Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I've decided to relocate!

Mary Husty

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It was an ordinary Saturday in January 2002. Erin and I were living in Dallas at the time. That morning I was about to leave for work when the phone rang. I'm not sure why we always expect the tragic call to come late at night but this was one of those calls.

I've known the Hustys for years. More than 20 of them. Brian, Mary's older brother, was one of my groomsmen. I watched Mary grow up and there was nothing I enjoyed more than watching Mary demolish her opponent in the pool. When the phone rung on that Saturday morning and the voice on the other end started telling of Mary's accident I lost it, completely lost it in a way I'm not sure I've ever lost it before.

The day before the call Mary was at swim practice. I think there were very few days that Mary wasn't swimming. You aren't that good without swimming as much as she did. If I remember correctly, practice was winding down as the team was working on their starts. Mary had dove off a block a thousand times, even thousands of times. But this time was different. She dove too deeply and hit her head on the bottom of the pool fracturing a vertebrae in her neck. While I can't imagine the scene that ensued I know Mary was unconscious and rushed to the hospital and into surgery. The months and, now, years following have been marked by intense recovery and rehab.

The first "Friends of Mary Husty 5K" was run shortly after the accident, around Easter. This past Memorial Day marked the 7th year of the event. What made this year incredibly special for me is that this was my first race. The past six years I've been in Texas.

Peter and I drove up to Delaware Sunday night. We had the blessing of stopping by the Hustys and spending about an hour with Mary. While Peter's seen Mary a handful of times and run the race in previous years, Mary and I are pretty sure that we haven't spoken in person since the accident. To be honest, I think that sitting and talking with her was more for me than her. Since the moment I received the phone call about her accident I have desperately wanted to just hug her and talk to her. It's almost as if I needed to know she was ok and I could only know by seeing her for myself.

Mary's attitude over the past 7 years has been remarkable. It's not that there haven't been hard days, even dark moments. But she seems to always return to a place of patience, perseverance, and hopefulness. She refuses to give up. Rather she constantly pushes herself and whenever progress seems to stall, Mary pulls back, gets perspective and attacks from another angle. Sunday night she told me that her progress walking has plateaued so she's going to focus on strength training. I didn't sense a hint of frustration. In fact she smiled as she shared.

When the phone rang in January 2002, the incredible grief of a dream lost devastated me. It was if Mary's life crumbled in a moment and however it be rebuilt it would never resemble the potential she once possessed. I was completely wrong. Mary has never changed. The tragedy she experienced revealed the character of a champion that has always existed. There isn't one word to describe Mary. She is so many things. At the least, Mary is a peaceful warrior. It's as if her struggle is her joy. She's at peace with her life journey. And Mary is showing me how to better live mine.

Where to from here?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The "mountain top" ministry experience happens so infrequently in life that when we do reach that summit of intense spiritual fervor we want so badly to remain there for as long as possible. Inevitably we will descend not by our own choosing but because reimmersion into our normal routines and relationships is where life is largely lived. Mountain tops aren't crowded for that reason. In life we spend most of our time at the base of the mountain looking skyward, wondering when and how we'll ascend once again. The greater question to me, having experienced the summit a few times, is whether there's actually a way to allow that opportunity to continue to transform my life after the inevitable descent occurs?

The mountain top experience doesn't just happen. By taking advantage of a ministry opportunity we begin taking a step or series of steps in the direction of the summit. However, similarly to an actually climbing experience we realize only upon reaching the summit that we in fact are there. Why? Our focus is the journey and what is happening around us and how we are interacting with all engages us along the way. When we find ourselves standing atop the mountain, this feat is met with a myriad of emotions. We can see where we started and the winding road that led us to where we now stand. So often we're overwhelmed by the grace of God and that He is good beyond description. Our eyes are open to view the landscape of our surroundings with a clarity and expression of joy that is matchless. Often we find that we are not alone here but that we have found such blessing through the strength of a community of climbers that have supported you, even each other, from the beginning.

One of the first emotions I experience when the dreaded descent occurs is bewilderment. What I do with what I've just seen and experienced? I want to go back and even hope to stay. Strangely God seems to rarely return us to that exact vista. I think the reason is that God is most concerned with our journey rather than previous destinations. For some our journey means returning, not to relive but to contribute to the building of the Kingdom. Unfortunately I think many times our passion stalls upon the final descent. We never process our bewilderment and reimmersion. We return to the roles and responsibilities we maintained before our mountain top experience, never becoming anything different than what we always were.

The question remains, how do we handle the descent any differently? I believe it begins with how we process the summit experience. When our praise of God enhances our confidence in Him a transformation begins. Instead of relegating the wonder of your experience to your senses, allow it to begin filtering through your mind, your heart and your soul. Allow what you see, feel, even taste and touch to evaluate your heart condition, your self-identity, your perspective of others, and certainly the strength of your faith in God. Start asking the hard questions on top of the mountain rather than waiting for those hard questions to find you upon your descent. Let the majesty of God in those moments infuse in you a perseverance that is unquenchable.

Lastly, as you descend and find yourself back in the regularities of life pre-mountain, be intent on obeying God in all things and in all areas of your life. Begin to recognize, own, and eradicate pride and selfishness from your life and your relationships. What is simply awesome about this process is that you will notice the presence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, you may find yourself so incredibly full of praise at what is happening in your life that you may be shocked that you are in fact not back on the mountain but seeing God right now with the sort of clarity you did on that summit. When you start having those same sorts of feelings while doing the mundane things of life as you did on the mountain top you'll be transformed and become a catalyst for life change in others. You will think things after the mind of God. Your heart will feel things after the heart of God. You will see others the way He does. And you will start behaving and making decisions in the will of God.

No matter what joys and tragedies befall you and those around you, remain obedient and surrender all to Jesus. In utter humility you will begin to become a guide for others as they struggle through the journey of their own mountains.

Riding on the Wings of the Caribou

I'm still taking up....evidenced by the fact that I just wrote "I'm still taking up." I think my brain's just a little woozy from small group saturation. Concurrently I'm learning how to and actually starting to interview potential group leaders, meeting and catching up with current leaders, helping develop a strategy for married and singles target events, while immersing myself in the ministry culture of FCC. Fortunately I'm doing none of the above on my own, well at least not yet. As I've already said and will say a million times, I'm part of an awesome team! I'm afraid a certain someone is ready to boot the little birdy out of the nest sooner than later assuming that birdy can fly. The birdy? Not so sure!

Today's one of those days - of which I'm sure there will be many - where I just need to jump on the back of the Caribou and hope it'll give me wings. (Sorry but Red Bull just isn't a tasty morning beverage and I think a Caribou has a better chance at taking flight than an aluminum can anyway)

The Tension of Being vs Doing

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I love to hear stories of people pausing to evaluate their decisions. I think too often we pray asking for God to direct us and give us wisdom when what we really want is for God to approve the desires of our hearts. The real issue isn't our desire but our motivation. But when that pause comes and we begin asking the hard questions of ourselves, a tension tags along that reminds us that the struggle is the journey.

A lot of decisions, even big ones, can seem obvious: It's the next step in the corporate ladder, it's the degree I need in order to do what I'm suppose to do, it's the job that doesn't fit me but it pays the bills, plus a myriad of other choices of which we can all fill in the blank with personal experience.

I believe that the tension of being vs doing begins with how we think and ultimately determines our behavior and decision making patterns. Doing can be intellectually or emotionally driven. We act based on a sense of pattern related to our previous experience while logic convinces us to make decisions reflecting what we believe is the next step in that pattern. Other the other hand, some of us have experiences with intense emotional connections which drive us to make a bold decision, moving decisively in a particular direction - at times a direction that is completely new and different from anything we have considered before. Neither of these realities are intrinsically wrong but our motivations can frequently be rationalized by logic or emotional determination rather than a consideration of God's creative design of you and plan for you. Bottom line is we make a lot of assumptions...all the time about nearly everything. We take a look at what our life has been and assume what our life will be. That may or may not be healthy and wise. The point here is owning how we think and, thus, how we make decisions in life and about our lives.

A "doing" mindset focuses on accomplishing tasks, often referred to as results oriented. A"being" mindset focuses on who I am becoming, often considered as process oriented. The tension isn't that being and doing are polar opposites. Rather, they are filters we choose to prioritize as we consider how to view and live our lives. By placing a high priority on who we are becoming we shift our focus to the significance of the day at hand and the impact that our presence has on others. In fact, we may even become more prepared to accomplish what we must and are responsible to do because we have a sense of why we ought to remain loyal to our commitments. We may even begin to view our life and such responsibilities as opportunities rather than obligations.

Father, may you show mercy on my life for how self-preserving, satisfying, and assuming I have been and, regretfully, continue to be. May your grace bring about transformation.

Remembering Contentedness

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm sitting in the Great Room at Fairfax Community Church soaking in the reality that I'm actually sitting here in the Great Room at FCC. It's not so much an awe inspiring reality that I'm grappling with. Rather it's a contentedness that's found me over these past two weeks that is slowly convincing me of its realness. At the same time, I'm becoming convinced that it is easier to know when I am content than when I lack contentedness. When I'm discontent things just don't "feel right." There's always some part or parts of me that aren't healthy and that are compartmentalized (sometimes out of survival instincts). If enough time passes my sense of compassion erodes, patience is a burden, and self-preservation becomes my most coveted pursuit. Ultimately I begin struggling with my sense of identity because I've adapted into a survivor rather than a learner and a contributor.

Things are different now. I sense when I'm being selfish and I want to correct it, even apologize for it immediately. My self awareness is heightened because I feel the freedom and the encouragement to be myself. I feel I can trust those around me and be trusted by them. And I feel loved and appreciated explicitly.

It's been almost two weeks since I came on staff at FCC but it's been seven years since I've felt the way I'm feeling right now. While I didn't notice it right away, I felt trapped in seminary and I began to become something very different from who I knew myself to be. I thought after graduation that I'd been freed only to realize I went from one trap to another of a different kind. The environment and reasons were different but the result was the same. For years I've told students that you can only become who you're currently becoming. I don't like who've I've been becoming over the past seven years.

FCC has a high value on giftedness and they hire in such a way that takes the greater group dynamic into consideration while also placing their staff in a position to exercise their gifts to enhance the quality of the staff, the local congregation and whoever may fall into their sphere of influence. What I'm absolutely giddy about is that I have a much clearer picture of who I am now than I did 7 years ago. I have people around me who are intent on developing my strengths and helping manage my weaknesses well. I am excited about becoming a different person; in some respects the person I once was becoming and in other respects a different person altogether. Most of all I'm focused on being the husband and father that I want to be.

I'm content and I'm healing.

after too many years

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In my massive "memorabilia" tub in the basement of our town house I have a collection of composition notebooks. Within the pages of these little wonders one would find the joys and stumblings of a junior high and senior high guy. Of all the books I've read, classes attended, and caffeinated seminars sat through, nothing has helped me understand adolescent development like my own narrative. I am so glad I was honest and I so hope my son Luke never finds these marbled notebooks.

For whatever reason I stopped journaling when I hit the college years. And despite my best wishings I never picked it up during the seminary years.

Self-awareness is a funny thing. As an adolescent who, unbeknownst to himself, was totally self-focused, I found writing a way of unloading my tension with about choosing God and engaging self gratification, my confusion about girls, and lots of highs and complete failings. As I moved into my late teens and twenties I found that I was able to maintain a more balanced perspective and I also began learning how to utilize friendships to sort through my questions. Journal writing became a less pragmatic endeavor. I never made the transition to understanding that journaling could remain an incredibly useful tool as an adult.

Last fall, as we were preparing for Luke's arrival, one of the members of my church suggested that I keep a personal journal; one that my son and other children could one day read. He honestly regretted not doing that for his own son. Two weeks ago Luke turned one. Went so fast. Too fast. Seventeen more times and he'll probably be gone. Not gone forever but gone in the he's not my son living under my roof looking to me for guidance, balance, boundaries kind of way. It's what I say and how I live during these years that is most valuable to him in the years that follow his exodus away from mom and dad. As I unpack my own memories, my appreciation for my mom and dad consistently gains greater clarity and more dimension. I have begun to realize that parenting is incredibly complex and, at the same time, very simple.

So after too many years I'm making the commitment to journal and instead of composition notebooks, this blog and at times, when I have personal thoughts I want for my kids alone to read, in a new notebook. Something a little more modern.

As for the title of my blog...A few years ago I was on a high school service retreat. At the end of a great day we sat and talked together. Amidst our conversation, Kate asked a question. It was the kind of question that everyone was thinking but couldn't figure out how to ask. "So when does it get easier? When do the struggles to live for God get easier?" After a few moments of silence I looked at Kate and replied, "the struggle is the journey."