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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spit in the Eye

If you own a tv you've seen it.  I don't even watch mine and i've somehow managed to catch it a few times... a commercial for the Spiderwick Chronicles.  In it a nameless hog-something, that's the official name of him, i asked my son Rascal who, since he saw the movie, is as close to an Expert that we have here at the Coop, this nameless hog-something spits a coffee can's worth of mucous into some lad's eyes and and says something to the effect of, "I have given you the Sight!"  After this the lad can see all kinds of little goblinny and trollish critters that have been running around his world all the time without his knowledge.  It opens his eyes up to a world that has always been and yet he lived in total ignorance of due to his "blindness."  

i have met up with one of these nameless hog-somethings.  

The one i met had a name though.  His name is Don Miller.  And you need to meet him too.  Though after reading this you may chose not to.  And that's fine.  The Sight ain't for everybody and it brings it's own troubles.  

For the germophobes out there, fear not, his spit is metaphorical.  He spits in the same way that the Apostle Paul letters.  It started with a collection of letters to America called Blue Like Jazz.  This book pulled the scales from my eyes.

You see, i am a christian.  Though i was not living like one.   Oh, i went to church, even led worship.  i guess you could say that my eyes were only partially open.  i was like another blind man.

Christ hisself came across this one.  So i guess, Jesus is a nameless hog-something too.  Cause he was moved to help this poor beggar who was blind.  Not metaphorically, but really.  Jusus is not a germaphobe.  Jesus, knelt down, took up some dirt, spit on it and made mud.  He then rubbed this on the eyes of the beggar.  The funny thing is that the guy's eyes were opened but only a little.  When Jesus asks him how now, the beggar says, "I can see men, but they walk around like trees."  The guy's vision was still imperfect.  

Now Jesus is perfect and so we must assume that He meant to do this.  This partial healing.  He then rubs a little more saliva pie on the guy and sho nuff, sight.  Full and clear and in fabulous Smell-o-vision.  

So, i was a christian but my sight was like stage one, there.  i could see but i couldn't see clearly.  i was still dragging around a lot of baggage that had nothing to do with Christ or the life He has for His children.  i was still doing things and doing them in ways that did not honor Christ or the God I serve.  i was fighting all sorts of goblinny and trollish critters that i could barely see but sense their pricks and pokes just fine.  i prayed all the time for the Spirit to live and work in me and yet i was the biggest impediment to Him.

The really weird thing was, i was miserable.  i had all the signs in front of me, banging against my shins, that i was living wrong and yet i couldn't stop trudging onward.  i was a victim of my own dogma.  That all i needed to do was persevere.  And since perseverance wasn't working and making my life better i assumed that life sucked.  If you haven't met a christian who has determined that he has proof that life is a big sham designed to burden the living then thank God right now, cuz they are a plague worse than locusts and blood for water combined.  They consume all the joy in a room and spew nothing nourishing in return.  

But Hallelujah, i was blind but now i see!  Nothing looks the same anymore.  Not relationships, not work, not my home or my kids.  i have no idea where this is all going and that's fine, cuz finally, i feel like the Spirit is able to work without my interference.  Instead of blindly marching onward with my bloody shins and my gritted teeth and my sledgehammer of joyless faith, i am skipping along holding the hand of the Father and waiting to see what's next?

Here's spit in your eye!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

the Revelation

I’ve been thinking a lot about occupations.  Occupations occupy a big chunk of our time and energy.  They are often how we define ourselves.  What are you?  I’m a carpenter.  You’re a printer.  A tax preparer.  A plumber.  A salesman.  An engineer.  Whatever.  And since the majority of us work in secular fields, I kind of operated under the notion that occupations were evil, that they were a way of Satan keeping us down, keeping us from what we should be doing, keeping us occupied.  And for me that was true.  I don’t like my job.  Loathe it in fact, it’s not what I want to be doing with my time.  I spend a lot of time hating my job.  I think, man, how much writing could I be getting done, how much work on the house, how much time does this take from my family?  Hating my occupation occupied a big chunk of my time and energy.  Hating my occupation had become my occupation.

In my mind, losing my job was a lot like winning the lottery.  Lord, if I only had a million dollars, what amazing stuff I could do.  I know so many people I could help with that kind of money.  I could give to the church.  I’d be free, so I could volunteer more. Think of all the good I could do.  Have you ever thought these thoughts?  When you put “lottery” in there, I understand the reasons that these are all wrong-headed thoughts.  God has all the money He needs, it’s us He wants.  He wants us to help the poor with the resources he has already given us.  He wants us to give to the church what we already have.  He wants us to volunteer the time we already have.  He wants us to do good now.

But when it came to my occupation I couldn’t see that.  Not until this week.  I had been complaining to God that I didn’t have the right occupation.  That I was misplaced, overworked, underused for the kingdom.  When in fact I was missing a very alarming point. 


A long time ago, there was a comic strip called Arlo and Janis.  Arlo is shown working at his computer in his little office when all of a sudden he gets this revelation.  He jumps up, runs out into the main floor and yells at his coworkers, “They lied to us!  These aren’t careers!  They’re jobs!”


Arlo is right!  You’re occupation is not what it says on your tax forms, apologies to my wife, the tax pro.  You are Christians!  You are disciples of Christ, the Son of God.  You are His representatives to a fallen world.  You are here to show everyone you meet how much God loves them!  God has given us jobs to do while we’re here, yeah, but that’s not our career, that’s not the path of success we follow.  Serve your coworkers, wash feet, pray for everyone you meet and demonstrate how much Christ loves them by loving them.  No matter how unlovable, no matter where God puts you to do that, that is your occupation.  I know, it's not much of a revelation but it was exactly what i've needed to know.

Spiritual Weirdness

So i done something last week that i never done afore.  i fasted.  

i'd always thought fasting sounded weird.  What did not eating have to do with anything?  It sounded kind of shamanish.  Like going on a visionquest or something.  Or at best, smacked of works.  Look God, look how pious i am, i'm fasting!  Aaaaabaloney.  

But i'd read a book by Don Miller that got me thinking.  Not about fasting but about how i was living my life.  i needed time to pray, i needed time to go up on the mountain and consider this God i claim to love and serve.  Unfortunately i've never been able to make time stop and/or my boss spontaneously give me time off for spiritual renewal.  So i had to somehow take the time i had and use it well.  Also, not a speciality of mine.

Enter fasting.  I was skeptical but it really helped me focus.  Whenever i thought about feeding my fat, MnM eating arse, i would pray instead.  It was so simple that it was almost elegant.  i stopped thinking about me so much and more about prayer.

i did that for two days when i took a gift of an oatmeal cookie as a sign that it was time to end the fast.  i guess at that time i was kind of getting superstitious about this, cause i started kind of looking for some kind of revelation.  Some kind of nut to take away from all of this.  Some kind of change of scenery or kind of a metamorphosis in some kind of me.  

i kind of didn't get one.  So i kinda got a little grumpy.  

Yeah, very Jonah of me.  Didn't get the answer i wanted so i pouted and kicked stuff and went to bed all down and depressed.  Felt bad about that, prayed about it the next morning, which led me to pray for all sorts of people and that led me to ....ta dah!  A revelation!

Flu Diary

Day four

Head pounding, eye's watering, coffee tastes bad, running low on V-8.  Dunno how much more rest and relaxation i can take.  Worst part of four days off is no real writing accomplished.  Irony is settling in, making itself some tea and smirking.  Irony's gonna get backhanded.

Just when it seemed God was telling me that my mission, my purpose, my occupation in life was to love people the way that Jesus loves me, the way that Jesus loves them: unconditionally and all the time; He goes and quarantines me for four days.  Something in all this i ain't getting.  And i don't think it's just the snot interfering with reception.

Alright God, you lead me into this desert, guess there ain't much to do but wait for the explanation.  Sure hope it comes soon, i'm out of tomato soup.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Four Months of March

It's raining.


In the four months of March we now have instead of winter here in Pennslobovia, rain seems to be the dominant weather.  That is, if you discount wind.  For when every other day is approaching sixty and all the days in between are near freezing the air masses have to trade places in a bit of a hurry.

i spent all last week looking forward to the weekend and then friday night came down with the flu.  Going on three days of just loafing around in my sweats without enough gas to get to the starting line.

It was just me and Ballyhoo Gang all weekend and i spoke to them all of four sentences.

Wrote what felt like an inspired worship service for church and didn't even get to go.

Read a great book that i'll probably have to reread cuz i was so muzzle-headed i only understood maybe half the concepts.

Slept and dreamt i was at work.  Went to work but got sent home to sleep.

I've been given a thousand reasons to complain and yet all I want to do is praise my Savior.  

Must be some grace in that rain.

Friday, February 08, 2008


i am a carpenter.

This is an oversimplification, of course.  But i don't think we have time right now to philosophize out my whole identity and issues regarding such.  For now, suffice it to say, that whatever i really am is not as important to the story as the fact that for some fourteen years now i have engaged in swinging a hammer for my bread, bed and britches.  
Don't say that last bit three times fast unless you are fully comfortable with cussing accidentally.

i don't particularly like being a carpenter but i find it more rewarding than being ... well, than a lot of other things which are just fine for the fine folk that do them but wouldn't suit me very well.  One of the things that i do cherish however about being a carpenter is the hammers.  i like hammers.  They're like coelacanths or better yet, sharks.  Ancient monsters from the medieval period that haven't lost their power or relevancy.  Hand to hand combat weapons that somehow hang on into the age of gunpowder.  Since this is how i view them, it should not seem odd that i collect them as well, or would if i could justify spending money on more tools than i have a justifiable need for.  i am also searching for the perfect hammer.  One that is exactly the right length, the ideal weight: light enough to be fast and easy to swing but heavy enough to do violent, permanent alterations with said swing, balanced, graceful in flight, terrible in anger, precise, ruthless, crushing, relentless.  If the weapon is the soul of the warrior then the hammer is the soul of the carpenter.

i tend to idealize hammers.  Or is that idolize?
Potato, PotAHto, hammers are cool.

i started with some wooden handled models, around twenty, twenty-one ounces and this worked for me for some years while i used them mostly for striking and building but when i became a remodeler i started using hammers as tools of prying, breaking, hacking and demolition just as much as the striking and building.  The wooden handles became something of a weak link.  So one year for Christmas, my boss bought me an Estwing.  

Now, Estwings, so you know, are the industry standard.  Walk on to any job site, anywhere and guaranteed, if there are three guys there, at least one of them has one of these distinctive blue handled, slender necked critters hanging from a loop on his belt.  They come in all sorts of weights and lengths but the most common seem to be the twenty-one or the twenty-four ouncers, about seventeen inches long.  My boss at the time had several.

Now, i dunno if it was a joke about my size or insecurities, an insult or an honest attempt to find something i liked but my boss got me the only thirty-two ounce, eighteen inch Estwing i have ever seen.  He dropped it in my belt and it nearly pulled my pants off, as it was i fell over to that side.  Which was bad, because i was on a scaffold, two stories up.  As soon as i was able to right myself, i climbed down the ladder, tossed that unwieldy, clunky monster as far as i could which nearly pulled my arm from it's socket and picked up my own hammer out of the mud where my boss had casually let it drop.  i did all of this in a blizzard of curses and epithets about how i didn't want an Estwing, didn't like Estwings and was perfectly happy with my own wooden anachronism, thank you very little.

i was a bit of a jerk.  But it was the truth.

i think i hurt my boss's feelings.  Though he would never have said so.  In all honesty, i think he was making an awkward attempt at being my friend.  He wasn't the most social guy and we were not really too friendly at that time.  He just left the Estwing where i had flung it till he had a chance to pick it up and said he thought it was a fine hammer and would keep it himself.
A long while later, my wooden handle broke again and so had something in me.  i went out to the truck and found the unwieldy, clunky monster down in the bottom of the truck box where it had languished since that day and i took a few test swings with it.  Alright, hammer, look, i don't like you and i'm pretty sure you don't like me but we gotta work together now so let's just bury the hatchet and go bash some plaster, what say?

Turns out there is a certain ornery and perverse pride in being the smallest guy with the biggest freaking hammer on the job.  That monster would pound a nail with a sidelong look and could reach out and touch one on the other end of a sheet of plywood.  But it was demolition work where she really sank her claws in and showed her true metal.  She didn't bend, she didn't break and she never met the structure, joinery, material that ever won an argument with her.  It wasn't long afore she was more mascot than tool and she earned her name...
the Truth.

The Truth and i had a rather long and enjoyable career together.  i hated what i did for a living and she provided an outlet for my frustrated wrath.  i only cheated on her once, when Estwing introduced these supposedly ergonomic hammers that looked more like long necked rabbits in a high wind.  But it wasn't long before those went in a tool box and the Truth slid back into her rightful slot on my hip.  

i don't carry the Truth anymore.  i lost her a year or two ago.  i know not where.  That saddens me, though i think her love love was killing me.  My whole right arm feels torn in several places along its length and i'm not sure that will ever heal.  But i miss her anyway.  She deserves a hanging display on my wall with a single lamp shining on her scarred body.

i'm reading a book that i highly recommend by Donald Miller called Blue Like Jazz.  Don't worry, the jarring juxtaposition is intentional and will hopefully be resolved shortly if not satisfactorily.  Donald Miller's book is full of truth.  Simple, elegant, well said truth.  Donald Miller's truth is wielded not with violence and anger and self-righteousness but with kindness, humility, love and a childlike wonder.  i was reading his book and i was suddenly struck and convicted with the truth he reveals.  i was struck with the way i had been using truth: to make others feel small, to make myself seem smart, to be right.  Even when i have tried to follow Christ i have picked up the truth and swung it with uncaring force.  The truth hurt me.  i wanted it to hurt others.

Don didn't use the truth.  He just real carefully, gently led me to it.

As a remodeler i can tell you that before you take a thing, whatever it is: a deck, a bathroom, a whole house, whatever, before you can take that thing and make it something beautiful you have to tear away all of the useless vestiges of what was there before, gut it down to what's real, what's solid, what's useful and from there and only there can you begin to build.  The truth is good for that, the truth is good for building also.  It is also a good thing to build on.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the Father except through me."  This verse has been used as a hammer.  To exclude.  A hoop to jump through.  A harsh truth that has beaten down many who wished to have someone love them as they are.  Which is exactly what Jesus wants to do.  This verse isn't an exclusion, it's an invitation.
i think i got some apologies to make.