Friday, September 18, 2015

Dropkick Jesus

I climbed a mountain the other day.  I climbed it to talk to God.  I couldn't hear Him amongst all the bustle and signals and internet and music and shouts inside my own head.  So I climbed a mountain.
I asked God something while I was up there.
I released something to Him, and I didn't like the answer that I got.  It felt like a sucker punch.  I had this idea in my head, that if I gave it to Him, that He'd give it right back.
I even went so far as to build an ebenezer stone.  I stacked up all those rocks, taking time, getting angry as it collapsed time and again.  I took twelve stones that didn't have smooth sides; they didn't fit together, but I had to balance them.  And when I got done, I scratched a prayer onto the top stone.  And God answered that prayer with what might be considered a sandal to the side of the head.
So be careful what you pray for.  God might answer it.
But I did learn something about Ebenezers.  They take time to balance.  It takes patience.  And it takes a lot of work.  It can be a lot like waiting for God.  It's hard.  It can lead to scraped knuckles, scuffed boots, and injured pride.  But it's worth it.  Just takes a little time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Let the Tears Come Now.

A faint hearted seven year old sat quietly in the corner of the funeral chapel.  If you'd have asked him, he wasn't seven.  He was seven and three quarters.  Almost eight, you know.  There's a big difference.  He didn't understand why he was there.  He didn't know the man in the box.
Of course, he knew of him.  But he didn't know him.  All he remembered about the man was a yellow bunny that squeaked when you squeezed it.  A strange smell.  An even stranger machine.  What were all these hoses and cords doing running into the man who everyone around him called "Dad" and "Grandpa" and "Wilbur"?  Those were the memories that the almost eight year old had about the man in the box.
Between games of war with his older cousin, he ran his fingers over the new deck of cards that he'd been given after hours spent in the funny smelling apartment, and walked over to his mom to see when they would be going home.  His mom told him that he'd be done soon.  "Just be patient," she said.
They all went to the restaurant later that night.  People that he didn't know very well, but that he knew he liked.  The two men that were his uncle's began asking him who was his favorite.  "He has a pink shirt on," the one said.  "Yeah, but my shirt has these little feathers on the back," the other said with a crooked smile.  Of course the one in the pink shirt was his favorite at the time.  He had on cowboy boots.  He was the real deal.  But this was a man he'd met but once by that time.
The next day, they gathered outside.  All huddled inside the little chain link fence.  A single evergreen stood watch on that cold February day.  A small hole.  A shovel just the right size for an almost eight year old.  A small gold box to put in the ground.  And then, just like that, all those men who'd sat around eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes and beans the night before put dirt on the box and walked away.
The almost eight year old didn't cry.  Didn't know why he would.  And he heard from countless people, how tough he was.  No tears.  "Cowboys don't cry."  "Good job."

Fast forward now.  He's no longer an almost eight year old.  Instead, he's an 18 year old.  No more almosts.  Just life.  It's exactly 18, actually.  He stands in yet another funeral chapel.  This one makes more sense though.  No card games to hide behind.  No cousins to cover up what happened.  Just person upon person coming up to give their sympathies and their condolences.  No tears come.  Just thanks, firm hand shakes, hugs, and the occasional birthday card, bag of Snickers, balloon, and pat on the back.
He sees people feeling sorry for him.  But that doesn't matter.  Because this time, he knew the girl in the box.  He'd known her for years.  He'd known her laugh, stood beside her at her wedding.  She was family.  And not far removed.  She was someone he'd fought over, fought with, laughed with, cried about, and loved.  It wasn't easy.  It was a love he had to learn, but it was worth learning.  It was hard to learn, but it was worth learning.
There was an accomplishment to that love.  It was a step above himself and something that grew him.  And that growing was over.  Cut short, snuffed out, snipped off, and held in.  But still, no tear came.  He had a job to do.  His was to stand in front, be the representative, and show people that they would stay strong.
The next day, they're standing.  All four of them.  Wearing black, blue, ties, bolos, a borrowed jacket, and standing tall.  Then they came in.  A wheel chair.  A tired face, followed by two more tired faces.  One who couldn't do more than raise his eyes.  No smile was on his lips.  Instead, they were silhouetted by a scar.  Again, they had a job to do.  They surrounded him.  Holding back the handshakes, hugs, and tears from drowning the one in the chair.
Two slipped by, but they were gently ushered back.  The chair wheeled to the front of the sanctuary, flanked by four guards.  Still no tears come.  No time for them.  And yet, as a frail hand reaches up and cold flesh meets cold metal.  A tear.  A sob racks his frame.  But no more.  No time.  He's hurried out.  Wheels turning.  Eyes follow.  Pity flows.  Quick hugs.  A long missed handshake, hug, a leather jacket.
Then moving on.  A car.  A cemetery.  It's all grey.  Grey in memory, grey in color, grey in feel.

And now.  Tears come.  Tears held back for five years.  Not for lack of trying, or lack of wondering, or lack of feeling.  But for lack of remembering.  Lack of growth, lack of strength, lack of knowing that it's okay.

This is my story.  This is my grief.  Through this grief, I have found joy.  A new life started.  New family.  And the realization that this is all in the shadowlands.  This world will end.  Look to the glimpses of heaven.  The small reflections of paradise.  But when the tears come, let them come.  It's okay.

Let the tears come now.

For in eternity, they will be no more.

Cowboys cry.

I'm sure of it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Until I End My Wand'ring Days

Most days I feel like a Ranger.
A dusty rider, rusted blade on hip,
Working my way through the wilderness and through the villages.
I hide my face, hoping to simply pass through.
I serve my purpose, praying to fade behind the scenes.

I see people laughing, eating together, walking arm in arm. 
I see the joy in their eyes and it sparks something inside.
But that's all it can do, is spark.
There's some kind of emptiness inside.  
A dry and cracked land in the middle of fertile ground.

I know the potential is there.  
I know that one day, it will grow a bountiful harvest.
I know that one day, a home will spring up on it.
Laughter will fill its halls.
Its tables will be full of delightful food.

So I ride on.
I wait for the rain.
I seek out other dusty barren lands like myself.
One day, the floodgates will open. 
I will find my home.

That is the day, when I am a Ranger no more.
That is the day that instead of a sword, my hand holds another's.
When I pick up a hammer and build,
Instead of tightening the straps on the saddle and moving on.
That is when I find my home.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Psalm 147:10-11

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, 
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 20:7

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fighting It Tonight

Life is not a damn cartoon.  We can't run off the cliff and keep going for a good fifty feet.  It doesn't work that way.  It is a slow slide towards a dropoff that we know is coming.  You see it coming up.  You grasp at anything around to stop your slide towards the fall is coming.  You claw at bushes, talk to friends, call out for help.  But none comes.  You're only left with the echo of your own cries in your ears.  So what do you do?  Do you allow yourself to get sucked into the vortex that lies waiting for you at the bottom of the drop off?  Do you run towards the edge and dive off the edge, trying to see how deep you wind up going?  That answer remains to be seen, but my gut says no.  My get says run towards the edge, but right when you get there, leap.  Put everything you have into that leap from the edge.  Get as far as you can, and maybe, just maybe, you'll make it to the other side tonight.  You'll have another jump and drop off in your way, who knows when, but at least you'll be over this one tonight.  So wish me luck.  Here I go, and I hope my legs hold out.  I've got a long ways to jump.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A long familiar nightmare...

I watch as its cold, bony fingers wrap around the posts of my bed.
The dead look in its eyes is a mirror.  It reflects what I feel inside every night.
It reflects the hurt that keeps me awake at night.
Hurt that no one around sees.
Hurt that no one can fix.
The claws on the ends of those fingers reach into my chest and freeze my heart in my chest for the umpteenth time.
The knot in the pit of my stomach tightens and twists, matching the lump in my throat.  The sounds of sadness thunder in my headphones, reminding me once again that this is what I'm left with.
A dark room, the sounds of country fading in my Bose, a tangle of clothes on the floor, and the knowledge that when I crawl out of bed in the morning, dog tired, sleepless, and exhausted for the next day, not a thing will have changed. Except I'll be another day older, and no closer to being out of the dark.
So I stride through the blackness. Waiting for a hand to reach down from above. To split the clouds. To bring some warmth and joy back into the wasteland that is my heart.  I don't know how long it will be, but I pray that it is soon. Maranatha, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Burnt Edges

Flames crackle, spreading up the corners.
They fill the air with the acrid smell of smoke.
It's acrid, but it's also a heavenly smell.  
It reminds me of how fast something can disappear.
From words that seem to carry hope of something more,
To the slight glow of an ember as the last bit of ink is shed into the ground.
A flame can do so much.
It can fill the eyes with tears, as the smoke wreaks havoc on you.
It can fill your face with hope, as you are allowed the chance of a new start.
Flames can promise warmth, and heat.
They can take what you have and destroy it, leaving you empty handed.
You never know.
A flame is a flighty thing. 
It can create, it can destroy.
It can sustain, it can be snuffed out.
So take that flame and do what you will with it.
Either feed it, so it crackles merrily.
Or stomp it out. 
Smother it, so it has no chance to be alive.
Sometimes eats easier to smother a flame,
So that others don't see it,
Aren't drawn to its warmth.
Don't smell its smoke and come running.
Its better to be cold, in my mind,
Than to have your fire run out of fuel.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Things I learned from my dad...

A lot of you know my dad.

A lot of you know the kind of man he is.
He's the guy who would give you the shirt off his back.
He's the guy that goes above and beyond his job.
He doesn't know the meaning of "too much sacrifice".

I know for a fact, that my father would give his life for me.

And I take pride in that.  I know that my father is a man who is looked up to.  I know that my father never raised a hand at me in anger.  I know that when I was disciplined, I was disciplined out of love.  My father has looked me in the eye, and asked me if I thought that he went too far as a parent.  I had no hesitation when I looked him right back and said "No."

I know that I put my father through hell as a child.  I broke his trust, and I disappointed him at times.  And yet I always know that my father is proud of me.  He is careful to tell me that.  Rick Adema is not an easy man.  But he's a good man.  He is a man who made it clear what he expected of me.  He is a man who made it very clear that he loves me.  He is a man who makes it very clear that if I need anything, all I have to do is call.

My dad taught me a lot of things.  He taught me how to ride a bike.  I rode my little bike with the brick looking insulation around the main bar.  I rode it straight into the clothesline pole when I was 6 years old.  And then my dad taught me to pick my bike up, get back on it, and ride away.  My dad taught me how to shoot.  He taught me to drive a manual.  He taught me how to read stories to my future kids.  He taught me how to love children with everything you are, when you are exhausted, or when they cry and turn away because of your beard.  My dad taught me a lot of things.

One of the most important things that my dad taught me, however...

My father taught me how to be angry.

That's right. I said my father taught me how to be angry.  This isn't being mad and raising your voice.  This isn't a needing to work out until you're tired.  This isn't even wanting to hit someone.

Oh no. This is very different.

This is a cold fury that starts at the bottom of your feet and works its way all the way to the top of your head.  This is a rage that fills you when you see injustice being done.  This is a searing pain that makes all fear in you go away and fills you with such passion, that all you think about is righting a wrong.

Whether he knows it or not, my father taught me this.  He taught it to me by his example of integrity.  He taught it to me by every time he told a young person that I met, that if they ever needed his help, all they had to do was ask.  He was always in the shadows, ready.  Waiting for that call to come in.  He was waiting for the wolf to prey on the sheep.  He is the sheepdog.  And so am I.

So here I stand.  I look around and see pain.  I see people hurting.  Hurting themselves because they know nothing else.  They have no other way to feel anything.  They have been beaten.  Scarred.  Wounded.  Taught how not to feel.  This has been done to them by parents, siblings, employers, acquaintances, pastors, teachers, and strangers.

I read stories about parents who struck their children out of anger.  Parents who beat their children for disobeying.  Parents who lashed out because they felt it was their calling.

Well, guess what?  Do you want to know what my calling is?  My calling is standing between you and those who are trying to hurt you.  My calling is to be that sheepdog.  I feel that anger.  I feel the anger that I learned from watching my father quietly stand up for those he loved.  I feel that cold fury that makes me unafraid of what may come.

I was homeschooled.  I was disciplined.  I turned out alright.  Thank you to my dad for that.  Thank you to my mom for marrying him.  Thank you that he has always been honest with me.  Now, I'm being honest with you.  Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.  You will never be alone.  There's always me.  And my dad.  We're not afraid.  You shouldn't be either.  Stand up.  Be counted.