Tuesday, August 29, 2006

decentralized yet still connected

“In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.”
– James writing to fellow gardeners

I love the picture that James paints with these words. I really enjoy landscaping. I’m not much of a gardener when it comes to flowers and such, but give me an overgrown lawn or a hedge that needs to be trimmed and I am all in. While staying with Darla’s parents, I have had the chance to help out with the yard work. Darla’s father has put a lot of time into cultivating a beautiful yard in the front and the back. Looking from my perspective, I can see the landscaping of the flowers and elephant ear plants in the front that are carefully carved out with a nice edge to allow for good rain water to soak and drain properly. I can also see the beautiful green shrubs that line the walkway in the backyard around the pool. Even though these plants are thriving in there own respective environment, they are unaware of their connectedness in the overall beauty of the property. Nevertheless, each flower, shrub, tree, and blade of grass make up this carefully nurtured parcel of land.

What if this were a picture of a group of people who had this deep sense that there must be something more to life than just doing my own thing? What if they some how felt connected to something larger than just the patch of dirt where they were planted?

Over the years Darla’s dad has given us plants from his yard for us to take back to our home and plant in our garden. And from time to time he has transplanted flowers from his backyard to the front yard and vice versa. Each time the plant is given a new environment to grow is adapts to a new location yet it doesn’t become a different kind of plant altogether. The shrub is still a shrub. The flower is still a flower. It doesn’t change the fact that the plant will be impacted by its new environment, but it never loses sight of the fact that is a one part of a larger garden that has been cultivated by a loving gardener.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

what do we learn in home school?

What do we learn at home?

After making the decision to home school their three children Mike and Dee, set out to give it their best effort to become parent-teachers. Two days into the adventure, it becomes quite clear that unless Mike and Dee work together this home school is going to take them to school. As a result of the challenge of this new home school environment, Mike realizes in humility that he has been very distant from the everyday learning experiences of his children, while he was in pursuit of the dream career life for himself. Mike begins to appreciate through personal experience the incredible patience it requires to be a teacher of two students, much less a classroom of eighteen. Continuing to nibble on his own piece of humble pie, he realizes just how deeply he has completely missed out on the real life, in the process of trying to get everything for himself in order to fill his hunger for meaning and purpose. What is it that drives a man to run the opposite direction of the true life he was created to live?

How amazing is it that in just a few short days the demeanor and attitude of his children had changed? What is the home school? Maybe it was simply the total engagement of Mike and Dee in the everyday lives of their children down to the smallest detail that was beginning to heal the apathetic and broken spirit of their family. Mike and Dee had unknowingly entered the world in which the children lived. Mike and Dee quickly learned that it took their complete devotion and commitment together to make this home school project run smoothly.

During this project Mike remembered times when in the past he had gone to pick up the kids from school. At the time he felt so good about himself, but the reality was he really thought it was an interruption in his very important day or rather it was a really good excuse to get out of work for the afternoon. He wasn’t genuinely interested in their day because he was completely emerged in his self-absorbed life. Grace to be forgiven for such a shallow attempt at fatherhood is hard to accept. Nonetheless, that was exactly the place Mike sensed he was being led. Can a simple act of changing one’s idea from selfishness towards an ideal of family wholeness cause the course of life to change?

In the middle of all of this, Mike and Dee received a call from a very close friend who informed them that there was a great need at one of the local elementary schools. Mike and Dee sat down with the kids and explained the situation and asked how they should respond as a family. The kids decided they wanted to help by enrolling in the school. For the first time, Mike and Dee were making a decision with the whole family and it was for a greater good beyond themselves. Maybe this time when Mike picks them up from school and asks about their day, he will mean it. Maybe when he looks at the papers they have brought home from school, he won’t be just concerned with the grade as much as thinking of what it must have been like, felt like, tasted like to complete that project.

This leads Mike down further down the road of reflection where he sees just how big a load Dee has been carrying when it comes to the education and overall care of the family. He can’t imagine what kept her from just giving up and walking out the door. At that moment he sees Dee as the most beautiful and nurturing mother under what must have been the most overwhelming circumstances. How can he begin to tell her how much he loves her and will stand with her hand in hand as they walk out the rest of their life together. Together they will live the deeply soul connected story of the-two-became-one marriage life. In this life partnership of commitment and promise they must remember the sacred space of the family circle. They vow to strive towards true life together. Keeping at the forefront of their minds eye, how they think about, prepare for, and lovingly discipline their kids, will set in motion an environment of hope and inspiration.

Looking at the man in the mirror, Mike sees himself, as the outline of a changed man, husband, and father. No longer is it an idealistic way to view the family relationship, but it is becoming a reality, that together with Dee, they will meet the challenge to teach their children about life in the midst of the everyday ordinary eating, sleeping, and going to whatever and not just every three weeks or so when they are feeling guilty about the lack of connection with the kids.

And so the journey continues…

Sunday, August 13, 2006

While driving in the rain

One day Mike and Dee’s father were riding in the car. Mike began talking about how he was raised as a child in a passive disciplinary home environment, not that it was the ideal home, but no family is perfect. Now in his own family, Mike and Dee are working out the best they can, learning how to be a parent and a spouse with all the pressures of the world crashing in all around. The new changes in the family are so upside down. Mike has become the man-mommy, staying at home cleaning and keeping things mostly in disorder; while Dee has found great income potential as a legal consultant. In this topsy-turvy family dynamic, everyone is under tremendous pressure. Can this be right? Is this the American way?

Speaking to Dee’s father is very difficult for Mike. Having lost the chance to have any kind of relationship with his own father some twenty years ago, it often takes a little nudging, and prodding from Dee to encourage Mike to speak openly about life issues with her Dad. Maybe Mike is realizing that this healing time is for everyone not just those around him. Early one Sunday morning Dee and Mike, find themselves in a raw but honest conversation about how things are really going. It is a beautiful and difficult moment of discovery. Mike and Dee are realizing that there are little cracks in their souls, and for what ever reason this intense period of waiting is bringing to the surface every splinter. They both admit to each other, if they had it their way they would walk away from this crazy story, but yet somehow they sense there is no turning back.

Later that day they come across a confession of another tormented life traveler, an ancient poet and king, who penned these words:

The opening:
Long enough, GOD-
you've ignored me long enough.
I've looked at the back of your head long enough.
Long enough, I've carried this ton of trouble,
lived with a stomach full of pain.

The closing:
I've thrown myself
headlong into your arms--
I'm celebrating your rescue.
I'm singing at the top of my lungs,

I'm so full of answered prayers.

Reading it together, they both wonder out loud; how does the poet king make it from the opening to the closing. As the air suddenly becomes heavy, Mike can sense deep down inside a cry that has been trapped for several days. No longer able to hold it back, wondering if hope is truly lost or if any rescue is on the way, the tears of his soul break the silence. Streaming down his face blurring his vision, he can barely see to drive. How can he even operate under these conditions? Is there any one out there? Does any one know the pain he knows deep down inside?

In this sacred pause of time and space, Mike touches the wound that he shares with his soul mate. How long has Dee carried this wound alone? Joined by the tears of pride released, maybe today was the day that the two became one, waiting for the rescue while driving in the rain.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Warning! Do not try this at home!

The story you are about to read is a true story. The names and places of the actual individuals have been changed to protect their identity. Any reproduction or transmission of this story in whole or in part is strictly forbidden and protected by copyright laws.

In our story today, we peek in at the lives of what was an ordinary middle class suburban family living in the south. Mike and Dee are the typical married couple with three children. Trying to make ends meet in an ever increasing credit card world, and living beyond their means for nearly ten years, they found themselves nearly $30,000 in debt. The debt story is the same story for thousands of Americans who because of the low home refinancing rates and constant bombardment of materialistic seduction find themselves sucked into a never ending buying vacuum. As hard as Mike and Dee try, they can’t seem to shake the habit. This is a habit of buying what they want when they want because they have the credit by which to purchase anything they want. They rationalize to themselves that Mike’s next bonus or Dee’s income from the next home business project will bring a chunk of cash of which they will put toward the debt. The fool proof plan fails because something inevitably comes up in which the money is needed and the debt grows with compounding interest.

Mike and Dee’s story takes an interesting turn for the worst when Mike decides to quit his job in search of a more fulfilling life purpose. Selling all their possessions, they decide to move in with Dee’s parents while they wait for the sale of the house. Once again their hope is in one big chunk of cash to set them free to live life as they desire. Mike and Dee have fallen into the trap of the money escape hatch. What they don’t realize is that they have already escaped.

For them it is very difficult to know that they have escaped because they are so close to the situation. The escape is not the difficult part all though it takes incredible fortitude to make the jump from one lifestyle to another, but the real challenge comes when because of the jump you see how messed up and out of order your life had become. Re-prioritizing comes with a great deal of pain, like a drug addict going through detox. It feels like the pain is too much to handle. It would just be better to go back to the old way of living. The problem is when you make the “life jump” there is no going back because you have already seen the truth.

When the desire to spend is gone it is a natural response of the human body to need a stimulus to replace that empty feeling. Worry becomes the new stimuli for the life jumpers. How will the bills get paid? How are we going to take care of next month’s food and gas needs? Once again it is difficult to see when you are in the moment, but worry is really vain superstition. This is a time of raw emotions and self-doubt. It is the condition which requires the warning, “Do not attempt this at home!” For Mike and Dee this internal motive examination feels like the life of a bug under the magnifying glass feeling the heat of the sunlight intensified to the point that external combustion is almost certain. If you have made it to this point in the story, Mike and Dee would like to seriously warn you to keep your ordinary comfortable lives. This is too difficult. If anyone tells you it will be fine you’ll make it through, turn and run for your life. It is impossible to make this journey alone.

Mike and Dee are fortunate enough to have a couple of friends who want to help them through this difficult transformational process. But there is another force at work in this story. To admit you have a problem, is to admit that you are weak, therefore the internal mechanism of pride rises to the top and paralyzes the individual to reach out for help. In a social climate that recognizes and promotes self resolution, humility and meekness is considered useless and ineffective.

Extended family can be a powerful aid in this difficult as well, however the addictions of the family can be traced from generation to generation. Mike and Dee while staying at her parent’s house find this to be true. It is like a double edge sword; in this concentrated environment near the source of contention, it has the potential to completely heal the ailment or to bring about certain death of the life jumper’s spirit. Just one incident that comes close to the original wound can bring you to the edge of the knife of destruction that kills the spirit of hope or it can set you free to live life like never before. Many times in this concentrated environment there are repeated “close calls.”

Once again please, Do not attempt this at home! We must break for station identification and messages from our supporters. What will happen to Mike and Dee? Stay tuned.

To be continued…

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

this restoration life

when I was four
I lived life outloud
with toys and more.

the mach5 and star wars
no guilt no shame
for freedom was my game.

what will tomorrow bring?
a day of play or a day of pain?

digging in the dirt
trying to make a way through
what darkness lay around the corner?

the innocense stolen from a boy
when those who are so close
are the ones who have the power
to wound so deeply.

how deep the wounds run
when time runs like sand
how deep, how long, will brokeness remain?
forgotten is the path of pain.

so easy to forget
for to remember is to be afflicted once again
as age grows on, the road to heal fades in the distance
how far away, how closer still, is the splintered soul?

a deeper magic still there is
for there is One who restores better than before
gathering shattered glimmers of light
until all is made whole again.

is this the marvelous light that shines through the darkness
can it be so? Can hope return to free despair?

now the boy become a man
begins to hope again
stepping forth with trembling fear
it is time to look into despair?

for through the darkness light prevails
the buried wound now laid bare
feels the balm of the healing pool of life.

what is the pool of light that heals my wounds?
emerging from the stream of Life
only an outline of the wound remains
for I have been freed to live again.

to live outloud
everyday I am being re-made
better than before.

this is restoration
this is the life
I live today.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

the first day of a new month

Today is the first day of August and it seems as though a new chapter has begun. Our friends Brian and Candace arrived in Honolulu yesterday to begin the process of finding the essentials, living quarters, job opportunities, and schooling for the kids.

We are still waiting for the sale of our house before we can begin planning our departure to the islands. After evaluating what our basic needs are, we have are lowering the asking price of our home from $195k to $188k. Hopefully, the price reduction will bring in a wider range of buyers. We are traveling back to Tallahassee this weekend to check on the house and to turn off some of the utilities. We are looking forwarded to having dinner with some close friends while we are there and to have a few days of solitude to listen to the One who illuminates the path.

We are preparing to home school the oldest girls through an online virtual classroom from K12.com. What an amazing idea, public school online! We will have outlines, text books, computers, and a designated teacher to have available for questions and monthly assessments for the kids, all for free! And the great thing is K12.com is in about 15 states now including Hawaii.

This morning I met with Rob (realsoulsurfer). We sat in his living room and just talked about life and how things were going. It was amazing to me that he would sacrifice his time to talk with me when I have nothing to offer him or his ministry. His genuine care for me and my family is an inspiration. One thing I shared with him was concerning my newly developing awareness about what it means to be the provider of the family. For so long provider meant a material provider, but now I am being exposed to a fuller understanding of the father/provider role. In the past, I gave 95% of my creative energies to my work and only 5% to my family. I am so ready to find a healthier balance for creative energies. I want to love my kids with all my being, not out of obligation but out of a desire to build a creative and loving environment for them to grow. While talking with Rob about that Darla called to say she may have the opportunity to make sufficient income through court reporting and that I should consider staying at home with the kids. Wow, what a chance of a lifetime! It will be such a change from the life I have known for the last ten years.

Over the last seven days I haven’t written one page of the new book project. I have been just talking with people about the concept of the book and listening to what kind of feed back I get. Thank you to everyone who commented on the blog with kinds words of affirmation. The next seven days I am brainstorming the synopsis. A daily devotion of creative wordsmithing, I guess you could say. Tonight I bought a green spiral notebook (at the Dollar Tree- living on a budget you know) to begin the process.

Well that is a pretty good update one what is happening to the Winn people along this journey. Who knows what the next 40 days will hold. I am looking forward with great anticipation!

May you find the One who holds all things together busy at work in the most unlikely places, capturing your heart once again!