Have Fun!

I’m not going to get all theological or preachy today at all.  I’m going to throw out a little advice.

Have some fun!

The other day, I looked at Oakley’s knees.  He’s my five-year-old grandson that wants to someday be a Ninja warrior, a police cop, a firefighter and owner of a Chik-fil-a.

His knees are bruised and scraped all over.  His shins are more of the same.  I guess training for all those things is hard on legs and knees.

But, that kid has fun.

No, doubt about it he has a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, fun sometimes leaves a few marks.

I remember how easy it used to be to have fun.  I’d get up early in the morning and walk to a fishing hole and plop down in the grass without worrying about ticks or chiggers or getting my butt wet in the dew.

I’d sit out there with a coffee can full of dirt and worms and just have fun.

Now, I have to take along a lawn chair and bug spray and numerous other fun deterrents and it is so much trouble I just tend to avoid having fun.

I also think that with all that is going on, people feel guilty for having fun when there is so much to worry about.  Isn’t that the whole point of fun, though?  Isn’t fun supposed to be where we let go of things we can’t control and trade anxiety for something that makes us happy?

We are so busy avoiding chiggers and poison ivy that we forgot how to have fun.

I know Oakley wouldn’t trade his bruises and scrapes away if it meant losing his fun.

There will always be time to worry and fret about the future.  But when time for fun appears, grab onto it, gather friends and family and put smiles on each other’s faces.


Removing the Rubble

The old building I used to work in was torn down last week and we were left with giant piles of rubble.  Mounds of bricks and broken concrete, wire, wood and twisted metal covered the ground where once a building stood.

For the last few days, the rubble has been getting cleaned up.  Truckload after truckload were loaded up and hauled away to the great rubble depository in an unknown place to me.

There is still some building to do at work.  But none of it can get done until the rubble is gone.  The remains of the old building have to go before the new can be finished.

I get really discouraged that I haven’t somehow instantly become the perfect human.  I want to be the new man that God promised.

Well, if I compare the man I am now to the man I was a few years ago, I can see the new guy.  But there is still so much rubble laying around.  It has to go before I can be finished.

So, I sit here writing, removing the rubble.

Rubble removal is pretty tedious and boring sometimes.  I feel like I am just moving rocks around and not accomplishing much.  But, eventually, there is a clear place to begin to build upon and things change dramatically.

Life right now is pretty much pure rubble removal.  But, I have to remember that the rubble is slowly abating to make room for more construction.

I am not doomed to live out my days as a garbage man removing the trash.  I am moving the rubble because of the hope of greater things to come.

Beautiful Noise

One day, many years ago when I was a teenager, I was sitting alone in my room playing my guitar.  No, I wasn’t strumming chords and singing folk songs.  I was turning the amp up to eleven and letting the notes cry out at the top of their lungs.  Blues notes rang out dripping in distortion and feedback.  I got lost in how it all resonated deep within my chest as I spilled my guts through the screams of the guitar.

I looked up for a second and saw my Grandma watching me from the hallway with a huge smile on her face.

I stopped playing as the magic of the moment passed.

“That sure is some purty music!”

Now, my Grandma’s idea of good music was more “I’ll Fly Away” dressed in full bluegrass attire.

I’m sure she would never have listened to Jimi Hendrix doing blues riffs and said it was “purty” music.

I’m fairly certain she only thought it was “purty” is because I was making it happen.

For all these years, looking back and seeing Grandma smile and tell me my music was “purty” makes me feel good inside every time I remember it.  I like to think she was able to see deeper than what she liked or disliked and could see something beautiful in all that noise.

It really reminds me that before I judge others, I need to look deeper than just what I like or dislike.  I may not like something but there may be something beautiful happening below what I might just call noise.

That’s really all I have to say.  I think it is important to stop discounting everything I don’t like as just noise and look deeper.  Not everyone that says what I don’t like is too stupid to listen to.  There may be some beauty in there somewhere.

I think beauty is worth searching for.

The Wind

Yesterday, I was hanging around at the house staying in out of the heat and the wind started to blow.  It didn’t get a little breezy.  The wind blew hard.  The big bad wolf would have appreciated the ferocity of this windstorm.

The neighbors nice new flagpole doesn’t stand exactly straight anymore and that stop sign became an expert at doing the twist.

I’m sorry the video wasn’t better but the wind kept blowing me around the driveway.  I was doing my best not to go airborne but I suspect it would have taken considerably more wind to get me to lift off.

When it was all over with, I just had to wander out into the yard and retrieve a few things that had been displaced by the big blow.

For a little while, I felt really small.  I felt as if the weather could just do anything it wanted and all the houses and trees and everything else in its path was at its mercy.

It pushed against me hard enough that I had to regain my balance in order to remain where I stood.  It raged and roared effortlessly reminding me it could do more, be stronger and demolish as much as it wanted.

I realized that this was just a fraction of the power of the wind even though this was more than I cared to experience.

Acts 2:1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.

I remember as a kid, thinking that the Holy Spirit was kind of a big status symbol for Christians, an endowing of a superpower to set them apart from others.  I don’t know where I got it so crossed up but it isn’t the first thing I managed to get sideways about.

But the Holy Spirit is something to immerse myself in that makes me feel small, it roars in the face of my opposition, in the voids of my inner being, above the heights of my own weakness.

It comes from above to make others look toward the heavens and take the focus off of me.

It rushes toward everything in its path to transform it into a part of the will of my creator.  It is there whether it seems to be still or a gentle breeze or a raging storm.

But nothing can stop it.  Not even my faults and failures can stand in the way.  So my guilt for my part in standing in the way needs to only go as far as being placed under the blood of the Lamb.

I have never, in any of my sins, in any of my defects, in any of my lack of understanding, undermined the will of God even though it feels like it.  I just cannot stop the wind.

Surviving the Taunting

When people get into recovery, most people are pulling for them.  Most people.

There are always those that are threatened by a person that is trying to make themselves better.

When Nehemiah went to rebuild the walls and gates in Jerusalem, he had hecklers.  There was Sanballat and Tobiah.  Sanballat was the one that was all offended.  He just had to give his opinion of the undertaking.

Nehemiah 4:1 Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, 2 saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?”

People always want to criticize someone that is trying to rebuild.  It really hurts when that happens but it doesn’t mean that rebuilding has to stop.

Then Tobiah, who may not have had much thinking capacity at all, comes up with one of the worst put downs in the history of burns.

Nehemiah 4:3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!” 

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Imagine, you try to really say something clever and it just comes out stupid and it is recorded in the Bible for everyone to read for thousands of years.  I had better be careful of what I say.  The only legacy Tobiah has is an epic fail in cutting someone down.

Nehemiah 4:4 Then I prayed, “Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! 5 Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.”

Nehemiah was hurt when the insults and jokes were hurled at their efforts to rebuild.  But he did not take matters into his own hands.  He went to God with it.

Now, Nehemiah did not pray a very “Jesus-like” prayer.  Jesus told us to pray for our enemies not that bad things would happen to them.  But, then again, God wants us to come to him with how we really feel.

Nehemiah prayed and told God how he felt and put it in God’s hands.  He didn’t stand in the streets returning the disrespect and hate.  He didn’t post a rant on Facebook aimed at inciting a verbal riot.  He didn’t get in Sanballat’s face and threaten him.

He simply and honestly went to God.

The walls continued to be rebuilt.

That’s the most important thing about recovery, to keep rebuilding.

I don’t need to defend my reasons, my actions, my intentions or anything else.  I need to place my opposition in God’s hands and keep rebuilding.

Idle Time

It is finally Friday.  I feel like I really need a weekend, a weekend where I do nothing except rest, lay back in the recliner and veg, put my feet up and chill.

I feel pretty strongly this is what I need but I also feel that deep down if I could get a weekend like that, it would accomplish nothing.

Often, I feel I need to be idle but being idle just causes me to sit and overthink the world.

I think what I really need is not so much being idle but peacefully doing something I don’t HAVE to do.  Maybe tying some flies, working out, fishing alone in the quiet of a babbling stream or making something out in my shop are better ways to get what I need.

Writing is another thing that passes time in a less hectic yet productive way that does a lot more for me than simply being idle.

I guess what I actually need is to have a weekend where my main goal is to accomplish something I don’t have to accomplish.

I spend so many days trying to accomplish what I need to do and what has to be done and being unsuccessful I end up accomplishing stress more than anything else.  This morning I looked out the back door at the birdhouse I built with my grandson for no reason at all and enjoyed the boys flying in and out.

It’s funny, even if I only watch it for a few seconds, it makes me feel happy, knowing my grandson’s hands were on it, helping it turn into a home for the bluebirds and seeing the tenants enjoy living in my backyard.

No one told me I “needed” to build it or it “had” to be done.  I just did it and just this morning it made me smile.

Dealing with depression, I often feel the need to just shut down and enjoy doing nothing.  But, that seldom helps me at all.  I think I misread this and what I really need is to do something different that fills a part of me instead of me trying to fill what everyone else needs.

My work can be really satisfying, but it can also be very draining.  My responsibilities can be rewarding but they can also steal my peace and ambition.  I feel so tired trying to spread myself thin and make enough of me to go around that I mistakenly think I need to stop and be a bump on the sofa for a couple of days.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve let idleness take over and it just didn’t fix me like I thought it ought to.

So, my goal for the weekend is to start and finish doing something I don’t need to do and that doesn’t have to be done.  Hopefully, I can take a few pictures and show you my unnecessary accomplishment and we can all smile together.

My Nose

Yesterday, I walked right into an invisible door.  I couldn’t see it but when I wandered into it, I came to an abrupt stop.  My nose stopped a little faster than the rest of me and the momentum of the rest of me and the immovable nature of the invisible door combined to give my nose a new profile.

At this moment, I’m not sure if this new look is permanent or temporary.  Only time will tell.  My glasses don’t slide down my nose so easily anymore.  So, there’s that.

The invisible door is solid glass, no frame, no tinting, no nothing to make it visible.  It had never been closed before so I waltzed right into it while looking right through it.

Blood ran down the bridge of my nose as the swelling began and my eyes crossed and watered for a few seconds.  I was mildly disoriented wondering how the heck I ran into something that didn’t appear to be there.

But, it was definitely there.  I just couldn’t see it.

It was sturdy and immovable and it was definitely there even though it was invisible.

Later, I found out I wasn’t the first to try to leave my imprint on the new door.

After my headache subsided, I began to think about that whole situation.

So often, I feel as though there is imminent danger approaching me and there is nothing between impending doom and myself.  The danger looks at me and sees me and I can see it approaching.

I get really scared.  I want to run away from where I am supposed to be.  I want to flee to where the danger can no longer see me and I can no longer see it.  I want to give up doing what I am called to do and hide.

1 Timothy 1:17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

When I resist the urge to flee, I get to see God stop the danger as it plunges headlong into the immovable, unchangeable God of all creation!

It is a splendid sight to see.  The danger looks a little less intimidating with its nose bent sideways.

This is often the way I get to catch a glimpse of God.  By watching what is chasing me crash into the invisible presence of the one that protects me.

I’ve felt as though the danger surrounds me a lot lately.  But now is not the time to run and hide.  Now is the time to watch what happens when it runs into my protector.

The Rubble

When we last saw Nehemiah, he was asking a pretty cantankerous king for a paid vacation so he could go home to rebuild his city.  He had gone from zero to hero in the length of time it took him to make his request.

Nehemiah 2:11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.

Although Nehemiah doesn’t start whining or backing down on his commitment, something about what he writes here makes me feel like things were worse than he expected.

Here’s the point in many of my good intentions that my actions stall.  I see something that needs to get done and then realize it is a lot tougher to do than I thought.  Usually, this results in yet another epic fail on my part, an unfinished task, chore or masterpiece.  Who knows?  I may have given up on multiple epic moments because they were more work than I originally thought they would be.

But Nehemiah was not riding the wave of self-confidence.  He was relying on what God could do.

When I am overwhelmed to the point of giving up, I am only placing my faith in what I can do.  But God can do so much more with what little I am.

Nehemiah could never walk out into that rubble and ruin and rebuilt it.  It would take years and hundreds of thousands of hours of manpower.  It would take overcoming opposition and setbacks.  It would take so much more than any one man could do.

But God spoke the world into being and he was behind rebuilding that city.  It was a walk in the park for him and Nehemiah knew it.

There’s a lot of overwhelming stuff I have to do, get through, survive, endure and rebuild.  I can’t possibly do any of it.

But God can and he is on my side doing all the heavy work for me.

The Sorrow

I’ve been thinking about Nehemiah this week.  He wasn’t exactly the happy-go-lucky glass half-full kind of guy.

Nehemiah 1:3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

Nope, when he heard bad news it was like a dagger to the heart that drove him into sorrow.  However, unlike I typically do, he turned directly to God.  I tend to pout and wait for God to come to me.  There’s a LOT for me to learn right there.

I think part of what makes me hesitate to go to God with my sorrow, though, is that I feel guilty for being sad.  After all, I am supposed to be full of the joy of the Lord and it is supposed be my strength.  If I am feeling sorrow, it feels like I am not pleasing to God.

But God himself feels sorrow.  But he doesn’t let it stop him from being God.  I let my sorrow steal my whole identity at times.

So, if I want to understand my sorrow and turn it into something better, I need to immediately take my mourning to the God of Heaven.

At this time, Nehemiah heard some news that was not what he wanted to hear.  He also felt it was not what God wanted to hear.  But, God already knew what he was going to hear and was already planning to make some huge changes.  But Nehemiah was still really sad because he couldn’t see this plan.

Right now, at this moment, I feel sorrow for the way a LOT of things are.  It is highly possible that God wants to use me for something but I need to leave the self-pity party and go see what he wants.  It would be easier if I could see the plan but that isn’t how God works.

Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the king.  I guess it had its perks, he got to eat all the best food, drink all the best wine and enjoy hanging out in a palace instead of a tent in the desert with a bunch of goats.

It was a pretty good job unless someone tried to poison the king.  I’m not sure how often this happened but since this king had killed his own brother, he was aware that being king wasn’t the safest job in the world.

Well, Nehemiah was so filled with sorrow that when he took the king his biscuits and gravy, the king asked, “Hey, dude!  What’s a matter you?  Why you so sad?”

Nehemiah 2:2 Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

The king was not known for his compassion.  He killed his own brother, for Pete’s sake.  But he asked Nehemiah what he wanted.  Nehemiah knew that if it annoyed the king it could end up being his last request.

So, he turned to God quickly.  There wasn’t time for a long time of prayer and fasting but Nehemiah had already done that.  He prayed and then he spoke.

Nehemiah requested a paid vacation to go home and rebuild the city.  What could go wrong?

Nehemiah 2:6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.

I’m fairly certain that as of this moment, the sorrow disappeared.

I haven’t gotten this far in my own story yet.  I’m still way back at the part where I got bad news and I want to cry.  I’m just now managing to shove the shame of my sorrow aside and taking these tears to God.

It’s really hard sometimes to get it through my head that no matter how wrong I feel about the way I feel, God wants me to bring it to him.  Suffering from depression, I make myself feel that sorrow is a bad thing and it means that I am relapsing into my insanity.

But, that isn’t true at all.  Sorrow is not a bad thing.  Allowing that sorrow to separate me from God and my life is the problem.

I guess I need to wrap both arms around this sadness and carry it to the cross.  I have a king that I can take this to at any time without fear or shame.

The sorrow will pass.


The Fire

Yesterday, I saw a television show where there was a building on fire.  A little girl was in the building trying to get her grandmother out.  She battled through the smoke and flames to get to her grandmother’s room only to find she was too late.

Now, the flames were roaring and overtaking the house.  The smoke was thick and she began to cough and struggle to breathe.  Something fell from the ceiling and pinned her to the floor.  She braced herself for the inevitable.

Then, a fireman rescued her.  He pulled her from under the debris and carried her through the flames and smoke out into the a safe place outside her little home.

I haven’t been okay.  I don’t like to admit it.  I don’t like to fess up and admit I am not doing so well.  I like to cruise along and look like I am just fine.

I like to imagine people looking at me and wanting to be like Mike.

But lately, I don’t think there are many people out there that like Mike let alone want to be like me.  I feel unlikable and abrasive.

I feel like I am in that burning building, running recklessly through it trying to save everyone.  The smoke is unbearable.  The heat is blistering.  The flames chase me trying to make me fuel to their fire.

I fell like falling and letting it all fall in on top of me.

It has been so hard the last few months.  No, this isn’t just about political unrest and the “rona”.  Those are just a few of the flames lapping at my skin.  There’s so much more to this struggle.

My wife gets annoyed that I am unable to speak these words.  But when I speak, my emotions get in the way and my words are tinged with anger, frustration and sometimes even hate.

So, I am mostly silent about times like this.

Just the other day, my emotions took over and I said a lot of stupid stuff that negated any signs of intelligence my brain may have left.  I still feel like an idiot about that and it has faded into the smoke that is choking me.

I honestly don’t believe this fire is going to consume me.  It is just really, really hard and painful.

I remember the bible story of the three men tossed into the fiery furnace.  Sure, God could have stopped the whole ordeal from happening.  But, look at how many people, like me, have learned about surviving the flames.

Daniel 3:24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”
“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.
25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire.

It doesn’t say anything about these guys standing in the furnace dancing and singing, “Can’t Touch This”.

Cant Touch This Music Video GIF

Maybe their agony was far worse than mine.  But they were NEVER alone in the fire.  Their rescue was there the entire time.

I’m not okay.  I hurt.  I’m afraid.  I’m tired.  I’m angry.  I’m a lot of things but I am not alone.  I don’t have to wait for my rescuer to arrive.  He is here right now.  Even as I feel like it is all going to overcome me, I am more than an overcomer.

The fire is all around me but I am going to be called out of it before long.  Flames and smoke and heat are not my destiny because my redeemer lives and he is rescuing me even though I can’t really see it happening right now.

The flames may be way too close for comfort but they “Can’t Touch This”!