Learning To Fly . . .

It was spring of 2012. The thick aroma of crawfish bread, gumbo, and po-boys cut through an even thicker shroud of South Louisiana humidity. Anticipation dangled in the air as the girls and I waited for Tom Petty to arrive on the Jazz Fest stage.

By this time, the girls had reached ages (14 and 12). Arguably a suitable age to run to the concessions on their own (using the “buddy system”). So, I watched them traipse off into a sea of strangers while I waited. 

And I waited. 

And I waited.

Ticking off minutes is not exactly in my wheelhouse. In this particular case, I had to fight off a torrent of worry over improbable outcomes to the situation. This did not make ticking any easier.

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Through All of It

Life is full of it. Everyone we meet has it. More realistically, they have piles of it.

What is it?

Everyone’s it is different. Some its are temporary – A season of unemployment that stretches beyond the reach of the emergency reserves. A rough patch in your marriage where you and your spouse aren’t in the same book much less on the same page. A family member graces the local brewpub more frequently than they grace the family dinner table. The diagnosis is serious but cure is worse than the ill. There’s no telling how long these its will last.

Still other times, it singes like flames devour a wooden frame and a lifetime of photographs. It chimes like a doorbell at 2 a.m. rung by the hand of a highway patrolman doing his duty. It pierces the heart swiftly and cleanly as a disgruntled employee sweeps through the work place. It is a bucketful of pills to manage the symptoms of an illness that isn’t going away. It is the undeniable form of a loved one twisted neatly under a blue drape at an accident scene.

In other words, some its are permanent. There’s no undoing it. There’s no rewinding it. There’s no replacing it.

We all have it. There’s no getting around it. We all have to figure out what are we gonna do with it?

We have essentially two choices – we can let it drown us or we can let it drive us. Today, my it is a bouquet of tissue-wrapped peonies melting in the Mississippi sun and marking a spot of backroad that I shouldn’t even know exists. My it is forever.

When I talk about choices, I’m not being trite. I’m not trying to wrap it up in a neat bow. There is nothing neat and tidy about any of it. On the contrary, it is messy and sticky. But it is here to stay.

It can consume us. It can overtake us. It desires to isolate us. It wants us bound up in our own minds; our thoughts drawn tight like drapes blocking out the morning sun. Like a current pulling us away from shore, it binds our will, strength, and fight to move forward.

I imagine that drowning feels a lot like that and that’s one option.

There’s another. This other option will seem impossible certainly at the beginning of it and even at many steps along the journey – making the best of it. The best advice that I received early in this journey – those who seek hope will find hope. Said another way, those who don’t seek hope won’t find hope (or least will have to rely on blind luck to stumble upon it). 

You know what really sucks? The burden of seeking hope when it is already weighing us down. So how do we do it? How do we seek out hope? How can it become the thing that drives us? 

Wrestle with it– acknowledge it; put a name to it; explore its edges; learn its game; learn how it shows up unannounced; refuse to allow it to become the 800-lb gorilla in the room. Don’t be afraid to interrogate it. Run it through the mill.

Don’t skip this step. If we ignore it, it will gain a foothold. It will become the tail that wags the dog. Once you’ve wrestled with it (which can be an ongoing process), please don’t stop there. Please resist when it tries to wrap you up. Push back when it invites you to wallow.

Even the deepest, darkest pit of despair CANNOT extinguish the flame of Hope!

Face it– Now that you know it and its game – you can start redefining the rules. If it is temporary, it might be time to let it go. It loves attention and is a big ol’ drama queen. It will hang around as long as you will let it. Ask yourself if it isn’t time to kick it to the curb.

Other its aren’t headed to the curb. No, some its are moving in. Some its are popping corn, running up your electric bill, and putting their feet on the sofa. These are the ones that we can’t let go. These are the ones that we have to learn to live with. These are the ones that present us with the toughest choices. 

No matter the size of it, if it sticks with you – it can still become the thing that drives you. 

Turn it on its head. Use it to make a difference.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference. In our “supersized” world, it is easy to think that we can’t make a difference unless our efforts go viral. Found an organization like M.A.D.D. Or start an awareness campaign so that others will get a mammogram or a colonoscopy or a simple annual blood test before disease destroys their lives. Or run a marathon or complete an Ironman in the loving memory of a loved one.

Supersized, viral efforts are awesome! They inspire us all. But, don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t make a difference in small acts. Every one of those “supersized” efforts started when a fleeting thought caught breath. Don’t worry about making a difference in a million lives.

Start with one life. 

Do something today – right here in the middle of it– that will make a difference for another no matter how great or how small. Grab coffee with a friend. Smile at the store clerk (or your spouse or both). Say “hello” as you pass your next-door neighbor (maybe even chat for a minute). Let someone merge into traffic or pass up the “good” parking spot for someone else. 

As small as each one of those acts (and many more like them) are – they have one thing in common. Each one requires – if only for an instant – that we look up from our own circumstances to recognize someone else.

When we lift our eyes, we lift our faces. Lifting our chins is the first, baby step toward facing it.

Dear Father, we know that this world is not as you intended. We see “it” all around us. It’s messy. We can’t scrub it away. We can’t fix it.

Help us to remain faithful when “it” threatens to overtake us. Let your Spirit strengthen us when “it” takes over our favorite spot on the sofa, leaves rings on our coffee tables, and eats the last cookie. Bolster our faith and diminish our doubt. Be our Hope when despair threatens to drown us. Give us a driving Spirit to make the best of it. Drive away the notion that our steps must be “supersized” to matter. 

When we wrestle with why, remind us that You ARE our God through all of it! 

This we pray through your Son, Jesus. – Amen!

SDG

Connecting the Dots . . .

As a kid (and even beyond), I was am a sucker for puzzles. Crosswords. Word jumbles. Word searches. Sudoku. I couldn’t even resist the humble “Connect the Dots.” Seriously, what is more satisfying that to watch a scene unfold from a smattering of random dots strewn across a piece of paper?

Growing up, the Bible was a lot like a smattering of dots for me. I learned it a dot at a time. The story of Adam and Eve. A story about Jonah and a big fish. A story about feeding a crowd with no time to hit the grocery. A tale of Joseph and his fancy coat. An account of how a boy named David took down giant named Goliath and another about Daniel escaping the lion’s den. A yarn about Noah, a flood, a dove, and a rainbow. Stories strewn across the pages of my youth like random dots – unnumbered and out of order. 

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No More Tears

Today – May 2, 2019 – marks eighteen years since we lost my daddy to cancer at the age of only 56. As I think about him and so many loved ones who have finished their race in this world – I can’t help but to think of eternity.

Video excerpt from a class assignment on the Story of Scripture . . .There’s a day coming when there will be no more tears.

While so many mysteries surround the next life, two things are certain to me. A day is coming when there will be no more death, pain, or tears. And, the veil between today and that future day is ever so thin.

Two pieces of my heart – my daddy and my Brooke

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the thirty-three years that I shared with my daddy. It wasn’t long enough (we never think it is), but I am still ever grateful for that precious time. Thank you for memories that are outside the realm of death. Thank you for an eternal world where You will once again live in our midst and we will be reunited with those whom we love so dearly. Please send your Holy Spirit as our Comforter so that we may await with hope that day when there will be no more tears. In the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen!

SDG

Simmering in Saturday

Raise your hand if you collect toys. Any kind of toys – garden toys, craft toys, electronic toys, car toys, sports toys, horse toys, or any one of the endless examples of the shiny things that capture our attention and are fun to collect. Me? One of my weaknesses is kitchen toys.

Two fairly recent additions to my kitchen – the electric pressure cooker and the sous vide cooker. Two appliances pretty much on opposite ends of the cooking spectrum – one designed to cook quickly and the other slowly. One pressures ingredients to maturity while the other caresses a recipe to fullness. (If you’ve never used a sous vide, it is essentially a heating element that sits in a water bath providing a gentle heat that cooks your ingredients to a perfect and precise temperature. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it – especially for steaks. I digress.)

In a weird way, this got me to thinking about how we handle suffering.

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Who Does That?

Have you ever found yourself in conflict? Someone says or does something that hurts you – deeply. You are left wonder how to handle the situation. What to do next? Sometimes it is not a close relationship, and you let it go. You move on. Other times, moving on isn’t an option.

When this happens in my world, my initial reaction (too frequently) is revenge. A little taste of their own medicine. A little passive-aggressive tit-for-tat. (I’m a work in progress. What can I say?)

Then, once my initial shock, hurt, and disappoint pass, I tend to let it go. But not always in a forgive-and-forget sort of way. Sometimes, my attitude can look a lot more like “let it go” or “write it off.”

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Thy Will Be Done

For most of my conscious memory, I’ve had a black thumb. Cacti didn’t stand a chance. Does anyone know how to perform CPR on an air plant? Do rock gardens need water?

Yet, I really enjoy the beauty of nature. Lush greenery and vibrant flowers literally breathe out life to us. The coolness that creeps off the shade of tropical foliage brings restoration. It’s so easy to see how gardeners are transported to another place has they dig through the soil and tend their plots.

Don’t be surprised if you feel this way too. Our souls are wired for garden life. In the beginning when God deemed things “very good,” there we were winding through plush paths lined with breath-taking flora. No weeds. Perfect temps (You can read the details yourself, but no one was hunting for a jacket in Eden). And at the end of the days, “happy hour” was spent hanging out with God himself. 

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