Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Shorts — June 14, 2022

Shorts

I am writing this blog post on a personal website, typing on an iPad while streaming music on an Amazon Music app through a Bluetooth speaker across the room, and I am also hopelessly old fashioned. People are never just 1 thing. I know a guy who is a psychopathic maniac aggressively bent on destroying anyone and anything unlucky enough to be in proximity. He is also made in the image of God; loved, forgiven, covered by grace. This is sometimes very hard to understand, even harder to accept.

Last night, in a conversation with a woman who will be the bride in a wedding I’ll officiate, I was told that I didn’t have to wear a suit & tie. I could even wear shorts if I wanted.

I won’t be wearing shorts.

There are places that are different from other places. The Bible calls some things sacred, others common. Some time is sacred, other time ordinary. Not all things are equal. A wedding is different from a baseball game. A date with a woman is different than pizza with a friend. We hold these sorts of moments differently. Or at least I think we should.

Something gets lost when everything is common. As the villain Syndrome says in the terrific Pixar film, the Incredibles, “When everyone is super, no one will be.” Same principle, but we’re not elevating all moments. In Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron,” the exceptional people are hindered in some way specific to their giftedness, so that all people are the same. The end result is always the same, no one is super. No where is super.

A wedding isn’t a barbecue. One is a life-changing ceremony of love, devotion and commitment. The other is awesome, but a hamburger (no matter how thick and juicy, no matter how many condiments or kinds of cheese) isn’t a marriage. And evening them out never ever means bringing up the value of a barbecue.

Sexual intimacy is best experienced as the physical act of love and connectedness shared between 2 people. As that number increases, it doesn’t become more significant. It can’t. Baseball cards that are rare are more valuable for a reason.

See? Hopelessly old fashioned.

I pastor a church and I’m not writing this on that page because we are a very casual community – I teach on Sunday mornings this time of year in shorts and sandals – and shhh, I don’t really like it. I don’t say that out loud because I never want dress to become an obstacle or feel like an entrance requirement. I don’t want anything to keep anyone away, so we remove any barrier (there are plenty of those already). I absolutely know that suits and fancy dresses don’t automatically make our hearts soft and open, or add depth of meaning, but maybe it helps. Maybe mindful preparation helps.

The truth is, I don’t want anything to keep anyone away from anything. People are more important (100% of the time) than the t-shirts and flip-flops we wear. So, I don’t really have to like it, do I? I want super people and sacred spaces, I happen to loooove celebrating our differences, but much much more than that, I want presence and engagement.

You can wear what you like, free of any silly self-righteous judgment from me, but I’m still not wearing shorts to that wedding.

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4 — June 10, 2022

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4

The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds has a track called, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” and I feel like that more and more every day.

The hook is just a repeated line, “Sometimes I feel very sad.” No kidding, baby. I’m pretty sure if you live and breathe, you have to. It’s practically a requirement for modern living. War. Lies. Manipulation. Violence. Abuse. Rage. Pain. Guns and the broken hearts that pull the triggers.

[Just as far as that goes. I think if we could have conversations without our political ideologies, we would all totally agree. Firearms are too easy to get without proper training and education. The people killing others are wounded and in desperate need of help. Both sides are totally right. If we could only see each other, address those who are walking warning signs of psychological damage, and set up some reasonable obstacles to immediate, boundary-less procurement of instruments of death, then maybe we could stop chanting our empty mantra of “thoughts and prayers” so often. I want that, and I believe you do, too. And so does your neighbor and the Speaker of the House and the President of the NRA.]

Anyway. Sometimes I feel very sad. And every day, it seems like there are 2 new arrows. That’s ok, I suppose. We choose. And I choose to listen and engage. I choose to be the one who walks alongside. I choose to help you carry. Again, probably you are, too.

If you’ve been here long enough, (and maybe just today), you are aware that I happen to believe more connects us than separates. I believe that we are mostly trustworthy and kind, helpful and loving. Of course, I also recognize that we are capable of unimaginable horror. My neighbor is blind and 99 out of 100 of us will help him find his way, and 1 will push him down. But would that 1 push him down if he/she was listened to and cared for? Maybe. But maybe not.

The song starts, “I keep lookin’ for a place to fit in. Where I can speak my mind. And I’ve been tryin’ hard to find the people. That I won’t leave behind.” We’re all looking for that, aren’t we? What if we find it? Would an 18 year old with a community around him shoot up an elementary school. What if he fit in? What if he found his people?

Brian Wilson said, about the song, “It’s about a guy who was crying because he thought he was too advanced, and that he’d eventually have to leave people behind. All my friends thought I was crazy to do Pet Sounds.” I don’t think I’m too advanced, and I’m not creating one of the greatest albums of all time. I just think the state of my heart (soft and in perfect working order) makes these days, taking so many arrows & wrecking balls, pretty hard to take. I don’t think I’m alone, though. I think Brian Wilson was wrong, he didn’t have to eventually leave people behind. He decided that for everyone in his life. We can’t make the same misguided decision anymore.

So. Sometimes I feel very sad. That’s all.

And I Am A Material Girl — May 16, 2022

And I Am A Material Girl

Just a few short months ago, I would have written a full series of posts on how much I disliked Madonna, how I thought she was sickeningly overrated. In fact, maybe I did. I don’t remember. But I do remember laying out terribly detailed arguments against her to anyone who would listen. Then, in a surprising twist, my sister had the 2 disc greatest hits set Celebration buried in a mountain of cds she had given me as trash for a project which I had intended to take on.

I would have immediately moved it to my garbage can, but track 1 on disc 2 is Dress You Up, and if you are alive, you love Dress You Up. I stopped fighting the losing battle against that song (pretending I didn’t love it, pretending I didn’t sing along at the top of my lungs) a long time ago. So I put the discs in my car only planning to listen to Dress You Up on repeat 15 or 20 times before they found their way to the landfill.

But a strange thing happened when I was late to repeat track 1 – track 2 began. Track 2 is Material Girl. We all know Material Girl is an embarrassing relic of the ‘80’s, bubble gum, disposable, pure sugar superficiality. Isn’t it????

“‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right,” is a great line. Then, “Experience has made me rich and now they’re after me” is fine (better than fine, actually) but the way she sings “’Cause everybody’s living in a material world and I am a material girl,” is transcendent. My series of nasty posts would’ve surely included a huge section on Material Girl. And they would’ve been absolutely wrong. Vogue, Hung Up, Music, Borderline, Everybody, Burning Up, Cherish, I could go on and on, (don’t even get me started on Holiday) and the cds stay in for weeks until I can summon the superhuman strength to push eject.

Sigh, Madonna is awesome, but there is a bigger point here. Sometimes we are so familiar with something that thing loses it’s power. We take it totally for granted, we treat it as an everyday, common occurrence. We begin to see miracles as routine. The tremendous beauty of a sunrise or -set fails to register a second look. A hug, a wink, The Shawshank Redemption, my mom, Morrissey, throwing & catching baseballs, Oreos, so much just passes by unnoticed.

I remember the first time I kissed the Angel. I was wildly nervous and overwhelmed that I would ever have the opportunity to kiss such a lovely woman, and then we did and then we got married and we did a million more times and I am mostly no longer nervous and not overwhelmed enough at this even more lovely woman. When I think about her and her soft lips now, married nearly 22 years, she is way better than Material Girl, or even Holiday, I just forgot for many of those years.

I wonder how many things are like that in my life. The first time I held my boy Samuel, I wept at the enormity of this new life, how much I loved him, how much I prayed/dreamed for him, and what all of it meant. Tonight he and I had an argument over grades. Grades!??!?? He is the most wonderful young man, can I really be missing these day over a test score?

I know there’s room for grades AND appreciation, arguments AND gratitude, but too often it’s just grades and arguments. The Bible talks about ears to hear and eyes to see, and I think Material Girl is probably what those verses mean. We sometimes need new ears and eyes and lips to experience the familiar as brand new, so we can see our lives as the mind-blowing gifts they truly are.

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff — May 9, 2022

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff

Yesterday I saw Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, last week Moon Knight wrapped up, and there is something quite interesting about them. They aren’t for everyone. I can’t remember previous Marvel films about which I could’ve said that.

Doctor Strange was a mind-bending horror trip through multiversal universes. I don’t even know if that last sentence makes any sense to you, but spoiler rules dictate that I can’t say anything else. I will say one of my sons and I liked it very much and my other son and wife, the Angel, didn’t at all. (That she didn’t is no surprise, we had come to terms with that long ago – however, that I took her on Mother’s Day is a term that we’ll need a bit more time with.) After the movie, I received a text asking me how it was, and I couldn’t exactly answer. I said it’s not for everyone, and that’s 100% true.

Moon Knight was a series on Disney+ about a relatively unknown… superhero? Avatar? A man who is awfully handsome and awfully mentally ill whose multiple personalities are being manipulated by an Egyptian god that may or may not be the skeleton of Kevin from Up. I liked the promise of the 1st episode, liked the series less and less through episode 4, LOVED episode 5, and episode 6 was fine. The first 5 were less standard superhero stuff and more painfully honest character study, until they lost their nerve and returned to a standard final act which resolved until the last 30 seconds, when it didn’t.

I feel a certain way about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it is our mythology. Why those stories are treated with reverence and studied in English classes, and these films are treated as lowbrow trash is so confusing to me, maybe it actually is the perfect illustration. Maybe I am the lowest common denominator. Who knows? I don’t really care, though. I’ve long since left behind the term “guilty pleasure.” I am drawn to artwork that helps me understand the human condition and emotionally connect. I can’t think of a better wide AND deep, completely relatable depiction of grief than Wandavision. Or a more relevant dive into our complex mistrust of authority (sometimes we are paranoid and they really are after us) than the Winter Soldier. And though the movie was pretty disappointing, Iron Man 2 saw and highlighted our collective struggle with our own mortality in the middle of a backbreaking responsibility and a clear call to something greater.

I am not a witch destined to rule or destroy the cosmos, (at least as far as I know), but I have lost people, knew that my heart was irreparably broken, and wailed under the weight of “what do I do now, without you????” You too, right?

Anyway. What I think about these latest 2 installments of the MCU is, they were ok, not for everyone and it’s THAT evaluation that is so hopeful to me. The things that really affect us, that really mean something, probably aren’t the things that are sanded down to avoid all edges. McDonald’s “hamburgers” are engineered to be ok to everyone – that’s how you sell billions, but they’re nobody’s favorite. Your favorite probably has bacon and cranberries and a special kind of hot sauce or pickle, right? And maybe the person with you sits there wondering how you, how anyone, could possibly like that!?! Ask 3 people about Wandavision, 1 of them will have HATED every moment of it. And 1, like me, will think it’s PERFECT and go on and on, write blog posts about how deep and wonderful and real it was.

It’s funny to talk about a studio that makes movies that bring in billions of dollars like this, but I might really dislike this next Thor movie and that prospect thrills me.

Inertia — April 28, 2022

Inertia

These last few weeks, I’ve been a little… Well, it’s a little like running on a treadmill. More of a walk than a run, actually. The late winter months are usually pretty hard on my spirit, so recently I’ve made allowance for this heart sickness. A friend said last week in a contemplative retreat, “be excessively gentle with yourself,” and that’s what I’m doing.

Since I began this post last week – which was supposed to be about inertia and how if I get up and start working immediately, or jump out of bed, get dressed and go to the gym before my body can even argue, that seems to snowball for the rest of the day. And the opposite. If I come downstairs and sit down and watch an episode of Catfish first, it’s exponentially more difficult to get up and go. And it gets harder and harder the more things get between stagnation and movement. Right? It’s this way for all of us because of the simple concept of inertia: and object in motion tends to stay in motion and and object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Either of these is ok. I place no judgment on rest and no pride in motion, like we can easily do. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

But as last week’s post runs into late this week, my body is more and more achy and sore, my mind more and more dull, and my soul heavier and heavier, I wonder if this is simple inertia. Not that I’d have any idea what else it could be. Maybe I’m still wheeling this low grade illness around mindlessly like luggage at an airport.

Yesterday, at the Target, I spent an unreasonable amount of time scouring the supplements for anything that would address my non-specific symptoms. Of course, non-specificity breeds non-specificity, so that was obviously unsuccessful. As if there would be a bottle that said, “For General Blah.” Maybe there is, there seems to be bottles for everything else, but if there was, I’m not sure I’d take it. If they can’t tell me clearly what it’s for, then…

I still do the things I do, I’m still writing this post, lifting weights (though they are significant;y lighter weights than 2 months ago), still laugh easy, still sit outside and watch high school baseball games in the frigid cold. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

You know one of the most important things I’ve learned? In the past, I’d cancel appointments and hide away, but I don’t do that anymore, and that helps a lot. The Bible says it’s “not good” for us to be alone, and that’s really true. I agree that people are the worst, but people are also the absolute best. (A cool thing is that a very good friend is likely concerned and texting me as she reads these words. So to her: I am fine, just a little non-specific blah. Everyone should have beautiful friends like I do.) So I’ll keep connecting and wheeling this baggage around, driving the principle of inertia (or let it drive me). Maybe the low grade will fade imperceptibly, little by little, until it disappears altogether. Probably.

I’ll keep being excessively gentle with myself and I hope you are, too.

Patterns… — April 14, 2022

Patterns…

I can’t count how many posts I’ve written on Catfish, which I suppose would have to be called my favorite tv show right now. The last 2 shows on Netflix I’ve watched are Inventing Anna and Bad Vegan. There’s something about that…a pattern…

Bad Vegan was the account of a fancy vegan restaurant in New York City. Mostly, it was the account of it’s owner Sarma, her striking rise and equally striking downfall that landed her in prison for a few minutes. It was also the account of her husband Shane (or Anthony,) who was maybe insane or maybe just a lying fraud. I guess it’s possible he was just misunderstood, was actually fighting evil forces and was totally going to make Sarma and her dog immortal once the fight was over. For the first 2 episodes, I wondered how a brilliant business-woman could be duped by such an obvious con. But during the last 2, I wondered how I was duped by such an obvious con for 2 episodes.

One of my favorite things to say to my sons is, “You can’t possibly expect me to believe this – I’m not one of your dumb little buddies.” It’s condescending and rude, I explain, to assume I am the kind of person who is so incapable of reason and intelligent thought that I would accept the excrement you’re shoveling.

But maybe I am that kind of person. Sarma assumed I am exactly that kind of person, too. She also assumed you are, and so is everyone we know. And I DID buy it for 2 episodes!!!!

Whatever, I don’t really care about Sarma, her marriage, restaurant or her immortality. What’s interesting is how the vast majority of the things I like have everything to do with identity; who we are and the bizarre ways we contort ourselves to portray characters different than the ones we truly are.

I pastor a church and the main problem we all have with churches and the people in them is what we call hypocrisy. In the Bible, the word is an acting term, so calling me a hypocrite is exactly like saying I’m an actor, playing different roles for different audiences. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to the church. In fact, the harshest words in the Bible are reserved for these actors, it seems it’s not just our main problem. I spend tons of time on Sunday mornings talking about authenticity, being fully present as we are – instead of holding up this exhausting facade.

I bet this is so important to me, and why I gravitate to this sort of art, because I spent an inordinate amount of my life pretending to be someone else, someone cooler, more capable, smarter, more awesome. Once I was able to begin to set some of this baggage down and walk around as simply me, it felt light, airy, and wonderful, and I desperately wanted that for everyone.

Then of course I’d pick the baggage up again, and see the worst parts of me in that million-part Anna series and Catfish and in the kids in the high school where I work, and become overwhelmingly frustrated with them. That’s probably why I can’t stand hypocrisy, isn’t it? Because I just can’t seem to stop myself from acting.

On A Daily Basis — April 8, 2022

On A Daily Basis

Today is the most beautiful. The sun is brilliant in the cloudless sky, and that’s a pretty stark contrast to the past few days or weeks, when it had rained often and the sky was always the color of cement. The Angel tells me not to use the words always, never, and “all the time,” and I suppose she’s right. Maybe in the past 2 weeks, the sky wasn’t the color of cement for 15 minutes in the late morning. I just don’t remember it.

She tells me that because I am naturally inclined towards exaggeration. I’ll say I haven’t slept in weeks, but when pressed, I have slept but not well, and then when pressed on that, I realize that I had a night last Tuesday that was alright, so who knows what’s true anymore?

None of this always/never business matters at all because the point is that it’s a lovely day and lovely days feel like possibility, and not much has felt that way lately. This central Pennsylvania weather is an apt metaphor for the state of the world about now; raining, gray and depressing. We’re also in Lent and if you go for that sort of thing, it’s an invitation to self-reflection and, in a heart state that corresponds to late winter, melancholy. This week ahead in the church asks us to engage with the passion (which in this context means suffering), and in a culture that tries so hard to avoid uncomfortability, it’s no wonder we feel so torn apart. We simply can’t turn a blind eye to the near constant negative stimulation. So now what?

I’m happy I didn’t write this yesterday, because the tone would have been quite different. Yesterday it was raining and today is awesome. That’s enough, sometimes. Yesterday the best we could do was to just barely hold things together. Today we are 1 step away from changing the world forever, today is when my love pyramid scheme is not far away, when it’s not only possible but totally reasonable.

Tracee Ellis Ross is an actress on the tv show black-ish. She wrote a piece about the final season in Entertainment Weekly, and in it, she says, “black-ish was an opportunity for me to be free and to shine and to embody all of my values; to be able to strive for a level of excellence in the work that I do, and how I interact with the people that I work with, and to be of service and fight for equity and joy on a daily basis.”

I love it and her, I’ve read it a hundred times.

And as we’re talking, if you replace “black-ish” with anything, with whatever we do, whatever we care about, how we spend our time, and who we spend it with, her writing describes a design for our lives that is much bigger than a tv show. The “work we do” is loving each other, is holding each other’s hand and walking through the pain/suffering and flying through the celebrations, is picking us up and reminding us that we can keep going. “Fight for equity & joy on a daily basis.” Right??!!?? We continue to fight, in Lent and on Easter, yesterday in the pouring rain and today in the blinding sunshine, in late-February and in September. All isn’t lost when we’re reading horrible news while our hearts break, it just means we work the way we were designed (if your heart isn’t broken sometimes, that’s what is truly concerning) and the world doesn’t. And on those days, when we keep showing up, fighting for joy, we display an overwhelming courage that inspires us all when we wonder if we can go one more day. We can. And we will. We will be free and shine, embody our values, and keep fighting.

Anna — March 28, 2022

Anna

Inventing Anna is a new buzzy Netflix documentary-ish film. Each of the 9 episodes begins with the clever disclaimer: “The whole story is completely true. Except for the parts that are totally made up.” A wildly unlikeable “German heiress”/con artist dupes plenty of people who should have known better and (I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know the story) may or may not end up convicted for these acts/crimes. 9 episodes. 9 long episodes about this woman and the superficial culture that made all of this possible. 9 hours of my life I won’t get back.

The acting was terrific. The writing & directing were good, music was great. The events on which it was based were surreal and fantastic. The cultural critique was sharp and pointy. It’s exactly the sort of thing the algorithm would figure I’d love, and normally it would be right, it is the sort of thing I’d love. But I hated it. I don’t have to like everything, and I don’t have to always agree with the algorithm.

There was a square of 4 desks in “Scriberia” and 3 of the 4 characters there and the trainer, Kacy, were alright. The husband of the journalist who broke the story was awesome. Everyone else (I might be swayed on the lawyer) was absolutely awful, carefully crafted images of human dollar signs.

[Awful isn’t always a dealbreaker, the greatest tv show in the history of tv is Seinfeld and there aren’t many redeeming qualities to be found. The show acknowledged this with the finale when they all ended up in jail for essentially being terrible people. But Seinfeld is the exception, an outlier. Whether they succeed or not, we need someone we like, someone to root for, someone to care about.]

Every good story – the ones we like that stick with us – contains a character arc. The protagonist is one way, and through conflict or obstacle, changes, grows, and becomes someone else by the end. We’re just the same in real life. We are who we are. Then we find ourselves (intentionally or otherwise) thrown into spaces where we learn, adapt, rise, fail, lose, win, get up or stay down. Either way, we are transformed at the end of this particular journey. Sometimes the stories hurt like crazy, but significance isn’t measured by enjoyment. And eventually the next story beckons and we engage.

We all know people who don’t, right? The people who remain the same, doing the same thing, going the same places, telling the same jokes, as the life drains from their, and our, eyes. Bored. Tired. Uninspired. And sometimes that’s us, simply surviving, going through motions, trapped in repeating loops of rut and routine.

Anna was the same in the episode 1 as episode 9. She was lonely & sad as she was chasing & catching excess, treating everyone like trash. She was lonely & sad in episode 9 as she was no longer catching the glamorous life she pursued, and still treating everyone like trash. People were to be used and discarded. At every turn, the characters made horrible decisions, ignoring their families and their souls. I found the show very very sad. I wanted more for them, I wanted them to feel loved and worthy, enough, regardless of how much money was in their bank account or how much their hotel room cost. I wanted them to rest. I wanted Anna to be held by someone who would care for her unconditionally. I wanted the lawyer to go on his vacation and Vivian to stay at home with her baby, reading Goodnight Moon and singing lullabies. (And I know not everybody wants the same things or values the same things I do…)

I also know it was a movie. Maybe she’s lovely. And maybe ‘more’ IS a worthy goal for our lives. I’m not sure, though.

The Pyramid Scheme — March 17, 2022

The Pyramid Scheme

The world is mostly on fire. Every single thing seems to be, in equal parts, depressing and terrifying. I recognize this, every moment weighs on my heart, head, stomach, and in my bones. I tell you I recognize this because we’re about to talk about youth sports again, and that can feel ridiculously insignificant.

Maybe it is, but the thing is that when problems appear to be so BIG and overwhelming, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the sheer size of the monsters in the room. Often the best (and perhaps only) action is, simply, to do something.

There’s a parable of a man and his daughter walking on the beach full of beached starfish. The young girl begins to throw them back into the ocean, one at a time. Her dad says, “you can’t save them all, what does it matter?” And she answers, of the one she’s just returned to the water, “it matters to that one.” Or at least that’s how I remember that parable going, you get the point. Honestly, as I write it, the dad is really disappointing, right?

Anyway.

We’re all watching the news, feeling the bombs and violence chip away at our souls, gas & grocery prices at our wallets, and general hopelessness at our hearts. There’s a palpable darkness that can drag us down a deep, deep spiral. Can I end this war? Can I actually affect any sort of change in the East, in the UN, in the schools, banks, hospitals, or anyone’s lives? It feels like each of those answers are no, but I’m not so sure.

Baseball meetings – it’s likely all youth sports meetings, but baseball has a special gift for bringing out crazy – can drag on and on, begging the question, “how far and how fast would I have to run to get enough force to break through that window, what injuries would the broken glass inflict, and would I survive the fall to the ground?” But as we discussed/implemented codes of conduct (because coaches and parents find ways to ruin everything and force discussions on codes of conduct), I began to consider the kids on my team, thinking about their faces, their voices, their sometimes sad family situations that are beached on the sand.

Maybe we can’t transform Vladimir Putin’s mind today, but if we can create new systems, maybe the next Putin won’t be quite so hellbent on starting a war. The idea (that sounds like a joke but isn’t at all) is one of a pyramid scheme, but instead of leggings or cleaning products, the product is love. If I love you, and you love 2 more, and those 2 love 2, and those 4 love 2 – it’s compounding interest in an economy of grace. Now, this is not the ‘love’ we usually mistake, conditional and manipulative, but a new (old) kind, a generous, unselfish, unconditional love. One that is not designed as a means to get, but as the end in itself, only to give.

In that starfish parable, instead of spreading just more of the same doctrine of despair, instead of trying so hard to break the innocent spirit of his girl, maybe the dad could start helping out and throw some starfish back. Maybe we’re all that dad with the same choice in front of us. We can choose which kind of dad we’ll be. We can keep lamenting, “what can we do???” Or we can start getting our fingers in the sand to make a difference to just one ballplayer (or student or cashier or whatever) at a time in our homes, neighborhoods, in this cracked, violent, messy, sweetly beautiful world.

Ordinary Time — March 8, 2022

Ordinary Time

I haven’t seen the new Batman film yet, but I am watching Inventing Anna on Netflix. Most of what I’m listening to is old Morrissey/smiths cds, although “Plain Sight” by John Dhali is currently playing on my Amazon music playlist called Prime Time. All of the playlist titles are forms of Prime (Optimus Prime, Prime Cuts, etc) and it’s ridiculous and embarrassing how much joy that gives me. I’m reading another long novel, which is still early enough to be daunting without the momentum that drives me to devour the last 1/3 in big bites. For now, it’s sitting next to my chair and I haven’t picked it up since Friday. I have pain in my heel and my lower back that reminds me how old I am (or at least how old I feel). My son is sick, maybe, or just playing hooky, depending on your point of view. He’s in 9th grade and significantly taller than I am. My other son started baseball practice last night. He’s a junior in high school and if I think too long about that, you’ll hear my heart crack. The Angel is lovely, as always, a divine gift from the Creator of Everything who might not have made anything as awesome as she, and is far out of my league. She doesn’t seem to mind, so I don’t bring it up.

We’re early into Lent, for whatever that means to you. At a contemplative retreat Saturday, I confessed that Lent was a season/space that meant almost nothing to me. This is odd to hear because I am the pastor of a church and maybe a pastor shouldn’t say things like that, but it’s true so maybe it’s exactly the sort of thing a pastor should say. I didn’t believe in God for the 1st half of my life because of the damage Christians, tv preachers, and local churches that are indiscernible from corporations have done to my heart. Much of my journey of faith since has been leaving that baggage behind and trying to separate and reclaim things like God, the Church, church, the Bible, and so on, from the offense that has been done in their name. Bringing the baby back in while leaving the bathwater outside, so to speak. It’s been uncomfortable and wonderful. I imagine Lent will be meaningful to me sometime soon. We’ll see.

The Church calendar travels through seasons like Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, broken up by what is called Ordinary Time. With no Lent practice in my life, this is effectively Ordinary Time for me. That’s why I spent the first paragraph detailing my real, ordinary life. It wasn’t particularly interesting (unless heel pain is interesting to you) and it didn’t contain much in the way of what would be called in Hollywood “plot development.” It was just time.

The problem is that I can fall into the trap that says if I’m not painting towns red or jumping out of airplanes, I’m wasting time, therefore wasting my life. It’s like a life lived in sound bites, like we are a collection of EXPERIENCES, is the goal, and (lower case) experiences are boring and unsatisfying.

The thing is, that boring, unsatisfying paragraph is the most beautiful to me. I see a simple life overflowing with gifts and extraordinary ordinary everydays. And there is no such thing as just time.

We have championship games, but we also have evening practices in the gym. If we don’t love the process, don’t love the ordinary, there will be no championships. If we’re always looking ahead, waiting for the caps-locked moments, we’ll miss the other, far more often, quiet days, weeks, months, and years. Our wedding was awesome and I’ll remember it forever, but it pales in the deep significance and rich fulfillment of the marriage. These last 2 days home with my boy (no matter the reason) that feel so uneventful, won’t always be available. He’ll move out and create his own life, and I’ll look back and wish for 2 more uneventful days with him when he was 14. So these 2 days home are miracles that must not be missed wishing we were somewhere else doing something else worthy of envy-inducing photos on social media.

This is my overwhelming gratitude for this big, wonderful, ordinary life that has been so much better than I could have ever imagined in any dream in any universe.