Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yes to Yesterday; No to Nostalgia

I've been organizing photos for an album that will cover the past 100 years of my mom and dad's family tree. It is taking much longer than I expected. Practically every item evokes memories or speculation about the past. This picture is one I especially liked. It is Barbara at the Oregon coast about twenty years ago. I was stunned by the beauty and freedom I see in her in this photo. I asked myself, am I feeling nostalgia? So I looked up the definition, just to be sure I was properly naming the emotion. Here is the definition:

nostalgia 1 : the state of being homesick 2: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition

I realized that I am not nostalgic. I have no desire to go back. I am grateful for the years I have been given. I am thankful for many wonderful things in my past. The things that were terribly hard were used by God to teach me and grow me. And every day that passes brings me one day closer to an eternity in a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no more crying and no more pain.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

C.S. Lewis Quote

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

C. S. Lewis

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Barbara in Her Birthday Present Outfit

Kent Dressed Up for Barbara's Birthday Dinner

We Spent Two Nights at the Oregon Coast Last Week

How Barbara and I Met

I first met Barbara in early December, twenty five years ago.  I would like to write that it was “love at first sight”, but I don’t think that is true.  The first time I saw Barbara, she walked into my friend’s apartment as I sat at his kitchen table, stuffing take out fried chicken into my mouth.  She was very pretty, but I don’t remember immediately falling in love with her.

Learning to love Barbara was a process, not an event.  It took most of that evening before I realized that she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  In those vital first moments, I was really more intent on the chicken than on love.  Later, as we danced and chatted at a local night club, I began to realize that I wanted to know her more than anyone else I had ever met.  It didn’t have much to do with how she treated me.  It had everything to do who she was.  And the more I realized who she was, the more I wanted to know.  The fact that she seemed somewhat indifferent to my interest in her only made me more certain that it was her that I wanted, and not what she could do for me.

By the end of that evening, I was determined to know her better.  I learned that she would likely be attending a Christmas party thrown by a fellow who worked with me at HP.  I called the girl I had been dating for the previous few weeks and told her that it was over.  I realize now how cold that was, and I regret how I handled it.  However, I am positive that freeing myself to pursue Barbara whole heartedly was the right thing to do.

I attended the party and waited anxiously until she arrived.  From that moment on, she was my total focus.  We danced, laughed, and talked.  We talked and talked until the wee hours of the morning.  Every other guest had left with the exception of Barbara’s roommate.  The roommate was busy becoming very involved with the host of the party. They married not long after that, and as far as I know, are married to this day.

We honestly just talked that first night.  At the end of the night, we each drove off to our separate homes.  However, I had asked her out.  I took her to dinner in San Francisco the next evening.  As we waited for our table at the Cliff House, we stood outside, high above the Pacific surf.  The sun hung just above the horizon.  A chill wind blew in off the ocean, so I took off my leather jacket and hung it around Barbara.  Then I stood behind her and circled her with my arms.  Both of us still remember that moment vividly.

This weekend Barbara and I spent a romantic two day get away at a cozy little house perched on a cliff above a spectacular section of the Oregon coast.  I had lots of time to carefully consider how our love has grown.  Twenty five years have passed.  I have come to love her more deeply as God has developed my capacity to love.  I thank God for the years of love we have had.  I thank God for drawing us to him.  As we grow ever closer to God, we grow closer to each other.  

Sunday, December 11, 2005

We were very wild together

Kent a year or two before his new life crisis.

From Nihilist to New Life

You can only live so long, the way I lived. May God have mercy on those who labor on in the delusion that they themselves are the measure of all things. He had mercy on me and allowed me to suffer more and more from the choices I made and the foolishness I embraced.

I abused the strength that God gave me to explore the limits of how foolishly a man may live and still stay alive. Promiscuity. Drunk driving. Drug abuse. Crazy hours. Bad company. Any one of those can kill you. God in his mercy allowed me to push the limits until the limits pushed back, hard. I began to endure horrendous hangovers. I began to fear there was no mix of pills and alcohol potent enough to quell my growing panic. I learned first hand that “black out” doesn’t mean pass out. It means you walk and talk and drive and a great deal more, then suddenly come back to “normal” consciousness with no memory whatsoever of the preceding hours.

There was something of an intermission when I married Barbara. We were very wild together, but I don’t think she had fallen nearly so far as I had. I could not anchor my life in Barbara, but she did slow down my fall for a while.

We married. We moved to Oregon. So I found myself in a new psychiatrist’s office asking for a new prescription for the tranquilizers I used heavily. He asked about my habits. I openly told him the truth. There was no better way to prove that I was crazy enough to need the medication. This particular doctor did not see it that way. “You are an alcoholic and you are addicted to tranquilizers. If you don’t agree to quit both, I will refuse to treat you.” Somehow I was ready to hear that. I probably could have found another doctor who would have ignored the obvious signs of my addictions. But the toxic mix I was consuming was taking an ever greater toll on me and yet provided less and less relief. I could not seem to reach “comfortably numb”, no matter how hard I tried.

Quitting is easy. It is staying quit that hurts so bad you begin to think that anything would be better. But the only other thing I knew was to go back to my chemicals, and they really didn’t work so well anymore. The shrink was a “spiritual” man. New Age. Carl Jung. Psychobabble. In my desperation I embraced it all. He also prescribed Alcoholics Anonymous. I began to attend. For the first time in my life I seriously considered the idea that there might well be a higher power than my self.

That higher power was very vague indeed. To call it a him or even a thing, was too much at the beginning. But as I grappled with the pain of living drug and alcohol free, I became dimly aware that this was the most important thing going on in my life. I read an article in Reader’s Digest. The author told of how she had been challenged with the question: If God was so important to her, why did she expend so little effort seeking to know him better. That is a very good question, I thought. I began to get up early every day and sit alone in my living room thinking about God. It was no small commitment. By that time we had baby Julia, who slept fitfully and woke us several times each night with inconsolable wailing. I was exhausted, but determined to get answers to my questions about God.

One early morning, I sat on the sofa pondering, “How can I develop my concept of God”. And God spoke to me. It is difficult to say what differentiated his voice from the cacophony that constituted my normal thoughts in those days. I only know that it was different. Profoundly different. And God said “I am not your concept, you are my concept.” Nothing had ever been clearer to me in my life. I was overcome. I fell off the sofa to my knees. “Forgive me, God. Forgive me.” All I could think was how presumptuous I had been to believe that my mind could contain God like a curio in my study.

After many months of seeking to know God, I came to know who Jesus was. Again I was alone in the quiet of my den. Again I was overwhelmed by my foolishness in thinking that Jesus was a myth or merely a man. Fully God and fully man. God who loved me so much that he was willing to become a man and suffer and die for me. It was the beginning of a quest that has gone on for more than two decades and a battle that I fight every waking moment.

Lord I am undone. I feel so weak as I write this tribute to who you really are. I feel so foolish when I say that I have sought to become more like you. Yet you have shown me time and again, that this story is your story. I am your servant. I depend on you. The glory is all yours. I am a better man than I was. I hope to be become a better man yet. And then after this life ends, I place my hope in standing in your presence, made complete. I will share in your glory. Only a God as great as you are could accomplish such things.

I write these things to the glory of God. May you know him. May you trust him as your Lord and Savior. All else is sinking sand. How far must you sink before you will cry out to him?