coming of age

Bloged in family, parenting, prayers by rod Wednesday February 21, 2007

Last week, I read an article called, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.” The article was about research that has shown that kids who are praised for being smart perform at a much lower level than kids who are praised for how hard they worked at something. Basically, the statement, “great job! You must have worked very hard at that!!” produces many more great jobs, while, “great job! You’re really smart!” results in stagnation, and even fear of trying something that the child doesn’t think they are already good at.

Though I have always believed that to be true, and generally do a good job of pointing out the cause of success and accomplishment as the result of hard work, you’ll notice from my last post that I sometimes fall. Fortunately, usually my direct praise usually speaks to character and personality. Sometimes my amazement simply is manifest by a dropped jaw, followed by, “you are so awesome.” I have to work really hard to realize that Will’s knowledge and abilities were not simply bestowed upon him, but that his Petabyte Plus gray matter is being filled by his relentless gathering of information fueled by his intense interest in so many things. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, “HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?” I could retire and fund his research to reverse global warming, and create alternative fuels and even alleviate the need for fuel. So I try to remember to praise his interest and relentless info gathering. Assimilation is natural for him, and like me, every bit he acquires seems directly related to all the other bits. This explains why he can pick up a camera, and being shown where the shutter button is, frame and capture beautiful images that express what he was seeing, observing and feeling, and why he took the shot. His ears do the same thing musically, and his hands do the same thing artistically whether he’s drawing, painting, or writing. His heart beats on his cuff, and his poetry fuels every expressive vehicle.

Today at 4:30pm, he became a teenager. When I picked him up from band and Jack and I told him “happy birthday,” he said, “Now I can be all hormonal and pubescent and be terribly mean to the people I love.” WHAT? That sounds really funny coming from a 13 year-old birthday boy, but that is something he’s worried about for a couple years. “Dad, I don’t want to get all hormonal and out of control and treat people badly.”
Truth is, of any kid I have ever known, I can’t imagine him being mean. Will gives himself to others so completely that everyone believes he is the only friend Will has. Every hug, every smile is a life-long commitment. When Will wraps his arms around you and presses his head into your chest, his cells and being meld with yours and for a moment, he teaches you something you didn’t know before.

I love him for being, and above all else, I’m proud of him for his willingness to love. This is something that he doesn’t have to work out. It is who he is. But it takes a very strong man to be so vulnerable. He will constantly have to work at the strength to remain this way, pure and giving. As his brother observed at a VERY young age, “sometimes when you be nice to someone, they be mean back to you.” Yes, that is the way of the fallen world. People take advantage, exploit, misinterpret, and hurt you. Every time this happens, a potential brick is mortared into a fortress around who you are.

I pray constantly for the strength and courage Will will require to be who he is. These next years will be like a power lifter’s workout for him as he studies how Jesus’ love is misunderstood and rejected, and like Jesus, grows in wisdom and stature, and favor with those who matter.

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my ridiculously talented son

Bloged in art, parenting by rod Tuesday February 20, 2007

Monday was a kid holiday, but not a parent holiday. Molly had spent the night with a friend and was still there. Jack was headed to Bellacino’s and then bowling. Allison was asleep. I needed to go to work for awhile so Will came with me and we dropped off Jack and headed over. It was a beautiful sunshiny day, and Will had been asking for awhile to spend some time at “the secret pond.” So I handed him my camera and said, “knock yourself out.”
Will said, “dad, nature is always so beautiful until you try to take pictures of it and then all the beauty disappears.” Assuming that he was voicing frustration that you can never capture what you see, I told him to allow the camera to capture a different perspective, something less that suggested something more. I actually gave him a pointer, and took a pic to show him what I meant.
Now I feel stupid thinking that I could give him a pointer in any artistic pursuit whatever. You would think I could make musical theoretical offerings to him, but Sunday on the way to church I asked him what he was scribbling, and he told me he was transposing a chart that was in the wrong key for worship that morning. Sheesh. If he doesn’t need my help in music, he certainly doesn’t need my photography help.
So the result of his afternoon with my camera made me intensely jealous. I take about a thousand pics and get one that I like a little. Will comes back with 76 pictures, all of which are very good. I know that he’d never be interested in maintaining a flickr page, so I decided to give him a showing on mine. This takes some pride swallowing on my part to put his brilliant photos among my mediocre ones. But a dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do.
So check out the Will pictures. I think you’ll like them.

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encouraging words

Bloged in church, community, culture by rod Monday February 19, 2007

A year and a half ago when I flew to New Mexico to attend the emergent gathering, I think I mentioned here that I was actually worried about how I’d be accepted there. At the time, so much of the conversation included frustration, criticism, and intolerance of church as it is, and many people were pulling away, leaving, and gathering among believers in totally new community paradigms. I, on the other hand, was leading worship in a contemporary church and teaching at a traditional, conservative Bible College. They were tired of talking and were doing, I was still talking and trying to open minds. Would they see what I was doing from within in any way connected to their pulling away and doing it differently?
When I arrived at the gathering, it took no time at all for my new acquaintances to become friends, and with me as newbies to the gathering were many others who were still trying to affect growth and change within their contexts. The reputation of my school is widespread, and many were outrageously shocked, but equally encouraged that I was there. Word traveled fast that there was a Bible College faculty member among them. I was sought out for conversation. But within my own contexts, I’m still somewhat of an anomaly. There are, however, signs that more are willing to hear, by necessity as we seem more disconnected and less effective with the students to whom we minister, and with the world into which we wish to send them. But I’m still a small, marginal voice in a big pond. Research still trumps experience.
Recently a much bigger voice began a series of chapel sermons here dealing with post-modernism that discussed the topic with a much more open, (dare I say intelligent?), teachable approach. Our President Emeritus, Robertson McQuilkin, delivered a message called “Post Modernism: Capturing it.” There is nothing new here, no new topics to bring into the conversation; but the encouragement is that it was delivered here. His words will be heard when mine sound squeaky and unintelligible, uninformed, naïve, and rebellious, and perhaps open ears to my own.
I’ve asked Dr. McQuilkin for permission to link you to his message and he was excited to give it. He did, however, voice the concern that he didn’t challenge the students enough to be self-critical and challenge some of the stuff they’re buying into. I believe though that he created an atmosphere that will allow him to do that more specifically and be heard and trusted. He will be able to point out specific areas of concern to him without throwing the baby out with the bath, and creating a false antithesis between, “biblical world-view” and “post-modernism”, as has always been done.

I’ve provided a link to this message, if you’re interested. Give a listen. More will follow. In any case, be encouraged with me.

Link: Post Modernism: Capturing It

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birthday blessing

Bloged in family, parenting by rod Sunday February 18, 2007

So will each year in retrospect reveal such dramatic growth since the same time last year? Probably not. I guess a guy can only go so far so fast. But this year. Man.

I think for youngins, birthdays mark an arrival, a milestone, a click of the odometer. “Look at what I’ve accomplished, where I’ve come.” It’s a step toward the future. A day of dreams partially realized and hope secured.

For parents, a child’s birthday seems to be more of a day of reflection, a look back to where you’ve come from. Another reminder that time waits for no man. A confusing day of pride and knowledge of passed past. Grief for who you were, and pride and joy for who you are. That’s why when you turned 3, we watched the video of your birth and the following weeks. Mom said, “look what a tiny helpless baby. Seems like only yesterday.” And you replied, “And now I’m eating a hamboiger.” Mom and I were looking back, and you were celebrating an accomplishment.
I wonder if parents can learn to do better in celebrating milemarkers that inevitably mark greater and greater distances from us. Perhaps reflect on the quality of fuel we’ve put in your tank and up the octane when needed. But eventually, we should be able to rejoice that you’ve learned to pump your own gas, that you’re in proper alignment and don’t pull to the right or left, and that you’re on a rail toward that elusive destination. We can only pray it doesn’t take you too far away. We pray that you’ll sing our songs and when you look back at spec house and plywood, it won’t touch your memory.

I pray that our happy songs will be full of meaning and that our sad songs will be pretty melodies. May our blossoms line your paths and our wounds be healed in you.
I bless this step.

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jumpsuits and pretty feet

Bloged in community, worship by rod Friday February 16, 2007

At any moment this week, I think I could have sat down and rambled on about what I’ve wanted to post since last Friday. I don’t think I’d have had any trouble finding words. Time is a different matter. There’s been none. Last week was that way too - suppose they all will be. But last week, tagged on bright and early at the end of the week, I was to do Chapel at Kirkland Prison, across the river from us. I had so much to get done last week that it was relegated to the back burner, where it still managed to steal attention from everything I did all week. And I was in a continuous fantasy that I was Johnny Cash getting ready to play at Folsom Prison or San Quentin. We’d gone to see John Mayer the night before and I had to be at the security check at 8:00am Friday morn.
When we got home from coffee sipping and friendship at midnight after the Mayer concert, I’d not yet done any actual physical prep for Chapel that morning, although it had swam in my head all week. I was pretty nervous.
This chapel is a part of the curriculum of a new Associates degree program that we’re offering. Everyone in the program is serving a life sentence. They’ve been moved here from prisons all over the state to participate, and are training to be ministers in the only community they will ever know.
All week, I’d wondered at what was appropriate, what might sound insensitive, offensive, disconnected to those guys, but biblical prison/freedom language kept playing in my head. By Thursday, I’d decided to stop worrying about the prison/freedom language because I realized that it was precisely the message of freedom that these guys were training to bring to their fellow prisoners. I focused on Jesus’ quoting Isaiah and claiming the anointing to proclaim liberty to the captives and set the prisoners free. This was why they are in the program and I was to encourage them.
I told them that Johnny Cash was my patron saint and that I’d pretended I was him all week. I wore black and talked with them, shared the scriptures with them, we sang together from Isaiah, I played guitar for them, and prayed with them. I seemed not to offend anyone, I think I actually did encourage them and they certainly encouraged me. A real connection was made, and I came away feeling even more like Johnny Cash than I had all week.
It was terribly refreshing to speak and sing with, to play for hungry people who weren’t distracted by cool songs, hot licks, pastel shirts, powerpoint. A room full of colorful men, all dressed in the same color jumpsuits with SCDC emblazoned on the back. A picture of the Kingdom. Prisoners given freedom behind bars, carrying the message of freedom to other captives. The Kingdom is an upside-down, inside-out, not-of-this-world concept. Men imprisoned in their freedom, but being freed in captivity. What’s that all about?
I bear the symbol of rebirth, of second chances, of death defied and conquered. We all shared the gift of Beauty from ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, prison jumpsuits as a garment of praise instead of despair.
They shall be called Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
I saw the Lord’s splendor in that room last Friday morning in the eyes of those acorns.

Say to the prisoner, and to those in darkness, “come out and see yourselves in the light.”

food

Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Friday February 9, 2007

For a chef, it must be infinitely more satisfying to cook for hungry people than for folks who have been snacking on french fries all afternoon.

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yet again still another set list

Bloged in music by rod Thursday February 8, 2007

Belief
Good Love is on the Way
Why Georgia
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Clarity
Vultures
Bigger than My Body
I Don’t Trust Myself (with loving you)
No Such Thing
Waiting on the World to Change
Gravity

Who Did You Think I Was?
Your Body is a Wonderland
Covered in Rain
Neon

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being

Bloged in family, love and marriage by rod Thursday February 1, 2007

So blogging is one of those end of the day activities that help to rid the restless mind of all the accumulation of the day, and allows focus, calm and relaxed processing of all that has preoccupied during the day. There are exceptions, but most often, jotting down my thoughts is the last thing that happens in my day. The kids are all settled and dreaming and Allison is usually sacked out and snoring. On the occasions when she is not depleted before the children, she and I have some quiet time together after they’ve drifted off. This time of being together rids the mind of clutter much more effectively than any amount of jotting and typing, and that is fortunate because it also uses the jotting and typing time.

Rejoice with me when my blog stands unchanged.

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