Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Miss My Son!

I miss my son. He’s in the Air Force stationed on the East coast … for now. He always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, but fell prey to the disease of many young people. See if you recognize these symptoms: new minimum wage job every three months, way too much Xbox, waaaaay too much junk food, (!) way too much Abercrombie, too many girlfriends, and not enough discipline. The high school environment and pressure didn't help.

Two years ago he announced his interest in the Air Force, went through all the pre-signup details, and enlisted for six years. I was hoping for less. Looking back, it was the best decision of his life, and he made it by himself. It caused him to mature quickly, regain his confidence and prove to himself he could do whatever he needed to do. He learned a new and healthy respect for authority, decency, and decorum. He even learned how to fold his underwear and socks! And his vision was renewed to protect and rescue; to make a lasting difference. I’ve always been proud because he belongs to me. But now I’m proud in a respectful way, different than I’ve ever experienced.

He’s an E.O.D. technician - Explosive Ordinance Disposal. His job is to go wherever he’s told, and find and dispose of explosive devices, either by blowing them up or disarming them. I know! I said that too, “Why not air traffic control or some other area for which you qualified.” But he’s a young man who wants to give his life for something rather than die for nothing. Now he’s trained long, qualified, certified, and tested all over again. He’s been on some VIP missions involving some really important VIP’s that I’m not supposed to know about. Now he’s up for deployment to who-knows-where soon. We’ll know when he knows, if he can tell us. That’s all I can tell you, top secret stuff, you know.

Anyway, I miss him badly. We talk as often as possible, but it’s very surreal; strange how fast he made his choice, grew up, moved away and will likely never actually live in our area again. I’m not ready to admit that, but this is all evidence of answered prayer throughout the years of raising him. He was always very headstrong, still is, but regained respect for my wife and I after the terrible seventeen’s (like the terrible two’s but much, much more risky!)

To get to the end of this rope, I’m so thankful for having him in my home; privileged to watch him grow up and excited to see how God will continue to use him, but I miss him lots. Sometimes I come home late and half expect to see him in the kitchen pouring himself a bowl of cereal at eleven-thirty PM. Sometimes I think he’s going to be watching TV in our livingroom on a Saturday, or find him riding his motorcycle up next to mine and his two brothers.

He’s my oldest son and the first out of my home. Kids grow up. Things change. I’m still the father, but no longer parenting. Things equalize. Roles evolve. Still the dad, now we're building a friendship. I pray for him different too though, especially in light of the current state of world affairs and his dangerous occupation. Though he still calls me for wisdom, I now respect him as a man, and view him with a different kind of respect. I'm an adviser when I'm invited, and the silent prayer warrior for my warrior son.

Whew! Four more to go … help me God!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Transition and Tension

Transition sucks. I’m in it and I don’t like it ... that phase in the birth process right before the “push” where every part of the mother’s body is preparing to bring little Suzy into the world - but it’s not fun! I was there when Shelley gave birth to my kids and transition sucked for her! It wasn't fun for the kids either. Heads all pointy, (it hurts when a human head is being squeezed by one the strongest muscle groups in the human body!), goop all over them, feeling cold for the first time, struggling for breath … ya, no fun. Now, looking at my awesome kids, I’m thankful for transition.

I'm in transition – have been for the last three years or so. I know because I feel the tension – not only squeezing my head, but that too! Sometimes I feel cold and gooey, and I struggle to breathe. (Wonder what my head will look like when I’m through this particular ‘muscle group?’ It freakin’ hurts!) The tension probably exists because of the distance between what I want and what is right. I can’t know until it’s over. Either I embrace it and try to squeeze every once of learning from it (oh that’s easy!). Or I continue to resist it and let it squeeze the hell out of me! Wait, maybe that’s the purpose of transition. Anyway, resisting is like running from the Borg.

I need certain things to happen; stuff relating to life, my concept of order, ministry realignment; resolution for some of my friends, for my staff, and stuff for my kids. Then there’s the stuff I don’t want, like facing the death of my dreams, feeling the shock of what greatness really is (now that's cold!) and beginning to realize the kind of world my kids are inheriting - not handling that well either. I don’t always get what I want, and sometimes I get what I really don’t want! That blows too, or so it seems. I’ll let you know soon as I know.

It’s the philosophy of the rubber band: it’s all about the tension. If I don’t learn to manage it, something shoots-off in an uncontrolled direction or breaks and can't be repaired. Sucks again. Following Christ seems a lot like that - flesh and spirit always fighting - as Jesus leads me through the tension of transition until I’m eventually remade in His likeness – that’s a birth canal of a whole different kind! I gotta tell ya, I’m squirming! “Rod, just relax! Let the tension of HIS will shape your freedom to choose what is right, not what you want!” Good advice says the brighter side of my brain …now just try and do it!

In transition right now? How's your head feel? I’m just observing, and I have little wisdom, but I think we should probably all just hang on and learn to manage the tension. Maybe something will be born; caused to incubate in our own spirit, brought to life because we struggled with it - and against it (!) - but birth only happens after transition, right?.

We should compare notes more often - you know, swap stories. We could travel together for awhile. We all walk together anyway; really it’s just pride and geography that separate us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In the Lens

I was sitting in my Starbucks this morning, (I know strange huh?). So in walks a homeless guy, presumably in his early 40’s, though they typically look older than they really are. He lumbers over next to one of those small round tables sets his bag down in the corner and begins fumbling with the stuff in his pocket. He smells the aroma of the coffee store as He looks for change. Out comes some rolled up papers, a wrapper, and a crumpled up dollar bill. He sits down, then stands up and puts it all back into his pocket and heads for the bar. He comes back with nothing – no coffee. He goes to the front door and looks out as if he’s looking for someone. Then he picks up his white plastic bag, goes into the rest room, comes back out and heads to the door. As he walks past a crowd of people he doesn’t know, he waves a little – to look like he knew someone (?) or to be polite, and sauntered out the door leaving me there at my own little round table.

There I sat with my coffee, my little zippered bag, and my journal on the desk in front of me asking God what I’m seeing. I was feeling guilty because I should have got up and offered to buy him an Americano; feeling numb because the homeless are all too frequent these days, and feeling serious, compassion overload for this guy and others like him so that my heart freezes.

I realized that he and I were not as much different as society has made us (comfortably) think. With no disrespect or judgment about why he was in his plight, or if he was “all there,” in our human experience maybe things are really quite relative. Though we’re in different strata of society, something about which I really had no choice, he had a bag, and I had a bag – of things meaningful, necessary and transitory. I carry a backpack with a few books, my lighter, a few pens and my iPod. He carried a bag with maybe an extra shirt, a jacket, an old newspaper, some matches, a little flask of cheep wine, and a list of names and numbers; maybe even a map back home, if he remembered where that used to be or even cared.

We both recognize the levels, and that we’re always in ‘mixed company.’ Both of us want to fit in, and very often don’t. He in some circle - any circle - and me in another circle that I perceive as better than my own. We both wave at people we don’t know sometimes. He felt alone in the crowd, but did his best not to look like it. I sometimes feel the same. We both want to be known. He walked in a world where he went largely unnoticed, and did his best to act normal. I live in a world where many know me, but I don’t know what normal is anymore.

Oh sure, I have more stuff, which makes me no more important than him. I just have more to manage, more to repair and more to throw away. I have more access, more resources, and more influence. Or do I? I always evaluate things from my level of The Matrix, and he from his. He wants more, I want more. He’s attached to his stuff, and I to mine. He has insecurities and I have mine. He wants to feel, and I want to feel. He looks for meaning, and I look for significance. Like chasing the wind, right?

The strangest things happened that very moment. Starbucks Corp. sent a camera team in to the store to capture the action and interview some of the partners. I noticed all the baristas – save two - posture immediately to get in the path of the lens! ‘That’s it,’ says I: no matter who we are or into which strata of society we fit or don’t, or perceive we belong, or don’t - we ALL want to be in the lens. We all want to be noticed. We all want a crowd, and perceive that another crowd might be better than the one we now occupy. We really are alike after all.