Monday, June 30, 2008

Lake Snakes and The Digger


The lake near my mom’s house has become infested with snakes.  While I’m not sure that two snakes in a lake that spans 654 acres constitutes an infestation, it is, in my opinion, two snakes too many.  It’s not that there weren’t snakes there before.  I’m sure there were.  But in a lifetime of summer frolicking at the neighborhood beach, I never saw a single one.  It’s not even that I have a “beef” with snakes.  It’s just biting snakes.  If they can wrap around me and crush me with a simple flex of their serpentine body…. I’m cool with that.  If they attack with their mouths… no can do.  This is how the story unfolds.

I came home from work and asked my family, “So what did you all do today?”

“We saw some snakes!” Shout my boys (who think that this is the coolest thing to ever happen in their young lives). 

“Some what?”

“SNAKES!  Snakes, snakes, snakes, snakes” etc…

“In the yard?” 

“Nope.  In the lake.”

I passed out.

I didn’t really pass out (**please note my attempt to regain some “man points”**), but I did get pretty nervous.  I got nervous because, as far as I know, the only constricting snakes that live in the water are anacondas and, even though I’ve never seen the movie, I know that anacondas only eat woodland creatures and second rate actors.  Plus they only live in The Amazon.  That left biting snakes. 

After getting a description from my wife, I found the snake on the Internet.  It was a Northern Water Snake.  The website said that they are endangered but I just think that people are too afraid to get close enough to kill them.  Anyway, it also said that if they bite you, their saliva has an anti-coagulant in it so you won’t stop bleeding.  Great.  I can picture it now.  I come home from work.

“Where’s Elijah?”

“Getting blood transfusions.”

“Oh no!  What Happened?!?!”

“Nibbled by a snake.”

While I wanted to forbid my family from ever going back to the lake, I know that my wife, as amazing a mom as she is, would sell our kids to gypsies if she couldn’t let them run around down there.  She grew up in the Adirondack Mountains and had bears attack her house.  I figured she could handle a snake.  Even the “bite you till you bleed to death” kind. 

The next day I went to work and in the early afternoon I got a phone call from my wife.  She told me that they went to the lake again and, after she explained to the boys that snakes are not swimming ropes and they shouldn’t try and make lassos out of them, they had this conversation:

“Hey, Buddy,” said Brehm to Elijah. “I’m scared of the snakes but let’s go kill them together!”

“OK, Brehm!!”

Then off they went, splashing and pretending to kill snakes while my wife watched for REAL snakes from the beach. 

Alone: Scared.  

Together: Snake Killers.



Last night was beach night at Osterville Baptist Church.  It’s a time of fellowship and beach volleyball and we baptize people in the Atlantic.  I love the symbolism of being baptized into something that much bigger than you.  Anyway, this was my third beach night and I still haven’t heard any of the “baptizees” share their stories because I usually help my wife chase after the kids.  Anyway, this beach night my in-laws were in town and she had to interpret for them since they’re both deaf.  That meant, as soon as I finished leading a couple songs, I was digging holes in the sand and climbing the lifeguard tower with the boys.  Apparently, someone had dug a big hole earlier in the day and so Brehm and Elijah wanted to jump in it.  They were running and laughing and then, WHAM!  Brehm took a major digger.  I mean he totally face-planted into the bottom of that hole.  His mouth was full of sand.  His hair and his shirt…mashed with sand.  His eyes….sandy.  All he could so was stumble over to me, looking pretty pathetic and mumble, “Dthey, Mmth ffhte, blem, rmmmm.”  Which I knew meant, “Daddy, my mouth is full of sand.  Help me wash up.”  So I led him blindly down to the ocean and gently washed his mouth, the area around his eyes and brushed his shirt off.  Then he was back to playing.  

Alone: Blind and Sandy-Mouthed.  

Together: Cleaned up and playing.


Alone: Scared.  Blind.  Mouthful of sand.

Together: Clean.  Free To Play.  Snake Killers. 


I don’t know why I have such a hard time grasping that.  It doesn’t take a genius to notice that, to steal a phrase from my church in Nashville, “Together Is Better”.  And yet this is one of the parts of the Christian life that I can fight the hardest.  I make excuses like, “I wouldn’t want to be a bother.”  Or, even worse, I can believe that my busyness is more important than someone else’s need.  I can isolate myself and live blind, sandy-mouthed, and afraid.  Or, as I’m learning to do more and more, I can be vulnerable.  I can say, “I’m scared.  Can you help me fight this?”  When I take a digger, I can stumble to a friend and ask them to help me get cleaned up.  I can stop being so selfish and be there to brush someone else off too.  Then, and only then, do I get to experience the mystery that The Bible calls The Body of Christ.  I get to know what it means to truly live life in community.  I get to experience intimacy.  I can live clean, free, and as a Snake Killer.  Is it scary?  Yes!  Is it messy?  Sometimes.  Is it what we were made for?  Absolutely. 





Monday, June 23, 2008

Frisky Horseshoe Crabs and Mr. Legs

For anyone who is as addicted to Facebook as I am, this first story won’t be new.  You see, on that site they have something called “status” which is where you can post what you are doing.  So, for example, mine might say, “Adam is typing his blog” or (as it actually says) “Adam is wondering who stole his children and left behind rabid, vampire wolverines”.  It’s a great way to know what all your friends are doing or what’s going on in their lives.  All of that is an intro so the non-Facebooking readers will know what I mean when I say that last week my status read, “Adam is feeling bad about interrupting two horseshoe crabs who were gettin' it on.  He didn’t hear the Barry White.” 

Yes.  It’s true.  My children and I disturbed mating horseshoe crabs.  There is an amazing beach in the town of Barnstable called Millway.  When the tide is out you can almost walk across the bay.  It goes out that far.  Consequently, it’s a great place to go exploring with little kids because, when the water goes out, it leaves all sorts of sea life behind.  One night, last week, we went there after dinner with our buckets to look for crabs.  Mostly what we found were hermit crabs but we caught a few spider crabs too.  And then I saw it.  A small patch of brown, covered in barnacles, and a distinctive horseshoe shaped ripple in the surrounding sand.  I’d found a horseshoe crab.  All I could see was a small patch of its shell but I knew what lay beneath the sand’s surface.  Or so I thought. 

I called the boys over and said, proudly, “Look what Daddy found” and I reached down to grab the crab’s long tail.  I pulled and nothing happened.  I got a shovel and dug around the edges to release any suction that might be holding the crab in the sand, and pulled again.  This time she came loose.  I say “she” because it was only then that I discovered the reason “she” was in the sand so well.  Even deeper in the sand, where I couldn’t see, was a giant male horseshoe crab.  He was more than twice his girlfriend’s size and, as you can imagine, was not very pleased that we had interrupted his date. 

“What are they doing, Daddy?”  my oldest son asked.

“Uh…….I think  they are making horseshoe crab babies.” 


“Uh………Um……….they’re kissing?” I say trying to keep this nice, family outing from getting R-rated.  I’ll have “The Talk” when my kids are older but four and a half is too young. 

“Oh.” He said. 

He was still wondering why the normally docile crab was trying to eat Daddy’s face off. 

After hearing this story, a friend said that she couldn’t wait to see how I got it into my blog.  I told her that if I could find a spiritual meaning in that story, I would be a genius.  After three days of trying, I decided that I was an ignoramus and gave up…until Brehm handed me a drawing.  It’s the one at the top of this entry.  I call him Mr. Legs.  The conversation went like this.

“Daddy, here’s a drawing for you.  Guess who it is.”

“Great drawing, Buddy.  Is it a planet on stilts?”

“No, silly!  It’s you.  He has long legs like you do.  See.”

Now, I’m no doctor or physiologist but I do know a little about proportions and I don’t think that my legs are THAT big.  And I have a body.  I know I have a body.  But then I realized two things: 

1)My son is only four and is not an artistic savant. 

2)My son’s head only comes up to my hip.

Number two is important because, to him, most of what he sees is leg.  He drew me the way he sees me.  As Mr. Legs. 

It was Mr. Legs that God used to get my attention.  He spoke to my heart.

“That’s what you do, Adam”


“You make drawings of me in your head based on your limited perception and not based on how I actually am.”


But, of course God was right.  He always is.  And then I thought about the crabs.  All I could see was the small patch of barnacle-encrusted shell above the sand and I thought I knew what I had found.  Little did I know that underneath the veil of sand wasn’t just one small crab but another giant one and romance and new life being created.  All that…under an unassuming sandbar.  And behind Mr. Legs is an actual living, breathing father who fiercely loves his son and who has two arms and a voice and breath.  And behind my perception of who God is, is The Living God, The Provider, The Protector, The King, The Everlasting Father, The Prince Of Peace, Love, Grace, Beauty, and on and on.  Behind my spiritual “Mr. Legs” is the God of the Bible.  Sometimes I find exactly what I expect.  Most of the time He blows my perception out of the water.  After all, as C.S. Lewis wrote of Aslan, He isn’t tame.  And that’s the God I want to worship. 

Monday, June 16, 2008

Water Snails and Tent Cage Match Unleashed

This past weekend was Father’s Day and, since I am an incredible, super-human, and humble father, I decided that a dad should spend Father’s Day weekend enjoying his kids.  This included camping, going to the beach, reading books and snuggling.  It also meant very little sleep, caffeine induced jitters, and a sunburn that made me look like an aspiring fire truck.  It was an amazing weekend. 

Since the boys had never spent the night in a tent, we decided to start gently by camping in the front yard.  The front yard is safe.  There are no bears in the front yard, just mosquitoes the size of matzo balls.  So we set up the tent they got for Christmas and put three twin mattresses inside.  With the floor completely “mattressized”, we then piled in sleeping bags, pillows, stuffed animals and a plastic truck.  It was the coolest.  Usually, the only time the boys and I have that much padding is when we play on the bed.  But beds are dangerous.  Kids can fall off beds when wrestling.  So can Daddies.  But in the tent…it was on.  It was the tent, cage match unleashed.  Flying, spinning tackles of death.  The double-team ninja dive and the resulting kung fu counter move.  We went wild.  Finally, after taking quite a few knee drops to the solar plexus, courtesy of my youngest son, I told them it was time to start calming down.  They replied with a phrase any parent of young children will recognize:

“More, Daddy!”

They didn’t want to stop.  They wanted to be flipped and tossed like a salad until they threw up.  And even then, they would still say, “More, Daddy!”

The next day the birds woke us up at 4:30 am.  It wasn’t the “beautiful, chirping” kind of bird noises though.  It was more of the “two condors fighting over a llama carcass just outside our tent” kind of noise.  We tried to go back to sleep but eventually went inside about an hour later.  After all, we had to get ready to go to the beach.  So after breakfast, working out and changing clothes, we packed everyone into the car and drove to the ocean. 

I don’t know about other parts of the country but on Cape Cod they have these things called jetties.  Not Jedis.  Jetties are long piles of giant rocks that stretch out into the water.  I’ve never been entirely sure what they are for but they are fun to climb on and fish off.  Naturally, this is where the boys want to explore.  Maybe it’s the jagged, barnacle encrusted rocks or the pounding surf but somewhere between the beach and the end of the jetty, my boys turn into Indiana Jones and I turn into Woody Allen.  But it’s at the end of the rocks that we can hunt for water snails and so that it where they go.  And I go, neurotically, behind them.

So we hunt the snails that cling to the rocks at the end of the jetty.  After five minutes I’m bored but the boys are just getting started.  Ten minutes. 

“Boys, do you want to go explore the marsh?”

“More snails, Daddy.”

Fifteen minutes.

“Boys, the sun is turning Daddy into a charcoal briquette.”

“More snails, Daddy.”

Twenty minutes.

“A seagull just pooed on my shoulder.”

“More snails, Daddy.”

They would keep hunting snails, pulling them off the rocks, throwing them back in and looking for more until they collapsed from exhaustion.

This is something I have a hard time understanding because repetitive things bore me.  With children this is only magnified because you need to show enthusiasm about each snail or ju-jitsu leg lock even if it’s the eight hundredth snail or karate move.  It can be very tiring.  And so, because as an adult I tire so easily, I begin to feign interest. 

“Really, Buddy!  That nine bazzillionth snail really is the super coolest.”

And so the joy of discovery, the newness that my boys experience with each wrestling move and sea creature gets lost on me.  Lost in the rehearsed responses of adulthood. 

It makes me think of the Gospel of Mark.  In the seventh chapter, Jesus is confronting the religious establishment of his day, The Pharisees.  What’s interesting to me is that the charge Jesus brings against them is that they have let go of the commands of God and are holding onto the traditions of men. When most people read that passage the part that jumps out to them is the word “traditions”.  What jumps out to me is the “…of men”.  I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t condemn tradition out right.  In fact, he says that they have rejected the “commands of God”, which, it so happens, involve lots of traditions.  Where he finds a problem is the traditions of men.  Those feigned responses of adulthood created so we can hide the fact that we’re bored.  The “amens” we say even though we don’t know what we are saying amen to.  We've forgotten what kids instinctively know.  How to rejoice in each snail, story, camp out, joke, etc...  What we need; what I need, is less traditions of men and more traditions of children.  Less grown-up and more child-like.  A heart that beats a little faster every time I come to worship, or pray or read my bible.  Joy every time I sing that hymn, or chorus, even if I’ve sung it nine bazillion times before.  And a soul that laughs and cries out, “More, Daddy” again and again and again.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Skin Tabs and Missing Legs

My son Brehm has amazing powers of perception.  He notices things that I might not not see, or think important, and points them out to me. 

-       A lady bug landing on a single blade of grass in the middle of a lawn.

-       A half buried rock on the beach

-       The kid with one leg at the playground

It was the last item that caused me the most discomfort because, when he points things out to me, he doesn’t have a volume control. 

This past weekend my family and my sister’s family got together and went to the playground.  Five kids, inside for two days, equals pent-up energy akin to nuclear fission. They needed to run and scream.  This was, apparently, a popular idea since there were lots of kids there.  One of those kids only had one leg.  Where his leg should have been, he had a bright, red, titanium pole with a sneaker attached to the end.  It’s one of those things that you notice but, as an adult, you pretend you don’t notice.  Because that’s what polite people do.  They ignore the glaringly obvious.  And then I heard it.


Wait…was that my son’s voice?

“HEY!  You have one leg!” 

That was definitely my son’s voice. 

“What happened to your leg?  You just have one leg!”

He said it as if somehow the fact had escaped the boy.  The boy’s friend answered.

“It got cut off when he was a baby.”

“Cool!” said Brehm. He kept playing but watched the one-legged boy with awe.  
“I want a cool, red leg like that, Dad!”

“No.  No, you don’t.”


Brehm has, at times, turned that observant gaze my way.  One day I picked him up and he said, “Dad.  What are those hideously grotesque things on your neck?” (He didn’t actually use the words “hideously grotesque” that’s just artistic hyperbole)  Those "things" he was referring to were some skin tabs that had started to grow around the neckline of my shirt.  Honestly, I knew they were there and was pretty embarrassed about them but hadn’t had the time to go to the doctor.  And so my son, with the tact of a rhino, decided to point them out.  Loudly.  I was relieved that he hadn’t seen the one forming on my back.  THAT one was big.   My wife said that it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  While I know the she would never lie to me, I just knew that it was really the size of a giant iguana. 

Besides the embarrassment factor, there was the secret fear that they might be more than skin tabs.  That they might, in fact, be the tip of a cancerous iceberg just under the surface of my skin.  Really, though, I wanted them cut off because I’m vain.  See, since I started this new diet and exercise plan I’ve been a little obsessed with my new, firm physique.  By “firm” I mean soft-set Jello instead of the previous pudding. So, these tabs were blemishes on the skin of the body I was working and dieting to sculpt.  And when I say “sculpt” imagine mashed potatoes and the movie "Close Encounters", not Michael Angelo’s David.  I decided to go to the doctor to have them cut off. 

After a quick exam, the doctor informed me that the tabs were not cancer but merely cosmetic and that they would be happy to snip them off.  They did most of them without any numbing stuff (the technical term) and the giant, mother of all skin tabs on my back was numbed, snipped and burned to stop the bleeding.  Quick, relatively painless and I could go back to flexing in front of the mirror without any distractions.  I could also pick up my son without him asking me if I was growing branches. 

I think that sometimes I treat people like skin tabs and one-legged boys.  I can ignore them or cut them off if they make me uncomfortable or interrupt my vanity.  I mean, I’ve worked hard for almost twenty years to achieve the sculpted spiritual “bod” you see today. I told you I was vain.  But the truth is that I worry far too much about how the people in my life reflect on me, and less about how well I’m loving them.  The church isn’t immune to this.  We all know churches where we didn’t feel welcome because we weren’t the “right kind” of person.  Members Only is fine for yacht clubs and eighties leather jacket brands but not for church and not for me.  And yet, that is the life I’ve created for myself.  One that is free from relationships that make me uncomfortable or challenge me.  One that allows me to check out my Christian muscles and politely ignore anyone that takes my focus off me.  Flexin’ for Jesus. This should not be if I call myself a follower of Christ.

Jesus, who was fully God, came and lived among us, sinful humanity, and took on frail flesh out of love for us.  He lived as a homeless man, with twelve men of questionable repute. That twelve included one who he knew would betray him and lead to his death.  And that was just his close friends.  His list of acquaintances led the religious authorities to call him a drunkard and sinner.  He never ignored.  He never cut off anyone even when they challenged him or damaged his reputation.  He certainly never surrounded himself with a sanitized version of humanity. And, if I claim to follow in his foot-steps, why do I expect my life look different?  


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What Do You Say?

“What do you say?” 


It’s a question that gets asked five bazillion times a day in the Moritz household.  For anyone who is wondering, a bazillion is a completely made-up but very large number. We ask this question anytime we give something to our kids.  I hand them their morning coffee (aka hot cocoa) and I ask, “What do you say?”  The answer I’m looking for is, obviously, “Thank you,” even though I keep waiting for them to surprise me with a truly original answer.  “Moose, Dad…we say moose.”


We go through this so many times that I’m starting to get a little worried that my boys aren’t catching on.  I say “my boys” because my daughter is only five months old and to expect her to say “thank you” would be mean. Sometimes they remember and I’m flooded with warm feelings and, if they asked at that very moment, would buy them a pony…or a dragon.  But most of the time they forget.  I’ve started taking whatever it is away from them, and THEN asking.  That usually gets me an annoyed raise of the eyebrow and a totally unthankful thank you. 


So why do I go through this with them?  Because I want to cultivate a heart of gratitude in them.  The funny thing is, is that they can spot an ungrateful person.  In the movie “Babe” (that’ll do pig) there’s a scene where the grandfather has made a beautiful handmade dollhouse for his granddaughter but when she gets it, she pitches a fit.  It’s not the one she saw in the store.  Both my boys will look at me and say, “Daddy.  She’s being ugly” because in our house “ugly” is an attitude and not an unfortunate facial feature.  They seem to get it with other people but not with themselves.  And so I ask, “What do you say?” and hope that eventually the answer will come without the question. 


I think I need to ask myself that question more than I do because God gives me more than I ever thank Him for.  I’m not even talking about the “biggies” of grace, love, salvation, joy, etc…  I’m talking about the everyday, ordinary happenings that I usually overlook as everyday and ordinary.  A beautiful sunrise.  What do I say?  A choice of what to wear or eat.  What do I say?  My pay-check gets deposited.  What do I say?  I love my family and my job/s.  What do I say?  Add to those things, the uncountable other blessings I enjoy, and my mouth should never stop saying “Thank You!”  And yet, my mouth finds all sorts of other things to say, most of which it shouldn’t say.  And so at the end of the day, I’m probably more “ugly” than grateful. 


My wife had a great idea.  Her answer to the gratitude problem is not my question and answer routine.  She, being much smarter and more positive than I am, decided to practice gratitude.  So, we went to Borders last night and bought a journal that is going to be our gratitude journal for the summer.  Every few days, we’re going to sit down with the boys and write down things that we want to thank God for.  If possible, we’ll glue a picture in too.  By the end of the summer, we should have an amazing record and reminder of how we saw the gracious hand of God.  And when I read it later on I hope I won’t have to be reminded what to say.