Hanging in midair

Fearless Fatherhood


Time to close this one.

From here, the stories are the Aggie’s to tell-they belong to him.DSC_9789

His name is mine, but he is an Aggie, down to his soul.  Bless all those Aggies…particularly the ones in SQ17, Class of 19.  They are only beginning to understand the depth of their brotherhood.

The Aggie was made to Hang in Midair. For good.  For others.

“We drew a great many recruits from Texas, and from nowhere did we get a higher average… They were splendid shots, horsemen, and trailers. They were accustomed to living in the open, to enduring great fatigue and hardship, and to encountering all kinds of danger.”

Theodore Roosevelt, “The Rough Riders”

Wannabe Texan

That’s his nickname, lovingly bestowed and sarcastically spoken…by the current Texan of Authority in his life.

Soon he’ll be hanging in midair in Texas, and the Wannabe will become as Texan as Davy Crockett…the next 14 weeks will pass too quickly-then he will be a Texan, and his heart will be home.  Hanging in midair for so long in PA has prepared him for this, the time when the transition to manhood will outpace the transition from boyhood.  He is capable, eager to set out on his next adventure to what surely will be his new home.   He is ready, but incomplete.  Finishing school will come courtesy of his Father, and the Texas A&M faculty and Corps of Cadets.

I am so proud.

When we set out on this journey together hanging in midair, I knew my part would end someplace like this.  There is one more post left for the boy, after that one, the story is officially his to tell.

“I am told, gentlemen, that, when a stranger, like myself, arrives among you, the first inquiry is—what brought him here? To satisfy your curiosity at once as to myself, I will tell you all about it. I was for some years a Member of Congress. In my last canvass, I told the people of my District, that, if they saw fit to re-elect me, I would serve them as faithful as I had done; but, if not, they might go to hell and I would go to Texas. I was beaten, gentlemen and here I am.”

Davy Crockett

“We drew a great many recruits from Texas, and from nowhere did we get a higher average… They were splendid shots, horsemen, and trailers. They were accustomed to living in the open, to enduring great fatigue and hardship, and to encountering all kinds of danger.”
Theodore Roosevelt, “The Rough Riders”

corps values pic



Middle Aged Lion

It took him by surprise.

He had not before today seen himself as an old lion. Now looking out at the pride, he knew the journey of his life had taken another turn. This one, like few others, was startling and unexpected. Another blind turn.

That cub bore an amazing resemblance to him…and for the moment the old lion was transformed back to the days when the cub watched and imitated his every step. He remembered the delight of their first successful hunt, and the momentary fear the day his own battle for leadership in the pride was nearly lost. In fact, the unspoken truth was that the small spectator watching so intently had spurred him on to fight and win. The old lion had known that passivity was a life stealing habit, the cub had know that to fight with all one’s might was necessary for survival.

Middle age lions have little time for nostalgia. He snapped himself back to the present and watched as the cub, who was now the young lion, battled for and earned his place among his mates. He marveled at the young one’s guile, and saw how it enhanced his strength and power. And he knew.

The lessons would soon end.

The day would arrive.

The fight would come.

He and the cub would by necessity be adversaries for a time. There would in the end be mercy, but the son would be hardened, never again to be the cuddly bounding ball of fur of days gone by.

The young lion would need to have his own pride, and earn his place on that rock. There were dangerous days ahead. Those battles would be for the young lion alone-because the journey would then be his.

At that, the old lion smiled through his sorrow. The smile was the contentment of knowing he had prepared his offspring. The sorrow because he understood how the scars accumulate…and his knowledge that he would soon be hunting alone.


“If you don’t know, that’s even worse!”

Words etched on my brain, uttered by a former boss, one who I had once regarded as a mentor.  He uttered them when I asked him to clarify what he meant when he called me “disruptive.”  Then he fired me.  He left me gutted, figuratively bleeding.

I guess uniqueness has it’s limits.  It can make you a pariah in some communities.

Pastor Joel talked today about integrating the uniqueness of our design, and the corresponding need for fellowship, which keeps us from selfishness and enables our uniqueness to benefit our community.   Harder than it sounds.

My favorite songs tell stories-often about lessons learned after years of hard living, sometimes at the bottom of a bottle or in the haze from a needle.  My favorite singers sing of hearts broken, wars fought, and friends lost.  The stories are told fearlessly, sometimes carelessly.   Some songs tell of resurrection and redemption.  Others just express sorrow.

I prefer Ray Wiley Hubbard to Jeremy Camp (or Steve Camp, for that matter).  I think the Steel Drivers are better than Vineyard Worship.  Ray Wiley’s writing is stark, deep and sometimes profane.  That ain’t right in my faith community-it’s….. disruptive.  It’s authentic, earthy stuff, and it reminds me of an authentic, earthy God, who loves Ray Wiley as much as he loves Jeremy.

Nearly everyone I love and admire is comfortable in their own skin, warts and all.  Those who value conformity above all would call each and every one of them disruptive. 

We have our share of stories to tell, we wanderers on the road of faith.  Our pain is more likely to be at the hands of someone with a Bible than someone with a knife. In the telling-we heal.  After we heal, we are really useful, confident in our own design.  If we are lucky enough, that is, to have a community who values our stories.

My resolutions for 2014?  One is to be a disruptive,  fearless, fellow traveler and to enjoy the company of my fellow pariahs as often as I can.

Aren’t you scared?

Arent you scared picture

How on earth can you do that?

My daughter would never be allowed to do something like that!

Aren’t you scared?

More questions from the representatives of the Flamethrower. They remember when I was among them, so they ask freely, apparently hoping I will come to my senses and rejoin their band.

Barely 5 feet tall, she has a great game face. While she prepares to compete her focus becomes more intense with each moment. She then climbs aboard The Super Horse- all 16+ hands of him-and is instantly fully alive, living in that “zone” when every fiber of her being is focused on the task at hand.

Once the first event has passed, the smile returns, the broad, joyful smile of a young lady living in exactly the place she was designed to live. The best part of the day is yet to come: soon they will work in tandem, the Great Girl wordlessly transmitting confidence, instruction and correction to the Super Horse. For what seems like miles, she and the Super Horse race to jump over fixed obstacles, the higher and broader, the better. They go through water, over logs and up and down slopes.

She’s my daughter. She shows promise as a scientist. She loves glitter, painted nails, and the smell of a barn. She occasionally damages her nails shoveling manure. She can fly.

When she competes, I am a grump. I pace, I rock back and forth, I mutter incoherent instructions to no one in particular. it would be easier for me if she was playing chess or in debate club, but she’s fully alive flying over fixed obstacles on horseback, at speeds and heights that make grown men shudder. She and the Super Horse want to go higher and faster.

I didn’t design her. Consider this: I was simply granted the grace of her presence for a time that is too short. My job is to prepare her for the life her Father has in mind.

So I hang in midair with her too. Because I believe that being in midair is the life for which we were designed. It is the place where life is real, and faith matters-it is the place we experience Grace.

Sitting still


That’s how our school year begins.  The night before the first day of school is an evening of sadness.   The freedom of the summer is giving way to hours of sitting in class.

For the Deerslayer, times have changed.  There was once a day when the first day of school engendered tears and frustration at the thought of being nearly strapped to a desk for 180 days.  Now, because of his mentors, and because his personal goals are in sight- there are only 2 more first days of school left-he sees himself as one day closer to where he wants to be…

The difference…freedom and grace.  Freedom to be who he is with his mentors and grace granted to challenge the status quo.

Seems to me the disciples had the same…I would like to have been around when James and John earned the title “Sons of Thunder.”  What must it have been like to be a friend of Peter,  who responded from his gut, and  who was a good enough swordsman to cut off the guard’s ear, resisting authority with everything he had?

A ragtag bunch of fishermen, with the personalities to match.  They followed Jesus, to their peril…what kind of leader must Jesus have been?  Nowhere in scripture do I see him telling them they must be “safe,” or “good.”  At least in the way we seem to define it in American Evangelicalism-the words seem interchangeable

Their entire movement was rebellion.  They issued and received challenges on a daily basis.  Borrowing from CS Lewis…they were good-but not safe.

So why is it that so many of us tell Christ following boys sit still and be “good?” (“Good” as in “safe”- not venturing near anything dangerous, or being to aggressive.)

What of their questions? Their desire to compete?  Their will to win?

What should they do when a bully gives em a shove?  Is it really the responsibility of a boy to “turn the other cheek?”  Is that what Jesus meant?   If that is what he meant, why didn’t he stop Peter from cutting that guard? He had the power to stop him, but let it happen…why?

When we tell them to be tame and nice and sit still…we perpetuate a lie.   We chase them away from the Father, who bestowed upon them the energy and curiosity that drives them.

No wonder they learn to fake it for us  and leave our pews  as soon as they can.

The Father would have us grant them Grace…the same Grace granted to the Sons of Thunder.  The same Grace granted to one  who sliced off ears,  and then loved so much that he  believed he could walk when he stepped out of the boat.Image

I submit for your consideration that parenthood is not about controlling children and keeping them safe.  It is about being graceful.

Gambling on Grace

What follows is an edited reprint from a previous blog.   I thought it fit well under the banner of Hanging in Midair

“He must be broken-your son must request forgiveness, and he must make his request in the appropriate words.”  Emissary of the Almighty Flamethrower

In some ways, seeing the gospel as a white bearded Almighty, throwing down fire and demanding penitence, was easy. It allowed me to justify the arrogance of being elect, and it enabled me to keep at arms length those souls who really needed forgiveness…you know them-they cuss, they question, they wear gray ponytails, some look like they play for ZZ Top-and what redeeming value can be found in pumping “Sharp Dressed Man” through one’s earbuds? They like bourbon with their cigars. Because they spend so much time doing all those awful things, their children are at risk. If those poor, unelect souls would wear out their knees in agonizing prayer, they would know that Almighty Flamethrower was dangerous, and they would get their theological act together, shave, put some sanctified music on.   Their children would have hope-that after inheriting their own sanctified habits of spiritual protection and cleanliness, they too would emerge into adulthood bathed in purity, well shorn and ready for a defense of that gospel, with all the intellectual armor needed to keep themselves out of the way of those flames the Almighty hurled when he was pissed at them.


“Dad, don’t let them do that to me again! I keep telling the truth, and they keep telling me I have to apologize.”
The Deerslayer

The Deerslayer, all of 11 years old, was caught in a controversy.  He was telling the elect emissaries they had their story wrong-something they would not countenance. The emissaries of the Almighty Flamethrower came  to teach a lesson in brokenness.   I wasn’t “fine” with it-butI had always been on the side of the Flamethrower.  It was clear someone was about to be a heretic, and the emissaries were quite sure it wasn’t them.

Grace, in the form of real healing and forgiveness, had recently entered our lives, the Deerslayer and me. When I admitted those agonizing prayers only made me sleepy and insecure, those guys with the ZZ Top beards showed up and listened. The emissaries thought I had lost my mind. My new, scruffy friends had about them the earthy scent of authenticity. They knew the Father who threw a huge party upon the return of his debauched, rebellious son. And they reached out a hand to rescue the arrogant rule follower too. The emissaries… smelled like smoke.

And so…we gambled…we went with Grace.  We remembered that the Deerslayer’s real Father has in mind for him a life we cannot control, one he will have to engage.  We chose to stand in The Deerslayer’s defense, to walk with him, just as the Son walks with us.
The emissaries of the Flamethrower warned us, we were teaching rebellion by refusing their authority. We were leaving the eternal safety net, and odds were that we would fall-hard.
“I want to take my faith to heart, not just do it because its what my family does.”
The Deerslayer on the day of his baptism.

“Dad, I like your weird friends.”
The Deerslayer

Now and then I get asked about how it has happened that I enjoy that kid with all the questions who likes to walk around with firecrackers in his pocket and makes smart assed comments about my height and hair color.   It’s because I  walk with a Father who gracefully tolerates my questions with a smile, and who enjoys fireworks and a good bourbon too.

My Father is teaching me Grace.

Gamble, my friends, on Grace.   It’s messy, it requires trust and authenticity and sometimes friends with ZZ Top beards. It’s scary stuff, but it is gritty and real.


Midair thoughts

You aren’t good enough. Neither am I.

Fear that makes you to wear your bike helmet is good.

Fear that keeps you from taking a good adventure smells like smoke.

Fear that makes a parent an authoritarian is a knife in a child’s heart.

God does not demand my presence because He is in charge.  I come into his presence willingly, because He is trustworthy and forgiving. “Father” is a title of high honor  He lets me borrow for a while.  He hands it down with a reminder that I should be trustworthy and forgiving too.

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