Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Heat of Response

June 4, 2020

We used to play this strange kid’s game called Smear The Goat. One kid would grab the football and try to avoid being tackled by the 6, 7, or 8 other kids chasing him. The outcome was never in doubt, and when tackled the football-carrying kid would go down with everyone else piled on top. The ball would squirt out and somebody else would pick it up and pretend he was Jim Brown for a few moments.

Whoever the goat was always got annihilated. We’d go to our different homes after that, all of us bruised a bit by being the target one or times.

That memory seemed a sorta’ picture of our battlefield these days. Anyone who opinions themself seems to, so to speak, have picked up the football and the others take aim at him/her. The radicalness or sensibility, impassioned plea or philosophical ponderings, age, race, or gender doesn’t seem to matter. You’ve uttered an idea or expressed a belief and whoever doesn’t agree with you is ready to initiate a gang tackle.

It’s confusing. Some folk have been condemned because of their silence and others have been tackled because of what they have said. There’s not a safety net of listening, but rather a flaming underneath us.

In the Book of James, known as the wisdom of the New Testament, this advice seems relevant for all of us in this day of quick tempers and tongues, and bad decisions. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

We get those confused in the chaos of our culture, becoming slow to listen and quick to speak and become angry.

In our Smear the Goat days we’d sometimes put the football down and go to Tommy’s house to eat ice cream bars together. In those moments away from our youthful battlefield, we’d listen, and we’d learn to love each other in unconditional ways.

selective focus close up photo of brown wilson pigskin football on green grass

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Holding a Hand

May 28, 2020

I sat by her bed, occupying most of the front living room floor space. We talked about what was and is to be, the rain shower of life’s blessings, and the loneliness of the final days.

The same scene had been played out in the same room 18 months earlier. The only difference in that part of history was that it was her husband who was lying in the bed and she sat in one of the chairs to his left side. I wrote about that experience in another blog post entitled “Sitting Bedside With Someone Waiting For Glory”, and it was a visit punctuated with roars of laughter.

This time we chuckled about the memories of that time, but mostly, we talked about being blessed and being ready to join Jesus. Sixty-four years of marriage had been followed by the last year of physical pain and relational grieving. She wanted to be laid to rest next to her beloved. She longed for the warmth of his closeness underneath the cold earth.

There is a sweetness in such sorrow. When God blesses a romance with a long journey in which their hands are held together in support and prayerful agreement, the end is tear-filled. Like honey dripped onto a dry piece of plain white bread, the final chapter brings sweet completion to the void.

A modern-day version of  Song of Solomon with the Lover and his Beloved, rarely have I seen two kindred spirits in such a harmony of marriage.

We talked about what comes next and then I took her hand in mine and prayed for the peace of her final breaths. In a time when it is safe to stay socially-distanced and not risk touch, holding the hand of this saint was the ointment for our aching goodbye.

person holding hand

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Finding the Wise Middle

May 23, 2020

It’s hard! Perhaps that’s why so many of us can’t grasp it, can’t see it in the haze caused by personal opinions and anchored stubbornness.

It’s the wise middle, the place of common sense compromise. I like this verse in the New Testament letter of James.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

Those are several criteria that indicate to us that wisdom is often hard to locate. Wisdom is the thin strands in the middle of that taffy that is being pulled apart.

Years ago, in another place and time, I was elected to our community’s school board. The town had been divided over school bond issues for years. I ran with the purpose of bringing the community together and seeking what was best for our kids. During my last two years on the board I was named as president of the board. What I remember about those years, and the six people I served with, was the cohesiveness we had. Personal agendas were put to the side. We often didn’t agree, and yet we sought the wise middle that took in everyone’s perspective. What one board member believed was good for our students might have been different than another member’s thoughts, but we talked through it. Perhaps the community came to the point that they saw the value of our efforts and trusted our wisdom because the school bond issue passed.

In this time of heated emotions and opinions on each of the extreme ends of the spectrum, there needs to be a willingness to seek the common good– to share the last cookie, if you will, not demand the whole thing.

So businesses reopen with– Knock on wood!– apprehension and anxiety. Some don’t reagree with it and others think it’s way overdue. Okay…so can we find the wise middle?

When I see the man vehemently protesting about wearing a mask into Costco, it shouts about entitlement. A mask won’t necessarily protect you from Covid-19, but it’s a small request in the right direction.

Staying at home and being restricted from going any place is a reach, also. So what can we do to have a sense of freedom while also watching out for one another? That’s the wise middle that needs to be searched for, not pushed to the side because it doesn’t fit my want.

We’re in a time of what the community needs, not what I personally want. Wait a minute! Peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere?

Sounds like a conspiracy! Maybe it is! A divine conspiracy!

group of people doing tug of war

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Learning From Job

May 17, 2020

It figures that in the midst of a pandemic my Bible reading journey has in knee-deep in the Old Testament book of Job. I’ll admit, not one of my favorite books. There’s a lot of whining and annoying friends offering bad advice. It’s like an ancient version of a current Teen Moms episode, minus the pregnancies.

But in the plodding through the lengthy discourses of Job, a certain verse stood out to me, knocked me in the head, and shook me from head to toe. Job says it as he talking about what wisdom is.

“And he (God) said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord- that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28, NIV)

We keep talking about what we’re learning in the present crisis that has been overwhelming. How are we becoming wiser as day clicks over to the next day? Better yet, what does the Creator of the Universe desire for us to learn as we face hurdles and new predicaments?

Before we traverse to the complex side of the problem, maybe we need to take a moment and consider the simple elements. It’s kinda’ like a cook looking to create a dinner of Lobster Arrabiata. Before jumping to that fine cuisine dish maybe he needs to learn to boil the water first!

Maybe we need to consider what it is to fear the Lord first as we seek to be wise. Maybe we need to consider what being reverent in our relationship with the Almighty entails. Maybe getting a good handle of who we are and who God is, and the unbelievable awesomeness of the truth of His love for us would be a “boiling the water” step to take!

After all, Job was dealing with a personal pandemic, losing his kids, his herds, his wealth, and, most of all, the respect the community had for him. In the midst of his nightmare,

lightning and tornado hitting village

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he discovered somethings about himself and about the God he worshipped. The last chapter of Job is a rainbow of hope for the conclusion of his ordeal.

Fearing the Lord and shunning evil…a simple path toward being a wiser world.

Sprints and Pandemic Marathons

May 11, 2020

I was a long-distance runner through high school and college, and continuing into my adult years. In the fall of 1978, my friend, Stan Brown, and I decided to run the Chicago Marathon. It began at 8:00 in the morning and wound through the streets of downtown Chi-town, finishing with the last few miles along the lakefront.

Several thousand runners lined up for the 26.2 mile adventure. There were so many runners that the start encompassed two different streets that merged back together a few blocks later.

Excitement filled the air as the runners awaited the starter’s signal. Whooping and hollering expressed the adrenalin in the crowd. The verbal expressions continued for the first mile or so and then most of the runners were silent.

For a number of the participants, reality hit them square in the face. Their lungs and legs were letting them know that a marathon is not a sprint. It’s an experience in perseverance that taxes a person’s mental, physical, and emotional limits.

It seems that a number of people entered this weird time of a pandemic with a sprinter’s mentality, not prepared for the long stretch of slowed pacing. A sprinter’s mentality believes the finish line is already in sight from the beginning. A marathon mentality understands that after this mile, this day, there will be another mile, another day. It’s a slow journey in what seems an endless direction.

I had a teammate on my college cross-country team who never quite understood pacing. The starter’s pistol would fire and he would sprint the first two hundred yards, always leading the pack of runners. But our race was four and five miles long. As his lungs screamed at him after two hundred yards it occurred to him that there was still 97.5% of the race to run.

In our little effort-fast results culture, there’s been little preparation for a long journey. We’re a society of sprinters, fatigued by a finish line nowhere in sight. Many of us have come to the realization that we need to be fueled by prayer, fitted with patience, and focused on the promises of God.

I finished that Chicago Marathon…not well, but I finished! The last four miles I had cramps in both legs and looked like a stick figure trying to take each step. I remember the crowd of bystanders cheering each finisher on.

And here’s the thing! I was stronger because I finished. That is, I knew that if I could do a marathon then I had the God-given strength to see other challenges to their completion.

This marathon pandemic may be able to teach us a lot about our resolve and character. Just don’t sprint!

people doing marathon

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Puzzles and Pandemics

May 5, 2020

I’m working on a 1,500 piece puzzle right now of a lion. Spiritual-types think it is Aslan from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Me? I think it is a huge challenge for this color-blind 66-year-old. 

Slowly, I’m putting things together. Aslan, if you will, has half a face so far. His hairy mane is a bit patchy, but it’s starting to lose its gaps. As I’m looking at the shape of each piece’s connecting tabs and pockets (Jigsaw puzzle terms), I’m making discoveries. Sometimes a piece connects into another piece, but the picture it creates doesn’t make sense. Puzzle working is a learning experience, filled with trial and error, pondering, envisioning, and adjusting.

The emphasis, however, is on learning what makes sense and what has the danger of looking like a Picasso painting. As I learn the picture becomes clearer and the confusion lessens.

It seems that such a puzzle mindset would benefit those who are navigating the pandemic puzzle. It began with an outline of the problem. All of a sudden two pieces that look like they could be linked draw attention. Learnings from Singapore and South Korea seem to fit together in a pattern. The blank number of cases in several island nations hint at another learning.

A new testing procedure and a drug that has worked on a number of infected patients who had no other options bring together some clarity in one of the corner areas. This tab seems to lock into this pocket.

The more we listen the more we learn. The more we observe and facilitate discussion and dialogue the clearer the face of the virus’s makeup.

Back to my Aslan, sometimes I call Carol in to help me see the colors or at least explain what colors are what in each piece. I am not so hung up on having to complete all 1,500 pieces with no one else’s input, that I’m resistant to asking someone who can tell the difference between red and green.

After all, it’s about completing the puzzle, not be puzzled by its confusing blend of shades.

I may be wrong, but it seems that the pandemic puzzle is more about cooperation rather than competition. It’s more about finding the solutions rather than feeling the necessity of having sole ownership of the solution.

Like Aslan, may courage be evident in the face of our resolve.

yellow animal eyes fur

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Masked Marvels

May 1, 2020

The designs are creative, almost fashion statements. Wearing masks is the new frontier. I saw a man this week whose mask made it look like he had a baby pacifier in his mouth. And then you’ve got a young lady making me look twice at the bright pair of red lips decorating the front of her mask, and another guy who looks like he’s got a set of extra-wide choppers smiling for eternity.

Me? My mask is as plain Jane as you can get. I don’t need extra attention. I just want to get by.

What intrigues me still- mystifies me, if you will- is the number of people who still walk face-naked into the supermarket. Or Walgreen’s!!! Walgreen’s, you know that place where you go to buy medicine when you’re not feeling well, as well as pick up prescriptions. Hello!

My wife heard an interesting analogy about wearing a mask compared to not. The person compared it to two naked people urinating on each other. That’s how it is when two non-masked people are within a couple of feet of one another in a store. She went on to say that if one person had pants on and the other peed on him, at least he’d have the pants as a layer of protection. But if both people had pants on and urinary issues, no one would have the other person’s…business on him.

Disturbing visual there, but it draws the importance of wearing a mask to the forefront. At Lowe’s today, an unmasked man who looked to be about 60 was walking into the store holding hands with a lady about his age- I’m assuming his wife- and she was wearing a mask! Okay, what’s wrong with that picture?

Listen! I’m not infatuated with masks. I began running again this week, but I don’t wear a mask as I’m getting red in the face during my run. When I take my morning walk around the neighborhood at 7:30 I’m unmasked. Ain’t nobody else out at 7:30, and if I come upon someone we make room for one another.

Masks may be here to stay for a while. We may get to a point where we recognize one another by the design on their mask. I need to get a Michigan State Spartan mask. If the Spartans play bad, at least I can hide my face behind the mask. If they take it to the Wolverines I can wear it like I’m a proud papa.

I wonder if guys whose pants always seem to be sagging wear sagging masks. Or maybe they pull them further up their face for the contrast.

The only thing I don’t like about wearing a mask is that it sometimes causes my glasses to fog up. It’s kinda’ strange having to pull my eyeglasses off so I can see better.

I need to be honest. I’m starting to make judgments about people on the basis of their missing masks at King Soopers supermarket. Are they that determined to exercise their personal freedom that they feel they have the right to sniff the cantaloupes? That just doesn’t seem right. Seeing someone sniffing the shampoo with an unmasked extra-long snoot makes me want to hurl…and I’m wearing a mask as I’m gagging!

Bottom line: Be safe. Be responsible. Be anonymous!

mona lisa protection protect virus

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