Monday, February 26, 2007

A Voice From the Past

I was standing at the counter at Hemet-Ryan airport paying for gas when my cell phone rang. The number had a 909 prefix and, not paying attention to the rest of the number, I assumed it was my sister as she lives in Alta Loma. Suddenly there's a voice saying it's Curt. Momentarily confused I wondered why my brother Kurt was calling me from the 909 area code when he was supposes to be in Canada driving a truck full of horses to support his wife and child (and the one on the way!)

Stop the tape, rewind. Let me explain. No. Let me sum up.

My sister once married a guy named Curt. Her brother (and mine) is named Kurt as well. Different spelling. Which made it fun for me to steal and paraphrase a line from Bob Newhart; "Hi! I'm Eric and this is my brother Kurt and my other brother Curt!"

Start the tape.

Curt had Googled himself (you've all done it...don't deny it!) and found his name in my Blog. Odd, I hadn't recalled using his full name in my Blog but a quick Google search myself revealed that I had. My bad. I try not to use full names. Knowing I still lived in Redding it was only a matter of time and a couple of phone calls to locate me...or at least my cell phone.

I hadn't spoken with Curt in over 5 years. He and my sister had a bit of a falling out some years back. Curt made some poor choices and in the end, he and my sister divorced. Curt went through the "long, dark, tea-time of the soul" and, like me, was hoping the light at the end of the tunnel wasn't the lamp from an oncoming train. So I really didn't know what to make of the phone call. I knew from other friends in So Cal that he had called them; reaching out in a sort of way. It could have had something to do with the fact that the last time I talked to him I was rather blunt or as my wife would say, not very sociable. Let's just say Curt's behaviour left a rather bad taste in my mouth. And in the mouth's of everyone in the family. So I was a bit surprised to hear from him.

His manner of speech was laced with words straight from the thesaurus. But Curt always spoke that way. If it wasn't for that, I truly wouldn't have recognized him based on his voice alone. He even commented that I sounded different. Of course we both realized that we had gotten older...40-ish-something! ;)

Curt did say something both on the phone and in a subsequent email. That I was brilliant.




Brilliant is not an adjective that is usually associated with me. Me and brilliant are not usually used in the same sentence unless it is used sarcastically accompanied by eye rolling.

I'm not brilliant by any means. I am simply a man. Flawed. Selfish. Desperately searching for a way to keep even keeled. I have stripped away all of what I've learned and boiled it down to this...

Without Christ, I am nothing. I hold onto the fact that I am His and He holds me in His hands. I could argue the faith, spout the party line, have the right answer at the right time. I could present a man who had it dialed in. And it was all a facade. My house of theological, religious cards was just that....a house of cards. And it fell like houses of cards are wont to do.

You see, I tried everything that came down the pike. All the books, all the programs, all the steps. Anything that promised a "closer walk with Thee". It was crap. It was a replacement for the real thing. It was like drinking RC Cola instead of Coke. (Nothing wrong with RC Cola, especially those of you in the south!) Now I am having to rediscover what it means to be a Child of God all over again. The pisser is, I'm doing this in my 40's instead of my 20's or 30's. Fortunately God is a patient God, a loving God, a gracious God and particularly, a merciful God. Fortunately He allows us the free will to discover things rather than shoving them down our throats.

So, if that's what it takes to be "brilliant"; airing my struggles, my failures, my despair, my triumphs and my discoveries (some of which many of you have already discovered!), then I guess I am brilliant.

Nah...not brilliant. Just human. Flawed and forgiven. Learning to find Jesus' grace in everything. Learning all over that it's Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solely Jesus.

Curt, I hope that makes sense. Remember, this is a place for ramblings!


Friday, February 09, 2007

Joke of the Day

(HT to BHT

Jim and Edna were both patients in a mental hospital. One day while they were walking past the hospital swimming pool, Jim suddenly jumped into the deep end. He sank to the bottom of the pool and stayed there. Edna promptly jumped in to save him. She swam to the bottom and pulled Jim out.

When the Director became aware of Edna’s heroic act she immediately ordered her to be discharged from the hospital, as she now considered Edna to be mentally stable.

When she went to tell Edna the news she said, “Edna, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you’re being discharged. Since you were able to rationally respond to a crisis by jumping in and saving the life of the person you love, I have concluded that your act displays sound-mindedness. The bad news is, Jim hung himself in the bathroom with his bathrobe belt right after you saved him. I am so sorry, but he’s dead.”

Edna replied, “He didn’t hang himself, I put him there to dry. How soon can I go home?”

The moral: Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Jobian Tale Part 4

Malatestes enter the Big B's office, whistling the "American Idol" tune. Beelzebub joined in and the two finished only slightly off key.

"Why so happy my malodorous friend? Good news?"

"Yup", Mal said. "Remember Project Jake?"

"MMMm....yeah..." B said, digging out the file. "Here it is. How's he doing?"

"He has no clue he's allowed something to become...wait for's the tune I was Idol!"

Beelzebub just laughed. Then he hooted. Then he hollered in joy. "And what, pray tell, is he idolizing? A woman? Money? A boat?"

"Nope...something he's convinced himself that he needs for his 'sanity'", Mal said smiling.

"You mean?"


"And how did you accomplish that one, my devious little fiend?"

"Well, I just followed one of your classic plans. And I must say, it works just as good today as it did way back then. I got him to think that what he was doing was of a greater good. He was helping others. He was helping himself by finding a place to let off steam so he 'didn't take it home with him'. He got so wrapped up in it that he started blowing off his Men's Bible Study. He ditched his daughter's softball game in the middle because 'other people were counting on him'. He became resentful when he had to attend Back to School night with the wife and kids. He found ways of attending to his idol at the expense of his family."

Beel just nodded. "Good work. What about the wife?"

"Oh, that was easy. I just whispered that he would probably leave her in a couple of years because they didn't have anything in common."

"Did you have another woman waiting for him? You know, that one only works if you can parade another woman around even if she has no feelings for him."

"Oh....I found a woman...she's....

*Alarms start going off, the red lights are flashing down in quality control*

"What! What's going on!?" Beelzebub squawked into the intercom.

"PRIORITY ONE MESSAGE FROM QUALITY CONTROL" came a loud voice from the overhead speaker.


"Noooooo" screamed Malatestes.

"What happened!?" Beel shouted. "And turn off that gosh darned klaxon!"

The noise subsided and Beel pulled up the report on his monitor. Malatestes leaned over his shoulder to look. He groaned and said, "8 years of hard work down the drain." He slumped to the floor as Beel sat back in his chair. "The enemy." he said. Two simple words.

On earth, in his bedroom, Jake sat on the floor and cried as his wife explained that he didn't care about his family any more. The realization of what he'd done, how he'd made an idol of it, floored him. The Men's Bible Study material he'd just read came rushing back into his mind. Anything that replaces God is an idol. And he'd let just that happen. To the point his wife was willing to leave him to let him do whatever he wanted. Convinced he was going to leave her in a couple of years for someone else who liked what he liked. He had told himself he would never let anything come between him and his family and yet he, himself, had done just that.

The more she spoke the more he realized he'd been a fool. The more she said she understood he needed his time and she was willing to give him his space, the more he realized he was losing his wife and kids. The more he realized that, the more shock and horror descended on him.

So he quit. He quit it cold turkey. The only way he could save his relationship with his family was to start rebuilding it that day. That hour. That minute. That second. He heard the hurt in his wife's voice. He couldn't even look her in the eye for the shame and guilt. He swore he wouldn't fail his marriage and he'd taken it to the brink.

What a fool he was. What a fool he'd been. Would he continue to be a fool or would he repair the damage? Could he repair the damage? Not by himself. He needed help. God had shown him all along. Now he was at His mercy. Again.

The light at the end of the tunnel grew a little brighter but it was still a long way off....


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

19th Nervous Breakdown

Okay, it wasn't a nervous breakdown but it was God rattling my cage.

Things come to a head for a reason. For me, they gather in the wings, noticeable by me, ignored by me, until the dam breaks and I'm buried in the flood.

I had made KFSS more important than my family. I blew off men's Bible study because it fell on Tuesday nights. KF nights. I resented having to miss class to attend a family/kid function. I justified it by saying it was my time, my sanity I was saving.

My wife. God bless her. God blessed me with her. She's not perfect. Has her own issues. Doesn't like KF or a lot of the things I like. But she compliments me, fills in my weak areas, balances me. She's put up with a lot of my shit over the last 18 years of marriage.

Bottom line was I had become a selfish bastard. I thought that as long as I made my appearance at home, school things and such then it was okay to have a hobby. As long as I brought home a decent paycheck that allowed my wife and kids to do extra things, then I could have a place to go of my own. An escape. Unfortunately, I let KF become, in the words of the Good Book, an idol. It was replacing that which I truly loved, my wife, my family, my Lord, with something else.

If you would have asked me what was most important in my life I would have said my faith, my wife and my family. But my actions didn't back up my words. My words were empty, hollow, saying much but signifying nothing. My actions said, KF was important. Me getting my Master's in the art was important. I justified it three ways to Sunday.

I'm such an idiot. I nearly killed my marriage over it. My wife was ready to leave and let me do whatever I wanted if that's what made me happy. She saw that she and the kids did not make me happy. Only KF. To an extent, she was right. I love the art. Still do. But I can't let it replace the love I had for my wife and family. I need to find that love again. I know it's there because when she offered to leave, I nearly had a heart attack. Not the proverbial one but a literal one. My chest seized. My mind reeled. My eyes were opened to what I had done.

Schmuck is probably the most apt word.

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls. Love your wives/husbands. Your sons and daughters. Love them with the love Christ has for his Church. They aren't perfect and neither am I. But if I love them as He loves us, what can I lose?

Will I ever go back to KF? Probably. Someday. Not in the near future. But someday. Right now, I have to rebuild my marriage. Reconnect with my kids. They will out of the house in as little as 5 years. That's not a lot of time, really. The last 14 have gone by rather quickly in retrospect.

Don't be fool like me.


Monday, February 05, 2007

I Just Quit Something I Love

I have been studying the martial art of Kung Fu San Soo for a little over 8 years. I am a first degree black belt. There are 7 more to go to the rank of master. And today I turned in my key to the school, said good by to the Master and quit.

I love this art. I love teaching it. I love learning the intricacies of the art. I learn something new about it almost every time I do a form or technique. It is the one place where work, family, life doesn't exist. It is, for lack of a better word, my selfish time.

And therein lies the problem.

My wife has never liked Kung Fu. She thinks the owner/instructor, while a good man, is a bit flaky. Yes...he is at times. But then again, so am I and so is she. (So are you!) It costs money to train. No duh. I was paying the going rate until June of 05 when I lost my job at the USFS. I told the owner/instructor, who had become a very good friend over the years, that I would have to quit. He literally begged me to stay and in exchange for teaching, I kept coming to class when I could.

Now I have a new job. Better pay. But I have a bad history of either quitting jobs or being fired after about 4-5 years. Over the last 18 years of marriage, this has started to make my wife very nervous. She is unwilling to fork over any money in the amounts I want for something we may not have the money for in a year.

Plus there are other concerns. We've not really saved for our children's college education which comes up in as little as 4 1/2 years for our oldest, the Boy. We have tried to keep a goodly amount of money in savings for those "rainy day" things. Broken legs, new roof, major car repairs. And we've been very blessed that God has provided for us in our times of need.

So I quit Kung Fu. Why? Because my wife has a point. We need to save for those "rainy day" situations. We need to save for our children's education. We need to tithe more. We need to start doing what we've always said we should do and be better stewards of our money.

I have been crying all morning. Basically I'm in mourning for the loss of Kung Fu. I'm tearing up as I type this now. It has been my outlet, my escape, my joy and my frustration. It has helped me keep my sanity and refresh my soul. It meshes finely with my faith. I have made great strides as a person because of a combination of Kung Fu and my faith.

So why does it feel like I just shot Old Yeller?

There are those who say I should "be a man" and tell the wife what she can do with her complaints. There are those who say I am a "selfish bastard" for wanting to spend money on such a selfish endeavour. There are those who will say "Good! His wife needed to tell him how it's going to be!"

But I still feel like shite. I feel like I've let down my wife and family by wanting this for myself. I feel like I've let down the school and the instructor for quitting. I feel like I've failed as a husband, father, teacher because I've, again, let others down.

Very few understand what Kung Fu has meant to me over the last 8 years. My wife will never understand. She refuses. She has told me she will never agree with me on Kunf Fu. She is entitled to her opinion and I respect that. But I have to live with her and my kids. So, to not create a house full of tension, I quit Kung Fu. It's killing me. Tearing me up inside. I hurt for Master J. It blindsided him. He's losing a part of his school at a time when the school really can't afford to lose another customer, another student, another teacher.

I feel sick about the whole thing.