Monday, November 03, 2008

Confetti of Leaves

Like most days, my birthday began like any other week day. Alarm clock echoes NPR. Up, shower, shave, eat, and walk with my son to school. We always talk along the way. I prefer the days when we walk instead of the cold days or "late" days when we are forced into a quick, buckled car ride to school. In-out-in and off again. But the walks, these walks are windows to the soul of my son and often illuminate the world beyond. The Abilene wind was blowing in bursts. We walked under a tree and a gust loosened hundreds of amber yellow leaves descending to life separated from the tree. Leaves embraced us like a New York street parade of confetti. I turned down to Nathan, whose hand I would soon let go to float into his classroom, "It is confetti from God, Nathan." He looked back up and said, "God must have known it was your birthday." After a hug, we released each other to our days apart. Just another day, one more day removed from our birth - another day vibrant in the parade of life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Day Al Died

My friend Al died. He died on the day my son was born seven years ago. Al was 50 years old when he died, but in my life he was only 3 1/2. Life. Death. Dates to remember of beginning and ending. The dash between two dates is all that marks life. One date a birth the other a death. These dates are only two of thousands of other dates: conception, marriage, birth of children, graduations, cancer diagnosis, baptism, newspaper articles published, and more (read more about Al). Just over three years ago I witnessed first hand Al and his wife Val experiencing a rebirth. We were surrounded in water. They admitted life was better with Jesus. They were willing to die to themselves and embrace an eternal life with God. I was there, right there. The change in their life was a joy to behold because we were seeing God at work in our human frailty. But then there was the surgery, the diagnosis, the treatments, and the prognosis. I am sad that six months to live turned out to be six weeks. I am sad his family must say, "goodbye for now." Still I will cling to the same hope that Al showed me. Life is better with God. Death is better in God. Just as Al will go on living beyond death, so I will go on living through death.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Doctor from Community

Not everyone can become a "doctor." It takes years and in some cases decades to become a medical doctor. I will never become an M.D. It just is not in me. I'm not the kind of "doctor" who can help anyone physically. This past weekend I received my diploma for having completed my doctorate in ministry and spirituality. No, I cannot serve in the ER nor can I prescribe any medicine (well, I am now prescribing Tylenol and all forms of over the counter cough medicine . . . but no one is paying me for that).

Whatever one does, it cannot be done alone. It always takes a community of people. I was blessed this weekend that all of my immediate extended family on both sides (except for my grandparents) traveled to Pasadena for my commencement. While I actually finished my degree in March, the ceremony was in June and became the excuse for a huge vacation to Southern California.

It was a great trip at every turn - days at Disneyland, afternoon at Huntington Library Gardens, day at the beach, Price is Right, Jay Leno, dinners, lunches, 15 passenger van rides through LA, Dallas Willard speaking at the hooding, Richard Mouw speaking at commencement, having all my family together - it was all great. It made me realize over and over again that I could never do this alone. We are not self-made people. We are a community. Even if I had no wife, kids, parents or family, I could not "educate myself." It takes a community of students and professors and administrators to make that happen. Life is community even among the most reclusive of individuals.

I thank my wife and kids who were my immediate community. I thank my parents and sister who were my first community. I thank my in laws who adopted me into their community. I thank my brother in laws who are brothers in love. I thank my niece and nephews who show me that community keeps going beyond us. I thank the one whose echo invigorates the human soul. Doctors are doctors of nothing without a community of people to serve and be served by.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Beach Math (or "Springing Thoughts" pt. 2)

Talking with Nathan or Lizzie is like looking into a deep spring well and wondering, "where do do these waters come from." The wisdom of a child flows from unseen places. It causes wrinkled adult eyes to take a double glance and wonder at the ripples.

As Nathan and I enjoyed the cool breezes of Huntington beach as we dug into the hot sand, here came one of those streams of wisdom. He looked down at the sand in his hands. Nothing else mattered. His attention fixed upon the flowing sand. Gazing down the length of the beach stretching as far as the eye could see in any direction, Nathan stated, "The sand in the world is more than all the 'things' in this world."

Hum. I slowly repeated it back as a question, "the sand in the world is more than all the 'things' in this world." Pausing I said, "Yeah, I think your math is probably pretty close." There is something a bit eternal, and quite a bit baffling about thinking that type of thought. I am not going to be able to double check it. My wife is the math person. However, from a philosophical or theological perspective there is a vastness to his metaphor.

An old fellow named Abe claimed to have had this conversation with God. It was one of those dreams or experiences that kept happening over and over and over. You may have some dreams that repeat. Anyway, Abe clearly hears God tell him that his children would be of incalculable number . . . more than the sands on all the seashores. Strange dream. Like you and me, even Abe did not buy it. Yet 4,000-6,000 years latter it is getting more and more true. The great news is that anyone and everyone can walk the beach and be one of the billions of billions of people God' calls children.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Princess Dreams (or "Springing Thoughts" pt. 1)

Talking with Nathan or Lizzie is like looking into a deep spring well and wondering, "where do do these waters come from." The wisdom of a child flows from unseen places. It causes wrinkled adult eyes to take a double glance and wonder at the ripples.

A long day in the man made "park" that Walt built makes for tired kids. The little energetic ones and the bigger older ones that have to buy the tickets. This my third venture in what is supposed to be a world of dreams was no less tiring. It seems like man-made parks are fun and entertaining, but they do not have the ability to renew the energy like a natural park with birds and grass and flowers and trees and kids making dreams with their imaginations.

Well, little kids still have the ability to say things that just spring up and make you grin or reflect. Tonight little Lizzie went to bed full of joy. A second day of being a princess in a dream world worked for her. She left with a princess bank, princess crown, and was eager to return home to get her 'wish' or her wand.

She went to sleep with a smile on her face and said, "I have enough dreams for tomorrow."

Life should be like that. Dreams spilling over into a new day. Joy that overflows into the next day. In reality, these dreams will fade. She is just young enough that in time the crown will break, the memories will become fixed photos, and the princess bank will be emptied with pealing paint.

What we dream is what we become. How we live becomes where we live. Who we choose to be today becomes the person we will be for all eternity. So, the dreams and the joy and the hope and the faith I have is placed in something beyond myself in the one who is beyond and behind and within every moment. The joy of the Lord will be my strength.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Our Kisses Can Drive

This month is a little anniversary of sorts. This is kind of calendar clocking that young lovers engage in. It is when two young love birds share how many days or weeks they've been together or how many months, days, and hours till their wedding.

In this month of Valentines, the kisses of my wife are now old enough to drive. Sixteen years ago we kissed for the first time. Fifteen years ago we were engaged. And later this year we will have been married for fifteen years - a decade and a half. Okay, I warned you this is the kind of calendar games young lovers play. Our marriage is not old enough to drive yet, but our kisses can . . . and that is what counts.

I am overjoyed that love is young whatever our age. When intimate love is shared and entrusted to one other person, the rewards never stop "wowing!" I love my wife.