Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Conquering Fear

Once upon a time I destroyed a doll. That's not the way most fairy tales start, but this isn't a fairy tale. It is a real story about me.

The doll had those eyes where, if it was laying down, the eyes would be shut, but if it was standing up, its eyes would open. To an inquisitive 6 year old, that's pretty darn fascinating. I mean, how did this thing work? I simply had to know!

So while it was standing up, I poked it in the eyes (a little trick I learned from a guy named Moe -- nyuk nyuk nyuk!). The eyes bobbed away, and then bounced back into position. Fun! I did this a few times, tapping a little harder with each next poke. Then it happened: The doll's eyes bobbed away...and didn't come back.

I was frightened for a couple different reasons. My first thought was about my sister: "Bobbi is going to be really upset!" My next thought was (and I'm being serious here): "OMG! This thing is going to come after me tonight and POKE OUT MY EYES JUST LIKE I DID TO IT!!!" I was so scared I dropped the doll and literally ran out of the room. I think I may have been screaming. All I know is I did not go to my sister and tell her what I did. I don't think I went to anyone to tell them what I did. I knew they would find out eventually, but I was just so scared I think I went and hid somewhere for awhile.

Eventually I was found out. Bobbi was mad, but that passed.
My fear remained.
For years.

Are you getting that?


For a six year old, a week is a long time, and I was in Jr. High School before I really started to get over it.

After that long intro, here's the story. The story of how I conquered the fear. Really, it is a story of who helped me conquer my fear.

It was JoAnn.

As I've said in earlier posts, I'm the youngest of 5 kids and I'm the only boy. JoAnn is the second oldest. She is 7 or 8 years older than me. For those who don't want to do the math, that puts her in "Graduated and moved away from home" grade by the time I was in 7th.

While she was away, she met Jesus. No really. She met the living God of the Universe and would talk to Him like a friend.

I was on the phone with her one pivotal day and was telling her about how scared I got when no one else was at home except me and that doll. JoAnn said something that would change my life forever (and yes, I know, forever is a much longer time than a week, or even years).

JoAnn told me when I was afraid I could ask Jesus to be with me. She told me what that looked like in her life, and she also told this to me in concrete terms my adolescent mind liked and could really get into. The logic went something like this: Jesus is God. God is Perfect. God is Love. Perfect Love gets rid of fear. So when I was really afraid, all I had to do was talk to Jesus like He was real, and ask Him to be there with me. Since Perfect Love would be there, the fear would have no choice but to leave.

I remember being very excited by this idea at the time. Then after we hung up reality broke in and I felt very foolish for thinking something like that would really "work".

Later that week my parents went bowling and Leslie was babysitting for some neighbors. I was alone at home. Just me, that doll, and my fear. As I went to my room to hide, I felt my skin start to go cold. As I sat there shaking, JoAnn's words came back to mind and I tried it. I prayed.

I grew up going to church, but I think this was the first real prayer I ever prayed. The first one I really meant, you know? The first one I really had something riding on.

I think the fear had been gone for a full minute or more (which is also a very long time when you are really really scared) before I realized what had occurred. I was still alone in the house, and the doll was still there in the garage. But Someone else was with me. Jesus. And my fear was gone. I was at peace and I wasn't afraid anymore.

I think I was astonished. That's really the best word for it. I was astonished because it had really worked. And I was astonished that Jesus was real.

It would be another 10 years or so before I started really following Him; ordering my life around Him as The Central Figure. But that night started it all.

Today JoAnn lives in another city (and California is so big, it may as well be in a different state). We see each other infrequently. But to this day I credit JoAnn with being the first one to really practically introduce me to the idea of loving and depending on Jesus -- that I can talk to Him like normal. And that He loves me very much, so naturally He would love to spend time with me and of course He will help me.

So thanks Jo, you thought you were just helping your little brother get past some adolescent fear -- but instead you've helped lay a foundation in my life that persists in supporting me to this day!

~ Keith

More Funny T-Shirt Sayings

My little sister Globe Girl posted some more T-Shirt ideas here.

If you missed it, here's round one of t-shirts.

~ Keith

Friday, January 27, 2006

Re-Learning Long Division

You know that dream where you're in a classroom, and the teacher is asking you to hand in the important research paper and you realize you haven't done it at all? Or the one where the teacher is handing out a test, and you realize you never studied? You know that feeling of panic and angst and failure all rolled up into one big ball of tension in your gut?

Marilyn helped me avoid that, and also went the extra mile. I'm the youngest of 5 kids, and the only boy. Marilyn is a little over 6 years older than me.

One morning, during the summer in my late elementary school years (between 5th and 6th grade I think), I woke up in a panic. I realized I had forgotten how to do long division. I hadn't had a dream or anything -- it was much worse than that. For some reason it just hit me over my bowl of sugar-laden Cheerios: I had no idea how to do long division! (And I'm dating myself here, but I was a Senior in High School before I owned a calculator, and even then they were frowned upon).

I hadn't gone completely blank -- I knew what the symbols looked like, and I knew some memorized answers. Like, I knew
6 x 7 = 42
so I also knew
42 / 7 = 6
Likewise, I could do the math and tell you that
143 x 12 = 1716
But if you asked me to do
I could set up the problem, but then I would just stare at it and sweat, not knowing what to do.

I don't remember what I did about it. I don't remember who I told or if I told anyone at all. Apparently I was in such a state I blacked out! My next memory is of Marilyn and I sitting at the kitchen table, with some paper and pencils. She started with some easy ones and then worked with me on progressively more difficult problems. She showed me not just the how but the why; helped me really understand it. When she was done I could really do long division again -- not just parrot some memorized answers.

As far back as I can remember I've been very verbal. I love words, and I love to read and write. I love to read aloud. But something new clicked in me that day: I started to like math. I think I still love words more than numbers, but I do really enjoy numbers!

Once we were on a roll, Marilyn went the extra mile with me and continued to show me how numbers work together. She used new and different symbols I hadn't seen before. Soon, although it was abstract, I could follow her as she began to use letters instead of numbers, and use letters and numbers together. She started doing math by moving some letter/number combinations onto the other side of the equals sign. I started understanding more and more and before I knew it I was doing math with equations like:
8x + 2y = 14
12y - 135x = 9
I was solving for X. I was solving for Y. I was doing Algebra, without ever having heard the word! I just knew I had been given a glimpse through a new window and boy did I love the view!

That next year in school this really paid off. I excelled in all my math classes.

Today Marilyn lives in a different state, and we see each other infrequently. But to this day, Marilyn and I share a love of numbers -- and we also share a love of fundamentals. Getting back to the basics of things and picking them apart to really understand them; to really know the why behind the what.

I love that. I love being able to know why I do what I do, instead of just parroting things.

So thanks Mar, you thought you were just teaching your little brother some math -- but instead you've helped lay a foundation in my life that persists in supporting me to this day!

~ Keith

"Want to?"

I'm the youngest of 5 kids, and the only boy. My sister Leslie is closest to me in age, but is almost 5 years older than me. So while I was going into 6th grade, she was going into 12th.

Since my sisters had moved away by that time, Jr. High & High School seemed like "only child" time for me. Still, I think I spent more time with Leslie than any of my other sisters, at least in my memories of adolescence.

Like all brothers and sisters, we had our fights and squabbles, but usually got along OK.

One day when I was in elementary school, she was laying on her back with her knees up to her chest, and her feet up in the air. It looked like a seat to me, so I came over and put my butt there on the "seat". She gently pushed up with her legs, and raised me up so I was sitting on her extended legs. It was fun!

We started doing this more and more. Sometimes she would sort of rotate her legs/hips while I was up there, to twist me around. I would put my hand above my eyes as if shading them from the sun and look around while she did this. We called this "A Boy Scout Scouting!"

All in all it was a fun game for me. We'd experiment with me sitting in different directions: facing her, facing away, facing sideways, whatever. One of my favorites was when I'd put my belly against her feet and then she'd lift me up. I'd balance there and play Superman -- I'd make the swishing "flying through the air" noises and she'd raise and lower me and twist, to make my "flight" more fun.

It was good times.

At some point, after she moved away to college, we'd still do it once in awhile when she was home on vacation. The older I got the more difficult it was for her, since I was getting heavy. =O)

Here's the fun & weird part though -- what makes it all the more endearing in my memory:

We called it "want to"

We didn't know what to call it and, as I remember it, we didn't really try to come up with a name for it at all. One of us would just walk up to the other and say "Want to?" and we knew what we meant. I don't think either of us ever turned each other down.

It was a close time; a time where I knew I was being focused on as a person and no one else mattered. And I could give my attention to her in a fun way where she was important to me and I was important to her. It took two to play the game, and we were both willing participants.

Just a good memory, I guess. I like those, and I like to share them.

But it goes beyond just the memory of long ago.

Today Leslie lives in a different state, and we see each other infrequently. But to this day, Leslie and I share a love of being silly and fun together. Life is full of serious issues, but it is also important to know how to cut loose, be silly, and just have fun.

I love that. I love being able to laugh and play, instead of letting the worrisome serious things of the world hold sway all the time.

So thanks Les, you thought you were just messing around and killing time with your little brother -- but instead you've helped lay a foundation in my life that persists in supporting me to this day!

~ Keith

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What is Your Role in Giving to the Church?

Recently, a friend and mentor asked me a series of four very compelling questions. The first two I answered in earlier articles: What is the Church? and What is Your Role in Receiving from the Church?

Today I'd like to share with you my long and somewhat rambling answer (ye be forewarned) to the third question: What is your role in giving to the church?

I think this may be the most difficult one for me to answer. Partly because I don't want to sound self-aggrandizing. Mainly because I am probably too close to the subject. I'm too subjective. If you want to know my role in giving to the church, I think the best people to ask are the people who feel they receive from me. So if you are one of those people who feel they've received from me, please post a comment and let me know -- round out my answer here by giving a more objective viewpoint, OK?

Through SeedStories, I recently connected with a guy named Keith Giles. He & his wife Wendy are in the early stages of planting a House Church in Orange County (The O.C.) called The Mission -- you can read his blog subversive1 for more info. Anyway, he said this to me:
"Spencer Burke talks about a personal metaphor. For example, he said he felt like he was a firestarter. His calling and gifting were related to helping others get on fire for what God was calling them to.

I think I'm like a magnifying glass. I help people to see things that they might not otherwise see and to magnify the urgency or amplify the vision that God is giving them.

What's your metaphor?"
Along these lines I'm not sure any one metaphor captures everything for me, but I have a couple ideas.

I'm a "TRANSLATOR" -- I seem to have an ability in certain situations to "translate" for people. For example, in a counseling session, it might go something like this:
Husband says something.

Wife says "See -- he always says that!" and then goes off for a few minutes while the husband fumes.

Then the husband goes off.

I stop them both and say "Well, wife, what I heard your husband say was this..." (Keith turns to husband) "Is that about right?"

Husband says "YES!!! That is EXACTLY what I was saying!" (Keith turns to wife) "OK, so now that I've rephrased it, does that help you understand?"

Wife says "Well, yeah. I never knew he meant THAT!"
And it goes the other way as well; wife says something, husband freaks out, I translate, husband calms down and says "Oh, well that makes sense. I never knew she meant that."

At work I'm a RN Educator so my job is turning medicalese into layman's terms to help people understand their surgeries or recovery path.

I haven't had a lot of practice "translating" the gospel for people, but what I have done seems to be similar in fruitfulness. I have multiple tattoos and piercings and people say "Wait, you're a pastor?" and then once that weird stigma is broken, we can really just talk about God and stuff.

So maybe I'm a translator. I articulate complex or confusing ideas in simple easy-to-understand terms. I help people understand things.

A close friend once gave me something of a metaphor: I like to ask questions and I guess I was hitting some nerves (in a good way) so she eMailed me. She said "You're like this guy walking around with a can opener, always looking for a can of worms!"

Maybe I'm a "CAN OPENER". I kinda like that. I notice things; little things. I notice the way someone's expression changes when they are listening to someone. I notice the sound of their voice when they respond. And so I ask questions about their heart and what is going on inside them. I do this to let them know someone noticed; someone cares. I do this to let them know they have value.

You probably noticed: the above two metaphors combined to create the name for my blog.

Hmmmmm -- thinking out loud (OK, not out loud but through my fingers) I also have led music-based worship for many years. And I am an RN (compassion, combined with techie stuff). And I'm a computer geek, etc.

Maybe I'm like a Swiss Army knife, and the can opener is just one of the tools on the knife. I'm not sure. On the one hand I want to be used in whatever way I can. On the other hand I'd rather not be the "utility player" -- I'd rather "do a few things and do them well."

Here's some more thoughts:

During a time of prayer, someone once said they felt prompted by God to say something to me. In biblical terms, I guess you'd call this a "Word of knowledge" or a "Prophecy". Here's what they said:
"You're a Commander in God's 'special forces'"
Back then I was doing a lot of music-based worship leading, and I saw it more as the Levites/singers (first into battle with only praise music as a weapon, etc) -- but that now sounds different in my ears -- I wonder if it is more in line with some other stuff that He seems to be doing in me. That certainly lines up with some other things that have been said, or that I have seen...

In terms of the church-giftings that the Bible lists in Ephesians 4:11-12, I fall naturally into the pastor/teacher model. And by "teacher" I think of a rabbinical model -- where 'teaching' is done by living life together instead of listening to a lecture. I love to hang out with people and listen to them.

As for pastoring, I think of that as loving people. My two main love languages are physical touch and spoken specific words of encouragement. So I lean toward being a bit touchy-feely and I also use words to let people know I care about them.

Once I went to the Franklin Covey website and did some work building a personal Mission Statement. I thought it was gonna be management mumbo-jumbo but I ended up really enjoying it. One of the pieces of the mission statement I came up with was something like:
"I want, in every interaction I have, for people to walk away feeling more loved, and less burdened"
I still want that.

And I think that plays into this quote from Donald Miller's book Searching for God Knows What:
"Perhaps the most comforting characteristic of Christ is that he liked people. Were somebody to ask me to begin a religious system, I would sit down and write a book the way Muhammad and Joseph Smith both did. This would seem the most logical way to communicate new ideas. Writing in scrolls, however, was not something that interested Jesus. He never sat down and wrote a mission statement. Instead, He accumulated friends and allowed them to write about Him, talk about Him, testify about Him. Each of the gospels reveals a Christ who ate with people, attended parties, drank with people, prayed with people, traveled with people, and worked with people. I can't imagine He would do this unless he actually liked people and cared about them. Jesus built our faith system entirely on relationships, foregoing marketing efforts and spin." (p127)
Somehow I think this binds things together for me. Somehow this ties together the idea of being a translator and a can opener and a pastor and a teacher and whatever else I am designed to be.

I guess what it all boils down to is this; this is my role in giving to the church: I want to be used by God to communicate to people that they have meaning; have value: to me and to God and to the world around them.

That's not real flashy. It certainly doesn't sound very exciting. But it does sound comfortable. Not in the sense of "I can do this all on my own and I am in my own little comfort zone safe from all challenges".

It sounds comfortable to me in the sense of this is what I was made to do: eat with people, bowl with people, drink with people, pray with people, travel with people, cry with people, laugh with people, listen to people, work with people. Actually like people and care about them enough to challenge them and live with them and love them.

That's my role in giving to the church.

Any other thoughts?

~ Keith

Monday, January 23, 2006

Finding Nemo's Friend

SAN DIEGO, California, Jan 23 (Associated Press) - Mr. Branford Tilton of Newport Beach, CA will think twice before he goes scuba diving again. And he'll check his suit with his Dermatologist.

Mr. Tilton, a novice sport diver who only recently took up the sport, was on a boat dive near the Coronado Islands. Divemaster Brock Meron says the day started like any other, but then took a turn for the bizarre:

"We were near the reef, and I saw Mr. Tilton removing the hood of his wet suit. Normally, an amateur diver has too much trouble with this maneuver underwater, since it means taking the mouthpiece with the air supply out of your mouth and letting it dangle behind you for a moment, finding it again, and placing it back in your mouth. He seemed like he was doing OK, so I just watched him. I saw him pick something up off the coral and tuck it inside the collar of his suit. The environment here is stable, but still pretty fragile. We frown on our customers removing anything from the dive site."

Mr. Meron swam to Mr. Tilton's side and, through sign language, Mr. Tilton claimed he had not picked anything up, so Mr. Meron simply stayed close to his customer to ensure the rest of the dive stayed safe and legal.

"A couple minutes later," continued Mr. Meron, "the guy started getting a little squirrely, you know? Really agitated. I signaled to my coworker that I was taking him to the surface and then gave Mr. Tilton the 'thumbs-up' sign which means 'head to the surface right now'. By the time he got his mask off and could talk to me all he was doing was yelling and screaming. We got him in the boat and called 911 on the way to shore."

Paramedics at the scene, veterans of dive injuries, described a situation they'd never seen before. EMT Jack Verner said it was "like his suit was stuck to him. We couldn't even get his hood off him. We had to give him some pain medication by injecting it into his thigh muscle right through his wetsuit. He was pretty freaked out. It was like his suit was welded to his body."

The ambulance took Mr. Tilton, now in less pain and a bit more calm, to the University of California Medical Center. Doctors treated Mr. Tilton in the Emergency Room and are keeping him for observation. Dr. Royce Throckton, a specialist in Dermatology described his condition as "Stable, but we're keeping a close eye on him. It seems to be some rare reaction between his skin, his wetsuit, and the toxin from the spines of a blowfish."

Officials at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute said the toxin in a blowfish spine is normally painful but severe reactions can be fatal. It appears Mr. Tilton is a very lucky man.

Though difficult to understand at times due to swelling in his face, Mr. Tilton was able to tell reporters: "The little guy just looked so cute, you know? I figured there would be enough water in my suit to keep him alive until I got back to the hotel and I could take him home. I have a nice salt water aquarium at home."

Mr. Tilton apparently suffered multiple small puncture wounds to his face and neck as a result of placing a small blowfish in his wetsuit and then experiencing first-hand the threatened fish's natural defense mechanism: blowing up to approximately twice to three times it's normal size.

Doctor's say they are unsure why Mr. Tilton's wetsuit began to degrade so rapidly. "His skin chemistry is a bit odd," stated Dr. Throckton, "It's a wonder he didn't react to wetsuits before. Add the skin's reaction to the toxins in the blowfish spines and it was a very touch-and-go moment for him, medically speaking. He's lucky to be alive, really."

While his spirits are still good at this point, Mr. Tilton (pictured here in his hospital room) faces weeks of special treatements. The first priority, though, is getting him out of his wetsuit, which remains stuck to his skin. Doctors are currently attempting to pump air into his suit to keep the wetsuit away from his skin, while also giving him antibiotics and other medications through an intravenous line placed in his left foot -- the only part of his body which appears to be unaffected.

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, Hosts of the popular Discovery Channel(TM) program "Myth Busters" were both unavailable for comment.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why I Love My Dad

Let me tell you something that not a lot of guys can say. And of those who can, not many do.

I love my dad.

I am from a weird generation of guys who feel deprived of connection with their fathers. We say they were "emotionally unavailable" and I suppose there is a lot of truth to that. But I think there's more to love than emotion.

Today's blog is something of a photo montage. That's the best way I know to express what I'm feeling right now.

My dad is one of 13 kids born to a depression era family in St. Louis, MO. He is not the youngest, but nearly.

This is my dad's Senior picture from 1948. At 18 my dad could do a standing back flip and land on his feet. He was a limber athletic guy. At 18 my dad joined the U.S. Navy and moved away from home. He believed in giving himself to serve something bigger than himself.

Here's my dad when he and mom were still dating. Don't you love the Jerry Lee Lewis pompadour. My dad has style!

Here's my dad at 22. I *love* this picture!

He and my mom were just married. They lived in Albuquerque, NM. My dad knew the value of working hard and playing hard. And he passed those both on to me.

By 1968 he had 5 kids, and a Naval career that was winding down. He had some tough decisions to make. But he faced them square on, and did what he needed to do. I think I got that from him as well.

We moved to Oregon in 1970 and my dad went to school and held down two jobs. He went from being a Naval Officer with respect and authority to working as a janitor for a local school, and as a security guard for a local rubber plant. And he put himself through Court Reporter School. My mom was heavily involved with all of that as well, of course -- but this post is about my dad.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my sisters had all moved away and it was sort of like being an only child. My dad got up early and read the paper -- the comics, to be specific. The most important part of the paper if you ask him, or me. My mom would get up with him and he'd read to her the comics he thought were funny. When he left for work she'd go back to bed. Then, when I got up for school, my mom came out and sat with me while I had breakfast. I'd read her the comics I thought were funny. She'd laugh a little, but not that hard. When I asked her why, she'd always say "Because your father already read those exact same ones to me." I got my sense of humor from my dad too, I guess. I really like that!

When I moved away from home and joined the Navy myself, I think that is when I first really began to appreciate my dad. We wrote letters to each other. OK, I wrote, he typed. He's always typed. I have a small collection of just about every hand-written note from my dad. They're precious to me.

All through the years I think what strikes me most about my dad is how unfailingly, how thoroughly, and how completely he loved my mom.

They were frisky at times and, while that is a little weird as an adolescent, it is still cool to know your dad and mom still have the hots for each other. Gives you some hope for the future, you know?

As my parents aged, my dad has had some health problems and so did my mom. My dad's were more "have a big problem, get it taken care of, and then bounce back". My mom had chronic emphysema. Years and years of oxygen and pills and machines. But you know what, I never heard my dad complain. I'm sure he must have been bummed and burnt out at times. But he never once let on publicly that he found anything but joy and life in expressing that kind of devoted love for my mom.

I'm 40 now. Cathy & I have no children, but as we age we may have health problems. We have careers and busyness in our lives like everyone else we know.

But may I be known as a man who loves his wife as much as my dad loved my mom. I'm not sure what year this picture was taken, but it kinda sums it up nicely doesn't it?

My mom has been gone for over three years now. My dad has had a couple health setbacks, but is stable. Once again facing tough options, he decided on his own to move into an Assisted Living Facility. I got to see him over Thanksgiving 2005 -- we both flew to Seattle to spend the holiday with my sister Marilyn, pictured here. It was a good time. We laughed and played together, and it was just really really good, you know? Really really good.

Here's the last picture I'll share with you today. This is Easter 1968.

That's me sitting on my dad's lap. That's my uncle Bud in the picture with us. I'm not sure whose house we're at. I don't remember what candy I ate. I have no idea what happened to that stuffed bunny rabbit I'm holding. None of that stuff is in focus for me anymore. All I see is a Dad who loves and is holding his son. That's all I need to see. That right there is just about my most favorite picture of my dad and me.

I love you dad. Thanks for everything you've imparted to me over the years. I am a better man and a better person and a better Jesus follower because of your influence in my life.


Friday, January 20, 2006


Like many Americans I made a new year's resolution to lose weight and get into better shape.

(Like many Americans I am overweight, not conditioned, and do not like to exercise nearly as much as I like to eat and watch T.V.)

Like many Americans I paid money for a gym membership (sing it with me: Y-M-C-A!).

Like many Americans, I have made good on my resolution so far. I have gone to "Dawn Patrol" for 2 weeks now. Apparently it used to be called "Boot Camp" but that scared people away.

Like many Americans I am now wondering: "What the heck was I thinking? I hurt in places I forgot I had places!"

For the most part it is enjoyable and productive, for the following reasons:

I'm in a small class
There are only 5-7 people at any given time. For some reason, getting to know the people who are in the torture chamber with me makes the torture more bearable. Misery loves company and all that. In the past when I have started exercising, it was going running or doing push-ups in my garage all by myself. That didn't last very long.

The class is early in the day
The class starts at 6:15 a.m. I'm a morning person anyway, but getting my blood pumping that early really effects me: I feel more energetic throughout the day. Working out in the afternoon would mean showering again, and two changes of clothes. That would be more hassle, which would mean less incentive to do it.

The class is an hour long
In the past it has been my tendency to start small and try to build -- which ends up with me never really getting anywhere. Or, I bite off more than I can chew, and lose momentum. An hour is just right: not so long it is tedious, but long enough to kick my butt!

The class is 3 days a week
The not-having-to-do-it-every-day factor makes it easier to deal with somehow.

The class is only a few blocks away
I live close enough to the YMCA to walk to class. I don't, but I could if I wanted to. It's nice to have options. Maybe when I have been to more classes I'll stop killing the planet by driving three blocks just to work out. See, it isn't so much the walk to class that is problematic; it's the (oof) "short" (oof) painful (oof) walk (oof) home. Did I mention I hurt in places I forgot I had places?

The people are like me
They aren't super-athletic people who seem to have as their life's goal making me feel puny or fat (my psyche was marred by P.E. class, and I have the dodge-ball scars to prove it). They are also not lycra-shrink-wrapped hard-bodies strutting around intimidating me. They are frumpy middle-aged people who breathe hard and sweat, but are doing it because of the fun and camaraderie instead of the posing and meat-marketing that goes on at the local health clubs.

The class kicks my butt!
Did I mention that already? It bears repeating. In the 6 classes I've been to, I have yet to be able to do everything they ask for as many repetitions as they ask.

For most of my life I've been overweight, so my legs are pretty firm and toned -- think about it, they've been carrying extra load for a long time now! Every day we do lunges. I *hate* lunges. The first day I thought I would love them: "Oh, leg stuff. Cool. I'll be fine with this!" WRONG!!!

And twice this week we underwent cruel punishment. I'll spare you the details, but only a sadistic gym teacher from the 50s could come up with a way to make a "game" out of wind-sprints. My lungs and heart are nowhere near as ready as my legs were, and my legs were not ready for that at all!

To top it off today we did "Lisa's Leg raises" (Lisa, whoever you are and wherever you are, I hate you and I always have). You may know these by some other name, but it is lying on one side and doing side-leg raises. Sounds easy right? Especially for someone whose legs are the least of his worries, right? WRONG! Do you know what an ITB is? I do. I'm an Orthopaedic RN, and I know all about ITBs. Or at least I thought I did until today. The ITB is one of the places I forgot I had that now hurts. I didn't injure it, I just exercised it! "But it is a good hurt." HA! That phrase sounded so good to me before. Before I hurt!

It is hard work. I huff and puff. I sweat. I stagger. I hurt. But it really is a good hurt, you know? It means I'm finally making my body do something with itself.

I'm only 2 weeks into it. 6 classes. That's just enough to get me excited and keep me going. But in a couple months when I am tired because I stayed up too late, or I have some other thing that comes up -- will I still have the same resolve I do today? Maybe. I guess we'll see.

I'll let you know in mid-March. Check in on me and ask, OK?


~ Keith

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Music to die by

Here's a weird question: If you knew you were about to die, what music would you choose?

A friend of mine once thought maybe he was about to die. So he laid down on the couch and put on a Randy Travis CD. For him, that's what he wanted if it was the last music he'd hear this side of the harps (he's still with us, btw!).

I and another friend were talking about this and she asked me "If you knew you were about to die, what music would you listen to?"

Here's what I've decided:

If I knew I had time for only one or two songs, it would be (for samples, click the links and scroll down):

Is It OK If I Call You Mine? by Paul McCrane (lyrics). The song is from the perspective of a young man, singing to the girl he can never be with -- but I like to think of it as a song from me to God. knowing I'll be with Him soon.

and then, if there was time, I'd finish with:

Top Gun Anthem by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens (instrumental). The guitar solo just grabs me by the heart every time -- something about creativity I guess. That one is harder to articulate.

Now, if I knew I had an hour or so, and could listen to a sampling, it would be those two tunes, plus a few John Denver classics, including (not necessarily in order):

Annie's Song
Back Home Again
Boy from the Country
Perhaps Love
Poems, Prayers, and Promises
Rocky Mountain High
Starwood in Aspen
Sweet Surrender
This Old Guitar


I love his voice, and his arrangements, but mainly it is the lyrics that resonate in my heart (I'll let you google the lyrics on your own). I identify with his passions and his pains, in many ways. Plus it's music I grew up listening to, so these songs in particular help me reflect on my life in a meaningful way; they form images for me which are rich with hope and passion.

What about you? What music would you listen to if you knew you had time for only one last song, or one last less-than-60-minutes-playlist? And why those songs?

~ Keith

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What is Your Role in Receiving from the Church?

Following the highly relational picture I used in my answer to Wayne’s question "What is the church?", let me take it closer to home and answer his second question: “What is your role in receiving from the church?” This is not an exhaustive list but I hope, by starting with a description of two recent personal examples, I can convey at least in part what receiving from the church looks like to me.

There is a couple my wife Cathy & I are close to named Brennan and Marie. We hang out a lot. Recently, I was working through some heart-related issues re: what it means for me to be a leader. I think God has done some work in my heart helping me be me, but I still fall into old patterns. I had done so and recognized it and asked for some prayer, but it didn’t work out at Home Group for various reasons. Then, as I continued to process it, I received an eMail from Marie suggesting they come over to our house a couple days after home group, to pray for me. They and Cathy laid hands on me and prayed and God came and touched me in a big way. I was sobbing and didn't care. It was so great to get a break from having to be "the leader" -- the "one in charge" and just receive. And to know they loved me enough to pursue me felt wonderful.

Here’s another example: I have a friend with whom I hang out at least twice a week. Over the course of the past year or so, I've inadvertently (read: thoughtlessly) betrayed this friend’s trust a few times and, each time, had to repent and ask for forgiveness. The most recent time was less than a week ago. I knew I had to ask for forgiveness, and did so -- again. My friend again forgave me and is still pressing in to God to work through trust issues, but allowing me to fall and get back up in the process.

In addition to this, the other folks around me in the church sharpen me a la Proverbs re: iron sharpening iron. And sometimes, I receive just watching them; just being around people who are following -- just being a part of "the assembly". People who get words of knowledge, or just people who fall and get back up alongside me -- the point is allowing them to be alongside me; staying beside them as we all walk and fall and get back up and walk together.

And all of this pertains not only to the friends who happen to be geographically close to me like the ones I mention above -- this also pertains to the ones who live far away but know me through the internet or have a history together with me. Staying connected to these people and allowing them to ask me questions and challenge me on stuff: I need that.

Not "below me" in a top-down org chart.
Not "above me" in a bottom-up "I'm the main servant" model.
Beside me. Walking with me. Peers.

Another thing re: receiving from the church -- I also want to stay in contact with other believers who are observing different traditions. I want my Jesus-following friends to come from not only Vineyard or Vineyard-like places. Whenever I read John Wimber's account of how he and C. Peter Wagner traveled together -- and how Wagner cried in almost every church service they attended together in various denominations, etc -- I love how, from Wagner's example, Wimber caught the heart passion that Jesus loves the whole church.

I want to love what Jesus loves, including the whole church. I really do want to do that. Really doing that means letting myself receive from various traditions. Peter had to listen to Paul tell him he was screwing up. The folks in Jerusalem had to eat some crow when Peter told 'em the Gentiles were in on things too! So, likewise, I want to stay F.A.T. (Faithful, Available, and Teachable) to the whole body, as Jesus speaks to me through them.

I think this will be easier said than done, so in re-reading the above I think it sounds a bit idealistic and overly optimistic re: my ability to be humble and my ability to see and believe the best about others. But it is what I want to do.

~ Keith