Monday, March 24, 2008

Pterosaurs and Fatherly Development

So it happened to me during the Easter Sunday worship service in my 39th year of life! Some fatherly instinct kicked in just as the service got underway. Tristan and I sat midway back on the left side of the sanctuary. He grabbed the bulletin and began marking the pages in the hymnal for each song in the service. This had become a little of routine over the last year, not so much to help me find my way through the service as it was to mark the progress of time until he was released to freely run through the church. Its not that he does not pay attention in worship as he often repeats back to me main themes and phrases from the sermon on our way home but he is 9 and his youth worship receptors must be located all over his body. I think this because he roles around in the pew, moving in multiple directions at once apparently to better “be in tune with God,” so he tells me. He often moves to the music in a way that distracts every bone in my fatherly body. He often creates things in his mind as well as with any physical object he can get his hands on.

On this Easter Sunday, during the most quiet moments of the pastoral prayer, with my head bowed and my eyes mostly closed I caught a flicker out of that part of my eye that was not closed. Then the sound of flapping paper, which seemed more like the loudest noise maker every made. As I looked over to Tristan he was animating what I learned later was his version of a large pterosaur. In that moment, I lightly touched him on the knee and gave him that fatherly look of “Please stop doing that so other people will stop looking at me and thinking that I should be controlling my child more particularly during the quiet moments of the prayer.” Ok it’s a very complex look but he knows it well.

The worship moved on but my mind was still back at that moment of the flapping pterosaur. The Choir began to sing and I began to figure out how I was going to nonverbally communicate to my son that what he was doing was so sacrilegious. Just then, out of my other eye, I saw a father 3 rows up nervously watching his 2 younger daughters dancing in the isle to the rhythm of the choir’s anthem. Then, I saw the grandmother sitting next to the father, put her hand on his shoulder and whisper something in his ear. Whatever she said caused him to relax his body. Then I noticed that many in the choir were smiling while they were singing, seemingly rejoicing that these two young girls were acting out the excitement and joy of Easter that they, as the choir, were hoping we in the congregation would experience. And you know what, we did, thanks to those two young girls dancing in the isle.
So what happened? Well at 39 it seems that this way cool, laid back, casual acting, youth minister kind of dad was about to give my son a signal that making the flapping sounds of a pterosaur during the morning prayer was sacrilegious. The only good news for me is that I did not, well at least not totally and I learned from a friend that eventually dads grow out of this stage when they become grandfathers… Happy Easter…

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sunny Iowa Emerges Again

The sun is just setting here in Iowa and I can hear a sound I have not heard for many months; it is the sound of birds loudly singing their beautiful songs of life. The snow is beginning to melt away; transforming the land into streams of mud and water. The tempurature warms the skin again and the smell stimulates the senses and makes my soul feel ready to live again. This winter has been tough on people and I have not been ammune to it myself. I have done what all good midwesterners do... I have endured, I have shut down my emotions, I have slowed my reactions, I have protected myself against the cold and depression of this time of year but always at the cost of creating some protections from others pain and joys as well. I have to admit that I now envey areas in the world that do not have 4 seasons like Iowa but I also have to say that Lent and Good Friday seem different when the death and hopelessness are as evident as looking out my own window. However, I write this note not from the bleakness of Winter... I can hear, taste and smell the beauty we call Easter and new life and Spring even if it is not quite here. Hello to the world from Sunny Iowa...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Water Dreams

I love to swim. I don't get the chance to do it much anymore as an adult. I remember in late grade school and through Jr High I would walk to the YWCA on Thursday afternoons to go swimming with my friends. It was a good mile walk but my parents let me do that for some reason. I remember the smell of chlorine as I would head down the back steps to the locker room and pay my 1.25 to the attendant. I remember the sound of silence as I would sink deep into the water and just dream.

I also remember one particular night walking home in what started out as a light rain. Then came the wind and near tornados. My memory says that as I was making my final approach to the house steps I had to fight, my way through the wind to the point I really thought I might blow away. I can remember being very scared and yet telling myself to remain calm and keep walking. The thing about that memory is that today when I reflect back on it I am not for sure if that night walk in the wind and the rain was real or just a dream that became real to me over the years.

Either way I like the image... Tonight I met God again in the creation of a new memory in a different pool. This time I spent the evening swimming with my son. I could smell the chlorine and it was kind of like a dream again. I was very happy and knew I was on the right path. It was such a great time of splashing and laughing that it seemed like a dream at times. I think we should do this more as adults... let our dreams inter mingle with our life so that what we dream can become what we live and what we live seems like a dream. Isn't that propinquity with God at its fullest... Hmmm not sure but its what Im thinking today...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Inspired to Believe

I continue to believe that we must find ways to help youth and adults find a passion for the story of our faith. Too often our sermons are flat and not that inspiring to our congregations. Too often we just play games with our youth and never give them a chance to really deeply believe. I mean the kind of belief that bubbles out in everything that we do. Maybe it is that we must do what we can to help each other to believe that there is part of God in each one of us. I mean really believe it! Words fail me here but a movie that does an excellent job of teaching this point just came out on video. Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium is all about the process of helping each other discover the spark (of God) that is in us and then we can Stun The World! My own son happens to look like the 9 year old character so that bias me a little but I think this movie has so much to say to Disciples of Christ that I am going to use it as a bases for the curriculum for ICYF. That is my thoughts for today...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

God Is Here!

Three plane flights into the darkness, flying over the land that I could no longer see I landed once more in my home airport of Des Moines IA at 12:30 am on that cold Friday morning. My exhaustion pushed deep into the tissues of my heart I was ready to be home. All I needed now was to go the baggage carousel and pick up my bag. How sweet it was to watch the bags start their march in and out of the people gathered with me that evening.

I watched with fear and trembling for my bag, looking over each one as it came through the opening in the wall knowing that I surely knew what my bag looked like. I had used this bag on my travels for the last 4 years. I had made 17 trips to 12 different states. I had felt every zipper on each of its openings and had noticed each of its flaws and scars from our journeys together and caused a few of them due to my need for extra stuff that only sort of fit with some highly misplaced nudging. I was one with my baggage.

I looked at each one and starred deep into its ridges with the hope that it would be mine and we could reunite and head home together. On many occasions I would push my way through the crowd to reach for my bag only to realize that it was not mine and apologize for my passionate pushing. Stepping back I would look over the winding luggage again hoping to spot my bag from afar. Several times I was sure I saw it and even reached out and turned the bag over only to not find my name on its back cover. I then started to see or hope that I saw my bag in each of the now remaining abandoned bags being lifted off the moving belt to be stored in the back to await the time when their owners would come and claim them.

In that moment I had to admit that I was not seeing my baggage. I knew then that I was going to have to stand in the line at the desk for lost luggage. Being the optimist I am I said to myself, “Hey, I don’t really need my shaver, medicine, toothbrush, or keys to my house.” I could make do, I could adapt as I often do and besides it was only 1:15 in the morning now. It was still early and I still had 7 hours before I needed to get back up to take my son to school. So I stood in line for help to find my bag.

Nearly 13 minutes ticked by as I waited for help, not that I was now counting the minutes and becoming less and less optimistic. The attendant took my luggage claim tag and put the numbers into the all knowing computer and what should it say… well it did not say anything but the attendant said, “Its saying that your bag was check on to this plane. Are you sure its not one of those bags I just took off the belt?”

So with great embarrassment I walked over to the abandoned bags in my exhausted state and sure enough there with the other 14 black bags was my traveling companion I knew I knew so well. Relieved and glad for the reunion I grasped it with all my strength and headed out the door to my car.

It was now 1:37 according to the clock in my car but at least I was now on my way out of the parking garage heading home. As I headed to the exit ramp I noticed a frail old man pushing his even more frail wife in a wheel chair up and down the parking isles obviously looking for their car. The 8 degree wind was blowing the snow through their coats as they walked and even in my exhausted state I could not just pretend that I had not scene them or believe that someone else would surely help them or force myself to accept that this was not my problem. No, all I could hear is that “God is here!” This one I could not ignore.

I pulled up alongside them and asked if I could help. In short, by the time I did what I could for them it was now 2:15 and I was finally headed home with my well-known luggage that I could not recognize and had not noticed it even though it was their in front of me.

God is Here. How easy that should be to hear. However, I often do not notice or notice too late when God, who I know I know so well, is directly in front of me.