Thursday, January 26, 2012

Biting my nails

I am really nervous right now.  I have been running for about 3 months.  I started pretty casual at 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 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's a joke.  And don't call mom.  Please.                       

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Poor Paula!

I feel bad for her.  I have been following Paula Deen for as long as I can remember.  I watch her show.  I've twice eaten in her restaraunt.  Her fried chicken is second to none.  Now she's under the microscope.  Somehow, the media has found a way to demonize this charming woman from Albany, Georgia. That Anthony Bourdain fella called her the "worst, most dangerous person in America".  Really Anthony?  Look at her face!  Dangerous?  Come on!  She's a cream puff (no pun intended)!!  Now, make no mistake about it, Paula loves to cook with butter.  And fat.  And grease.  And sugar.  And lots of it.  She's very well known for once making a hamburger that replaced the buns with Krispy Kream Donuts, taking the whole idea of "heart attack on a plate" into the stratosphere.  I know firsthand that if you visit her restaurant in Savannah (which I highly recommend) that 4 trips to the buffet will find you checking your pulse.  Yes, I said 4 trips.  I believe in getting my money's worth.

The fuss these days centers around the recent discovery that she has diabetes.  Apparently she's had it for years.  She did not "come out" about this diagnosis until she had signed on to represent a drug company that hawks a $500.00 a month diabetes drug.  I say, whatever.  There's another side of all this that really bugs me.  Paula pushes fat and an unhealthy lifestyle.  Paula, with her charming smile, keeps telling everyone to cook with fat and butter.  She's making people eat fat sandwiched between deep fried donuts.  Why, if it weren't for Paula, we'd all be running half marathons!  If Paula hadn't written those heart stopping recipes there'd be no need for a national health insurance plan.  It's all Paula's fault.  And McDonald's.  And Burger King.  And what about all of those sugar filled cereals that show up in hi def during every commercial break on Saturday mornings?  Paula's got something to do with it all I'm sure.  

I do not have my head in the sand about all of this. I understand the debate about targeting children in the ads, etc.  My thing is this.  Paula Deen has never walked into my kitchen and force fed me her "Oweey Goowy Butter Cake".  My man Ron McDonald has never stuffed french fries in my mouth while I slept.  Tony the Tiger does not fill my cereal bowl for me even when I'm way past full.  By the way, I'd welcome any one of those scenarios.  This can be a hard thing to accept, but we bear some responsibility for what we do.  Yes, even what we eat.  We know that eating fried Oreo Cookies can have an adverse effect on our health.  Same for smoking, excess drinking, and living near 3-mile island.  We make choices.  Even though we can read the nutritional information just about anywhere we eat, we still make those bad choices.  I read that my favorite sandwich at my favorite deli has over 1,800 calories and 80 grams of fat.  I ordered it anyway.  We take risks.  We live and die with our choices and we are accountable for those choices.  Jesus offered a choice between life and death.  Some chose life.  Some chose death.  Jesus never forced the issue.  Life or death, your choice.  We will be accountable for our choices, at least according to Jesus.  I suppose that when that moment comes, I won't have the CEO of Blue Bell Ice Cream standing next to me.  I won't have Arturo Fuente (cigars) with me, nor will Ronald McDonald be around for me to point the finger.  Just me and God.  What did you choose, he'll ask?  No one around to answer but me.  Choices.

And if God points me towards the pearly gates, I hope that the "heavenly banquet" includes fried chicken and Oweey Goowy butter cake.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Going down with the ship

You've seen it all over the news.  Images of the giant cruise ship, the "Costa Concordia", laying over on its side after smashing into the rocks just off the coast of the Tuscan Island of Giglio.  Dozens of passengers are either confirmed dead or listed as "missing".  This Captain Schettino, or whatever his name is, has been in jail since last weekend.  Apparently he made the very bad decision to sail too close to the rocky shores of Giglio Island just off the coast of Italy.  No one knows exactly why just yet.  There are rumors of an unauthorized "blonde" seen dining at the captain's table about an hour before the ship hit the rocks.  That's intriguing stuff that the media is sure to jump all over.  Another reported that the ship's chief waiter had asked the captain to do a sort of "fly by" of the island so that the chief waiter's family, who just so happened to live on the island, could get an impressive view of the ship.  Perhaps the captain was just an idiot.  Only time will tell.  

I am intrigued by what we've all learned about ship captains.  It seems that "abandoning ship" is a criminal offense.  Captains are required to stay on board until everyone else is safe.  Now, I have heard about the heroics of the captain of the Titanic and all, but I had no idea that this was the law.  In order to be a captain, you have to be willing to give your life for the ship.  Going down with the ship is law.  It's what you do.  Our friend Captain Schettino has explained why he left the scene a little early.  When the ship started to list he "fell off"...right into a lifeboat.  Guess he thinks that we are the idiots.

Ok, the point.  We believers in Jesus know a little something about "losing our lives" don't we?  He said it himself.  In order to gain your life then you will have to lose it.  What does that mean exactly?  Does it mean that we are required to give up everything that we have to follow Jesus?  Does it mean that I have to be willing to sacrifice every single thing I have for the sake of the Gospel?  Does it mean that in order to live into this sacrificial life that I have to be willing to die for the faith; to "go down with the ship"?  Maybe for some.  For most of us living in the good ol' USA where to speak the name of Jesus does not guarantee certain death, it may be something else.  I take this rather hard teaching to mean that I do need to realize that following will cost me something.  It will cost me time.  It will cost me money.  It will narrow my choices among the plethora of choices that the "world" offers.  If I decide to make a somewhat tactful rebuke when the guys at the gym make a highly inappropriate comment about the young girl that just walked by, it can cost me any future invitations to play racquetball.  Jesus will always cost me something.  

This is my first blog.  I hope that you will enjoy it.  Here's question number one.  What's Jesus costing you?