Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wish I'd Said That...

"We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for the daily gifts.

We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good.  Then we dep;ore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, an we consider this lament to be pious.

Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things."

~Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Thanks Be To God

Friday.  Picture this, if you will.  A dimly lit sanctuary.  Usually gloriously brightened stained-glass windows blacked out.  A simple wooden cross draped in black, a crown of thorns sits atop of it.  A single Christ candle is lit in front of the gently-spotlighted cross. The flame extinguished at the end of our liturgy. "The death of Christ", our pastor states quietly. To which we respond, "Thanks be to God." Silence and near darkness, despite the noon hour, in the room.  Somber, reflective.  Some linger, many exit.  All reflecting.  

Thanks?  Yes, thanks.  For without this death, there can be no resurrection.  Without the shedding of blood, there can be no pardon of sins.  Mine.  Yes, mine.  And yours, too. Thanks be to God.

Come, behold the wondrous mystery; slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e'er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is Alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance, how unwavering our hope;
Christ, in power, resurrected, as we will be when he comes.
~Come, Behold The Wondrous Mystery

Sunday.  The blinders have been removed.  The sanctuary is illuminated by the springtime sunlight. There is Light where darkness once prevailed.  The cross is now draped in white, innocence and Light.  So much Light.  Brass fanfare and bells toll the life-giving words that we are about to declare:

He is Risen
He is Risen, Indeed!

Thanks Be to God.

Image result for easter lily

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday: "Beneath Thy Cross"

Beneath Thy Cross

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon--
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Big Dance

March Madness.  In the opening weekends and the days to follow, the kinds of games that make the Tourney what it is, have happened.  Despite bracket-breaking potential, I find myself rooting for the underdogs, for the “human interest” stories—like the Wisconsin team with the “AD-KG-NG” patches on their uniforms.  What do those initials mean?  They are the initials of folks who meant much to the team, coaching staff, and the basketball program—including the mother of the assistant coach.  All three passed away last year—and this is now the Badgers mark their memories.  Heart.  That’s what these young men have.  Heart.  And a whole lot of talent.  From UCLA to Providence, from Baylor to WVU.  And those Gators just won’t go away (home state pride--sadly, those Gamecocks that Darius loves made them go away on Saturday!)—and the MTSU ---(our adopted home state) gave it their best. Admittedly, I usually get teary-eyed with those who painfully add an “L” to the column—even if it’s those teams that are coached by the real-life Godfather and his cronies.  
Bracketology makes its fourth annual appearance in the homeschool lesson plan.  Brackets abound, including the ever-popular and enthusiastically-debated Mascot Bracket.  Geography, statistics, and the like.  But, this year, I’m thinking about life lessons that can be drawn from The  Big Dance.  Some fairly obvious, others not so much.

1. Fundamentals are the key—If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard My Favorite Philosopher (and our offspring, echoing their wise papa) say, “You can’t win a National Championship without making free throws,” I could buy a closet-full of my beloved Converse, in multiple colors and patterns.  Seriously, think about it.  You can hot dog, dunk, and fade-away jumper all you like; but, when you get fouled and come to the line, you need that basic skill:  a sweet, simple (or so it looks) straight-on swish.  No dazzle or fireworks.  Just straight ahead and shoot.  

2. Don’t stop until the clock runs out—Or maybe simply, Finish Strong.  I watch these young men, and they don’t give up.  Even when it’s seemingly ridiculous and futile to continue the effort, they don’t slow down.  They work hard.  Sometimes it changes the course of the game, and sometimes, it’s the end of the road.  Either way.  

3. People will make mistakes that affect you and are “game-changers”—and sometimes, there is nothing you can do about it.  Watch the last two minutes of the Northwestern v. Gonzaga game—and you’ll see what I mean.  A horrible call.  And, I’m a Zags fan.

4. Your allegiances make sense to you (and possibly, only you)—see above statement “I’m a Zags fan.”  Why, you might ask.   No, I’m not from Spokane or even the Pacific Northwest.  In general, I’m really not much of a NBA fan—I did go through a phase in my early 20s where I was a Utah Jazz fan.  HOWEVER, I am a Zags fan because:

a. John Stockton played for the Utah Jazz.
b. John Stockton totally reminds me of my best guy friend from high school, Todd.
c. So, I like John Stockton.
d. John Stockton played for Gonzaga in his undergrad days.
e. Thus, I like the Zags.

*That's likely what My Favorite Philosopher would call an illogical syllogism.  But, all's fair in love, war, and basketball.*

My bracket has been beaten, battered, and torn.  But, I have still have two teams left--and the team I chose to win it all has a TarHeel.  And hails from a place where the sky is Carolina blue.  We'll see how it all turns out.

Image result for march madness

Monday, February 27, 2017

You Complete Me and Other Romantic Nonsense

Yes, you read that right!  While Tom Cruise's tearful declaration to Renee Zellweger at the climax of Jerry Maguire caused many of us to swoon and sigh, it is fawning drivel.  But, she buys it, and they ride off into the sunset, with a precocious bespectacled little guy, swinging merrily betwixt the two of them, and pitching a baseball like a major-leaguer--to the delight of Jerry, the sports agent.  It makes for a great Pinterest meme.  But, not much more.

I am a romantic.  Y'all know that.  I am a "box full of movie ticket stubs, dried rose petals, and mini-golf score cards" ESFJ who wears her heart on her sleeve as a daily fashion statement.  Yet, after two decades of marriage (wow, that sounds rather formidable, doesn't it?), I have learned that there is so much more.

A lovely college student recently posed the following question/concern/perplexity to me.  
"There seems to be two camps when it comes to love and relationships.  One end of the spectrum is the relentless search for that one perfect person.  This person will be everything, know everything, do everything right, etc. And, when you find that one perfect person, it's all moonlight and roses. Then, there's the other end of the spectrum that says relationships are hard, we are all flawed, consider yourself lucky if you happen to find someone who's willing to take a chance, blah-blah-blah.  So, here's my question--which is it?"

Isn't that a great question?  I thought so.  Before I answered her, I immediately thought of that list that I made in college.  The "he's the one" list.  A list of qualities, virtues, and deal-breakers that quite possibly not even Jesus could live up to.  Ladies, whether written down on paper--or just imprinted on your brain--you know of what I speak.  Admit it, you're among friends.  Of course, I had a mental list in high school, too, which might have contained such significant attributes as "blue eyes, blond hair, and looks good in a pair of oft-washed blue jeans".  Deep, I was.  

One perfect person.  Let's start with the word "one".  I don't believe that there was simply one person, in the wide, wide world, who would have been right for me.  Realistically and geographically speaking, we live on a densely populated planet (over one billion served, or some such number).  The male-female ratio is fairly even; thus, there's a pretty good chance that there is more than one person out there who would float my boat, as it were.

Furthermore, for my dear friends who find themselves "single", either through divorce or death of a spouse, if I believed (or more importantly, they believed) that one person stuff, this means that there is no hope of a loving, healthy relationship for them in the future. I simply can't buy that.  If another relationship is in the Plan for them, I would want that for them.  

Perfect.  Oy, what a word.  There is no such thing as a perfect person.  We are all broken, sinful creatures who have a moment or two of wonderfulness every so often.  Does that mean that one should just take whatever comes along and make the best of it?  Of course not.  However, if you seek absolute perfection, you will be absolutely disappointed.  And, then you start sounding like an episode of Seinfeld with break-up excuses like "He's a close talker" or "she has man hands".  "She eats her peas one at a time".  Really?  Really.

And, let me ever-so-gently remind you, dear reader, that we are not perfect. We can yearn for magnificent "soul fruits" to manifest in our lives, like those that show up in Galatians 5--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, and the like. However, such things are impossible without Grace.  

For that young man who is currently pitching woo, there is a "top ten" list in Paul's letter to Timothy that makes a great yardstick.  "Temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable" are among the qualities for an overseer--a church statesmen.  A wee bit different from my "must-have" list of a bygone "You've Got The Right Stuff, Baby" era.  Oh, and you can add those Galatian Fruits into the mixing bowl.  Starting with the right ingredients is always helpful, don't you agree?

As Knightley so adeptly expressed to his darling Emma, "perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one other."

So, we find ourselves in the middle of the spectrum.  Relationships are messy, gorgeous, frustrating, self-sacrificial, and rewarding.  Pick your favorite adjective--and then add its opposite for fun.  It's not all moonlight and roses--but then again, it's not all tornadoes and cacti, either.  There should be a healthy balance of impromptu Sonic Blast runs and conversations about the meaning of life.   Or what that insanely intelligent Philosophy prof mentioned today in Ethics class.  

In the end, relationships are work.  Our strengths are magnified, our weaknesses exposed. Should you think that a romantic relationship with the opposite sex will "complete you"; then, you are in it for the wrong reasons.  It's not about you, it's about other-centeredness. Such things are mysteries; but, it is a mystery worth solving.

"But to lose your life for another I've heard
Is a good place to begin..."

~Andrew Peterson

Monday, February 13, 2017

Love and Peanut Butter

Seventeen years ago today, the last original Peanuts strip was published.
Poor Charlie Brown's love for the little red-haired girl was never returned.

"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love."