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December 31, 2010

It's still 2010

And here's a quick report.

Many of you knew that Amy and I are about 2/3rds of the way through the process of doing foster care through the PA Bair Foundation, with the intention to adopt. We were on track to be finished with the administrative end of things in the next three months or so, depending on a few factors. One of such "factors" is this whole seagull situation that, yeah,...more on that later.

Anyway, there's been a change in plans. Amy and I prayed and read and thought and wrestled our way through the process of finding some clarity. Most of the answers and understanding came by way of actually going through the classes and other preparatory steps.

And a process it was. I mean is. We tried to seek and listen. Really hard. There was no audible voice telling us what to do. But we did hear from a handful of people who made a difference. How do merge the nag to push past your comfort zone and use some common sense? Are these mutually exculsive?

Our best course would probably (?)  be...the foster kids most in need are the older ones...given a number of guidelines and unwritten recommendations...basically this, that, and the other thing, and we are expecting a new Gorinski in the summer of 2011. We really don't want to lose our fire for following through with foster care. But we did decide to put that on hold for a few years.


Amy is pretty awfully tired and sick. Again. I haven't seen her ill since we had Buggies a few years back. We expected that, and it did pose a challenge in "deciding" all this. Amy's hanging in there, for greater things. Everyone is excited here, the dad down through Maggs.

 - - - - -

December 26, 2010

Clear True

"They discontinued that line of contacts" said the optometrist, "so we're going to have to find another brand that suits."

There's a lot more to contact lenses than magnification strength. Among other considerations, there's axis, diameter, and the fine balance between how much the "bottom" of the contact is weighted and how the lens floats on the cornea. It can be tricky, especially for an eye with astigmatism.

"Better here, or here? Okay there, or there? Now here, or here."

Doc alternately flips pairs of here's and there's until the two of us are sitting there silently waiting for an answer. He's not up for a debate and I'm just really not sure I see a difference.

"Can I see the last there's again?"

Sometimes the best you can do is arrive by questions and end with questions.

I've worn the new contacts for almost a month now. They're both better and worse than the contacts I've worn for the last ten or twenty years. My vision seems a little sharper than before, and it's like that most of the time. But if my eyes get a little dry, the balance of weight and glide is thrown off and things are hazy.

This transition of contacts has made me a little more in touch with reality. I notice previously unseen structural details. But more than that, I'm highly aware of eye hydration status. At times, the clarity of my vision is an objective barometer of my heart.

It happens during a point of clarity from a message or set of lyrics in church. Suddenly the lights come into sharp focus. The hallelujah chorus comes blaring from my old basement TV. It catches me for a few moments and the image appears high-def. I lay flat on the floor in the dark quiet, staring up into the center of our rag-tag, kid decorated Christmas tree. I see lights and individual pine needles deep in the center.

I notice these small changes now because the world hasn't always appeared that way to me.

It's not a full on cry fest, okay? Uh, not that there would be anything wrong with that. Just. Thinking. Nothing. Don't bother me right now. Why is even "good" emotion so painful for guys?

The new contacts have illustrated the fact that emotion does count for something. Emotion changes how I see the world. It brings perspective and understanding and literal clarity about the finer things in this life. You can't deny emotion or write it off with TLC and Star Magazine. You can't scientifically extract and examine a person's "emotional intelligence" without consideration to the whole person.

I'm not changing the new contacts, mostly because I don't feel like bothering with more fine tuning. I'll carry a picture of my grandparents in case of blurry vision. Or maybe think of Old Yeller. A zip-lock bag of sliced onions would be less painful for sharp vision, but not for clarity.

 - - - -

December 06, 2010

family tree

They woke up knowing this day was promised a Christmas tree. I hear the three brothers around 6:30 and come downstairs a half hour later. They're making ornaments with scissors, paper, and tape. Duct tape. After changing two and feeding four and wrestling through the whole winter coat, gloves, shoes, and hat find game, we're rolling to the tree farm.

Feed the dogs, they've been following me around all morning with heads turned. And I forgot my contacts and money. Trips to the tree farm aren't free.

The hill in Dillsburg is 34 degrees and windy. Each of the brothers has a saw, the sharpest one, it turns out, capable of cutting through warm margarine. Maggie wants carried and how can you possibly say no to any request of a two year-old wrapped in purple puff with hands lost in pink mittens?

"What do you think of all those Christmas trees, Buggies?"

"What trees?"

I advise the older two to pick one, any about as high as dads reach. After snobbing past hundreds of fit candidates, Luke decides on a scraggly thin evergreen that allows "lots of room for presents" on the bottom. Dad redirects him on the holiday, and over to an 8-foot spruce.

The saw is going nowhere and everyone wants to help. There's mud all over my coat and Buggs needs a tissue and Maggs is caught on a thorn bush and why didn't we just go buy a tree at the Upper Allen Fire Department like the last few years?

The tree finally succumbs, slowly and gently bending toward the ground in the most anti climactic fashion - to roaring applause. Everyone wants another turn with the saw. Pulling a tree downhill while carrying a two year-old is easier than you would think. But now she's asking to walk, and pulling a tree while a two year old stumbles through cut trees and plowed fields is much more frustrating than you would think.

Everyone is in the car demanding hot chocolate before the tree is tied down to the roof rack. I let out a deep breath and pay the lady and smile Merry Christmas. Watch what you say during the drive home cross examination regarding lights and ornaments and other logistics that are extremely important to 4- and 6 year-olds.

I notice that Winter Wonderland is blasting over the radio and at the age of 34, how many God forsaken times must I hear this song again?

Hot chocolate buys time for pruning, adjusting the stand, rearranging house furniture, dragging a tree into the house, and vacuuming needles.

A real tree is in our house. Which makes it all worth it. I'm wildly hopeful like that.

After lunch it's 12:30 and some of them are napping because dad needs to break this day up into two. After almost fainting from the combination of running hill sprints with (big) Ben and not having eaten anything for six hours, I literally lay motionless in a glucagon stupor on the driveway. Then on the living room floor, waiting for a Gatorade and handful of Honeycomb to kick in. The older two are decorating, cramming almost every ornament within 20 degrees of tree latitude and longitude.

The sound of broken glass gets me up off the floor and babbling. Something about leaving those kind in the box and putting the Steeler black and gold fake candy canes above where Maggs can try to eat them. I move the small Bible ornament that was hung behind the 90's era Shaq dunking a basketball ornament because that just ain't right. I move Shaq behind a paper and duct tape sled or snowman or something.

The decorations are on, er, "on," and now light must go over top because of the sprinting hang over. I find that only one string of last years white lights works, this and a string of multicolor. I go with all we have, both white and multicolor lights that begin flashing in a few minutes. They're flashing multicolored lights.

Unfocused image. Notice the miniature manger scene, half knocked down.
And it is done. The crooked tree, partially covered by decorations and inadequately lit with an odd color-flash scheme. It's up. It's in our home, center stage before the tired and excited six of us. Yes, the mom is home from her day of work. Hallelujah. Surprise her, we did, in a few ways with that tree.

The dad performance for the day: B- for being present and good memories and hustling over the tree but feeding the kids bologna and ketchup for dinner and in many ways taking on far more than he could handle in a spirit of peace.

He could use some quiet time in the dark, sitting and kneeling low on the floor beside that tree.

 - - -  - - - - -

November 09, 2010

why not

I spent the spring semester of 2001 at the University of Delaware doing a research clinical. For four months I lived muscle fatigue and function after ACL repair. Most athletes grow weary at the depths of physiology where lab geeks thrive. 


I plopped a suit case and air mattress on the floor of a bare room. The two art-history majors that I hooked up with for a roof over my head weren’t exactly choir boys. Not that they were horrible. They were, well, art history majors. Looking back, I wish I asked them more about their studies; about their lives.


I arrived late Saturday night. The stranger in a strange land decided to take a ride the next morning.

Traveling down an unfamiliar street, I spotted a little church on an elevated piece of land. I forget the exact wording, but the sign read something like Newark Zion Church of Christ. Much later I would discover that Zion was the name designated to a fortified mound at the southern tip of Jerusalem. It sounded sufficiently churchy and, more importantly, the 10:30 service started just 2 minutes ago.
 

Rushing through the unmanned double wide doors, not until 3 steps into the tiny vestibule did I look up. This little old church on a hill was packed wall to wall with black folks, every one of them completely dressed to the nines and about to move. I paused, recalling that I wore my typical jeans and long sleeve T. Oh, and I wasn’t black. 


I mean, not that color is a big deal or anything. Right?


I commenced backwards tiptoeing when a rather large attendant stepped behind me and whispered “Where you going?”

It suddenly seemed rather silly to rush out like that. I thought, with a big open hand on the small of my back, "yeah, maybe I should stay awhile." They apparently had plenty of room for an awkward white kid. Another attended walked me about 10 paces, where after a few shuffles and scoots I landed on the edge of a pew about midway to the front of the church.



“We’re glad you came.” 


Roman Catholics and Baptists don't sing with soul or clap or dance or wear formal suits, at least not the ones that have shaped me. So I stood amazed and uncomfortable for about fifteen or thirty minutes in a sea of soulful Christians. I felt like an obstacle, worse than out of place. I clearly recall the excellent message on faith as well as the appropriate black preacher swagger with which it was delivered. 

Some of the service was familiar, and some I'd never seen. The people didn't ignore me. They didn’t make me squirm under a cumbersome load of attention or expectation. There were no apparent agendas or attempts to appear theologically sophisticated. They simply did what they do, with no apology, making sure I knew they were glad to have me.


After service a few men asked me where I was from and how I got there. They invited me to their light lunch at the church and invited me back next week. 


Something felt right about that church. Surely, the presence of the Lord was in that place. I was quite impressed with the little Zion something church up on that hill. And during my four months at the University of Delaware, I never returned.


 - - - - -

October 31, 2010

while watching the steelers lose


no flash and no sense of things lurking in the dark.

 - - - - -



with flash






































October 28, 2010

fruit

[One angle at Pastor Appreciation month.]

The very first thing I remember about the pastor is Kevin berries. It was about twenty five years ago, standing somewhere in the woods of southwestern PA, hunting ginseng with my father.

Ginseng. It's not a mystical herb of the orient. You can find the "white" variety right here in PA. All you have to do is hike through the right type of woods at the right time of year, sight the fairly rare plant, dig up the roots, dry the roots out over a period of weeks, then sale them to distributors who supply the supplement companies. Simple as that. 

ginseng roots
The point right is not to examine the various claims and scientific findings on Ginseng. The stuff is in demand. A lot of people apparently would like to do more pirouettes on the beach. But I have no doubt that the most therapeutic thing about Ginseng is the autumn hike through the woods with your dad.

Back in the hills of southwester PA, dad explained the difference between the red berries that help you identify a valuable ginseng plant in the fall versus another fairly toxic plant that also has small red berries. By their fruit you will know them.

Well, dad didn't put it quite like that.

"See here. These are red berries with five-pronged leaves, but they're NOT Ginseng. These are Kevin berries."

"Kevin berries? Like, uncle Kevin, the one from Harrisburg? What's he have to do with it?"

"Oh. Well...he's a clown."


good "fruit"
Kevin Berries!
Dad told the story. My grandfather took his knucklhead son-in-law Kevin into the woods hunting ginseng. Through the woods, Kevin would shout, "Paap. Paap. Found some." Pap managed his way through steep rocky knulls to find Kevin standing by the counterfeit ginseng. There were red berry lessons, but the whole process repeated itself too many times. Kevin breaking the still autumn air with excited yells. Pap hiking the ridge. Kevin proudly pointing at the wrong type of red berries.

 So that's where it started. Your uncle Kevin is a clown, and don't be fooled by the Kevin Berries. And that was dad trying to be nice.

You know when Jesus warned about being able to identify false prophets and scoundrels who appear to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves? Well, here you have someone who actually had a bad fruit named in his likeness.

These days, Kevin often speaks about his life before he came to know Jesus. Kevin berries were the least of it. When the Browns packed up and took off for Boston (and then Harrisburg) to be all religious and stuff, I can understand the eye ball rolling that must have ensued.

But do you know what happened over the years? A lot of good fruit fell from that tree.

-Kevin, always the one adult horseplaying with all the kids in Grammas pool, grunting, grasping blindly as the bucket head monster. I was moved to tears this past summer, at the site of the exact same bucket monster defending himself against a new horde of children.

-My gut reaction upon hearing that the Browns were headed "back home" toward Pittsburgh around holidays and vacation times. The "religious" people were not prudish bores. It was kind of the opposite, in fact. It was surely going to be a barrel of monkeys, and I wanted me some of that.

-The reaction of the family; all of the family taking them seriously, at least to their faces. When the Browns came in, uncle Bill (who lived with Gramma then) took down all the girly posters and hid a bunch of movies in his closet.

-The words. I wasn't around a lot of bad language as a child. But I did notice that each person's language was at least 10% tighter.

-Feeling weird and uncomfortable with their "Lord this" and "Jesus that" when they prayed before meals. It sounded like it came from the heart. It was different than the faith community I was raised in. Praying like that felt very odd and very good.

-All the occasions where Kevin made time to simply show interest in me. I can't imagine he gave a lick about my baseball season or remote control cars or Sega Genesis. But I remember him asking about those specific things; whatever I was into, just to have some common ground.

-Playing house and ongoing. I've had the opportunity to simply be present to observe a Christian's response to real life outside of the church. For anyone who tends to be too academic and skeptical toward life offerings toward a God who is unseen, witnessing how the leader lives makes all the difference in the world

Behold good fruit. This is how a person of faith testifies to the glory and honor and power of the Creator. It's how a man who loves Jesus validates his words of worship and admonition. It's how any sinner does the will of the Father, from a place of peace and grace.

I cherish and appreciate these pieces of fruit. Kevin is clearly no clown, no wolf, no false prophet. He's an honest, funny man who owns up to his foibles and mistakes. My earliest impression has been buried under baskets of good fruit. I'm certain the rest of the family is with me on that.

A bad tree cannot bear good fruit. And them ain't no Kevin berries.


October 20, 2010

Sights of Walnutfest


Walnutfest began in 2006 when I decided that I've had enough raking and throwing walnuts out of my back yard. Why not have a picnic, and make up a few games that involve kids and grown ups goofing off, throwing, kicking, and hitting walnuts out of the yard? We've scaled 'er back quite a bit over the years for a number of reasons, but Walnutfest still came. It came just the same.

We did have a bit of a problem this year. There were very few Walnuts, I guess maybe because of the dry heat and such. Shout out to Becca for the imports.


Stella trapped Rocky.

Kissing the silver walnut before the Tim Burtonesque trees.






Thanks folks.

October 19, 2010

Comfort Food

He caught my eye immediately as I passed through the doorway. By the time the teacher finished "Owen your dad's here" he has launched at me, in mid jump, to be caught. He's holding something, today's craft, and proudly thrusts it to within a millimeter of my eyes.

"Oh, what's this?" I retract my head to focus. "Thanks Owen. Cool!"

And this one was a keeper. Once every month or two, the brothers bring home something from class or church that's worth saving. A lot of the masterpieces find their way into the circular file. Okay, almost all of them. Amy and I just don't attach that kind of sentimental value to every pipe cleaner angel and origami fish that finds it's way through the door. We can't, if we don't want to have our house featured on that TV show where all the junk sentimental, practical mementos are piled to the ceiling. 

This orange string of plastic caught my eye. It was woven through six dry rigatoni, with each piece bearing the name of a person in our family. Three dazzling plastic beads completed the necklace. No instructions came with the craft, but I'm pretty sure the beads were supposed to represent the Holy Trinity. Well, they could have; it seemed rather likely.

Neat idea. Personal. Made by Owen.

Normally I sock something like this away to the "secret" box in my closet for future reference and reflection. Or maybe I'd actually use this one, in prayer, as some sort of rigatoni rosary.

But not that day. I was distracted when we pulled in the driveway, leaving the necklace in the cup holder. The following day, Amy or I spilled a little coffee, effectively putting the necklace on a long, slow simmer.

I saw the results the next day while fetching something from the car. Lifting the necklace, the noodles folded and fell off like meat on an overcooked turkey leg. I was sad that it was ruined. It was kind of tragic. I actually froze with the thought that every single person in this family is going to die. Someday, we will.

I don't hover over my children or my wife. I'm not panic stricken with fear. But for some reason, I do fret possibilities and unthinkable senseless tragedy. Sometimes I do feel the pain of separation, and the reality that one way or another, that day is coming soon.

I looked at the lumps of rigatoni decaying more with each roll through the palm of my hand. How fragile. Then I considered the plastic beads and string, not exactly invincible, but unblemished from the coffee incident. All of existance represented in four cents worth of pasta and plastic.

Perishable things last but only a moment and return to dust. That which is eternal runs through us at the core, fully intact, connected by and through the Alpha and the Omega. There's a part of us that doesn't fall away at all.

The Comforter was there all the while. A current of gratitude and confidence ran through my portion of the orange string. And I tossed the lumpy pasta to the dust.

 - - - - -
0 0 0

October 15, 2010

The use and making of memories

"Kevin, no wrestling during Sunday school."
"Judah, we're not talking about that right now."
"Owen, not so loud."

Some of the 3 to 5-year olds, mostly those at the "girls table," remain seated, carefully coloring and gluing.  Kevin makes his hands into race cars, in an apparent neck and neck battle toward the finish line at the far edge of his table. He leans across, knocking crayons on the floor and planting his elbow in a pool of glue.

My blood pressure rises.

God laughs.

There was a time when I was just a little older than this crew, probing the limits of a Sunday school teacher's patience and grace. When was that? Like, yesterday?

Back then I could understand that church was important. That was clear. St. Boniface was set apart as something different from the rest of the world. It demanded a unique kind of respect. Like you had to be clean and don't wear a hat or chew gum. You can goof off with your friends in CCD, because that's for kids. Mass reserved a different kind of respect. Above all else, that means being there and being quiet.

I (wrongly) understood that you went to St. Boniface to do a good deed. Staying still and quiet for 60 minutes every Sunday morning; this is what the Lord asks of a boy. So I almost always went, sometimes with a battle, because Mass seemed s  o     l   o   n   g.

When your attention span is maxed out at 5 minutes, coping strategies ensue. You hunt the wood grain of the pews for animal shapes. You imagine the dark knots of wood on the ceiling as distant galaxies diverging from one another in some deep slice of the night sky. You analyze the patterns in the clothing of old ladies. Twelve rows of grey diamonds with eleven rows of blue in between. You try to identify the person who, at the appointed time, would be the first to extend you "a sign of peace." You avoid eye contact with the coughers and nose blowers.

Bathroom breaks are a sweet relief from stillness. You're entitled to one trip per week. Once per week a boy washes his hands with hot soapy water for the entire recommended duration. Play your cards right and you'll be back in time for communion.

These memories are the mother of patience toward Kevin and the boys in Sunday school. They're the medium of grace, created in the beginning, and passed down through generations. My memories of St. Boniface cause me to be more concerned with building relationships and helping them have fun gluing googly eyes onto shoddily cut out fish than with getting them to appreciate the depth of Luke chapter 5.

If God once used the church to teach me to wait and listen and notice the details in everyday minutia, then he can certainly reach these young ones through glitter and scissors and Silly (Veggie Tales) Songs With Larry.  I don't think they're missing anything until the day they have questions. In those days, we'll certainly seek to help them consider where they put their faith and their trust.

For now, we'll be here, every week, singing and wrestling. Not yet like Jacob did with God, but like Kevin trying to throw down with everyone near him. We'll gather together, learning how to pray, eating tootsie rolls from Charlie, and making nightmares for the cleaning committee. 

Allowing space for memories in the making...

 - - - - - -

October 10, 2010

10





The smell of October. It's death, mostly. Fragments of dead leaves permeating the air. And old men smoking cigars outside of high school football games.

I'm never ready for August to end. Or September. Darkness comes early, suddenly. Time drags me through October by the scruff of the neck. Some of it is pure and preference. Some of it's because I've always had a hard time letting things go. Why move or change when you exist in contentment?

Well, because nothing here stays the same. And what was good for one season may not often be good for two. And there may, even should be, good things to come. And because November smells like a big old iron wood burner and homemade chicken soup.

And it's just time. 

David Wheeler writes, "my neighborhood remained the far reaches of my childhood travels, and everything seemed so natural and obvious. You don’t realize the work it takes for a semblance of stability until you’re the one constructing it. I was always going, and then going away; and, I never really grew to appreciate my home, not fully, I think."

And so the seasons seem so natural and obvious. But how easy it is to miss the blessings along the way.

Lord help me to see and share, looking back with gratitude and forward with hope.




















*** Please excuse the ugly date tag on some of the pictures.

September 30, 2010

Close Call




Grandpap Clarence was one of five children born to John and Agnes Gorinski. John slaved for years in the coke ovens of Mammoth Pennsylvania. Owed his soul to the company store. While Andrew Carengie and Henry Frick are heralded as great philanthropists over southwestern PA and throughout the world, pap John died of black lung at a young age. Nobody wrote about him on Wikipedia.

Clarence watched and learned, apparently. There would be no coke ovens for him. He grew up and served in World War II before resuming his plans of marrying Margaret Sivak (Maggies namesake). Together they headed off to Penn State University where he played football and pursued teaching. When I was about eight years old, I found a sword on the upper shelf of a closet in their attic. Heavy, almost Lord of the Rings style. It may or may not have been used in ground combat. Pap preferred to not say much about it.

The details are sketchy to me, but my father and two uncles retell a story from when the world was at war. A Company of soldiers slept somewhere in the rolling hills of Europe. Waking to the flash of gunfire as the only light, Clarence struggled to take cover. The zipper on his sleeping bag was stuck, leaving him exposed in the open. With the sound of fighter plane engines and machine gun bullets pelting the ground all around him, Clarence rolled under an army Jeep and writhed his way to...freedom and life.

My dad has a few close call stories of his own; better stories than I do. Mine mostly involve near-misses with fireworks and driving, both seperate and together.

The Discovery Channel has a fairly engaging (or distracting) new show called I Shouldn't Be Alive. But given the astronomical improbabilities of any single persons existence, really, who should be alive? Yet here we are. And here I am, reflecting on all the close calls you see while looking down just one branch of my family tree. I'm sure that every branch of every family has it's legendary close calls and auspicious happenstance. All of such stories exist only in hindsight (for you don't read blogs written by the grandchildren of men who were killed in WWII). I believe this is the realm of nothing but Divine Grace.

This does not mean that God specifically intervened to protect my grandfather so that someday I might live to type about it. If that's true, you also have to believe that God chose to withhold miraculous intervention on behalf of Paps fallen comrades. I don't think that's the case. But I'm pretty sure that it's by Gods grace that any of us are here, given the chance to make our own choices and decisions that shape the future. I do believe that sometimes, rarely, you do have to stand up to injustice and make war to make peace. But on a typical, daily basis, we should have little room for bickering and hate and ungratefullness.

Again I should mention that we ARE here. The fact that something has never been created from nothing is part of the reason why I think close calls and family trees and love point to God and not blind physics, whatever the details may be.

What will Amy and I and our own crew look like in 10 or 100 years? There will be joy and fun and sorrow and hardship; hopefully far more of the former than the latter. We're blessed. These are good times. Even so, with a decision, a meeting, a relationship, a step in one direction and not the other, an X or a Y, the look changes drastically. Realizing this without having any idea of what or how is a bit frustrating for a worrier and over-thinker.

I'm compelled to pray, listen, and trust. The closest calls are the most meaningful. And they aren't ours.

September 19, 2010

August 21, 2010

Wall ride under the moon

- - - - -

"Ridin' tonight? Meet at the bank at 10:30."

And it's on.

Tonight is when nobody has much need of the daddy. Goofing off with friends in the back streets of Harrisburg at midnight interferes with little other than reading and blogging. It's a time to be a kid again. I think the moon really follows you and your band of brothers wherever you go.

And now I sit here studying, gazing deep into this photo that captures Tim doing a wall ride under the moon.

What does it take to stick a wall ride? How does it feel? These things I know. Not saying I'm great at it or anything. But I know.

You can analyze it kinetically, speaking in terms of linear and centrifugal forces, angles and momentum, and the coefficient of friction between rubber and cement.

You can slice it up kinematically, speaking of the torque and power involved with hurling yourself on a bike toward a wall. Too soon and you fall sideways; too late and you plain rode your bike smack into a wall, you fool.

You can speak at length about how healthy or unhealthy it is for a group of grown men to be out on the streets late at night exploring the realities of gravity and man powered wheels.

You can enter in testosterone and the male psyche and debate whether wall rides are ultimately for good or evil. You can marvel at the gifts of the natural world and the precision geometry of our solar system and our bikes and our situation in relation to each other as friends and people of leisure who choose to spend time in this manner.

You can speak about the Hawthorne Effect and the fact that cameras are routinely brought along on the ride. You can conjure up stats and figures on fitness and well being, various costs, and relative risk.

Yet who can explain

...riding a bike

...on the wall

...under the moon?












- - - - -
Hawthorne Effect named originally after Hawthorne Factory workers who improved output and appeared to act differently and try harder, just because they knew that they being watched.

August 17, 2010

August 12, 2010

School Like Cars

If there's any conversation in the public square that's more inflammatory than religion and politics, it's the topic of early childhood education. You'll find no subset of people, even within a church, having unity on the issue.

Except us homeschoolers, we ourselfes.

The topic comes up. A lot. My work environment lends itself to knee deep conversation. Just last week a patient gave me a 5-minute socialization lecture from the treatment table. When another patient brought it up this week, I tried to skirt the issue by telling her what school district we live in.

"Really? My daughter teaches there... Oh, why did you decide to do that?"

So suddenly I'm thrust back into the whole - we wanted to just try it and if the kids turn out weird and backwards it's because of us not the education and we love having the time with our children but that's not implying that regular school parents are crazy and hate their kids - thing.

Maybe I'm just not mature enough to take a deer in the headlights "good... good for you" auto-reply as sincere. Call me "sport" and give me two head taps. Maybe it's confidence. Despite my blogging tone, in real life, Amy and I are not terribly confident people.

At any rate, my final attempts at sidestepping the home school conversation include naming our home school (The Aptitude Academy of Mechanicsburg, a very private, selective institute) and creating new labels for home schooling itself (Domestic Education).

I'll let you know how it goes.

I really try, and even pray, to have neither pride nor shame in our decision. Amy and I continually take it seriously. Things may change. We're going to take it a year at a time, and I'm thankful that Amy wants to take this on for now. There are legitimately good reasons to home school. There are also a few good things the kids will miss out on. You can't have it both ways, right?

With only a year under our belt, we're both extremely satisfied with the decision. A year ago when I was asking respectable parents how they felt about their decision to send their kids to public- or private- or home school, each and every one of them told me the same thing. But then again, you will rarely hear a person go around admitting or even knowing they got a bad deal on a car. I wonder if the school thing is similar.

I'd prefer to not go there. It often seems like a lose-lose. We're homeschoolers. Whatever that says about us is true. I guess.

And then there's Debbie V and Steve A. I've been able to have this conversation with them and laugh about it. We all love our little pupils and want the best for them. We're able to do that without feeling all judgy. I walked away from that conversation without feeling like one of us was punched in the gut.

I know there are Debbie and Steves out there. But at work, I don't have the time or energy to risk it. For now, I'm keeping it nice and shallow at work, and diving deep at the Mechanicsburg Aptitude Academy.

- - - -

August 10, 2010

We Were There

- - - - -

My kids, parents, and I were seven of the 40,000-some people attending last weekends National Truck Convention in Carlisle. The boys have been fascinated with monster trucks. Somebody gave us a cheesey Truck DVD from the 90's with a theme song full of some fine poetry:

What's scary but fun
and weighs more than one ton
it's a mighty mega monster truck

And I was interested too, for a few reasons.

Apparently for some people, a lot of people, trucks are a way of life. A way of horsepower and chrome, jean shorts and skull tattoos, shook me all night long and bob that head. The cylinders are high and the color most definitely not green. There's nothing about these people or this place that hints of gentleness.





Truck People


We drug ourselves across about three miles of people's precious babies all lined up for ogling, professional looking vendors, and guys sitting behind random hunks of dirty metal laying in the grass. I swear that someone knows what those hunks of metal are for.


Iturned quickly and caught this one in the act
of transforming.

Struggling to be in the present, I wondered what the huge inflatable bottle of Armour All says? The series of mud flaps and running boards with the silhouette of two busty ladies sitting back to back? All the massive and/or tricked-out machines were too much to recon. Some of them, the monster trucks, so terrible and awesome that we shout and pump our fists at the exercise of their mighty tires of destruction, chewing on the multitudes of yester years practical A to B autos.

Are the monsters entertaining monsters? Being that some 92% of people on earth have no vehicle? Considering the large scale compromises we make in order to fuel the machines we do have? There's nothing impressive about a 98 Ford Tempo. Or is there?

I'm sure someone has written about monster trucks and monster truck people and Jesus. I can't. I'm not even trying to figure out what it all means. There are a lot worse hobbies, I think. Of course it's not just the truck people who are maybe a little shy on perspective. While we all live in a house full of malnourishment and illness, Americans are off in our little corner room having eating competitions and academic debates over the merits of chicken versus beef for "ripped" abs.

Creepy interior skull for resting your left
elbow. What does it mean?

I'm pretty sure that Jesus would care about the truck people. No matter what I want to think about them, I can say that they were polite and inclusive each time we had a personal encounter. The guys eating lunch beside us at the picnic tables. The teenagers who moved over and encouraged the brothers to see the Jeeps do their thing on the big boulders. The vendors passing out freebies. The truck people watching four children try and fail at their fathers pleas to not touch the trucks.

The truck people were kind. They allow outsiders in, no nagging or questions asked. My family, from Dad to Maggs, had a nice time doing something together.







- - - - -

August 02, 2010

How it looks is how it is

The neighbors across the street have sold their home. They were good folks. They allegedly liked it here. But they found their hideaway in the woods that cuts his daily commute in half.

I watched realtors and prospective buyers pull in and out of their driveway for about four months. Who would it be? How will the neighborhood adjust? Of course one can pray about such things.

Lord don't let it be a couple of sloppy cousin Eddies.




And Lord please place around us a hedge of protection from anal don't let your bike tires or basketballs roll into our precious fescue neatnicks.

And Lord, we just ask that any new neighbors have less than two cats. And no Jack Russels. Lord you know that our two JRs are enough around here.

Lord don't let them be rocking the party eight days a week twenty somethings. Not too old and stodgy, dinner at 4:30 then Jeopardy and quiet in bed, either.

Lord let them be a couple of generous with their pick-up truck, kid loving thirty-something, slightly but not too progressive genuine Christians. And the husband enjoys playing sports and mountain biking. Wait, that's my friends.

Didn't Jesus interject the term neighbor when making some of his most difficult points? Do you remember that time when he was put on the spot and shook everything in existence down to commandments 1a and 1b? That was awesome. But do you you think "love your neighbor as yourself," means, like, your neighbor?

Oh Lord, who is my neighbor?

I imagine most new neighbor concerns tend to be nonconcerns. The realtor and potential buyers are most certainly looking back over here, loving or not loving us.

Market value is surely the largest new neighbor filter. It's highly unlikely that someone very socioeconomically above or below will even get the chance to stand and behold the circus that is our home. But for those who have personally seen how it looks around here...well that's how it is.

Does "curb appeal" involve various balls and climby things and toy trucks and a 4-foot high bike jump? Is this a boatload of evidence for noise and nonsense or family friendliness? In addition to our four children, neighborhood kids C, L, and K are here a lot of the time. Some combination of a few highschool guys who train with me, some family young and old, a few friends, and their children are here about two or three days per week.

Then you have the sporadic picnics, Bible studies, and other gatherings culminating in early October:




For better or worse, our family and friends and the amount of junk the kids drag out into the front yard that day does effect the buying and selling next door. Amy and I try to keep some semblance of order. Tending to yard work is like spiritual exercise for me. Well, at least a few hours of it. And we try not to let the sun go down on the flotsam and jetsum of the day. Every dusk has all of us dragging odd combinations of shirts and mismatching sandals, tadpole buckets and bug jars, trucks and shovels and miscellaneous swords and bats back into the garage for their nights respite.

And we love it. We're thankful, tired, and prefer it no other way. Pretending to be all cute and quaint would be terribly hard.

Lord help us to please and build up our neighbors, for their own good and for your glory. Even the poor souls who live across the street.

_------

July 17, 2010

Refs

/ / / / / / / / / / / / /

Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing.

- Vince Lombardi

Referees cause a profound shift in minds of recreational athletes. League organizers pay official officials to bring a sense of fairness and objectivity to the competition. They're an unbiased source of experience paid to run the show and hold the rulebook on the tip of their tongue.

Of course, even the most qualified refs miss calls and make mistakes. Participants acknowledge this up front. All parties agree to submit to the best judgement of the ref. Putting matters of conflict in the hands of the official is in the best interest of everyone. Winners win and losers lose when there's no room for cheating or complaining.

Supposedly. Shhyeah, right. What actually take place due to the presence of a mere man in a striped shirt goes far beyond the rules of the game.

It's not all bad. Intensity of effort is dialed up a notch or three. Heart rates are maxed out and people suffocating under domestic responsibility are suddenly warriors forced to live in the moment. They push hard, as if the welfare of women and children were at stake. Teammates forge bonds and strain their bodies and break their capacities.

With refs comes the awesome opportunity for athletes to really try. Ooh, there it is.

Trying.

To try means to risk failure. That's where things get hairy. If you care to know a man, be courageous enough to compete against him and try. Or better yet, compete with him. Forget the uniforms because the field or court is always where true color is laid bare.

The glory of having refs is also the curse of having refs. Nice guys get serious and sometimes frustrated. Serious guys become angry. Angry guys become jerks. Jerks quit.

Hire a ref and, for some reason, the rec athlete's own responsibility for conduct suddenly becomes the refs obligation. Respectable associates become egomaniacs that can only see it one way. Fit and sturdy youth become spineless weasels, sometimes violent but always testing to see what they can get away with.

Fathers who try to make every missed basket and dropped fly ball into a "learning opportunity" for their child are suddenly ready to go fistacuffs over a lane violation.

Such is the power of refs in rec sports. Yes - recreational. I testify to the truth as an eye witness. The power discriminates against neither race nor gender, socioeconomic status nor sports experience. It's proven effective on construction workers and professors, beginners and former professionals.

I've litteraly seen the refs power over punk gang members at Harrisburg's Reservoir Park and over pastors and other brethren at Messiah College. And yes, it holds sway over physical therapists too.

If winning is the "only thing," then we better seriously consider what winning really means in rec sports. Winners still go home and have to live with themselves.

"Nobody wins" is certainly a realistic possibility. It occurs when participants blame and bitch and moan to save face in the event of a loss. It's where you arrive after leaving a wake of bickering and bitterness, broken bones and burnt rules, on your way to scoring more points. And that's not what anybody came for.

Yet still, refs can be worth it. Absolutely they're worth it, if you remember (ironically) that it's not just a game.

\\\\\\


Ma crew rollin' white and nerdy last winter:

July 08, 2010

Music Is

Central Pennsylvania's WNNK 104 played over my dentists radio last week. Sitting motionless, mouth propped open, I forced back a laugh at the soundtrack to my dental exam.

before I leave
brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack

"Harrisburg's work day radio station," apparently deems this to be standard fare for the workplace. From what I'm hearing, many local businesses agree. I picture politicians at the Capital, attorneys in Hershey and neurologists in Camp Hill bopping through their offices.

I'll get him hot
show him what I've got.

I know it gets a lot worse (or better) than this, depending on who you ask. Keep in mind that central PA is somewhat conservative. It's certainly not LA or New York City.

I'm not even the radio police. Much of what's out there is pretty fine by me. You'll catch me subtly playing air drums with my thumb or foot, mostly not understanding or even giving much attention to the lyrics.

I have a hard time tolerating only "positive" Christian radio, not that it's all bad either. I don't imagine a constant loop of Crystal Lewis and Michael W. Smith should be played in a nondenominational workplace. In the same way that I don't prefer a dental dance party, I'm not so sure that interjected sermons and mini sermons on Christian radio are appropriate for a workplace setting.

Yet who can deny that there is at least the potential for some powerful self-destructive forces to be at work? I'm not sure if it's my own filter creeping rightward or that of the greater culture leftward, but something is definitely moving here. Go ahead and listen to pop radio and tell me somethings not moving.

In my mind, there's a difference between

Let me go on
like a blister in the sun

and

Honey got a booty
like pow pow pow

Daytime - workplace - radio.

Sure, back in my day we had our Samantha Fox and Guns-n-Roses and Ice T. But you didn't hear their more obscure references played over mainstream radio. The booty lyrics just aren't fitting when you're trying to do a gait analysis on military personnel and soccer moms.

Music is good for the atmosphere of a PT office. Plus, it's practical for HIPPA privacy regulations. A little background noise keeps people from overhearing the details of other's business. I'd prefer that my mind (and the minds of my patients) not dwell even more on Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga.

Sorry, but country music is no option either. And sometimes, usually on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, I'm just not in the mood for the Gwen Stefani WHOO-HOOO guy.

So I made a CD from my home itunes selection. It contains a lot of Switchfoot and Reliant K and Kim Walker Smith alongside O.A.R. and Muse and Dave Matthews. And U2. Can we all at least agree on U2? The CD is simply made of songs that 1) the PT likes and 2) have lyrics appropriate for a professional setting.

I want to be respectful and sensitive. I'm there to do my part in stretching shoulders and strengthening knees. The last thing I want or need to do is preach to and proselytize somebody who already feels like an outsider.
Bad witness - bad for business.

On the other hand, it's pretty much white bred Christian America around here. My honest guess is that for every patient who's turned off by even subtle faith gestures, there will likely be ten who appreciate it and see it as a sign of shared values.

gone
like Frank Sinatra
like Elvis and his mom
like Al Pacino's cash
nothing lasts in this life

If that alternative to the workplace booty call is too Jesus for someone, then maybe I should be okay with the fact that there are plenty of other outpatient PT offices around, some of which are certainly "WNNKing at Work," as they say.

Not everyone has the same values. I get that. Even WITHIN the office lies a good example of the dilemma. Kim is pretty conservative and gets a headache from anything with perceptible Auto-Tune. Debbie is far less conservative and perfectly at peace with the Black Eyed Peas. I think both of them claim to be Christians, and I see their points.

So today I sing to you, as one who beholds the power of the radio dial on an old CD/Radio/Cassette tape player in a small physical therapy office.

What should I play?

Is there an HD radio mix that justifies an upgrade? I think Howard Sterns permanently ruined my perception of Satellite Radio. Even if Satellite Radio is not all breast and fart jokes, it still seems unnecessary.

The whole thing becomes tedious and a little ridiculous when I don't have the time or mental energy to devote to such matters. That's why we mostly end up listening to nothing.

Is this trivial?

First Choice Rehabilitation Specialists is a smallish, independent company with no official music policy or custom mix ala Chic-Fil-A. Which is excellent, by the way. All walks of people go there because they do good work.

Yeah, I want our office to be like the Chic-Fil-A of orthopedic rehab. I could live with people of all worldviews coming because we do good work, the work being a testimony to what we believe. I want my joint manipulations and exercise prescription to be as good as a classic Chic-Fil-A chicken sandwich.

I could use one of those
right
right
right about now

-
-
-
-
-

July 04, 2010

Poured Out















We moved into this house in September of 2005. Full boxes were strewn about the living room. Pictures and furniture leaned against walls. We had no phone service. Yet the stream in the back yard was the very first order of business.

Tim and I dripped with mud and sweat as we rolled three massive boulders down to the far end of the property to buttress a small line of stones that crossed the stream. Tim was a 330-pound offensive guard then and I thought it was cool that a Steeler assisted in my homemaking.

From that day forward, people young and old have enjoyed the fruits of the dam. Wildlife flourishes. Kids have swam and rafted around. We've been entertained by native trout, ducks, turtles, and countless frogs, minnows, dragonflies, and crayfish. Crowds have roared during Walnutfest as their walnut floated toward the finish line.

Well, the dam came to an end today, converted to what I'd like to term a "trout nook." A resident far upstream claimed the dam was flooding the route 15 underpass and part of his property. Later, Zach Blair from the Department of Environmental Protection paid a visit to investigate the issue and the claims.

The trout nook. A determined trout can climb that now. Definitely.



"Your dam is less than three feet so it's fine, except for the fact that this is a native trout protected waterway. No dams are allowed in these."

Damn.

Hmm. In the effort to harbor trout and other critters, I overlooked the possibility of wildlife wanting to come upstream to visit this area. Taking down the damn for the sake of the trout, in my mind, made the whole thing a lot more palatable. Zach and I talked for a while. I noticed his eyes light up when he saw a few trout dart away from us. He said this stream is a pretty unique and amazing thing, and I agreed.

Earlier today, a small crowd watched me, head hung low, standing waist deep in the water, reluctantly pulling up rocks and tree limbs.

"Do you think the trout can make it through that?"

Thirty minutes later, the frogs had two jumps to hit water. The level was well over a foot less. And guess what? The route 15 underpass is still completely submerged. It's been that way for about two years, ever since the state installed a drain that failed. It was supposed to divert highway runoff from a row of nearby town homes. That had nothing to do with the dam, and I'm pretty sure the little dam is a lot more trout friendly than highway runoff.



The underpass is still flooded. And awesome.




Ben and our neighbor Lianne and I have seen a beaver that resides back there, but lets not get into that. Seriously, I didn't mention the beaver to my complaining upstream neighbor.


Here's a photo of our back yard on the day the drain washed all kinds of rocks and dirt onto the underpass.







The waterway still amazes me. I stare at it, mesmerized when the sun is to my back. Pure water continually rolls through my shadow. It just keeps coming. I get the same feeling looking deep into the night sky.

This birthplace of the great Atlantic is only about a mile upstream, boiling from under two rocks and an old oak. It flows remarkably cool and consistent through summer drought. It never freezes in the winter. The surrounding topography contains no huge mountains or valleys. Where and whence it comes is a mystery.
I - said - mystery.

So please, geology and waterway engineer people, hold your tongue. What good can come from knowing more about this spring, being that I'm already compelled to be gentle? No, this is Gods blessing to my bunch of critters, and trout, ducks, frogs and bugs too. And a beaver. Lets not forget the beaver.

Right here in Mechanicsburg is a fountain of the deep poured directly from the hands of angels.
- - - - -

June 30, 2010

Freedom Sandwich

- - - - -

“…in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”

from the US Constitution

- - - - -

There comes a day when a boy is of age to be granted choices. On that day he has a share in his fate, for more than one road lies before him.

On previous days, out of the blue, only grape jelly would suffice on the sandwich. Not strawberry or even grandma Gorinski's homemade peach. Then there would be no jelly at all, but only honey. Once this had been established, one particular kind of bread was deemed acceptable. Brown without "seeds," but not too brown.

Once these rules had been laid firm, suddenly, the crust was an abomination. While crust issues were understandable in those days, a two-inch crust buffer was not. Though guarding against the frightening possibility of inadvertently contacting crust, such a buffer allows only 2 or 3 good bites per half sandwich.

And when all suitable elements have finally been properly gathered, assembled and dispensed, questions of geometry come to pass. Cut up, "loaf shaped," triangles, rectangles, Iron Man plate, basketball plate, honey on the side, and without doubt, endless permutations into the future.

It has been calculated that one day only brand names will suffice. Then no peanut butter sandwich at all, but something set apart from the rest of our people, especially prepared to the flavor of the king on high. After that it will be that dads fishing pole is too creaky and mom’s old car is humiliation.

Every whim is an expectation, every luxury a necessity, and every comfort “just so.”

Oooh – how me the people despise the mentality of entitlement. It’s the principle, not the sandwich. It’s not like we’re serving fried monkey brains or even meat loaf and brustle sprouts.

Formulating and complying with precise sandwich specifications is not the answer. One Iron Man plate per child is not the answer. Uncrustables ready-made sandwiches and meticulous cutlery skills are not the answer. Saintly patience and perseverance are not even the answer.

The answer appeared as writing on a wall. It was a small sign hanging in the far corner Bret and Coleen Wagner's kitchen. I embraced that truth as good news for our home and for all homes; a fair and just, BS-stopping gospel of freedom.
That's why...

There are two choices for lunch today.


Take it or leave it.

June 19, 2010

Gift


I used nearly an entire role of duct tape that day. Medieval weaponry is what you get when you show them a clip of the movie Troy.

But it was worth it. For over an hour they ran around like mad men shouting "HECTOR," kicking the air, spearing weeds, and throwing small walnuts and blocking them with cardboard shields. I even saw Lidia dive for cover behind a tree trunk when there was nothing that I could see coming at her.

Two of my boys and three of their cousins camped out in our back yard the previous day, after an extended family trip to the pool. We partied hard on into the night. On the itinerary was frog catching, flashlighting, fireworks, and a camp fire. We ate, read, and prayed before finally signing off. We fell asleep, the six of us sardined into a hot tent smelling of gun powder and dead lightening bugs.

All smells aside, I didn't rest so well. I forgot to bring the small soft blanket that I usually use to shield light from my eyes. Amy calls it my "wubby", though I've never called it that. Any hint of sound also awakens me. I hate it, especially with the kind of days a parent of young kids typically has. But this time, I relaxed as brightness trickled into the tent. I listened to the birds in peace. It was the first time in a long while that I did that and thought "it's okay."

That was my fathers day gift.

You can't Paypal getting to goof off with your wife and kids and having quiet solitude. I usually have to pay off the debt later with dizzying fatigue and sometimes grouchiness, which usually isn't such a good thing for the family.

But this was Dad's day. I didn't have to work or follow through with any agenda or "to do" list. Amy is always happy to give some relief from the kids when I need it. Later, I could play with the family or I could rest. Tonight I opened a package of alone time with my thoughts, books, and computer.

What more could a dad ask for, especially one who doesn't enjoy eating out or cooking on a grill, golfing or watching sports on TV? Surely I have my consumerist weak points (like basketball sneaks), but overall I don't look or act much like the dads in the JC Penny flier.

Some would think that's all pretty lame and ask "but what do you do for fun? I can understand that perspective. But I have to add that there's time for other things; a little right now and (Lord willing) a lot later. Much of being a dad is the fun. Besides, what's a dad supposed to say on the day he gets to do what he wants? Say "it's fathers day, seee-ya, suckahz, ha ha" as the base booms and the SUV screeches out of the driveway?

On my day, I want to be with them doing something they enjoy. No doubt. I would also really enjoy a good rest. And more than a ball game or mountain bike ride with my homies, today I think I need time to sit and read and reflect. The blogging is always therapeutic.


"Oh. You shouldn't have."



Thanks Amy, L, O, B, and M. This day and all days.

June 16, 2010

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Dad

Hey, I found one!

- - - - - -
"Kids don't believe in "later." So if you're never around right now so that you can provide a better life for them later, be careful."- Jonathan Acuff
- - - - - -

I'm unsure if it's true that 99% of fatherhood is showing up. What about doing a good job as a father? I'm certain that willingly or unwillingly, dads will have a drastic influence, for better or worse, over the life of their children.

Fatherhood is joy and a heavy weight. It's pride and reluctance and excitement. It's stamina and an entire life's work. Who knows a man who "showed up" better than his son? Strengths, weaknesses, preferences, all of it.

I know RJ Gorinski better than any other man, like, way more than Wikipedia and all of the innernets. That's a pretty powerful thing to lay claim to. As one privileged to such knowledge, what does it mean when I say "it was and is a genuinely good thing to be the son of RJG?"


What do I think of dad, tonight?
He rarely spoke directly on big life lessons. I never had "the talk" on a number of issues, sometimes when we should have. I know how he hates the awkward confrontation. But he also knew the low cost of talk.

I can say this. When the majority of my peers, sports heroes, Axl Rose, and all the rest of the world were screaming lots of things, dad was clearly, unmistakably "saying" the opposite. He respected his parents and his wife and women in general. He was fascinated by the natural world and his place in it. He had a healthy fear of God.

That's what his life told me.

Dad literally kicked my gluteal region over my shoulders, never for him and I don't think one time more or less than I needed it. Speaking of asses, he was usually quite careful with his words. Careful, but real. Many things I heard - we just didn't say those words - me and dad. He offered some comments on ignorance and what some words represented. It takes no words to teach a child the wisdom of sometimes holding your words.

What I can appreciate the most at this point is the delicate balance. Loving means doing your part and letting go. Working at stability and presence and provision for the children, sacrificing so much for them while not holding on too tightly. Not expecting perfection. Giving advice but not pushing it. Allowing lessons to happen when and where they need to.

The role is critical. But one man, one person, can only do so much. Like, how do you get a kid to understand the essential value of hard work without pushing them to rebellion or the foolishness of spending their entire life chasing the golden carrot?
I know there is no formula for this type of thing. But I do have a foundation of what worked for me growing up. I'm extremely thankful to know what a good dad looks like.

...And he saw these things, and they were impressed upon his heart.
- - - - -

June 12, 2010

BAPTIST back in

We almost changed our name from Lighthouse Baptist Church to Lighthouse Church. Just Lighthouse. As in, no mean-spirited fundamentalists who go around blabbering about hate and shun pants-wearing women and call every male in the club by “brother." We imagine thousands of seekers thumbing through the yellow pages, systematically skipping everything with a mention of the word Baptist. We tell family and friends about the great things happening at Lighthouse [mumble or subtly clear throat] Bpte Church, because Baptist is code for stodgy, closed mind-controlled, legalistic, old fools.

As if.

I do imagine that many people see our name and write us off; folks who would have found exactly what they’re looking for and need. Others have shown up expecting to find something we’re clearly not. People come as they are and sing contemporary stuff rather than (only) piano hymns. We take a beating from the right hand, too. It’s happened.

A dozen or so church leaders contemplated the potential benefits, time, and costs involved with a name change. When I was all for “Just Lighthouse,” I remember Pastor telling me “these are good points but I’m just not so sure yet.” A voice of wisdom has the patience and grace to say things like that.

About a year later, the issue has kind of fallen to the side. The church has moved on to different (better?) things, including a lot of doing. Problem solved, so it seems. Maybe it was intentional or maybe we just got too busy for changing names. Either way, I think that was divine.

So here we are as Baptists. Lighthouse BAPTIST Church. Yes, that’s our tradition. Baptizing is what we do here. Our family of believers takes to heart the deep symbolism behind being washed and rising again as a new person. We take literally the ideas from the Scriptures themselves; the need for a public pronouncement of faith; that we chose, individually, for ourselves and no other reason.

Owning up to the good and bad of our tradition also happens to save someone a lot of time and effort right now. Someday when our roots, tradition, and ceremony are heavy in style, like community this and crossroads that are right now, we won’t have the trouble of adding Baptist back in.

I think it's a good lesson in letting go. Our lives speak or they don't, and we'll have to accept whoever comes by that. Our church is here and it has a name. Whatever you call it, that's where my family and I will be going for a good long while.

- - - - - -

www.lighthousehbg.com

May 30, 2010

Nirvana Means...

My mom picked me up early from basketball practice that day. My eye was gouged pretty severely and there was blood all over my shirt. The news came over the radio of our blue Ford Tempo. Kurt Cobain shot himself in the head.

He was gone. Forever, for all I know.

I remember feeling selfishly mad. In the Hindu tradition, nirvana means rest, stability, and joy. Yeah, exactly Kurt: whatever never mind.

But mostly I obsessed over my own final day in this world. It was no comfort to assume that day probably won't arrive for a little while. A painful bleeding cornea and the first time you care about a suicide will always shock invincible, self absorbed teenage boys.

That was the day that I realized, if nothing else, that my time is coming soon. That's why I still haven't gotten over the death of Kurt Cobain.

I don't kazoo Lithium daily or go to sleep weeping over acoustic Pennyroyal Tea. But when I do think of it, I'm still at a loss. It's not just over Kurt, of course. In any circumstance, the sudden collapse of all that a unique person is and knows is incomprehensible.

I think that the death of a celebrity confirms that there's no Karmic force or mystical mathematical balance in the cosmos. I mean, how many people paid attention to and maybe even loved Kurt Cobain? How much opportunity did he have? How much joy did his talent give to others? And yet these only multiplied misery, like a lot of celebrities.

On the other hand, if everything is lost at death, and you're just dead, then why do we even value life or care when someone dies? Why does one life impress such lasting change in the lives of others? Why is grunge branded on my brain, forever drawn to art gritty and unpolished?

Your great great grandchildren may not know your name someday when they are born, but you're certainly effecting them. When you consider that happiness is contagious; the mood of your friends friend yesterday truly does have a drastic effect on your happiness today, imagine how affect is ingrained over generations?

I still stumble in a grand fashion over exactly what happens when a person dies. The Biblical account of heaven is pretty sketchy, and it even says that what is eternal is unseen.

To be clear, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. I buy that. I do. Most of the time, I'm pretty much at peace with the revelation that the end is a beginning.

But in context, much of it seems to be concerned with life now. All the talk of mustard seeds and leaven and well-to-do house holders is to explain how heaven is both a promise for the future and present now, in some sense, in the ways and teachings of Jesus. Check Matthew 13 if you like.

Of course not everyone who claims religion is all set right now and unto the ages. Jesus himself warned that many who say "Lord, Lord," are evildoers who he never knew. He also said that the first in this world would be last in heaven, and the last will be first. When you want to get all up in someones face about how you KNOW it will be after death, go ahead and explain exactly what Jesus meant by that.

Whatever the case, is it blasphemous to say that God definitely holds utter, uncompromising condemnation for those tormented with pain and sorrow and mental anguish, famous or not? When blessed are those who mourn? Maybe there's some part(s) of Kurt that God judges to be redeemable. Who am I to say?

So Kurt probably heard of Jesus but didn't know him. His parents likely didn't give a damn. That likely contributed to his mental disorder, which certainly is hell. The root cause of this living hell is something not of God; separate from God.

I'm pretty sure that finding our joy and our value in God, and trying to do His will, are the only things in this life that will save any sinner from living hell and any sane person from despondency.

"I'm so ugly,
that's okay 'cause so are you - broke our mirrors."

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What specifically gives you hope for the afterlife? Do share.

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