A Doubting Place

In what I am about to write, I do not want to be fixed. I want to be heard. I welcome responses with questions that will help draw me out.  I welcome affirmation of me and my heart’s cry. But save your fixes and your answers for another time. I just don’t desire that right now.

doubt.gifYesterday, I heard a story about a young artist whose father is a pastor and his sister is a missionary, but he does not follow Christ. He says that he can see how God is real to his father and his sister, but he cannot see that for himself. I had to raise my hand and say out loud, “Me too.” I told the two men I was with that it is easy for me to see Christ in them. It is easy for me to see what great men of faith they are. It is easy to believe for them. In me it is hard. I doubt. I question. And when I doubt and question… I do it hard. I am so full of questions. I won’t list any of them here because I asked to be heard, not fixed.

I used to know all of the answers. I used to be able to quote chapter and verse quite literally to answer all of the questions I find myself asking. Those answers ring hollow to me. I am living a depth of real life that I never imagined 30 years ago. The easy answers don’t work at this depth. There’s a part of me that wants to answer all the questions and move on. But there’s another part of me that recognizes that the questions are essential. I ask them because something inside of me compels me to ask them. I ask because I want to know (but not right now:) )

Right in the middle of my doubting thoughts tonight, I saw the Lord move in a mysterious “coincidence”. I took Jeanie down to see Area 15 in Charlotte. (I’ll explain Area 15 later… hopefully tomorrow). It is in a pretty bad part of town, but Jeanie and I rode down so I could show it to her. We drove past and were heading out through the neighborhood. A few blocks away, there were two cars blocking the road and I was uncomfortable with the way things looked. I didn’t know if this was a drug deal or what, but I backed up into the intersection I had just ridden through. As I backed, I saw another car wanting to enter from my right. Thankfully, they stopped and waited for me to back up and turn. As we passed them, Jeanie said, “That is Greg and June.” I could hardly believe it. I turned around and followed them. They stopped at Area 15 and we pulled in behind them. Here we are in one of the worst sections of Charlotte, visiting with old friends and they also have two of my good friends whom I went to France with in 2004, Frankie and Alex.

I didn’t realize it but Charlotte 24-7 (part of Area 15) was open for prayer, so we went inside. The atmosphere was welcoming and peaceful. It was as if the God that I doubt so much was inviting me to sit on his lap and tell him what was on my mind. That moved me. Charlotte 24-7 moved me. The circumstances moved me. Being with my friends moved me. Being in an atmosphere of prayer and worship moved me.

What an enigma I am. I worship the very God that I doubt.

Fire and the Unknown

A good friend who lives in Charleston wrote to me on email this morning. He was telling me about his plans for the day and yet admitting how little he knew about how it might turn out. He said, “I don’t know “diddly squat” about what’s going to happen today and I’m OK with that.” He sent the email at 8:18 AM. Unbeknownst to him, a fire was raging just a few miles away that would take the lives of nine fire fighters. According to a spokesman from the U.S. Fire Administration, it was “the worst loss of life for firefighters since 9/11 .” We really don’t know “diddly squat” do we?

My heart goes out to the families, friends and colleagues of those nine men. Nothing I can say makes any sense. They gave their lives to protect others. I don’t fully understand that… Many people do that for me every day… I don’t understand it at all. Low pay. Hazardous conditions. I don’t have to understand to be grateful. I am full of gratitude. I am full of sorrow.

This is yet another reminder of the brevity of life. I don’t know how much time I have left, and I don’t know “diddly squat” about what will happen to me and around me. What I do know is that I want every moment to count.

Father’s Day

andersons-1970.jpgIt is Father’s Day in the US. I am blessed doubly today because I am a father and I have a father. I can celebrate in two ways. It is great to be able to bless my father. Dad, I will call you later today, but I want you to know that I wish you the very best of Father’s Day. I pray that you receive the things that you want from life today including peace and prosperity.

reading-charlottes-web-1986.jpgIt is great to be the father of four lovely ladies of whom I am very proud. Each of them is following their hearts’ desires in their own ways. That makes my heart sing. My desire, as a father, is to partner with my daughters to get what they want in life. God has given me gifts, strengths and talents and I can think of few things that I would rather use those gifts, strengths and talents for than to help my girls to succeed in life. That does not mean that I have no desires of my own. It means that one of my great desires is to be an active part in their lives.

I have seen fathers who want to run their kid’s lives. My idea of being a good father when they were infants and toddlers was to be in control and run their lives. But that is not my current vision. A graphical representation of healthy parenthood to me is expressed in the figure below:

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We have no control over the horizontal axis. As the saying goes, time marches on. Our choices lie in the vertical axis. The choices of whether or not to give up control.

I saw that my job as a father was to prepare my kids for adulthood. When they were little bitty and could not take care of themselves, Jeanie and I did it for them. As they grew, we let them do more things for themselves. That is a gradual process of training, encouraging, being there for them as they fail, encouraging, helping, prodding, creating boundaries, saying no, saying yes (when our feelings tell us no). It isn’t the training that is so difficult. It is giving up control.

Now I see that “loosing control” is really a process of learning that I never really had it anyway. When they were babies, Jeanie and I could decide when bath time was, but we never got to decide when they should get pneumonia, or runny nose or fall and bump their heads. We sure never got to choose the timing of dirty diapers or cuts that required stitches. If I had had any input, none of these things would have happened on my watch!

How quickly we moved from these kinds of issues to homework, friends and dating issues. And of course we cannot forget driving. No one has truly lived until you are riding shotgun with your kid behind the wheel for the first or second time… or for that matter the 50th time. They should create a father’s upgrade package for cars. It would include a passenger’s seat rollbar and either an extra brake pedal and steering wheel or at least a reinforced floorboard to keep our feet from punching through when we push the imaginary brake.

Control? Ha!

I started thinking about the control-over-time graph when the girls were very little. But I didn’t put a lot of thought into what happens after adulthood. Moving into this stage seemed to happen overnight. I find myself moving from the giver of permission whether you want it or not into the role of an adviser if you will allow me. Instead of telling them what to do, I find myself helping them think for themselves by asking questions and telling them the kinds of things that I think are important to consider. It isn’t about my being the “all knowing dad”. The truth is that I do know some things they don’t. After all, if I haven’t learned a few things about life along the way that they don’t know yet, something would be very wrong. Experience does matter. I want to share my experience and knowledge with them to help them, not to control their lives.

What is next? I look forward to being the grandpa and I have a desire for my partnership with my girls and their families to grow both ways. As I said before, I am not all knowing. I have a lot to learn and my girls can be my teachers. As partners in life, we can encourage and build into one another’s lives to make the best of what we have. We only get a few years on this earth. I want to suck the marrow out of life while I am here and leave nothing undone that could have been done.

The New Site

Although I hope it doesn’t look any different to you, the fact that you are reading this means that my web server has been switched over successfully. It is never as easy as it ought to be to move from one server to another. I would think that it would be a matter of just moving the files and the database and wammo! But there was a new version of WordPress that I just had to try and of course they changed the database just enough to keep me from being able to merely import the database directly. It is Thursday evening as I write this. My hope is that it will be live on Friday.

Why I Value Variety

If there is any one characteristic in me that just comes naturally, it would be a love of variety. When I go to a restaurant, I look for something that I have never eaten before. I love lots of different music that is full of surprises. I want to read different kinds of books because any one genre over time gets old to me. I want to see movies with good stories… to be pulled into the story and surprised. I do not like predictability. The same old thing bores me. Variety inspires me.

24.gifI do not want to “see the pattern”. A few years ago, a coworker told me about the TV show, 24. I got it on DVD and watched it with Jeanie. What a great show! I loved the way they put it together by doing it in “real time”. After the first season on DVD, we watched the 2nd season. By the end of the second season I was starting to “see the pattern”. I was seeing the formula. I started watching the clock and thinking to myself, “It is too early to solve this now. Something really off the wall is about to happen.” Sure enough, a new character would turn the whole thing upside down. By the end of season two, I didn’t care. In fact, I never saw the final episode. I didn’t skip it on purpose, but got too busy to watch it. I could have rented it again, but I just didn’t care any more.

flugelhorn.jpgWhen I am playing jazz on my trombone or flügelhorn, I may find myself running out of ideas. Sometimes I will just pick a note out of the blue (no pun intended)… one that will just stir things up for me. I won’t know what it will sound like and that’s the point. It may fit well with the tune or it may not. The challenge then (whether it fits or not) is to make it sound like I meant to do it. The mere change can inspire me to weave a different musical pattern completely because of where it took me.

When I am running, or riding my bicycle, or driving, I love to take different routes, just because I can. I sometimes shave my face backwards because I can.
A long time ago when I was in the musical instrument repair business, I toured a musical instrument factory. A group of my colleagues wandered away from the “official” tour when they saw a man engraving a saxophone by hand. As they watched him in awe, one of them asked him if he ever made a mistake. He said, “you mean like this?” and he purposefully scratched the instrument with his engraving tool. He paused a moment to let us take in the gravity of what he had just done, “I just make it look like I meant it,” and he began to add leaves to the scratch to make it look like a vine or a branch. That inspires me. Turning a mistake into a work of art. Creating variety. Using variety to be creative.

After all, a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out.

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Values

Values
I am learning a lot about who I am (because that’s what 49 year olds do). Recently my friends and I began a discussion of values asking questions like, “What do you value?” “What do I value?” and “What do we value?” Exploring these questions is helping me define what I like, what I dislike and, most importantly, why.

Values are the fundamentals. Just the process of asking what a value is opens up a whole new set of questions. In general, I guess I always thought of values as being virtues. We are supposed to “value” them all. But if I say I value everything equally, I am really saying that I value nothing at all.

Although on some level, I value hundreds of things, it is only helpful if I narrow the list down to a few manageable items. If I could list the hundreds of things I could value, but only focus on the top few things, it would be helpful. In fact that’s what I did. Thanks to John for providing this list of values to start with.

Car Values
I just bought a Nissan pickup truck from Carmax. As I was shopping for it, I instinctively thought about the qualities I valued in a vehicle and chose this truck. Because it was:

  • A pickup truck
  • A brand known for reliability
  • Used
  • Good price
  • Relatively low mileage
  • I could buy it for the sticker price without having to haggle.

Change any of those top values and I probably would have bought something completely different.

Life Values
So the similar, but more important question is, “What am I looking for in life?” Here’s where I found some of the answers to that question:

  • What do I just naturally do over and over? Patterns of thoughts, feelings and behavior.
  • What resonates with me? What makes my heart do a flip?
  • What do I desire to be more intentional about valuing?
  • What do I admire in others?

At the risk of being known as Master of the Obvious, I don’t know what I don’t know. So many things that are important to me now, were not even on my radar just a few years ago. That tells me that values are not carved in stone. There will be things that I learn and am drawn to that will change my values in the future. But it is a starting place. My hope is that it inspires you to think about what you value.

These are the values I identified. If you know me, I hope you will see a picture of me in this graphic:

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Hope in a Broken World

I haven’t written about the VA Tech shooting this week. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been heavy on my heart and mind. The thought that comes to my mind over and over is that this world we live in is broken. It isn’t supposed to be this way. People aren’t supposed to treat one another badly. We aren’t supposed to make fun of one another. We are sure as hell not supposed to kill one another. We are supposed to honor and love one another. But we do… The world is broken.

Thank God for little reminders that life goes on. Click below to read more and see the pictures of the little gift God has left us…

In the artificial wreath on our front door is a very real nest.

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A Carolina wren has decided that her babies deserve to be born at the Anderson’s home.

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Is this totally cool or what?

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Somehow, the thought that life goes on encourages me. Mama wren is only concerned for her nest and her babies. She doesn’t give any thought to world events. Sounds nice to me.

Bell’s School

On one of our first dates Jeanie and I were driving around Charleston and I realized we were near where I went to nursery school (aka day care). I told Jeanie she was in for a surprise because I was going to show her some place that was part of my history. I stopped the car in front of a house that had been transformed into a day care with a fenced backyard playground. A hand painted sign out front said, “Bells Nursery School”. We called it Bell’s School. She looked at me as if to say, “you are kidding.” What she said was, “I went to daycare here too!”

Continue reading Bell’s School

What’s next?

For the last several months I have been focused on two events. My daughter, Erin’s wedding and the 10K bridge run. Now that these are past, I find myself asking again, “What’s next?” My “to do” list has grown and my “to be” list beckons. What’s a “to be” list? It’s a constant question nagging at me to know more of who I am. What makes me tick? Does my life matter? For many years since reading and re-reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I have struggled with my Personal Mission Statement. Answering the question, “What am I here for?”

A tight group of my friends and I are exploring this together beginning with our values. Together we are wrestling with defining what it is we value in life. I find it difficult to narrow down and nail down what I value. There are so many things that I value in different ways. I think that there are different ways to approach this whole exercise in naming values. I can identify values by where I invest my scarce resources. My friend Mark (who writes a blog here) calls this revealed preference. We value what we value because… well, we just do. This is revealed by examining what we are already doing. In Matt 6, Jesus said, “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That makes perfect sense to me, and it is a start, but it isn’t enough.

There’s a part of me that wants more than just whatever feels comfortable in the moment. This part of me realizes that I have tendencies to do what I don’t want to do. I also know that I can make choices that will get me to what I’m after in the long run (even though they are not comfortable). I know that I’m no good at fighting my urges alone. I need the power and Grace of God and the help of my friends. I know that God has made me the way He made me for a reason. As I learn more about that reason, it will help me know what I want to value and where I want to go. Ultimately, I want to live for Christ… and if you know me at all, you know that when I say that, I do not mean becoming more religious. I mean being the best damned1 Jim Anderson that I can be, infused with the Holy Spirit of God living in me.

I don’t fully understand it, but i know that God is calling me to be more me and more Him at the same time. One thing I am sure of… when I am fully me and God is fully Himself in me, it will look like no other person in history. We aren’t supposed to be identical. He gave us different gifts, strengths and talents for a reason. He loves variety!

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1Sorry mama. I know you don’t like bad language, but I needed to write that word. It wasn’t against you, it was for me.

A jimazing view of life