Sunday, October 16, 2005

Friends for a Season

Here it is my 41st birthday, well actually just minutes away from being over. It was just a normal day, nothing unusual or special with the exception I got to spend the majority of it with my sons. Other than that, just another day. I guess that what happens when you get over 40. As always around my birthday I do a personal inventory of my life. I don't know why, but perhaps everyone does.

Having my birthday in the Autumn is quite fitting for me. Usually this time of year the leaves are changing from their color of life to their dormant hues of red, brown and yellows. The leaves are preparing to leave their source of life and will eventually fall gracefully in the air down to the earth never to be part of that life source again. After a season of lifelessness the tree will begin to bud new sprouts in which will be the beginning of many more leaves to provide shade, color and personality to it magnificent structure. It's the cycle of life.

In my forty one years I have gone through many cycles in my life of friends. In high school we make close friends that we have great experiences together and with the whole world ahead of us we feel like these friends that we have will be there forever. I look back and wonder where are they now? I have seen a few through the years and we have exchanged email addresses but we don't keep up. We go through the same things in different seasons of our lives, college, graduate school, different places of employments. I also can not forget the married then divorce cycle. After one becomes divorced most of the close married friends are no longer around , I was left to make new friends that are single.

It's just that way sometimes, we have friends for a season. The friendship begins as a small bud just getting to know each other. The bud of friendship begins to bloom over time because you nurture it, you feed it, you make an investment in it's beauty with the hopes that it will last a lifetime. An everlasting leaf of a beautiful friendship. Then the cool breeze begins to blow and the days become shorter and the dark nights begin to be longer and the sun begins sets on that friendship. You notice in the autumn sunlight that it is changing from the life color of green to a shade of brown. The beginning to an end. No matter how much I love that leaf, no matter how much I nurture it and care for it, it in return has nothing it can give back. It was there for only a season. Then cool breeze becomes a chilling wind and it's just a matter of time that the leaf will break away and float off with just the memories of it's beauty. My heart breaks and my tears fall as I see it float away, I want it back, it was part of me and I don't want to let go of it, I'm not the same with out it; but it has nothing to give in return and so despite the pain I feel it must go. So at the autumn twilight that leaf becomes smaller in smaller in the horizon till it is no longer in sight. What is left is the imprint that friendship leaf has left in my heart and memory. The beauty of that leaf remains in my soul.

The "what ifs" begin to cloud my mind as leaf of friendship is no longer in sight. Yet in my mind I know that no matter how much I cared for that leaf it was ready to leave. I could of pour more and more of my life into that leaf yet no matter how much I gave to it had nothing to give in return. It was a friendship for a season.

So as Autumn continues it's place in the seasons, so will my life's Autumn. Then there is life's Winter where I may just lay dormant for a season, resting to get energy for the spring of my life where there are hopes of new buds of friendships to occur.

Being 41 is not so bad, it just means that I have more seasons of life ahead of me and I've grown because of the seasons behind me. There are those leaves of friendship that drifted away that have left an empty place in my heart. In my remaining years ahead I must accept, however difficult it is, that there will be more friends and maybe only for a season.

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.

21 He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.

22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

(Daniel 2:20b-22 NIV.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Unfinished Business

I'm a procrastinator by fault. I am working on being better about it but I just keep putting it off. Don't laugh you probably do the same thing too. You know the procrastinators' motto, "Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow." Unfortunately being a procrastinator has many downfalls, more downfalls than benefits it seems.

One of the problems with being a procrastinator is all the unfinished business that is left undone. I search within myself to find out the reason I do this when I know it is much better to take care of business at the appropriate time rather then putting it on the back burner. There are several reasons I have come up with for myself. Fear of failure: afraid of doing it wrong and failing. Fear of rejection: saying some vulnerable things to someone, opening up my heart to someone just to be rejected by them. Fear of reality: thinking that if I don't have to deal with the situation it will go away and I will not have to face up to it, which is a false idea.

I have a fear which is I will leave a plate full of unfinished business behind if something was to happen to me and God takes me home. I'm not talking about dirty laundry or dirty dishes in the sink; I keep up with that pretty good. Unfinished business with relationships: words that need to be spoken, feelings that need to be shared and expressed, and actions that need to be taken. The fears that I have drawn me to retreat though and it is often lonely at times.

Am I being a coward? Perhaps so, but I like to think of it as self-preservation. Building up walls to avoid hurt and pain that accompanies the loss of a hope, the death of a dream. It's somewhat ironic that one will create his own pain to avoid the pain that is the result an action or denial of another party. I continue though to use the excuse of self preservation which in turn leads to unfinished business in my life. I have learned from experience that a guarded heart hurts as bad and perhaps even worse as a wounded heart. Yet at least the source of the pain is from myself and not the result of someone else's word, actions, denial or rejection. I am in control of the pain. (Or is the pain in control of me?)

I have put myself/my heart "out there", before making myself vulnerable for the "what ifs" in life or the "what ifs" with relationships with others only to have the door shut over and over. I do not make a good salesman; I do not take rejection to good after continual door slams. After a while the smell of the wood and paint of those slammed doors becomes a detestable stench that I can no longer stomach. So I go back to my home, retreat to my island and realize that I may have a life of unfinished business.

I do have a hope. A hope that my friends and family realize that I have a heart full of love and acceptance for them. A hope that God will refill my life with strength, with love and even with confidence so that when that day comes and I am called home that there will be less unfinished business in my life than I have today. I know that I could start again today to work on my unfinished business but today I am empty and wounded and need to be healed before I can continue to work on my life's unfinished business; there is always tomorrow.

Psalm 116 (NIV)
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD :
"O LORD, save me!"
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Difficult Places

Solo Serve, to most people those two words don't have much meaning but for me, my brother and my two sisters, my best friend Jason and his brother and sister it has a meaning of maternal torture. We remember quite well those summer days in which our moms would get together and decide to take us kids who they might of thought were bored and go to Solo Serve a.k.a. "kid's torture chamber". Solo Serve was a material store, I'm not talking material like Home Depot or Lowe's, I'm referring to textile, fabric, and then there are the Simplicity Pattern books that our moms would sit and look at for what seemed as HOURS. This particular store was located at the corner of Military Drive and South Flores in San Antonio, just blocks from our homes. Why would two sane mothers take seven kids to a store like this is still beyond my comprehension. To us kids, it was not a place that we looked forward to stay what seemed to be hours upon time. It was not a place where we wanted to be, it was a difficult place for us.

Our poor moms, I have no idea how they kept their sanity with us in the store. We would run underneath the tables of material. We would play hide and seek and anything else we could conjure up in our little minds to keep us occupied for the hours upon hours that we were in the four walls of that place. I'm sure our moms gave us grace for all the tribulation we put them through, and if I got a swat or two or three on my bottom for misbehaving I'm sure I deserved it, it was not a place where I wanted to be and I rebelled.

The interesting thing is that our moms where there for a great reason, to get the material they needed to make clothes, to save money for our families. They had best interests of our families in mind for going to this place. To us kids it was not a place where we liked to be, we rebelled in our own ways yet the reason we were there was for our best interest.

I don't know about you but for me I find myself in places in my life that I don't want to be. I'm not necessarily talking about that A bad date where you find yourself sitting across a table wondering, "what am I doing here and how fast can I get out of this date". I'm talking about life, looking around and thinking, "This is NOT where I want to be in my life, This is not what I had in my mind." Maybe it is a difficult life situation or a spiritual struggle, but it's a place in life where we don't want to be, a valley in your journey. My reaction may vary from questioning God to reaching out to Him for solace and resting in His arms.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 47 NIV)

As I read through the scriptures I see quite a few people that were in difficult places in their lives. For example: Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, David being chased by King Saul, Job losing all that he lost, Jeremiah being thrown into the cistern, Paul being imprisoned and John exiled to the island of Patmos just to name a few. God was always faithful to them and His will was always soveriegn. He had His kingdoms best interest in the situations, and these men were faithful to Him during the difficult times.

I have an oasis when I'm in the "Solo Serves" of my life, and He tells me that He is my refuge and my rock, realizing that He has my best interest in mind when I am at those places in my life where I don't want to be. It's time to stop, breathe and be still to know that He is God, my comfort and my deliverer.

P.S. Mom and Jerry, God Bless you for taking us to Solo Serve. It gave me an insight to life.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Touch

What is it about the touch that we crave so much to have? What is it that when we are touched by someone whom we care about it brings calmness to our inner being? Whenever I see a baby I love to put my finger to their tiny hands to see if the wrap their tiny fingers around my finger; the touch of a new life.

Reminiscing of when my sons were infants brings a unique joy to me. When my oldest son was old enough for his first "real" bed, he had to have me lie down on the floor next to his bed with our hands hand in hand until he drifted off to his dream world. Some nights it would be short time while other nights it could be what seemed forever. If I slipped my hand away too early he would grab it back and I would not let go. There were times my arm would be numb by the position of holding my arm up to his bed for the amount of time it took, but to provide what he needed wasn't a sacrifice, it's what you do when you are a parent. You provide the touch of security.

Just a couple of days ago the three of us were walking around a park lake and my youngest son grabbed hold of my hand to hold it. We walked hand in hand, then my oldest son came up put his arm around me while the three of us walked around the path around the water; the touch of bonding.

There is something about that connection when someone else that you care about transcends your space and touches your skin. When someone reaches out and wraps their arms around you when you are having a difficult time. It goes deeper than just a physical touch it is a soul touch. No words need to be said; the touch of comfort.

If that touch were to go away, what would it be like? Would my soul go dry with loneliness? Would my soul become calloused to intimacy? Would my soul evolve to be so self sufficient to where I no longer craved that feeling?

There are times that my soul needs healing; healing from sin, healing from hurt or healing from loneliness. I read in the Gospels that Jesus Himself uses the power of His touch for healing. It was their faith that healed but the touch that provided the confirmation. 12While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." 13Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:12-13 (New International Version) The touch of His healing.

Several weeks ago my youngest son had already gone to bed and my oldest and I were watching the television. I was where most men would be late night when we are watching television, I was laying on the couch with the remote in hand, that is what us men do. My oldest son, who is as tall as me now, came to me and said "Dad can you just hold me?" I replied, "Of course." He laid in front of me, I wrapped my arms around him and he placed his hands on mine. A tear came to my eye as I held him. He is no longer that little toddler that needs his daddy to lay down beside his bed anymore to hold his hand, but he still needs that touch; the touch of love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Beauty of Scars

Every boy has his scars. It’s a rite of passage to the masculine world of manhood. We like to display our scars like it is a prize trophy from our recent hunt in the wilds of the Serengeti. With each of our scars we will tell you a story about it. I have mine and if you ask I will show you. It’s on the shin of my right leg I got it when I was a boy, oh yes and it has a story. I know that girls have scars too, but they are not like us guys, they want to cover them up with make up and such they don’t think it adds to their appearance like us guys. I have known men that have had open-heart surgery and have displayed their massive zipper scar with pride. Showing that their chest was cracked, heart operated on and they survived to tell about it, they have a story to tell.

We all have those scars in our lives. You know what I am talking about and if you don’t you have probably sipped too much out of your cup of self-denial this morning. As we grow up, us guys, perhaps women too, like to cover up those emotional wounds in order to show the world how beautiful our life is, wound free, but the fact of the matter is the scars are still there. We know because we see ourselves without the makeup.

The interesting thing about scars is that they were not there initially. It started out as wound free flesh and skin, but then something happened. Some type of event caused the wound, perhaps an accident or a surgery or even it was self-inflicted, yes I said self-inflicted. I remember seeing this patient, in a psychiatric hospital that I once work in, that cause self inflicted scars on her arms; “cutters” is what we called them. They would superficially cut on their arms or other parts of their bodies to ease the pain in their lives. This one patient was a very attractive young women, but depressed and confused had a lot of pain in her life. As a result she would cut on her fore arms leaving massive scar tissue on them. Even if her depression would be cured or controlled, she would always have the massive scars on her arms. The wound happens exposing the flesh, and it is not always pretty, but it happens. I don’t know about you but my wounds have not been pretty, I think I would call them repulsive.

Then there is healing. That is what the scar is, the sign of a healed wound. If the scar were not there the wound would still be open. Exposed to infection, exposed to further injury, exposed for us to see the ugliness of the wound. Thankfully there is a scar to remind us of the healing.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”(NIV) 1 Peter 2:24.
Listen closely to your heart as you read it again slowly….”by his wounds you have been healed.” He suffered and was wounded so that you and I may be healed. A wound has to be tended too in order for it to heal, it can’t sit with out cleansing or it will not heal properly. His pain, His suffering, His wounds is our cleansing. I no longer have to sit and look at the ugliness of an open wound; He provided the healing over 2000 years ago. His scars heals my wounds. My scars remind me of that healing He provided. I have a story to tell of His healing.

Several weeks ago, my oldest son was carrying some glass jars in a sack when he fell and shattered one of the jars of hot sauce. As a result he cut his hand by a piece of glass. We cleaned his wound, got the bleeding to subside, applied some medicine on it and then place the butterfly bandages strategically in order that the cut would heal properly. Once we had the situation under control he asked me that question. “Dad, do you think I will have a scar?” I replied back to him, knowing what every young boy wants to hear and said, “Yes, I’m sure you probably will have some type of scar.” He was excited, “Cool, that’s what I want!”. He now has a story to tell.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Blood Brothers for Life

There are those special memories in your childhood that you never forget, no matter how young you were. I was three years old when Jason and I met and became best friends. Around 1967 or 68, somewhere around that time, I was on my front lawn of our house on Maxwell Street in San Antonio. I knew a family just moved into the house next-door and I thought that there was a boy my age in that family. I know you might be thinking that I making this all up, but there is someone who can vouch for it, Jason. On that day he came out of the house and we met for the first time. I asked him if he would like to be my best friend and he said, “yes”. It was that easy. At a young age we both sought after a friendship.

The friendship that Jason and I had as young boys was great. We were typical boys that looked at the whole world around us as “the wild west just waiting to be explored by two young warriors”. One summer day when we were probably around seven we were playing out in our yards (We were most likely climbing trees we weren’t suppose to climb, or was it the roofs too? That is a whole other story!) the two of us had a deep discussion as only seven-year-old boys can have. You might be surprised of how intelligent we were, we were impressed. On this particular day we were discussing our friendship. We knew that we had a special friendship and yet at age seven we both knew that one day our lives might be separated. What could we do in order that our friendship would last through the Vietnam War? After all we lived in south San Antonio around many military bases, the war was real to us. What if the military found out how intelligent we were and drafted us to be young officers? Like I said, in our minds we were highly intelligent. We always wanted to be best friends no matter what the distance was or the years that will pass. What was the solution?

Somewhere we read, wait we were only seven, ok we heard, something about how the Native Americans warriors became blood brothers by exchanging blood. That had to be the ultimate way of remaining best friends. Now I have never conducted any further research on this so please forgive our youthful ignorance on this topic, but at age seven it made sense to us. We decided WE would become blood brothers. I already had an older brother by birth, Jason had older sister but that was not the same in our somewhat innocent minds. How to exchange blood became a problem, but we were going to be brave though. After all, what is a little pain for a lifetime of friendship?

We were standing by the big old Ash Tree in Jason’s front yard, one of the trees we weren’t supposed to climb. We rubbed our wrists on the rough bark on that tree till blood come to the surface of our skin. At the first sight of that red liquid we placed our wrists together and made an oath that we would remain best friends forever. We were Blood Brothers.

In each of us we yearn for deep meaningful relationships. We desire to have a bond with people, friends that we can be transparent to, no masks involved. The deepest desires and dreams from our soul we want to share with someone. When we witness the beauty of a sunrise or the glory of the magical sunset, our hearts long to share those moments with someone that we have a special relationship with. It is a God given desire I believe; God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. Not only do we desire that special relationship with that special person of the opposite gender, but also we desire deep meaningful relationships with those of our own gender. David had Jonathon, Jesus had his apostles, Batman had Robin and after 37 years Jason and I are still best friends.

Our lives led us to be separated for many miles for many years and now we just live just minutes apart. My two sons love it when the four of us are together (especially when we start up Jason’s 1970 Mustang Fastback in his garage…we love it…Jason’s wife doesn’t care too much for it I don’t think, but she tolerates us boys, she’s great.) The two of us reminisce of our childhood like it was just yesterday. We will laugh as we talk about the troubles we made for our poor parents; I am being repaid though with my own kids now. We also are in wonderment of how unique of a friendship we continue to have. Something special happened on that day we became Blood Brothers, it wasn’t a magical potion or some secret oath, it was a gift realizing that God gave each of us, the gift of relationships.

We are given those gifts even as we grow older with each sunset, what we do with the gifts is our choice. Do we push those gifts aside afraid to open them because of past wounds that occurred with previous gifts? Do we put the gifts on a shelf unopened because we feel that we are unworthy of them? Or, do we open each gift with the realization that with it comes that completeness of our souls for relationships as they are designed to be.

Thank you Father for your gifts. For those relationships that we have had in our past that enriched our lives, we give you thanks. For those relationships that you have given us in the present we give you thanks. For the relationships that have lasted our lifetime we give you thanks and for those gifts that you will bless us with in the future we give you thanks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Parade of Life

I was raised in church, heard the church stories took them at face value and realized just how big and powerful God really is. In my spiritual quest though, I never really questioned the existence of God, but at times I questioned His existence in me. I think it is usually the times that I am going through what we seem are "bad times". That is according to us because we can't see the ultimate result of what's going to happen. It's at those times I feel that God has left me. Why should I have to suffer. It's the "Job syndrome" of why me what have I done to deserve you to leave me?" Reflecting on the past valley's I have seen that God was more with me there than ever before. It was in those dark valley's where I was forced to think. Forced to question my own existence and meaning. Forced to realize that becoming a better person requires training, this was training.

I never been in the military, but I have had friends that have been. They talk about how rough boot camp is. It strips you down then builds you back up to a better man, a better leader. I think that sometimes we go through boot camps in our own lives. We are stripped of all of securities that we hold on to. We are forced to be naked seeing who we really are, what are character is really like. We go through some rough life exercises. We are forced to see what we are really made of. A testing of our "testimony". At the end, God wants us to be a stronger person, a stronger leader for His cause. Am I alone when I'm in this "Life Boot camp"?
To answer the question, I reflect on my past spiritual boot camps. I went through quite a bit of changes. I rebelled, I got mad, I cried, I was broken and then I was restored. As a result, I always was a stronger man. The existence of God in me during those times was very evident. He was probably more there with me during those (these) times than the times where life was just one big arboretum in the spring. I say that because when things are going just right, I tend to focus more on myself and how great I have it, thanking God at a distance. Waving at Him as if I am on the float in a parade and He is on the side. I wave at Him, giving Him a wink just to say thanks.

The lesson to possibly learn, God wants to exist in my life even more when I'm on that float. After all, He is the Grand Marshall.