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.

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.

Speaking at the men’s group

               I changed the name of this entry several times… i couldn’t pick between Hey Mom I’m On TV!, No Autographs Please!, or My Big Debut!. i settled on the more reserved and simple Speaking at the men’s group

               Saturday morning I was a “guest speaker” although I think that term is a little too formal and makes it sound like I do this sort of thing regularly. I stood in front of a bunch of guys and told them a story about how I went from lost to found. That’s what I’d call it. Me and a guy set this event up about 2 and a half months ahead of time. That’s how far out I had to schedule it in order to agree to doing it. I’ll tell ya, I was certainly nervous. I knew I shouldn’t have been but I couldn’t help it. I practiced my speech over and over again in my basement the day before I spoke. I kept changing my notes, kept finding new things I wanted to add, things I took out. I thought some of my subject matter was a little out there for some of the guys, and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. But to in order to be honest and sincere and genuine, I had to share some things that I didn’t necessarily want to. It was the only way I could share my story.

                I learn new things about the way church works all the time. By “church” I mean the people that make up the body of Christ, the family, the brotherhood. The REAL people. Not the building, not the snazzy looking folks on Sunday morning all shaking hands and smiling even though there’s something in their lives right now that makes them want to cry. I mean the folks that are out in the world right now doing their best to show Jesus to the world. They aren’t perfect people, they don’t have it “all together,” they aren’t cookie cutouts of each other. I didn’t always know this to be true, but even now, I see more and more all the time of how the body of Christ, the people, work together and treat each other. I got to witness it some more Saturday morning.

                Sitting at the table with some guys in the few minutes before I spoke, I did loosen up a bit. Listening to the guys sit and chat I got a little more comfortable. But I still felt that my subject matter might be a little harsh for these guys. I just hoped they came with open minds. After I was introduced, I began to approach the front of the room.  I felt my heart speed up and my face get a little red. I fumbled my notes around as I opened up with the joke I practiced a hundred times. I don’t really remember, but I’m almost certain I still messed it up. I still got a laugh which was a great relief. Getting up there was half the work. I was there, I had my scribbled notes, now all I had to do was open my mouth and let the words fall out.

                I warmed up rather quickly. I got a few laughs out of the guys that made it go a little easier. I spoke, I don’t think I said “umm” too many times, and I stayed on track with my notes for the most part. The trouble with my notes was that I practiced this several times and had not been able to keep it below 45 minutes. I cut it down from an hour, but I didn’t really want to remove any more detail. Eventually I reached a point where I was speaking confidently and paying less attention to my notes. Looking back now, I realize I should have looked down once in a while. I skipped a few things, I left some stories open ended, I added things I didn’t mean to add. Still it went rather well I think.

                It was obvious that it was my first time speaking. I think it could have gone a little better. It almost felt like turning in a rough draft as a final copy for an assignment. But, I think most of that is in my head. I did fine. I got my point across, and the reaction from the guys was kind, and a little unforeseen. I got lots of handshakes, smiles, some of the guys were more touched than others which was awesome for me. There were some tears as well. To be honest I was praying that I could get through all of this without breaking down myself.

                There’s this image I can’t get out of my head. It’s been there since before I was a church goer. It’s the image of church people running around church, all dressed up, smiling and shaking hands, saying “good morning, bless you, praise God, see ya later.” Almost putting on this façade that life is perfect, no one is struggling with anything, and we are all happy with each other. It’s not just an image in my head either, it really does tend to happen… but its only the surface. If you don’t pay attention that can be all you see. It’s easy for us church people to get into that groove, that routine. But I promise you, if you scratch at the surface a bit, you will find that these people are all people with problems, struggles, worries, and everything else you’ll find in the rest of the world… but we love Jesus.

                I love having some of that realness of the people exposed. It keeps things genuine. It gives us a chance to actually be what we claim to be, people who support one another, and love one another, care for one another and pray for one another, and get each other through hardships for the love of God.  One thing I discovered while speaking to these guys is that although I thought I might offend them a bit, I was absolutely not alone in my struggles with this group. The best part of speaking to them was that it got some of them to open up to me afterward about their struggles, and we shared stories and thoughts and encouraged one another. It was amazing. In truth, I’d have to say that the whole experience was more for me than it was for them. I left feeling an incredible sense of relief. It  was an awesome exercise in being a real group of people, with real problems, real pasts, and still we as Christians brought to life the idea of “as steel sharpens steel, one man sharpens another.”  

                I loved speaking to them, and I’d certainly do it again. I left feeling like I grew from this experience and I think many of them did too, so mission accomplished, it was a win for team Jesus. That’s what matters. I went up there to glorify God, and I believe that was achieved.

                Just as a heads up, the event was recorded. There is a copy of it floating around somewhere. I don’t know what the church has planned to do with it, but I’m sure I’ll get a copy and it will probably surface on my blog or facebook, or in email or something. The only issue about posting the video to my blog is that I don’t have the paid version of my blog, so I’m a bit restricted on the amount of data I can upload. But I’ll look into it and figure something out. I WILL be posting the written version of my speech here soon. They will differ quite a bit too, just because of my inexperience speaking in public, and editing the story down to an appropriate length. So check them both out! Thanks. God bless.  

General Update

I just wanted to give kind of a general update for anyone who may be interested. I have not gone away, I’m still working on writing blog entries. My blog entries are always a products of some recent experience that has spurred some realization, or raised some question, or what ever else can be caused by a significant occurrence in my life. I’m playing with the idea of blogging on a regular schedule, but one issue with that is that I don’t want to try and force myself to write about something. I like it to come naturally. As I said, my blogging is always a result of something inspirational happening to me. However, I would like to have some structure to how I do this, and it would probably be something like every other Sunday or so. Having said that, I realize it has been a while since I have posted anything, so this will serve as a kind of “in between” entry. It’s certainly not that nothing significant has happened recently. It seems that each blog I write is more difficult than the previous one. I have learned why I don’t post first drafts, that’s for sure.

 

As most people reading this probably know, my family and I have moved. It’s been a couple months now actually. We have been waiting a few years to move and are relieved and thankful to the Lord beyond what my words can express for our blessings. It’s been great! We have been (and will be for some time) working on some general projects around the house that have kept us busy. The extra space has blessed us with the opportunity to begin homeschooling our daughters. I’m over a month into my fall semester. I’m taking a computer forensics class, and a Linux+ certification class, and loving them both. Operating systems are so fascinating to me. Anyway, the point is that we have been very busy!

 

There are some upcoming events. Some of them are very exciting, some just make me nervous, but I’m looking forward to them all. My wife and I are hosting a sort of party this weekend. We Just want to get everyone together that we have received help from in one way or another, or who have just had a positive impact on our lives in recent years, and just great friends that we appreciate, and we want to tell them “thank you for being awesome.” This is exciting and frightening at the same time, because, well, I could go on about how socially awkward I feel that I am, and how social events make my wife very anxious, and really, we are both rather shy, but it doesn’t matter. All of the folks we have invited already know that anyway.

 

Something very exciting that I’m definitely looking forward to, is that my wife and I will be, well, hosting I suppose you’d call it, a couple of kids from another country for an event coming up here. I will definitely blog about that experience once its over, but I won’t say much about it right now other than, wow! I never thought I’d be doing this, and I’m really looking forward to it, and so is Nikki.

 

My wife and I have joined a Sunday morning study class, group, church thing, I’m not sure what to call it but it does have a name. I go as often as I can which is not as often as I’d like. We have a great teacher, he is a great speaker and I value what he has to say greatly. I have been blessed with having some great role models placed in my life recently. We’ve been given a bible chapter to read and present a sort of summary on to our class, which has my wife and I both a little terrified and excited at the same time. Either way, it’s a major event to me.

 

Other than that, It has been a lot of just getting used to the new house, the new surroundings, and everything. We came from living in a neighborhood with a gas station and grocery store a short walk away, to living in the country (I call it) 6 miles from anything. It’s a totally different environment, and we love it but it does require some adapting. We get to see dear in our backyard about every other morning. The wildlife is gorgeous out here, and plentiful. I get to hear the raccoons and cats fight late at night which is…different. It’s great out here and we love it.

 

 

Well that about sums up the passed two months or so. We’ve just been keeping busy. We’re just living, appreciating what we have and thanking God for it, opening up another chapter in our lives, and pushing on, and growing together as a family. Keep your eyes open for more blog posts coming soon. I’ve got plenty to say, it’s a matter of arranging the right words in the right order. That’s what seems to take up my time. You know, I always start with an experience, and I know what I want to say about it and describe how it affected me, but by the time I get to the end it has warped into something completely different somehow, which is equally as meaningful to me. It’s almost as if I learn more about myself writing something than you do reading it. Have a great day.