Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Selection

A few weeks ago, someone calling himself simply "Jailer" showed up here at Dwell & Cultivate. An online conversation ensued and we are becoming blogging friends. After one of my posts this week, he called my attention to one of his posts. It's a story written by a follower of his blog that I think will really touch you. Read it and tell us what you think about it.

I plan to be back with you tomorrow.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Looking back, I would never have chosen to be standing there 36 years ago today. There was in a quiet place at the Albuquerque airport. Saying goodbye to my wife after just seven married months. With my mother-in-law waiting nearby to take Cathy to her girlhood home.

No, it's not what you might think. Our parting wasn't because of problems. We shared a last kiss and I boarded the plane unsure of what I would find at the other end of my journey.

In a way, this "trip" had begun many months earlier. The previous Spring I had left college -- without graduating -- on my way to a new job and a new life. That August Cathy and I, after a summer in different regions of the country, met in New Mexico for our wedding.

1972 was a turbulent year in our nation's history. The "push back" to Viet Nam had finally brought the announced withdrawal of U.S. forces. With the end of that long conflict came the planned conclusion of the draft. I lost my student deferment when I left school, but was still surprised to learn that -- with a low draft lottery number -- I would be selected if I passed my physical.

I received my notice to report for that physical when we arrived back at my job in Ohio. That was just the beginning of a vortex of change that would re-direct our lives. Before the scheduled physical date I left my job and we traveled back to New Mexico to decide our next step. Upon arrival there, I went to see the local Army National Guard recruiter, who was an old family friend. He tested my aptitude for service and scheduled a physical a number of weeks before the one already on the calendar.

I took that physical, expecting to be passed over because of my (very) flat feet. At the end, the physician took notice of my "malady" and seemed to say that he was declaring me "fit for service" since I had enlisted and (obviously) wanted to join the military. My real plan had been to take the physical early, be given a deferment and go on with my life -- probably back to college.

My enlistment date was early November, but the earliest date I could receive for Basic Combat Training was March 20, 1973. I was headed to Fort Ord, California.

It was lonely and nerve-wracking as I flew across the western U.S. The first few days at the "Reception Station" are a blur now. The regimen of getting haircuts, inoculations and uniforms was really no big deal. The Drill Instructors seemed like reasonably nice men.

Until we stepped off the bus at our barracks for the "real" beginning of training. Those gentle, understanding guys who were helping us figure out life in the army became yelling, pushy, ornery, bossy thorns in our collective sides. That first week was horrible. Gradually we settled in to the task of leaving behind our individuality and becoming soldiers. Our instructors were all recent Viet Nam vets and they were preparing us for what they had just faced.

It was, perhaps, the most challenging two months of my life.

And I've been grateful for it ever since. It's why March 20 is indelibly etched in my personal calendar.

What has stretched you permanently?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rare Thursday Breather

My week is running away faster than I can catch it. That means I'm giving you a "Rerun" today. For new readers, you wouldn't have known if I had kept quiet. For all, I'll see you tomorrow!

My wheels were coming off...I just didn't know it!

When my "jewel" Cathy read yesterday's post, she said: "You need to tell your readers the rest of the story. Tell them how you used to be." Having reread it myself, I quickly agreed that I almost made myself sound a bit "too together." So, here goes.

When our son was 3 and our twin daughters were 6 months, Cathy took the girls to the Dr. for their regular check-up. This one included one of their series of immunization shots.

I got home from work that afternoon all excited about the college basketball game I was scheduled to attend that night. It was late in the season and our small college (I worked there at the time) team was good. In fact, they ultimately won the national championship in their division that year. I tell you that small detail so you will understand how important it was for me to go to the game. (a-hem)

Our girls were having typical reactions to their shots. Both were running slight fevers and were extra fussy. Cathy, with two crying babies and a full-speed 3-year-old, was trying to prepare dinner. One look in her eyes and It was obvious she was wiped out!

"All fine and good," I thought. "Let's just get this thing put together so I can get to my game!" The only problem was that the girls weren't really ready for bed right after dinner. And our son didn't go to bed until 8 p.m. The game started at 7:30!

That's when it happened. I couldn't believe it! My thoughtless wife actually asked me to stay home and help her with the kids! I mean, couldn't she see how important this was?

Wonderful, suffering husband that I am, I stayed home until Sean was in bed. All the while, I was listening to the game on the radio and COMPLETELY DETACHED from my family.

As soon as our son was down, I ran out the front door to watch the second half live. In my most gracious (and clueless) voice, my departing words were, "Please check the basketball schedule next time before you take them for their shots."

I almost included the word "jerk" in today's title. As humbling as it is to tell you this story, I must also admit that it took several years for me to realize just how "out of balance" I was that night.

There you have it, Rachel Cotterill! And there you have it, other blogging friends. I hope it helps you.

I have no idea who won the game that night, but my personal failure helped prepare me for better times in the game of life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sometimes, I Feel Like A Nut...

...because, well, I AM a nut! Those of you who read Dwell & Cultivate on a regular basis know that I often tell some goofy story about something in circle of family or friends. I frequently tell our staff or volunteers that, if I'm not giving you a hard time, something must be wrong.

It will really be outlandish to some of you to hear that, last Sunday I read the following verse..."As Scripture says, 'How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News.'" (Romans 10:15 God's Word) The outlandish part is that I wanted people to see it!

So I asked everyone to remove their shoes and socks, then look at their own feet as I read it. Fortunately, we live in a warm climate and our Sunday weather was gorgeous! In fact, a few of the bravest ones are already jumping into their backyard pools -- unheated pools!

I can imagine the horror some of you feel as you read this, but please listen for a moment... I doubt if anyone present will ever read that passage the same again! The vote was near unanimous: nobody considered their feet their most attractive feature.

Until I told them about strange sounds in the middle of dark nights in the country when my daddy would start down the hall to check on us. I could hear his feet hit the floor and immediately felt comforted!

So, my fellow fear-feeling friend, remember the gospel of the Beverly Hillbillies..."Sit a spell. Take your shoes off!" Remember, "Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear." (1 John 4:18 New Century Version)

"Ya'll come back now! Y'hear?"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hands Shaking, Voice Quaking

There I stood, stomach doing fearful somersaults. Where did that come from? I remembered those fits of nervousness from previous experiences. But it was all the way back in high school!

This time, I wasn't standing up as inexperienced speaker. Goodness, I spoke several times a week in front of crowds at church.

But this was different. This audience was, like me, pastors and professionals. We were there to learn something about how to use the Bible to counsel others. And we were being grilled ourselves. Our teacher was so knowledgeable, so authoritative.

I was so intimidated.

Why? Were they going to arrest me? Beat me. Kick me out of the group? Of course not! I was afraid of failing.

Worse. I was afraid of being a failure. There. It's out now.

I have sent some of you on a journey over the past couple of days. I have asked you to think about things that usually don't occupy your time. Now I'd like to share a few things I have learned about fear.

1. Some fear is normal. Someone said, "When I get really afraid I come to you in trust." (Psalm 56:3 The Message) The interesting thing is who said it: the guy that killed Goliath!

2. Many fears make no sense. I heard a pastor say one time that he was afraid of flying. "Don't you know that the Bible says that the Lord will send His angels to protect you?" asked his friend. The pastor retorted, "Yeah, and it also says, 'Lo, I am with you always!'"

3. Facing our fears helps us overcome them. Granted, there's nothing like some support and encouragement to help us with this.

4. Facing our fears and insecurities can, over time, diminish their power over us. Some of the situations that intimidated me the most when I was young are little or no problem now. Facing them (sometimes with hands shaking and voice quaking) has gradually given me confidence that I will be okay. Lots of years, lots of encouragement, and lots of prayers later, I'm better.

So, my reader friend, how can we within this little community encourage you?

Monday, March 16, 2009

...Is Falling Down

It was just a chain. Stretched across a roadway to keep autos out. About a foot from the ground. "Piece of cake," I thought as I noticed it in my path during a morning run. A simple hop over without breaking stride. So I hopped...

...about 11 1/2 inches...

...and went down hard. Fear and humiliation are what I felt on the way down. Then painful abrasions.

I have a dream that recurs occasionally. In it I'm falling and have that feeling that comes from having nothing to hold on to. The dream may be the result of the time I fell off a horse as a kid. Or the time I took a nasty tumble off a bike. Or the time in an Army leadership training class when I had just come through a pool of water and scaled a wall. I reached for a horizontal bar as I went over the top and lost my grip because of my wet hands. I fell head first about six feet.

I combine all those experiences with my revelation yesterday about fearing being lost or left. I think the root of them all is one word...helplessness. That bit of self-understanding leads me to a painful memory.

My dad was the kind of man who faced circumstances head-on. If something broke, he was usually able to fix it. He built the house I grew up it -- much of it by himself. We were once on a family outing in dad and mom's van. A wheel bearing went out in a remote, mountainous area. He stopped in a tiny village and took apart the wheel. We found one of the very few residents of the place and they had some Crisco shortening. Dad cleaned and packed the bearing with it and drove about 200 miles home that way.

But he faced some things he couldn't fix. He couldn't fix it when my 20-year-old sister died of a heart infection. And he couldn't fix his inoperable cancer.

During our last fishing trip with him, dad, my brother and I were walking back to our camp area from the lakeshore. Here we were, his two sons, one on each side of him.

We knew his pain was growing less manageable. He looked at us and said, "Boys, I want you to pray for me." "Sure, dad," we both replied. He went on, choked by emotion. "I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to be helpless."

Dad died about ten months later. We were all amazed at how quickly he went, once he couldn't take care of himself.

Some of you responded yesterday. Now that I have dug a little deeper, do you have greater insight into your fears. If so, please comment. If you haven't shared some of those fears with us, we would love to hear from you today.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Fear or Know Fear

I have lived long enough to be fortunate in that I have identified some of my childhood insanity. Don't get me wrong -- I don't use the term lightly. It's just that some things we think or feel as children just aren't true.

On the one hand (I'm sorry to break this to my brother and sister), we start our early years believing in Santa Claus, who isn't real. That's normal because our parents are complicit in the deception.

But what about those things we weren't taught and ran counter to our early environment. Take our particular fears, for instance.

I can narrow mine to two specific areas: getting lost or getting left. (Bear with my alliteration -- I'm a pastor and it's incurable.) I can recall a childhood vacation in Colorado. I was very young. My big concern was that we might be lost. On a highway. With signs telling us where we were. With a confident, trustworthy dad telling me we were okay. Yet, I was afraid.

Clearer to me was the time -- I was in fifth grade -- when my parents drove 500 miles to attend the funeral of my mom's girlhood best friend. I had palpable fear that they wouldn't return. It so concerned me that, when they arrived home after the 2-3 day trip, my mom came to my classroom before school was out to let me know that they were back.

My home was a picture of stability. My parents loved each other and loved us. We didn't live in doubt that one of our parents would betray the family.

But I was afraid.

I would like to talk a bit about fear this week. So I need your help.

What did you fear when you were growing up? Why? I would love to read your comments.