Sixteen And Never Been…..

Today is the day. The day my one and only son turns 16. For such a small number it looms so large in my mind.

Sixteen years ago he quite literally spilled into this world and forever turn mine and his mother’s world upside down. It rained bath tubs the day he was born.  You’d have thought it was the second coming of the biblical Noah it rained so much.  I remember how mad your mom was that your birth came on a Friday the 13th and here we are again, full circle, on a Friday and the 13th.

I’m not really a superstitious man. I don’t worry about black cats or ladders or most any of the other common superstitions. That being said I’d still never touch the chalk lines coming in or going out to the field playing ball. For all the ideas people may pontificate on regarding your birth date, they can generally agree on several things.

My boy is a good boy. Full of silliness and as much so as any young man of sixteen years, but in all a good boy. My boy is kindhearted. He has always had a soft spot for people and particularly those who may not be the pinnacle of what society holds as worthy. He tends toward the underdog, the lesser, the marginalized. His heart just works that way and it makes his mom and dad very proud.  My boy is strong. Not strong so much in the physical sense of the word but in the moral context. He has his weaknesses as all do, but when it comes to justice and rightness, he is strong and he exerts that strength in a quiet and gentle manner that proves formidable when the times call for it. I’ve seen him defend the defenseless, be a protector of the weak and friend to the outcast many times and many more that I haven’t seen but only heard about. My boy is strong. My boy is also funny. Sick sense of humor and all. He continues to hone the craft of a well turned phrase. Not always successfully but then again, he is only sixteen. Feel free to ask him what the most important thing in comedy is.

Such a small number but there are volumes in that number. Page upon page of growing, and doing, and being, and living, laughing, crying, and flying. I marvel at this thing I see. I marvel that I am able to be so close to something so magical and marvelous. Mystery and revelation rolled into one. I marvel that I am given this thing to love with a passion that escapes my ability to express it. That moment when I say goodbye each morning to hear him say with that little upward lilt at the end “I love you too”. That is enough to allow me to face down the ridiculousness of what is to walk in this world with all its brokenness. I marvel that such a creature could love me back, as broken as I am.

Silly saying, “Sixteen and never been kissed.”  I’m under the assumption the boy has been kissed and that if he is reading this he is grinning that grin and turning a shade or two of red. I know this however.  He is sixteen and…never been loved more. Every age of my kids is my favorite age. Memories are precious, but the now is the thing. The now of my boy being sixteen is awesome to me. He’ll drive soon. He’ll be away from us more as time goes on. He’ll go to college, meet “the” girl, marry, and maybe, if he’s really blessed, raise a boy of his own. Those are hallmarks of larger numbers than sixteen and many days into the future. For now sixteen is big enough.

He has a very busy weekend this weekend with other responsibilities besides a birthday, but I hope he knows and never forgets. Noah, we love you with a love that transcends ages and epochs, the barriers of time and space, and physics. We are proud of you and have only the highest hopes for you and your future. You are crossing a milestone. Continue to walk as your namesake walked, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; and Noah walked with God.”

Happy sixteenth birthday son. I love you.

Daddy

So this is Christmas…..

So this is Christmas, what have we done….

It’s been a long ago day when John Lennon sang those words. As I sit here on the morning of Christmas Eve in the silence of my pre-dawn home. The wife, the kids and even the dogs are all still studying the insides of their eyelids.

I’m struck by the world I live in. On one hand the daily do of living with a wife, two kids, now two dogs, a mortgage, a job and all the other cacophony of “stuff” that invades and pervades this experience that I call a life.  On the other hand, the world at large. Terror, war, anger, racism, bigotry, perversion, deceit, and brokenness on so many strata that it defies the ability to number them.

So this is Christmas. Me safe in my own little world within a world. Watching over me and mine. Hoping more than praying that all will progress well. While the rest of the world tries diligently and consistently to destroy itself in every form imaginable. So this is Christmas.

What have we done? I’m going to resist the easy path of pointing fingers at the world and naming the litany of ways it has diverge from a path that could have held it together if not allowed it to be or at least seem more humane. That’s way too easy. No, I think I’ll just realize and state it, to my own shame, that for the world to be better, I must be better. For me to be better is to be more like Jesus Christ. You may remember that man. He has lent his name to the season we are currently celebrating.

So how do I do that? How do I be more like Christ? A profound question indeed. It will be different for me in many ways than for you reading this. Some ways will be the same. I need to read, understand and apply His word more and use my words less. I need to think as He has shown me to think more and lean on my own understanding less. I need to put away my own sense of self. My perceived rights to be honored, to have a station or position in this world. He must increase and I must decrease. I need to make more of him  and less of me. When I am slandered, or mistreated or tested severely; I need to remember that these trials will bring about endurance and perseverance and that these will in turn bring about a peace that this world will not understand.

I am here for only a little while. I am praying that God will, through the work of His Holy Spirit, produce in me not only a faith, but a walk, a lifestyle, that will not just make me better, but will make the world better. Not just from the outside, or for the now, but for all eternity.

So this is Christmas, what have you done……

Merry Christmas.  May you have a very happy New Year.

And a hush fell over the crowd…

Literally. I was a little taken aback by the silence of visitors to the blog over the past few days and wondered aloud although to myself if it was the topic choices for the last few posts or just a general malaise in readership.

I have to believe it is the subject matter. Now, let me be very careful here. I’m fine with the silence on some levels. I suppose I’m not unlike most anyone who has a blog. One would be encouraged by visits and likes and comments and subscriptions. I am a man, and unfortunately at times, a man with a level of pride.  So when things went silent in this particular part of my world, I reflected instead of reacting.

The question to myself was why do I even have the blog. I started it to get somethings out of my head and in a format that I could share with others and refer back to for myself and hopefully say, I helped someone with my thoughts and words. I believe there is a level of narcissism in every blogger. What we have to say is important enough to take the time to craft it and write it. So it must be important to others because, well, we thought of it, wrote it and shared it with the greater world.

Is what I have to say really that important? In matters of hiking and hammocks, am I really going to change the life of another person in a significant manner? Who knows, but in my own estimation, not likely. In matters of sharing my life experiences, is that really going to do anything for another person other than perhaps make them laugh, either at me or with me, or say to themselves, “I hear ya brother. Been there, seen that, got the T-shirt”. I can spend a great deal of time talking on several topics about which I have a world of experience and knowledge by the sheer fact of my age and time put in.  Will any of that change someones life in a significant manner? Sincerely? I doubt that.

In matters of faith, I feel differently. I have to. I have every reason to believe that the sharing of the Gospel, the good news, is that revolutionary, that life altering, that eternity changing that for me to not speak about it or on it would be a tragedy. I mean, how much would I need to hate someone to withhold something that could improve their life here, now and offer them an eternity as well? Take heaven out of it and just look at the emotional, psychological and practical benefits of following Christ. How much must I hate someone, anyone, everyone to keep that to myself and just hope they make it through?  You say you don’t hate people and I believe you but do you keep silent if you see someone about to walk obliviously in front of a bus? Or drink something you know to be lethal? I think you wouldn’t. I hope you wouldn’t.

Postings about my faith aren’t about what I’m doing right then. They are about who I am. Faith is not what I do. It is who I am. It affects and informs every part of my life both casual and serious. The other stuff I post on is what I’m doing. Faith is what I am being. There is a huge difference.

This post was not an opportunity to vent or wag my digital finger at the world of WordPress and it’s bloggers. More to reassure and reaffirm why I even bother doing this. I want to share some of who I am. The narcissist, the outdoors-man, the tinkerer, the philosopher, and the man of faith. If that helps someone then, wow, what a bonus. If no one reads this or a million people read it, then so be it. In the end, the only person I owe an explanation to is God above. That day is coming, sooner than I would like, or perhaps not soon enough some days. He is my rock and my fortress. My ever present help. His steadfast love endures forever. I want everyone to know Him as I know Him and I want to know Him more deeply today than yesterday.

So, I’ll keep talking. Hopefully, someone will listen. In the hush….I KNOW God is listening.

Praying the Word – Part deux

So by this time, if you read the last blog post, you’ve had a few days of singing the names of God and getting familiar with each one. I hope that part has been beneficial to you and your walk with God.

Now I want to suggest one more addition to the process you already have going. That is praying the Word in line with the Word. Proverbs 28:9 says,”He that turneth away his ear from the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.” What that means to me is that if I want God to hear my prayers it would be to my benefit to know what His word says about what I need to be praying about.

There are two types of word. There is LOGOS meaning the expression of thought or the spoken word. All of the Bible is the word of God, the living word.  An example of this is John 1:1, 14 “In the beginning was the Word….and the Word was made flesh. Also, John 15:3 You are made clean through the word…  Next there is RHEMA or the quickened word. The Holy Spirit quickens all logos to make it rhema. Romans 10:17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

With that in mind it is important to have a cross wise  method to how we live and relate to creation. There is a vertical relationship with God and a horizontal relationship with man and the rest of God’s creation. This is where you picture in your minds eye the cross of Christ and you will see both of those relationships in unison.

In the last post I asked the question, “How many times have you wished you could hear God speak to you in an audible voice.”  Well see if this doesn’t make sense to you. If the Bible is the very word of God, the logos, then when we read the word of God out loud, we are hearing the voice of God in an audible way. I’ll be quick to point out that I am not God and neither are you, however, scripture tells us that “God inhabits the praise of His people.” So when I read God’s word aloud, hear that word, pray it back to God and act on it, I am taping into a unique and personal power source that is at once engaging and reviving.

Okay, I hear you. Great concept, but tell me how this works in practical terms. This is really easy. God in his infinite wisdom has allowed us to arrange a calendar, in general terms to have, on average, 30 days in a month. So at the writing of this post, this is the 3rd day of March. Today I went to Psalms 3 and began reading aloud. As I read that very short chapter, I used my eyes, ears, voice and was completely engaged in what I was doing. No drifting, no wandering thoughts. Just me and the audible voice of God. If there was a particular part of that chapter that the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart, after reading the entire chapter aloud, I went back and prayed that verse or section back to God and poured out my heart to Him about what the word was saying to me, asking me to do, or making me to think about. It may have something to do with my heart, my thought life, my kids or wife or my relationship to others in my life. Once done with that chapter, I add 30 to it and go to Psalms 33 and repeat the process. Each morning I go through 5 chapters of Psalms. Today’s was Psalm 3, 33, 63, 93 and 123.  This is the vertical relationship of my prayer time.  Next I do one chapter of Proverbs. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so one for each day of the month.  Reading through Proverbs 3 in the same manner as I did in the Psalms. This will generally speak to the horizontal relationship  with man and the rest of God’s creation.

One thing I noticed is that this process doesn’t really take me that long. The length of time is not the matter but rather the quality of the time I spend with God doing this. I am ingesting His word, hearing God speak directly to me through His word about my relationship to him and the world around me, and praying His word back to Him. There is no way my prayer time will be an abomination in this process. I am looking fully and deeply into the face of God, the very character of the almighty. I find it difficult to be in the presence of God and walk away unchanged. Truly, this is what a daily time with God is for. To be more like Him and less like a creature of the world.

I hope you will try this and will comment on what your experience is with the process. May God use this in a mighty way to bring revival to your life and draw you daily into the presence of the Most High.

Hills Worth Dying For; the Work Edition

In the interest of full disclosure, one should know that while I am not old, I am what most would by definition consider “old school”.  I’m even a little put off by the term because it at once classifies me and labels the current and sub-current generations of working men. Depending on your perspective, a compliment to me and an indictment of the latter.  It should be noted that the converse could also be the case.

I grew up a milkman’s kid and so accordingly I worked the route with my Dad in the summer time and got a free education on work ethic, square dealing, taking care of people in general not just because they are your customer and flirting with every woman every place we went regardless of how pretty (or not) she was.  These things were and still are of great value to me in my daily life. Especially flirting with women.

From all of that education I developed a sense of responsibility to those who employed me.  I work for them and a pay check but there is a sense of honor and dignity that drives me to make their business better and to protect it from any danger, including from within, sometimes it’s own ownership.

Now before you think I’m patting myself on the back or singing my praises or before any of you start to pat me on the back or sing my praise, know that I see this as a blessing and not of myself. I will give all the praise that may come from this work “style” to God. I am fully aware that He has orchestrated my life and my life experiences to yield this vary trait and non of this is original to me. If I am a gifted vessel it is because He has made me so.  Nothing more.

My previous job was a hell on earth.  I ran operations for a furniture start up in another state for the better part of two yeasr.  Why would I do it if it was hell?  Well, like most things, it didn’t start out that way. It started out great and over time I was given more responsibility and asked to do more leadership in the company.  The trouble began when I saw issues coming up that needed to be addressed by ownership and key decisions made to further the company.  I spoke frankly but respectfully to ownership about it and was continually told, “We appreciate all that you are doing for us and we understand what you need.  Just hang in there with us a little longer and we’ll get there.”  Problem was these were promises that would not be kept.  The ownership team had a difference of opinions on how the company should be set up, which business plan we would follow, how we should buy product, and many more minor issues but all of it added up to a dysfunctional vision for where the company was going and I was tasked with making all of it run as smoothly as possible.  If it had four legs and someone could sit on it or two legs and worked in the place, I was responsible for it. This included the physical buildings as well. To say that it was frustrating to be held responsible but be completely unheard when I showed them clearly and plainly what the issues were and how to resolve them, would be a gross understatement.  Add to that the fact that my family were still living in another state some 500 miles away and I was able to see them, at best, every other weekend.

The tragedy was that I let it all get to me. It turned me into a person I hated, was ashamed off and I took a few really good people down with me. I was able to part ways with the company reasonably but the damage was done.

I managed to get back home with the family and was fortunate to find a job quickly (at less than half what I was making) that was pretty much the exact opposite of the stress level I was under in the previous job.  It was about this time that I discovered hammocks and rediscovered camping and this was a great benefit in the healing process. It’s a small company but definitely a leader in their market and I have been able to bring a lot of experience and productive processes to the table to help them grow and support the growth over the last three years.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago where I hit the wall so to speak.  I had been advising ownership for the better part of three years that they needed to get their personal “junk” out of the warehouse.  It was taking up valuable real estate and was not generating revenue for the business.  I had also been telling them for the better part of two years that the time was quickly approaching when the warehouse would be maxed out due to current levels of buying and greatly increased sales.  All, falling on deaf ears. It all came to a head when several weeks ago I’m literally stacking merchandise where I can, still factory wrapped, un-inspected because there is no where to put anything more in the warehouse. To further exacerbate the issue, we had a record January meaning we would have record receipts in February and there was no where to receive it.  I spoke politely but frankly to my boss and the owners and reminded them that I was being held responsible for all this but was not being given the assistance I needed and had asked for two years running.  I then reminded them that I quit a job that paid me more than double what I was making now for the same reason.

Was I really willing to quit because no one would listen to me? Yes, yes I was. Not out of spite or anger but out of an understanding that I had been in that same position just a few short years ago. Tasked with a particular responsibility and held accountable for the results but not given the tools to do it with or listened to when asking for help.  There will be some that would say I should have taken more control and just done what needed to be done.  Others will say I should have sucked it up and done the best I could.  Well, they may be right. The point is I’m old school. I’m willing to be accountable, to make the hard decisions and be held responsible if it all goes to, well, you know.  I take it seriously, perhaps too much so, and I don’t compromise on this.  I simply don’t know how to.  Too much milkman’s kid in me to do it any other way.

For me, to not become what I had seen myself become in that previous job (a grade A jerk), to not have to go through the pain and shame of what happened there, was a hill worth dying for. There are and will be others.  The thing is I can only recognize them by past experience and staying grounded in the word of God.  To know truth and what is good and holy and righteous and of good repute is only found by studying the genuine article.  When they train Treasury agents to spot counterfeits, they don’t use counterfeits, they use the genuine article. They study and know the real deal bill so completely, they can spot a fake a mile away.

I’m still doing the same job, but I’m working hard to make sure that I not only protect and prosper the company but also protect myself as well.  May God grant me the grace and wisdom to know which hills are worth dying for.

Dreaming

    Perhaps you have found yourself in this frame of mind.  You’re not happy but you’re not sad. You’re glad to be where you are but wish you could be somewhere else. Your job is just that, a job. You’d love to be doing something else, something that makes a difference, that brings you a level of satisfaction that, to this point, you have not experienced, but you don’t know what that would be.

This is an awkward thing. This feeling of no feeling that one is feeling. I was fortunate enough to have some extra time at the holidays and was away from work for about 12 days. December was a good month to be certain. Plenty of time with family and some time in the woods camping as well as the normal joys that go with the holidays. I was able to get some areas of my life back on track, specifically my relationship with my Savior, and was able to have a consistent time of study and reflection in God’s word every day in the month of December.  This is a great thing as it had been far too long.  Longer than I will put in print, that I had been that consistent or willing or dedicated.  It was a very good time of grace and soul searching and thinking.

In the midst of that thinking and choosing some things to study on and think more deeply about, I came across a book that simply called out to me.  There is no better way to explain it than it called to me. “You need to read this.  This is something that you need to seriously consider.”  Now, I’m not going to tell you the name of the book.  If you want to know, reply to the blog and I’ll send you the info in an email.  I don’t want you to rush off to see what the book is about before you hear what it has me thinking about.

Now the quick ones will guess from the title of the post that it is about dreaming.  Specifically it is about finding your God-given dream.  It’s significant, because I haven’t dream like that for the last two decades.  That’s a scary thing to acknowledge and an even scarier thing to live through. I’m obviously not speaking of the dreams we have at night when we sleep but rather the dreams one has of the life they will live, the difference they will make and the joy that living and fulfilling that dream will bring. 

Two decades. 20 years of not dreaming. 240 months of believing that dream was no longer available to me. 7,300 + days of telling oneself that past, that perceived failure was greater than God’s ability to bring me back to the dream; or better yet, fashion a new dream for me to dream. Sounds so ridiculous when you type it on a page like that. Who believes something like that for so long? I did. Chances are if you’ve read this far, you have too.

In the book there is a quote that says, “When your memories exceed your dreams, your usefulness in life is over.”.  At first blush the statement seems a bit fatalistic. Anything that ends with “your life is over” qualifies as fatalistic in my book. What it meant to me was that my memories, not just the mess ups and perceived failures, but the memories of my greater moments and successes were dominating my thinking.  I couldn’t dream because I was spending all my energy longing for, analyzing, and reliving the past. Dreams are only found in the future. Never in the past. I wanted what was but it was unfulfilled longing. A bitter anguish for something that was deader than dead and completely and utterly unattainable. 

Perhaps you have felt this.  While going along with your day, doing as one always does, a thought, a memory of the past pops in your head. A memory of a past mistake, something you did or said that you regret. This happens when I’m reading or thinking on things of God especially.  This is the devil.  Bringing to mind the past. Waving every failure, every slight, every mistake in our lives as a flag of shame and regret to distract me from the things of God and from dreaming.”You’re not worthy to dream, he says. You can’t have that because you have never been what God wants you to be.  You’ve never been good enough.” He is a buzzing gnat, a masterful liar, a diligent pest.  He’s the dream eater.  But then….

God steps forward to remind me. Remind me I am worthy enough that He sent His only Son Jesus to take the penalty for all my sins. To purchase for me a hope. He knows the plans He has for me, to prosper me, not to harm me. God is the dream creator.  So here I am dreaming dreams again.  It’s difficult.  Two decades of rust are hard to shake loose.  What is the dream?  Not gonna tell ya.  It’s for me to know. God is revealing it in many ways. There is a dream for my family, a dream for my career, a dream for things I believe He wants me to experience and a dream for how He wants me to minister to those around me. Yes, two decades of rust is hard to shake loose but shake it loose I am.  The joy is in the journey they say. There is joy in discovering that I can dream again. There’s joy in relying on my Savior to show me anything. Everything. So….dream a little dream with me……. And when the devil brings those thoughts, that past, that regret to mind. Look to the Father and say, “Daddy, he’s touching me again. Make him stop. Thank you daddy.” and dream.

Todd (aka DaddyDaddy)