Growing Pains

“Growth hurts because change isn’t easy, that’s why they call it growing pains”

When I was a kid I lost my dad while he was yet very young.  This fact alone left a mark in my spirit that, to this day, I’ve never gotten over.  That being said, I’ve got very few memories of him but the ones that I do have a very vivid.  For example, I can remember as a child that he loved to joke around and wrestle with me. One of the ways he did is he would fart and trap me under the covers to choke me out.  He thought that was hilarious, I remember his contagious laughter.  I know that sounds disgusting and from what I remember it was horrendous, his gas spelled like propane and boiled eggs mixed with vinegar….I  laugh and I gag to this day when I think of it.  I have a few fond memories of him but that is one of my most vivid memories if him.  

Thinking back, I do have another memory of my father that I’ve pondered more and more recently.  I can recall as a child being tucked into my star wars themed bed and nodding off to sleep surrounded by the dated wooden paneling and 70’s green shag carpet which were the prevalent decor themes of the day.  As part of my nighttime ritual, I would always ask the most perplexing questions right before bedtime, I think I still do, which is probably how my insomnia all started but that’s for another blog.

I was probably around 5-6 years old when this first began happening to me.  I would be jerked awake by these shooting pains in my legs.  I would scream for help from my room to no avail so I would fall out of the bed onto the floor and try to crawl my way over the shag carpet to my parents room to tell them about my immensely painful experience. All I could muster to say is “it hurts.” Eventually they would hear my cries at night in enough time to meet me in the hallway.  My father would comfort me, reminding me, “it’s ok, daddy’s here” and he would massage my legs until the pain subsided and I could walk again.  It was a very traumatic experience, I remember the panic I felt so well. The pain was so bad it would take my breath away and cause an anxiety attack on top of the physical pain.

Now I know that that very traumatic experience is quite common among children that age, it’s simply known as growing pains. I don’t know the science behind all this but I’m just relaying my experience. However, if you had tried to convince me back then that those were “just growing pains” I would have told you that you were lying and that those pains were the result of someone trying to kill me by beating me to death because it truly felt that way.  Isn’t that the case though?  If we aren’t sure of where the pain is coming from, the source or what caused it then we simply feel like it is a plot on our very lives.  

I’ve been thinking about this more lately because I’ve been experiencing a different kind of growing pains.  It’s more of a mental or maybe even a spiritual experience than anything else, I have very little alarming physical pains anymore and maybe it’s cuz I’ve learned to ignore them..but again, that’s for another blog.  I’ve been experiencing what I guess will call spiritual growing pains.  These pains are typically brought about by unsolicited change in my life.  This type of change feels like situations that are forced upon me and I feel like I am backed into a corner.  I feel like the universe has handed me a raw deal and I don’t like it at all.  It seems unfair and my first instinct is to come out swinging.  I lash out at everything and everyone who’s close to me but that typically doesn’t bring about a desired outcome.  So, then I am left with some simple options.  Do I keep fighting and exhaust myself completely by taking stabs in the dark or do I practice some acceptance and try to acknowledge what the universe is presenting me.

The spiritual answer is just to accept the lesson that’s being dealt to me but I fight it kicking and screaming.  It feels like I’m dying and someone is literally bludgeoning me to death….kinda like when I was a kid and was having actual physical growing pains.  Back then, the pain was very literal and it resulted in growth..painful growth.  These days the pain is just as real but it’s on a spiritual level.   So, today I try to welcome these changes as they come my way.  Sometimes I do better with it that others but I’ve started to recognize this at the onset or quickly thereafter and I do not expend anywhere near the energy I did by fighting it previously.  One of the quotes I think I read recently best describes this chronic cycle is “growth hurts because change isn’t easy, that’s why they call it growing pains.”  I pray today that I would continue to recognize the opportunity for growth that comes with change….even if it feels like I’m dying.

I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!

“Little Dave”, Ruby and Sam in 1977 in Linden, Tn.

When I was a 7 year old kid, after my father died of a massive heart attack, I basically moved in with my grandparents full time.  My mom was falling apart and had her own battles to fight but my grandparents always stepped up in an attempt to “raise me right.”  Yes, they probably were off some of the time, but that’s all I knew were Sam, a World War 2 veteran who still carried around shrapnel in his body as a result of combat in his service to our country and his wife Elizabeth aka “Betty” but I called them Nanny and PaPaw.  Nanny and PaPaw were just kids when the depression came on but it stuck with them. They grew most all the food in the garden in the back yard on that Farm in Linden, Tn.  They canned tomatoes, made their own pickles, when we went hunting or fishing it was not for sport, it was so we could eat.  I’ve journeyed so far from my younger days and I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I digress.  We had a very simple existence and there was a beautiful thing about it, I never felt unloved, or abandoned.  They were instrumental in bringing me up and laying a foundation that still sticks with me.  I can still hear Nanny say “don’t put you elbows on the table” or “don’t sit down until everyone else is seated she would say, “because that’s what real gentlemen do.”  She had lots of other rules and to some I would say she is rolling over in her grave but Nanny if you can hear me, thank you for all you taught me. PaPaw thank you for letting me be a part of all you did, from feeding the cattle to digging fenceposts and bailing hay, I know I was probably in your way most of the time but you never let on, you just showed me how to do everything you knew how to do.  Man, I learned some very valuable lessons on that farm.  The one that sticks out to me today is the face that I was once a very sold out cowboy…literally a boy.  I knew how to drive a tractor by the age of 8, feed the cows, hunt squirrel and catch rainbow trout but my favorite memory I have is of riding horses.  My first horse was just a little old Shetland pony, her name was Ruby.  She was the most gentle and sweet animal on the planet.   We bought a  used bridle and saddle to get her all dressed up, PaPaw threw me up in the saddle and there I went riding.  It was awkward at first but I soon got the hang of it and couldn’t get enough.  I remember my grandad showing me all the things to do to bring the most out of a horse.  I recall having these contraptions called “spurs” on the back of my cowboy boots but for a long time I didn’t know what purpose they served.  One day I asked my PaPaw what they were used for. He explained to me that if you give the horse a little nudge with these things they will respond to what you’re asking them to do.  Well, that was it, I wanted to go faster now that I was comfortable with Ruby.  Poor Ruby, she was so old the most I’d ever seen her do is  “trot” at best (that’s kinda like a sluggish jog for a horse).  I never wanted to hurt Ruby so I held off for a long time but one day I tried kicking her side a little with my spurs to see what it would do.  WHOA, I never knew Ruby could “Gallop” (That’d a horse going faster that a trot). Oh man, I thought I was really something on my little pony, just me and Ruby, galloping off into the sunset.  I was a cowboy, a true cowboy.  Well, all this got me thinking and in my feels lately so I had to share.  Life has been tough lately some of it self imposed, some of it not.  It has had me in kind of a funk for a few days…lots of days in a row but…one day not too long ago God kind of spoke to me via this memory of my childhood.  I felt his Holy Spirit comforting me and encouraging me but I also felt him saying these circumstances that I’m currently navigating are simply designed to make me stronger, to mold me into all that I’m designed to be but God it hurts.  I don’t like it, I fight it, I wrestle with it, I cuss at it and just when I think I can’t take anymore I feel the pain of God’s “spurs”.  I know it sounds crazy but hear me out.  Just like I didn’t my pony Ruby had it in her to RUN until that one day I gave her a couple swift spurs to the ribs.  It’s like I heard God say that in the same way I nudged Ruby he was nudging me and the design of it all was to bring something great out of me that I didn’t even know existed!  It’s a painful lesson yet one I’m hearing loud and clear. He’s allowing this pain in my life to “Spur” me on to the next level spiritually.  I don’t think I could be as optimistic about this pain if he hadn’t spoken that to my spirit over the last few weeks.  So I wanted to encourage you today, If you’re in pain or going through hard times, I know it’s not easy, BELIEVE me I know pain, just know that God is using it as a training ground for where he already knows you’re going.  He knows your potential and he loves you and I so much that he won’t just let us become stagnant and just stay where we are.  He loves us as any good father would do. He knows what we are capable of and he will “spur” us on, lest we forget.  God loves you and he’s right there in the midst of the pain and the uncertainty he’s gonna see you through to the next level.  Hebrews 12:6 states that “He chastens those whom he loves…” that word chasten literally translates to “train.”  Are you in pain?  That just means you’re in training.  Don’t give up, hold onto hope and know that we are loved beyond anything we could ever imagine. He won’t let ya fall…or if he does it’s just to show you that you can get up again!

Spot it? You Got it!

When I was 16 I got my first car. It was a 1987 Pontiac Sunbird with a little spoiler on the back. It was bright red 4 cylinder with cloth grey interior equipped with a factory delco tape deck. When I first got it I was so very proud of it that I literally washed it all the time, probably daily. I would get it all shined up and layer black magic on the tires to give em that slimy shiny new-look. I would vacuum it, armor all the dash, windex the glass and THEN I would always dangle those little yellow trees from the mirror to make it smell like vanilla, yes I am a wierdo, always have been.

I loved that Sunbird but I couldn’t help but make a few “improvements.” I lowered it, tinted the windows on it and put a bumpin’ system in it. Some J&L audio 12’s in a isobaric box to be exact(can’t I get witness??) I’d buy the latest cassette from the Sound Shop…. some LL Cool J or Mellow Man Ace, D-Nice, Techmaster PEB and push those speakers to their max. I can still hear the rattling of my trunk and see my dash lights dimming when the bass hit hard. I’d say those times contributed to my hearing loss today, but I digress. We lived in the kind of town that “crusin” from the mile long strip from the Shady Brook Cinema to the Kroger was an every Friday night event. We’d all drive our decked out cars and pull over at Kroger to talk or better yet, we’d race out to the Stockyard to witness a fight between rival students.  Those were simpler times in a little middle Tennessee Town of Columbia back in the late 80’s, early 90’s.

This all came to my mind recently and I recalled driving around in my 1987 Sunbird and I remembered I had begun to notice something I’d never noticed before… I noticed there were ALOT of 1987 Sunbirds were in Columbia.  I felt like every other car I saw was a a Sunbird, maybe a different color, maybe different wheels but nevertheless there were a lot of Pontiac Sunbirds. In retrospect they were probably there all the time but after I got mine and started driving it, I noticed other people driving them all the time too!! (That’ll Preach)

This got me thinking, where else have I seen this pattern? Have you ever heard the phrase “if you spot it, you got it.” ? This is a simple way to put words on the fact that if In fact you notice something (a mannerism, a character “flaw”) about someone else, typically something that annoys you, then it’s probably an issue or something that reminds you of….yourself. Even better was the old adage that “if you smelt it, you dealt it.”  Meaning the person of accusing the other of flatulence is probably the guilty party, right? 

So, I began to think on something Jesus said (Odd transition I know) He was talking to his Disciples as he was about to leave the earth. He said “in a little while the world will not see me, but you will see me because I live, you live.”  Basically why I take from it as he was saying was. Ok, physically I’m not going to be around anymore but you’ll see me alive in you in others around you like yourself.” I know that sounds a little weird but I think what Jesus us saying is that we will “spot it if we got it.” We will know others who are alive the way that we’re alive!! (This could go the other way too) He even said don’t be confused, you will know people who are connected with me because you will see their love for humanity and all creation. Sounds a little crazy but think about this. Who comes to mind when you think of a person who loves humanity? Mother Teresa, Bono, Al Gore lol? and the list could go on. Who is it that seems connected in a way that you want to be connected ?

Around my house we have a little letter board that my wife changes every couple of months to reflect something that is relevant around our household. Our board currently reads “Love is Verb.” You might automatically be brought back to that old DC Talk song, which is the jam btw, but what I hope this letter board will help us keep in the forefront of our minds is that love is not just a feeling but it’s an action statement. What I hope to remember when I read it is “how can I best love those around me.” That starts will the people right in front of me, my wife, the 4 kids, the next door neighbor and everywhere else that God puts me in contact with people. What does that look like? 

I think I make the common mistake of just saying “I love you bro.” And I feel like I’m sincere, and that’s good but it’s not where I should stop!! When I see someone struggling it’s not ok for ME to simply say “I love you, and I’m praying for you.” That’s all fine and good and has it’s place but I have to back that phrase up with action. I see the need and try to meet it. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable and often is very inconvenient but I believe that’s the posture God is asking me to have at all times. To be love but with feet, to be prepared to act like I love someone, not simply talk about it. I’m sure we could get in a debate about boundaries and codependency and blah blah but this is something God reminds me to do personally, so apply it as the spirit stirs you…(that’s for another blog)

I think about the life of Jesus and what his ministry looked like on Earth. It was very atypical of someone who would be referred to as “King.” Jesus modeled the life he calls us to live, he was the chief servant of all mankind. This flips the idea of kings and kingdoms on its head. His way of life was and is simply revolutionary. His example was to lead others and show them God love for them by serving. I’m drawn to the image in my mind of Jesus washing the disciples feet right before he was crucified. One of examples of Kingdom Living on earth was to serve them and show them that it was also their mission to do likewise. I could go on, but I feel like I said what I needed to be said there…

So, then I was thinking about my 1987 Pontiac Sunbird in all its glory and I had this final thought. If (and that’s a big IF) I am truly plugged into what Jesus was/is about then it will kind of be like my Sunbird when I started driving, HE will begin to appear to me more frequently and seem to be everywhere. That is if I become aware of where God is at work in me, then I will recognize it in you and everyone. I think that’s true of all of us. Jesus said in John 14 that if he lives that we will live also and we will see him. I am coming to see that if I want to know where God is truly at work then I will look for where people are serving others or there are opportunities for me to serve. However, it’s NOT just limited to church services, homeless shelters, poverty stricken countries and underserved areas etc. I believe God has called us to serve wherever we are in this very moment! I think If we truly get in the drivers seat and start where we are THEN we will begin to see more and more opportunities to love and serve and people with a heart to do likewise. I pray that my eyes be opened to see and take advantage of opportunities to carry out Kingdom Living and show God’s love!! In the meantime I think I saw Jesus in a pimped out Chevy Cavelier with fuzzy dice on the mirror and he was bumpin hard yo! I hope you can hear it too!

Spiritual Awakwenings?

Just the term or phrase “spiritual awakening” or the concept of a spiritual renewal, a rejuvenated soul or whatever you wanna call it, has always been marked by (at least in my mind) with some sort of grand, ethereal, celestial event. It’s the kind of event that is accompanied by a choir of angels and harps, as the heavens open up and God shouts with a thunderous voice something very “God-like” and has big words or phrases that might sound something like “thou art released” and then boom everything changes in a split second. 

This brings to my mind the story in the Bible where Saul on the road to Damascus is stopped in his tracks and knocked off his horse by a blinding light from Heaven followed by a thunderous voice of God(If you’re singing Blinded by the light right now, you’re not alone.) Saul at that moment is literally blinded and realizes that he’s been going down the wrong path in life, despite what he thought. God revealed to him that the very people he was persecuting, Christians, were the very people he was supposed to be serving And leading. This was a turning point for Saul. From that moment on he even had a new name, he went by Paul.  Paul went on to write most of the New Testament of the Bible. He went from killing Christians to building the kingdom of God and leading them in a revolutionary life. This is an extreme case of what I think of as a spiritual awakening, but recently I’ve begun to think they may look a little different and more unassuming than we even realize or recognize but really has the same impact, just a messier version. 

When I was a kid I remember my PaPaw aka Grandpa always had a pack of chewing tobacco in his back pocket, Levi Garrett if I remember correctly. As a curious youth would do I would watch him put a big wad of that tobacco in his mouth a few times a day to have “a chew” as he called it. He was a a rugged man, a WWII vet, served in the 13th AirForce, he still had shrapnel in his body from a close encounter with the enemy in The Phillipines. Needless to say I adored this man, I wanted to be like him in every way. I used to make my grandma match up our outfits, i emulated his speech, my mannerisms were like his. He was the man I looked to in order to learn to be a man. I used to put on shaving cream and pretend to shave, just cuz I saw him do it! He taught me many, many life lessons that I still carry with me to this day. I miss him to this day. He would always encourage me to be a “gentleman” and” let the ladies go first” etc. But so many things I learned from him still are at play today….103 years after he was ever born, God may I have that legacy.  

One of the biggest things I carry with me to this day was a lesson I learned…. the hard way. I watched my grandpa put a chew of tobacco  in his mouth several times a day and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. It seemed to bring him to life, he seemed to savor it!  When he unrolled that pouch, mashed the tobacco between his fingers I could smell the aroma of the tobacco, it was comforting and it mysteriously made me want some. I thought, if this man that I love so much enjoys this, then surely I would enjoy it, right? Well, I annoyed him daily with the persistent  and probably annoying requests, “PaPaw, I wanna chew, lemme have a chew.” He consistently said “No, it’s not for kids, maybe when you’re older IF your mom lets you.” He said “and it’ll make you sick.” I thought that sounded silly, why would my PaPaw continue to chew tobacco if it made him “sick.”

One day I guess he was over it, he gave in to my annoying requests and he said “ok Dave, you’re a big man, here you go” and he proceeded to hand me the pouch of Levi Garrett chewing tobacco. I was overly excited and eager to try some of it and this was a right of passage into manhood, after all. He sat back with his arms crossed as I I shoved a wad of tobacco in my  mouth that would have choked an elephant. I began to chew and recall it was pretty gross, but I proceeded to chew and grin the best I could with all that chew in my mouth. This was very similar to my encounter/discovery of coffee, I just couldn’t figure out why adults would eat/chew something that was so….bitter. But, as a proud little “know it all” I proceeded to chew and chew and…..swallow, there was so much tobacco juice I couldn’t help but swallow it. My grandpa smirked and asked “well, how is it?” I proudly smiled and said “mmmmmmmm” cuz it’s all I could say at that point.

Then, it happened. I began to feel my stomach swirl and I broke out in a cold sweat. I felt horrible the only word i can think of that would describe that feeling is….green. At this point I decided to spit it all out, something had gone very wrong. I got soooooooooo sick and began to dry heave at first and then I hurled, I threw up viciously and violently. My eyes watered so bad I couldn’t see, I was barfing but still no relief. I was sweating, had cold chills and I was still incredibly nauseated, so nauseated. My grandad rubbed his hand on my back and tried to comfort me and said “see, I told you.” But that wasn’t any help either. Honestly, it took me a couple days to fully recover and regain any type of normal.

I wish I could tell you that this was the last time I ever chewed tobacco but I had to try it several more times with similar results in order to learn a very simple lesson. “Chew this and it will make you so sick you want to die.” I am glad to say that today, I do not chew tobacco but it’s not because I’m healthy or wise or am scared of cancer, I honestly do not want to get sick. That’s actually enough of a deterrent for me today. I believe this has been a gradual, spiritual awakening. It didn’t happen overnight but it did I fact lead to a change in my “heart.” It was a messy, long process but it did eventually happen.

I’m  recently reminded at the moment of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”. If you’ve seen or read this you’ll probably remember that Ebeneezer Scrooge has a change of heart after being tortured by 3 “ghosts” who visit him to show him the error of his ways and how his life is off track. After the third ghost, he’s seen the error of his ways and from that moment on he’s a changed man.  As I watched the story again recently I began to see the unhealthy negative patterns in his life began to consume him. It was His fear of poverty propelled him into an all consuming greed that cost him every relationship In his life and left him with the reputation of being “a Scrooge” He didn’t set out the be this way but eventually over time he made decisions that isolated him and robbed him of life. As we know from the movie, after his change of heart he left a legacy of generosity and kindness. This spiritual awakening happened late in life for Scrooge but it did happen. 

I think God has been showing me these things to help me identify The Spiritual Awakenings in my life. They’ve been happening all along but I think I’ve been waiting for an “aha” moment. And, while there are these moments at times, the Spiritual Awakenings that I’m becoming aware of are a constant renewing of my spirit. God says the he wants us to have a full, rich life. For me, it has been the recognition of self destructive patterns in my life, patterns that are designed to destroy me, not to bring me life. Just like when I chew tobacco, I now know that these choices make me “sick” they rob me and those around me of the full life that God intends. I’d like to think that as God shows me these things I’d just “stop” and then make a change immediately. However if I’m being honest the spiritual awakenings are usually a process of God allowing me to bump my head, get back up and go, “ok, that hurt, maybe I shouldn’t do that again.”

So, if you’re like me you might be waiting on a divine sign or fireworks or whatever to point you in the direction your spiritual awakening. You might be waiting on choirs of angels to signal this moment of significance.  If you’re waiting on those and not getting them, don’t be alarmed. Instead look for a the hand of a patient loving father who looks at you when you fall down and get back up and says “now, go this way.” This in fact is a spiritual awakening. I pray we all come to see these seemingly insignificant events in our lives as places where God is at work in us.  He says in that he “started a good work, and he’s gonna finish it.” Be encouraged today that God is at work in you, even if it’s a little messy 🙂

The Space Between

space
Sometimes you just have to let a moment speak for itself, right? Sometimes it’s about what you don’t say, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s the space you leave around the notes you play, amen? Sometimes it’s about just listening, at least that’s what I’m discovering.

I think back to my early years of being a musician and the way I thought about and approached music vs how I think now are so drastically different. I was raised in the days of metal/hair bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Skid Row and the like. In those days, almost every song had a guitar solo sometimes more than one. Not all, but most of the solos were a flurry of notes, tapping, harmonics and all the fancy stuff that was trendy back in the day. I still play a mean air guitar when “Talk Dirty to Me” comes on.

Fast forward many years later I picked up the guitar and started to learn scales and chords and when it came time for me to solo I tried to squeeze as many notes into as few a bars as possible because I was just emulating what I heard growing up, plus it looked cool. Then I had an epiphany. I began to listen to guitar players like Eric Clapton, who I swore must have been drunk because he played slowly, very slowly and with lots of space between the notes, I thought “he’s just lazy” where are all the notes? I asked myself. Then, I dug and listened to people like Freddy King, BB King, Buddy Guy, Miles Davis and I started to notice they all played slower and with more space in between notes, on purpose. It was a revelation, and I thought I might give it a try.

What I noticed at first was because of my pattern of playing of flurry of notes that this new technique that involved space was very strange and uncomfortable, it felt very unnatural, it still does sometimes. It’s taken years and years of playing slow and melodically to undo my stubborn technique that I like to think of as guitar vomiting. What I noticed is that my playing became more soulful, more spacious and more engaging than when I play a flurry of meaningless notes. I mean, think about it if we applied this to our regular conversations, what if it’s really about what we DON’T say sometimes.  This got me thinking, where else in life am I not leaving enough space? How else could I apply this concept to my life?

I get the privilege of facilitating some group therapy from time to time. My experiences in life have left me the ability to reach and connect with other people like myself, broken, hurting people. At first when I led these groups I had some insanely grandiose thoughts. I said to myself “I’ll just listen to these folks and then I’ll help them with their problems by giving them a response or a solution to each problem.” I’m not gonna lie at first it felt good to have all the answers for these folks. It seemed like there was nothing they could bring up that I didn’t have some response for. Then it happened, I realized that I was vomiting answers and that wasn’t what the situation needed or called for.

So, with a nudge from The Spirit I began to try to minimize my responses and just listen and leave space. I would use my words sparingly and my response often became “Me too.” It was awkward as hell at first for all of us! I had laid down a foundation that had to be undone. Sometimes there would be long periods of silence and I would have to fight the urge to break it up with some sort of interjection. What I discovered was so beautiful. The space and silence began to bring forth new levels of intimacy, if you can believe it, the silence and space produced more productive meaningful, fruitful conversation.

I was thinking about an incident in the Bible (John 7)where there was a woman caught in the actual act of adultery. The woman was drug in front of Jesus and the religious leaders of the day tried to provoke Jesus. They tried to get him to agree with them by quoting the mosaic laws of the day and get him to agree to stone her to death. How does Jesus reply? He doesn’t, at first just silence. In fact, he leans down and begins to write in the sand. The Bible doesn’t say what he wrote but evidently it spoke volumes. The silence was deafening. The religious leaders continued the provoke Jesus He at last, replied simply, “whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.” One by one the woman’s accusers drop their stones and go home. Mic drop/stone drop….see what I did there??

If we believe that Jesus was who he says he was then we know that he had all power and authority to do whatever he wanted in that situation. He could’ve entered into an argument with these religious leaders and surely he would have won the argument, but that’s not what he chose to do. Even though he had all the knowledge at his disposal to argue them into submission, He chose to let the moment speak for itself. He chose silence and space and and the result was far more powerful and made much more of an impact that a flurry of words would have done.

So, what happened to the woman. She’s left alone there with Jesus because all the accusers have dropped their stones and walk away. So, then I would think this is the part where Jesus gives her a long lecture about adultery and sin and a 7 point illustration of why it’s not a good idea etc, etc. but again Jesus responds with a question to her, not an answer, a simple question. “Where are your accusers?” Jesus said. She said “they’re gone” and Jesus then said “I don’t accuse you either” then I imagine with compassion he said “go home, and sin no more.” Again, Jesus with very few words let the moment speak for itself.

So, what happens in the space and silence? I’m not exactly sure but I know it often makes the words spoken or notes played more powerful and meaningful, the space seems spiritual. Why is it that I’m noticing that the people with the most knowledge, say the least? I don’t know, maybe I’m imagining things but I think there’s lots going on in these moments that we will never comprehend, at least not here. But I’m in the process of practicing this principal in all areas of my life. I’ll keep you posted…

Wanna Play?

waves

I recently took my kids to an indoor water park. For this of you who know me, you know that this was a feat all in itself. Why, you know my lack of excitement for anything having to do with water combined with my crippling fear of large crowds made for an uncomfortable weekend to say the least. Did I mention we were in water with hundreds of other people, sharing their germs etc, YUK. However, I knew it was something my kids would love so I just went for it and tried to make the most of it.

It was a place neither of them had ever been before. In fact, they’d never been to anything even remotely like it, so it was quite overwhelming for them in the beginning. I had visions of lounging by the wave pool in a reclining chair while they splashed around gleefully but this was NOT the case. Because this whole experience was new, they wanted me to be with them every second of the day. I kept assuring them, “you’ll be fine!! Daddy’s just gonna chill right here in this chair” but it was not to be as they insisted that I accompany them the whole time.

So one of the first things we did was get in the wave pool. When we first waded into the water it was calm and serene. Moms and dads held their babies close and let them float around in their life jackets and floaties. All the children around us splashed each other and played “Marco polo” in a carefree fashion. I thought to myself, “this is not so bad. These kids will be fine” and I started toward my comfy little beach chair when I was startled by an apocalyptic sound.

There was a loud, really loud buzzing noise followed by the piercing screams of the children at play in the wave pool. I didn’t know what was about to happen but it was the same reaction I would’ve expected if Luke Bryan showed up for a concert. Nonetheless, this stopped me in my tracks and I turned around to check on my kids. They were faced in the opposite direction as the water began to swirl and stir beneath them. At first the pool began to manufacture little, manageable waves. Excited at this new element, my kids went for deeper waters. I just kind of observed from a distance.

The waves kept getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER. Suddenly the look of joy on my children’s faces became a look of sheer terror. The once kid friendly wave pool had become a battlefield. Kids were being tossed and flipped and pulled under the water. The sound of joyous carefree play became shrieks and crys for help. “Daddy” I heard my little girl scream and I ran for her with no abandon leaving a trail of dizzy and confused toddlers in my wake. I finally got to her and she at once latched on to me.

She was terrified and began to cry when she wasn’t swallowing big gulps of the pool water and coughing and gagging as a result. What started out as seemingly innocent fun had become a nightmare in a matter of seconds. I grabbed my little girl and held her close to my chest and above the water. I tried to comfort her but in the moment she was inconsolable so we waded back out of the pool and gathered ourselves once again. I decided to use this a teaching moment. I said to my kids, “ok, see we’re fine, I know it was scary but let’s go back out there and show these waves what we’re made of.” My general Patton-esque speech was met with looks of disdain from my kids.

Finally, I was able to talk them into going back out there. At first they were skeptical but I stayed behind them with every step. We waded deeper and deeper into the pool and the waves got higher as we went. They met each wave with a new confidence and looked behind them for my approval. I applauded them and encouraged them all the while to go deeper because I said to them, “I’m here, I’m not gonna leave you or allow anything to hurt you.” If they got knocked down by a wave I quickly scooped them up, raised them out of the water and comforted them. I immediately put them back in the tempest and let them see for themselves that there was really nothing to be afraid of, daddy was here.

Eventually, The once terrified kids began to navigate the rough terrain and were once again playing. The environment that used to terrify them became their playground. It was a process but nevertheless they were aware that their father was always with them, would never leave them and this allowed them to be carefree even as they were being tossed about by the waves.

God does the same for us. There are tons of verses and examples in The Bible where he says he is always with us.  Genesis 28:15 says “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” And yet another one is Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be Strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you, he will never leave you or forsake you.”  Even Jesus says “Surely, I am with you always…” but even if it never said it in the Bible this is something I’ve come to see happening in my own life!

God used this time at the water park to speak to me about my own life and current set of situations. Even when it’s dark, even when I’m unsure of what’s about to happen, even when I’m afraid and being torn apart by the “waves” I know my Heavenly Father is with me and he won’t leave me, he’s promised! It may be a process and it may take a little time but he’s taking these times in life that used to paralyze and terrify me and with renewed confidence he’s turning what seems to be a disaster into a playground. Anybody else wanna play?