Wednesday, June 27, 2007

sit, stay...good Matt

It is an overcast day in Fayetteville. Against my newfound quest to support local businesses, I have meandered to Starbuck’s. This is one of the ways I have opted to enjoy the week before class starts back.

Ginny loves rain. So it has been a good summer for her. She has been busy preparing for a show and readying for her world travels. Within the next couple of weeks Ginny will be heading to New York and Chicago. Although I am ecstatic for my metropolitan-hopping wife, it is tough to swallow the fact that our only trip together will be Conway, Arkansas. We are not often apart and I prefer it that way.

To her dismay, we have had nightly drills requiring her to recite what we will call the, “Big City Rules”. These include things I deem important knowledge for travels without the bodyguard that is me; they include such tidbits as a ban on any mode of transportation other than taxi after 8pm. I will be happy to provide the rest to anyone who will be traveling sans accompaniment from muscle-bound arm candy.

On the topic of our hoped-for respite night to help special needs families, we would appreciate some prayer if you are so inclined. We had hoped to host the Friday night event at our local church- Fellowship Bible. However, another great ministry presents a conflict that night and, thus, we are looking for a host. We have all taken the view, that if it is meant to happen, a location will open up.

The things I hate the most are the very things that I struggle against. As I survey the coffee house scene, I am reminded of a huge pet peeve of mine. Everyone is busy. These days, it seems vogue to be occupied. It appears that, somehow, my worth is connected to the pace of my life. The busier I am, the more significant I must be.

Other than avoiding conversation, it is nothing short of counter-culture to reply, “nothing” when asked what you have been doing that day. I often feel a twinge of guilt or shame come upon me when time is set aside for anything other than tasks.

However, something of worth that has developed through my grief journey with Eliot has been the freedom to steal away time for myself. I need to do nothing. Sit, think, maybe even pray. No tasks, no chores. Maybe minutes at a time, maybe more. This is something we allow for grief, but it should not be reserved only for the grieving. Despite the push of our lives and our society, we all need to sit still.

It is these times of reflection that have allowed me to see cracks of light that exist throughout my day. My time of reflection does not always seem productive. Many times it is a battle and is forced or even abandoned- a straightjacket would often be helpful. Nonetheless, I credit these times of nothing with helping me to get past the embossed surface of life.

Under the surface, I have found portals to the divine. Always present, but not always obvious. This is just like the God who chose to speak in parables. He longs to be sought. Evil assails us- in your face and difficult to deny. Beauty, with few exceptions, must be found.

When I am able to ruminate on things other then myself or my busy schedule, I see beauty peeking out behind it all. Thus, everyday becomes a little more beautiful. This time for nothing was not my idea. The Word reveals a Jesus who, in the midst of a pressing schedule, often pulls away from the crowd to be alone. This was a man who saw through a day’s happenings and perceived much more.

Be still, and know that I am God
Psalms 46:10

Gotta go. I’ve got lots to do!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nouwen in the Noggin

I have, recently, had one of those moments where I could swear that someone has jumped into my head, come out my ear, and written down my thoughts. “Can You Drink the Cup” by Henri Nouwen has recently been an encouragement to me. Here are some quotes that I hope will do the same for you.

- The cup of sorrow, inconceivable as it seems, is also the cup of joy.

-Somehow we know that when we do not drink our cup and thus avoid the sorrow as well as the joy of living, our lives become inauthentic, insincere, superficial, and boring.

- Jesus’ unconditional yes to his Father empowered him to drink his cup not in passive resignation but with the full knowledge that the hour of his death would also be the hour of his glory.

This was just the cream. This week's post is below.

Break a leg

Well, Ginny made sure that my first Father’s Day was special. We headed off to Eureka Springs for a daytrip. As always, Eureka was entertaining; it’s an eclectic town to say the least. Unfortunately, we just managed to miss the three-woman acrobatic show in the park. Sad, I know, but I signed Ginny up for tryouts.

We also got to celebrate a couple of friends’ birthdays at Beaver Lake. Fun was had by all- the laughs were outnumbered only by the ticks.

The much-anticipated meeting to organize a respite night was productive. Some great folks have jumped on to help make it happen. It is exciting. Once we finalize a location, we will be one step closer to our first event.

While working on a video project this week, I got watching the tape of our wedding. Just six years ago, it is now hard to imagine life before marriage. The videotape managed to bring back some of the emotional ambiance of the day and even reveal some things otherwise prone to be forgotten:

A warm day in Vicksburg, Ms. …especially for those in tuxedoes.
Ginny was young (21). Matt was skinny (165).
We do not appear nervous, but a little giddy.

Ginny’s pastor from Ruston, Louisiana- Dicky Love- officiated. The beautiful, but brief, ceremony lasted all of around 20 minutes. This was according to my bride’s script; she enjoys the limelight much like she enjoyed the ticks.

This week there was one particular moment that stood out as I watched us wed. Near the end of the ceremony, the wedding party gathered around us as Mr. Love, beading with sweat, spoke a prayer for the newlyweds.

Although, I remembered a prayer, nothing seemed significant upon recall. However, aided by VHS, the prayer now came forth as thunder. There they were. Words, once unnoticed, that now rang out as a foreshadowing. With heads bowed, a prayer went forth for:

“…enough blessing that they know your hand is upon them.
enough difficulty to force them to you.”

Dangit, Dicky.

Your prayers have been answered.

I could not think of a more apt description of the last year- tucked away in a forgotten, wedding day request on our behalf. I am thankful for that bold prayer.

Although, Dicky seemed to have no qualms. I seldom invite difficulties to come my way. My psychological makeup is that of water- seeking the path of least resistance. But, contrary to all that is within me, this is not where life is found.

I think the actors may have it right on this one. “Break a leg”, they say, for reasons unknown to me. But wishing difficulty on another may be the best thing one can do. With good logic, our culture separates out pain as much as possible. Each generation of children seems sheltered slightly more than the preceding one- every kid gets a trophy, each child makes the team.

However, by cutting out the trivial difficulties in life, I fear we are less prepared for the inescapable ones that are anything but trivial.

Although I am still shy of being thankful for the absence of my son, I have recently become aware that my life’s circumstances and story are not something I just want to endure. Rather, I long to embrace all that comes. Knowing, or at least trusting, that my lot is uniquely crafted to paint a picture all my own.

So, my prayer (can you do that over the internet) for you and I this week would be for tough times in our lives. Not difficulties to just endure, but difficulties that would give rise to a desperate need; and that through the pain we would flourish on strength not our own.

Dangit Dicky. Thanks.

Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup
Psalm 16:5

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Please see my backside

There is an article about Eliot on located here. If you’ve been around the blog long, you will recognize it as a former post. If you have come here from the article, we recommend jumping into the archives to read Eliot’s story.

Another week. Boy, time flies when you’re not loathing school. Ginny has been busy with the beads. She has also managed to finagle me into exercising with her. However, recently on a jog together, I was spotted down all on fours, hugging the sidewalk and yelling choice words upon twisting my ankle. So we’ll see about that. She seems to no longer have the desire to jointly exercise in public.

We have our first meeting tonight with some folks who are wanting to help the respite night become a reality. We are excited to see what comes.

This Sunday is Father’s Day. Happy Father’s day to all you dads. Although, you are outnumbered by the women here, I know you are out there. As to my first Father’s Day on this side, I can say, without hesitation, that being Eliot’s dad is my most prized moment. It can all end, and my life would be full- robust. I have lived more rich than I ever knew possible- I have loved.

A few observations from my week.

Ginny and I were able to help out in the children’s department of our church recently. Our church is fairly large and, therefore, when it comes to the kidd-o’s, there is a system. This is necessary in order that getting in and out only partially resembles the running of the bulls in Pamplona. There was one particular piece of the ankle-biter protocol that caught my attention.

Each child has a nametag placed on their back when they sign in. This tag can include, not only a name, but various information about the child that others may need to know. It, sometimes, serves as a notice of potential issues. Examples include such things as “allergic to peanuts” or bathroom issues or whatever need be told. Useful information in the hands of those seeking to help the child.

And that is what you’ve got to love about kids. Each one walking around with a backside-billboard declaring any struggles they might have.

Somewhere along the way, this declaration becomes unacceptable. We learn to hide our struggles instead of share them with anyone. But I think the kids have us on this one.

I wonder what my sticker would say?

Although, I have currently mastered toileting skills, how large do stickers come? Some of the print might read:

Missing his son.
Hates it when you offer a verse and a smile.

And the warnings continue.

Doesn't always play well with Christians.
Crosses the line to get a laugh.

So, maybe I need a sandwich board and not a sticker, but you get the idea.

I think it could it help. Maybe you would cut me some slack if you knew my struggles. Maybe I would ask you to turn around and, as I read, I would know I liked you because we are just alike…unless, you can’t potty.

I drove over to visit my parents and grandfather this week. My dad’s father has recently had a tough go of it. His health has declined. He lives with my parents; my dad, an only child, has sought to care for him as best as he can.

There are those moments in life, as Rob Bell describes, that you know you are a witness to something special, something holy. I had one such moment this week as I witnessed my dad feeding his father. I cannot explain it.

It was the first time I had felt this feeling since Eliot was with us. His entire life was a moment of other-worldliness. And so, the feeling came again like an old friend.

Christ is present when the weak are loved and served.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back Home

Well, we have returned from our hiatus. Good times and good people in St. Louis and Louisiana. Ginny had a jewelry show in both locations and we were able to see some family in the metropolis that is Lake Providence. Our friends, Paul and Heather, got a little introduction to LP and then we all headed off to the cabin for some R&R.

You know, you learn all kinds of things about your friends when you buddy up on vacation with them. Suffice it to say, I think we all had a good time- boating, fishing, playing basketball. Well, actually, witnessing someone attempt to play basketball was more painful than I could convey. No names will be mentioned.

We are continuing progress toward hosting a respite night. Similar programs in Dallas, Tx. and Covington, La. have been a huge help as we have gathered information, policies, and documents. Much remains to be done, but excitement is growing each step of the way.

We have been amazed and humbled as the video of Eliot has found its way overseas. Through youtube, many folks from other countries have recently contacted us to let us know that they have seen the video. This has been quite unexpected and has made for some great reading as people attempt to bridge the language gap in order to let us know that Eliot’s story has impacted them. Thanks to you all.

As the video has gained attention, something else has happened which I wish to address. Many “pro-life” websites or organizations have turned an ear to Eliot’s story. You will notice, that this is the first time those two words have been used here. This is no accident.

Before rushing to make our son the poster boy for this movement, I would like to air our hearts on the matter. We strongly hesitate to address this divisive topic because this is not the place for political debate or, for that matter, your opinion. This is a website we created to keep others updated on our son. Unfortunately, the focus is now on us, as we are left here without him.

Many people have wondered- aloud or quietly- why we are willing to allow others to be witness to what is the hardest thing either of us has ever been through. Aside from the selfish (in some small way, it helps), we do it because we believe Eliot’s story is the most unbelievable thing we have ever been a part of; we actually think his is not only a story of immense pain, but of undeniable joy.

His is a story we cannot explain; so we just tell it.
His short life screamed out truth, and we are left to echo in whispers.

So, tell his story and we will smile. But angle it to fit an agenda and we wince.

I guess I may or may not be “pro-life”.

If “pro-life” believes that life is a gift given by God, count me in. If “pro-life” means that all life is of worth, rather it be my son or an Iraqi man, sign me up. If it purports to love all persons, including those who have chosen to have an abortion, then “pro-life” I am.

However, if by “pro-life” you mean some of which I see, then please do not assume I am one of you. If “pro-life” means placing my hopes on the law of the land, then I must not be- because my hope resides elsewhere. If “pro-life” picks up a sign and shouts venom at another, then I cannot participate because I am just as guilty*.

I guess my decision is based upon your definition.

Some of the most encouraging e-mails we have received start something similar to this:

I am not a Christian. I am not pro-life. And I do not know what I would have done if I were faced with the same situation. But Eliot has impacted me.

Our son’s story is beyond me. It has taught many different things to many different people. It is a story that must be told in its entirety.

*John 8:7
If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.