Wednesday, May 30, 2012
It's been on my mind for years. What is that little pink thing that sticks out of a lizard's (gecko's) neck? I've wondered this for most of my life, which may at first give you the impression that I have no life. Whenever I see a lizard crawling up the window sill on my back porch I wait like my 5-year old waits for the approaching ice cream truck to stop. I wait for the lizard to pause, look at me curiously, and then bob his little head up and down until that little pink thing protrudes from his little neck. After a moment of head bobbing, it disappears to who knows where. Then he goes about his business as usual, oblivious to my presence and my sense of total fascination. What just happened? Was he (or she) communicating with me? Was he showing off like a peacock shows its tail? Was he threatening me? Was it a sign of affection? Makes me wonder. I could "Google" this or ask on Facebook and find out exactly what it means. I could Tweet. I don't want to. I don't want to know the "truth". I prefer to leave it to my imagination; it serves me well. I can interpret this odd behavior as a sign that, in the eyes of the lizard, I am a worthless human being. That is, of course, if I've had a bad day. I can just as easily see it as a sign of love and affection. That's for a good day. If I knew what it really meant then that all goes out the window. I prefer to leave it be.
Same with the songs that I've never known the words to. I remember the disappointment I felt when I learned that the "Go-Go's" song that I sang in the shower was not called "As long as I see you". It's "Our lips are sealed". Bummer. There's a commercial that plays on this. They use "Rocket Man". They show people singing the words as they have always believed them to be. At the end, you find out that the line is "burning out his fuse up here alone". What???? It's not "burning up the sea of heaven" (pronounced heh-eh-vaughn). I used to ponder what those mysterious words meant. Sea of Heaven. Wasn't there something about that in the Bible? Rocket Man went to the sea of heaven. It's a song about Jesus or something. Wow. No. It's a song about a very lonely man in space. I like my Rocket Man better.
They say that "Psycho" is the scariest movie ever. Show it to a 15 year old and they'll laugh out loud. Why? Because now, the horror flicks show it all. Blood, bodies, etc. Psycho was so scary because during that shower scene, you never really got to see the "killer". You didn't see all of the gory stuff. Its mostly left to your imagination. And imagination pales in comparison to anything they show you on the screen.
I think this way about fear. I have learned in my years (not that I am an old man or anything), that when I am afraid of something it is usually a figment of my imagination. I can conjure up the worst of scenarios. The plane will go down. The lap bar on the roller coaster will disengage during the ride. The ship will sink. If I were to give in to all of that then I would never fly, ride, or sail. Gee, what I would miss. Not all fear is imagined. It is the body's natural defense mechanism that can get our guard up when necessary. I am afraid of tornadoes. I hide from them (in the bathtub). I don't chase them. I've seen the movie "Twister" so I know what can happen. I have to think that most of what I fear is being conjured up in my own little brain. Fear of public speaking; no one will listen, they'll laugh, they'll think I'm stupid. Fear of commitment; what if it doesn't turn out "right", what if I'm surprised by what happens, what if it's not a good fit for me. Fear of failure; I'll look ignorant, I'll have egg on my face; I'll never get another chance. Most of that kind of stuff comes directly from my imagination. It can keep me from living into who I am. It can keep us from understanding other people. It can keep us from seeing ourselves, and one another, for who we really are. Think about it.
I looked it up. Dad gummit I went and looked it up. That little pink thing? It's a neck pouch. It can be shown as a sign of agression. It can be a sign of fight, flight, or flatter. In other words, who knows? So, turns out I can still imagine whatever I want to imagine. But a lonely Rocket Man all alone in outer space? Still like mine better.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Husband comes home after a long day at work. Wife has just cooked dinner and is now in chair folding 2 laundry baskets full of clothes. Husband comes in, gets beer, lays across couch to watch Monday Night Football. Husband appears oblivious to wife working. Wife gets more and more irritated as the minutes go by.
Wife: (forcefully) Uh, are you going to sit there like that all night or are you going to help me with these clothes?
Husband: (innocently) What?
Wife: (angrily) I said, are you going to help me with these clothes??? Why is it that every night you come home and lay on the couch and drink your beer and never bother to help around here??? Can't you see I need help????
Husband: (clueless) Help? If you wanted me to help then why didn't you ask?
Wife: (now fuming) I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO ASK!!!!!!!
Now, be honest. Has this happened in your home? Married couples call this "communication". It's standard operating procedure in millions of homes around the world. And it's not communication. The scenario you see above is called "assumption". We assume that someone else knows what we want. We don't come right out and ask for what we want, we assume. The word that usually follows is "incorrectly". Assumption will lead right down the path you see above on almost every occasion.
I've noticed that we have no trouble at all asking for what we want outside of our home. Have you ever pulled up to the drive thru (why is it always spelled like that) at the Dairy Queen and sat in your car in silence when the girl asks you what you want? She should know what I want because I've been here a thousand times before and I always get a Belt buster with cheese and extra mayo with a large fry and a side of cream gravy for the dipping!!! Uh, ok. When I order from Amazon, I don't leave the order form blank. Don't they know by now what I like? Nah, I ask for what I want. Seems there is a serious lack of communication going on outside of the marketplace.
Our culture doesn't help out much with our diminishing ability to communicate. It encourages it. The first time I got a text from a friend who was sitting directly across the table from me I knew that the times were changing. Note: the text I received did not say "you have mustard on your chin" or "check your pants". It was something like, "wassup". We've also grown accustomed to culling down our language with this new found way of "communication". I wanted to meet a friend the other day so I texted this..."cn u b at FS wed aft"? His response was "np". At first, I thought he meant to say no and that his auto correct had messed him up. So, I asked what he meant. I use the word "asked" loosely, all I did was this, "?" He replied, "I meant no prob dud". He couldn't even spell out his explanation. No problem dud (dude). I can't wait until this translates into communication outside of our IPhones. Imagine walking up to the counter at Taco Bell and handing them a note like this; "I want a TBG XC BS XS NLT with a side of SCEHS". And the guy writes back, "np dud". Then a big screen will flash your ready to pick up order; ON5RFPUP. But you have to go to the restroom so you text BRB. Who was that guy that sang, "what a wonderful world this would be"? If our communication reaches that point at Taco Bell, imagine what it will be reduced to at home? A series of grunts and snarls. We are right back to square one. Assuming.
Ask for what you want. Don't be afraid. From a guy's point of view I can honestly say that if the Cowboys are playing the Redskins we may not be paying a lot of attention, just like when your watching "Lifetime" or "Ellen". Fair is fair. My wife once let me practically die of heatstroke when I was cutting grass because it was Oprah's last show. She never noticed the sweating, nearly fainting shell of a man pushing the mower. Ask. Water please? Help with the socks? I guarantee you that if asked repeatedly then it will begin to register. And please don't text me from across the table, or even across the room. If my shoes don't match just say so. I won't hold it against you. Iz np I cn asur u. Ltr duds!
Friday, May 18, 2012
I'm beginning to wonder how we survived. Those of us who grew up at any time prior to say, 1990, were subjected to some things that could have been highly detrimental to our well being. Maybe that's what's wrong with us. How we were able to grow into adulthood without being electrocuted, filled with high amounts of lead, or suffocated by a sippy cup is beyond me. Being a parent these days not only takes a lot of work, but it also requires that we spend an awful lot of time "childproofing" everything that we own. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING can be left within reach of small children these days. Every light socket must be covered, every drawer has to have those very hard to install "locks" that don't work half the time (my son once pulled on a "locked" cabinet door with all of his weight, when the lock gave way his hand slipped off and he fell backwards, hitting his head on the hard floor which then led to an hour of traumatic screams); nothing can be left out on the tables or the kitchen counters anymore. Have small children evolved into something different than before? Did I miss something? Please don't misunderstand, I am a fan of all of this new safety stuff. I just wonder how I survived childhood in a house where scissors, "bobby pins", and meat cleavers were always well within my reach. Maybe I once stood at a light socket with a long, thin metal object with the thought that I would see if I could make my hair stand up like Yosemite Sam but I don't remember it if I did. I used to ride in the bed of my dad's truck flying through Houston at 90 miles an hour; dad's only instructions were to "stay off of the fender well". What fun! Dad would have come to know the letters "CPS" very well had this happened in the new millennium. I'm assuming that small children are prone to chew the walls in their bedroom because you can't have lead paint anywhere in the house. Had I put my mouth to the walls I would have had much more to worry about than lead in my blood stream. Lead in the tummy would have been the better option I assure you. If you are over 40 years old, do you remember car seats? No? That's because they didn't exist. I'm not even sure if I had to wear a seatbelt back then. I do remember that little triangle shaped window in the car that you could open to allow the air to come in. This was before air was "conditioned" of course. And my parents smoked in the car. How did we survive?
Again, I'm all for this new stuff. I'm all for safety. I do have a little trouble understanding how "sippy cups" are dangerous now. Have you seen them? What could be so bad about a cute little "Dora the Explorer" sippy cup?? I don't know, I think we survived our childhood because our parents worked real hard at teaching. Relentless, mind numbing, over the top, repeat yourself every 5 seconds kind of teaching. It worked. Teaching that a finger in the outlet could kill you. Yes, my parents said the word "kill". If you eat McDonald's every day then that could cost you your health so no, son, you ain't eating McDonald's today. They could have cared less about how loud my screams would become. It was still no. Lesson learned. My mom used to threaten me within an inch of my life (death was apparently a great deterrent for me) if I even thought about opening a kitchen cabinet. Chew the walls? I wasn't even allowed to touch them. I can also tell you that the closest I have ever come in my life to long periods of silent meditation were the times when I had to sit at the table until I had eaten every bite of my liver. You try staring at a cold piece of liver for over an hour and see how quiet you get. I always ate it. I didn't like it, but I ate it.
So yeah, I'm all about car seats and toys being pulled off the shelves because they have lead. I'm all about locks and bolts and medicines placed on high, far away shelves. Don't dare speed down the freeway with your child in the bed of the truck. Sorry dad, but that's just dangerous. Just don't let all of the newfangled safety stuff replace the teaching. Things can hurt you out there. You won't always be shielded from every hurt and harm. Know what to do when you encounter real danger and understand that if something can "kill you" then you better file that away in the "never do that" file. Good advice for me too.
Now, get this. When you put the safety cap on a light socket, guess what you have to do. You have to stick the thing...yes...in the light socket. What twisted person thought of that? Risk electrocution to save your child. I guess plastic is not a conductor of electricity. Or is it? Beats eating liver.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Did you know that Beyonce is the most beautiful woman in the world? It's true. I saw it on the morning news today; People magazine has named her the most beautiful woman in the world. Did you get that? In the world! I want to give kuddos to the staff of People magazine for this work. Can you imagine it? Sifting through the pictures of every woman in the world! How long does that take? Millions and millions of pictures to cull through. After this arduous process the team must then begin trimming down the list until finally arriving upon what? A top ten? A final four? I'm glad that I don't have to figure out who the world's most beautiful or "sexy" woman is for the calendar year 2012; the work must be "all consuming". If you serve on this team of experts then I suppose you have to be sequestered for some length of time because you only have a few months to complete your assignment. I remember just recently that another publication picked the most beautiful woman ever! Like, starting with Eve and working down to Jennifer Anniston! I would not want this job!
I wonder what criteria they are using here. Maybe I'll Google it and find out. Hair color might be a factor along with the number of visible blemishes. Judging from the list, it would also appear that some level of fame/fortune is necessary as well. Movie stars, recording artists, and swimsuit models dominate the field so it stands to reason that this makes the culling much easier...just throw out the women who aren't rich, famous, or otherwise worthy of big time notoriety and I guess it eliminates about 3/4 of the women in the world. You have to start somewhere right? I've also noticed that your wardrobe helps. If you typically show up in public places with the kind of outfit that leaves very little to the imagination then you are going to move to the top of the list. After all, since the judges can see most everything it gives them a much better impression as to how beautiful you really are. Kate Upton? Top of the list! Angelina Joile? A shoe in after that dress she had on the other night! Lady Gaga? Obviously trying to get the votes!
So, I salute the folks at People Magazine for their work. I must say that if you decide to have a "most beautiful woman in the world" award that you are setting yourself up for quite a task. I just have to stay this to you though. Based on the obvious criteria, there will be a few women that get tossed out year after year. They will not get past the first cut. Maybe you could consider them please?
Elizabeth Edwards (deceased, yet worthy of consideration)
Susan G. Komen
Ellen Besson (my wife)
Carol Young (my mother)
Start with those. If you don't know the names then you can look them up. Call me if you need further info in regards to the last 2 on the list. You'll need to block out some time if you choose to contact me about them because they're beauty goes far beyond what you'll see on the outside.
From a grateful reader...
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Well, this one certainly caught my eye. "Forget the Church". I'm not sure what possessed me to read an article whose title I so adamantly disagree with but I figured, what could it hurt? I mean, the Bible on my desk clearly identifies the "church" as the "Body of Christ" so the separation of the two seems to be a stretch...what could this guy "Andrew" be getting at? So out of curiosity I read it. The article began by saying that "if you go to the second floor of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., you'll find a room containing an 18th century Bible whose pages are full of holes. They are carefully razor-cut empty spaces, so this was not an act of vandalism". Sullivan is referring to the infamous "Jefferson Bible", a project that the 4th President of the United States began to undertake when he was around 77 years old. He literally took a razor and removed the passages that "he thought reflected the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth". He cut and pasted his way through until he had created a "slimmer, different New Testament". His criteria for removal, according to Sullivan, was anything that Jefferson believed represented the "very words of Jesus", leaving behind the "misconceptions of Jesus' followers" that were expressed "unintelligibly". The snippets of the "real Jesus" were described as "diamonds" in a "dunghill" that was fraught full of "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man". Jefferson apparently determined that the Incarnation, Resurrection, and "various miracles" were "dung" because they hit the chopping block right away. The "message was the miracle".
So, out of curiosity, I looked at the "Jefferson Bible"; here's a sampling of what Jefferson thought to be "dung":
Luke's description of the angelic visit to Mary.
Jesus turning water into wine.
John the Baptist's words to the Pharisees (you brood of vipers).
Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus.
John 3:16 (for God so loved the world).
I could go on. You can look it all up for yourself. I'll save you the trouble. Jefferson took out the hard stuff. You know, the really challenging stuff, the stuff that makes us uneasy and calls us to have some semblance of faith. No man could raise the dead, right? No man could be the Son of God, right? No man could perform a miracle that defies the laws of nature...right? Resurrection? No way. The Son of God in pain? Forget it. If we can't explain it, reason it, or prove it with science and logic and reason then it's "dung" (the excrement of animals). Cut it out like a cancer before it affects the whole. Keep the nice, easy to understand stuff that doesn't challenge us on every level. Keep the stuff that requires little or no faith. If we can't reason it out then it can't be true. That's what the Pharisees thought so they killed the messenger in order to kill the message. Funny thing happened, the message remained intact and believed by billions of people for 2012 years by my last count.
I hesitate to say this. Maybe I shouldn't, lest it trouble the person who took the time to read the words of my blog. I wouldn't want anyone to decide that I am a fundamentalist, ultra conservative, believer in the inerrant and infallible Bible. I really am none of those things. So maybe now that I've got that out of the way I can go ahead and say it. Christianity is not easy. Following Jesus isn't all roses, mostly because we don't dictate the terms and we apparently have to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the needs of others (difficult when the ol' portfolio drops a couple of points, no?). I often ponder what would happen if we (notice I am saying we) were to take it upon ourselves to live into some of the hard teachings (dung) of Christ? I wonder what the world might look like if we loved neighbor as self? I wonder what might happen if we made every attempt to live into the precepts of the Gospels? I wonder how different things might be if we modeled our very lives after the sacrificial life that Jesus led? Well, for those of you not quite so familiar with the Bible, I can tell you to read through the book of Acts to see what can happen when ordinary, flawed, uncertain human beings decided to do just that. You will note healing. You will note transformation. You will note peace. You will note a brief time when poverty was nonexistent. And yes, you will note the miracles. I must warn you though, don't read it in the "Jefferson Bible" because the above mentioned events were probably cut out.
One other thing. If we really do believe in a God that created everything from nothing; if we proclaim a belief in this all powerful, all knowing God that holds the balance of the universe in his "hands"; if we believe that the God that we worship has created some sort of order out of the chaos and some level of good in the midst of evil, then is it that big of a stretch to say that the remote possibility exists that he could turn a jug of water into something comparable to a nice, Willamette Valley Pinot? I hope so, because I'm staking my life on the far greater miracle that apparently leads me to life eternal.
Jefferson should have stuck to the politics. Just sayin...
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I should be happy. I'm not so sure that I am. I am. And then I'm not. Tonight at 6:00 my wife and I will take our son to the school that he'll begin attending in the fall. A full fledged kindergartner. The boy is growing up. This brings me joy. And it makes me sad. See, this whole situation is exacerbated by the fact that for the past year and a half my son has been attending the pre-k at the church that I serve. I can eat lunch with him whenever I want. I take him home every day. I watch him play on the playground through the kitchen window and I can sneak into chapel and watch him worship. When the weather gets really bad, which it has been doing quite frequently these days, I can keep a close eye on him and I can rest in the knowledge that if the tornado warning turns out to be more than a warning that I can crouch somewhere in the corner of the building with my son held tightly in my arms. Even though I know that this will show that I have some level of codependency I am going to say it anyway. It brings me comfort and peace just knowing that he's in my building. The other day I did something I shouldn't have. I said, "Lorenzo, would you rather stay another year at our school because if you do then you will be in the classroom right next to my office...or would you rather go off to kindergarten and leave me here all alone? He looked at me and said, "I want to go with my friends dada". I felt like I had a knife in my heart. "You sure", I asked? "Yes dada". "You're going to make dada cry", I said, half joking. "Sorry". Sorry?? That's all he's got? The boy is growing up.
Being a dad has caused me to do something else that I really shouldn't do. I have tried to "fast forward" time, which I always regret in hindsight. I used to say things like "I can't wait until this boy is potty trained...I can't wait"!! When he was potty trained I said, "It wasn't so bad I suppose". Then this, "I can't wait until he can feed himself". When he finally could I said, "I wish I could still feed him every once in awhile". When he stopped coming down to my bedroom at 3:00am every night because he "needed me" I was a little relieved and a little sad at the same time. One day he'll stop sitting in my lap. That will be the day that I start the anti-depressants. This growing up stuff is not sitting very well with me. I like the fact that my son depends on me. He really needs me for stuff. Now I'm registering him for the "big boy school". It won't be long before I'm handing him the keys to my Cherokee. Then off to college. A wife and kids. Then no more phone calls. Then he'll put me in a nursing home. Good gosh, I have so much to look forward to.
Sometimes I think we resist the idea of "growing up" in another area of our lives. When it comes to our relationship with God, we can very easily fall into neutral. It's easy to take it for granted isn't it? God is always there right? We can pray without ceasing or we can give it 30 seconds before falling asleep. We can read the Bible daily or just wait until we hear it read in church. We can worship as often as we can or we can show up when there's nothing else to do that day. No matter what, God is going to be there. God is going to show up. God can be at the top of our list of priorities or he can be at the very bottom. He's there. No matter what.
I once heard someone say that there are only 3 places that we can ever be in our relationship with God. Forward, neutral, or reverse. One is really good. The other two are not. I think that part of it is fear. We fear growth in this relationship because if we grow then something will be asked of us. Life might change. Routines might get shuffled just a bit. We may have to begin making decisions between the myriad of Sunday options and worship. Someone might ask us to work the church garage sale or to consider serving as an usher which would then require a commitment of some sort. Look out if you express any interest at all in working with kids...you'll be on the "volunteer list" so fast your head will spin. We resist growth because we resist change. I wonder what our biblical story would look like if Mary had resisted her call or if Paul had just keep on killing Christians? What if Moses decided to remain a shepherd? What about Peter, James, and John? I suppose we would have never known their names.
If you're resisting growth then don't. God is there even if you deny him for awhile. He's not going anywhere. As soon as you turn to him then the "host of heaven" will dance. Continue to seek and you will find. Don't stay home on Sunday. Worship. Sing. Pray. Listen. Meet people who struggle like you. Find God and be open to change. God won't do it for you, but he will show you the map. He'll be you're GPS. You need God. Apparently he needs you. Otherwise, why would he take the time to seek you?
I remember that I wept at the front door when I visited Graceland for the first time. I fear a repeat performance when I get to the school tonight. The boy is growing up. Not neutral or reverse. Forward. I am grateful.
On a totally unrelated note...I have a good friend that has launched an amazing website for folks who are addicted to tennis like I am. Check it out:
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Dick Cheney is to old to get a heart. That's what I read. He's to old to get a heart. In other words, he's to old to live. He doesn't deserve it because, best case scenario, he'll only be able to use his new, transplanted heart for about 10-20 years max before he dies of old age. Better give it to someone else who can get more life out of the thing because after all, the man is 71 years old for crying out loud. As you probably know, Dick got his heart. The debate continues in regards to who gets the scarce, vital organs out there and who doesn't. Seems that there are many who believe that age should be a factor (this is currently not the case). Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist practicing in California, summed it up best in the New York Times; "the ethical issues are not that he had a transplant, but who didn't". I don't know about you, but this whole debate deeply troubles me.
Please do not read my remarks today and think that I don't like kids or that the children and youth of the world are not important. Please don't wonder how I can be ignorant enough to not see, in an age when vital organs are in fact scarce, that it makes perfect, logical sense to give them to those who might benefit from them the longest. Yes, it makes perfect sense to give them to those who have their "whole life ahead of them". I get it. If, God forbid, my 5 year old needed a heart and it was given instead to Dick Cheney, I too might well up with anger. I know I would. So, again, I get it. Here's what troubles me. The language and scope of the debate sends a message to our "seniors" doesn't it? The message is not new. You don't matter. Your time is done. You have reached the point that your life is no longer as valuable as another life. Thanks for all you've done. Thanks for leading us through World Wars. Thank you so much for navigating us through the tumultuous 60's and 70's; it could have gone a much different way. We appreciate the way that you so nicely preserved things for us and moved our technology towards the rather amazing place that we find it today. Could you step aside now? We've got to move on. Let us do what we need to do now. You go to Branson and watch Mickey Gilley and Andy Williams sing all of that old stuff nobody listens to anymore. If we need you we will call you. But don't wait by the phone. We can take it from here.
I have this nightmare. If you've been reading my blog then you know that I am a priest in the Episcopal Church. The church I serve is amazing. It's really grown. People listen with some level of intensity when I preach. They look to me to stand behind the altar and pray the prayers and touch the bread and the wine. They expect decisions from me. They want vision and leadership. They look for me to teach them the things of scripture. They ask deep questions and they want answers...from me. One day they won't. No one will. This is my nightmare. I will be all alone at a very old age and not one single person will care about what I say or what I believe. They won't ask me about vision and they won't look to me for major decisions. People won't nod their heads in affirmation when I speak and they won't feverishly make notes as I give my interpretation of the Gospels. I will be to old for any of that. The world will have passed me by. Moving on without me. A life that was once filled with the sense of so much purpose will be left staring out of the window to watch the squirrels digging the ground. If I need a liver or a heart to go on with my life, I will read somewhere that the majority believe that it's better to let me die. Depressing? All nightmares are.
Years ago the Diocese that I serve created a vision and core values. It stated that we are "youthful". We are "reenergized" by the constant infusion of youth. The church is constantly seeking ways to reach out to youth and young adults. Youth youth youth. This is all well and good but something is missing here. We must not forget who or what "brung us" to where we are. We must not forget that the vision and direction that we applaud these days was set on the foundation of those that had vision and direction before us. No life is useless and no life should be forgotten. Even when we pass the age of 72, we are, according to the Bible I read, "children of God", a "Royal Priesthood", and the "Body of Christ". We all have "gifts" to be used to advance the Kingdom of God. Nowhere do I read that once you reach retirement age that you are now disqualified from doing the work that us "young-uns" are supposed to be doing. In God's eyes, the folks who are left alone in our nursing homes to throw bread to the gathered pigeons are no less valuable than my 5 year old son or his dad the young, energetic priest. Search the Bible if you will, but I can save you the trouble. You won't find any footnotes or asterisks that would lead you to believe that God takes away our value and worth once we are limited to moving in a "Hover-round". Can I be bold enough to say that one of the great sins of our generation is the way in which our culture can so flippantly set aside the lives of the older and weaker children of God? They need us and we need them. They are not a burden to society. My goodness, didn't they bear burdens for us? It's time we repent of this sin I think. Look at it this way. One day it will be you. It will be me. There's no stopping it. One day it's our turn. Someone will scoff when we can't quite figure out the IPhone 15. They'll take away our license because we are "dangerous". Our eyesight will go. We will learn firsthand the meaning of "fixed income". Will we yearn for the day when we are forgotten? I think not.
So I say way to go Dick Cheney. Hope you live to be 100.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
"The Voice". Maybe you've seen it. I hear that it's now approaching "American Idol" viewership. In "TV speak" that means it's a really big hit. I've been watching the past few weeks as season two has begun. If you have no idea what I'm talking about then here's the "Cliff's Notes" version. Aspiring amature singers have been auditioning for the show over the last several weeks. There are four judges that sit in gigantic, rather comfortable looking chairs. They critique each aspiring young singer with what looks like a great amount of thought, at least judging from the very serious faces they make while they listen. If you didn't know any better, you'd think that they were studying for final exams. It's basically the same concept as all of the other shows that judge America's Greatest Talent, America's Greatest Dancer, America's Greatest Cook, and America's Greatest Idol. One difference with this one. On "The Voice", contestants earn a spot on the show by going through what they call "blind auditions". While the singers perform, the judges have their backs turned to the stage. They can't see who's singing. They can hear but they can't see. If they like what they hear, and if they want the artist to be on their "team", they press a button and their chair turns around to face the stage. A sign lights up at the bottom of the chair that says "I want you". I like it. The judges don't want to be in any way biased by what they might see. They want to judge on merit (and voice) alone.
Have you ever heard the expression, "you eat with your eyes first"? It's true, presentation is everything. If it looks like it just came out of the dumpster out back then you aren't going to eat it. I once ordered a green hamburger on St. Patricks Day. Not good. I decided that before I put it in my mouth. Sandwiches with weird looking bread are a turn off for me. I like my fries to be long and thin, I don't like for them to look like miniature waffles. Long, thin ones taste better. Maybe that's why green ketchup and Diet Coke on white cans never passed muster with the public. It's just to strange. It looks funny, which of course means that it's no good. It's not just food. I hear that something like 80% of all people who visit churches for the first time decide whether or not they'll come back before they ever walk in the door. I guess you worship with your eyes first too.
I'm wondering what criteria I typically use when I judge the people I meet? Is it hair color and style? Color of skin? Weight? Smartphone? When I see someone with a cup of Starbucks in their hand, this communicates something to me. I'm not sure what exactly, but I know that if the next person I see has a cup from the Exxon down the street then I will make a judgement call. Shiny black Hummer vs. Ford Fiesta? You get the point. There's a place in the Bible where it says that Jesus could "see into the heart". This can sound like a threat at first, like, "Jesus knows the skeletons in our closet". I don't see it that way. Jesus sees past our hair. He looks past the diet long since forgotten. Droids and iPhones are the same to him. Starbucks might be what's served at the heavenly banquet (surely it is), but Exxon will do just fine. Jesus sees us for who we are. Children of God I think it says.
Try this for Lent (we have 5 weeks left). Try doing a blind audition. I'm not suggesting that you turn your back on everyone you meet, and then if you like their voice, that you then turn around with a shirt that says "I want you" printed across the front. That might land you in jail where the food is not meant to be pleasing to the eye. Instead, try to look past outer appearance, dress, or coffee cup. Try your best to see people for who they really are. Rather than huffing and puffing because you have to sit next to that "person" on the flight home, strike up a conversation. Maybe they like Starbucks too. Instant bonding will commence. If you get "stuck" next to another one of "those people" with one of those ridiculous sounding ringtones that has the same effect on you as nails on a chalkboard, rather than thinking them to be yet another "loser" who's strayed right into your path, say hello. How are you? When you're in the elevator and the girl gets in with purple hair and a piercing in every visible orifice complete with complimentary tattoos, nod your head as if to say"good morning". Better yet, say it. Don't judge by what you see outside because you (we) have no idea what's going on inside. You might be the only "good morning" they get all day. They just might need it. Perhaps, you have been placed in their path for a reason.
Try the blind audition. Meet some fascinating people. Drink Starbucks. Love people. After all, it says somewhere else in that book I referenced earlier that they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. I think they might be worth getting to know.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
A few weeks ago, a man named Josh Powell blew up his home in Washington State with his 2 small children inside. On purpose. The world was left to wonder why. How can one be so cruel? How could a man do that to his kids? Why is their so much cruelty in the world? Thank goodness that we had Westboro Baptist "Church" to answer these very important questions for us. According to this "church", it all happened in Washington because of the state's recent "rebellion"; a reference to the state's support of same sex marriage. God was punishing Washington. Westboro has protested a number of military funerals because the "church" (note the repeated use of quotation marks) believes that our soldiers are dying in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan because of our country's tolerance for homosexuality. They hold up signs like "Pray for more dead soldiers"; logic so skewed and twisted that it is beyond my ability to even comprehend it. I've seen pictures on the news that showed Westboro children that could not have been more than 5 or 6 years old holding up signs with messages that I won't dare repeat. You can Google the "church" if you want to see them for yourself. My 5 year old son recently held up a sign that said "Good Luck Dad, we love you" at the 5K I ran several weeks ago. The "Westboro kids" hold up signs condemning the world to the eternal pit of fire; unless of course it repents. At least according to the 4 year old. This, in my opinion, is just about as sad as it gets.
This is not a blog about whether or not I believe that homosexuality is sin/not sin, right/wrong, a choice/born that way, so if that whole conversation makes you uptight then you can read on. I have my feelings about it that are personal to me and the people that I know and love. I do want to say this. It seems that the church (not just Westboro) has made it a habit of demonizing the people that it calls "sinners". Not only that, but it seems to pick and choose which "sins" among the many are worthy of this particularly charged demonization and condemnation. Maybe I missed it, but I've never seen or heard the church actively communicating the fact that those who abuse their wives to the point of sending them to the ER in the middle of the night are going to the above mentioned eternal flames. I don't see the church holding up signs that are condemning people who blow up their kids. I haven't noticed the church demonizing pornography, genocide, or child abuse. Again, maybe I've missed these regular displays, signs, protests, and "occupy-like" movements by the church because I don't get around to watching the news every day. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet the farm that the reason why I don't see these things is because they simply aren't happening. In fact, my bet would be "all in".
I've been doing a little research. I've noticed that in the Bible, when Jesus sat with "sinners" like "tax collectors" and "prostitutes", etc; his interaction with them was far different. Sometimes, Jesus would even hang out with lepers. Lepers were considered ritually unclean, which was about the worst possible state of condition a human being could be in. You were an outcast if you were unclean. No one wanted anything to do with you. Period. Jesus did in fact point the finger when he encountered people like this. Funny thing though, the finger got pointed at the "finger pointers". Jesus had some "not so nice things" to say to the self righteous legalists who seemed to make a living out of pointing out the faults of others. Like this one time when Jesus sat (reclined) at a table with the afore mentioned "sinners". The Pharisees (legalists) jumped on that one like a fish to water. "Why is he sitting with them"? Part of his response included this, "I desire compassion...I did not come to call the righteous but sinners". Guess what? That word "sinners" included (or includes) everyone. If you are reading this blog then like it or not, you fall into that category. You are a sinner. So am I, there's just no getting around it. You also get the grace of the cross. WHAT DID HE JUST SAY? Yes, you also get the grace. May not make sense my fellow believers, but you get it. Oh, by the way, guess what Jesus did one day when an unclean and socially unacceptable leper came right up to him and begged to be healed? Jesus touched him. SCANDALOUS!!! He touched a leper, which meant that Jesus was now unclean!!!! At least according to the rules. Those rules were not the same as Jesus' "rules". His rules are not the same as our rules either. "My ways are not your ways", he said. Thank God.
So to the "Westboro-like theologians/churches" of the world, time to fess up. You know who you are. To call yourself the "Body of Christ" means to act like you actually are the Body of Christ. The message is salvation not condemnation. Point your finger at one you call a "sinner" and the finger can be pointed right back at you. That statement is true for everyone but the sinless Jesus. What were those words again? "For God did not come to condemn the world but to save it". That's the Gospel of John. Those are the words of Jesus. And again. "Forgive them Father", Jesus is quoted as saying as he hung on the cross while looking down at the people who were calling for his death and giving him sour wine and gall to drink. And to put it another way. "Do not judge others, for you will be judged by the same measure that you are judging them". Yep, that's Jesus. Grace rules the day in God's Kingdom. I don't claim to know who's in and who's out or who gets the "pit" and who gets the clouds. I don't know who spends eternity "smoking" or "not smoking" as the familiar church signs declare. I do know that when I condemn/judge that I'm usually doing it to make myself look better and feel better. At least I'm not as bad as that guy, right? I know that Jesus loved the people that the world said were not supposed to be loved. He accepted the unacceptable. And then in one great and awesome act, he saved the world and asked a couple of things in return. Believe. Repent. Love God. Love neighbor. Love self. Love neighbor? Love self? What does that mean?
It means to love sinners I suppose.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
I saw something on Facebook today that raised my blood pressure to unsafe levels. Here are some quotes from the thread. I have removed the names to protect the innocent. In regards to the passing of Whitney Houston I read the following. "She was beautiful and talented before she got into drugs". "In 6 months we're all gonna find out she [overdosed] but it won't be her fault. Let's all blame Bobby Brown, get real folks"!! I just read this headline on the the Fox News website, "Prescription drugs found in Whitney Houston's room". I am sad today, and not just because one of the great talents in the world has died.
It's not the first time I have had these feelings. I'm not gonna get on my high horse and tell you that I've never engaged in this kind of stuff so please don't read this as some self righteous blog from a guy pointing his finger at everyone else. Note that I will use "we" not "you". It's the source of some of my sadness today; the thought that I can be guilty of sensationalizing the flaws I see in others. Most notably, the rich and famous. People like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse and Elvis Presley. People who "fell from grace". People who made the conscious decision to share their amazing, God given gifts with the world despite the fact that they knew that it would put them under the microscope forever. People who didn't handle that all so well. And since their lives could only exist in the proverbial fish bowl, their every flaw was exposed for all the world to see. What did the "world" do with that most of the time? It demonized them. It held them to a higher standard. It watched from afar and judged them without knowing a whole lot about them. It forgot, somehow, that they were human. I am a part of that world. I've done it. I've pointed. I've whispered under my breath. I've held them to the highest standard and flippantly decided that they "knew what they were getting into when they chose to go public". So it's ok for me to judge because they made it possible for me to do so. It comes with the territory. I'm sad.
I was thinking just now...what if Whitney was my daughter? How would I handle reading the posts and the headlines? How would I deal with the fact that the words, "most amazing voice in the history of the industry" were usually footnoted with "life that spiraled out of control"? How would I be able to function, having lost a child, with the judgements of her character coming from people who knew little or nothing about her? What if I was Whitney? What if my weaknesses and my struggles were exposed for all the word to see whether I liked it or not, whether I chose it or not? What if my demons were public? What if the fingers were pointed at me? Once you're in the fishbowl you will always be in the fishbowl. It's like stepping off of a high cliff. Once you make the step it can't be undone. No matter what you do you are all in. You might regret making the step once you begin to fall, but it still won't stop the fall. Maybe that's why they chose to live in the kind of "fog" that numbed them from the reality that they could never be normal again. I'm not condoning bad behavior and addiction. But it makes me wonder just the same.
Thank God for the word "redemption". God redeems. God makes us whole. Jesus, when in the midst of the most broken, made a habit of being present and loving them. The people who had fingers pointed at them because of their "sins", those who were outcasts, those who were "less than" for whatever reason, were always welcomed and loved by Jesus. They were forgiven. They were loved. We are loved. You, me, Whitney, Michael, Amy, Elvis. Loved and redeemed. I have to think that in God's eyes they were never drug addicts or alcoholics. They were broken. Lost for a time yet found. That one sheep that strayed, so loved by the shepherd that he left the flock to find them. They are home. Too soon by my standards but home nonetheless.
We make mistakes. We do things we're not so proud of. We say things we wish we could take back. Sometimes we are forgiven by the people we know and love. Some times we are not. We are never unforgiven by God. When we're lost we're found. Last night someone lost a daughter in a room on the 4th floor of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Someone lost a mother. Someone lost a friend. I hope that I'll remember that the next time I decide to start pointing the finger at the next "fall from grace". I hope we'll all remember it. Good thing that God never forgets. Lost and then found.
Ellen and I once danced on the beach to the voice of Whitney Houston. It was sunset. One of my greatest memories. I've loved Whitney ever since. Thanks for the memory. I will miss you.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
The captain had just announced that we were about 180 miles outside of Houston. The flight attendants were prepping the cabin for landing. We'd been instructed to turn off our portable electronic devices. The "lead flight attendant" reminded us to "be careful when opening the overhead compartments because the contents may have shifted during the flight". For some strange reason he ended that final instruction with this rather cryptic remark, "in the event of an emergency evacuation please leave your carry on behind". My first thought was to try and figure out why he would have said something like that. I mean, it's like the roller coaster operator saying, "if the lap bar doesn't hold for the duration of the ride don't forget to hold on to the sides as best you can" as you begin the ascent to the top of the first 300 ft. hill. Some things I can figure out for myself. If the plane goes into a free fall at 20,000 feet I can promise you that my leftover Wagyu Kobe Beef steak from the night before that I've kept iced down all day in my carry on will be the very last think that I'm thinking about. Anyhow, the remark wasn't so much cryptic as it was prophetic. Within 5 minutes of his announcement the Continental 777 began to shake like it was sitting on top of the dryer in my laundry room. I have experienced turbulence before but never like that. The plane shook and dropped and climbed and then it shook and dropped and climbed all over again. I kept my eye on the flight attendants for any sign of panic. They acted like "no big deal" while I sat in my seat begging God not to orphan my son. I prayed like a crazy man. I looked out of the window fully expecting to see a lightening strike on the wing or a little monster looking thing throwing objects into the engine like I'd seen years ago in the movie "Twilight Zone" (see picture above). I'm not sure what the problem was out there but it was pretty severe. I tried to mock the flight attendants by acting interested in the tennis match that was playing on the little TV in front of me rather than my life that was flashing before my eyes...but to no avail. I made mega deals with God for the next 10 minutes. Get us out of this and I SWEAR that I will_______. Since we survived the ordeal I am left with a lifetime of promises to keep, all made on the night I thought we were going to die on the plane. Interesting. As soon as the shakes began I was begging God for help. Call it prayer if you will. I call it groveling like a desperate soul on a plane.
My most passionate prayers come when I really need God for something. When I thought that the adoption of our son would fall through at the last minute I was praying out of desperation more than anything else. When I took my "General Ordination Exams" I was praying for help. When I recall any crisis in my life I remember that the prayers were never far behind. Of course, this is a good thing. What about when there is no crisis? How "fervent" are my prayers then? When life is good and all is calm...how desperately am I seeking God? Are my prayers for thanksgiving as passionate as the ones I prayed for a safe landing? I'd love to tell you that my prayers are the same no matter what. I'd be lying...and you'd probably know it.
Truth is, I need God right now just as much as I did on that plane. Sure, I'm just sitting here in my big, comfy chair with my Macbook Air in my lap and the sound of falling rain tapping on my windows and the fire crackling in the fireplace. But I need God. I can't type without God. I can't see without God. I can't do very much at all without God. The air that I am drawing in and out of my lungs comes from God. I couldn't look up right now and see Christian Aguilera acting like a lunatic on "The Voice" without God. I certainly couldn't pastor a church or preach a sermon in front of over 200 people on Sundays without...God. I couldn't be a dad or a husband. Everything comes from God. It's all created by God. It's all given to me by God. Any ability that I have to do anything is given by God. I don't expect that I will live every minute of every day in the realization that I am completely and totally dependent on God for every single thing in my life. But I am thinking it now. And I am just as passionate in my thanks for my life as I was the other night on that plane. My prayers in times of thanksgiving and joy must at times mirror the desperate prayers I lift up in times of need. Please God sustain me. I am desperately in need of you. Lift me up God. Keep me whole. Keep me safe. Thank you for the comfy chair and the cozy fire and the rain tapping on the windows. Thank you for my son tucked in right now quietly snoozing in his "Lightening McQueen" bed. I desperately need you God. We need you.
What a feeling to land that night. The next night we were home safe and sound and getting ready to warm up dinner. The Wagyu Beef? Left it on the plane. Hope the "lead flight attendant" enjoyed my leftovers.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
I wonder why I do it. I signed on to Facebook a couple of years ago and I've been hooked ever since. Well, maybe not so much "hooked" as fascinated. Ok, hooked. I have tried to figure this out to the very best of my ability and for the life of me I can't seem to put my finger on it. I will admit that, at least at first, I was determined to have lots of friends...it was a quest for the unspoken badge of honor that comes with having 1,000 "friends". I was "friending" everyone that I had ever come into contact with and I was accepting "friend requests" at a breakneck pace. Just so you know, I never made it to 1,000. I actually thought that people would come across my page and realize that they had just stumbled upon a wildly popular guy who's life was more than worthy of their attention; sort of like the "most interesting man in the world" from the Dos Equis commercial. Sadly, like the Dos Equis guy who doesn't seem so interesting to me, the world wide web discovered that my life was/is not the most fascinating thing. They most likely discovered that my "wall" was filled with posts about the abundance of lettuce on my tacos or my average pace time on my last 6-mile run. On occasion I would make what I thought was a harmless political statement about the issue of the day which would only serve to show me, in black and white, that my "friends" can be quite hurtful with their responses. I once had an argument with an atheist that sent my blood pressure into orbit whenever he would make his remarks back to me. Just the other day I came across a stream of posts where a number of people said that if their pastor dropped an F-Bomb in the pulpit that it would be perfectly ok with them because it would show that the pastor is being "authentic". I had to take deep, slow breaths at my desk to keep from hyperventilating. I also discovered that even when people were reading my stuff they were not always paying attention; like this one time when I posted something like "having the worst day of my life" and a half dozen people clicked "like". Others were more pastoral in their responses by commenting things like "SSFY", OTRSW, and "HYFBL". One simply did this; :( ...I felt so much better.
So my 600 friends and I trudge through life on FB. I think this is perfectly ok as long as we adhere to the following rules. We have to remember that friendship is not defined (totally) by who appears, or does not appear, on our FB friend list. A FB message expressing sorrow over a friend who is grieving a loss in their life is good. An accompanying phone call or handwritten note is even better. It's also important to remember that if we choose to post something controversial, off color, or sensitive, then we shouldn't be angry or overly disappointed when people (some of whom we may be very close to) respond in ways that we may not like. If you say you like/dislike nationalized health care or you post your opinion about abortion then you will get a charged response that you may not necessarily like. If you choose to drop F-bombs on your wall with great regularity, or if you post pictures that are racy, off color, or in bad taste, then don't be angry if people "unfriend you" or hide your posts. They still want to be your friend and they probably aren't judging or condemning you, they just want to keep their own walls as clean as they possibly can, especially since employers are known to search FB walls when considering applicants for jobs and they will associate what they see on your wall, whether you put it there or not, as a reflection of who you are. Parents can believe the same. Fair or not, that's the world wide web. If you are somewhere between the age of 0-18, and you post pictures of yourself in a revealing string bikini while holding up a half empty bottle of tequila, surrounded by a half dozen boys twice your age; or if you are a guy holding a funny, illegal looking cigarette in one hand and a loaded .44 in the other, then please don't be surprised if someone like me slips the printed version of the pictures to your parents. They say it takes a village; FB only helped to make the village just a little bit bigger. Another thing. If you know someone out there who posts something about ending their life, about being bullied, or some other thing that makes it appear that they are in real, imminent danger or distress....get involved. And not like this, :(
I think it's important to remember these basic rules. The same applies to Twitter and whatever else might be out there. Please act interested if I post something about the salty popcorn I'm eating or my straight set win on the tennis courts. I will try to be more attentive to your stories about dirty diapers and the red light that you always have to wait for. I will try to show grace if you "like" the fact that a rock went through the windshield of my car. I'll assume you "liked" by accident. Just in case you missed the post last weekend, I finished my 5K last weekend by placing 53rd out of over 160 runners and I achieved a personal best time of 27:27. Please "like".
And if you see a picture of my son on FB holding up a half empty adult beverage, please let me know. He's only 4 years old. LOL.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
This has to be said. It might make you angry. It might make you stop and think. It might make you decide to never read this blog again. But it has to be said. I have been noting some recent Facebook posts that speak of the "demise of the church". Mostly, they are talking about the Episcopal Church of which I am a part. For years, it seems, we've been lamenting about all of the things that are wrong with the church and what we "don't have". If only my church had a bigger/nicer building. If only we were situated in a better demographic location over there next to the Chik-Fil-A. If only we had more children. If the national church would only stop debating about human sexuality. If only we had a bigger budget. If we had those things THEN EVERYTHING WOULD BE DIFFERENT! Ok, I understand that buildings, demographics, budgets, etc. can have an effect on the life of the church. I also know that folks are out there working very hard to grow so I would never want to belittle all of the effort. But this attitude that keeps cropping up time and time again communicates to me, and everyone else I suppose, that the Episcopal Church simply cannot grow. There are too many things working against us. Let's just be who we are and nothing more. Let's just ride it out and let the chips fall where they may. Let's continue to be ok with a denomination that averages less than 70 people on Sundays in its over 7,000 congregations across the country because, after all, the economy's just not what it should be. We can't help it, it's really not our fault. Woe is me.
Here's what really gets to me. I think, no let me change that, I KNOW that we have in many respects forgotten just who we are. So let me refresh our memories. Episcopalians believe that Jesus Christ is fully present at the altar of our churches. Fully. Really. Without going into a diatribe on the theology of the Eucharist, suffice it to say that to come to the altar of an Episcopal Church means an encounter with God. And what happens when you encounter God? I'll let you answer that for yourself. Check this out now, ok? It doesn't matter what your demographics look like. Your budget doesn't matter. Whether you've got 300 on Sundays or 30, Jesus Christ is present at the altar. Here's another amazing fact. It doesn't matter if you've been divorced. It doesn't matter if your a lifelong Episcopalian or a lifelong Southern Baptist. Rich or poor, gay or straight, black, white, or brown. Democrat or Republican. If you're baptized them come on up to the table and encounter the Holy. What else, might I ask, does your church need?
Let's do this. Let's seriously start inviting people to this table and solve this "problem". Really, I'm being totally serious about this. When the invitee asks why they should come, let's be unafraid to tell them why. And if they give you a funny look when you say that "Jesus Christ is fully present" at the table then just tell them to come and see. After all Episcopal Church, that is what we believe. Clergy, you don't need a 6-week seminar to get your people to do this. You don't need to call committee meetings. You don't need an evangelism team. Tell them, urge them, to invite. Just invite. I don't care how, just invite. I can tell you it works. I am blessed to serve in a congregation that understands this fully. And it is growing...quickly. If we invite them then they just might come. Eat at an amazing restaurant and you will let everyone know all about it. Feel the same about your church. After all, the food offered there is the stuff of miracles. And if they balk at your invitation or treat you differently now because you're the "religious one" in the crowd then shake the dust of your feet. I think they'll appreciate the invitation more than anything else. I mean, think about what you're offering them. If this "strategy" doesn't seem to be working right away then just keep inviting. Never stop. Have a sense of desperation about it because people need what God is serving up at our altar. Invite. It'll do more than a $10,000.00 advertising budget or big fancy website ever could.
Grow or die. That is the choice before us. That's not being overly dramatic, that's a fact. I think I read somewhere that, centuries ago, when the church was under horrific persecution and was forced, literally, to go underground, that it grew like it had never grown before. I don't suppose that underground tunnels qualified as "good demographics". I wonder what their budget was? Thing is, they never forgot that the God they worshipped was a God of miracles and transformation. They invited people to go underground with them. People came. Even though they were risking their lives they came. When they came they encountered the Holy in the midst of all that persecution. And the church grew. The Body of Christ grew. Miracle, no?
Don't worry so much about what we don't have, think about what we do have. We have Jesus Christ, "God with us", right there at our altar. Grow or die. What do you chose? I'm going with grow. Join me?
And if you're reading this and searching for a church...well...Google "Episcopal Church" in your area and check it out for yourself. I'm sure you'll find a home.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
I am really nervous right now. I have been running for about 3 months. I started pretty casual at first...now I can get pretty "dog-gone" serious about it all. My longest distance so far is 8 miles and my average pace normally hovers around 10-11 minutes per mile depending on how I feel that day and/or how many jalapeños I ate with my dinner the night before. I typically run 2 days a week and my average "miles per week" add up to no more than 10. The rest of my exercise regime is spent playing tennis...my first love. Anyhow, I've signed up for my first race/run this weekend. It's a 5K, about 3.1 miles. Easy by my standards. I can run this distance in under 30 minutes if I'm really pushing myself. And yet I'm biting my nails. I'm very uptight about this race. What am I so afraid of? That I won't finish? That I'll come in last? That a man twice my age will pass me up in front of all of those people? Is it that my wife and son plan on attending to "root" me on near the finish line? How sad it would be for them to see their husband/dad sprinting to an embarrassing last place finish. At least I will have managed to boost the self esteem of a man twice my age. Suffice it to say I fear that things won't go as planned. It might be my inability to place my "chip timer" properly on my shoe. My number might fall off of my shirt. I might slip at a water station or trip someone in front of me who'll then know very clearly that they've just encountered a virgin racer. Everyone else on the course will know exactly what they're doing. I'll be a t-ball player amongst a bunch of major leaguers. I'll stand out like a sore thumb. Maybe I'll just stay home.
You know what this is don't you? It has nothing to do with where I'll place or who'll pass me up. It's fear of failure...very public failure. Who among us hasn't had that dream where you're naked in public or when you realize that you never actually graduated from college/high school and everybody knows it? I can't count the number of times I've dreamed about showing up for church on Sunday morning only to realize that I have no idea where anything is and that I forgot to write a sermon. Usually, this dream includes someone screaming at me because I'm 30 minutes late starting the service. Failure. I think that without exception we all have that little voice inside of us that can show up at the most inopportune of times. We might fail. People will know it. We'll be exposed. They'll laugh and they'll ridicule. They won't like us. We won't like ourselves. This fear, if we allow it, can keep us from chasing dreams and becoming the person that God wants us to be. It keeps us from taking risks (and I dont mean the unnecessary kind). We won't do anything "out of the box" or out of the norm. We'll play it safe. And we'll miss so many opportunities for greatness. This voice certainly doesn't come from God. I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out where it does come from.
I have this new thing that I'm trying out these days. I call it the "what's the worst thing" trick. Take my race for example. If my chip falls off my shoe, what's the worst thing that can happen? My time won't be "officially recorded" that's what. No problem...I have a run watch. What happens if the 80 year old man passes me up? Nothing. What if I'm in last? Everyone will feel sorry for me and I'll get just as much attention as the guy who finished first, especially if I limp in and make them think that I finished the race despite my "injury". What happens if I trip someone on the course? I'll say I'm sorry (and then convince myself that it was all their fault). Truth is, the simple fact that I will be running the race is clear evidence of an abundantly blessed life. I know people who, for a variety of reasons, can no longer get out of bed. I see war veterans on TV that come back with artificial limbs, barely able to walk. Some can't walk at all. I can run a race. Sounds like victory to me. And, if anyone were to believe me to be a failure based on the race scenarios that I mentioned above then that's their issue (problem) not mine. What's the worst thing that can happen if I really do forget to write my sermon? I make something up, and then when I'm done I tell them that it came straight from my head/heart without any preparation at all, and they leave church admiring my brilliance. Works for me.
I'll let you know how I finished. Pray for me on Saturday would you? Oh, and if you're around 80 years old and planning on running in the "Pearland Dawson Dash" this coming Saturday then you better carb up the night before because I'm seriously coming after you. Just do me a favor. If my chip falls off my shoe would you kindly pick it up for me?
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Well there he is. My beautiful, wonderful, amazing, precious, extraordinary four year old son. Isn't he handsome? I know you're thinking "yes". When Lorenzo came to our home he was about 18 months old. Let's just say my wife and I were on a serious learning curve. One time, in our rather large and deep bathtub, I accidentally let him slip under the water. He came up gasping for air and crying like I'd stapled his fingers together. In the words of Rick Perry...oops. Another time, I thought it would be really cool for the "boys" to sit at the table and eat chips and dip together. It was really cool until he started gagging on a Nacho Cheese Dorito. Guess you're not supposed to give Doritos to a one year old. Oops. One lazy afternoon in the Frio River we were enjoying the gentle rapids when I accidentally let him slip out of my hands. I helplessly watched while he floated backwards towards a sharp edged rock. After floating down all alone, scraping his shoulder on the rocks, and then realizing that his dad was desperately trying to reach him with panic written all over his face, he proceeded to wail as if I'd brought my stapler with me again. I could continue this confession but I won't. Suffice it to say that I've made my share of mistakes. This is where I insert "we all have" in order to make myself feel better about it all. Doesn't every parent come close to drowning their son in the bathtub? They don't? Thanks.
After every mistake I get something very special. After the tears and the plea for a bandaid (he obsesses over bandaids), I get love. He's never rebuked me for any of it. He's never told me that I'll forever go unforgiven. He's never said, "dad, how can you get angry at me for not drinking my milk because, after all, you did let me go that day in the Frio". My son loves me unconditionally. He always has. I could hang him upside down from the ceiling fan for an entire afternoon. He won't like it. He'll cry. He'll get angry. And at the end of the day we will lay down in bed together and I will read him "Doctor Ted". We'll say our prayers. And then he'll kiss me on the cheek and tell me that he loves me like nothing ever happened. Unconditional love. This will not last forever. There will come a time when he will hold grudges. He will recall things I've done in order to get back at me. God forbid the day he says "I hate you" or "I don't love you" or worse yet "you don't love me". Unconditional will become conditional. When we have a bad day I will offer to tuck him in just like a do now. He'll tell me to leave him alone and slam his door. He'll get his IPHONE out and Facebook something about how his dad is a big fat looser. He'll Tweet his friends that dad is #verywierd. I'll survive by recalling the days of Doctor Ted.
The world we live in conditions us to loose our sense of unconditional love. We cannot trust everyone and we learn that every person we meet does not have our best interest at heart. We question people's motives, sometimes rightly so. We remember the wrongs and we wait for the chance for a little payback when the situation calls for it. We can dredge up things that happened years ago in order to make ourselves feel better and someone else feel worse. My four year old has not learned this trick just yet. He will. The world will teach him that. Once he does, he will have a very hard time loving without condition ever again.
Thank goodness that God loves us like that...unconditionally. Past offenses can be forgotten. No grudges. God doesn't look down on some fantastic thing we've done and think, "that's really good and all but it doesn't make up for the night you burned your report card in the kitchen trash can...tithe your income for another year and then we'll talk". It doesn't work like that. Grace means grace. Unconditional means unconditional. We might get angry with God. We might question his motives. We might think that God has let go of us just when the rocks are getting sharp. We might feel unworthy of God's love. We might begin to believe what comes from the pulpits of our childhood when the preacher told us how depraved, broken, awful, sinful, and unworthy of even an ounce of the love we get. Doesn't work like that either. Child of God, you (we) are worthy. God went through a lot of trouble to arrange this whole "salvation" thing. We must have been worth the trouble. No mistake, no sin, nothing in the universe can separate us from the love of God. Remember, only one person in the universe knows you better than anyone else. Every action, thought, and motivation. And yet that "person" loves you without condition. It really is unconditional. Without God's unconditional love we have no hope. None. So believe it. Your life depends on it. Literally.
Time for chips and dip with my son...we'll do it the way we always do it. We lodge them in the light socket and use our teeth to get them out while standing barefoot in a puddle of water. Only when mom's not home of course. Oh, you don't do that? Oops.
Don't call CPS...it's a joke. And don't call mom. Please.