Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Night I Cried Watching "Top Gun"

This "event" actually occurred a couple years ago, when we still watched television. I happened upon a late night showing of the movie "Top Gun" starring Tom Cruise as Maverick, Anthony Edwards as Goose, and the lovely Kelly McGillis as the lovely Charlie, the lovely instructor who captivates Maverick's heart.

Of course I had seen the movie several times over the years. But this night it had a strange effect on me: I started crying. Not like a baby, like a man who has spent decades teaching himself not to cry. (The result of this training, when it fails, is rigor mortis of the facial muscles and a frightening grimace. The grimace may in fact be caused by the unfamiliar burn of tears on the cheek skin. But I digress).

The tears had nothing to do with the death of Goose, who dies when he unsuccessfully ejects from a falling jet fighter. As sad as that scene is, and it is, what broke my tears loose was the realization that I had blown an incredible opportunity in my life.

No, I never had any desire to be a jet fighter pilot. But I wish I had had the desire to do something,  anything as honorable as that when I was growing up. I wish I had believed in something honorable, so much so that I would not have allowed ANYTHING to get in my way.

See, Maverick didn't just decide to be a fighter pilot. He wanted to be the best fighter pilot there was. He wanted to live up to his father's memory, the best pilot in his day, bar none. So Maverick finished high school. I imagine he went through ROTC. Before he could become a pilot, Maverick had to become an officer. So he probably attended the Air Force Academy at Annapolis where he received rigorous military training and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree. Then he could apply for the Top Gun training. Being accepted was not a given! But Maverick was determined, focused, and driven to accomplish his goal. And he did.

He acheived TOP GUN status, the best of the best fighter pilots.
In my high school days there was one thing I applied myself to and I was dedicated, committed, organized and single-minded in accomplishing my goal.

But a "speed-junkie", someone who injects methamphetamine three, four or even five times a day as a lifestyle, is not as honorable as a fighter pilot with a "need for speed".

I took it seriously, though: I was cautious in my acquisition of sufficient quantities of high-quality crystal meth. I was never arrested or even came close. I was never robbed or stabbed or shot in a drug deal gone bad. I dealt with top-of-the-line people in the business for the top-of-the-line product in town. I split the cost and bought in quantities for the best price breaks.

I paid meticulous attention to the fine details of the lifestyle: I used only fresh, clean and sharp U-100 insulin syringes purchased at the pharmacy in packages of 10. I accurately mixed the powder with water and then drew the mixture into the syringe through a rolled-up ball of cigarette filter to make sure I was filtering out any impurities. I almost always used alcohol on a cotton ball to wipe down my inner arm and I was careful about tapping out any air bubbles before shooting.

And despite my lack of chemistry training—I had dropped out of high school at the beginning of 10th grade to dedicate myself to my chosen vocation - partying—I always managed to measure out the correct dose, with an inherent talent for precision: just enough to rush like a bullet to Nirvanna but not enough to blow my heart out through my chest. I was even careful to rotate through my injection sites so as to allow the previous bruise and needle mark to heal unmolested.

Most importantly, I was careful to balance my life: the right dose of fun mixed in to the business of living life. At least in the beginning. I managed to hold on to my job and gain the respect of my co-workers. At least in the beginning. My roommates and I only rarely blew the rent in favor of an eighth-of-an-ounce of crystal.

Ultimately, I ended up living for 2 months in a rent-by-the-week roach-infested motel, rinsing residue from old vials and dull needles for just enough motivation to go flip hamburgers for 8 hours. When I finally escaped the trap and moved back home, it took months for the yellow bruises and needle pricks to heal. It took a couple of years to stop craving the rush. It took a decade to regain my integrity.

See, speed-junkies don't have integrity. They might before that first shot, but not after the second. You still have a choice after the first one: "never again" or, "make mine a double". Take that second one and your life will never be as honorable as it could have been.

So that's why I cried when I watched Top Gun. I made the mistake of comparing myself to Maverick and asking myself, "Why couldn't I have done that?" I hated the answer.

Today, on a daily basis I thank God that he protected me from myself long enough for me to realize that He still thinks of me as a beloved son. And I promise Him that I will do anything to keep my son from ever thinking shooting drugs in a piss-stained men's room stall is okay.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Owl Says: Trust God

In the midst of my morning prayer time, I started praying for a co-worker (whose wife just had a baby and who will be taking the position of my boss in a couple of weeks). Almost immediately I received a picture of an owl with its eyes torn out as if by another raptor. It was a still picture, no movement, but I got the sense that the "other raptor" had just taken a bite before the picture materialized before my eyes.

My dream interpreter, Josie, said: "...your co-worker who is taking on a new position might be flying blind due to mistakes from the current boss.  Sight is particularly important to an owl, so losing his eyes would basically be a death sentence.  You should pray that your soon-to-be boss will be able to see clearly, or that you can be used in a roll referencing sight. Especially the last part.  You might be able to see problems that your new boss will not see, or cannot.  You could be indispensable to him, regarding sight."

My other dream interpreter, Darrell said: "There are two significant things about the eyes of an owl: 1) they are designed to see well in darkness and 2) unlike other birds, they are both facing foreword like a human’s which gives better depth perception. In the spiritual realm that means 1) being able to see in the midst of spiritual darkness and 2) being able to foresee what is coming. The owls eyes torn out means being handicapped in those two areas specifically. So, the owls eyes torn out means being deceived by darkness and unaware despite warnings of what is coming.

"So then the question is who has this handicap: you, your boss, our group, the world in general? Perhaps something to ask God about."
The answer I received when I prayed is that I should be available to my boss to help with his transition, but not push it. Just be ready and available. Which I have been doing now for the last two weeks. I believe he sees me as a resource. I hope he does.
But I also believe Darrell's thoughts pertain to me specifically too. I am easily deceived by darkness. And I am easily misguided by my foresight (or lack of). And so I take this as a warning to trust God, and not my feelings, foresight, or knowledge.
Trust God. Trust God. Trust God.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Round 2

Just wanted to repeat a statement from my previous post because it shouted at me just now when I re-read it:
I can fall back into the arms of my Father and listen to Him remind me that I am His beloved child. 
I love that sentence. Because it's true and because God reminds me all the time. Thank you Father God.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Father's Day (that's Father with a capitol F)

Blogger John Shore says: “We spend the first years of our lives utterly dependent upon our parents … If they don’t choose to give us what we need, we perish…And so children born to crappy parents do virtually the only thing they can do, which is to…convince themselves that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, their parents really are good, caring people who really do love them.”

Isn’t that the truth? It comes down to the survival instinct. You convince yourself that they are the source of peace (despite all the yelling), they are your source of strength and confidence. You are able to go out in the big scary world because you have parents who love you and built you up and made you who you are. And you have faith in them.

And as an adult, when you finally peel back the bandage to look at the scar, voila! The truth is so inescapable, you might just fall into depression, flounder in thoughts of worthlessness—if not thoughts of suicide. And so you do the only thing you can do: rather than admit the truth to yourself, you ever so gently, quietly, push your canoe away from their canoe—trying not to make too many ripples lest you rock their boat. And when you’re far enough away, you start to pretend they don’t exist. I mean they exist, but out of sight, out of mind. Occasional uncomfortable dinners and forced cheery phone calls.

But when someone, say your sister or your friend asks why you don’t have a relationship with your parents, you have to come up with THE REASON. You can’t just admit they were actually just this side of baby-eaters and if you stood too close, they would devour you alive—metaphorically speaking. So you instead ponder the question with a thoughtful crook of the eyebrows and the more you ponder the more you start to question yourself and the more you question yourself the more guilt you stir up and the more guilt you stir up the harder it gets to look yourself in the mirror.

But then it hits you: they really were crappy! My father bolted and never looked back and my mother married a man who mentally and physically abused my sisters and I. And she stuck with him out of selfishness—he was a paycheck. I should hate them all.

But all that pales—dims to absolute insignificance in light of one fact: God is my True Father. God is my strength. My peace and confidence and resiliency. And when I lack those—which I do, even if I hate to admit it—I have the ultimate gift of a parent: I can fall back into the arms of my Father and listen to Him remind me that I am His beloved child.

And happily, because God sacrificed His Son, my parents' sins are forgiven along with mine. And because of that sacrifice, my forgiveness of my parents actually means something. It has Power. And because of that Power, I don't hate my parents.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Star Fall, A Phone Call...Synchronicity

God sometimes uses synchronicity to speak to me. I remember several years ago when we were scrambling to get ready to sell our “lil’ squirrel feeder” at the Minnesota State Fair and I was letting the production of 1100 Squngees get in the way of pretty much everything else. including God.

I had started a bible study with a friend two weeks earlier and the “homework” for the next day’s get together was to read Colossians 1:16. But I kept putting it off while I fabricated and packaged and boxed up Squngee after Squngee. It was well after midnight when I finally called it a day, and as I brushed my teeth, I again thought of the scripture I was supposed to read (and had promised God I would read before I went to bed.)

I’ll read it first thing in the morning, I told myself as I entered the dark bedroom. My eyes fell on the digital clock which told me it was 1:16 AM. Yes, 1:16. And yes, I sat down right then and read Collosians 1:16! (For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.)

Once upon a time I decided to try, strictly for fun, writing a screenplay based on the rock band Rush’s musical suite “2112”. A favorite of mine since I was 16, the song tells the story of a dystopian society in the future where creativity is banned. About halfway through my exercise, deciding it was shaping up pretty good, I thought I would attempt to actually get the rights from Rush to take this to completion. I wrote a letter, prepared a synopsis, and included the first twenty pages. And. For all intents and purposes, never heard back from the band’s management company.

One day, while visiting the blog of one of my favorite authors (winner of the Newberry Medal among many other awards, also authored several screenplays for popular movies, as well as graphic novels, etc.) I decided to email him with a request for any suggestions on how to light a fire on the Rush management company. His response was simple (and paraphrased here): “If they don’t seem interested, turn the theme into your own story and pursue that.”

So I did. It is far, far removed from 2112—no electric guitars or spaceships—but the theme of a discontented artist chafing under the oppression of laws against creativity came to life in my own story. Even better, it starred a V.I.P.: Jesus Christ.

What this has to do with apparent coincidences is this: I eventually sent out queries to several (many) literary agents trying to interest them in repping my novel. I received numerous rejections, some cut and paste, a few with words of encouragement. But I finally drummed up the courage and queried the agent of the aforementioned favorite author. Two days later, I received an email asking for the full manuscript to review! It was my first “request for manuscript”.

I’m fully aware this is just another baby step, but it’s a baby step in the right direction. And how cool would it be to be repped by the agent of the author who helped shape the story?

Happily for me, I don’t believe in coincidences!

Here’s one final “synchronous occurrence of events”: Yesterday I received a (very encouraging) comment on this blog from a Pastor SCOTT Sheets, who is the author of a book ("Daniel and the Sea Serpent”). It just so happens that my wife "Liked" a FaceBook page for that very book the very same day! The fact that he ministers in North Dakota--where my wife is from--is an interesting “coincidence”. Pastor Scott and his wife are trying to raise money to help offset the costs of an adoption they are pursuing. Coincidentally (wink, wink) Minda and I recently felt urged to help another couple down the street from our new home with the same issue.

I can only surmise that God is encouraging me to get to know this "other Scott" who is an author and Believer and loves his wife and children.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Crying Jesus' Tears

I was listening to KTIS radio on my way to work last week and less than a hundred yards from the parking lot, the station took a call from a woman who was asking for prayer. She didn't specify why, but the more she talked, the more she cried. By the time I was turning in the parking lot, she had totally lost it. As had I.

I couldn't explain why, but by the time I parked I was crying like a baby. Not a man's hidden, sheepish tears like I occasionally do at tearjerker movies. I was blubbering. I even called Minda thinking she could help me calm down before I went in to work. By the time she answered, I had settled a bit and we talked and laughed a little, then I went to work with that wonderful feeling of clean eyes that tears always bring.

It was a week later that I made the connection to that crying jag and the message I feel God has been whispering to me of late: Live in the moment. Like a child. No regrets about yesterday or ten minutes ago, no worries about tomorrow or later this afternoon. Live in the moment.

I wake every morning desperate to smell the fresh morning air--I call it God's morning breath. And it is that moment that I remind myself that God is in charge of my life. Yesterday I watched the clouds roll across the sky--something I haven't done in decades!--and thanked God for the moment of quiet connection to Him. I believe the crying fit of last week was a moment of connection to another child of God's pain. And for a moment I felt that pain. And Jesus in me wept.

Thank you Father God, for the monents of my life.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chasing the Wind (Part 1)

I talked to my friend Mike about "the List" and he suggested I read Ecclesiastes. I'm happy to say it will be a re-reading as it is one of the few books of the bible that I have read all the way through previously. But it is also a re-reading with new eyes. And I have gathered several great "words" from God's lips.

2:24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.

In other words, God wants me to enjoy my life. And I can do that knowing that all of it is from the hand of God. Even the "trials" that may affect my enjoyment come from God, so I can rejoice in knowing He still wants me to enjoy life.

3:17 I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.”

No one can escape the judgement of God. So I will enjoy my life and live as if that day of judgement is today.

4:12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

Despite my perceived lack of "best friends", and the truth that I have strong relationships with many, all of my relationships are strong when they are based on my relationship with Jesus Christ. The cord of three was perfectly illustrated by my talk with Mike: there was three of us gathered together: Mike, myself and the Holy Spirit. 

5:4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.

I don't need to say much on this other than I have failed at it many times. I am working on it, Father God!

6:9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don't...Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless, like chasing the wind.

I have been a dreamer my whole life, thus my entrepreneurial spirit. And I could say that I have benefited from my dream of being my own boss: Squngee supported our family for five years. But the truth is God supported our family with Squngee.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The List

I’ve been sensing that God is preparing me for a change. Not sure if it’s geographical, mental, maybe even career-related. But I’m waiting to find out. As yet He hasn’t revealed to me what or where or if it is.

The other morning, during my dawn prayer-time, He asked me to write a list. It was a list of “things” that I have, over the last 2 or 3 years, lost my passion for. The list was something like this:

*My job is just a job; there is no passion or drive to create a career. I do it well, I attempt to enjoy it while I’m at work, but I walk out the door at the end of my shift and it’s out of mind.

*The only people I would consider my “best friends” live in Uganda and I get to see them for 24-36 hours every 2 years. That was last weekend and I enjoyed their visist and now I am “best friendless”.

*I feel like we are on the precipice of financial ruin on a constant basis. It doesn’t keep me up at night, but when I look at Andrew’s teeth, or feel the shimmy in the front end of my truck, I have to admit, it catches my breath. Sometimes.

*I have no relationship with my sisters.

*My two- (three-?) year obsession with writing has dissipated to almost nil. Perhaps the drive to get published has dissipated for I still feel a desire to write. But it can be ignored, unlike last month when I wanted to scream because I could only get 900 words down before life intruded.

*My health is dismal and I don’t do anything about it. And I want to; I feel so much better even 20 pounds lighter. But…

So I looked at the list and thought, “How sad is this list.”

And then I felt washed in freedom! I was free from condemnation, urgency, guilt, dissatisfaction, anxiety. Because God is all I need. He wants me to enjoy life, but He wants me to know in the end, it's all dust in the wind. What matters is Him.

Of that list, the only one I think I might need help with getting free is the financial worries. I’m not asking God to make me rich. I just get tired of worrying every week about the vehicles, every month about the rent, and the occasional "what ifs".

So Father God, please make me rich with the confidence that you are sufficient for all my needs. Your promises are infinitely more powerful than my bills. Amen!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lessons From The Sky

God was talkin' loud and clear today. We had church at our home, which could have been a blessing or a curse since I woke up feeling less than my usual contented self. It seems like I’ve been experiencing too much “hope deferred”. But I know I’m waiting on the Lord and just need to remember that. Or be reminded of that. And a houseful of Jesus-lovers…took them about ten minutes to push away the dark clouds.

I mentioned to Jill that the day before had been hell at work and I wasn’t expecting today to be much better. When I left the meeting, I made it to the stairway door before Jill followed me out to pray with me. We stood in the hall holding hands and she prayed for a better day at work. I thanked and hugged her and drove to work. One quick stop at the Kwik-Stop for gum.

With the balmy 25 degrees, I shed my over-stuffed coat and enjoyed the brisk Minnesota air! Another one of God's way of speaking to me: fresh, cool air. I love it, in all its "aromas"...especially on my way to a 12-hour stint in a closed building with a phone stuck to my ear.

Walking back to the truck from the store, I heard the rush of wings above me and looked up to see a trio of Canada geese pass over ten feet above me. I started to smile—I love birds and think of them as God’s messengers of affirmation that He is watching over me—until I felt the wet, warm PLOP on my arm. Yep—a goose had splatted me, green and slimy.

And there was another opportunity to choose the blessing over the curse. For the green goo was on my shirt sleeve, right up to the edge but not on the skin of my bicep (not that I’m squeamish – when I was a practicing falconer I had all manner of animal excretions upon me at various times!). But I took the close but no cigar aim of the goose as a message from God. Because a skin shot would have just been nasty on my way to a 12-hour shift. And my bald head was certainly a more visible and satisfying target.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coughing up the Holy Spirit

Had this dream the other night:

Minda and I were on our way "somewhere"- not sure where but we needed to bring food. So she had a plastic bag of burger patties. But some were pre-cooked and some were raw (big deal for me, the food-borne illness neurotic - ask Minda!). 

The dream was real disjointed so it jumped to the next scene where we were apparently squatters in a building (it seems like there were many families there). In our "apartment" I was brushing my teeth over a dirty utility sink and 
mulling over a recent custody hearing for "my other son" (what other son? I don't know!). In the hearing I had expressed my interest in taking custody of him as my "ex" was about to move to another state and have another baby so why not? She seemed agreeable. 

Then I noticed a little frog swimming around in the detritus of the sink and thought "I'll give that frog to Andrew". When I finished brushing my teeth, I coughed into a kleenex and knew I had coughed up something. When I looked I had coughed out a white feather. I actually examined it really close - part of it was bent.

And then I woke up.

I asked Darrell if he had any insight into the dream and he did:

I have an impression that this whole dream has to do with your old life and your new life (your old life in the flesh and your new life in the spirit). There is a lot of mixing of the two in the dream, when really the old should be discarded.

For example, the good hamburgers represents the word of God (the bread of life), but it is mixed in the same bag with the bad hamburgers, which should be discarded, rather than tolerated and saved because they seem “OK”.

The apartment was not your true home (in the world not in kingdom of heaven) and was not where you should be living. Nobody else that is there belongs there either.

Your ex represents your old life in the flesh too. Your other son is the fruit of that old life. Again, you are half heartedly grasping for the old life.

The dirt on the sink and the debris in the sink is your sin that you find disgusting. You don’t like it around but you put up with it. The frog in the sink is your sin that you kind of like because it was somewhat enjoyable. You are tempted to pass that sin on to your son.

In all of these, you are not aggressively pursuing the old life, but you are agreeing to hang on because it seems reasonable or you are just going with the flow. Instead you should be eagerly discarding the old. Throw out the bad hamburgers, move out of your worldly home (and don’t take the frog with you), leave your other son with your ex.

The white feather that comes out of your mouth is the spoken word, from the holy spirit, coming out of your mouth. It is coughed up because you resist speaking it, but it comes out anyway despite your resistance. So the word of the spirit will come out you, but it is easier for you if you go with it, instead of resist it.