Week of Silence Day 4: Arguing with your Wife

The Last 24 Hours

Occasionally, my Wife and I will have  a little “discussion”, which is a fine, Christian way of saying we had an argument.  Last night was one such “discussion”.  Have you ever tried having a “discussion” with a spouse who was trying to “discuss” without using words? I have to imagine I looked pretty ridiculous — sweeping arm motions, flexing eyebrows, texting my point and pointing to my mouth as I say the words (as if that helps her understand me any better).  I even resorted to my Smartphone app that speaks whatever I text….and I used the Hugh Grant voice….how can you lose an argument with an English accent??? (trust me, it’s entirely possible)

What I’ve Learnedwww-St-Takla-org--Domenico-Ghirlandaio-Annuncio-dell-Angelo-a-Aaccaria-02-details

Listening. There is nothing passive about listening. In fact, it’s one of the most active ways we can communicate.  When you aren’t speaking, then you don’t have to reply immediately to what someone is saying. When you don’t have to reply, you have time….time to….listen.  Typically, we have a conversation or argument or discussion, by half listening to the other person, gleaning just enough information to formulate our own response. We fire off a few rounds of sound argument, and then in the time it takes the other person to respond, we reload and prepare to fire as soon as they are done speaking. We are not focusing on the words being said, and the emotions attached to those words, we are simply waiting for the other person to stop talking so that we can start again.

This is true within Washington, D.C., as well as the Church; Between family members and long time friends.Between children and parents, and Husbands and Wives.  We have entire segments of the population who have forgotten how to listen; who believe they already know what the “other side” has to say, and they already disagree with it. People who would rather keep talking so they don’t have to listen. Listening is not only vital to communication, it is itself an act of love, honor, humility, and good faith.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

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My Broken Home

I was a grown man when I learned my parent’s were getting a divorce. One would assume I had plenty of life experience from which to draw on in order to cope with the sudden changes….but age does not always predict how well you will “manage” the unforeseen events in your life.
This past summer I was at a writing seminar in Minnesota, and we were working on complete metaphors — where your writing appears to be all about one thing, when it is really about something else. I found myself alone one night, writing about my experience with my parent’s divorce. I was sitting at a desk, crying uncontrollably as I wrote out in a story so much of what I have tried to hold back. It was a cathartic and freeing experience as I continued the process of understanding, reconnecting, and moving forward.
Whether good or bad, I rarely share personal struggles that cannot be wrapped up in 300 words – which would explain why my fingers have hovered over the “post” button for 20 minutes. I only pray it will be helpful to someone else just as it was helpful to me.

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” Apostle Paul

broken home

Our Chevy Malibu galloped up Interstate 65 through Indiana as the landscape rolled out into flat, open spaces. The hills faded away, leaving us with crops and fields and rows and barns. We were pressing toward the prize of this 14-hour trip – home, to Illinois, to my home. I was told my home was unfixable now – that years of neglect had left professionals with nothing to work with and it was time to find another home; I knew that to be impossible.

I had memorized every square inch of that house; I knew it’s story, it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. I even knew the places that needed repair and reinforcements. This was not the sort of thing you paid much attention to as a child, but in retrospect you can see the signs of dysfunction just below the surface – a crack here, some mold there, left without attention anything is liable to decay and brokenness. But I could fix it, I just needed to walk around the old neighborhood, stand on the porch for a while, then I could see what needed to be fixed, explain what to do next, and save this house – save our house.

The next morning I slipped out of bed, meandered around my children asleep in piles of blankets on the floor, and drove off in my car alone.

I made my way toward Bel- Aire Subdivision – turning left on Kathy drive, right on Ardith, and then another left on to Anita. I decided to park down at the end of the street and double back to the house. I stepped out of the car and in to the cold, damp, heavy morning air. Before me an intrusive strip mall complete with nail salon and a dollar store, disfigured the field that played host to so many afternoon ball games. I walked the sidewalks, now broken by extreme temperatures, bleeding out weeds and dandelions. Houses looked small and lifeless; fences bowed; what once was the neighborhood you wanted to live in now became the neighborhood you drove through, to get to the neighborhood you wanted to live in.

Lost in the memories of a former life, picturing friends, remembering adventures, recalling neighbors long since departed, I stumbled upon 136 Anita Drive. I stopped frozen to the pavement, afraid to move any closer. This used to be the home I knew, but what stood before me was only a house – sagging and strained under the pressures of life. The grass and weeds conspired to take it over. The shutters hung loose and the roof had long since peeled its protective skin. The thoughts and questions in my head mixed with the cry of my heart and spilled out of my mouth. “With a little work this could’ve been saved” I informed God. “Why did no one fight for this house – it was worth fighting for!” Tears patiently repelled down the grooves of my face and on to my t-shirt. I knelt down to feel the grass one last time. I climbed the steps to the front porch and sat for a moment, fearing I was the last one to say goodbye, to walk away and to move on.

The cool wind picked up again, nudging me from my grief, and reminding me that my children would be awake soon. So I stepped down from the porch, followed the path of the sidewalk onto the driveway, where another sidewalk was waiting to show me the way back to my car, the way to move forward.

Arriving at the room, I kissed my children on the forehead and pulled the blankets back up over their tiny bodies. I slipped back under the covers, slid over to my wife’s side, wrapped my cold arm around her warm body, and held her close. She stirred briefly; I kissed her gently on the temple and whispered, “it’s worth fighting for” then slowly drifted off to sleep.

Letters to my Children: It should come with a warning….

Evan, Adeline, and Malina,100_5419

It happened again the other day. I was at home after a full day of work. We were in the basement playing and you (Evan) started calling my name. I had no idea that you had called my name several times earlier and finally gave up. But you really wanted me to play so you tried again. I wish I could say I heard you the first time, or the second, or the third. It wasn’t until you yelled my name that I looked up from my phone.

I was in the room but nowhere near any of you.  I was around but not fully present. In that moment I surrendered and allowed myself to be controlled by a device I carry in my back pocket.

Your face was a mixture of frustration and confusion, wondering what I was reading that was more important than the Lego Ninjago you were trying to assemble and needed help with.  It wasn’t until I saw your face that I wondered the same thing.

The technology I have in my life right now is amazing. The technology you will have when you are my age is hard to imagine. I am saying all of this to you three because I believe that for your generation, one of the greatest challenges to following Jesus, living in community with others and engaging the world will be to be fully present  — to God, to one another, and to others you will encounter in your life.

The more technology develops the more it seems to implant itself in the fabric of daily life. This is not a bad thing, but it should come with a warning….be present, engage people fully, quiet yourself before God. Nothing will be more important than being completely in the moment, lost in a conversation or an experience or great beauty….without distraction.

When it comes to responding to you or responding to the flashing green light on my hand-held device….may you never have to wonder who will win.

Love,

Your Dad.

Talking in the Bathroom: The Difference between Men and Women

It’s dinner time and we are at a restaurant.

As soon as the first bite of food hits my lips, my daughter taps me on the leg and whispers in my ear, “Daddy, I have to go to the bathroom.” The timing of that statement every single night at dinner is beyond coincidence. I smile at her as if to say, “Of course you do honey.”

I push back from the table, grab her little hand, and we walk to the front of the restaurant. As the door opens to the bathroom, we are flooded with sights and sounds that must all be pointed out AND commented on by my very observant child.  There is paper on the floor and a bulb is blinking; the music is loud, it’s freezing in there, and it smells like fruit. “Which door should we go in?” she asks. “How about this one?” I answer. “No, let’s go in the big door” she replies. “Okay, honey, just go in” I said. “No, I want you to go in with me.” I stand inside the stall door as she prepares to sit down.

With her elbows on her knees and her hands on her chin, she begins to carry on a very LOUD conversation, sometimes with me and sometimes with herself, her tiny high-pitched voice bouncing around the room. Someone else enters the room and she says, “who is that Daddy?” I look at her with bulging eyes and quickly shake my head back and forth. “What?” she asks. “Nothing” I whisper.

She doesn’t understand….partly because she is three, and partly because she is a female.  You see ladies, men have a very long and technical list of rules to follow upon entering a bathroom.  I know it doesn’t make sense and it may even seem petty and immature….I didn’t make the rules, I just follow them. My daughter was breaking rule #1: You do not talk! This is followed very closely by the other rules: You don’t look around, you don’t make eye contact, you don’t stand particularly close to anyone else in the bathroom. When you enter the stall, you enter a guarded space, a quiet space; you certainly NEVER carry on a conversation with the person sitting in the stall next to you!

The gentleman enters the stall beside us, and I see my daughter staring at his shoes. I raise my finger in the shhhhh position, but it is too late. “Who is that?” she asks. “I don’t know honey, are you done?” “I like his shoes” she says loudly. “Okay, are you done?” But she is not done, and she won’t be done for another 10 minutes.  Someone else enters the bathroom and pulls on the handle to the door of our stall. Adeline, looks up with her mouth open, I reach out and put my hand over it. She pushes my hand away and yells, “Who’s there?”

I am dying inside.

“Be right out” I said. “I’m going poo poo” she informs him. At that point, having followed my brave daughter into the unknown world of talking in the bathroom, I start to laugh uncontrollably.  “I’m done” she says with a smile. “Oh thank you” I reply.

We wash our hands and head back to the table, exhausted.  As soon as we get back to our seats my Son says, “I have to go to the bathroom too!”.  Before my Wife can even respond I shout, “I’ll take him!”

We walk back up to the bathroom….in silence….the way God made us.

I’m Voting for Obama

Ok this is an experiment.

I am not actually talking about who I am voting for in this blog, but I am curious….

I’m curious about the gut responses of those who would read a title like that.  I’m also curious about how many people simply read the title and refused to read further.

Sure, I could have used “I’m voting for Romney” all the same; but let’s face it, such a statement, in our geographical context, would not have received the same thoughts and reactions.

This is what I know: Come Sunday, November 11, you will find yourself sitting in a row with someone at your church, who voted for a different candidate than you.  You will worship, proclaim “Christ is risen”, share the cup of communion, or serve beside someone who has given their life to Jesus, received the promise of the Holy Spirit, and STILL voted for the other guy.

Could it be, that the greatest challenge for the body of Christ, and thus the greatest opportunity for the display of love and unity that comes with corporate surrender to Jesus, will not be Tuesday….but rather Sunday morning.

I pray we will not participate in a new form of segregation — not based on the color of skin, or one’s heritage, or one’s financial makeup….but rather one’s vote in the booth.

So be involved, study all that you can, vote for your candidate….and then be prepared to love   the winners AND the losers.

Remembering Rich Mullins

One of the things I loved about summertime in High school was jumping in a car with my friend, Charlie, and traveling all over the midwest to go see, Rich Mullins, in concert. He didn’t look like other Christian artists at the time, he didn’t talk like other Christian artists at the time, and he didn’t live like…well….like most Christian people I knew at the time.  You didn’t always agree with everything that he said, but you left the concert focused again on Jesus, and on his call to radical obedience – spoken by a man who gave up considerable income and lived on a Navajo reservation in a trailer.

I’ve included just one clip from a concert he gave the year that he died….hard to believe his death happened 15 years ago today.

If you’ve never listened much to Rich Mullins, I would give him a try — I consider him one of the most gifted song writers to come out of Christian music.

Carrying Death in His Hands: The Conclusion

To Read part I  click here. To Read part II click here.

Carrying Death in His Hands.

The crisp, spring air filled the room where Bathsheba slept, drawing her from that purgatory between fully dreaming and fully awake, where the lines between what is real and what is illusion are harder to find.

“Bathsheba!” Uriah’s voice echoed throughout the house. “Bathsheba?”  Bathsheba leaped from bed, and turned the corner to find her husband gathering his things and carelessly shoving them into his sack. “Uriah, what is it?” Bathsheba asked rhetorically.  Uriah turned and rushed toward her, clutching papers in his right hand. “I just left the palace, I was with my commander….I’m heading out….today….right now….

“What is that in your hand, Uriah?”

“My orders, for my commanders upon my return.”

David and Uriah by Rembrandt

“What do your orders say?” Bathsheba probed with subtle curiosity and growing fear.

“I….I don’t know….I haven’t read them….they….they are for my commander, Bathsheba.” Uriah said, his excitement dampened by his Wife’s confusing line of questioning.

“Bathsheba….I will carry these orders back with me to my men; I will fight for our King; and then I will return home to you and we will begin our family.” Bathsheba could only stare at him with pity. He placed his hands on each side of her face so as to catch the tears now on the downward slope of her check bones.

“But Uriah I….” “Not now” Uriah stopped her. “What till I return….I will be back soon.” He then turned to finish collecting his things.

A few hours later, two riders from the King’s palace arrived at the door to escort, Uriah, back to the battlefield.  Bathsheba stood in the door frame of their house as, Uriah, mounted his horse and secured his sack. He removed his helmet and turned to see, Bathsheba, one more time. She smiled and raised her hand. Uriah, sat motionless, staring at her as though he were mentally sketching every detail of her frame. He raised his hand to match hers, smiled, then quickly snapped the reigns and sped away with his escort.

In his hands he still held the orders from his King.  If only Uriah would’ve opened the letter and read his orders. just inside the fold were the words,

Uriah, battle, retreat, struck down, die.

Oh to carry death in your hands and be unaware of it.  As Bathsheba watched her husband disappear out of sight, she became a witness to the ravages of sin; the power that it wields to permeate all of life, to wound, to break, to steal, to kill, and to destroy.  By Winter, Bathsheba, would  give birth to her first child, a boy. She and her husband, King David, would also carry death in their hands, pleading for the life of their firstborn, as death once again takes what it does not deserve.

Weeks have passed since she said goodbye to Uriah, and Bathsheba makes her way to the rooftop, in the cool of the evening. As she sits in the bath, she recognizes the faint glow of torches, being carried by riders on horseback. As they move closer, she can make out two men from the King’s army, weaving through town and moving closer to her house. Bathsheba, steps out of the tub, dresses, and makes it down to the door in time to greet the two men. No words are exchanged. One of the soldiers pulls a letter from his saddle, walks over to Bathsheba, and places it softly in her hands. The two men mount their horses, turn quickly and gallop away, unaware of the tiny frame of what was once a wife, now collapsed by the doorway in a pile of sorrow.