One Day, I’m Gonna Need ya

Several months ago, I was at work, standing in the main area where we usually start our day off, looking at a large display board that tells us how our day is going to go. This particular day, the atmosphere was a little edgy and heated. I work for the steel union, and this was around one of those times when the union and the company were having a disagreement of sorts. A disagreement like this usually amounts to a more stressful work environment, significantly less cooperation between workers and management, and far less friendly communications between the two as well. It can get tense.

This particular day, I was standing with a manager, also a Christian, having a discussion. It was not a most friendly discussion, although otherwise we got along great. I was expressing my feelings about how some of the issues going on between the union and management had a negative impact on how my day was going. I’ll just say it, I was yelling at him about how unfair the situation was for me, okay? It was not a high point for me, nor were several of the days leading up to this day. In fact, most of my low days occur at work. I don’t want this section of my life highlighted in bright yellow when it comes time to give an account for what I did on earth.

At the end of this “talk” the manager (who I said was also a Christian, remember) just simply said to me, “Dustin, brother, I hope you get your heart right, because one day I’m gonna need ya. It won’t be today, and probably not tomorrow, but I will need your help someday, one way or another.” That is how our discussion ended.

I didn’t give it much thought until probably a few days later, but once I finally did consider what he said with a clearer mind, his statement didn’t really make any sense to me. People like him, people who have it all together spiritually, won’t need me. They are pillars, people to be looked up to. I’ve never seen this guy have a weak moment. I’ve never seen anything but a smile on his face.

I don’t know how long I’ll be a “new guy” for, but I see no real end in sight. I’m considering renaming this website to, “Lessons Dustin learns the hard way.” Being set in my ways, and then having a humbling, slightly life altering experience seems to be a reoccurring theme, and It usually comes at a bit of a cost.

It wasn’t too terribly long after my talk with this manager, maybe a few weeks. There came a time when I could have stepped up and helped him out. I Didn’t. I suppose, because I didn’t yet have my heart right, like he said. It wasn’t huge thing, I don’t think it affected him much, and I probably make a bigger deal about it in my head than it actually is. It will just always be one of those moments I’ll remember. I’m sure we all have moments like that don’t we? It’ll always be something I’d really like to be able to do over.

Personally, I need someone’s help everyday. There are people in my life who help me when I’m going through low periods, when I just need to get something off my chest, or when I just need good company to recharge myself spiritually. I’ve got some real pillars for people around me. My wife, is amazing! she straightens me out almost everyday. Some friends from church, and other people in my life are always there to help me. I guess it never occurred to me that those people aren’t just there for me, I need to be there for them too.

Being out in the world, socializing, and going to places where people go are not my most comfortable situations. I tend to be comfortable here, writing at my computer. this is where I open up. It’s a bit of a curse though, because I miss opportunities to help other people, in the same way that so many have helped me.

I’ve had a tendency to put some people on pedestals, like the guy at work. Sometimes I forget that we’re all human, even those I put on pedestals. All have fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no not one. All of us Christians are just a bunch of folks, trying and failing to be like Jesus. Some of us appear to fail less. 🙂 Not me. I fail a lot, and I’ll tell ya all about it. But we’re bound together by that one simple truth in Romans 5:8. But God shows his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The lesson for me is clear and simple. Love these people. For me, that means stepping out from behind my computer once in a while and showing it where people can see. It’s one of the worst feelings, being able to do something for someone and not doing it. I’d love to be more social, more outgoing, and try to be less introverted. That was my new years resolution for 2015, it didn’t go so well.

I don’t want to miss anymore opportunities to be the one that picks someone up when they fall. If you’re like me, and feel like you have these great people in your life too, I want you to know that we all have a responsibility to be that person to them, as seldom as they seem to need it, that they are to us nearly everyday. Really, it comes down to one simple point; love them. No matter what people are dealing with, whether they are batting a thousand, or struggling to hold it together, make sure that above all they know you love them.

We all fail. Some like me almost make a hobby of it, others blow your minds when they fail, because you’ve never seen them do it before. Maybe someday I’ll fail less. Maybe I’ll be a pillar to someone else someday. For now, I’ve got myself pretty well surrounded by people who pick me up, love me and help me along. I feel like we’re a herd of sheep following Jesus, and I’m the little one at the back struggling to keep up, getting dragged along. Then there’s those spiritually strong ones up toward the front, smiling bold and tough. They trip too, believe it. When they do, I hope we’re all ready to pick them up and help them along. Because one day, they are gonna need us, it may not be today or tomorrow, but one day they’ll need our help one way or another.

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Eating Off the Floor

I heard someone describe how they take communion once, and I don’t remember who it was, but their method stuck with me. When the tray is passed to me, I remove the two little cups. I separate them, and immediately dump the little square cracker out of the cup and into my palm. Then i stack the juice cup with the now empty cracker cup. It feels more personal to me to actually hold the cracker in my hand rather than tossing it back like pills from a cup at the doctor’s office. I stare at it for just a moment. Doing this puts my mind on the gravity of what Jesus did on the cross, and what I’m remember by eating the cracker. I feel it prepares my heart for remembering what Jesus did, then I bow my head and pray.

That’s how it usually goes anyway. Today, I fumbled the cracker and it fell on the ground. For just a second I thought to myself, it fell on the ground, I can’t eat it now. then I realized the awkward situation that it would create, not to mention the attention I would draw to myself to go find the tray and get another one. So I just picked the cracker up off the floor and ate it. It was kind of a humbling experience, because as I put the cracker in my mouth I glanced to my right to find my friend’s daughter staring at me with a sort of puzzled look. Then I realized this little girl has probably been told a hundred times not to eat off the floor, and here she is watching a full grown adult do just that. I nearly burst into laughter while the entire church was silently taking communion.

I felt like a 10 year old for just a minute, and ya know what? I think it was good for me. It’s easy to fall into a routine with communion and with other spiritual parts of life, and kind of just going through the motion every time. This particular time, I took communion while snorting to hold back a laugh and I just said, thank you Jesus, for everything. It absolutely brightened my day and put my head in a good place. So Janet, if you are reading this tell Z I said thanks. It was quite different from the heavy and somewhat somber atmosphere that usually fills the room during communion.

After service, each one of my kids dropped either a cookie or a goldfish cracker on the floor and ate it, and I couldn’t even be mad. I concluded that God is obviously giving me this theme for the day, because He wants me to write a blog post and give it this title…

In our Sunday school class we were discussing how to take what we talk about and learn on Sundays out into the world throughout the rest of the week. At lot of the discussion involved the work place. It had me thinking about a couple things. For starters, the work place is the most difficult place for me to hold on to my Christianity, followed closely by supermarket U-scan lines, and third, in traffic. Some days I hold up fairly well, but to be honest there are days that I… well I fall way short.

confession time.

I use to think that I worked in one of the most Godless places in the world, and that everyday at work I was like Indiana Jones walking through the tomb surrounded by snakes, shaking the torch and yelling at all of them. I felt like i was in dangerous territory and I had to shield myself and God against all the horrible atheists and sinners. Of course that’s ridiculous, but that’s how I viewed my workplace. You can’t do anything for God with a mentality like that. Especially nothing positive like we were talking about doing in our class.

It took a while, but I learned that the perspective I had about the world outside of church I created in my own head. I didn’t know any better because I never opened up enough to talk about faith with anyone. I eventually did, and what I found was shocking. I wasn’t alone. Some of these people I tried to shield myself from were doing great stuff for God.
Sure, there are plenty of people who disagree, who don’t want to talk about faith or Jesus. There are people who think we are down right sillier than doors on a motorcycle for believe in God. there will always be those folks, but we can’t do what we’re called to do as followers of Jesus if we refuse to let anyone see what God has done in our lives, because we don’t want to deal with the opposition. In fact, those are folks we are suppose to be shining our brightest to.

I still don’t have a lot figure out, but I’ve learned enough to know that we are never done learning. Every step of the way I learn something new about myself, about Jesus, what He wants from me. I think its when we stop learning that we need to look at ourselves and do a sort of assessment and make sure we are still on the right path. I won’t lie, I’ve had to do that recently myself. There have been several big changes in my life, in church, outside of church, at work, everywhere. With these changes I’ve had to stop and evaluate how I’m handling things and make sure I still have Jesus at the helm. I think we’re good now, and ready for the coming challenges. our church is doing a lot to motivate us to be the church God calls us to be. It won’t be easy, not for me, but I’m ready. And I’m glad I’ve got the people in my life to encourage and be encouraged by to keep moving forward.

Good night everybody, and God bless. as always, feel free to share.

P.S. I leave my blog posts littered with typos intentionallly because my wife loves to find them and point them out to me, and I think it makes her happy in some weird way.

Thoughts about Mike

This was my first Sunday back to church since Mike left. I see the elders are making an effort to try to keep facts clear among the members and that is appreciated. It’s certainly not an easy subject to discuss, but they are doing their thing and accepting that responsibility, which shows we still have strong leadership.

I took the news about Mike pretty hard. I have always felt that I have a special bond with Mike. He plays a very key role in my particular story, how I came to know Christ and be saved. It’s one of my favorite topics to write about, and Mike is plastered all over most of my blog entries. It never occurred to me that he may not be our preacher someday. Again, here I am being a “new guy” at church. I thought for sure that he’d be the one to baptize my kids and maybe even marry them.

I got the short version of why it happened and that’s all I really need to hear. The details don’t help. I’m not interested in details. I never asked the question “why?” No answer to that question will change the situation. Instead of hearing what the elders had to say at the Wednesday meeting, and instead of responding to people reaching out offering to talk about it, I spent about 3 days hating everything, and wanting to punch people in the face. Hey, I’m just being honest and real.

Finally I had to meet with a friend to discus what happened, not an elder. I love our elders, but again, I didn’t want to talk about why this happened, I needed to meet with someone I could trust to scream and yell at, and tell them how unfair this was to me, and I’m not going to be the same, and how I’m not ready to not have Mike be our preacher. I had to get all that off my chest before I could have a conversation with anyone about it at all. I had to be a five-year old child and throw a tantrum first, and I did a fantastic job of avoiding people and conversation.

This is where I’m at now…

I won’t punch anyone in the face, but I’m still not interested in a conversation about “why.” My only question is, and has been, “what now?” If I leave Cedar Creek because of this, then I was going to church for the wrong reason to begin with. I know some people are leaving, and maybe they have their own reasons, but I’m here in my own place, in my own walk with Jesus, and I can’t leave Cedar Creek for this. I’m heartbroken, I’m mad, I’m reverting somewhat back to being a shell dweller, but I’m still here, and still with Cedar Creek. And yes, this is THAT profound of an occurrence in my life to me and my family. Some people act like this is a sort of thing that just happens once in a while, some think it’s none of our business what happens between the elders and the ministers, but nothing anyone can say will cheapen this for me.

I see this as Growth that God is asking of me. Mike talked a lot about going from milk to solid food spiritually speaking, and how we grow in our faith. God is asking me to grow up a bit, and frankly I don’t feel ready. If I knew that one day I’d not have Mike as a preacher, I’d have tried harder. I would have paid more attention, I would have read my bible more, I could have prepared.

Cedar Creek is my home, and my church family is there, and I love you all. The childish part of me that just wants to be mad is still here a little, and I don’t feel the need to apologize for that, but I also think that we as a church collectively really have to stick together right now. We all have to grow through this. Pushing forward is all we can do. I think that means new responsibilities for some of us, myself included, although I don’t know what they are yet, but I need you people, and we need each other.

In John 6 many of the people who were following Jesus left when they realized it was going to be hard to keep going. when Jesus asked the 12, “do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Even though Mike won’t be our preacher anymore, God is still God, and once you know that, you can’t just walk away.

So here we are. We need to grow from this, and in this. I’m still kind of mad, I still miss Mike, I don’t know what I’m going to do without him, I don’t feel ready, but I’m willling. I’m listening, waiting to see what God wants from me, where He’ll take me from here. One reason I’m here is because we have an awesome church family, and I love you guys. Even though I’m mostly shy and quiet, my heart is huge and alive, and often times I struggle to contain my emotions. But mostly I’m still here because like Simon Peter, I know that God is still God. “Lord, where else would I go?” Mike taught me that.

thanks Mike. we love and miss you.

I’m Still Standing

An act of betrayal, by design, can only be delivered by those we allow close to our hearts. Betrayal by definition requires exposing a disloyalty from a source that was otherwise trusted. Sheer hate and judgment from those in obvious opposition is a blow I brace for, bare my chest to, and I accept those attacks willingly and peaceably. It’s the unexpected, soft, subtle knife in the back driven with a smile, that drops a man to the ground. It’s a discrete, devious, deceitful blade that cannot be defended against or countered. Delivered from within your inner circle, the very people you stand to guard, it comes while your eyes are turned.  One tiny sweet piercing word is more effective than all the abhorrent stones hurled in repugnance by the hateful hoards a man could face. It is said that a crocodile may eat a man, but will not pretend to be his friend first.

When a person speaks from their heart, they have to be, on some level, prepared to face ridicule and judgment. The majority that says, “Tolerance is key” are intolerant to those that are not all inclusively tolerant, and simply possessing an unpopular opinion about something will absolutely not be tolerated. I see that coming when I write, and I welcome it. In fact, I need ridicule and hate from some portion of the world in order to know that the theme of my heart is still in Christ. When all the world loves me, I’ve gone astray. I, and others like me, prepare for this reaction. We anticipate it, we depend on it. How do you plan on betrayal?

In my heart, I’m a writer. It’s where my passion lies. I’m not a talented writer, I’m not a good writer, I’m an honest and all confessing writer, and maybe a bit neurotic and introverted. In our minds, there is a place where thoughts are developed. For most people, that place connects to our mouths. We think something, we say it. We converse, we respond, we chat, we tell each other what we think. Over time, we develop social skills, filters, and other devices. For some others, that place doesn’t connect to our mouths very well. Maybe it is a narrow passage, a broken passage. I love people, so I’m social in my own awkward way, it just doesn’t come easy to me. For me, and others like me, our thoughts connect better to our hands. Some of us have a hard time controlling our emotions, our thoughts shoot around in our minds with fierce ardency, but it simply doesn’t come out our mouths. Instead, we write, we paint, we play music, we communicate our thoughts and feelings through other means.

God knows my heart better than I know my own heart. I know one thing for sure people, I am flawed. But I know who I am, and where I am, and how I got here, and where I came from. I know the scars that my mistakes have marked me with. I can accept my mistakes as lessons learned, because even if I lacked faith, the alternative to acceptance would result in self destruction. I simply must accept. If I couldn’t forgive myself, I’d become bitter and cold, and hate myself. That hate would then be projected at the rest of the world as well. I’d be swapping a hand grenade for a malatov cocktail.

While I’m not the same person I was ten years ago, I don’t view my changes as progress, because I don’t grade myself on a curve. I don’t have my own standards that I use in order to tell myself, “wow, you’re a really good person!”  Or, “wow, you have really been a turd lately.” I’m just growing. I see myself as just a person, just as anyone else, walking a path. I come to forks, and I make choices, Jesus as my compass, and a bible in my hand.  The further I walk down this path, the fewer people I see walking around me, and it saddens me, but I must walk on. I make wrong turns, I get lost in the woods, but for the love of God, I try with all of my being, and with His help, to put myself back on the path that I know I should be on. Only God knows better than I, how many times I have gone astray, and the choices that led me there, and the shame I feel.

Some of you know me personally, some of you do not. If you’ve read many of my entries here, you know me well enough. I don’t hide much. I give it away, because it is what I possess to give. However, being honest earns people like me some nasty criticism. I’m fine with that, and I can accept that it comes from all directions, from in front and behind. So to anyone who would wish to judge me for what I say here, I offer some words. Judge me for who I am, who I once was, hold things against me that I can never take back or undo. I praise God that not all people agree with me.

 Just one thing, before you judge me for what I have shared in love, know this. These are my struggles. They are no lesser or greater than yours, but they are mine. I struggle to tears trying to make my actions match my words, and I fail! Regardless of how I’m viewed, I will continue to write from my heart, because if I change who I am because of who you are, then I have lost my individuality, and am no longer who I claim to be. So judge me, call me a hypocrite, turn you nose up to me. But understand that however long it took you to read this, I just spent two hours writing it, with tears in my eyes, just to convey the simple idea to you that not only are you right, but I agree with you. You are not my toughest critic, I am.

I have dozens of friends who love me and my family, friends who have become my family, and I am in a rock solid place.  I will have ups and downs, but I know the people who will always be there for me. I hope to God they know who they are.  So, anyone with a blade, cut me. Jesus still wins, and I rejoice in His name. Now I’m going to bed, you’ve worn me out. Good night, God bless.

A Little Reflection, A Little Rebellion

Baby Violet and Nikki are upstairs sleeping, Dylan is sleeping, the girls are over at grandma’s house. So I’m in the basement at my desk reflecting on the past week and catching up on some “me” time. I’m playing a bit of guitar, working on a bit of calligraphy, talking to my pet fish, all the normal stuff people do when they’re alone. As I sit here, I’m having a few thoughts that I’d like to share.

As I hope most people know by now (given the dozens and dozens of pictures posted to facebook, Instagram, twitter, and everywhere else) Nikki had our fourth baby. Violet Lucille Proxmire. It is a very happy time for us, and yet a tad bittersweet at the same time. We’ve decided that four is where we will stop, and we are taking measures to ensure (as best as we can) that it is indeed our last baby.

 To be quite honest, it is almost all sweet as far as I’m concerned, and only slightly bitter, but Nikki is a bit sad to think that we won’t be having any more babies. My thoughts on the matter are, here we are, we’re done making our family. Now we get to enjoy raising it. It’s a whole new chapter of life, moving on from the “making” to the “shaping.” And to think, we have had all of our children before the age of 30. (in times like these I get to claim my wife’s age as well). Making our family has occupied much of our time in the past handful of years. Women know, there is a good year and a half from before the baby is born to well after, that you have time for very little more than meeting that baby’s needs. We’ve done it 4 times now. We are ready to move on and try to do more.

In other news, I made a website. Well, my tech support guy Greg made a website. I just do the admin stuff, check the email, and write stuff on it. When I can’t figure out how to do something, I message Greg. I paid the 8 bucks for the domain name though.  It’s still pretty new, and since my wife just had a baby, I haven’t worked on it much in the past week. It is a project at the fore front of my “stuff to do” list. It’s at www.staywed4life.com. I’m tossing around the idea of making it an open forum to get other people involved in posting entries and all that business. I won’t get into it much here, just go check out the website and read the 3 pages at the top that describe what it is about. Poke around and read some of the entries there. I’ll post new stuff on facebook, twitter, and Instagram as it comes.

 Oh, and by the way, the intent of this website is not to attack divorce, or people who have been divorced. I don’t know your circumstances or what you’ve been through, and I don’t mean to offend anyone with mission of this website, I only mean to encourage couples who are in a good place stay in a good place. I have many friends who are in their second marriage, they are serving God, and they solemnly believe that they are where they are meant to be. I wish to encourage them, and I invite them to encourage other as well.  

Also today, my preacher touched on a subject in his sermon that I had a strong opinion on until now. I’m assuming this happens to everyone once in a while. You hold an opinion about something, then later through a subtle nudge by the holy-spirit you discover that God actually speaks on the matter and what He says is different than what you say. If you are a believer and a Christ follower like I am, that means you have to make an adjustment because He isn’t going to.

I know that sort of thinking is contrary to popular thought today. I’m in the process of putting together a separate entry solely dedicated to discussing this one subject, but for now I will only skim the surface. It’s the idea that the Bible is timeless. Its teachings are just as relevant to us today as they were to those living in the span of time that the bible was being written. I hear and see posts of people who otherwise claim to be Christians saying things like, “Some of the things in the bible don’t apply to us today. Things are different today than they were back then.” I have a handful of things I’d like to say in response to those comments, particularly when made by self-professing Christians. I’ll save most of them for when I’ve worked out a way to be a bit more edifying with my responses. For now I’ll stick to just saying, believe it or not, the bible was written with you in mind.

 It isn’t less valuable to us just because a couple thousand years have passed. In fact, it is believed that it took roughly 1600 years to write the Bible, and the gap from the Old Testament to the New Testament is over 400 years.  It wasn’t written for one particular period in time is my point. Much of what we get from the Bible are core values, principles, and rules to live by, which do not (I hope for everyone) change just because the world changes. We have new technology, new tools, new benefits, and new problems. But we can maintain our integrity all the same.

Anyway, I went off on a bit of a tangent there. The point I was making is that I’ve held on to this idea that anyone can call themselves a Christian in today’s world. It’s so loosely defined that it can really mean anything. As my preacher says, “It’s often the default check box.” I grew to dislike the word, to dislike hearing people use it without clarifying what it means. I wanted a different word, a different title. Something that says, “No, I don’t fall into the 85% of the population who claim to be Christians but whose actions, beliefs, and sources for beliefs leave you wondering.” But, “Christian” is the name we were given, and I just have to deal with the fact that all those who call themselves “Christians” don’t even agree on what it means. It’s a shame really that we don’t agree. I hear that the number 1 reason people don’t become Christians is because they see how Christians act.

I know I have no authority to define the word “Christian,” but just to clear this up and bring myself some closure before I end my rebellion against the title, I’d like to be clear on what I have in mind when I use the word Christian. When I say “I’m a Christian,” what I really mean is, “I’m a Christ following, Bible believing, Jesus loving, neighbor serving, spirit lifting, saved, born again, the old is dead, new life bearing, humbled, family leading, children teaching, church going, flawed, sinning, forgiven, dwelling place for the holy spirit, singing, clapping (but not at the same time) praying, servant of the one true King, who is waiting for the return of the Lord, who aims to live for a higher purpose than to serve himself, to do God’s work, to keep his commandments, to live as Jesus lived, and to love as Jesus loved, member of the body of Christ, who is soft hearted, tries to be obedient, cries at Disney cartoons, who fails miserably, but wakes up every day and falls to his knees, thankful that he gets the chance to live for Jesus and fail one more day, thank you God, my life is Yours, Christian.” There. Yes, I’m a Christian.

Well folks, I’m going to get back to singing to my fish. So long, good night, God bless. Thanks for reading.

my practice audience.

my practice audience.

Someone told me to write shorter entries… so here

Hi everybody! I just wanted to pop back up on your radar for a minute and say a few words. I want to thank everyone who read my last entry ‘my testimonial, the written version.’ I know it was incredibly long, but I had a lot to say, and I didn’t want to leave anything out. That entry got passed around quite a bit, so hopefully it did some good in at least a few people’s lives. It did one thing that to me was incredible. It made it all the way to my dad, who I wasn’t sure knew how to use the internet, and it sparked an incredible conversation with him that I will remember for the rest of my life. If it reached no one else but him, then it did all I could have hoped it to. That was huge to me.
As most people know, my wife is about to have a baby. She’s eleven months pregnant and due any day. We are kind of in survival mode right now just waiting for the baby to come. I will admit, my patience lately have been lacking, I’m doing better today, but it was an ugly weekend. So just pray for us, this is number 4, and the last one if we have any say at all. Nikki is getting a bit nervous as we are winding down to her big day of labor and she looks ahead to all of what that day has in store for her. So pray for her too. She says, “thanks a lot eve.” I shrug at her.
I’ve been following my feet lately and looking for new chapters to open in my life. I’ve been working on some things, trying to better myself, do more for my people, and contribute to my church and all of God’s people, and just basically try to be a better influence in other people’s lives. I’ve gone out in a direction, and when I get the chance I’ll share all of that with you fine folks, and hopefully I can do even more. For now, we are focusing on having a baby, and little else is on the priority list… other than fixing the garage door that my wife broke. Sorry for calling you out dear! Love ya.
So here’s a nice sweet short one for all you whiners with no time to read. I’m teasing, you know I love ya. If you do however get time, click on the home button up there somewhere and poke around at some other entries. Give them a share, subscribe, send me hate mail, whatever you feel like doing. Thanks for reading, God bless, goodnight.