Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas has past and I am, at last, not mift or aghast.

God is good, even if we do take unholy liberties with His name, His Son, His season or His reason. God's abounding grace is never more evident than after my kids are back with their mom and I am alone with my heavenly Father. Nothing like a good ol' fashioned ass-kicking to make me see what a tiresome brat I can be.

Actually being a minister, some might think I have a grander view of the divine at such a time as Christmas. Good luck! If anything, the old man inside me is pissing and moaning so freekin' loud, nary a heaven-sent thought passes my least not until my beloved mom develops a pulmonary embolism or my dear sister-in-law suffers a massive coronary 3 days before Christmas. Funny how things fall into perspective during those times and after those times, as well.

Christmas day this year seemed a little lack-lustre. Because of my sister-in-law's heart attack, our family get-together for Christmas day was postponed 2 days. So when my kids came to my house at 9am on Christmas day, I was a little relieved that I wouldn't immediately have to drag my 12 year-old son away from his new electronic drum kit I got him. But as the sun seemed to quickly dive into the west, I realized I hadn't given any thought to what to have for dinner. The stores were closed and I had very little around the house to eat. I had a couple of russet potatoes, some frozen chicken, a soy chicken patty for my vegetarian daughter and some Ralphs brand flaky dinner rolls. Hey, I'm a decent cook. I could make do with that. Right? I over-cooked the chicken, and probably did the soy patty similar disservice. The dinner rolls came out a bit over-done, but I managed to salvage the most tender ones for my kiddos. They didn't touch their respective chicken. They sampled the roll, and while my son devoured his potato, my daughter only ate a few bites of hers. All in all, she had maybe five bites of dinner only exceeded by my voracious son's nine biter. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

I got up early the next morning and decided to do a solid for my girl and refresh the load of laundry she left in the dryer the night before. So I set the dryer to 10 minutes and looked over the mess of Christmas stuff strewn over the entire floor of my garage. It had come to that state of disarray three weeks earlier when I emptied the big box of Christmas decorations I hadn't touched since putting them away January 2, 2008. I grabbed a few festive items to hang on the walls of a place I still fail to see as home. My home ceased to exist as of January 26, 2008 when my wife of nearly 15 years told me she wanted a divorce. I won't dig back into that history, but long-story-short, I was compelled this past morning the day after christmas, to put the items scattered in my garage, back into the box. This time however, I was actually looking at the items. Each one a vivid memory of a wife, life, and time that I adored. Each one a painful reverie of what was no more and probably never to be again. To make it all worse, the buzzer on the dryer was reminding me to retrieve and fold my daughters things before they wrinkle.

As I began pulling items from the dryer, I was awakened from my Christmas past reminiscing by the cold hard reality of my daughter's true age. I wasn't folding the tiny doll clothes of the sweet petite girl I used to cradle in my arms. I was being reminded with each item of clothing that my little girl was a woman who would be off to college—long before I was ready to give her up. I know dads and moms struggle with the same hurtful revelations every day. But that particular day, it was coupled with the painful reminders of a failed marriage with another girl I still love and miss horribly. A marriage that I thought would at least see the inside of a counselor's office before one of us threw in the towel. I guess that is the most frustrating thing about the end of my marriage. I wasn't given the opportunity to fight for it. My wife, Lucy, says that she fought long and hard for too many years. Trouble is, she fought alone. I wasn't aware of how unhappy she was. Actually I don't think she knew how unhappy she was until someone else made her compare what she what she could have. The grass being greener and what-not.

Suffice it to say that I got my ass kicked for Christmas. I saw how badly the world can beat me down when I dare to step out from under God's protective arm. I had those moments of close relationship to God when my mom and sister-in-law where close to death in the hospital. But as soon as the present dangers were past, so where my moments of closeness to God. My real crisis came in the morning after sending my kids back to their mom. I was alone when I called my mom regarding some mysterious bank information that suddenly turned up on my credit card account. Anyhow, after talking about lots of stuff and breaking down in tears several times during the conversation, I came to the realization that what I could do so easily with my mom, I couldn't do with my Creator. Well, I'm ready if you are, Lord.

Monday, December 14, 2009

They're So Adorable Until They Grow Up and Become Commentators

Hey John. Sorry if this is a beloved family member...but something around the eyes reminded me of Hardball's Chris Matthews.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The sense that the Christmas holidays are crowding in around me to smother me, has always made this season one that I would rather escape completely. After all, the whole idea of Christmas that our western culture has hijacked from pagans, has about as much to do with Jesus Christ as sea-weed has to do with outer space.

The thing that really rips it, is that a time of year that is traditionally supposed to all about good cheer, unity, peace on earth, etc. has become for too many, a time of severe stress, depression, drunkenness, family squabbles, and widespread financial irresponsibility. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!

Is there an alternative solution? I haven't the slightest effing idea. One thing I've decided is that amidst all of the other many many projects, brochures, year-end video for New Year's Eve that are job related,— gift exchanges, shopping, trying to find a parking spot close enough that I won't get soaked to the bone by one of southern California's freak and inconvenient gully washers...I WILL keep my cool. But you think that maybe God is less concerned with WHEN we celebrate Jesus birthday than HOW? I mean if we are going to pull a day out of the hat when the Savior of the World might have been born, wouldn't it have made more sense to pick a day that isn't at the darkest coldest most depressing point of the year? How about August, Lord? I do realize that being a ridiculous American means that I don't really have to give a squat about what season that would be for another country in another hemisphere. I mean we all know Jesus loves America the most...right? Well....RIGHT?

Anyway, I've made the decision to not do Christmas cards this year. Sad. That was the one thing I used to enjoy about Christmas before my wife left me. I would turn our Christmas photo into some Photoshopped construct that would amaze and entertain our family and friends. Now they only serve as a sad reminder that I'm single, with two teen-aged kids who are becoming increasingly harder to buy Christmas presents for. And that's only if I can afford to buy them anything at all. No wonder so many people blow out their brains during this time of year. Short overcast days, ridiculous stress levels at work, social demands, family needs, lack of funds, not enough hours in the day. If I hear Frosty the Shithead one more time in the grocery store, I swear I will scream so frickin' loud small children will cling to their mommies and shiver.

Don't get me wrong. I love Jesus. I think He deserves to be lauded and sung about EVERY day of the year. But the idea that I'm some kind of piss-poor Scrooge if I don't don the gay apparel and join in ancient carol, pisses me clear the eff off!

Jesus...I need strength. I need joy in this joyless of all seasons. I need grace for my petty angry moments that certainly bubble over onto my children in ways I'm not aware of. I need financial sanity to keep me from digging myself deeper and deeper into the effing hole every effing November and December.

I know its your birthday, Jesus...or at least the time everyone decided its your birthday. I also know that I have nothing that I could ever give you that will offset the unmerited grace you gave to me. I am a pauper who has virtually nothing to give a king. All I have is my faith. And even that isn't my own.

Lord, let me see you this Christmas. Let me simply see your face and know that you are there...for real...and still my advocate. Because right now belief is in short supply. Help thou my unbelief!