Life from the rear-view mirror

The leaving… Vol 85

It’s about 4:30 am and I can’t sleep. I didn’t really get to see the kids today. I’m just realizing that now and it makes me sad. Because I know that in just a few short years Kathy and I will have the house to ourselves.

I know our job as parents is to prepare our kids to think on their own and make good decisions…to ultimately leave home and do life on their own. The Bible says “Raise or train them up in the way they should go and they will never depart from it” and so on….I know that’s what needs to happen..that it’s a good and healthy thing. But right now, all by myself in the glow of this computer monitor in the wee hours of morning…the thought of any of the four of them leaving home feels kind of lonely and hollow. And I can’t help but wonder what kind of a job I did as a dad…and still am doing. How will they do on their own. The uncertainty of it all is a bit overwhelming.

I wanted to move to Colorado with a buddy when I was 18. And I did. My parents didn’t stop me. Oh they made sure I had a place to go to and that the car would make the trip but they let me go. I’ve never seen my dad cry but mom tells me he was tearing up as I pulled out of the driveway that morning so many years ago.
As I look back on my kids lives so much about parenting is event driven…teaching opportunities present themselves because of stuff that just happens. And because the phrase “I said so” is more of a call to action to prove parents wrong   than the warning we meant it to be for their own good.

Experience, they say, is the best teacher. I guess it is…but I sure don’t want my kids to go through some of the experiences that I had…quite the opposite in fact. I don’t want my kids to touch the hot stove, I don’t want them to fall off their bikes or get punched in the nose or get hit by a car or suffer a broken heart. But a lot of that has already happened an1483293_10202686276857120_330931570_nd there’s a good chance that all that and more will happen still.
In truth there is not much I understand about God except maybe a little of the “Father” part. The part that wants to love, protect and provide for his kids. The part that wants to teach and impart wisdom to help avoid the unpleasant and often painful circumstances of life. The part who wants and needs to be respected and obeyed… to be loving and to be loved back. And the part that is grieved when none of that happens.
I’m glad that our kids don’t come with a crystal ball. If we could see ahead very far in our kids lives we might want to give ’em back to God.  Instead we’re forced to our knees in reliance on God..for direction from God through his word. We plead for his grace and mercy for them (and us). We reach out for the wisdom of friends and family who have already traveled this road. And we work really hard to get our kids from babies to adulthood so that they can have a chance to repeat this cycle of life for themselves. Through all the changes and experience, we hope and pray that as parents, we have gotten some of it right and that our kids will do a better job than we did with their kids.

And after all the work, the investment, the joy, the pain,  the tears, the laughter and… finally…the leaving, we parents take a deep breath…look at our mates with a sigh. then step on the clutch, shift gears and pull out onto life’s highway once more… alone. At least that’s what I think. I won’t really know for a few more years yet…and I’m quite happy about that!

dugz4 September 25, 2014 1 Comment Permalink

Expectations…the prison of marriage. Vol 84

I’m no marriage counselor…don’t want to be. But I have learned a thing or two in the last twenty plus years. Maybe it will help someone…or maybe you’ll want to punch me. I guess we’ll see…

When Lori and I first got married we did our counseling with the senior pastor of the church we were members of at the time. He was a unique dude, a bit of a character…larger than life. Most people either loved him or couldn’t stand him. I was in the former group. I had a unique friendship with the man and as a result, my love for Joe rubbed off on Lori. Lori and I had dated for over a year. We made the same mistakes that a lot of couples do…the biggest was thinking we knew each other. If I could go down a rabbit trail for just a minute here for the sake of other couples considering marriage. You only know what they want you to know. (this goes for both parties) . When you say “I do” and walk into life together…that is when you begin to understand that you don’t know what you think you know. Not meant to scare you young’uns… just to prepare you. Maybe you are different and much more “in touch”  than we were…but I doubt it.

Anyway…in one premarital counseling session Joe gave us a VHS tape series to watch together on expectations. The jist of it was this. Leave your expectations with God. Lay them on him not on your spouse.  He can handle them….neither of you can. At least not in the way you think right now. The beauty of that philosophy in practice is this. Often each of you will meet the unspoken expectation (that you’ve given to God) for each other and then..when it’s fulfilled… it’s pure gravy. It’s icing on the cake…drizzle on the strudel…I don’t know… pick your own desert analogy…but it’s wonderful stuff. It doesn’t feel coerced…it feels like the blessing it is. 

It also feels unnatural to give our expectations to God when our partner is so close and often so clueless. He or she should “get it.” Expecting big or small things of our spouse feels so right except when our expectations go unmet. Then it starts adding to a list that can grow to a mountain neither of you can climb. Bad things can happen from there. Hopelessness, despondency, loneliness…divorce?

As husbands we already have a God-given responsibility to be the leader in our homes, the provider and protector of our wives and families. We are accountable to God for that. We are to in honor prefer one another. We are to lay our burdens, our expectations, at the foot of the cross because Jesus can and does handle them…if we leave them there.  If you want to pick them up again…you can…but why would you except for pride. I hope you are hearing my heart here and not just my words. (which I feel totally inept writing…except for the fact that I lived in the prison of expectation for so many years.)

Instead…live with an attitude of gratitude. Does it sound trite… maybe.  Cliche…definitely.  Until you see what it does in your home. When you break the shackles of expectations you can live in the freedom of grace to love and respond unconditionally.

How far does this go? Does he still have to take out the garbage…of course. I’m not saying eliminate the chores…I’m talking about the bigger things and you know it.

Give yourselves permission to be released from the prison of expectations today. Life on the outside is quite nice!

dugz4 September 24, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink

Workin’ on my “Want to” Vol 83

Not long ago Kathy and I spent the entire day together…most of it was in the car traveling out of state to pick up materials for work. But we were together nonetheless. I hadn’t really planned to take this trip. We had talked about the possibility of it…in terms like “if it worked out”…that sort of stuff. But then I decided “Why not just make it work out?” My calendar was clear for the day, the kids transportation issues were handled…why not? It would be fun. I could help with the driving and we’re still newly weds…we love to spend time together….and we have 40 years to catch up on…translated…no lack of conversation topics.

I don’t have to be talked into wanting to spend time with Kathy…I don’t need to hear a sermon about it…read a book or go to a counselor. I love her…I want to know her and be with her.

What determines our “want to” in life? Here’s my thought. My “want to” is greatly influenced by “what’s in it for me…” Now… that statement could be incredibly narcissistic or it could just be the simple truth..

Life’s choices would be pretty easy if there wasn’t this thing called “have to.”  “Have to” screws up the whole “want to” paradigm.

“Have to” smacks of  ” responsibility, “discipline”, “accountability” “rules.”  “Want to” is much more liberating…There are no bills or troubles  in “want to” land… (at least not right now)  There are no worries or responsibilities either. In “Want to world” things will just sorta work out…right?  Here’s some sobering news…”Have to” kicks “want to’s” butt!  OK…now that I’ve imparted that home-made wisdom…there are some times when “want to” can be altruistic…when we would like “want to” to  kick in for the right reasons.

Kathy challenged me the other night as we were on our way back from an impromptu date.  She knows I used to preach and teach  frequently at the church I attended before Northridge. She knew I had to prepare for those times and as a result, I grew spiritually…quite a bit.  These days we co-lead a community group and while I still have to prepare…it’s really just a review of what our lead pastor prepared weeks prior.  It’s not the same.

Over the years,  I have tried to hide a lot of God’s word in my heart…memorizing and then just by shear exposure to it in preaching and teaching.   But my daily intake of the Word has dropped off to almost nothing recently.  I used to think about my bible and it’s marked up pages with notes and thoughts…praises and prayer requests. Now while it’s always handy to me in my iphone or ipad I don’t get to it as much. Technology has kept God’s work on my person but farther from my heart I think. Not the fault of technology…the fault is all mine.

Despite my proclivity to think about spiritual things a great deal of the time… my “want to” read and study is just not the same.  Kathy has noticed.  She wondered (out loud) how my spiritual life stayed fresh without that daily intake. That was a hard, but fair question. My personal spiritual life wasn’t fresh…isn’t fresh.  I was relying on the way I used to be years ago. The truth of God’s word is eternal. The Word, any Word we hide in our hearts is the eternal. It’s impact powerful and life-changing.  It can and should be renewed every day. We should be looking for God to speak to us through Scripture.  To build on our spiritual foundation, truth upon truth. To shine new light on our path. To expose our sin. To move us daily towards repentance and forgiveness. To challenge us to love and good works. To become a channel of his blessing to others as we are being blessed.

The Word of God is our spiritual food. Our sustenance. We cannot live and grow without it. People close to us notice when that “spiritual freshness” is missing.

A chapter each day is not too big a sacrifice.

So let’s dig up the richer earth lying beneath the fallow ground of our souls… and daily water it with the Word.




dugz4 September 23, 2014 Leave A Comment Permalink