Rode Hard And Put Away Wet

my God, where do these days go?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Man, old folks can dance. Anne Lamott reminded me of this today, and it's a memory I hope I don't ever lose. I was in Philly with some teenagers and my homie, Nels. We were doing ministry work in the city, and of all the things we were doing, the old folks home was supposed to be the most boring. Sing some little songs, smile real big, get through the day.

Nobody told me we were going on Square Dance Day.

Anybody that knows me knows that I am terminally white. Now, square dancing may be strictly the purview of white folk, but there's white and there's white, get me?

Now, I have trouble finding joy just about every day, and I have the blessing of being able to come and go as I please. Anytime I feel like it, I can drag my ass out the door (under my own power, thank God). Where in the world would I find joy in a place that held me captive? But that's what these old folks have every day. Captivity. You might as well call it a zoo for the elderly.

But here's the rub: once we walked in the door, there was joy to spare. And, once the music started, the joy increased exponentially. Not just from the dancers - even the folks who couldn't get out of their chairs for one reason or another were full of it. But those dancing ladies... wow. They may have been in their nineties, but I felt like I'd run a marathon that day, and they hadn't broken a sweat.

That was one of my best days. It's just too bad that I had to go all the way to an old folks home in Philly to find it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

God bless me, I've joined Gold's Gym. My first workout was today - a mile on the treadmill. I've said my goodbyes to my beer gut (but not, thank goodness, to beer). I already feel thinner.

Pray for me.

So, the boy started Karate lessons last night... or is it Tae Kwon Do? I can't manage to keep all that straight. Anyway, I sat on the bench and watched as his instructor made them do things Sam has never even dreamt of before. Things like stretches. The concept of stretching, for a boy who has, for his entire life, been automatically limber, is a foreign one. Of course, the stretching would be fine if, say, it didn't hurt like you-know-what.

But here's the part that surpised me, the part I didn't see coming. Sam had never done these things before, ever. So he had simply no idea of even how to begin to do them. I never thought about neednig to be coached to do stretches. God bless him, Sam's instructor was very patient in helping him to stand the right way for knee-bends, to get into push-up position, etc. Now, I'm no athlete, but I've played my share of sports so that sort of thing comes completely naturally to me. I guess that I went through the same learning process when I was his age - but I sure as hell don't remember it. So it caught me off guard.

The other thing that I wasn't prepared for was how proud I would be watching my boy doing something so simple. There was a time, during one of the stretches, that he was obviously hurting. He hadn't felt pain like that before. But he didn't quit. He pushed through it and finished the stretch. I'm not sure I've ever smiled so big.

Anyway, all that got me thinking about how everything we do is based on these tiny things - things that we don't even remember learning. Church comes to mind here - when did I first take communion? Dunno, but it seems natural now, it seems basic. It seems elemental. So it's strange for me to think of the folks out there who are just learning all this stuff for the first time. Like Sam, they're undergoing the pain of stretching themselves. Why are we doing this? How is this helping me? Why am I putting myself through this church business when I could be out on my boat?

You know what Sam's instructor told him when he asked why they needed to stretch? He said, "Sam, what if one day you're fighting someone who is very, very tall? You're going to need to be able to kick very high, right? That's why you stretch."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

They don't give you a book when you have a kid. My manual for Photoshop is the size of my head, but for a child? Nothing. Nada. Not even an online Help resource. I can't look up "Training Wheels" in the Index, flip to page I-187, and read, "Training wheels should be left on the child's bicycle for no longer than x weeks, but no less than y days." There is no Chapter entitled, "The Various Bugs that Will Stick Themselves to Your Child." So, when Sam has a tick (and he's had three in the last few months), we're calling every relative we can get a hold of to find out what to do.

Now, I've been a parent for nigh on 6 years, and I feel like I'm doing ok. I have my bad moments, some good ones, too. I think my kids are turning out ok - that I'm not screwing them up too bad. Yes, I let my 5 year old son (and, for that matter, my 2 year old daughter) watch The Incredibles, despite what said about it. Violence! Suggestivness! Bad guys get beat up! Your children will imitate what they see! Well, I haven't seen Sam try to pick up the family car yet, despite how much he likes Mr. Incredible, or stick a tack on his teachers chair, despite how much he idolizes Dash. So, I think we're coming out ok.

I digress. Sam has been riding his bike a lot - something you couldn't pay him to do a year ago. He's keen on getting the training wheels off and I can't decide if he actually needs them on for a while longer, or if it's just the dad in me that wants him to not grow up yet.

I was reminded yesterday of an incident we had with him when he just little - probably a smidge over a year old. He was sick - real sick. Puking his guts out, fever, the whole bit. You know. Now, keep in mind that I was all of 23 and Janna was 24. Talk about being completely unprepared for a situation. We had no idea what to do.

In the middle of the night, he woke up and was much, much worse. He was stark white. Printer paper white. WordPad background white. We brought him into the bathroom, and Janna was sitting on the toilet with him in her lap. Sam, who had been falling in and out of sleep, opened his eyes just a little, pointed his finger, and said, "Mommy, look - an angel." Janna lost what composure she had at that point and started sobbing, completely believing that our son was dying. I was on the verge (I think I was just a little slower on the uptake than her, or I would have freaked out, too) of doing the same. Had we had the manual, we would have flipped to the index, looked up "Angel Sightings," turned to page II-134, and read, "When your sick child sees an angel, make sure that he/she is not simply pointing to a piece of artwork you have on the bathroom wall before losing your mind." See, that would have saved us a lot of grief. But, no, we freaked out, and then we saw the angel on the wall that he was pointing to. Ha. Easy to laugh at now, right?

I guess all parenting is On the Job Training. Unfortunately for Sam, his role is that of guinea pig. We get most of our screw-ups out of the way at his expense. I guess that's what they have professional therapists for, right?

Anybody know when the Training Wheels should come off?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Beatles or Rolling Stones?

That's the question as I always heard it. Those were the two biggies. How you answer that question demonstrates everything about you. If you pick the Beatles, you're the artistic, deep-thinking, type. Choose the Stones, and you're a working-class rock & roller at heart.

Well, my lovely bride always said there should be a third choice. As a music purist, I always disagreed. "The Stones and the Beatles are the two greatest bands of all time!," I would bellow. Well, as usual, it turns out she's right.

Add Elvis Presley to the equation, please. You pick Elvis? You're probably just a hard-ass redneck.

Well, which is it for you? Beatles, Stones, or Elvis?

Me? I'll take the King.

Monday, June 13, 2005

I'm tired of the public perception of Christianity. I'm especially tired of blaming CNN and Howard Dean for it. What does it say for Christianity that the most recognizable face of it is Jerry Falwell? Why are there no more real heroes of this faith? Or, are there and we just never hear about them? Is it the media's fault? Is it Christianity's fault? Does it matter? Should we care? Should we just suck it up? Does it go with the Christian territory?

Anybody out there know of some Christians that deserve some ink?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Grief, she holds you captive
In a well as dark as night.
And that ladder of composure you built all day
Crumbles in a certain slant of light.
And it’s leaving you reduced
While you try to catch your breath.
And every tear we cry for our lost loves
Is really for ourselves.
- Bill Mallonee

Let me pass on a word of advice – free of charge. When you’re dealing with someone who’s had a tragedy in the family (and make no mistake about it - for us, a miscarriage is a dead child - period), don’t ask, “How are you doing?” Just don’t ask. Unless you truly desire to become an active participant in the grieving process, keep your trap shut. All that question does is force us to think about it. We spend all day building up that "ladder of composure," and then, when you ask, we have to answer that question.

Also free of charge, here’s a peek into my head: when you ask me how I’m doing, I take one of two approached to what I say next. The first is the truth – I honestly tell you how we’re doing. This is, by far, the lesser used of the two. Mostly, I go with the second option. I simply say, "Oh, we’re doing ok," or, "we’re getting by," or some other nonsense – whatever will get you away from me the fastest. So, just don’t ask and save us both time. Ask me about the Orioles, or how I liked Star Wars. It’ll make for a much better conversation, I promise.

by the way, this was not directed at any of the three or so of my readers… it’s just a general rant

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I have the blessing / responsibility / opportunity /luxury /benefit / hardship of being part of a church plant. Now, we've around for about seven and a half years, so I'm not sure we technically still count as a plant. But here's the main difference between a church plant and an established church: at New Hope (and churches like it), you can get as involved in the church as you want to. Churches that have been around for awhile have people firmly ensconced in positions, plants don't. You want to be a ministry leader? You're hired! You want to lead a small group? We'd love to have you! You want to preach every once in awhile? Sure!

Actually, that last one is the position in which I find myself. Over the last few years , I've preached at New Hope 5 or 6 times. And, I'll be doing it twice more next month. Why am I bringing this up? Who knows. But do you know the odds of a schmuck like me, with no seminary training, let alone much experience, being allowed to preach at any kind of established church? I'm guessing it probably wouldn't ever happen.

Now, as to whether or not that's a good thing, I guess we should ask the folks at New Hope after I preach.

Monday, June 06, 2005

My two lovely children love to put their fingers in things - their ears, their noses, their mouths... you get the idea. Anyway, after putting those fingers in such dank and dark places, the fingers inevitably end up touching my computer screen. The result is, as you can imagine, a cloud of mucus that has to be physically scraped off. Otherwise, whatever is behind the scum cloud gets obscured - making it damn hard for me to do important work, like dowloading the newest tunes from Billtunes or perusing Drudge's latest gossip.

Most of you know what's happened around here these last few weeks. In case you haven't, let me sum it up by saying that May was a bad month for the Barbers. One of my sisters had carpal tunnel surgery (successfully, thank God), my mother had double knee replacement surgery (also successful, thank God), and my other sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and in the last few days had her thyroid removed. And, the coup de grace was that about three weeks ago, my wife, who had been about three months pregnant, lost the baby. Like I said, it was a bad month for the Barbers (especially the women).

Before all of this happened, and even more so since, a hot topic 'round here has been this business of God's plan for our lives. Where does He want us? What does He want us doing? Does my job fit into it?

I've been reading a lot of John Eldredge these past few months, and I've bought into the idea of our lives being meant for something huge - not just a humdrum existence, but something really meaningful to the kingdom of God, in a big way. God's plan for our lives is way bigger than we can even picture, you know? And, when we do get a bit of clarity about it, it tends to be fleeting. So it makes sense to look hard and pay attention when we get the chance.

But when a month like this past May happens, it's like some little hands run their fingers, wet with spit, all over that clear image of God's will. The parts that looked so clear a few minutes ago become smeared and smudged and it gets hard to decipher. And, man, it's going to take a long time to scrape all that off with these short fingernails... Anyone got some Windex?