Love With A Capital L

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

Saying Yes — January 8, 2022

Saying Yes

For the first 40some-ish years of my life, I had a pattern, It was an unhealthy pattern, but it was a pattern nonetheless. So, life would get big & heavy and as it would threaten to crush me under it’s vicious paws, I would fully, completely check out. If you would happen to call me (and later, text me), I wouldn’t call you back. I wouldn’t respond at all. If we had plans, I would break them. I’d listen to tons and tons of Morrissey songs. Life was lived squarely from a NO posture, deep in the dark. The suicidal thoughts (that seems weird to write so nonchalantly, but since I wrote about it a little in my book, it is a little easier, and since I’m not that guy anymore, it’s a lot easier. I’m not him, but I do love him, which is much more than I could ever say then) came with the darkness. That darkness was so total and my desperation so loud, I truly believed it might never be light again and if it wouldn’t be light, then… you get the point.

Anyway. Then my faith in the darkness was replaced with faith in Jesus, and with it, the suggestions of suicide were replaced with (what was at first a flimsy) hope. That’s more awesome than I can tell you, but my pattern continued.

Now, 2 things. There is a good book called Yes Man by Danny Wallace, and a less good movie adaptation with Jim Carrey. The premise is that a guy just says yes to every single thing that comes in his direction. That’s first. Then surprisingly, George Costanza is second. In an perfect episode of Seinfeld, George discovers that, “It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat… It’s all been wrong.” Later, Jerry says, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” So he does the opposite and it’s hilarious, but it got me thinking. This pattern has not served me well. It is not who I want to be and it’s not what the who I want to be would do.

Here, on the post I wrote for New Years, I stated that it was a good year. What made it a good year? So many bad things happened, wheels fell off, bones/relationships/lives were broken, hope and people were lost. Last week, we set a new record for numbers of COVID cases. By most objective measures, it was not a good year. What made it good in my perspective?

If every instinct I have ever had about checking out, about isolating myself, about disappearing, has been wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. (Incidentally, the instinct I had about listening to tins and tons of Morrissey happens to be right, in all situations, so that stayed.) So I hesitantly, slowly started reaching out. If when young children get scared, they climb into their parents bed, maybe I should begin to do the same, I reasoned, metaphorically speaking.

I called you, said I was afraid or overwhelmed or angry or frustrated or confused or lost in darkness. I kept the meetings I had scheduled. (I now schedule meetings, phone calls, texts with friends & family. Of course, it feels sort of impersonal, but it’s actually the polar opposite. I decide what is the most important and carve it into my daily/weekly/monthly planner. You write the most important checks first. If we just wait until we think of it or have the time, it’ll be months and months and that conversation will start with “I’m sorry it’s been so long…”) I said yes. I showed up all the time, no matter if I felt like it. You were more important than my feelings right now. I was more important than my feelings right now.

And guess what? In a wonderful twist of fate, my relationships grew in quantity AND quality. I knew and was known, loved and was loved. I opened all parts of me to you (whoever you are) and you were really lovely, trustworthy, and careful.

I teach the Bible and say, “we were never meant to do this alone,” referencing the book of Genesis, always feeling like a humongous hypocrite, mostly because I was a humongous hypocrite. But as my life began to shift into alignment, the doctrine I believed in my head made the wide treacherous leap to my heart, I could see cracks in the oppressive darkness. Cracks where beautifully blinding light could enter.

Darkness still comes (I have a condition) but it’s never total because you’re there. Who would’ve guessed? Well, probably a lot of people could have guessed. I build bridges, but now I do something else. The walls of the cells we create that mark the boundaries of our lives that keep us sick need to come down, we each need to smash our own to pieces, so now I carry a big, heavy sledgehammer to lend to let the light, and life, in. It hurts, it’s terrifying, and it’s sooo worth it.

Looking Around — January 4, 2022

Looking Around

Today I watched Don’t Look Up, a film on Netflix. I had already planned to watch since the trailer premiered, it looked fantastic and I believe that Leonardo DiCaprio should probably be officially classified as a national treasure. Then, last week, a Very Great Friend texted me that I just HAD to watch this movie as soon as possible so we could discuss it. This friend is deeply trusted – the last time I got a text exactly like this was for Into The Spider-Verse, and we all know how that one turned out.

It’s about a comet (referred to as a “Planet Killer” by one of the characters) and it’s path towards the Earth. I’ll try to not tell you how it turns out, but I make no promises.

Sunday night a different Very Great Friend’s mother passed away suddenly, without any warning. They had shared a wonderful Christmas a week earlier. No warning. Yesterday another Very Great Friend’s uncle passed, and the day before we received word that a young husband/dad was declining in the hospital. These last 2 years (maybe it’s the last 2 ,000 or 200,000 years, and I just haven’t been paying attention quite as closely as I am right now) have been an endless painful parade of suffering and loss.

How does this relate to some Netflix original? What does this have to do with a Hollywood produced 2 hours of political propaganda? (I’m only a little kidding about that propaganda jab – it is, but it’s quite a bit more than that.) What does this have to do with comets and yet another amazing Meryl Streep performance and a yet another slimy Jonah Hill character? And what does any of this have to do with Christmas Eve and the book of Genesis? Turns out a lot.

The end of the film has a small group of people sitting around a table talking about gratitude, enjoying a meal together, and the line, “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” This was after 6 months of forgetting/ignoring what exactly they had, chasing all sorts of different threads around and around. It’s strikingly similar to a Bible verse, practically a paraphrase of the passage in Genesis. Jacob wakes from a dream and says, “God was here all along, and I was unaware.” And I missed it. We usually don’t know when our mothers or uncles will be gone, the last time we shared was usually unremarkable, spent distracted, or in the worst cases, fighting. We say, “if I had known, I wouldn’t have missed it, I wouldn’t have gone to sleep. I would have….” (That is what the Christmas message was about this year; A baby was born and the people then & now missed it, they/we were unaware.)

The best scene of the movie was 7 people sitting around a table, some of them family, in the sense that they were husbands & wives, sons & daughters, and the rest of them the sort of family that isn’t born, it’s made. They look different, with wildly varied experiences and perspectives, but they held hands in prayer and love. It was the best part of the movie but it’s also the best part of life, having each other to hold our hands, to love and be loved.

I’ve been thinking about a lot this New Year, what has been lost and as variants rise dramatically, what will be lost. A few weeks ago I concluded that the last year was a good one, mostly because my table was also full of both types of family. Maybe the biggest thing COVID stole was our families, our tables. And maybe the true cost was our awareness of our right here and right now, our gratitude, our attention, our experience of these divine moments. We’ll take them for granted, like we do everything else, and eventually have to say, mournfully, “I just didn’t know.”

I know that I very often write about this, but I can’t think of anything else we can do that is more important than to remind each other that we are loved, we are here now, and we are together.

Perfect — December 17, 2021

Perfect

In my last post, about youth basketball, I wrote: “Incidentally, what keeps me up at night is what I may have done to instill this perfectionism in him. I tried to encourage risk, value failure, while celebrating each win. I never withheld my affection or punished a loss, always gave a soft place to land, always threw my arms around him no matter the game/test result. Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe nothing.”

(I wonder how long I can call them “youth” sports. They are in high school, they are teenagers. They are still youths, but when does that stop and I can safely just call this “sports?” The summer after graduation? College?)

Anyway. While thinking about that paragraph, well… Have you ever been to the eye doctor? You know when you’re sitting behind that Clockwork Orange-esque device and it’s clicking and the letters either come into focus or quickly blur? This paragraph was the click where the G’s and Q’s become striking in their clarity.

What keeps me up at night is what I may have done to instill this perfectionism in him. What keeps me up at night is what I may have done wrong. What keeps me up at night is what I may not have done perfectly and how, ultimately, everything everywhere that happens is mine to control. I wonder where he would’ve possibly gotten the notion that he had to be perfect.

I know where this unhealthy perspective comes from, at least for me. I wanted to get it right, be awesome, because only then could I justify my worth. I hesitate to write the next sentence because my mom reads this, but the truth is that I always came after my dad’s addictions. I desperately wanted to be first, and when I was pitching well, or if I went 3 for 4 and drove in 3 runs, I was. I know he didn’t intend any of this, didn’t try to build an insecure little boy with this mountain of inadequacy to unwind. Like all of us (except for the sociopaths, of which I’m convinced there are very very few), he did his best and I loved him to the moon.

But all of life became a proving ground for my right to be here, where I had to be awesome to find a seat at the table. I had to be the best everything, ball player, funniest, coolest, whatever, which turned me into a big fat pleaser who wasn’t particularly any of those things, except an actor who would contort into any shape you wanted me to be.

Maybe you don’t believe in God or Jesus or faith or anything at all, (and that’s cool, we’re all on different paths), but as I began to fall in love with Jesus, I began to discover that my worth wasn’t tied to my performance at all. That I was good enough, loved, that I belonged as I was, as I am. Of course, this wasn’t overnight. That was 23 years, half of my life, ago, and I’m still writing sentences like the one earlier.

But here’s the cool thing. I was totally honest as I wrote that paragraph this week, and that honesty allowed the click. The boy I used to be was mistaken about his worth. He was depressed and unsure of himself and I’d really like to wrap him up in my arms and let him cry. The problem then was so little of my behavior was authentic, so much was a show, image making and fake. That dishonesty keep me fumbling in the dark for years and years.

Maybe nobody will ever read this, but it’s all true. I overshare because I’m through hiding, everything is dragged into the light and exposed. Of course it’s sometimes scary, but when it is, I know it’s absolutely necessary. I could go on forever and ever about awakening to the man that I’ve been able to meet, vital baby step by vital baby step, but it’s times like these where I can face truth without shame and (here’s the best part) give me a break.

I have responsibility, but not control. Maybe I’ve modeled an unhealthy posture, but I can also model steps towards something brand new. Nothing’s set in stone, today isn’t just yesterday, part 2, we can unwind. He’s a beautiful boy with a lot of weight on his shoulders that I’m vary familiar with. This family (the one that lives in this house that shares my name as well as the entire circle surrounding our lives) is a wonderfully safe place to test the ground. And then to jump.

Anyway — December 8, 2021

Anyway

Sometimes I sit down at this computer (which is a actually an iPad and an attached keyboard) and don’t have a clue what to write. The blank screen is intimidating, ruthlessly mocking me, laughing at this idiot sitting in the dark illuminated only by it’s condescending blue light.

Of course, that’s only in my head. This blank screen doesn’t care about me at all. I can write or not write and it wouldn’t care less. Indifferent like the ocean, where I could swim or drown and she wouldn’t even blink.

Yet I still sit down at this computer (iPad with attached keyboard), ideas or not. I start and delete, start and delete, getting 5 or 6 words or 5 or 6 paragraphs before I trash it all and begin again. I listen to music and type the lyrics, poetry that no one will ever read, paraphrased Bible verses, weather forecasts, anything. Just moving my fingers, really, trying to jar some form of muscle memory, as if the inspiration is in my hands. Maybe it is. Maybe they remember. Maybe after 2 hours, I close this tablet with nothing at all.

I do this anyway. No matter what. It’s like the dishes. I don’t ever feel like doing the dishes, am never inspired to clean up the sink, but I do it anyway. I set reminders on my phone for Mondays and Fridays, and do you know why? Because my wife likes when I do them. We’ve been married for 20 years and our marriage is better than it has ever been, and it’s not close. There were moments, days, years, where we didn’t feel like doing the dishes (whatever the ‘dishes’ were, whether dinner or sex or trash or kindness or laundry or whatever.) We have this practice where we come to the front door to meet the other when they get home. Sometimes the chair or couch or bed is comfortable or extra-extra comfortable, and we come anyway. We don’t always feeeel like it. And we go anyway. I pastor a church and there are times where I don’t jump out of bed on a Sunday morning. I don’t always hurry to the gym because I’m sooo in the mood to work out, either.

I think it’s important to write here. I’d decided this about me before I ever sit down, topic or not. I love my wife like crazy. I am also going to love my wife like crazy. These 2 statements are not about circumstance or situation or the weather or motivation or inspiration, they are simply what I do, what I will do. They are non-negotiable.

So I sit down here and give the time, like an offering. I don’t have to think about if I want to anymore, I cannot be talked out of it, it’s value isn’t in question. It is now who I am.

I discovered who I am after many, many years of searching. Many, many years of weight & priority, of digging into my heart and learning what I truly value. I read the Bible, not necessarily because I always want to, but because I want to be the sort of man who reads the Bible.

And when I don’t… Of course I don’t. I’m not anywhere close to the neighborhood of perfect. My Bible can get dusty, the dishes don’t always get done on a Monday and Friday, the Angel doesn’t always know I love her to the moon and back, not every decision is consistent with the me I’m becoming. So when I don’t…well, I also want to be the sort of man who is kind, forgiving, peaceful and loving to everyone (including me) anyway.

A Million Bucks — October 26, 2021

A Million Bucks

Earlier this week I was standing on a chair (long story), got too close to the edge and fell. After sitting for a second to do a quick “is anything broken?” conversation with myself, I walked around for a minute reflecting on how old I am and just how much that fall from a kitchen chair hurt. Then, in the middle of the night, I got up to walk to the bathroom and discovered that the room was spinning with the earth. That’s nothing cool to discover anytime, much less the middle of the night. In the morning it became apparent that the world was not spinning, I was.

You know that natural lack of awareness that we have where we can see clearly in others what we are completely blind to in ourselves? Well, I’ve been through some training and am a reasonably bright person, so I know the symptoms of concussion. However, I am made of steel so I simply can’t be concussed.

Anyway. I shouldn’t have been driving a car so much and ended up on the couch, Netflix and chilling alone. Generation Wealth was the doc, not onNetflix, but on Amazon video. This Generation Wealth is the feel good hit of the summer, displaying our drive for excess, love of money, and rampant consumerism at any & all costs.

The filmmaker made an interesting observation I hadn’t previously considered. In the old days we coveted our neighbor’s things (cars, donkeys, picket fences, wives, etc) but now we look to celebrities, athletes and CEOs with whom to compare ourselves.

Most everybody has an addiction in the modern world, whether it’s money, fame, plastic surgery, work, OxyContin, or sex. If a little is good, more and more and MORE is better. Maybe that’s true, but it really depends on what it is we’re getting more of. If it’s peace or love or peanut butter cups, that’s true. If it’s sports cars or infidelities, probably not as much.

When the world shut down because of COVID, I had dreams that there would actually be a “new normal.” I dreamt that we’d find the time at home is awesome, that we like our families, that our priorities would be rearranged. I dreamt we’d miss each other more than our cars and wheels & ladders to success.

Of course I was wrong. There’s no new normal, just more of the same. But the people in the documentary (and I suppose all of the people ever, even us, now) all learned something. I’ll tell you what it is in about 3 paragraphs.

Today I went to the funeral of a man whom I never met. By all accounts, he was a beautiful, caring, loving man. Many of his family spoke, telling stories and reminiscing. They had the blessing of feeling only loss. What I mean is that we often get more than 1. We get loss, but we also get regret, anger, fear, right? It is a fortunate person who can only grieve, and the only regret in that packed room was that they didn’t get to spend more time with him.

So, the chorus of the voices speaking at the memorial was how much and how well he loved them. I saw this quote from Mother Teresa the other day: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Too many times we get this all mixed up, and we leave home to change the world, leaving our families as casualties of our ambition, no matter how well intentioned it might be.

This man, Paul, loved his family, and as in most people like him, family was far more than blood relation. It was anyone and everyone in his sphere, anyone and everyone the universe brought into his path. And they were all better for it. But here’s the thing, he loved that family, stuffed them to the gills with significance and worth, and now I get to know them and I’m all the better for that.

That’s how it works with beautiful people and the pyramid scheme of love. We love those in our orbits, then because they have been loved, they love those in theirs, then they do the same.

I cried at the service. I listened to this shining tribute – of course, there were flaws, but just like all of us, the flaws lose power in the light of connection, presence, and love. Maya Angelou said people will never forget how you made them feel, and he made everyone feel like a million bucks. I would love to be just like him when I grow up.

In the film, a guy in Iceland who had lost everything, said, “That’s the good thing about collapse.” What a strange thing to say. But what everyone had in common was they got all they wanted and it wasn’t anywhere close to filling the hole. It was just more. More more more.

Sometimes it takes catastrophe, or collapse, to figure out what is truly meaningful. And as it turns out, what matters in our lives isn’t money or stuff at all, it’s the people we share them with. It’s the broken-hearted families, full of tears and overwhelming gratitude. It’s the people who run when you fall off a chair. It’s the hands to hold and the arms that squeeze so tightly, they keep us from losing any pieces when we fall apart.

This Book I Just Read — September 13, 2021

This Book I Just Read

I just finished I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson. I’m not going to tell you much about it. After all, this isn’t a review. What I will tell you is that I spent much of the last chapter on my knees, reading through red watery eyes. That is, of course, if I could read at all. The rest I spent totally flat face down on my living room carpet leaving discolored circles behind.

I know, I know. But as you are well aware, I am a man who gets down on his knees and weeps from time to time. I cry far more often when things are beautiful than when things are not, and this was no different. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking, joyful and crushing. It was absolutely devastating.

The cover has a quote from the inside, “We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” Yes, that’s what kind of book it is. It’s a family who has webs and webs of lies and secrets that have kept them sick for years (like lies and secrets do) and come out in an avalanche of meaning all at once (like they do in books). What will each of them do with these? With overwhelming betrayal? With love and longing and loss and everything else? Well, I’m not telling you, but great art pierces because as these characters answer those questions, we are invited to ask the same ones and to answer, what will we?

What will we do?

You’ve been broken by another you trusted, just as I have. We’ve been in love and had our hearts utterly smashed to pieces, we’ve lost (one of the characters says, “No one tells you how gone gone really is, or how long it lasts,” and you feel that in your bones), we’ve missed, we’ve screamed. And now what? What will we do with those?

So then I also just finished another book I was reading at the same time, a very different book, and it has this: “What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?” And at first that doesn’t make sense (we all really want it fixed), until we think about guilt and shame and the weight of pretending and in that instant, it does.

I don’t think we need tidy, happy endings. We don’t need overproduced songs and engineered foods crafted in a lab. What we do need is flesh, authenticity, tears, blood, laughter, dirt, skin, sweat. We don’t need more lies or secrets or fake plastic images, we need real, pulsing, dynamic, beautiful life. We need grace and love. And we need them right now.

Both Hands — August 24, 2021

Both Hands

There’s a GREAT song by Ani DiFranco called “Both Hands,” and it’s about a relationship that’s over and one last “swan song.” It’s sexy and heartbreaking. (If you’ve never heard it, why don’t you listen to it now? I’ll be here when you get back.) But this is not about that song.

Last week, 2 of my very good friends lost their mothers. The funerals are this week. One was yesterday, one is tomorrow. Another very good friend is loving her own mother without condition as Alzheimer’s ravages her mind, leaving little trace of who she has been. A seemingly endless parade of hurricanes is hammering the east coast of America, floodwaters drowning homes, memories and lives. An earthquake in Haiti killed thousands of people like you & me. COVID numbers continue to rise again, like a villain in a bad movie. We still viciously hate each other online for our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Yet another very good friend’s dad is in the hospital with a scary affliction I’ve never heard of.

Also last week, good friends married in the mountains of Utah in a ceremony in front of almost no one, just their immediate families, stripping all of the distractions of weddings and receptions leaving only the sacred union of 2 gorgeous souls. Saturday in a small town on the other side of the country, I officiated a wedding between two young sweethearts who reclaimed the institution, reminding us all what this was all intended to be, in front of all of their family and friends. After the Sunday service in church, set squarely in a world that has stolen 18 months of physical contact, we held hands and each other to remember that (in the words of the punk band Rise Against), “let’s take this one day at a time, I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine.”

A life of faith is not, and has never been, ignoring (or pretending to ignore) the complex nature of this human experience. We don’t focus solely on the pain and we don’t turn our eyes from the suffering, either. We show up in honesty and presence and hold it all with both hands. We have funerals and weddings. Birth and death. Joy and pain. Mourning and celebration. We have the passion of sexuality amid the heartache of the breakup.

Our wounds, broken hearts and tears aren’t a sign that things are out of order. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Everything, all together, is a sign of authenticity and engagement. A sign of life. And we do it all with hands in our own, and then we do it all again. This is exactly what love looks like IRL, in flesh and blood, with both hands, and it’s awesome.

Now. — August 11, 2021

Now.

I write in 2 different places, here and for a faith community called the Bridge. I created this site to talk about music and movies and though it’s usually about spirituality (as some bad country song says, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy), I try to not be so obvious about it. This post I wrote for the Bridge site and it is about a Bible passage or 2, but it’s also about today and Facebook and a woman I saw in the hospital and being fully present each moment of our lives – and that transcends religion or politics or websites. I hope you like it and, more importantly, I hope it matters.

Acts 5 tells a pretty terrifying story. There is a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a piece of property.

Well, first, we probably need some context. In Acts 4:32-37: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

We could talk about “one in heart and mind” forever, (doesn’t it sound amazing???), but not today. So, they shared everything and no one needed anything. Joseph the Levite from Cyprus sold a field and brought the money to the apostles to be distributed, this example (probably one of many) stands in stark contrast to what comes next from Ananias and Sapphira.

In Acts 5:2-5a “With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.”

Of course this punishment sounds a bit excessive, but there are some other things here that can be overlooked because of what we might call an overreaction.

He didn’t have to share it at all. It sounds like there was no mandate, no collectors, no stranger-armed enforcers scouring the property transaction section of the newspaper for transgressions. Usually when we lie or hide our behavior, it’s because we feel some sort of way about it. We bring the guilt and shame, it’s an internal consequence of our own conscience. Generosity was something these early believers got to do, a privilege, an honor, an answer to an invitation into a new way of being. It wasn’t a have-to, which is probably why so many did. Giving was the natural outpouring of a grateful heart, instead of an obligation to be fulfilled.

Ananias’ heart wasn’t as much grateful as it was transactional. He “had” to give, the others would see, so he would, but only after he skimmed a little (or a lot) off the top for himself, just in case. That’s all we’ll say about that today. It’s a big ocean to swim in, but a new thing stood out to me this morning.

“When Ananias heard this,” immediately “he fell down and died.” Again, of course it seems pretty shocking that he, and later Sapphira after repeating the same lie, would have their lives taken for what could be seen as a relatively minor offense. But it’s the “immediate” part that is devastating to me, here and now.

You see, sometimes we don’t get tomorrow. Sometimes we don’t get this evening. And in the case of Ananias, sometimes we don’t get one more moment. How much do we put off until another time? How many nights have we gone to bed angry? How many times have we slammed the door to effectively end a screaming match?

I was in a hospital 2 days ago praying with a woman who was/is fighting for her life. She is currently sedated and totally unresponsive. Maybe she won’t wake up. I don’t know her entire story, my friend, her daughter, appears to have a beautiful relationship without too many unresolved issues. That’s a gift that maybe every one in her life shares. And maybe her marriage was terrific, but I do know that the last interaction she and her husband had was less than awesome, marked with sharp comments and harsh tones. They went to bed and maybe she’ll wake up in the hospital. And the truth is that maybe she won’t – it’s the truth for all of us.

I spend a lot of time talking about this moment, today, here, now, fully present, not missing a second of this wonderful gift of our lives that we have been given. And lately I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the many, many ways we are awful to each other, creating thick divisions where none exist and turning each other into monsters in our own minds. How many relationships have been fractured during the last year? How many violent words have been spoken or typed into a keyboard that have wounded loved ones? How much forgiveness and reconciliation has been delayed because of our bitterness and resentment, because of our pride?

Ananias didn’t get a second chance to apologize, repent, or make this right. Maybe we won’t, either.

But we do have right now and maybe right now is a really great time to make a different choice.

I Was There — August 3, 2021

I Was There

Yesterday we watched Cars 3. Everyone loved the first and nobody loved the 2nd. That’s interesting, right? How can the same creative team make a beautifully beloved movie AND an overstuffed misguided mess (albeit with some very nice moments)? They must’ve asked themselves the same question, and as an answer/apology, produced the 3rd installment to give a proper end to this story & these characters. It was really great. Lightning McQueen passes the mantle to newcomer Cruz Ramirez and becomes her coach in much the same way Doc Hudson became his 2 movies earlier.

Baseball season is over, and here’s how it was. Saturday, the all star team I help to coach won the state championship. During the regular season, the team I head coach didn’t win any sort of championship. I have played many years of baseball, 8 years old through college, and coached for many more, and if I was forced to choose, this year (championship and not) was my favorite.

These 2 things are related in presence and presence alone. So many times, we live sometime other than now, somewhere other than here. I remember my dad, who had so much trouble making the transition into new here’s and now’s, always remembering & mourning what had been, when he was, what he should’ve been. He’s certainly not alone, right?

It’s the unholy mosh pit of regret (past) and worry (future) stomping violently on today. These cartoons – or I guess we should call them animated features, that sounds fancy and pretentious – use colors and fantasy (cherry red cars that talk and have more expressive eyes than most people) to illustrate and invite us into authentic emotions we might otherwise be too distracted to notice. They ask us questions we might otherwise avoid. McQueen is angry and grasping to the good old days and doesn’t know how to move forward gracefully until he does, and then he learns, as Doc did, that there was shockingly more joy, purpose and fulfillment involved in leading another to victory (in life and on the racetrack… and the field;). He learned to leave his past glory where it is and allow tomorrow to breathe up ahead while he pulled his parking brake on now, an anchor to the significance of this moment.

I maybe didn’t do much to lead those 15&16 year-olds to the crown (I’ll leave that for them to decide), but what I do know is that I was allowed to watch these young men from the dugout, as close as you can get to excellence. I was allowed to coach with a brother, who continually surprised me with his smooth, easy, absolute greatness. And I was there. Not thinking about how I wish it was me playing and winning, nostalgic for my own ‘glory days,’ or if we’ll go back next year. I can’t imagine a place I would have rather been. I love those boys, am so grateful I was allowed to tag along to their march to 1st place.

I get so many things wrong, make so many mistakes, see the overwhelming gifts and blessings in the rear view mirror rather than as they are holding me in life and love. I say too many things like, “next year” or “when I was…”

But not this year, sister. You know what I can say about this year, the most important thing I can say about this year? That I was there and it was spectacular.

This Is Not A Lament — July 27, 2021

This Is Not A Lament

This Saturday, the county all star baseball team my son plays on will compete for a state championship.

I just wrote a post for the Bridge site about the aggressive passivity that is running rampant, crushing everything (including our spirits) in it’s path. The post is a lament. Marianne Williamson says, “Our playing small does not serve the world,” yet that’s what we have decided to do. We’ve chosen to lower the bar, setting it on the ground so that we never try, never fail, and consequently, never succeed and never grow.

This post, however, is not a lament.

Last week, I watched as a group of 15 & 16 year-olds gave pursue excellence. (The day before, I had the privilege of sitting with a player who had been given news that he would not play, that he was an alternate, a victim of roster limits, as he wept in disappointment. That kind of holy disappointment only happens after we’ve given everything.) 15 & 16 year-olds have a reputation, perhaps deserved, of apathy and indifference. But not on this team.

This team was full of boys who had trouble sleeping the night before, whose bellies were full of giant butterflies. This team was full of “try hards.” (“Try hard” is, inexplicably, a term of derision in schools nowadays among insecure, inadequate kids overwhelmed by their own fear.) This team was full of passion and energy, driven by, and full of, life and love.

It goes without saying that I’m proud of them. What might not be so obvious is how deeply I am inspired by them. Do you remember that movie, As Good As It Gets? Jack Nicholson says to Helen Hunt, “you make me want to be a better man.”

I am an assistant coach for these young men on this team. I throw batting practice and hit balls infield/outfield. I give high-fives. Every now and then, I try to give helpful suggestions learned from years and years of being a ball player.

A coach is in an interesting, enviable position. I am more thankful than I can tell you that I am allowed to watch from the inside. They remind me how I want to show up to my own life, every day, for ‘practice’ and for games. They don’t take days (or even plays) off, they pour into themselves and each other. They are committed. They are deeply respectful – of absolutely everything. They are gifted and grateful. They give without reservation. They bring all of them and they show up. I used a million words, but the only one that truly describes what they do is worship.

This is not a lament. This is a celebration. If they are the future, we can all breathe easily and with tremendous hope.

Man, I want them to win this championship, they really deserve it. But I guess it doesn’t really matter, they’ve already won. And so have we.