Tabulations

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."



Friday, February 3, 2017

Mind Blown

"The heart cannot love what the mind doesn't know."

Mind. Blown.  Excuse the over-used, painfully obvious pun.  Think about the first time you meet someone and you say to yourself, "I want to know this person more." So, you seek to spend time together.  You hang out.  You chat.  Back in the olden days, we did that. Chat.  Face-to-face.  Long conversations over mediocre college cafeteria food.  Late-night laughter on the phone.  Or spontaneous Slurpee runs.  You get to know this person. And you do this by spending time, the very best currency of all.  The more you know, the more you love.  It's a heart-mind connection.  

This could be true of a completely platonic friendship.  Or in a romantic relationship.  But, the beautiful thing is that it can also be true of the most life-transforming relationship.  With Jesus.  And, how best to know Him than to spend time with Him.  And, how can we do just that?  We can read His story.  We can learn about who He is--his character, his person.  Wow.

No, I didn't have a late-night epiphany on the road to Damascus--or to Kroger.  I didn't find it on a Pinterest meme.  Two weekends ago (a fortnight!), I packed up my forest-green travel duffle (circa 1995), jumped in a car with two of my favorite sister-peeps, and landed at our annual FBC Ladies Retreat in the booming metropolis of Linden, Tennessee.  Population 134.  Or thereabouts.

Enter Glenna Marshall, our speaker.  How many times have we heard the phrase, "To know Him is to love Him"? (capitalization mine).  It's a basic truth.  But, so many times, we J-inclined Christ followers make knowing Him so very complicated.  We must have the latest, trendiest Bible study workbook, a chevron-striped fabric-ensconced journal that we made ourselves (with matching pen), the accompanying app, French press coffee--and the list goes on.  Guess what?

All we need is our mind (God gave us that!), our Bible, a notebook, and a pen.  Maybe a few well-sharpened pencils.  Are you serious?  It's that easy?  No way.  Yes--and WAY! And, I know this because God used Glenna to remind us.  "...for the Bible tells me so!"

We open our minds (and hearts) to what He wants us to know--which is in His word.  We pray for His discernment and freedom from distraction.  We learn His story.  We write what we learn about Him. What we learn about man.  How this passage or chapter points us to Christ.  It's about Him.  We learn about Him by spending time with Him.  He reveals His character to us.  And, you know what can happen?  

As we know more about Him, we love Him more deeply.  As I am prone to say of myself, "Well, big bag of duh, Sister!"

Mind blown.  Heart won.

To Be Continued...














Monday, January 30, 2017

Fabulous Factoids (or Random yet Cool Stuff I've Learned by Reading Books)

Lately, my nightstand stack of books has been rather, um...varied.  A biography of a Baptist missionary icon-ess, a "culinary history" of spices in American cuisine, a precious A.A. Milne-esque children's book featuring an ant and a snail, and a re-re-re-read of an Austen classic.  Mini-Hooper continues his literary reading quest and keeps me informed, on a near daily basis, of the great stuff he is visually digesting.  While, He Who Is Now Waaay Taller Than I is diligently making his way through Wuthering Heights and Gatsby.  

So, in no particular order, here are some interesting facts that I have gleaned from the books sitting atop my nightstand--and scattered across the living-room coffee table.

1.  In the China of the late 1800s, one would sit upon a Kiang as one would a sofa in the living area.  It also serves as the hostess' master bedroom.

2.  We derive our modern-day word "ketchup" (also catsup and catchup) from the Indonesian word, ket-siap or kez-jap.  Heinz didn't invent the word.

3.  Even when you're lost, you should always find your way back to the place that fed you well.

4.  “Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.” 

5.   The iconess to whom I refer above is responsible for the notion of furloughs being introduced into long-term mission work, both domestic and international. She herself was not granted such a gem of refreshment until she had served in China for 14 years.  Yes, fourteen years.  5110 days. Think hard about that.

6.  Apparently, if you don't like someone, you should throw a party for them.  It will throw everyone involved off the scent.  At least, that is our dear Emma's logic.  

7.  Sriracha sauce is named for a city in Thailand--Si Racha.  

8.  "Historical Gastronomist" is an actual occupational title.  Essentially, it means that you get to research random culinary trends, get free food at ethnic restaurants, and employ an intern to help you re-create a garlic-centered menu from the 1840s.  

9.  A song that you can sing from the beginning or the end--and ultimately meet in the middle--is the very best kind of song.

*These lovely little factoids are gleaned from the following books:  The New Lottie Moon Story (Elizabeth Allen), Eight Flavors (Sarah Lohman), At The End of the Beginning (Avi), and Emma (Jane Austen).  

Image result for stack of books nightstand


Monday, January 9, 2017

Ill-Fitting Clothes

So, it all started with a Bible study in the book of James.  If you know anything, anything at all, about the book of James, it’s not for the faint of heart.  No bumper sticker platitudes, relatively few options for Pinterest-happy memes.  Meaty.  Challenging. Convicting.  Keeps you real.  Much like looking in the mirror, first thing in the morning, without even having brushed your teeth.  Yeah, THAT kind of real.  James, the writer, doesn’t mince words.  He was not a Marketing major.  Or Social Work.  He puts it plain. 

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…” ~ James 1:2

He goes on to encourage the readers, us—if you will, to remain steadfast under trial (v.12) and recognize that temptation is not from God.  You can’t blame your own inclination towards sin, no matter how pretty it looks, on God.  We are “lured and enticed” by our own desires (v.14).  Those desires when conceived give birth to sin, and fully grown sin becomes…death.  Yeah, not on the Oprah Book Club selection list.

James reminds us not that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” There is no shadow, due to change.  He is immovable.  Unshakable. Steadfast. 

Then, as if that weren’t enough, we are told—imperatively—to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”.  This is not a suggestion.  Nor can I flip around the verbs and adverbs to make it more like me—“quick to speak, slow to hear, and warp speed to anger”.  Dressing ourselves in His clothes is hard.  And, that’s when she said it.  My honest-to-the-core sistah-friend put it plainly.

“Sometimes, the clothes don’t fit right.  They’re heavy.  Like a polyester choir robe that belongs to the towering gentleman who sings bass, down the row from you. And, you can’t trade it in,” says she.

Wow.  Ill-fitting clothes.  Garments that I, as a Christ-follower, am called to wear.  But, sometimes, I just don’t feel like it.  The polyester is itchy.  The robe doesn’t hang right.  It’s too long, I think.  I’m rather petite (or fun-sized, like those Hershey miniatures that you get on Halloween). 

“Quick to hear”.  Yup, I can listen.  Most of the time.  But, am I just hearing other people speak?  Or am I really listening?  Am I listening in such a way, that I understand?  Or am I just waiting to put in my two cents, or to add a witty comeback?  Zoinks.  That robe is uncomfortable. 

“Slow to anger”.  Not my best fruit of the spirit, folks.  I am a “spitfire”, as He Who Is Now WAY Taller Than I says.  It’s genetic, I say.  The biological fuse with which I was endowed is microscopic.  I can be feisty.  Particularly at perceived injustice.  Or something that should work a particular way; but, alas, it doesn’t.  Stupid robe.  The zipper gets stuck and constricts my movement.  Ill-fitting clothes. Again.

And let’s be honest.  Sometimes, we simply don’t want to wear it.  Or, let me drive this car closer to home—I don’t want to wear it. I want to be snarky without remorse—or quick-tempered without regret.  Later, our friend James says that the tongue can start a fire.  Not a romantic, “chestnuts roasting on an open” kind of fire, but a relentless white-hot blaze, destroying everything in its path.  We “let it fly”, as it were, and all that’s left are the ashen remains of someone’s heart.  Or someone’s delight.  The damage may not be visible to the naked eye—but, down deep, you know it’s there.  And so do they.  You both know who lit the match.  The hem of that robe just tripped me up.

Yet, He gives grace and mercy, the Tailor who remakes us.  And, then, piece by piece, seam by seam, the clothes seem to fit a wee bit better.  It’s not a quick fix—it’s lifelong.  Lest we “get the big head”, it is not because of anything we’ve accomplished or earned.  It’s all Him. 

It’s that “good and perfect” gift that’s come from above—growing us, stretching us, taking in a bit here and there. Generally speaking, fittings are uncomfortable and revealing. You might even get a pin stuck in you here and there. It gives new meaning to “Extreme Makeover”.

Or better yet,  "What Not To Wear".  

But, one day, those clothes will fit.  Just right.  As though they were Hand-crafted for us.

Imagine that.