Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More than Turkey and Dressing.

Okay, I'm back to blogging. Sorry for the delay. Way too much going on. It's almost Thanksgiving and I've been giving some thought to my own list of blessings. So, here goes:

I am thankful for . . .
  • sweatshirts in November.
  • peaches in cobbler.
  • a good cup of coffee beside a fireplace.
  • the fun of just tossing around the football in the backyard.
  • sitting in my recliner watching Mizzou beat Kansas really bad.
  • four big brothers who still hug and still watch out for the kid, even when I'm 47.
  • three sisters (older, not bigger) who still cook my favorites. (Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting with nuts.)
  • my Mom, who made a big deal out of my Punt, Pass, and Kick trophy and still believes in me today.
  • my Dad, eighteen years absent from us, and still he speaks to me and shows me the way.
  • warm apple pie with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • listening to my son ask the Thanksgiving blessing.
  • spiffy running shoes that keep this big old guy on the trail.
  • a 14 year old daughter with Mufasa hair, my own strange sense of humor, and a smooth left-handed jumpshot.
  • a one of a kind 17 year old son who is Arnold, Napoleon, and Chuck all rolled into one and has already mastered the art of friendship.
  • a college boy who is more of a man and more of a minister with each passing day.
  • a warm, wonderful wife who is always there when I reach for her.
  • a partner in my work who I would trust with my life.
  • the lump in my throat that still comes when I turn on my mic, step to the pulpit, open my Bible, and look into the faces of my people.
  • maybe one more little sliver of apple pie with a little scoop of vanilla.
What about you? Write 'em down and let your blessings know what a blessing they are. Add your list if you like.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Life's Great Equalizers.

Lucy to Charlie Brown: "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand."

Here's a news flash. Brace yourself. People are different. I live in a town that has dramatically changed its ethnic make up over the past twenty five years. From plain vanilla to Baskin and Robbins, in a typical week I can hear people speaking four or five different languages, just going about my normal routine. And this diversity has an economic side as well, with a widening gap between the haves and the have nots, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar.

And yet, certain life experiences have a way of vaporizing the ethnic and economic barriers that so often divide us. For instance, an emergency room is no respecter of persons. A fire alarm recognizes no class distinctions. A tornado can't tell one neighborhood from another. A flood ruins everything it touches, mobile home or mansion, worthless or priceless. Cancer invades and destroys the human body regardless of the color of the skin or the size of the jewelry. Life deals out the cards and no matter who we are or where we are from or what we have, we must play the cards we are dealt, with no throwbacks or discards.

Sadly enough, sometimes it takes the harshest of circumstances to remind us that we are all in the same boat. It doesn't matter whether we ride first class or coach, we are all on the same journey. We are possessed by the same hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children. And in our darkest moments we all plead and pray and seek the God who alone sees and knows the heart. We search for the God who recognizes only one distinction - family.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are." (1 John 3:1)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

An Ape in the Corner.

My college roommate, Curt, had the coolest thing - a full-size ape suit. What could be better than that? And I, being a very responsible student and also the resident assistant for our floor of the dorm, had my own key to all the rooms. We did have some fun. We would pick a victim who was out of his room, maybe doing his laundry or shooting pool downstairs, or just brushing his teeth before going to bed. Curt would pull on his ape suit, I'd slip him into the victim's room, and he would hide for awhile, usually hiding in the dark corner behind the chest of drawers the guys used to bunk their beds. Curt was amazingly patient. He would wait for this guy to come back in, lay down, read awhile or watch TV. Eventually, sooner or later, it was lights out and Curt would wait just long enough for the guy to begin to drift off to sleep. Then, in the pitch dark, Curt would let out his best King Kong yells and throw his big hairy ape body on the shocked student. The rest of us would be waiting down the hall, listening for the blood-curdling screams that would always follow. Most of the victims would "scream like a girl." Sometimes we recorded the screams to play for them later.

Other times Curt would hide in the big community bathrooms, hiding in a stall with his feet up waiting for someone to sit down in the next stall. Then he would slowly stand up on the toilet and come over the top of the stall with his big ape sounds and long hairy arms. You can imagine the effect. And no matter how many times you tried to tell yourself, "There's a guy on this floor with an ape suit who likes to scare people," he would still get you. We were never ready for him. He got me a few times too, and once or twice I got to wear the ape suit. Pretty fun stuff.

And no, that was not the sum total of my college education, but it was part of it. This world is a pretty scary place, even without the ape suits. And sometimes what's hiding in the dark is real. And fight or flight, we have to deal with it, face our fears, stick together, and in the end, we overcome.

If I were to come face to face with one of those huge silverbacks high in the mountain country today, I would probably just punch him on the shoulder and say, "Knock it off, Curt. You're just not that scary anymore."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

You Are More Than You Have Become.

First, I took piano lessons as a boy until my teacher moved away. (I'm not sure why.) Then I tried the baritone horn in junior high band until I got tired of carrying it home and quit. Later it was guitar lessons which never seemed to make progress since I never bothered to practice between lessons. More recently, I've even considered picking up the piano or guitar again, but I can't seem to make the commitment.

Believe it or not, I really do love music and I think it would be wonderful to be able to play and sing, if only for myself. But, I've never done it. I've never stuck with it. I've never paid the price.

For the past five years or so, I've been planning to write a book. My first notes are dated April, 2002. From time to time I have done some preliminary work, but for now my book remains unwritten - a favorite dream, a noble goal, a mountain unclimbed. But this time I'm making plans, real plans, and this time I am determined there will be no excuses. This time I am going to finish what I've started, I'm going to express what is inside me, and I am going to see the view from that mountaintop.

I guess most of us are better starters than finishers. Look around your life. Do you find ample evidence of unfinished projects, unreached goals, and unfulfilled dreams? What are you waiting for? Could this be the moment in your life when you finally step up to be the person you were created to become?

"There are vast tracts of undeveloped life in most of us. We have capacities for creativity, for love and for accomplishment that lie fallow. We are dormant in our personal relationships and get pushed around unconscionably. We are timid in our work and get passed over for promotions. We are intimidated in our marriages and get used. We feel futile in our communities, fated to shabby and shoddy service from government and business.

Then, from time to time, a person stands up among us and announces how marvelous it is to simply be human." (Eugene Peterson)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Someone to Watch Over Me.

I grew up with four older brothers. Sometimes they teased, sometimes they tortured, but they always watched out for me and helped keep me on track. I remember John yelling at a neighborhood bully that had intimidated me, and my problem was instantly solved. And when I tried to quit football for laziness' sake, one short talk with John had me back on the practice field.

And lucky for me, in those critical moments in my life God has always provided those people who were there for me, protecting and encouraging me in ways I couldn't even fully appreciate at the time. I'm grateful for their faithfulness.

Who's got your back? Do you have a special someone who is steadfast and faithful, reliable no matter what the problem, the one person you can call in any crisis and find the help and support you need? Who's holding your rope?

"Mentoring is like a group of men scaling a mountain. If a guy is linked to another guy above him, and that man in turn is linked to other men farther up the cliff, then together they have safety, stability, and strength. If a man slips and begins to fall, fifteen or twenty climbers absorb the impact and pull him back from disaster.

But imagine a man climbing alone, with no support system. He may achieve great heights. But one wrong move and he can fall thousands of feet to his death, without so much as anyone hearing his cry." (Bob Biehl)

Too many of us are going it alone, frantically climbing up steep, slippery slopes, naive and overconfident, with no one holding the rope for us, no one backing us up. Have you lived long enough to see the danger of going it alone? Who's holding your rope, and whose rope are you holding? Will anyone hear when you fall?