Love With A Capital L

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

Senior Night — January 31, 2023

Senior Night

Tonight is Senior Night for the basketball team. There are 3 games left, and this is the last home game. Maybe there will be playoffs, but I don’t have anywhere close to the intellectual capacity to figure that out – the districts, sections, and classes have never made any sense to me. I imagine someone will tell me if we have more games.

This team is much much better than previous years. There was a toxic class to pass through the school and their influence will take time to dissipate, so this year was the first in rebuilding an entire culture and, playoffs or not, has been an almost total success in that. “Learning to win” is a tired sports cliche and the reason it’s tired is because it’s so often true. These boys are beginning to learn to win. Tonight, that isn’t an issue, they will probably not have to worry about winning. But the great thing about sports is that you never know. In the 1988 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat an unbeatable Oakland A’s team in 5 games. It was impossible, yet it happened. So maybe… but the result hardly matters.

Tonight is the first senior night for my oldest son (there will be another one for baseball in the spring.) We’ll walk him out to the middle of the court and smile and barely keep it together. Or we won’t and the Angel and I will cry like babies. Either way, we will be there, fully present, with each other and with all of the emotions surging in our hearts and souls.

I’m remembering the night I learned he was no longer an idea. The Angel took a test on the phone with me, of course I couldn’t wait to get home, and she gave me the news. I was on 422 coming through Lebanon and pulled over in front of the community college and wept, equal parts terror and elation. Well, not exactly equal parts. We had prayed for him and now he actually existed, it was more celebration and gratitude. But there was certainly terror, swirled in like the cream cheese filling in a pumpkin roll. What kind of daddy would I be? Was I ready? What kind of boy would he be? And a hundred million more questions.

If you’ve met him, you know how amazing he is. If you haven’t, I’m sorry, you really should.

We often refer to a 2 hands theology, and a 2 hands life. Nothing is usually just 1 thing, it’s a combination, more like a hurricane, of different, sometimes wildly conflicting emotions. Tonight, I’ll be proud of my boy, happy for the boy he’s been and the man he’s becoming and grateful that I got to watch and know him so well. I’ll also be heartbroken, crushed that he’ll not nap on my chest again, and frustrated that each day couldn’t have been forever. What a 2 hand anything requires is honesty. We show up as we are, feel what we feel, no hiding, no images. We don’t miss a thing. We don’t wake up and say “God was in this place and I was unaware.” We show up.

I think back to all of the moments that brought us here. I didn’t want to go to Lebanon Valley College, but somehow I found myself there, a business major in 2 classes with the Angel, who had a boyfriend for nearly all 4 years. She happened to drop him right on time. I happened to be in the computer lab one evening, and she happened to be there, too. I happened to talk to her, even though she was faaaaar out of my league. I happened to be on a plan that took more than 4 years – the last semester, which I shouldn’t have had, was when we met and went on our first date. We happened to go on that date, happened to get married, and happened to make this person who will have his senior night tonight.

I say “happened to” and “make” with the same posture. It all seems so orchestrated, almost as if there was a wonderfully loving God making paths, moving feet and softening so many hearts, which of course, He was. We didn’t make Samuel alone, couldn’t have ever made Samuel without the Creator of the Universe making him first.

So now, I want to tell you my answer, with 18 years of hindsight, to the question if I was a good daddy. Maybe. What I do know is that I was intentional. Everything I did (even the mistakes I made) I did on purpose. When he sits down with a therapist to complain about me, what he’ll say is that I hugged, kissed, and told him I loved him too much and too often. And I can live with that.

There are other places where I’ve written to him (beginning with that positive test on his first night), much more detail I could, and will, dive into, but those are only for him and I. Here, tonight is senior night and I will do the 2 things I have done every day of his life; I will be there, authentically, embarrassingly me, present and engaged, and more than that, more than anything else, I will love him.

Ruth Ryan — November 30, 2022

Ruth Ryan

I took a short break from cult documentaries to watch the Netflix documentary on major league pitcher Nolan Ryan, Facing Nolan. If you were a ballplayer around that time, as I was, it would have been impossible to not love Nolan Ryan. He was the ultimate strikeout pitcher – the defensive flip side of the home run hitter – who threw a million miles an hour and had the confidence of all great strikeout pitchers. My very favorite moments in baseball were when a fastball pitcher faced a fastball hitter and both were absolutely positive that they were better. The pitcher threw fastballs, the hitter swung as hard as he could at those fastballs, and that’s how we figured things out. I was a pitcher who threw hard enough, so Nolan Ryan was a hero of mine.

The documentary was great (if unremarkable on it’s own) and brought back truckloads of memories. Sports, like songs, are time machines, precisely transporting us to who we were when we first experienced them. I remembered my dad, my room, the posters on the wall, my Swatch phone, my Nintendo, my bad haircuts and pegged acid-washed jeans, like I was there again.

Titled Facing Nolan, it would be understandable if you guessed Nolan Ryan was the subject, but you would be wrong, like I was. The real hero was Ruth Ryan, Nolan’s wife. 15 year-old me looked up to Nolan, but 47 year-old me sees Ruth as being the one we could emulate. I only cared about Nolan because he had freakish athletic gifts and an unparalleled work ethic, I never thought about if he was faithful to his wife, honest, a good friend or dad. It doesn’t matter anymore to me if someone is famous because they led the league in strikeouts (well, it doesn’t matter much;). I know now that it matters much more if we are rich in character and love, measuring our lives by the people around us.

The myth of the self-made man is make-believe, a fallacy dreamed up in marketers and filmmakers minds to sell products. They know very well, as long as we try to fill ourselves with stuff (experiences, cars, money, sneakers, etc) as islands, we can never be satisfied, so we will continue to buy and buy, moving on to the Next Big Thing to quench our insatiable thirst for more.

Nolan could be a hall of famer (he is) and have all the records (he does), but what if he got that predictable call from the Hall of Fame in an empty room with no one to celebrate with or to call? We can build more and bigger buildings to hold all of our countless possessions and have nothing at all.

Nolan was my hero then, but for the wrong reasons. His house was a home and his life was full of people to love, and who loved him. That was the real significance of his life, and all of our lives. I just don’t want to wake up some day and find out that I wasted my days trying to hold things instead of hands.

Last Season’s Clothes — October 19, 2022

Last Season’s Clothes

So we’re all on a path, right? A long, sometimes wonderful, sometimes very rough, usually some level of uncomfortable, journey of growth and transformation. Sometimes we start on our own search for discovery, realization, and revelation. Sometimes we need to be kicked.

This is completely natural. This process comes standard from the factory, it’s built into everything. From Joseph Campbell’s literary Heroes Journey to Star Wars, the 4 part invitation of the Gospels (what Alexander Shaia calls the Quadratos) to Google.

But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s easy.

If you take a long view, my life has followed a gradual line up and to the right, walking into becoming more and more myself. Of course there have been too many steps backwards (actually, who decides how many is too many – maybe it was just the right amount of stops and starts, the perfect number of falls and skinned knees) and that gradual line has been marked with spikes up as well as down, where I was thrust into periods of great ‘stretching.’ In the last week, it would appear that I happen to be in one of those right about now.

How it feels is like my clothes don’t fit anymore. They’re tight, restrictive, and leave me tugging at the seams, akwardly trying to adjust the garments or myself, in a doomed effort to stay in yesterday’s size. Like I said, it’s not the first or the last time.

How it feels is that I’m tired, which is to say, restless and uninspired, bored. And my life, my family, my community – they are anything but boring. It’s a mostly spiritual lethargy, and historically means I’m about to be kicked. So I do what I do, I sit down, metaphorically speaking. I sit down like a petulant toddler in the middle of this narrow path I’m on.

A very good friend said to me this morning, he had something to say but I wasn’t going to like it. I already knew what he would say, but sometimes you just need to hear it out loud. He said, “move.” I don’t think he meant pack my stuff and leave Pennsylvania, unless he did, but I’m pretty sure it was less specific. Move. Listen & do something new and fresh. Create. Climb up on the roof of my soul and jump off.

He’s right. I’m not sure when we talk about the people that impact us, we say, “he/she watched a lot of tv (or took tons of naps or had so many subscriptions to porn sites or was drunk every night or whatever, you get the point) and that was SOOOO awesome.” Those people took chances and followed the divine call on their lives (and nobody’s call is sitcom reruns, porn or alcohol), whatever it was. That call looks different for all of us, but we all have one.

I don’t think mine is to become a social media influencer or a boxer. The only thing I ever wanted to invent is weight sensitive windshield wipers that worked when they sensed a certain amount of water, but it turns out that already exists. I can’t sing or cook or complete higher math equations. I probably am here to love others up close in relationships (as opposed to loving others a million at a time, like…well, like somebody. I wonder if there is any way to love others other than face to face, one at a time. Anyway.) and I can’t do that from the ground with these clothes on.

It’s weird that the clothes that fit so well last season are so constricting now, and this space on the path used to seem so far away. We think when we get somewhere, we’ll have ‘made it,’ but as we soon discover, we’ve simply made it here, then there’s a new challenge, a new beginning, a new mountain to climb. We are thankful to have gotten here, content but not complacent. We have to choose to keep growing, keep stepping into the cycle. Otherwise, we stay where we are, lose our flavor and our light dims.

So here I go. I don’t know what this means, for me or for anyone else, but I do know I am, we are, in great hands. It reminds me of the last page of Chuck Palahniuk’s book Choke, where the characters muse, “I wonder what we’ll build.” It’s the phrase of anticipation and hope, as if everything will be different but that new everything will be wonderful.

Love Stories — September 14, 2022

Love Stories

I’m reading a book called Just Like You, by Nick Hornby. This is the same author who wrote High Fidelity (one of the greatest works of art this planet has ever seen) and About A Boy. He’s written many other books (fiction and non-) and they are all fantastic, as is this one. I can’t understand why it’s taken me so long to finish, every time I pick it up, I don’t want to put it back down. It’s about an older woman (and by older, she is years younger than I am now, so it stings a little to write ‘older woman’), Lucy, who is falling into a relationship with a younger man named Joseph. The back cover says it’s “brilliantly observed, warm, tender, but also brutally funny,” and that’s true. It’s also a pretty great description of everything else he’s written.

I’m thinking now about how many (all) love stories detail the beginnings & ends of relationships. As they start, and feelings grow, the conversations brilliant, clumsy, each word & phrase carefully studied, every touch charged with electricity, tomorrows are uncertain and wildly exciting. The characters wonder if, maybe drift away and run back, and the story ends with some sort of commitment. The other, heartbreaking kind illustrates what happens when that love, that commitment, screeches to an emotional train wreck. The heightened passion that contained such promise transforms into screamed insults, abuse, broken dishes & furniture. The tears have a different cause, the soundtrack changes keys. The first part is a rom-com, the last is award bait.

The only phase that doesn’t warrant telling is the middle, unless it’s marked by infidelity, secrets, lies, homicidal nannies and boiled rabbits. It would seem a happy marriage is either unbearably boring, or a unicorn, stunning but imaginary.

But that’s simply not true, and maybe the widespread cultural acceptance of such a damaging belief is the very reason it persists.

We meet cute, ride a wave of romantic emotion, hearts in our eyes, get married and settle into a monotonous routine. We take the other for granted and “remember when” things were new and fresh, our best feet and underwear forward, and lament as this person in front of us gets sick, has morning breath, in-laws, period panties, and hogs the bed and all of the covers. We think we know them, their dreams, heartbreaks, and their stories, the pursuit ends, and wonder when everything fell apart.

The truth is, we broke when we thought we fell in love and stopped falling in love. When the wedding vows folded into the end credits. Our relationships got boring because we got boring, and we got boring because we thought there was nothing left to do, thought there were no areas of our partner left unexplored. We stopped talking, asking questions, listening. We thought our love story ended, so it did.

Playing guitar doesn’t get less interesting the more someone plays. Shooting percentages don’t go down with more and more practice. The artwork of a carpenter doesn’t suffer as they continue to build.

Percentages go down, artwork suffers, and things get less interesting as less interest is given. If you think sex is worse the more it happens, and that the first time is the best time, I don’t know what to tell you. When bodies and souls learn each other, and move together as one, as 2 people love in spirit as well as flesh…that sort of beautiful dance is not the fumbling of beginners any more than Hendrix’s is the fretwork of a novice, or Steph Curry’s jump shot is one of a weekend warrior at the local gym.

Conversations still crackle with energy, a kiss still is sweeter than lemon pie, coming home still carries the quake of anticipation – if only we allow them. We are all endless fountains of changing currents, the people we were as we exchanged rings are not the people we are now. We’re still just as fascinating as we were on the first date, except tonight, we have history and experience as well as surprise and novelty. She’s still as strong, he’s still as funny. Her smile still makes you lose your memory, his sharp intellect still amazes you. If only we allow it. If only we pay attention. If only we don’t stop falling in love. If only we keep choosing to love the other, every moment of every day.

Marriage & commitment is far from boring, it moves and carries us and gives us new blessings and wonders every day. It’s not easy, nothing worthwhile ever is, and it sometimes hurts like crazy. But we are in this forever and no amount of hurt can ever wear the shine off of the 10 million hours we’ve given to each other. Boring? Not even close. It’s totally real and it’s spectacular. If only we let it.

This Is Not An Apology — August 25, 2022

This Is Not An Apology

While there are fairly large parts of me that are equally suspicious and frightened, I really like social media. I love to see family pictures on Facebook and Instagram, scroll reels and TikTok videos for much longer than I should, I even like reading statuses (stati?). Of course, I could live without the general nastiness and political vitriol, but that’s easy enough to avoid if you try. These 2 blogs I write have been great outlets for me. I love to read what others have to say. It’s not a substitute for actual personal physical contact, “Facebook Friends” aren’t a replacement for friends, but what we do virtually is a certain type of connection. In fact, when we’re honest (a virtue mostly exclusive to blogs, we all know there isn’t a wealth of honesty posted on the Meta-verse), we can actually achieve a depth that is absent in many of our relationships IRL.

We write. We follow & read each other. I wish we could meet at a restaurant to talk over breakfast sometime. I try to write every week, and usually I’m quite faithful with that frequency. This summer, however, has been a different story.

I have 2 sons, one of whom is 15 years old and the other is 17. The 17 year-old is a senior and will graduate from high school later this year. Next summer the 15 will be driving. The 2 babies I brought home from the hospital are now both bigger than me, both can beat me at 1-on-1, the big one can deadlift significantly more than I can, neither require my help to feed themselves nor do they sleep on my chest anymore.

This is the last summer they will both be here as students. I’m not breaking down because the big one isn’t planning to attend college and won’t be moving out, so he will live here, but pretending things will be the same is a simple delusion. All change is loss, even awesome change. This beautiful achievement is also a monumental loss. I will lose my little boy. (You know what I mean, he’ll always be my child, my son, my sweet boy, but he will be an adult, he’ll be a man.) I am ecstatic & fantastically proud about this transition, and I am heartbroken.

What I have learned, and one of the greatest gifts of faith as far as I can tell, is the importance of being fully present in all situations, every moment of every day. Sometimes I get caught up in the distraction of somewhere or somewhen else, like everybody else, but when that happens, I just pull the edges back together, open my eyes and start paying attention again. I wrote ‘in all situations,’ but the truth is that some situations just weigh more than others. That last sentence has taken all of my almost 47 years (can I really be that old???) to realize.

So I value this space, your time, our connection, I try to write every week, and I haven’t done that. But this is not an apology, because instead, I was here.

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.

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.

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.

Fidelity — February 25, 2022

Fidelity

I read High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, this week for what was roughly the 20th time. If you haven’t read it at all, I can’t imagine why. You should. It’s full of music and Top 5 lists and relationships, 3 of the things that make living so great.

Now. Last Monday was the artificial greeting card holiday Valentine’s Day, and I wrote a post about how it wasn’t great, but that was ok because marriage isn’t always GREAT, sometimes it’s average and sometimes it’s hard and that is ok, too. I have the privilege and honor of officiating weddings, and if I could force them to do anything afterwards, it would be to connect with a group of other young married couples and one couple who isn’t newly married.

When you get married, at some point you look at the other and wonder if you’re broken, if you’ll ever get things back “the way they were,” and then inevitably, you’ll think that you’re probably the only couple who is going through this, others are rolling along, laughing, having meaningful conversations and tons of sex. You’ll wonder, “are we over?” You’ll ask one of the dumbest questions in the history of mankind, “have we fallen out of love?” And maybe say something equally silly, “I love him/her, but I’m not in love with him/her,” whatever that means.

High Fidelity is about that sort of transition from the excitement of a new person, new face, new story, new relationship into the steady state of commitment to the same person, same face, same story, same relationship.

Now, 1 thing about that. In a small crafty shop in a backwooods town in Tennessee, I saw a quote written over the text on a page of a book: You don’t read the same book twice. While the book stays the same, you are always changing (hopefully). The person next to you in bed or across from you at dinner is always changing, it’s never the “same” person, story, or relationship. Part of the problem is that we stop seeing them as growing, evolving, we stop asking them questions assuming we already know the answers.

Everybody feels like they’ve fallen out of love at some point, because a. We think love is a feeling, so when we stop feeling it, it must be gone. Of course it’s not; a feeling OR gone. The other reason is that we are bored, not because they’re boring but because we chose not to find them interesting.

I have always loved to date. I love asking questions, finding out the backstory – why you are who you are, what do you care about, why, what’s the ‘yes’ that drives everyday, and on and on. I love a new album, putting it on and listening to it for the first time. What will I hear? Is there something (a chord change, guitar solo, lyric) that will change my life? And I think, “YES!!! There it is!!” But the new albums have filler songs, too, and after a few weeks, before I even know what I’m doing, The Queen Is Dead is back on and I’m finding new treasures in “I Know It’s Over.”

We think our partners are background noise, Muzak, or just a soundtrack to our lives, and that new person we are seeing on Instagram is the brand new hit with the hot producer-songwriter team. We’re wrong, they are both. Or they can be.

High Fidelity talks about women’s underwear. We think the new is always wearing the sexy panties, while the commitment is wearing the worn in faded comfy underwear. But the new has the comfy ones, too. And the commitment has the sexy ones. We just stopped paying attention.

So if we are honest enough to say, “um, I don’t really like my husband very much right now,” terrified that you’re careening towards a messy divorce and you swore you’d stay married forever and and and!!!! Then we’d find every other couple everywhere who will say, “oh sure, me too” or “that’s normal” or “and?” And then we’ll share stories and laugh and feel like we’re not alone and not broken, we’re just married. And it’s awesome. Because that person with the comfy AND sexy panties, with the constantly changing opinions and dreams, with the lips that are the absolute BEST to kiss, who knows just how to lay like spoons, is still as great as ever. We know what the other likes for breakfast, what pants show off their curves best, what movies, dessert, toothpaste they like. We married them for a reason. And now we choose to continue to get to know them. We choose to care what they like for breakfast. We keep asking a truckload of questions. We keep choosing them. And they do the same with us.

My very favorite song is “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.” I’ve heard it a gazillion times, it’s playing as I write this, and it is never not amazing. I know what’s coming, but when Morrissey sings, “take me anywhere I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care,” it squeezes my heart in just the right places. When I put headphones on and focus, it’s surprising and fresh and I hear new things every time. The Angel is the like that. To tell you the truth, I think probably the reason I hold marriage in such high regard, is her – my exciting new number 1 with a bullet AND the treasure I know with the lips and curves and chord changes that are always perfect.