Mirrors

Reflections on Art, Faith, and Life

Trips to Walmart

There are many things one can use as a cultural gauge. Among those are: music, fashion, social media, movies, and language. It has been necessary for me to increase the amount of trips made to Walmart over the past 9 months, and I believe those occurrences have provided the soil for reflection and analysis regarding our current culture. I decided to share some of my “insights” hoping to prompt thought and discussion. OK, here goes!

I am shocked by the number of people that either don’t know the difference between “enter” and “exit,” or don’t care to to contribute to the stated best flow in and out of the store. There are reasons why the entrances and exits are marked as they are, and I wrestle with why so many people would ignore this. I can only come up with the following reasons: illiteracy, not paying attention, or selfishness. I hope it’s not the first one. The second one, well, I wish people would get off their phones more than they do, I think, sadly, it might be the last one. I think people are more and more doing just what they want without as much thought for common courtesy as in times past.

Possibly this would also explain why so many people cannot seem to return their carts to the designated spots. Really people?! I realize they’re doing what is convenient, but that does not make it what is best. Possibly another self decision?

I have heard parents yelling at their kids, and seen them pulling harshly on their arms in public – both seemingly meant to embarrass the children. Might this be another example of selfishness? People just doing what they want when they want – not necessarily what is best?

What about the car ride out and back? There is no way to possibly count all the people who think the speed limit signs are merely a speed suggestion sign. What are we really saying? That it’s only illegal if you get caught?

And how about the parking lot itself. How many people, probably in a hurry they think is justified, ignore the stop signs in the parking lot? My eyes have beheld far too many violations for the safety level of others. Again, what is there inherent in both of these actions? Possibly wrack up another couple for selfishness. People just doing what they want because they want to do so without much thought or apparent care to how those actions impact others. I also wonder what it might be like, instead of racing to grab the prime parking space, what might happen if we saved those for those who can’t get around as easily or quickly anymore, or for parents with children. Wouldn’t that have a different feel to it, might that not be better?

The above mentioned don’t all impact others at the same level, but if one is taking the cultural pulse of a community, I think they are symptomatic of an apparent erosion of common courtesy, manners, and respect. What’s the big deal? For me, the big deal is not only that I think these actions reflect an overall attitude, but also that we are teaching our children and grandchildren what is “normal” or “acceptable.” If we do not carefully analyze our actions, attitudes, and verbiage, we will raise the next generation to be incredible self-oriented.

There is much talk these days about rights and privileges. I understand that much of this is necessary. I, however, am making a plea to have conversations about responsibilities – not rights and privileges. As we strive to live together in community, what are the responsibilities I have to OTHERS, not just to my self. What are the actions and attitudes that teach and lean towards respect for others and what it best for the common good? Are we interested in those, or in just doing what we want when we want? What are we modeling for our children and grandchildren?

The microcosm that Walmart trips show give me cause for concern. It is possible that you’re thinking, “Woah, Clark, don’t be so caustic. People are just in a hurry.” That could be, and that’s definitely fodder for another post, because fast, expedient, convenient, efficient, and practical aren’t always the best way to build character and function among each other as human beings.

I think we need to examine some of our “surface” actions and assess whey they really mean and say. I don’t want kindness, courtesy, manners, and respect to “go the way of the dodo” simply because we’ve modeled doing what’s best for self to the next generation who will carry on after us.

It’s possible you will brush this all off as the ramblings or rantings of an older man. I can’t keep you from doing otherwise. I do, however, know the kind of world I want my precious granddaughter to inherit, and if it takes a village to raise a child, I want that village filled with the right actions and attitudes. I wonder if we need doses of accountability kindly delivered to help remind us of our responsibility to those whose turn will be next in this grand journey called life.

Well, that’s what trips to Walmart have made me think about recently. What do you think?

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Review of “Begin Again” by Leeanna Tankersley

I found it appropriate that I finished reading Leeanna Tankersley’s newest book, “Begin Again” a few minutes after midnight as the clock hands advanced into Easter. I found it fitting because Leeanna’s book has a consistent undercurrent of resurrection – the resurrection of the spiritual self on an “as needed” basis as part of one’s spiritual journey.

I thoroughly enjoyed her previous missive, “Brazen,” and it came across to me as a kind of personal manifesto. Leeanna has entered a completely new realm with “Begin Again.” It is about transformation!! She uses the experiences and phases of her life in an incredibly transparent and moving way to offer writing and content of great significance. I believe this is far and away her best writing, her richest content, and her most heart-gripping work.

She peels back the layers of her self and her faith journey, but never in a way to come across as though she has all the answers. She does offer unwavering encouragement and a reminder that nothing we do or don’t do will ever change the way God loves us, believes in us, and is there for us. Her writing constantly points to the One who has graced her – and is waiting to grace us as well.

Her mantra of “Begin Again” is tied directly to monastic thought, and she weaves the potential for how that might look in contemporary life with eloquence and surety. This book makes your heart breath more in rhythm with its Creator.

Leeanna’s filter is predominantly both female and stay-at-home mom, but it would be insulting to insinuate you must be either of those to benefit from what she shares. She passionately provides truths that transcend gender and place. I am a 59 year old male college professor, and found the book both riveting and enlightening.

Even before finishing “Begin Again” I was aware of the following: (1) this is a special book, (2) this book challenged me and changed me, (3) I will buy multiple copies to give to people I thought of as I read, (4) I will buy multiple copies to share with the college students I am blessed to teach, (5) I can truthfully say I consider this a must-read.

If there was any doubt prior to this book, in my mind and heart, Leeanna joins the pantheon of significant Christian writers to have greatly influenced my personal faith journey: Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Addie Zierman, Diana Butler Bass, Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Jen Hatmaker, and Shauna Niequist.

If you’re looking for a book that presents real-life pain, suffering, struggles, and failures instead of pithy one-liners and “self-help” language, this is the book for you. I urge you to make a commitment to your heart, your faith, and your life – dive into this book and drink deeply from its well. Your spirit and your soul will find the time well spent, and I believe the partial template she provides to “Begin Again” is essential. The book also has some helpful suggestions from sources other than Leeanna in the Epilogue to consider as you ponder ways to put into practice the message provided.

Whew!

This Christmas season brought with it some personal reflection. I’m not really sure any particular event caused the self-assessment or whether I just finally slowed down enough to think about things. One thing I’m sure contributing was thinking about my dad’s death four years ago on December 25. That entire month four years ago was not fun for my family. It brought my first cancer diagnosis, the death of our bulldog, and my father’s passing. Thinking about that led me to thinking about the four years since. I’m not sure you’ll completely understand the point of this post without a thumbnail sketch of the my last four years. Here goes (probably not all in exact chronological order) –

  • 1st cancer diagnosis
  • Bella had to be put down
  • Dad went to be with Jesus
  • Mitchell and Marissa lovingly gave us Cozmo
  • Served as an elder at church for several years
  • My cancer surgery and recovery
  • The Queen changes jobs (her own choice)
  • My cancer returns for a 2nd time – radiation treatment
  • I teach an overload for several years so my colleague can work on her Ph.D.
  • I help oversee the move into the Bartholomew Performing Arts Center at York College
  • Mitchell/Marissa move to York
  • Mitchell/Marissa find jobs
  • I hit Mitchell’s car the same day Marissa’s car got hit
  • Marissa found out she was pregnant
  • Mitchell/Marissa find their first home and move in
  • Sophia Madelyn is born and I become a grandfather
  • My cancer returns for a 3rd time – hormone replacement therapy currently ongoing
  • I oversee the change in our music degree plans and the associated curriculum changes
  • Matthew changes jobs (his own choice)
  • The Queen changes jobs (her own choice)
  • Mitchell changes jobs (his own choice)
  • My oldest son and his wife inform us they are leaving NE and moving to CO in the summer
  • The Queen starts a doctoral program
  • I exponentially expand my “kitchen game”

Whew! That’s a lot of changes in various aspects of my life. It would appear to add credence to the adage “change is the only constant.” Please don’t interpret this as a plea for sympathy. I believe the blessings of the past four years far outweigh the challenges. This is just a transparent slice of my life. I am confident you could compile your own list. Each of these transitions have given me the opportunity to handle them in a God-honoring or a God-doubting way. Probably the truest reality is to ask those around me if I have been successful in navigating through each of these as I intended.

Regardless of any difference between my intent, here are some of the concepts I think are included in our life’s litmus test. Are we God-honoring or God-doubting? (And I have NO business answering that for you – it’s mine to pose the question) What should someone who wears the name of Jesus be like? How do trials, hardships, and transitions affect my spiritual journey? If we’re going to proclaim the name of Jesus, we can’t just verbalize some worn out religious platitudes. If we’re going to wear His name, shouldn’t we try to reflect his nature? I know there are some that may disagree with me, but I have come to the point where I refuse to interpret the life of Christ through the epistles. I believe it should be the other way around. As I have spent more time examining how Jesus lived, I think I have noticed the following changes in me: I love more, I love more unconditionally, and I judge less, If my self-reflection doesn’t match your opinion of me, please feel free to let me know and hold me accountable.

Over the past four years I have drawn consistently deep comfort and help in the assurance that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is one constant among all the other transitions, and He is the one to lead and guide me through each one. I believe he often does His work through the people in our lives, and I would not be where I am today without the family I have. I have grown to love and appreciate each of them for the unique qualities and richness they bring to my life. Those things are more important than any moment that tempts me to go “whew!”

I’m not always sure what God is trying to do in my life and heart, let alone those of my family, my students, my friends, and my colleagues. I am acutely aware that I don’t need to know – Jesus would have me love more and judge less. That is something I can practice on a daily basis. That will probably lead me through any uncertainty or overwhelming feeling. I am also trying to let my first response to something that in the past would have made me go “Whew” become “how can I best serve in this situation?” That has helped me tremendously. I certainly do not hold myself up as an example of anything except someone that needed to grow, and has tried to use the transitions of life as fuel for change and betterment.

I don’t know that I’ve shared anything of great significance or value, but they say writing is really more about how it helps the writer than the audience. If there are no epiphanies present – I’m ok with that. I sense I am a different person than I was four years ago, and I know I trust more what I can’t know in my “whew” moments.

As we take life’s journey, let us never forget the power of community, love, and self-reflection. I’d love for you to share your thoughts and stories with me.

A review of “Where the Light Falls” by Allison & Owen Pataki

 

“Where the Light Falls” is a can’t-put-it-down new book from the pens of Allison and Owen Pataki. The historical novel about the French Revolution is one of the most engaging reads I’ve experienced. The historical accuracy is stunning, and the fiction was a story quite well told.

The energy begins in the Prologue as the reader experiences the blood-thirsty mob demanding another execution. The portrayal of their blood-lust at La Plaza is riveting, and as the book unfolds, it becomes clear why the book begins this way.

The lives of the two protagonists, Andre and Jean-Luc, are slowly woven among some historical figures of the Revolution. The authors go back and forth between these two stories throughout the book. In so doing, the reader is left completely clear as to who the main antagonists are.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because the writing is superb, the plot twists ingenious, and I want you to have the same experience I did in having it unfold before me. You will definitely experience some “I didn’t see that coming” surprises, but each one fits perfectly within the grand scheme of the novel.

The Pataki team utilizes some universal themes: family, career, power, opportunity, and love, but present both the light and dark side of each as the story unfolds. There were moments when I yelled, “NO!”; there were moments I was inspired; there were moments I was angry; and there were moments I cried. The love will warm your heart. The betrayal will break your heart.

One of the aspects I enjoyed was their word choice. The writers do not assume the reader lacks intelligence, yet their words flow beautifully together, and weave a beautiful tapestry of both thought and sound. It has historically accurate information, yet never reads like a traditional history book. The fact and fiction mesh in a manner that effectively keeps the readers interest.

Heroism, treachery, and adventure are laced throughout the book, and I believe you will find the missive thrilling. I was completely caught up in the characters lives – experiencing every emotion along with them. The emotional roller coaster that was a part of this time in history is certainly part of the novel as well.

I believe this is to historical novels what Les Miserables is to musical theatre. This is simply a must read. I have every confidence you’ll thank me for recommending it so highly. It is a wonderful journey to a troubled time and troubled place, but the fictional characters seem so real one cannot help but wonder if the authors stumbled upon a journal rather than making it up. Do yourself a favor and get a hold of this wonderfully written story and get lost in the adventures of Andre and Jean-Luc, their lives, their passions, their loves, their hopes, their dreams, and their enemies.

Thankful

One week ago Sue and I spent the better portion of Tuesday in Omaha for a “cancer day.” My oncologist wanted new scans, needed to check my PSA, and then would consult with us on the best options for the future.

We had asked you to pray, and so I feel you are owed the day’s results.

1. The cancer is localized and has not spread. This is one thing we asked you to specifically pray about.
2. The treatment I began several weeks ago already has a significantly positive effect on my PSA. It had dropped drastically.
3. The Dr. spoke with us about the possibility of intermittent treatment. If the treatment continues to work well, we might be able to suspend treatment until blood tests dictate otherwise.
4. I am scheduled for my next treatment/visit May 12.

All of this adds up to the best report we could have hoped for!! I am writing this because I am thankful – but not just for the positive medical news. I am thankful for many more things. Bear with me as a delineate some of those.

I am thankful for a wife who has had to endure the worse of “for better or for worse” more than she deserves. She continues to teach me much about love, opening the heart fully, and embracing my humanity. How in the world was I so fortunate?

I am thankful for my family. I am so proud of my sons and daughter-in-loves. They enrich my life in ways they probably never imagine. I am blessed to have their prayers, their love, their concern, and their support.

I am thankful for bosses and colleagues who care deeply for this assertive, opinionated, passionate, and 31 year employee of York College. Their prayers and expressed wishes and concerns leave me grateful – not everyone has a work environment like that.

I am thankful for the most amazing students a professor and conductor could ask for. Their dedication to the musical things important to me continually inspires me and makes me want to give them everything I have on a daily basis.

And of course, YOU, my beloved, faithful, and incredible prayer warriors. To say Sue and I are humbled by the number of people taking my health and our family Throneward would be an understatement. Your expression of love and concern have buoyed us through some nervous days and stressful times. Our prayer posse is of inestimable value to Team Roush. I have no way to adequately repay you, but to not thank you and try to communicate my love and appreciation would be gross negligence.

I have learned much about myself in the lasts 3 years, and believe the forced reflection and increased awareness of life’s truest priorities have reoriented my heart in positive ways. I certainly am spiritually ready for my heavenly home, but am nowhere near emotionally or physically ready. There is so much good left to do. I am grateful for your capacity to share this journey with me. I am honored by your love and spiritual care.

I am thankful!

 

The Unwelcome Guest

This is my way of informing friends and acquaintances across the globe that my cancer has returned for a 3rd time. My PSA’s had been rising, so it isn’t a complete surprise, but I hope I’m allowed to say that it still sucks! I have a deep distaste for the things this does emotionally to my family. I think I’ll not care for some of treatment’s side effects, but Sue and I have found a new “normal” twice before, and I’m confident we can do it again.

I have scans March 7 to be sure the dragon is localized. Please pray for good results and that we can continue on the treatment regimen I started 9 days ago.

Please pray this treatment will be effective! As we head into a new valley of uncertainty, here are the things I’m completely certain of:

  • I have an unchangable and ever-faithful Trinity in my corner
  • I have the most amazing wife. She consistently amazes me as she is forced to deal with the “for worse” part of her wedding vows
  • I have a support network among my family not everyone has – I do not take that for granted, and I would do anything I could to spare them this. I’m grateful for the part of the journey they will make with me
  • I have 56 young adults that come to rehearsal M-F and love me beyond what I deserve
  • I have a loving church family that I know will be praying for me
  • I have loved ones all over the globe that will take us before the Father on a consistent basis – thank you from the depth of my heart for this
  • My administration has prayed for / laid their hands on me – not everyone has that kind of support at work
  • There are MANY people who hear worse news than I have received

So, what happens now? First and foremost, every time you’re tempted to worry, just pray. I am confident prayer and treatment are far more effective on the cancer than worry. Second, a reminder that I HAVE cancer, I am NOT cancer. I’m still the same old me (I’m aware that’s really scary to some of you – maybe many of you), and intend to stay that way as long as possible. Treat us normally – that’s a huge gift you can give our family. Third, commit to noticing and taking pleasure in the little things that happen every day that make life beautiful and add meaning to our lives this side of heaven. Fourth, if your theology makes you think/say “God did this to your for a reason” you are like Job’s friends – I don’t need that, I don’t agree with that, so I will love you as you keep that to yourself. This dude is establishing the most positive vibe network I can. I trust I will hear the voice of God in needed ways, but I just don’t believe God inflicts disease on people; however, I know He promises a future where only health resides.

I’m growing more and more comfortable realizing that the questions we don’t have answers for probably shouldn’t eat up the mental and emotional space we often give them. I am anchored deeply in the Cross, passionately love my family, have the greatest job in the world, and have been richly graced and gifted.

Thanks for any part of the journey you will take with me. We serve a God who is not only Omnipresent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient, but one who is the Great Physician and a Great Sustainer. I will cast all my anxieties on Him, because He cares for me – I encourage you to do the same because He cares for you in the same way.

In the shadow of the Cross,

Clark

 

 

 

A Review of “Katharina and Martin Luther: The Story of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk” by Michelle DeRusha

I was dually drawn to this book being interested in both religious and music history. I could not have predicted what a “can’t-put-it-down” read awaited me. Before you think, ‘oh yeah, another book on Luther!’ let me assure you this is not the case. Michelle’s exhaustive research and masterful story-telling give us an up close and personal look at the separate and combined lives of this couple as no other document has done.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent forward to the book. It really sets the stage well for what follows and is extremely well-written.

Katharina’s biographical material is fascinating. When combined with the brilliant informed speculations and poignant writing of Michelle, this book invites you into the lives and places that shaped Katharina before and during her marriage to Martin. If you want to learn how a Reformation feminist was formed – this read is essential. The story that unfolds shatters every stereotype one might have about Katharina based on the status of women in those days. This lady was strong-willed, determined, and a force to be reckoned with. Being invited into her life is a treat, and like a treat, the reader always wants more.

Michelle has taken what could be dry biographical data and breathed life into it. You will experience Katharina’s home life, the decision of sending her to a monastery (made without her knowledge or consent), her daring and risky escape from that monastery, and her meeting of and eventual marriage to Martin.

It is probably not possible to talk about their marriage to the exclusion of Martin’s revolutionary and reforming ideas, but to have those presented with the backdrop of wife and family was enlightening. Martin’s “women’s role” bark was apparently worse than his bite, as the Luther abode was really quite progressive for its time. It was fascinating to follow them through their journey of falling in love, because that it not how the marriage began.

Possibly the most amazing part of Katharina’s life, and the one that showed her most legitimate strength and gumption, was her life after Martin’s death. Michelle draws us deep into the emotions Katharina no doubt felt trying to hold her family together and provide for them in a time where a woman was defined only through her relationship to a man.

I am reticent to give too much away, but I can promise you an engaging, intelligent, informative, and inspiring journey through the pages chronicling this window into the Luther’s lives and relationship. I recommend Michelle’s book without reservation, and want to thank her for sharing her acquired knowledge, heart, and linguistic acumen with us. Not just everyone can take a string of factoids and weave them together in a way that tells a captivating story. Michelle does exactly that. Treat yourself and read it.

Clark Roush, Ph.D.

“Eyes” ~ Michel Quoist

I am now about to close my eyelids, Lord,
For my eyes this evening have finished their work,
And my vagrant glances will return home,
Having stalled for a day in the market place.

Thank you, Lord, for my eyes, windows open on the wide world;
Thank you for their look that carries my soul as the broad sunbeam carries the light and warmth of your sun.
I pray to you, during the night, that tomorrow, when I open my eyes to the clear morning,
Tbey shall be ready to serve both my soul and my God.

May my eyes be clear and straightforward, Lord, and give others a hunger for purity;

May my look never be one of disappointment,
disillusionment,
despair.

But may it know how to admire,
contemplate,
adore.

May my eyes learn to close in order to find you more easily;
But may they never turn away from the world because they are afraid.
May my eyes be penetrating enough to recognize Your presence in the world,
And may they never shut on the afflictions of men.

May my eyes be firm and steady,
But may they also know how to soften in pity and be capable of tears.

May my gaze not soil the one it touches,
May it not disturb, but may it bring peace.
May it not sadden, but rather may it transmit joy.
May it not attract in order to hold captive,
But rather may it persuade others to rise above themselves to you.

May my eyes disquiet the sinner because in them he will see your light,
But may their reproach lead to encouragement.

Grant that my eyes may be startling because they are an encounter, an encounter with God.
Grant that they be a call,
a loud clear call
that brings the world to its doorstep,
Not because of me, Lord,
But because you are to pass by.

That my eyes may be all this, Lord,
Once more, this evening,
I give you my soul,
I give you my body,
I give you my eyes,
That when they look at men, my brothers,
It may be you who look at them
And you who beckon.

From “Prayers” – translated and first published in 1954 – most recently published in 1999 by Sheen and Ward

 

Thanks Dad!

I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. He went to be with the Lord on Christmas evening several years ago. He went peaceably and found his reward – I’m grateful for those truths. I’m not completely sure what has my head in the past a bit more than usual for me, but I think it was the birth of my granddaughter, Sophia Madelyn. Her arrival caused my heart to explode, and I seem to be a bit more emotional these days.

I knew I would cry the first time I held her – and I did, but I was caught completely unaware by the emotions that swept over me as I watched my son hold/love/talk to his daughter. He is now a dad (and so far, a great one!), and I think that’s what got me thinking more about my own father.

I have always counted it a huge privilege to be a father, and I am so proud of where Matthew and Mitchell are in their lives. I can only hope as their dad I did it more right than wrong – at the least not to cause them too much counseling in their 40’s!

But tonight, with tears in my eyes, I am thinking about my dad and some of the memories I have of him. And even though you didn’t ask me to share them, I’m going to, probably for my own sake more than yours.

Dad – first of all, I want to thank you for teaching me how a man of God lives, and how he dies. If I do a fraction as well as you, I will be happy. Thank you for teaching me to love Jesus, and God’s people, and always in that order.

You introduced me to baseball. I remember pitching in little league, and one game in particular was rough. I pitched a complete game 2 hitter and lost 1-0 because they got a single, a passed ball, and another single. Our 2 hits didn’t come back to back. You took a broken-hearted young boy and just loved him that night. You didn’t try to say too much (I’m still working on that one), and you just let me be sad/mad. And when I got a double in the All-Star game and heard that whistle from the stands – wow! Well, I still love baseball, and so do both of my sons. We’ll see if that lives on in sweet Sophia – my guess is her daddy and mommy will see that it does. Thanks!

I remember when you showed me a faster way to get out of the blocks as a sprinter. I can still hear your whistle coming from the stands as I rounded the turn and headed towards the tape to win the 220-yd dash in a personal best. Late at night I still love watching track and field on TV, but particularly the sprints and short relays. Thanks!

Oh, and the pecan pies in the basement. 1 pie, 2 forks, and a father and son enjoying their favorite dessert without the need of extra plates. The best times! Thanks!

And Credence Clearwater Revival at Vet’s Auditorium in Des Moines – you took me to my first concert. And you liked jazz, not rock. Thanks!

Remember the 1970, 3-on-the-tree, Ford Maverick? Thanks for helping me get my first car. It wasn’t always fun having a driver education teacher for a dad, but what you taught me has kept me and my family safe several times. Thanks!

When I wrecked the car or got a speeding ticket – you were always so kind and asked, “have you learned?” Thanks!

I remember how you supported my decision to not be a bible major, but instead to pursue music education. You were always such a source of encouragement, and as a fellow educator, you were able to listen to me at various stages of my development and give me perspective. I’m pretty sure I made the right choice. Thanks, dad!

And the phone bill the last month before Sue and I could be together at college again. You said I could call once a week. When it because once a day, you just paid the bill and smiled. Thanks!

I remember calling home from college because I had a friend in crisis, and I knew I was going to bomb a test the next day if I did what my heart told me to. It would also ruin my 4.0 that semester. I will never forget hearing you say, “Son, I will support whatever decision you make and the consequences, but remember, Jesus didn’t die for a GPA.” Thanks for that, dad.

I remember you crying when you watched me perform or conduct. I understood that better as it became my turn to be proud of my boys, but it always made me feel as though what I was doing mattered. Thanks for showing me that real men have a soft and tender side – knowing that has served me well over the years.

I loved how positive you were. You were the one who didn’t have time to ponder if your glass was 1/2 empty or 1/2 full – you were too busy filling everyone else’s glasses.

I loved how you studied the bible late at night, and I remember when you stopped spanking me and would sit with that bible on the edge of my bed and discuss my behavior in relation to my walk with God. I so many times wished you had just spanked me, but in the long run, I understand you were planting seeds for God to water.

Thank you for showing me how to love a wife, how to be dedicated to a family, and how to place others’ needs ahead of yours. Also, thank you for loving my wife and my family, and continuing to place others’ needs ahead of yours.

The other night I was having a late night snack (sound familiar, dad?) and found myself taking the tip of the knife and scraping the inside of the peanut butter jar (sound familiar). The other day I was trimming and the line broke – guess what popped out of my mouth? – “Dirty birds!” (sound familiar). Sometimes I stay up late and look for obscure movies, because, well, I think you know.

I’m not sure anyone is still reading this, but I could go on and on and on, Dad – probably should try to keep this memory time from turning into a novel. Please know how much I miss you. Please know how much I love you. Please know how grateful I am to have had you for a dad. If I had to do it all over again, I would want the same father. As I reflect on how passionate I am about my faith, my family, and my career, I realize I had the perfect mentor for how to do all that to His glory.

Thanks, Dad!

The Dark Side

The fictional Dark Side has become popular due to the Star Wars phenomenon. I believe it’s easy to consider it part of the movie or story or fiction, and not realize that possible it is quite real. Maybe one of the reasons Star Wars has taken root so deeply is because it does indeed capture truths of humanity.

Reading Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” affirmed many things I’ve long thought and explained many more I didn’t fully understand. My brain perused my own past, and also how fervently I plead with my students to own their “dark side.” You know – all those things we think that we shouldn’t, all the things we do that we shouldn’t, all the things we say that we shouldn’t, the tendency to be jealous, the tendency to judge, the tendency to feel entitiled, the tendency to want revenge, the craving for everything to be fair – that’s what I call our “dark side.”  We are capable of incredibly wounding others – we are also capable of incredibly loving others. I believe living in that tension is inescapable. I think wanting to increasingly bless is a choice – one that demands we first admit our deepest and darkest truths to ourselves.

I plead with my students to own their dark side, because I feel that until all of us do, we haven’t given it to Christ. He knows we have it, but the moment we stop acting as though we don’t have one, it opens us up to more freely allow him to work through that part of us. And as I see the spiritual world, if Jesus is not allowed to work through it, I know who I’m defaulting to, and that scares me more than me even having a dark side.

Am I claiming that we are all inherently bad or evil. NO! I am claiming that our human nature is SO strong, and it doesn’t always lead us in the ways we were intended to go. That’s why I believe we must own it, and then give it back to the one who created us. He is far better at helping us cope and overcome than we are left to our own thoughts and plans.

So what if we don’t self-confess? I think it keeps us lodged in legalism and judgmentalism. If we can’t admit the worst in us, it’s often too easy to only see the worst in others. If we humble ourselves, it’s easier to extend grace rather than judgment to others, because after all, we all have the same tendencies, don’t we?

Reflection and contemplation are pivotal to seeing who we really are. This is an essential part of beginning to grasp the grace God has for us. We don’t need to emerge with a guilt complex about our past – just an honesty that allows God to extend mercy and love us as He wishes to. That changes a person! A substantial enough change that shame has no place at the table.

If we admitted who we are, accepted God’s mercy, and were willing then to lovingly and gracefully take others as they are, would that change our homes and churches? Is that something people are longing for? I think so.

I think that there is so much good in each of us – and it is often what emerges. I think the comfort of that sometimes keeps us from the kind of self-honesty necessary to deepen and mature our spiritual journey. This is certainly not finger-pointing — just a clarion call for transparency with our self. Demanding transparency is so much easier out of others than it is out of ourselves, but I believe the rewards are worth the effort.

What are your thoughts on the matter?