A Crazy Week – In Other Words, Normal

This will be long, but it HAS been a while.

It has been quite a week.

We managed to over-schedule ourselves again; we have a hard time saying ‘no’, and the things we signed up for, individually, are no big deal.  But together, they just about killed us earlier this week.

Of course, I’m doing the blog-a-thon, and I’ve been scrambling this week to put together enough posts to meet the required 24.

This is VBS week at church.  There are a few ‘big things’ our church’s children’s ministry does throughout the year, and this is one of them.  Lintilla and I have become associated with the 4th and 5th grade kids (we’ll be teaching a new group on Wednesday nights next year), and we volunteered to shepherd these kids through VBS.

This group of kids is incredibly bright, and problematic at the same time.  They are 95% boys.  A good number are ADHD (or at least they act that way), and their age means that normal VBS activities are too childish for them.  So, we adopted a curriculum that takes them out of the normal VBS activities, and involves them in “service” – little mini-missions (More on that later).

So, this past weekend, we had family activities planned (some of them fun!); that meant that household chores had to be put off.  Monday and Tuesday, I worked my butt off getting the house clean, doing the laundry, getting groceries, mowing the lawn.  I knew that starting Wednesday, there would be no time for any of that.  Our days, through Saturday, would be packed morning-to-bedtime.

And then came Wednesday.

After work, Lintilla and I had to meet with her doctor (the urologist this time).  A few weeks earlier, the oncologist had found a “spot” on her kidney.  We weren’t sure what it was, so we kept quiet about it.  But I had a good idea what to expect when the doctor asked me to come in with Lintilla for the consultation.

The doctor took forever to see us (don’t get me started about that), so we were already running late.  She told us that Lintilla had a small tumor – something called Renal Cell Carcinoma.  It wasn’t related to the tumor she had last year.

There is a surgery to remove it, that involves cameras, robotics, and all kinds of high-tech stuff, and it is 93% effective (the tumor does not return).  The doctor does not want to perform the surgery right now (neither do we).  She wants to look at it again in Aug/Sep, and, in her words, “the tumor will tell us what to do.”  If it has grown, we’ll schedule surgery soon thereafter.  If not, we’ll wait till early next year, because she just had another major surgery this past December, and I’d rather not her have to go through two painful Christmases in a row.

Both of us are just a little weary right now.  So, if we can wait, and no harm come of it, we’ll wait.

So, in the middle of the consult, Lintilla notices it’s after 5, and I have to pick up the kids in Bellevue at 5:30, or they’ll get taken back to Camp Renaissance in Dickson and I’ll have to pay a fortune.  So, I rush out to Bellevue, and barely make it in time. (One thing I learned delivering pizzas – driving smart routes is infinitely more useful than driving fast).

The kids are now upset that I can’t feed them – I have to take them directly to VBS at church.  We do get there about 5 minutes before the start of VBS, and wolf down some food the director generously saved for us, then get to the proceedings.

I can’t begin to tell you how awfully the children (all of them, not just mine) behaved.  The first night of VBS, in this curriculum, is supposed to be a time of learning just what service is.  But there are no activities, and I think this was a mistake.  It was simply chaos.  We never really got them under control, and Lintilla at one point lost her temper and yelled at them (fun VBS, huh?)

Then we had to stick around and make sure every kid (in all levels) left with a parent.  We got home at 9 and crashed, exhausted.

Then yesterday, things started to turn.  Work, for me has actually been light this week, so at least I have that going for me.  Lintilla’s boss let her shift some patients around so she could leave early yesterday and today and have unwind time before VBS.

For VBS, we took the kids to a nursing home to serve ice cream and cookies and visit.  Y’all – it was such a turnaround, it was just incredible.  To see these kids – the ones who had been totally incorrigible the day before – display a warmth and tenderness toward Alzheimer’s patients, well, it brought a tear to my eye.  I’ve dealt with Alzheimer’s patients before; many times they can’t speak back, but the look in their eyes tells you how they feel.

They were beaming.  Perhaps the presence of the children kindled feelings for their own kids and grandkids.  It was quite a sight to see.

Today, I am somewhat more at peace.  Plugging into that awesome love of God will do that.  Yes, there will be upheaval in the coming months, but we’ve become old pros at living through upheaval.  And we have an incredible network of friends who are eager and willing to help. 

Having a spouse go through cancer surgery is like single parenthood – plus .  You have the short-term pressures of single-parenthood (the household still has to be run), plus a spouse that needs looking after, along with the added worry of navigating our archaic health insurance system.  It can be a lot of worry.

But, Jesus says “Do not worry”, so, dadgummit, I will not worry.  It’s going to be all right.  It’s going to be better than all right.

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.  He will turn our sorrow into dance.  The words of my favorite Psalm are always there to comfort.  Soon, I’ll be dancing a jig.

I do not know, specifically, how we will get through all of this, but I know we will get through it.  I don’t *believe* it, I *know* it.

Lintilla, as usual, has a great attitude about all of this.  She prefers to deal with things by diving into distracting activities, so that’s what we’re doing. (My only regret is that we haven’t had time to sit, absorb, and talk about what all of this means) 

Tonight, we take the VBS kids to cook and serve dinner for the folks at the Ronald McDonald house.  Now that they are getting this service thing down, I have faith that it will go well.  I will have my eyes open, looking for God. 

I also have some stuff going on at work that might be very, very good.  Do I dare summon up the courage to switch departments and start all over again at my age?  We’ll see.

I know, I know.  It would be much better if I posted short, one subject posts every day instead on one giant post every couple of weeks.  What can I say?  I’ve been BUSY.

Thoughts From My Weekend

  • It’s funny sometimes, the things we use to mark the passage of time.  I receive exactly two sunburns a year.  I ALWAYS burn at the first Titans home game, and I always, always,always get my first sunburn of the year at the Bellevue Picnic.  You’d think one day I’d learn to use sunscreen on those two days.
  • We played at West Nashville Baptist church yesterday, and it was quite a blessing.  This was the first time we have done an altar call where someone answered the call.  Having been a Methodist for six years , but having been a Baptist in my youth, I had forgotten just how emotional a moment like that can be.  I had a hard time playing, with tears welling up in my eyes, seeing a young man “come to the Lord”, as we used to say.
  • I really like the pastor.  He spoke of an evangelical and charismatic movement within mainline churches, and he used the term Pentebaptist to describe himself, and Methocostals to describe the members of X-Alt.  I like it.  I am proud to call myself a Methocostal.  It describes my beliefs perfectly.
  • Luke 21:1-4
    As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.”I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  – I’ve understood this verse for years, but I’ve really never felt it before, until yesterday.  I don’t know how much more I can say, except that I’m in awe and that some gifts are very hard to accept.
  • I got lost finding the church yesterday, and in my wandering around I discovered something shocking:  there are parts of The Nations that are being gentrified.  The NATIONS!  What’s next?  Woodbine?  Could be. It didn’t seem so long ago, I couldn’t go into Sylvan Park after dark, for fear of crime.  Now, i can’t go into Sylvan Park after dark because I might get pulled over for disturbing the trendy rich people.  Life is strange, if you live it long enough.
  • Susie had a little mishap with her car yesterday.  I know it was upsetting, and I’m sorry for the damage to her car.  BUT, I am grateful that it was only a replaceable window that was lost, and not my dear friend and singing partner.
  • To all you young people: getting old sucks.  Beats the alternative, but it sucks nonetheless.  During the load-out yesterday, I must have pulled something in my back, overcompensating for my tailbone injury.  Now, I hurt from my back all the way down to my backside.  Drugs.  More drugs.
  • I am REALLY looking forward to seeing my parents and brother this weekend.  It’s a long drive, (and we’re making two round trips in two weeks), but it will be worth it to see family, and to allow my kids to have their first little taste of independence, and grand-parental spoiling.
  • Boy, what a difference new tires make on a Chrysler Town and Country!
  • The weekend is too short.

I Wonder If There Will Be Swag?

This looks to be pretty interesting:

Músico a Músico announces Nashville Conference of Praise and Worshiping Arts

I wonder if they’d want X-Alt to present on how to navigate church politics?  How to re-invent yourself after you’ve been fired?  How to fit 11 people on a 15-foot stage? How to vary your service based on the congregation (for vagabond acts such as ourselves)? How to develop a thick skin, because grumpy, picky congregants are not shy?


Seriously, I’m very interested, if only as  an attendee.  To say that Nashville has a thriving praise and worship scene is an understatement.  There is some real worship going on out there, in little churches dotted across our city, if you look past the megachurches.  And even there, you can find worship. 

I’ve been in more diverse churches, diverse in every way, in the past 3 years than most people see in their entire lives.  Most people lack that perspective; I wish you could see what I’ve seen!  I’ve seen every type of worship there is; some focus on “spirit”,  some on “truth”, the best ones have a balance.  If it is Christ-focused, it’s ALL good. 

Merry Christmas To All From Shoot The Moose!

I pray that each and every one of you receives joy and peace.

You know, I’ve always swore I’d never become one of “those people”, the ones who, when asked what they want for Christmas, reply “I don’t want anything – I’ve got everything I need.”

Well, I’ve become one of those people.

This is a weird Christmas; because of the events of the last month, we’ve been unable to go to any parties, or shop for surprises (we’ve had to be together while we shop this year), or any of the other usual stuff at Christmas that stresses us out. 

And I swear, this Christmas, with minimal (but heartfelt) decorations, and a lot of time spent just at home with one another, appears to be turning out to be one of the best ever.

Lintilla’s prognosis is good; it sounds corny, but how could I want more? Jimmy Stewart once said that Frank Capra made you pay for your happy endings.  Well, had it not been for the end of November and early December, I’d be complaining and stressed out about this crazy Christmas.

Instead, I am filled with a joy that is hard to describe.

Yesterday, at church, we dressed the kids up as much as we could without things coming to blows (Trillian is much more cooperative), and went to “big church”, the traditional service.  The tween kids were to read passages in between verses of “The Friendly Beasts”, which the little kids were singing.  All of them were adorable.

Zaphod came to his podium (our church has the two-podium setup), and read his lines flawlessly.  I was so happy, because he’s balked at doing things like this before, and I was afraid he’s say something crazy or roll his eyes in front of the entire congregation.  But, he gave me a wonderful gift by just showing how articulate he is, and not showing out for his friends.

Later came Trillian’s turn.  She stepped up to her podium, and I swear, at that moment, the sun streamed through the stained glass and bathed the left side of her face. She literally looked angelic.  Her soft, sweet voice read the lines (the hardest of the bunch) beautifully.  I was struck to the point of tears.

As she stepped down and the little kids began singing again, I looked at the cross between the two podiums, and thought to myself:

Thank you.

I am living a life I certainly don’t deserve. and have been given the gift of an even better eternal one.

I want to say that I thank God for each and every one of you.  You really are a gift that few men ever receive. 

If You See My Mind

…just drop it in any mailbox.  We’re back from the metropolis of Milton,FL.  It was a hectic, but nice Thanksgiving.  While visiting with the folks, it occurred to me:  my mom is melodramatic, my dad, morose.  I got a good dose of both. No wonder I’m insufferable sometimes.

I also realised, for some unknown reason, that I will most likely never see Halley’s comet.  It came in 1986, but I was too involved with whatever trivial nonsense was going on my my life at the time, and didn’t bother to look to the sky.  I’ll be 99 when it comes again, if I make it that far.  Somehow, it seems to be a good metaphor for life.

Tomorrow is the day we get some real answers.  Lintilla and I meet with the oncologist, and we’ll not only find out more about the nature of the cancer she has, but also answers to some of those logistical questions that we need answers to ASAP: how long will she be in the hospital?  How long do I need to stay home with her?  When can she drive again?

My job needs to know what kind of leave I’m going to need to take -and I can’t answer till I have answers myself.  Also, we’re quite stressed out over the logistics of getting the kids to/from school. We don’t think about how precariously balanced our lives are till one of the pieces gets disrupted.  I work 6-3, Lintilla 7:30-whatever.  We do this so Lintilla can drop the kids off at 7, and I can pick them up at 3:15.  Once we find out more from the doctor, we can make a plan (I hope).

We have no idea how we’re going to handle things like Christmas shopping this year.  Thank God we live in the Amazon age.

I’m expecting some bad news today about an old,dear friend of mine. 

Something funny: I bounced my tithe check.  OK, not “bounced”, we have overdraft protection, but it’s still embarrassing.  We’re not broke (yet), I just messed up the timing of paying a few things.

Anyway, in better news, I get my performance review today…

5th Grade Boys Update

I promised you I’d tell you how things went last night.  Well, I can truly say I was impressed.

Granted, only two 5th Grade boys showed up last night.  But hopefully that will change, once word gets out amongst the boys.

The pastor didn’t hold back.  It was a classroom type discussion, and an advanced one at that.  I know many adults who would have had trouble with the material.  He even discussed the two different versions of the creation story in Genesis, and the two stories of the birth of Christ in Luke, and whether they could be harmonized.

The boys were engaged and seemed to relish the idea of being taken seriously intellectually.  Keep in mind, the majority of our 5th graders (when they all show up), are advanced students.  Zaphod has taken religion classes at school since first grade.  I saw his eyes light up at the idea of getting validation from An Authority. 

This bodes well for the future.  Hopefully, the rest of the boys will show up next week, and they’ll have a lively discussion.

Posted in Church, Kids. 1 Comment »

Can We Blame Spongebob?

It’s almost as if Kat is psychic or something.  Every time she has a “church” post at her place, it seems to dovetail with something going on at my church.  For instance, this post is quite related to something that’s on my mind right now.

Now, before I proceed, I must tell you, my church has an awesome youth program.  I don’t know what they are doing (I’m not a youth parent), but they seem to be doing something right.  In fact, the kids are so engaged, and can be so insular within their group, Lintilla and I have jokingly in the past called it a “youth cult”.  And considering what else our youth could be doing, we say that as a compliment.

But that’s not what concerns me right now.  What is really worrying me, and apparently the entire children’s ministry at BMUMC, is “The 5th Grade Boys”.  You have to say it just like that – and every time you say “The 5th Grade Boys”, it must be accompanied by scary music and lightning.  I’m allowed to say this, because one of them is mine: Zaphod.

There are no 5th grade girls.  There was a strange Y chromosone baby boom in 1996, I guess.  OK, I exaggerate.  But I can say with certainty that the few girls that age were driven off from Sunday school and Wednesday night programming by those boys.

We are changing our Wednesday night programming again, starting tonight, because The Boys have not responded well, just as they haven’t responded well to any program, since they were in the 3rd grade

This last time, the Boys had a point, though..  We made a mistake in trying to have a “children’s music time” on Wednesday night, bringing together all kids from preschool to 5th grade.  Needless to say, the older kids found the songs too “baby-ish”; no doubt if we had geared the music toward the older kids, we would have lost the younger kids.

But what I want to talk to you about is why they seem unteachable and unreachable.  Which isn’t true, BTW, it’s just easy to get frustrated.  This is a good, super-smart, very friendly goup of boys.  Nashville, these are your future leaders, mark my words.

At the same time, they are cynical, and snarky, and sarcastic – AND – they see right through any attempt at manipulation or child psychology.  I am convinced that they are not only smarter than my generation was at 11, they are far more blunt and smart-alecky.  We have a generation of Oscar Wildes coming up out there.

The reactionary Republican parent in me wants to blame Nickelodeon.  And, I have a little proof on my side: every time we’ve cut off Nick programs as a punishment for this or that bad behavior, Zaphod’s attitude changed for the better.  He was less smart-alecky, less sarcastic.

But then again, perhaps the programming of Nick is the way it is because that’s already the personality of its target audience, and that explains its popularity amongst tween boys (Disney has the girls).  I don’t know why it seems this upcoming generation is that way, but, at least at my church, they consider themselves too smart and too cool for any organised activity.  And we’re Methodists, so it’s fruitless to suggest we allow their church time to be unstructured. 😉

Anyway, I know it seems like I’m being hard on these boys, and maybe I am.  We only have to get through this year, then next year, The Boys will be in our church’s youth program, which seems to be cool enough, even for them. 

We’re trying something with them tonight that I think would even meet with Koblian approval.  Our pastor himself is going to take the boys under his wing, and I am going to help.  We are, in effect, going to treat them like adults.  We are going to talk about contemporary issues (as they pertain to 5th graders), and throw a little Bible study in as well.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  I just wish we’d thought of this when they were in 3rd grade. 🙂

Happy Sanity Day!

A few weeks ago, I looked at my upcoming schedule, and I saw “Colts game” and “Emmys” on the same day. 

At that point, I was already near frazzled.  I’ve been basically working one full time and two part time jobs, along with keeping my house sort-of clean and cooking dinner.  I knew that another 16-hour day, on a Sunday no less, would probably be too much (yes, I know the Titans part is leisure, but it still involves having to be somewhere, and having to plan tailgating, etc).  I knew I’d be up late, the night before a work day.

So, I scheduled a sanity day today.

I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t take time off from work unless he’s taking a vacation.  I’ve been extremely fortunate that I don’t get sick very often.  So, I’m always at the maximum of accrued paid time off days. (My company, like most, combines sick and vacation time).  Needless to say, I’ve never taken a sanity day before.

I could get used to this.

I slept late.  I did some extra Ugly Betty blogging.  I cleaned the kitchen, while listening to the morning sports boys on 104.5 – I never get to hear them.  I went to the grocery store, and stayed under budget because there was no one there to impulse buy for.  I made lasagne.  La-freakin-sangne, on a Monday!  With homemade sauce. 

I got caught up.  It sure is nice.

Deep breath.  Now, I’m ready to do it again for another six weeks.  Back to the grind.  Work, church responsibilities, band responsibilities, blogging responsibilities are all calling, all at once.  Let the insanity begin anew!

Because I took a sanity day, I think Im ready to face it.  I highly recommend them.

A’s and B’s

The young man, a boy really, stood up during prayer requests.  I turned around to look, he seemed about the age of my own children.  Something about the tone of his voice told me this was about somethng very important to the young man.  I didn’t hear the beginning of what he said (many times prayer time is like a press gaggle, with everyone starting at once, with one coming out dominant). 

Anyway, what I gathered was that the boy had been struggling in school, mightily.  And measures had been taken to help him along, mainly giving him a quiet area to study and focus.  And he was glad to report that the changes at home had helped: in the past week he had received all A’s and B’s.

And he was in tears.

I followed suit shortly thereafter.  I was convicted, and I was a little shamed.

You see, my children have never, ever struggled at school.  A’s are pretty much the norm, with the scattered B here and there.  And yet, I never tell the kids how proud I am for this.  High academic acheivement is just something that is expected.  Lintilla and I aren’t “those” parents: think Anthony Michael Hall’s parents in the Breakfast Club.  We don’t push; at least we don’t think we do.  We’ve never doled out punshment for a C.

Yet, because we’ve set up a household where high acheivement is the default, maybe Zaphod and Trillian are under more pressure than I imagine.  I know that I unwittingly feel a tinge of disappointment when they bring home a C or less, and certainly they pick up on that?  And I don’t know how to turn that off.

All  I can do is pray to receive the grace to smile as long as good effort was put forth (it always is).  And tell the kids how proud I am at all they do in school.  And show them, somehow.

Lintilla and I have always had a parental saying “Smart is easy.  Good is hard.”  Well, that isn’t true for everyone.  We’ve been extremely fortunate, we set incredibly high standards,  and so far our kids have risen to them.  We are very lucky, indeed.

So, I want to thank that boy for standing up this past Sunday.  For his tears over his struggle, and his profound joy for gettng really good grades.  His heartfelt praise touched me in a way I cannot fully express – and taught me that I need to work on appreciating my children and their accomplishments more.


We had our first week of Wednesday night programming at church last night, and Lintilla and I were assigned to the preschool set.  Well, actually, it turned out the kids ranged in age from two to five.  Even though the term “herding cats” comes to mind, it went extrordinarily well.

Lintilla and I learned something about ourselves last night, though.  When our kids were that age, we did it weird.  We never baby-talked to them (even when they were babies), we had an expectation that they would sit still and listen at appropriate times, we spoke to them, both in tone and vocabulary, as if they were little adults.  We rushed every stage of development: they were on solid food early, potty trained early, in full size beds at 18 months, given independent tasks at two years, and so on.  We were never harsh, we just had certain expectations, and children usually rise to expectations given to them.

Sometimes, a little shadow of doubt creeps into my head.  Maybe we did it wrong.

Maybe Zaphod’s apparent sociopathic personality can be traced to my parenting methods.  Maybe we are the reason Trillian is so quiet and seemingly unsociable.  Eventually, all the other kids will catch up to them academically, so what did we gain by rushing things?

But then again, such doubts go against my parenting philosophy: that a child isn’t a building to be designed and assembled, but a flower to be nurtured.  I still believe this, so I must ignore the doubts.

Anyway, some of the kids last night were so cute.  Sometimes I miss that time as a parent.