Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is that you God? It's me, ML

Time for ML to eat a yummy, little piece of humble pie. You see, I haven't been chronicling my walk with God like I should have been. And that's I haven't been walking for while. I've recognized that I've been sitting on the park bench for quite a while now.

What do I mean by that? Well, there was a time if you go back in the archives where I would pray nearly daily. I would fast once a week. I would read the Bible on a daily basis. I would connect with God. And, life was good.

But, and I'm not exactly sure when, I just stopped all that. And, over that time, my connection with God has suffered. I haven't felt as blessed as I did when I was talking to God daily. Old sins have gotten the best of me again. And, though I knew I shouldn't be doing this or that, I did it anyway. What's worse is that I recognized my behavior for a while and I'm just now getting around to refocusing.

During that time, I've really felt that God wasn't there. In my heart, I knew he was there waiting for me to walk with him. No, he was there. I just... didn't want to walk at the time, I guess... Heck, I could faintly hear Him calling to talk to me, but I wasn't in the mood to listen. At church, I felt more and more distant, like I was going through the motions. I digress.

Yesterday, I started to take a step in the right direction. After another Sunday at church feeling like I don't belong there, I starting thinking about why I felt that way. Part of my problem, I think, is that I'm a little disenchanted with the Crux. While I love the message and the way it's given, to borrow a friend's description, it's become too much like a rock concert. Granted, the first thing that attracted me to this church was how different it was from the traditional Catholic show. Now, I like the new pastor a lot, but once I learned he was once apart of the lead pastors old Christian rock band, something felt... not wrong... but not quite connected. Add to that, I still struggle with feeling like anyone knows me there. Among the congregation, I could probably count on my hands the number of people I feel close with. Closer than, "Oh hey, you're name's ML right?" Despite the church's effort to built a community, I think my age and life experience are so different from others that we have trouble relating. Now, I'm not attributing my sins to the Crux. I am responsible for my actions and I am asking God's forgiveness. I'm just explaining how during this time the feeling of not belonging has maybe pushed me away from God.

Additionally, three of the people I felt the closest to in the congregation are no longer apart of the mix. God called them to work for him somewhere else. So, my best friend and his wife are moving and, really, I'm happy for them. God's got great plans for them. And, the person who pretty much brought me to Christ's party is moving, too, as God has called her to work for Him somewhere else. I'm not doing well losing their physical proximity. I plan to make every effort to keep these people in my life because, whether they realize it or not, they have done so much for me. In fact, their leaving made me realize that I might for the first time since coming to Christ be alone in my walk with God. By that I mean, I don't have someone in my local inner circle to lean on and talk to about faith. I don't mean I can't talk others in my inner circle about it; we just haven't really talked about it and connected on that level. See the difference before you get offended. So, in that sense, I feel like I have to stand and walk on my own for bit while I develop other relationships. And that scares me...

It's hard for me to socialize. I say I'm going to talk to someone new and just be a friendly person, but it's hard for me to do that. "What ifs" talk me out of it. This is not a way to live. If I'm standing next to you and I'm not saying anything, know that I'm probably trying really hard to come up with an icebreaker that doesn't sound like I'm hitting on you or sounds really stupid. Like recently, I wanted to tell someone I liked the color of their toenail polish, but where do you go after that? Oh, hey, yeah, lovely shade of ice blue on your toes. Where'd ya get it? Oh, no, it's not odd for a guy to like pretty toenails and wonder where you purchased that shade. Really, I'm not a freak. Don't walk away. Damn. I've got a million deadend icebreakers.

Didn't expect that rant, but there ya go... Anyway, I've been wanting to buy The Message Bible. Some people will say that they can't trust the Bible, that it's not the word of God, because it was written by man. I tend to disagree with that because it's not the words that are in the Bible, it's the message you get from God while you read it that's important. And, this particular version, from what I have been exposed to, exemplifies that notion. So, I finally picked on up yesterday. This is a special edition called "Pause." Basically, it's the Message Remix in a "read the Bible in 365 days" form. It starts in Genesis 1, then skips to John 1, back to Genesis, etc. It picked this version because I felt that the fact that it was written to be read daily would help me do just that.

I was reading about Cain and Abel after they offered their sacrifices to God. He was pleased with Abel's, but not so much with Cain's. God tells Cain:
"Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won't you be accepted? And if you don't do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you; you've got to master it."
Well, you could have just about called me "Cain" after I read that. That's what I need to do - get back to mastering my sins.

And that's just what I intend on doing. I am going to start seeking God again. I am going to start praying daily and reading the Bible daily. I am going to start fasting again. I am going to seek the life God wants for me. I am going to start holding myself to higher expectations and morals and develop my character. I'm going to live more transparently and chronicle my experiences here. And, I'm going to start hugging more people. Hugs are good. I need them. So do you. Hug me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Just have to wait and worry...

My son asked me if I liked his new sunglasses. Being an honest person, I told him that I didn't because they're not my type of frames. Not a big deal. Then, I asked him where he got them. He said his friend - let's call the friend Freckles* - dropped them the other night and he picked them up.

A little backstory about the other night. My son was sleeping over at - let's call this one Seedub* - Seedub's house two nights ago. At 12:15am, I was awakened by a call on my cell phone. My son was calling me to come pick him from from Seedub's. Apparently, Freckles and another kid called to say they were coming over. They weren't invited. In fact, Freckles is such a jerk to be around that my son doesn't answer his calls or goes places Freckles will be. So, at around 11:30pm (well after curfew), there was a knock on Seedub's door. Freckles and the other kid are at the door. They are told they weren't invited and can't come in. So, Freckles and friend try to force they way in. The ensueing fracus is loud enough to disturb Seedub's mom, who decides the sleepover is over, hence the wake-up call. Freckles lost his sunglasses in the melee. And, now it would seem my son has them.

I told him he should be the better person and give the glasses back. Not exactly what a kid wants to hear. But, what I have been trying to get him to understand that doing what is right is what is important. And sometimes, that means doing something we don't want to do. In this case, that means giving the jerkyboy his rightful treasures. A humbling experience, no doubt, but one I think his character could use.

The thing I am worried about is I'm pretty sure he won't give the glasses back. My normal reaction would be to somehow force him to - Do it or you'e grounded. But that kind of defeats the purpose. I don't want to guilt him into doing the right thing. I just want him to do the right thing or be prepared to live with whatever the consequences are. Don't know what those could be. Threating to ground him is basically forcing him. He could end up in a fight over it, could be ostrizised from Freckles' group (whicfrom a parent's perspective may not be a bad thing), could be nothing ever comes of it. But, I can't help but think that he's better off turning the other cheek and humbling himself to this not-so nice kid.

Now, my immediate gut reaction was to bring the name, "Jesus," and his teachings up, but I think that would have fallen on deaf ears. I do not believe in forcing Christ on people, my family included, no matter how much I wish they would come to know Him has I have begun to. For now, I'm trying to lead by example - living the life and maybe they'll follow. So, I'm sticking to Proverbs 22:6 for now, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it." I really like that verse. It teaches us that sometimes the only way a child will learn is from their mistakes.

Training a child and teaching them are two different things. You can train someone to do the right thing, but it's up to them to do it. When they face that moment, they can choose to do the right thing or live with the consequences and the mistakes. You can tell a child not to stick a fork in the electric socket, but they may not truly learn why until they experience why it is a mistake to do so.

And that is the struggle of fatherhood. Metaphorically, I've stuck a fork in the socket and was shocked. I've learned from my experiences. But, he hasn't had enough experiences to learn everything. That only comes with time, and that waiting for him to learn. Doesn't mean I won't worry, though.

* All names have been changed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

In The Beginning...

Pardon the lack of posts for the past month. We went on vacation for two weeks visiting friends and family back in good ol' Louisiana. Nothing majorly eventful happened that I needs to be talked about other than we spent some great quality time with people we love and we did nothing else. It was quite nice to do nothing for two weeks. If you have the means, I highly recommend it. We did listen to Harry Potter and The Deadly Hallows and I won't spoil it for anyone. We stayed up extra late when we got home to finish the book. Good stuff.

Immediately after getting home, I auditioned for Children of Eden at Footlite Musicals. And, I'm quite happy to tell you that I have been cast as one of the Storytellers. I'll give you all the pertain info as the show gets nearer. Children of Eden is freely based on Genesis 1 - 9. That is, it's the story of the creation, Adam and Eve, the Fall, Cain and Abel all the way up to the flood and Noak's Ark. But, really, it's about father's and their relationship with their children.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret - My biggest fear is that I am a bad dad. As my son gets older and in his teen years, I am beginning to worry more and more about what our relationship will be like when in 20 years. Am I teaching him the right things? Is he learning good habits from me? Will he learn responsibility? Is he picking up my bad habits? Is it too late to help him change certain habits? Time will only tell, I guess. Doesn't make me worry less that I'm not screwing up.

My dad, I see now and that's important, is a saint and I love him dearly. But, when I was growing up, I never saw his wisdom, I guess. His love for me, sure. But, I never understood why, for example, in one biddy basketball game my father the coach didn't put me into the game until midway through the third quarter and we had a good lead. You'd think coach's son would get some playing time. And, it kinda hurt that coach wouldn't put me in the game sooner. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized his wisdom - I suck at basketball. I think he was maybe just sparing me the pain of realizing I suck at such a young age. In fact, he was probably encouraging me more by letting me play when the situation was easier for me to handle, letting me get my confidence up.

There is no doubt my father is a kind and gentle soul. I'm sure there were times when he wanted to throttle me. I know there are times (especially now that I have a teenager) that I want to throttle my son. But, he never did. I think he spanked me maybe once or twice when I was a tot. I can't remember if he ever raised his voice in anger to me.

This is the kind of father my dad is. It's my favorite "being a father" story and it's not really about me. I was in high school and was awoken late one night by banging on my window. It was my sister's friend, Danny. He was trying to get me to help him with my sister who was drunk and violently puking out of his hatchback. She's 5 years older than me so was close to legal drinking age, if not over 21, at the time. Danny and I got her to the bathroom and in all the commotion, my dad woke up. He send me to bed and thanked Danny. He stayed up at least an hour or two taking care of my sister, putting her to bed and cleaning all the puke up. Around 7 o'clock in the morning, he bangs on her door and yells her name. He walks into her room with a skillet full of eggs and greasy bacon and his trademark twinkle in his eye. He wakes her up, putting the skillet in her face, asking her if she's ready for a nice, healthy breakfast. As memory serves, she bolted for the toilet and puked again. But, I honestly don't think she's been drunk ever since. He took care of her that night, and taught her a lesson about drinking too much. And, he did it without becoming unglued or angry, even though, he probably was upset that she was as drunk as she was.

That is the type of father I hope to be. More than I care to admit, I don't think that I am. I want my children to know I love them, but I also want them to understand there are evils in this world it is my duty to protect them from. This fatherhood thing is pretty tricky and I'm very worried about what happens to our relationship when the kid turns 18.

So, the read-through rehearsal last night was the first time I was able to sit down and absorb the words of this show. And good gravy, I'm glad I was sitting in the back corner because more than a few times I had to stop, take a breath, sniffle, and wipe a dot of moisture from my eye.

Early in the show, Father is telling Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. They ask why and he responds (in song, natch):
"There are things a father knows
a child cannot.
I think you would agree
You're newer here than me
Have faith I have my reasons
You cannot see,
In your best interest...
So no more questions about that tree.
And therein lies the problem. Kids never understand until they are adults that their parents have been there, done that, and love them so much they don't want their kids to make the same mistakes. My problem is trying to figure when to stop him from making the mistakes I have make and when to let him learn from his own mistakes. And that's the my struggle. Too often, I think, I disallow him from making his mistakes, preventing him from learning from them.

***I don't think this is a show spoiler since the events are pretty much in Genesis, but I'll give you a SPOILER ALERT here just in case.***

In the end, after the flood, Father sings to his children (Noah & Family),
"Now, I know I cannot hold you
Till at last I let you be free."
If you see the show, I promise a teardrop by this point. And, ain't that the truth? The more we try to hold our children, the more they struggle to get free. I'm learning that to hold him close to my heart I have to let him go.

This journey into Eden I hope will be a time of great growth and learning for me. Not just a time to figure out how to be a better father, but build on established relationships and to love more than I think I do. Afterall, I believe the reason God created us was because he was lonely. And, he put that loniless into us so that we, too, would search for love and build our own relationships. Not just with him, but with others.