Love With A Capital L

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

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.

Not Love — February 22, 2022

Not Love

There was a Catfish on this morning that ended with the catfishing couple in each other’s arms, the rare happy ending. Only as I was watching, it didn’t feel happy at all. The person answered the gazillion-dollar question of “Why?” with, “I didn’t want her to leave,” which sounds sort of sweet and romantic.

At the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy, Rocket (the raccoon) asks the Nova Corps officer, “What if I see something that I want to take, and it belongs to someone else?” The officer (played by the always awesome John C. Reilly): “Well, you will be arrested.” Rocket pushes, “But what if I want it more than the person who has it?” John C. Reilly: “Still illegal.” Rocket: “That doesn’t follow. No, I want it more, sir. Do you understand?” This sounds exactly like this Catfish. I want it, so I’ll do whatever I have to do to have it.

She said, “I didn’t want her to leave,” and figured that was a terrific reason to misrepresent herself. But what about the other? Who cares??? The only concern was the Catfish and her own interests. She, like Rocket, saw something she wanted to take.

Saturday night, the Angel and I watched the Tinder Swindler on Netflix. This documentary detailed the story of a guy who lied and lied and lied to everyone he could possibly lie to, creating an intricate pyramid scheme. He’d manipulate one woman, “steal” her money to pay for another woman, using her money to pay for another woman, and on and on. He lived this extravagant globe-hopping lifestyle bankrolled by women all over the world that he caught on matching app Tinder.

It was impossible to watch the doc and feel any other way than this “Simon” was a monster. (Now, I say impossible, but that’s not entirely true. There were plenty of embarrassing trolls who took to the internet to blame the women!!! Whatever.) But the Catfish played as touching and beautiful, love persevering against all odds. Almost like the lies proved how real the emotions were, the depth of the facade evidence of the depth of the hearts involved. I wonder what the difference was, other than the directors & film editors.

The scene in Guardians was comedy, the Tinder Swindler was tragedy, and Catfish was romance, but all were different versions of Rocket, hopelessly selfish and single-minded in achieving the desired item (even if the item is a human being). All based on one simple precept: If I want it more, I should have it.

This is not romance. This is not love, and in fact bears little resemblance to actual love. Love asks, and in the asking, releases control and gives it to the other, gives the other the power to say yes…or to say no. Love does not take, either by force or deception. This town isn’t big enough for manipulation and respect. Control and love cannot coexist, no matter what the soundtrack is, and I’m pretty sure we should stop pretending they do.

The Worst Valentine’s Day — February 15, 2022

The Worst Valentine’s Day

There are a lot of drawbacks to being married to me, the fact that I’m writing about a pretty terrible Valentine’s Day on the internet isn’t even close to the biggest. But it isn’t great.

The Angel and I have been together for 24ish years, and in the course of those 24ish years, yesterday was The Worst Valentine’s Day we’ve had. (Maybe it’s important to say that I’m not the best at caring about greeting card holidays, but I do love LOVE and I do love my wife, so I’ll participate;)

We often talk about youth sports in this space. Over the years, all of us of a certain age has noticed a trend that we’ll call the Sportscenter-ification of the games. What I mean is that almost nobody watches entire games, we watch the highlights on Sportscenter or YouTube or forwarded GIFs. I coach baseball for boys who have very little knowledge and/or perspective of a game. These kids have no appreciation for the ups & downs, the slow parts, and fundamentals are a completely lost art (I KNOW I sound like everybody’s dad, talking about how it was “when I was young,” and that hurts me a little. Anyway, I am somebody’s dad.) We’ve been conditioned to think a game is all dunks and home runs.

Our culture suffers from this same malady. For instance, we think marriage is the same; all highlights and clip packages, candles, bubble baths, one long music montage set to some bouncy love song. And when it’s not, we think we’re broken. That the love is gone. That we’re doing something wrong. That it’s not how it’s supposed to be.

The thing is, that whole Sportscenter-ification is a lie. Marriage is time outs and bunts and bounce passes. It’s crappy Valentine’s days and wonderful random Thursdays. Life, too. It’s not all mountain tops, it’s Monday mornings, too.

The Church has a liturgical year. Yes, there is Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. But there’s also the rest, which is called Ordinary Time. That’s perfect, right? Ordinary Time. We go to work, change diapers, watch tv, eat in the car. Not all of our workouts are personal records, sometimes we’re tired and all we can do is get there at all.

It’s not broken. We’re not broken. We’re not doing anything wrong. I wrote a card to my wife yesterday that spelled out how overwhelming and wonderful it is that after 24 years, our relationship is so much better than it was on our wedding day. And that’s absolutely true. Kissing her slow and soft still gives me butterflies, it’s still shocking that I get to be the one that gets to do it. We make dinner together, make the bed together, change our bunny’s litter box and sit next to each other complaining about our sore backs in bleachers at basketball games. Of course, there are also fireworks and game winning half court shots and championships.

Sometimes the bands/singers on the radio are horrible, sometimes they’re just ok. It’s not always the Greatest, it’s not always Morrissey. And the songs aren’t always There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. And it’s a crazy delusion to think they would be.

The Angel & I communicate very very very well, (even so far as to discuss how the wheels fell off on our Valentine’s Day – it’s not high maintenance, it’s real, and it’s really important). We talk a lot, laugh and cry together, trust each other, find beauty in every day, love each other to the moooon even when things aren’t going perfectly. We advance the runner, catch fly balls, make our free throws and rebound. Teams that do those things win, marriages that do those things never break, and lives built on that are full and awesome, even when they aren’t.

Happy (best, worst, and everything in between) Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Chocolate Bunnies — January 28, 2022

Chocolate Bunnies

Around Easter, there are these big chocolate bunnies that look amazing, you break into the packaging, take a bite and only then realize that chocolate rabbit is only a chocolate shell. You expect a thick, rich block of yummy deliciousness but they’re completely hollow inside. Still tasty but ultimately empty.

This morning, about 20 minutes ago, I finished The Queen Of Versailles, a documentary on Amazon Prime by Lauren Greenfield (I wrote a previous post about her doc Generation Wealth). This Lauren Greenfield is a genius. Anyway, it’s about an obscenely wealthy time-share businessman, his success, family and their lives. It’s also about an obscenely wealthy time-share businessman losing everything. The Queen of the title is his wife, Jackie. I finished it this morning because when I started it days ago, I had to turn it off a half-way through believing it was simply a garden variety picture of grotesque excess and sometimes that sort of superficiality just doesn’t go down smoothly. I persevered mostly because of Lauren Greenfield, and as the crash was beginnings, I was interested in how each of them (he, she, too many children, employees, etc) would respond to the economic catastrophe.

I loved Jackie, a little surprisingly. She appeared to handle everything with class and grace, leaned into her marriage and family. She gave money (that was increasingly disappearing) to a high school friend who was facing foreclosure. She began a thrift store to support & serve her community. She showed herself a beautifully devoted, faithful wife to a man who was moving in the polar opposite direction in every way. I appreciated her more and more, even as she continued her Botox wearing a ridiculous fur coat in the kitchen complaining about not being able to afford a watch.

The businessman who was so magnanimous, so self-satisfied, so arrogant as the film started unraveled quickly. In a heartbreaking moment, he said, “Nothing makes me happy anymore.”

I posted yesterday on image-making. I often post on my love of Catfish. This is certainly a there, isn’t it?

You know, in seminary, as I started to study the Bible and write a million papers, I was knocked down by a BIG theme I hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t believed in God for (what is now) half of my life because I saw it as a hypocritical exercise in superficial masquerade. Christians looked the same, perfectly behaved with perfect teeth and hair. Maybe I still see it that way, but the Bible sure isn’t. The Big Theme was, on every page, honesty. Nothing was left out, people argued, raged, lied, doubted, celebrated, danced, had sex, fought, sang, made the worst decisions, despaired, hoped, and loved. It was everything about being human, it was everything about the movies and art that I loved most, real and genuine.

But a lot of us (and lots of parts of us) are like chocolate bunnies. We construct elaborate “realities” based on very little, shells with hollow insides. When did we decide we were nothing more than what we had, or that who we actually were just wasn’t enough? When did we decide to focus on the exterior while just behind the door was either unknown or in various states of disrepair.

When COVID forced us to stay home, I wondered what we’d find. Without any images to convey, would we find our homes and families a sweet sacred space? Or would we be forced to face the emptiness? It’s hard to tell, we still had images to convey on social media.

Nothing made this guy happy, in a house full of his children, and a wife who brought dinner to his office and was harshly sent away without the kiss she asked for. What he could have found was a wife who truly didn’t care about his money, loved him for him, and a healthy family who desperately needed his affection and resilience to steer them through a storm. He could have showed them how to get back up and stand. He could have held hands on long walks and danced to loud music in a downsized kitchen. He could have done anything else. He chose to only find his value in his assets and net worth, chose to find a person who only loved himself for his money.

I understand the crushing fear of not being able to provide. When we were homeless after a flood washed away everything we owned, I couldn’t sleep, had a constant jackhammer of a headache, sickening anxiety, wanted nothing more than to run and hide. I understand the pressure of provision.

But we do have choices. We do have questions to answer about who we really are. Are we chocolate bunnies, fake profiles, P&L statements, nameplates, corner offices, the brand of jeans we wear? Or are we something else, something much better that doesn’t fade or disappear? Sure we crack, sometimes we break, but then what? When it rains, are we the sort that erodes or that sings at the top of our lungs?

I want to be one who sings, but I don’t want to sing alone. I want to be a part of an army of millions and millions of singers, dancers, artists, and lovers who are tired of chocolate bunnies.