but to think baldly.

Here’s what was covered:

  • God’s hope and heart are for marriages to be lasting commitments, even if they don’t always work out that way.
  • Christian religion has in the past pushed divorcees to the sidelines, rendering them second-class citizens.
  • God offers grace and forgiveness for the wrongs and failures committed in marriage.
  • God wants people to do right in their present circumstances regardless of the past. Furthermore, God wants divorcees to do right by their previous spouses even if they have remarried.

All this was expected. The second point, regarding Christianity’s tendency to exclude, had the potential to surpass my expectation, but it failed. It came across very them vs. us: they, other Christians exclude; but we are different.

Here is what I had hoped to hear:

I wanted to hear someone say there are times when divorce might just be the best available option, and not just in obvious circumstances involving physical abuse or serial adultery. Is divorce bad? Yes. Does it damage individuals? Yes, everyone connected to a divorce, from spouses and children to friends and even acquaintances, is damaged without exception. But there are times when the continuation of a marriage would cause even greater damage. Could these cancerous marriages have been prevented? Perhaps, but they weren’t; so we must live and we must wrestle with God’s hope and heart in the midst of the reality we find ourselves in.

I wanted to hear someone acknowledge that real life is always gray. Hopefully, it is an ever lightening canvas as God’s White Kingdom is ushered in, but between this day and the day when the Kingdom comes in fullness life is gray. I wanted someone to say that in the gray of today there are no easy steps to anything, much less anything good and godly, because the lives that God interrupts are messed up and because God must be pursued by people who are messed up in a world that is messed up.

I can imagine two likely reasons these things weren’t said. First, I suspect most don’t buy it. Not really. Their espoused beliefs in the Here-But-Not-Yet Kingdom and of process sanctification are betrayed subtly and, I think, in some cases unknowingly by a religion that only perceives a binary world, a world where the life of faith must be a pure white pixel in the blackness of humanity. In this religion there is no room for process and progress, for – dare I use the term? – the evolution of one’s soul. Those few who might believe otherwise, must be under extreme pressure not to say such things. It is a boat not easily rocked.

“It’s a license to divorce!” the critics will cry.

“No,” I say, “it’s a realistic assessment of the world, of marriage, and of life.”

This is what I wanted to hear.

Neighborhood Group Continues

This was just the sort of encouragement I’ve been needing. Our Neighborhood Group is getting together this evening.

Three weeks after the last official Harvest service;

Nearly two months after we last met;

And, perhaps most importantly to me, without any effort or prompting by me.

Apparently something of what I was trying to start was valued. Or, perhaps they want to get together in spite of what I did to form the group, which is even better; because then I can only say that something of God is coming thru.

(BTW – A variety of family illnesses prevented us from hopping over to Beavercreek Christian Church last week. We’ll try again this Sunday, and I’ll blog about it next week.)

Stumbling Toward Faith – Virtual Book Tour Stop

I have a confession.

I’m bald.

No, seriously. The photo of me that adorns my home page has not been retouched, airbrushed, or Photoshopped in any way. I really do have less hair than most newborns. Now you know.

“Bald Man Blogging” – it’s not just a clever name.

So, what does this have to do with Renée’s book? Simple.

This blog is about living openly. I started it as part of a deliberate attempt to live my life more transparently. It is an opportunity for me to process life with an online community. You’ve probably noticed this blog is not anonymous. If you’ve dropped in over the past year, you’ve seen my church struggle and experiment, my daughter grow, my son be born, and my father-in-law pass away, to name but a few. You’ve also heard me think out loud, pray out loud, struggle out loud. This is intentional.

Furthermore, I have tried to use this blog as a springboard to living more transparently in my physical communities. It’s easier for me to write openly, and I’ve tried to let blogging give me courage to carry that openness into the physical community around me. Just as I am a Bald Man Blogging, I have tried to be a Bald Man Living. That is, I have tried to live uncovered, honestly, just as I am.

It’s a dangerous thing to do, to let others into your inner-most parts. It requires trust and faith far beyond reason. The deepest pain is caused by those inside our armor. But, this is the only way, in my opinion, for us to experience life as God intends. The deepest healing, love, and joy are only brought by those we allow inside our armor, too. Life is meant to be shared. Life is meant for community. Life is meant to be lived baldly.

This brings me to Renée.

On her blog and in her book, she has dared to let us into her life. She has invited us in to her pain and the abuse of her past. She has allowed us to walk beside her as she Stumbled Toward Faith. Why? I’ll let her answer in her own words:

i grew up in a world where everything was hidden. my father told me “not to write anything negative down” and i truly believed that if i did, it meant that i wasn’t a christian. i tried to write things in veiled terms in my journals, but i still remember coming home from school and having to pick through the garbage and the thrown out lettuce and bones to get the pieces of my writings that had been torn out of my diaries because they had been deemed unacceptable.

i started writing on the net in 1997. it was the beginning of the “online journal” phenomenon and i felt like i had something to say. i think the first responses to those first posts were what helped me keep going. i received affirmation, not only for my writing, but for what i was saying. for the first time, i really felt like it was okay to express how i felt. and as other people wrote in with their experiences and responses, i began to find this community of friends and survivors and i discovered that i wasn’t alone.
after awhile it became easier to write online than in private, and while there were certainly some things that i processed out of the public eye, i began to see the benefit to telling my story to others, and began to accept the input that others had for me.
it was the beginning of a lack of shame, too. i realised that i was accepted, regardless of the things i wrote down.

Loneliness is, perhaps, the worst of all conditions. I don’t mean to degrade any of the suffering Renée experienced, but I cannot help to think that it would have been more bearable had she not suffered alone, had she not been closed off from community. As you read her story, you will meet people who succeeded – many times, it seems, intentionally – in compounding her pain thru isolation. Fortunately, you will also hear of the occasional person who was willing to enter into her life, encounters in which hope was sown, in which faith began to germinate.

Struggling. Stumbling. Doubting. Fearing. Raging. We can bear all these, if we have someone to bear them with, someone to sympathize, to affirm, to accept. Renée has bravely opened her life to us all. For that, I thank her; and to you I commend her book.

The Stumbling Toward Faith Virtual Book Tour will be going on all month. Blog hop with Renée and the rest of us.

Monday’s Stop: Tall Skinny Kiwi
Tuesday’s Stop: Latina Liz

Previous Stops: Real Live Preacher, U2 Sermons, and Jordon Cooper.com

Amazon link: Stumbling Toward Faith
Youth Specialties link (YS will donate one dollar for each purchase made thru this link to Becky’s House.)

Vacation Over

Back from vacation. Enjoyed a week in south-central… Georgia, that is. Visited my folks. Read a couple books. Sat on the porch.

Received some generous birthday gifts that put me over the top in my iBook fund. i am now the pproud owner of a 14″ iBook (w/ AirPort) and a 15GB iPod. I don’t know if I look any cooler, but I sure feel cooler.

Hopefully I’ll get the WiFi at Panera figured out this week.

Being Daddy

Real Live Preacher’s latest Soft Story from a Small Church sent me remembering last night.

I got home from a frustrating day at work, and Kerri had to run out for a meeting. Samantha (3 years), Jacob (6-months last Sunday) and I (29 years in June) fended for ourselves, starting with dinner. Jake is really into eating, but I was a little suprised when he ate a big bowl of oatmeal, 1/2 a jar of carrots and an 8-oz bottle. He did fill his diaper during the meal, so maybe he had a little extra room. Not so much. The last four ounces of the bottle were kindly returned. He barely hit his pants, but my shirt and shorts were covered.

A quick change later, and the three of us were in the backyard. Samantha and I argued over whether “dandi-flowers” were or were not weeds, (The matter remains unsettled; I continue to dig them out by the roots, and she gives them new homes.) and Jake took everything in on a crisp spring evening. We were chatting over the fence to the neighbor, when Jake decided he didn’t want all his carrots. Returning a few, he once again nicked only the edge of his shirt while covering me.

By now it was eight, and that means bedtime. Samantha went potty (Did I mention she had back-to-back accidents for Kerri at nap time?) and put on her jammies, while I changed my clothes. Now that lunch carrots were fully thru his system, Jake needed another diaper change. After a bedtime story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, we settled into Samantha’s full-size bed to snuggle. Then came the moment when it’s worth getting puked on… twice.

I lay on my back with Jacob’s limp body draped across my chest. His breathing was unaturally slow for him on his own, but it synched up perfectly with my own easy breaths. Samantha lay next to us, her head on my shoulder and her hand on Jacob’s head. For a moment all was at peace, and then Samantha had to go potty again.

I hope the Preacher’s church always has boys around to give him glimpses of Elliot.