Monday, November 07, 2005


I spent a lot of time with my kids this weekend. Their mom, Annette, and I had a big go-'round in front of them, despite my attempts at sheltering them from this sort of bullshit. I try to always be civil and right-headed when issues arise with their mother, and I work very hard at shielding my kids form the crap, but even I, the smart, level-headed one, got a little out-of-hand with her.

Annette got some free tickets from her church to take my daughters to a Christian Girls' Concert/Conference for Friday night and all-day Saturday. She asked if she could stay here at the house, and I was more than gracious with my hospitality, as I have been on several occasions. She stayed down in the girls' room. On saturday morning, I made everyone breakfast, and ran to the grocers early to get them some snack stuff they could take along. Over coffee, Annette asked me if I had any "extra cash" I could give the girls so they could buy t-shirts, CDs and whatever while at the concert/conference that day. I thought SHE had them covered, since it was her thing for them, but she said she had no cash. So I forked over a $50 bill to the girls and told them to get some fun stuff from the concert. They were pretty wide-eyed and thankful, and started enumerating the CDs and t-shirts they wanted to purchase.

What I found out late that afternoon, AFTER they returned home, was that their mom confiscated the $50 before even leaving the house to drop them at the conference that morning, ordering them to NOT tell me. She spent the money on a toy for Sam and stuff for herself, shopping while the girls were at their concert with not a single dime to get any souvenieres or CDs of their favorite singing groups.

I was pissed.

I confronted Annette and said, "I really do NOT appreciate your taking the girls' concert money. I need my change." Without saying a word, she locked her jaw, looked away from me and dug the remaining $20 out of her pocket and said that the girls "owed her $30" anyway. I got pretty angry - but as i always do, remained fairly calm and reasoned, and told her that she had been dishonest with me and disingenuous with her daughters for requesting money from me under the guise of it being for them, then promptly taking it from them in secret and pocketing it for herself. She responded that what happened between her and "her daughters" was none of my business.

I blanched.

I told her that it most certainly WAS my business. She then tried to launch into old issues from before the divorce five years ago. I derailed that immediately, saying that we could talk about anything she wanted to talk about at a different time, and that we needed to remain on the topic at hand. I reminded her that she was under the hospitality of my home. She scoffed at that and did the belittling chuckle thing. I told her that if she couldn't discuss the issue like adult parents, then she needed to leave.
Which she did.

Annette was using THEIR money to please herself. Then trying to pass it off as "none of my business" because the girls "owed her" $30 anyway. I asked her, "When should they owe you ANYTHING?? Further, why should you play the banker and confiscate their money that they "owed you" a half hour before they left for their concert?" I further pointed out that she has contributed NOT ONE penny to their upbringing. She scoffed at me and laughed again.

I repeated that she needed to leave.

She then wanted to take the kids to her home in Wisconsin overnight. I told her that she could, but she would have to drive them home the next day. She refused, saying that "in accordance with the divorce decree" it was MY responsibility to drive the kids on return trips. I then reminded her that I had done her several favors by drving the kids both ways several times over the last few months. I also reminded her that I had given her gas money so she could make the trips when she was short of gas. She replied that she thought I was doing her a favor, not demanding repayment and that she refused to drive them back home the next day.

I stared for a second, blinked once or twice and told her that if she didn't "get it," she needed to get the hell out of my driveway.

The girls begged her to stay and settle things with me, but it was more important for her to leave than it was for her to see her kids and work the situation out with me. She drove off with a flourish and a hearty "fuck off!" to me - in front of my kids - leaving the girls crying in the driveway, and Sam bawling. I hurt for my kids. I sat for quite awhile with all three of them huddled on my lap, crying after she left. Abby said she fears that after every time Annette does this, she will never see her mom again.

I cancelled all other plans for the day, and after they calmed down a bit, I took them all to a movie instead. Sam revitalized pretty quick at the prospect of "Zorro." After the movie, we spent the rest of the night at home, watching movies and eating pizza. That's when Sam did his little dance routine on the fireplace hearth. heh.

Done venting... for the moment.

Taking a deep breath... very frustrated, wishing Annette would fall off the planet and relieve everyone of all the strife she puts us through. I could handle her by myself, but she is so infectious to my kids.

Enough for now.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dsappointment with God... and Friends...

In recent months I've gone through an unbelieveable amount of devastating, emotional shit in my life. My not-so-usual response left me in a temporal, uncharacteristic depression and an a-typical abrasive moodiness that was the outer manifstation of inner turmoil - despite my wrongly thinking I was handling myself with a modicum of grace and tact. I tend to be someone who lets all his friends lean on him for help, council and support, yet during this period, my antics and out-of-character funk seems only to have driven the people who I considered my friends far away. Not only have I gone through some life-altering, devastating events, but to add insult to injury, the friends I thought I had seemed to grow distant and judgemental and gossiping, as opposed to closer and more supportive. This just added to the pile of hurt and pain.

I put my neck out there for my friends. When possible, i stand in the gap and make myself available to be there for them. I feel as if I open myself up to be there for any of my friends who need me, but when I stepped outside the box of my normal behavior due to uncharacteristic depression and discouragement, my friends took a hiatus. Through the grapevine I hear that many of them "express concern" over me, yet I have not received so much as an e-mail or phone call from any of them unless initiated by me. Well, that's not totally true, either. I have a couple of very close friends who do not fir into this category at all, and you know who you are. It just seems that the bulk of those who say they are my friends, vanished when I acted a bit uncharacteristically. Perhaps they weren't the friends i thought they were. As my friend amanda told me, "Time to reevaluate your friends, Scotty, even the ones you thought were your close friends." For someone half my age, and with half the life experiences, she just might be right.

If my friends' hurts, devastations and short-lived, uncharacteristic behavior drive me away from loving and supporting them, then I would need to reexamine whether or not my friendship with them was genuine. Sure, I like to surround myself with uplifting people and friendships that bolster and rejuvinate me. But in turn, I also like to be present for my friends who need my emotional and physical support. The sad fact is that when you go through hard times and your friends tend to abandon you, a deeper disillusionment sets in, and brings realizations to light.

So, I do what I always do... I pull myself up by my own bootstraps, no matter how long that takes, and move on to the realization that Life is accomplished alone. Polonius said to Hamlet, "The friends thou hast and tried, grapple them to they soul with hoops of steel." I need to reevaluate my friendships and determine just who is and who is not a Friend. This is most certainly a part of growth and wisdom-gaining.

On a slightly different vein...
I have Festival fiends and interactions, but that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the course of my life and the people I know and interact with. I tend to come across in my relationships (Fest people, business associates, advertising and publishing friends) as a genuine person who is sincere and honest, somewhat charismatic, vital, entrepeneureal and in-the-spotlight. However, on the inside I'm crushed and struggling with the "whys" of Life. Despite my early days in seminary and pastoral work - and councilling, believe it or not - I have lost sight of what I used to believe was "God's" will (call it "Goddess," "Universe," whatever...), or hand in affairs, and the answers to the whole why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people scenario.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this.

I wish there were good answers to this, because I have LOTS of those sorts of questions, lately.

The older I get, the more it occurs to me that God is NOT intimately involved in the flow of the events in my Life. Nor, does it seem, that he is all that concerned with those events or their various outcomes. I am finding that he is primarily interested in my responses, my character development and my desire to lean on Him. Look at this passage from the New Testament... 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.....

* * * * *
8.) At first I didn't think of (my afflictions and
emotional distresses) as a gift, and

begged God to remove it. Three times I did that,
9.) and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all
you need. My strength comes into its own in your
weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it
happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began
appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's
strength moving in on my weakness. 10.) Now I take
limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these
limitations that cut me down to size - abuse,
accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ
take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I

* * * * *

Don't get me wrong, here, I believe God is there at all times, and is "sovreign over the affairs of mankind" (Daniel 4:34-37 - Nebuchadnezzar's praise after his
madness), but I believe He lets the events of Life unfold as they will - call it "Natural Occurance." His presence is not there to alter the course of natural
events, but rather, to give us grace and peace and a place to run to for help and comfort.

Life happens.

God is in control of the Universe, but does not stick His finger into the mix, unless to accomplish some purpose of His own mind and choosing. It seems to me
more and more that He simply has set Life in motion, governs over it, but does not involve himself in it's ebb and flow.

His "intervention" is incredibly rare. His grace, however, is ever-present. All we need do is appropriate it.

Sure, it's COMFORTING to think that God intervenes and performs miracles that alter the course of Life and History, but I just have not seen evidence of that.

What I HAVE experienced is God tugging at hearts and minds, God guiding and opening doors as we struggle through Life. I have rarely - if ever - witnessed God altering the course of natural events, and that seems to fly in the face of what I was taught in my Sunday School days as a kid. It is a bit disillusioning to find that "real life" is not the stuff of Sunday School fluff.

I remember one instance during my early twenties when I was in seminary, when a young couple in our church had new-born twins that were very ill. The entire
church, it seemed, camped at the hospital and prayed for a miraculous intervention on behalf of those children and their parents. The children still died two days later. It seemed that all of the "fervent, righteous prayers of upright people" had very little affect on the outcome of the natural events. God would have to have stepped in and altered physics to change the outcome.

What I learned from that event - and many subsequent events - was that God was little interested in altering Life's natural course, but that he was extremely interested in the unity the event brought. He was present to comfort and guide, but not to change the course of Natural Occurance.

Hmmmm.... I think as human beings, we tend to paint God in a picture that we seem to THINK he fits - and we have manipulated scripture to back up our desires. And then when He does not match up to that pre-conceived picture of our own making, we lose faith and fall into discouragement and disillusionment. It hardens us a bit, and we sit back and re-work elements of what we thought we already
knew so well. We are left in the wake, experiencing either a mode of blind faith that lacks understanding, yet acts in a "damn the torpedoes and full steam ahead" over-spiritualized bravado; or, we find ourselves in a state of incredible disappointment with God.

Either way, we have learned that God has not altered the events of Life's Natural Occurance.

The only real positive message I find in scripture regarding these things, is that God has promised to be there to help us cope, deal, muddle and manage our way
through the labyrinth of Natural Occurance. His grace is sufficient for me... it's all whether or not I choose to appropriate that grace. Of course, a lot of this is from the viewpoint of my early training. My spirituality has shifted a lot since then.

Any comments? Feelings? Disagreements? Concurances?