March 22, 2006

Creeped Out

This morning I find myself at my regular table in the coffee shop. It is a place of comfort for me. It is a familiar place. Places and things have a comforting feel to them. Everyone has them. Maybe for you, it is meatloaf. Meatloaf, which I had yesterday at Cracker barrell, reminds me of my early years at home. My mom makes great meatloaf. It was cheap to make, so we had it fairly often. When I have it now, it does more than just fill my stomach. It makes me feel at home and think back to the love I felt growing up. Music has the same effect. If my mind is racing or cannot focus, I grab Rich Mullins' Songs CD or my guitar and find comfort and peace. For my daughter, her Cat in the Hat doll and her Travel Cow stuffed animals are her comfort. They are the things she needs to feel comfortable in bed and fall asleep.

This morning as people made their way in and out of the coffee shop, feeding their caffeine addictions, I noticed a lady sitting in one of the wicker chairs up by the counter. She was just sitting there, staring out the window. It did not bother me at first. I figured she was waiting on someone to arrive before ordering coffee. That is a normal thing that happens here at the coffee shop. But, the next time I looked up from the computer, she was still there, staring. . .Waiting. As I tried not to stare, I noticed she was talking to herself. She was just sitting there, staring out the window, talking. Not just normal talking to yourself, not that that is normal in public--she was talking loudly, like you would to someone else sitting in the chair across from you.

The normal quiet place where I sit, work, and drink coffee was different then. It was "threatened" so to speak by something that was not normal, something that was different, something that made me a bit uneasy.

She sat there for a few more minutes and then went to the counter to order her drink. It was at that point that I noticed the wire dangling from her ear. She was on her cell phone talking the whole time--not just talking to herself.

At the moment I feel a bit guilty. Here I was, taking up public space that I feel is my own (if my table is taken when I come into the coffee shop, I don't stay as long as I usually do because it's just not right. Please don't comment on that, I know I am a mess) being creeped out because something was not normal. What right did I have more than she had to be in here, staring out the window, talking?

There are so many questions and thoughts running through my head right now. Why did I get defensive about space that is not even mine? Why do we take so much ownership in things that are not ours really, to the point that we get selfish with them? When does what I want or what I feel is owed to me become wrong? Many examples come to mind--like road rage. Why do we feel we have more of a right to the road than others do. Why is it that people have to live up to our driving standards to drive around us? What about TV shows? I know people who will rearrange their schedules to make sure they get to watch "their" shows. Within the church, people think they should have "their music" and won't associate with anything that isn't what they want. In relationships, one side or the other will think that they have been wronged because they aren't getting what they want or treated like they think they should be--so they check out.

What right do I have to demand anything? If I put myself in the right perspective--a created being of God the Creator, I realize that I am totally bankrupt in every way shape and form. In that place, what I want becomes lost, and what is for the good of God is found. It is from here that I begin to understand what grace is--the chance to enjoy God's creation and all that is in it in a different light, a light formed by love rather than want. And out of all of it, a desire to help God's creation come to this realization and to bask in it comes, overflowing, like a never ending stream.

March 1, 2006

Over The River and Through The Woods

I am writing today from the Panera Bread on the north side of Canton, Ohio. Steph, Hannah, and I drove into town yesterday evening. We are getting a little break before a couple of hectic months of conventions, Easter, camp planning, and such. Plus, my daughter had not seen her grandparents since Christmas and it was time for them to see her. She's at that extremely cute stage where everything is cute and giggly for the most part, even though there are fits of terrible twos mixed in. It's grand enough that I want to share it with everyone, especially grandparents.

For those of you have not traveled with a two year old, let me give you some perspective. Strapping a two year old into a carseat for 4 hours plus without a break could be compared to trying to contain a Jr. Higher wired on Mt. Dew and pizza. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it does not. We set out yesterday during nap time, hoping that Hannah would sleep for at least half of the trip. She did not cooperate. By Toledo (1/3 of the way) she was awake. Needless to say we sang, giggled for the next 2 1/2 hours. I think we sang Old McDonald 20 times. She's also gotten into speaking fake languages. It started with her just going, "ba ba ba ba" really loud and fast. Now we have converstions with bas, gings, hos, dees, and whatever else you can come up with. And, it brings about many giggles and squeals. It is the best.

As I sit here in the coffee shop, there is much commotion about me. Two young mothers are sitting close by talking about the Bible studies they are involved in, all the while, keeping the three small children with them contained. Across the way, an retired couple sit in a booth reading a book to one another. The lunch crowd is beginning to show up for their soup and bread. I'm listening to Rich while I try to keep up with the birage of emails that have come in over the wireless internet today. We've had a couple of deaths and a couple of people head into the hospital at South in the last 24 hours. It's a good reminder to me that even though I've tried to step away from Michigan, the ministry is still with me even far away.

In my mind, I wonder how many of them have gotten up today in anticipation for Lent. I never really knew about Lent before going to seminary. It wasn't something we did in my home church or that even was on my radar. While in seminary, I grew an appreciation for the church calander, liturgy, and the backgrounds behind them. Since then, I've always tried to at least keep my eyes open to what is going on with it with things like Lent and Advent. It helps me be connected to those who came before me in this thing we called faith.

Every year I try to think of something to do away with during Lent. The idea is to fast from something bewteen Ash Wednesday (the day after Fat Tuesday) and Easter. This helps you to prepare your mind, soul, heart, and whatever else for the coming rememberance of Christ's death and resurrection. And, as I've struggled to select something--normally soda pop, I always fail. My life of discipline is really a struggle. I never seem to make it through a fast or lent without failing. I find the same things true as I try to do things like daily prayer/bible study, reading, as well as doing my best to run from darkness. I fail all the way around. Hopefully this year will be better.

My goal with Lent this year isn't a specific item like diet coke. Rather, I'm starting my new diet today--one that will hopefully combat my bad gene pool of heart disease, high blood pressure, and bad cholestoral. I have also been challenged by life to be better at my time managment so that when I am working, I'm working hard, which will get work done faster and give me more time with my family. One other thing I am doing is following somewhat loosely to the ideas of a group in California called The Compact. People in that group have committed to one another to not purchase anything this year that they don't need. They have a set of guidlines posted on their website. I've mutated them some and I've come up with the following:

1. I won't buy anything I don't need. I certainly don't need more clothes. Everything I have is sufficient and plentiful. If I do need anything like shoes or jeans, I will not spend ridiculous amounts of money on them. I'm over 30. I'm not trying to impress anyone, nor am I really going to impress anyone. So, my standards are not that high. I have everything I need. I probably have more than I need. Over the next couple of months, I might even sell a couple of things I have that I don't need.

2. I'm going to take shorter showers. I can easliy drain the hotwater heater in the mornings trying to wake up. I'm purposefully going to try and limit my showers to less than 5 minutes. Why should I run all the water down the drain just to wake up? I'm sure it is going to save me money on water and on electricity to heat the water.

3. I'm only going to drink coffee when I go to the coffee shop. It is way too easy to drop 3 or 4 dollars on a latte at my local coffee shop. I don't go there as often as I used to, and now when I do, I'll stick to the $1.25 endless cup of good joe--highlander grog to be exact!

4. My family and I are going to eat at home more. This will help us save money and probably allow us to eat better. Plus, I enjoy cooking and I enjoy my wife's cooking. It will hopefully help us interact more than we would sitting in a loud restaurant.

I ask you to pray for me as I move forward on this quest for more disicpline in my life. I also challenge you to join me. Maybe you start small by giving up something like sweets. My friend has given up red meat for Lent. Maybe you will choose something more, like not buying anything you don't need. Whatever it is, may we move forward in our faith and prepare for the celebration of our risen Savior!