Running down the path
snow swirls and twirls in the wind.
As we laugh and smile
broken pieces shift in me:
heart beats in time with my feet
Today I found myself driving down the road towards my home when a song started playing from deep within “My Likes” in YouTube Music. Years ago I was obsessed for a time with the movie Brave. I watched it with my kids, listened to the music as I drove around with them, and acted generally as a fanboy for team Merida. Even when Anna and Elsa came on the scene, I looked down my nose at them. I had found my favorite Disney Princess and she was a raucously independent archer who had all of the confidence and self-assurance that I wished for my children.
So today, the song “Touch the Sky” began to play and I listened to the lyrics.
When the cold wind is a-callingSongwriters: Alex Mandel / Mark Andrews
And the sky is clear and bright
Misty mountains sing and beckon
Lead me out into the light
I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky
I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky
Where dark woods hide secret
And mountains are fierce and bold
Deep waters hold reflections
Of times lost long ago
I will hear their every story
Take hold of my own dream
Be as strong as the seas are stormy
And proud as an eagle’s scream
Touch the Sky lyrics © Reservoir Media Management Inc, Walt Disney Music Company
The last few days I have been feeling very strange. This week I will learn if the court is going to help me see my kids before the year ends. I haven’t had the visitation the court set in place since July and I don’t have a ton of hope that suddenly the court will start to care, so I have been down in the dumps. Tack on the amount I have been working and the reality behind why I don’t feel safe conversing with my former partner even over kid issues (see any of the posts about Domestic Violence from October and they’ll paint a picture in broad strokes even if they never describe things in detail (on purpose)) and I have been really really really down in the dumps.
I have been trying desperately to get a hold of my feelings and my emotions to get them in check before any further bad news pushes me down further. I have been trying to understand what’s happening within as something kept feeling off.
I found myself crying as I drove in the car today because I had a moment and finally understood what was happening. Why haven’t I been hitting the punching bag as aggressively and why have I been taking more pictures of nature? Why did I choose to take my camera on my long walk today and why did I spend most of it texting another father in my fatherhood support group? Why?
As I had been walking earlier an angry song came on my phone and I reached within to connect with what has felt like an endless pit of anger for over a year. When everything else was lost, I could dip into that pit to find fuel to walk another mile, punch the bag for one more set, or even to just stew while driving. It has been so constant and a companion for many miles as I have walked. That deep sense of grief, anger, and sadness has been there for the 1,915 miles that I have walked this year (according to Fitbit). The anger has been as constant as hunger, thirst, and soreness as I have walked on and on.
I had reached in and nothing was there. The bucket hit the bottom and I had been worried that I was broken. What does it mean when you reach in to find the angry part of yourself and find nothing is there? Does it mean that you’re doomed to be unfeeling and lost?
I started crying as the words to the song to Brave came on because I recognized something in them: “When the cold wind is a-calling and the sky is clear and bright, misty mountains sing and beckon: lead me out into the light.” Do you know that there’s a growth on a tree on the Catharine Valley Trail that looks like a snail?
There’s also a ton of damage to the ash trees, likely from a combination of ash borers and woodpeckers. The sight is truly tragic, but also beautiful when you are walking around the woods and suddenly bleach white branches pop out of the woods that are so brown!
Do you know that there are green things that are neither evergreen nor willing to turn brown? Do you know that there are these weird bamboo looking things popping out of the ground in the middle of December? Do you know that the moon is almost full and it can look like fingers of bare branches are reaching into the sky to caress the moon as it rises? Do you know how amazing things are out there in the woods today on the edge of winter? Even as the sun continues to fade for a few more days, do you know how beautiful things are our there?
I cried because I reached down within me to find anger and only found the bottom of a well that hasn’t been empty for a while. I cried because I realized that I understood the lyrics to that song at last. In the midst of the cold wind, I heard the beckoning call to open my eyes and see what God had created. Legs that have walked miles have grown strong enough, skin that has known sun and darkness is thick enough, and even my own sense of fortitude has grown elastic enough that I can take time, even in grief, and see beautifully amazing things.
The song has a second verse that goes ” Where dark woods hide secret and mountains are fierce and bold, deep waters hold reflections of times lost long ago. I will hear their every story: take hold of my own dream. Be as strong as the seas are stormy and proud as an eagle’s scream.”
I’m filled with grief and sorrow, but there’s another part of me that has grown as strong as the seas are stormy. I’m frustrated I need the court’s help to even see my children, but I know what it means to walk miles and see the beauty in the depths of the woods with the endurance to decide that 6 miles into a hike is exactly the time to go wandering down a hill to get a closer look at that bleached white tree down the hill.
Even now, I want to cry because there actually is pride in the person I am becoming. I reached down for anger and found nothing, but I opened my ears and heard a reminder that I am becoming the person I once dreamed of being. Mile by mile, step by step, I am being reforged into someone that my children and I can look upon with joy and pride. I don’t have to be sorrowful today, for I am becoming exactly the kind of person I would have been proud to be when I was young.
This isn’t the road I would have chosen, but it is the road I have, and I am walking it well.
I have the kids today! The only time I can see them again between now and the end of the year is if I exchange them with their morning Sunday morning at 10:00 AM two hours by car from where I have church at 10:15 AM. That part of things is awful, but today I see two of my three kids for the only time from October through December.
So, we broke out the fancy serving dishes and made macaroni and cheese with carrots and hot dogs. It seems silly to put such a simple meal in a nice dish as I never need a serving dish when alone, but this is a good silly.
Break out the good plates:
garnish with tasty extras
and join your children.
To eat while you're not alone
is a fleeting gift these days.
How do you teach respect to a child? I don’t mean tyrannical respect, but a general respect for other people (e.g., How do you teach them to be considerate of the needs of other people, to have gratitude for the efforts others put into their relationship, etc.).
I always thought the best way to teach my children was through the example of my own actions. To this day I don’t tear down my former partner in front of our kids and even have difficulty at times expressing how bad things were when that means I have to say things that cast my former partner in a negative light.
At one level, I have done an excellent job and not tearing down my former partner. I have given an example to my children on how you can live with someone difficult without having to constantly tear them down.
It isn’t as easy when I consider how I teach them self-respect. There are times when I show respect to my former partner by being silent about terrible things that have happened to me. I have bit my tongue and allowed things to stand over the years that were not acceptable
This blog post doesn’t have the answers on how you do that, but writing it will force me to think today about how I show my self respect, how I teach my children to respect themselves, and how all of that fits into my relationship with my former partner I wish my cojourneyers luck
October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
The #RethinkChurch Lenten Photo-A-Day prompt for today is “Present.” As it is a Monday, our devotional points us again into Luke 6:-17-26. This week we are focusing on the contrasting concepts of hunger and fullness.
While it can be difficult to come up with a connection between the Lenten Photo-A-Day and the theme of the day, today was an easy selection for me. I know of the perfect present that has taught me about a hunger that goes deeper than just a craving for food.
I spent last Thanksgiving with my brother and his wife. For the first time in years, I did not spend Thanksgiving with my wife and it was the first time in 13 years that my eldest was not around complicating things. It was a heartbreaking experience that I know many others have experienced over the years.
After Thanksgiving, I had an opportunity to visit with my kids. In a red folder, I received a picture from my youngest. She had colored a picture of a turkey and wanted me to have it.
I practically ran to hang it up in my bathroom. When my kids are around, they see the turkey hanging there and I remind my youngest that I love it. I truthfully tell her that I say a prayer for her each time I notice it, whether it is the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.
Once upon a time, we had so many pictures come home from school that it was hard to choose. When my eldest was in second grade and my middle child was in kindergarten, our refrigerator was practically a battlefield when we had to decide what picture would go where. My refrigerator was “full” of pictures.
Now, the pictures are few and far between. I am hungry for pictures from my kids. I never realized how lucky I was to have all of those pictures filling my fridge. Like almost all parents, but not in the same way as most, I went from a full nest to an empty nest overnight. I long for the days when the kids are here in our house. I long for those moments when I could hug my kids after school and celebrate their pictures.
In the devotional, the very heart of what I am trying to get across is found at the beginning of today’s reading: “One of the greatest challenges of using the beatitudes found in the Gospel of Luke is that they use slightly different language than those found within the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel.” The hunger listed here is not qualified by a connection to righteousness like in the gospel of Matthew. As it says later today: “As we look at hunger throughout this week in Jesus’ teachings, we will notice that it relates to questions around wealth from the previous beatitude and to questions around sorrow and laughter in next week’s beatitude.”
I know that I hunger for something that is connected with both sorrow and an impoverished heart. As we go through the devotions this week, I hope everyone finds a place of connection. I also hope that they find safe spaces to express any sorrow that they feel while on this journey.
Our devotional reading for today begins with the line “Christianity is a mystical faith, but not a magical faith.” Depending on the version you are reading, there is unfortunately a typo in that line which makes it read “Christianity is mystical faith…” .Even now, my editing program is having a conniption over that phrasing and it makes me wonder how I missed it when reading the devotional through multiple times while searching for errors and typos.
Christianity is a mystical faith that connects the practical physical reality with something beyond normal understanding. In the scripture reading we read of thousands of people eating a shared meal after one child came forward with five loaves of bread and two fish. The story is amazing, but it is not the only story of how people have seen the wondrous happen without the blessing of incredible wealth.
Soldiers from two different nations stopped during the first World War for a day of shared peace on Christmas. The peace could not have been bought or sold, but it was shared freely with people who shared the same faith on different sides of a war as they remembered the words “Peace on earth, and good will to all.” Victims have forgiven people who have committed atrocities against them simply because God asked them to forgive others. A sailor engaged in human trafficking came to a point of conversion and decided to stand against the very practices he once engaged in for a living. As an abolitionist, he both advocated for the dignity of the people he once harmed and sang about the amazing grace that changed his life.
Often without a world of riches at their command and often against the expectations and desires of the wealthy and powerful, people have dug into empty pockets and found that they were far richer than it looked on the outside. God has a way of showing up in a miraculous way to provide for those in need, whether it be through a changed heart, a call to forgiveness, the same hymns sung in different languages, or even the willingness to share found in a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish.
The #RethinkChurch Lenten Photo-A-Day prompt for today is “good.” I am blessed in many ways, but being a parent has often stretched me beyond the ends of what I thought were my limits. I have cried for my children, held them while they are sick, prayed over them at a distance, and now regularly wake up in the middle of the night to wonder where they are and how they are doing at that moment.
I have not always been the perfect parent, but that is not the fault of my children. I often feel like a poor father and I cannot give them everything they want in this world. Somehow, I have still been considered worthy enough by God to be their dad. I love them deeply. They are good, even when I pray for a way to be a better father. On some days, I even allow myself to believe that I must be good if I have been entrusted with such amazing kids.
Well worn bumpy sacks wait to be released anew in another home. Adults loose a sigh as boxes begin to swell with children’s treasures. Children pack away items all will trip over in a few months time. Parents ponder why long dusty beanbags take space both now and later.
Sweet smiling children“Beanbag Haibun,” Distracted Pastor, 2020
will fill a fresh and new place
with “priceless” treasures.
The other night I was stretching after a long day. We had spent the day with my wife running a garage sale while I helped to clean up the garage. My feet ached, my shoulder hurt, and I needed a good stretch for the Whole Life Challenge. I wrote this poem while reflecting on the events which took place while I stretched out tight joints while my wife washed up behind a closed bathroom door after a hot day in the sun.
Stretch your arms to toes
While your crying toddler wails
As her mom showers.
Stretch your sore shoulder.
Call to your lonely toddler
Who wants her mother.
Stretch your angry calf
As you pray she'll let mom be
After a hot day.
Rise to reach for her
As the door opens for her
Then closes on you.
Drink some cool water
As toddler storms the shower
With love and gusto.
“The Stretching Poem” from the Distracted Pastor, 2019
Today’s Rethink Church prompt is “Prepared.” I know that it is Holy Week, but after writing all of these haigas, I cannot help but use this prompt to recommend to all new parents that they either buy baby wipes by the case or invest in a lot of hand towels.
The word for the day for the #RethinkChurch Photo-A-Day challenge is “rest.” Yes, it is Sunday again! Being myself, I can’t leave well enough alone, so here’s a haiga! Everything you know about life should include things that you learn before kindergarten!
The word for the day for the #RethinkChurch Photo-A-Day challenge is “power.” Being myself, I can’t leave well enough alone, so here’s a haiga! Here’s a picture of my eldest conquering her fear and flying down a hill on her rollerblades. She’s pretty powerful already!
A few weeks ago I sat with a sick infant in the depths of night. Wet cloth cooling a fever from the now rare chicken pox. I rocked and contemplated what we would do if the fever spiked again. It was dark in that room in more ways that one.“Her Forehead” by The Distracted Pastor, 2019
A few weeks ago I sat with a parent in grief over an upcoming surgery. A sweet child in need of care. I contemplated her struggle and prayed for more than just the child. I prayed for my own forgiveness because I was grateful my child was not the one in need of that care.
A few weeks ago I sat and ate elementary school spaghetti. It was exactly how I remembered it. We sat, laughed, talked, and even danced as we tried to support some friends’ family in their hour of need. I could stomach school spaghetti far easier than letting my friends feel they were alone after caring for a baby who spent a lot of time in the NICU.
Yesterday I saw the ash on her forehead and I realized that she was mortal too. Today she is well but one day she will be in God’s hands. My heart broke as I realized a truth that had been walking through the edges of my soul.
On the day of ash
We contemplate our own path
Down through our life’s end.
Easier to see your own
Than on your daughter’s sweet face.
It is dark now, my little one.
We rock beneath a long dark sky.
We should sleep now, for day is done.
You've had milk. You've had your fun.
Still house rings with your piercing cry.
It is dark now, my little one.
Mom would rest like the long set sun.
My voice cracks as my throat grows dry.
We should sleep now, for day is done.
Soft song and pout seek battle won...
I have sung many years gone by.
It is dark now, my little one.
I'll hold you close–blanket-wrapped bun.
My voice so soft–so close your eye.
We should sleep now, for day is done.
It is dark now, my little one.
Today’s post is a poem inspired by the events of last Monday night. I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of an exasperated spouse and an inconsolable baby. Our baby was loud and she thanked me for holding her close by screaming right in my ear. Still, we rocked and I sang until peace fell at last on her troubled soul.
Was it the teething medicine? Was it that she was gassy? Was it that she just needed to wear herself out? I do not know, but she is the third child. I have rocked and sung through far worse.
Today’s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary draw something a bit personal out of me. In particular, I am drawn to ponder the reading from Exodus. I’ve had many images in my mind of Moses over the past few decades of my faith journey. It has been twenty years since I gave my life and my heart over to Jesus. I have spent a significant amount of time since then reading and pondering the scriptures.
Yesterday, while reading through “God’s Unconditional Love: Healing Our Shame” by Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon Au for the upcoming session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation, I read about the practice of visualizing what you read in order to reveal your own internal image of God. When I apply this practice to the idea of seeing Moses after twenty years of study, I will admit that it is hard to describe what I see at first glance.
To be clear it isn’t the following image…
I’ve never watched Heston’s portrayal… Sorry film buffs–it has not happened by this point in my life.
To be honest, my vision of Moses has been deeply affected by my sense of humor. I don’t have permission to copy the image, but this is my work computer’s background (We miss your cartoons ReverendFun.com). My honest impression of Moses when I stop to pray is somewhere between these two images. Moses was serious, intense, and challenged continually. I imagine I’d tear my hair out with the stuff he had to deal with, but I also think that Moses had to reach a point of frustration where he’d have to either laugh or cry. I prefer to think of him as laughing.
All of that being said, I honestly believe that I have never stopped to dwell on the idea of Moses as a father. Was he married? Yeah. His Father-in-Law gave him some really great advice, right? I can easily remember that story. He had two sons. Exodus 18 names them as Gershom and Eliezer.
Gershom’s legacy is that his children become priests for the Danites until they are carried off into exile (according to Judges 18). 1 Chronicles 23 says that Eliezer has one son, but that son had a lot of children. The legacy of both children is tied to the tribe of Levi, but what challenges me is not the legacy of Moses’ children, but the very act Moses is called to engage in shortly after today’s reading.
Moses is called at a burning bush and must go to confront Pharaoh. The people are crying out in anguish and Moses is called to go out to do the right thing. Moses has children and following God will mean that Moses will leave his wife and children with his Father-in-Law Jethro. Listening to God’s call will require Moses to walk away, if even for a short while.
I have two children. My two daughters are shining jewels that challenge me to be a better father and provoke me to occasional fits of face-palming. I have another child on the way, which is pretty exciting. Walking away from one’s children is a hard idea for me to swallow, but isn’t that exactly what Jesus confronts several people about when they resist his call? In Matthew 10:37-40, Jesus says: (NRSV)
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
While I am challenged by Moses’ call and his ability to walk away from his children, I must admit that there is something common in the call on Moses’ life and the call on our lives. We are not called to simply live lives that fall in pleasant places. We are not called to lives where we can always call the shots while remaining faithful. There are times when the call of God supercedes our desires and that can be incredibly painful, but pain is not always a bad thing.
I am grateful that this passage reminds me that God is calling us to a lifestyle where things are not always easy. I am grateful that the scriptures do show that Moses is eventually reunited with his children and with his wife. I am grateful that Moses was not left alone in the wilderness but was brought into a place of safety and refuge by Jethro. I am grateful Moses created a family with Zipporah.
My image of Moses may always remain the man pulling out his hair or the young man from the cartoon, but I am glad there was more to Moses than what I see in my image. Maybe as my hair turns silver I can remember Moses’ story and have an explanation as to why Heston’s hair was graying in that old movie.