Tag Archives: reflections

Another year and grateful, grateful, great-full!

One the eve of my 33rd birthday, I can really only think of gratitude and humor at the year I am moving beyond. While it hasn’t been an easy year, it has been better than some, and though full of insane life transitions, I would say I have been gifted with some good Bettger resilience, some extremely wonderful community, and just a little (or a lot) of grace and gifts from a good God.

So let me “name the ways”:

  • 20130827_151225I am so thankful for my angels… my wife, Kat, and my absolutely perfect son, Brendan, Also, that little guy who is on the way for January. Thank you for not making Mommy’s asthma flare up. (notice I didn’t mention the dog… though, Coco, you aren’t all that bad)
  • So thankful for the friends and community, not just in Bend, but around the country. There are countless ways that we have been supported this last year, even just in meals, potlucks, a place to hang out, moving couches, cutting hair, watching Brendan. And then there are the men from Illuman. Supporting my own calling, my leadership, my giftedness, and my journey. And those in my spiritual direction community who have done more of the same. And for friends in MN… so good to reunite after all this time.
  • I am thankful for our old house, while even though we couldn’t wait to get out, gave us good shelter, room to grow, and allowed us to live on less income.
  • 20130904_153041Thankful for our tax return, because without it, we wouldn’t have been able to make this trip to WI and MN for 5 weeks.
  • And for this trip… a time to rest, to be away, to transition and to spend more time with my family than I have in 6 years.
  • So thankful for my family, especially my parents who are the best grandparents I have ever seen.
  • Thankful for the chance to offer spiritual direction. It truly is a calling, truly is a gift, and to be able to join others on their journey of discovery and challenge, well… it doesn’t get much better than that. Finally certified this last year, and I’m so glad it took as long as it did.
  • Thankful for the books, so many I can’t even remember them all, but most definitely for the whole series of Game of Thrones (all 7000 plus pages of you) that got me through the winter and through school bus driving.
  • I am thankful for Kat’s family. The inlaws… for always challenging me to be better than I am and to live into my potential.
  • 20130901_084638Thank you, to Mother Earth, for holding us, feeding us, hurting us, and carrying us.
  • Thankful to my chicken that gave her life, even though violently, so we could eat. I will never forget that experience.
  • And yes even thankful for the school bus job. After all, it has to be the last job before moving to a new city.
  • So grateful for the upcoming chaplain residency, and for the opportunity to experience the next stage in my “delivery system”
  • Thankful for the Lord’s timing. It is just too ironic, synchronistic, or whatever you want to call it, to be anything else.

There are so many more, I could write for pages. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for what is to come. And just as with any given day, I look to the future with a mix of anxiety over the details and anticipation for the surprises, this next year will surely contain its fair share.

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What we dwell on tells us who we are

IMG_2393That last post, I would say, is an effort to dream, to give thanks, to wonder, and to celebrate. All bad comes with some good if we are looking for it. All good comes with some bad… even if we aren’t looking for it. Isn’t that so true? Our dreams, the things we dwell on (on our worst days AND our best days), reveal to us about who we are.

A friend reflected to me that he has to marvel at the reflections of some people at various events he hosts. A woman told him once that she felt that all the subjects of his pub conversations were about sex. Hmmm… I wonder what she is trying to resist. How true it is that the things we try to resist are the things we focus on the most. Sometimes we see the negative in others and the positive in our selves, or the other way around. We see the positive in others and the negative in ourselves.

She is so in shape, I have such a hard time exercising. They eat so poorly, I have made the most healthy food ever. They are so obsessed with sex, at least I can keep a pure mind. It’s so cold here, I would rather be in a place that is warm. They don’t know how to work hard and so are poor as a result, I’ve worked hard and have money to spend. Ultimately, there are attachments… physical body, food, sex, comfort, money. The things we dwell on tell us so much about ourselves.

But there are layers there, aren’t there? I obsessively read fantasy novels these days. And is it obsessively or diligently? And is it because I want to show that I have achieved something, or because I want to escape, or because I am just bored? Or maybe it is because it feels good to work my imagination and to open up a world of dragons and battles and adventure. It could be all of the above. Who knows?

When it comes down to it, we must simply pay attention. Knowledge and observation teach us much and give us freedom. Freedom to let go, freedom to move on, freedom to feel.

One more story to further illustrate my point. The family and I went and met a friend at a new coffee shop this morning. We opted for this rather than getting geared up for church. Brendan even said at one point, “Church?” Of course, there are the thoughts in my head of the need for spiritual support, the desire to worship and sing, the feeling of lack of Christian spiritual guidance in my life, the importance of Brendan being with other kids, and the fact that we would not be spending the money on coffee when I had already made some at home.

Getting out of the car, Kat laughed at the ease of going out for coffee versus going to church. “It sure is easy to get going for the coffee shop on Sunday morning that church,” she said. It’s true. We didn’t do the customary church-going family tradition of battling our way to the car, silence on the road, and smiling at the greeters. Rather, we had a date on our only free morning of the week, while enjoying the creative ambiance of this finely crafted coffee house and having good heart-to-heart conversation with our dear friend. It’s all about what we see, and as I have said so many times before, we ultimately see what we are looking for.

Jews and Skinheads: reflections on “Steal Toes”

I just got done watching the movie, Steel Toes. Its a Canadian independent film, directed by David Gow, and based on a play he has also written. Although it was clearly very low budget and there are not all that great of reviews out there, I found it incredibly profound. In the movie, there is a neo-Nazi skinhead, Mike Downey, who kills a man from India and is on trial. His lawyer, Danny Dunkleman (David Straithaim), is Jewish and the entire movie basically focuses on their interactions and character development. Danny, the lawyer, is convinced that he is going to make his racist client feel the pain as much as possible so he makes him do his own work on creating his defense. 

They have many face-offs, many arguments, and it gets to a point where Mike is about to break down. His defenses continually come out of a great self-pity, much hatred, and “watered-down” skin head ideology. Danny will not stand for it. He is unbending. Probably at one of the most profound moments, Mike stands up and unleashes a tirade of memorized brainwash ideas, expressing his hatred for the Jews and his unwaivering loyalty to the Arian race. All of a sudden he realizes what he is saying. He breaks… he vomits… he bawls his eyes out. He cannot get off the floor. He has finally broken through and is faced with the weight of what he has done and the brainwashing that has fed into his actions.

The young man in this movie was in his twenties and was lucky enough to have someone to help him see who he really was… the good that was still there. I have a strong belief that the first 20 years of our lives are so formative that by the time we are able to actually realize what our environments have done to us, it takes us the remainder of our lives to figure out who we really are underneath all the crap that has been piled on us. (I won’t even get started on the systemic brainwashing that happens…) Some are fortunate to have help, some have to face it on their own… some never get below the surface to know who they really are. They remain mirrors of their environments… puppets to times past, people exercising control, and a self-image that is formed not from personal value, or God-given value, but from others needs to validate themselves.

The most amazing thing about Steel Toes was that this lawyer sacrificed everything to help this young skin head. His Jewish friends called him a “liberal Jew” because he wanted to defend a Nazi. His wife left him. He basically went crazy for two months when the trial was over.  All because his father had told him that he must not fight back. He must love and do good to those who seek to do bad to him. With this duty came incredible sacrifice. It was almost as though he sacrificed his religiousity as well. Danny says in the end, “I try to pray and I find myself hating you.”

To which Mike, the EX-skinhead says, “You can’t do anything to hurry this… it takes a long time… Eventually, you forgive yourself to a small extent… you begin to find pleasure in small things.” He also says, “Through this whole thing, I have learned a few things. If this man was willing to help me, how could he be a spawn of Satan? Danny took an interest in me… gave me another chance, as did my victim in what he said on my behalf… and after all of it… I hope, and I hope, and I hope.”

Here was a young man who was so brainwashed. Racially, religiously, by friends, mentors, experience. He was so covered in crap. And it was because of forgiveness by people totally different than him, a Jew and a Hindu, that he was broken and able to live as his true self. Beautiful.

I am up… and I am down

So often, I really wish I was an introvert and not an extrovert. Mostly when I am alone. Now, I know this sounds kinda crazy to some who are introverts and really want to be able to be more extraverted. When I am alone, though, so often I wish that I was more okay with it.

howling-timber-wolf.jpgIt’s strange… this position that I have with the Presbyterian church… it’s so entirely relational and it really is a dream come true. To have accepted the responsibility of connecting people to each other, to groups, and to the Spirit of God is all I have ever wanted to do. It is also nice that I don’t have to mark my successes in a traditional sense – that is, by having bodies in the pew or money being given. On a personal level, it seems that I mark my successes by the number of conversations and connections that I have on a given week. This leads to certain problems.

Mainly, when I am sitting alone in a quiet house at night and I am tired of reading, the birds have gone to sleep, and I can’t think of anything to do… I get really low. Last night, I actually contemplated starting up tying flies again. Then I remembered that I haven’t fly fished in forever.  It is during these times of not being okay with being alone that I realize I have a long way to go.

Life is relational. With self, God, and others. I tend to think that ultimately what it comes down to is how we encounter others and the presence that we give to them. This I can do… this I love. But that only comes from a foundation of understanding of self and an understanding of being in the presence of the Divine. When this is in shambles, no measure of relationship with others is going to amount to much. It is merely an attempt at establishing worth and filling my ego. This is where I am missing out. My foundation is weak. My worth is too often founded in the wrong places.