Love With A Capital L

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

Chickens — October 14, 2021

Chickens

Every week in this space, at some point there is a reference to the differences that make us so cool and fascinating. It’s the worst part of this quarantine isolation: we’ve forgotten how much we like each other and instead, believed the silly lie that there exist divisions too wide to cross.

I mentioned last night in a truly exceptional book group that it’s people who provide me with the greatest evidence for God. It’s people who consistently give reasons to remain hopeful. (Of course, it’s also people who give the reasons to lose hope, too. But if we’re honest, that’s much less often and a far less interesting way to spend much time.)

I just finished an article in Smithsonian magazine about a man named Val in Philadelphia, PA who has a record store with millions of records. He’s surly, elitist, Christian, and characterizes his collection as a disease. As you are well aware, I am a record, song, & artist man, have absolutely no desire to go to this store, but I love that we live in a world where it exists, where he exists. Why would someone do this? Why would he give his life, as he did/does, to doo-wop music? Who knows, baby, who knows???

The last documentary I watched was called Chicken People. If you are searching for something to watch, I have no idea how you continue to scroll past Chicken People. This 80 minute gem is about human beings who show chickens. (If you’ve ever seen Best In Show, it’s like that, but with chickens. And it’s not a Christopher Guest vehicle, it’s real.) Who knew you showed chickens? Chickens are ugly and disgusting, right? Wrong. I really only knew about the mass-produced food chickens, but there are an unbelievable variety of chickens that are beautiful and anything but gross. The owners bathe, hold and pet them (and love them) like puppies. Who decides to show chickens? A talented entertainer in Branson, MO who sings show tunes, and a lovely southern recovering alcoholic who has a 2nd husband and 5 kids, 5 dogs, 3 cats, a llama, 400 rabbits and a thousand chickens, that’s who.

I wouldn’t show a chicken, but that’s not really the point, is it? (I would totally go to a chicken show, though.) The point is you are very different from me and Val is very different from both of us and that show tune guy is different from almost everybody. My neighbor can sing opera like an angel and my son is a Dungeon Master (in D&D, not a real life dungeon thankfully). My best friend in high school built and raced fast cars, I knew every lineup and the batting averages of every major league team. Hello Kitty is wildly popular. So is big-time professional wrestling.

These are the things that are important. Sure, so is who we voted for or if we’re pro-fax mandates, but we’re made up of lots and lots of facets and to think just one is enough to tear the world apart is pure fallacy. We’re all different, strange, and awesome. And we’d know this if/when we get to see each other in person, see that we’re not monsters at all – just weirdos who may or may not show chickens with families and kids and jobs and fears and loves and passions just like ours. And that’s wonderful.

What It Sounds Like — October 4, 2021

What It Sounds Like

I am now 46, safely passing Wednesday without much disruption. I’ve been waiting for a mid-life crisis that never seems to come. Maybe next year.

This morning, as I walked on the treadmill, I half-watched the news on one of the overhead screens. (Is there really nowhere I can be free from media??) The first story was a guy in the highest position of leadership in this country passionately detailing coming vaccination mandates and the importance of such a mandate. And the second story I saw was that same guy, with exactly the same passion, commenting on last weekend’s gatherings in support of a woman’s right to her own body. He was quite indignant that, yes, of course we should have the right to do what we want with our bodies without any government involvement. After all, why would those people have the power to dictate what happens in each citizen’s own body? Why, indeed.

I recognize that there are probably many many reasons why these 2 topics are wildly different and to push a mandate on my body while arguing against a mandate on my body is totally consistent. But there are two things about that.

First, it’d be supercool if there was some sort of admission that, on the surface, it does at least sound like the positions might be in conflict with the other. Instead of ignoring the superficial similarities, pretending that we haven’t simply changed the words like political musical chairs. It’s interesting that one party can say my body, my choice AND forced vaccines for everybody while the other can fight just as strongly to keep your needles away from my body AND the ability to control what goes on with another’s pregnancy. Both borrow the main argument of protecting the vulnerable when it suits.

Second, and faaaar more important, is the very clear illustration that these issues are deeper and more complex than can accurately be conveyed in sound bites, sandwich boards, and shouted cliches. The fact that both sides of the aisle can argue the very same point about where & when the rights to our own bodies begin & end should give us a level of understanding & compassion that would allow authentic human discussion. You would think that “protecting the vulnerable” could/would translate into common ground, giving the impression that we might not be as far apart as we previously believed.

Again, I know I’m not the brightest man on earth and you might have a thousand ways to condescend to my elementary analogy here. (But you don’t have to.) I don’t want us to argue anymore, to shout our certainly valid points (whichever ones we are tightly holding) at each other anymore, but I do want to start talking. I do want us to sit down at tables and listen instead of continuing this silly propensity of ours to feed our insatiable need to win at all costs. I do want to find some consistency in a shared humanity. I do want to acknowledge that the divisions we’ve been sold might not be quite so wide.

After all, we can all agree on Tiger King and that’s something.

46 — September 27, 2021

46

This Wednesday is my 46th birthday.

As birthdays so often do, that new number brings with it a certain amount of conflicting emotions. I am no longer 20, can no longer be considered a young man. In fact, even with what has always been a bit of a baby face, I am no longer mistaken for being significantly younger than I am. That’s not too awesome. I have so many lines on my face and gray hairs in the growth on my face (but not on my head…I have been shaving that since before I started to lose it).

I’ve learned quite a lot and have become a very different person than I was yesterday, much less 20 years ago. That is pretty awesome.

Here’s a cool example from last week that illustrates the distance traveled. I re-connected with an old friend, after 10ish years. We spent a bagel together catching up and she had so thoroughly figured me and all of my many sins/inadequacies/fears/broken parts out that she felt an offer to extend her perhaps considerable psychological talents to help me was in order.

Now, I happen to believe relationship is a pre-requisite for unsolicited diagnosis, trust a foundation for mentorship, but that’s sort of besides the point here.

The point is that for most of my life, I would have immediately defended myself and my character, giving detailed examples to prove my position. My stomach would churn for days, maybe weeks, and I would drag this ridiculously meaningless dance out for at least that long. I would neeeed the other to see my side.

But when I got her offer Saturday, I thanked her and will not respond again. AND I slept like a baby Saturday night, after thanking God for bringing me along slowly until I could walk away without a second thought of if I had “won” or, more importantly, if I was liked. I would have given this person the keys to my peace & happiness, but at 46, I simply don’t care. It doesn’t matter if she ever knows the truth about me and who I am here, now, today. Some people won’t, and that is ok.

At 46, I have many trusted people in my life who love me and exercise an unreasonable concern for my heart. Maybe that’s why every year is better and better, my circle is expanding. The Angel, these boys, this family, this faith community, these neighbors, you. You know, if you asked me when I was 18 to dream of a wonderful life, I could not have come anywhere close to the beauty of this one and the absolutely overwhelming blessing of it all. Of course, it hasn’t been easy or without heartbreak, floods of tears, or tragedy. I haven’t erased the depression or the issues in my head. But it has been real and it has been full. I have loved and I have been loved.

I’ve learned to release my grip on how you see me, what you think of me, what I should do, who I should be, and instead jump from the top of that hell into the wildly loving arms of a Savior and an endless sea of others who will not only catch me, but walk with me every step. I’ve learned to believe what is true about me rather than the nasty destructive lying voices that have always been in my head (more or less;). I can give the keys to me back where they belong.

46 is a lot of years full of days, moments, and all I can really say is that I’m grateful. So if today is my last day or if I get 46 more years, it will have been, as it is right now, a very, very good life.

Signs — September 23, 2021

Signs

This one might meander a bit, with lots of short ideas making one (hopefully) cohesive picture.

I’ve never been a “sign” guy, regardless of the context of the word. I’ve never asked God for a sign that He’s real, to tell me where I should go or what I should do. I’ve also never cared what my astrological sign is – I know it’s Libra but I have no idea what a Libra is, what that tells you about me, what sign I’m compatible with or what my lucky numbers are.

Until today, that is.

You see, I was talking with my sister this morning. (I’m about to overshare and that’s ok, she doesn’t read this as far as I can tell. That’s ironic because I heard once that every person who writes, writes with 1 reader in mind and she is my person. Ha!) We first get talking about my propensity to preemptively drop out on my daily routine in preparation for upcoming heavy responsibilities. She praised me a little for my wise steps towards balance in my life. I relayed that every year I choose a focus word for the upcoming 12 months and mine is usually “release” or, like this year, “balance.”

Now. Today is the 1st day of the Libra sign (we are both Libras) and she had a special yoga session where the teacher spoke about the equinox and balance. Apparently, the picture of Libra is one of scales and is concerned with the concept of balance!

Balance has always been an issue for us, internally as well as externally. Then we accidentally stepped into the garbage pile of our unhealthy body images. We’d each like to change whatever about our own, but the truth is that we’d much prefer to change how much it matters. We’re out of balance, the scales tipping towards a number on a different scale or the nasty voices in our heads.

I’m still not a “sign” guy, but this is awfully interesting, right?

Our minds want to stay the same, which is why we fight new habits and change in any form, why we stay stuck in ruts or in relationships that are unfulfilling at best, abusive at worst. It’s hard to learn new tricks. Our self-images are skewed and grounded in fictional stories born from lots of places, none of them kind, caring and anywhere close to love. No matter how old we get, what we read or listen to, how many hours we spend trying to unring that bell, we end up back at the same dead end.

I know truth is truth wherever it’s found and am never surprised when the things we hear on the news or on the phone with my sister make me think of the Bible or Jesus. Instead I think, of course! Romans 12 says we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need NEW minds because the old ones are based on faulty premises.

The old leans toward negativity, self-loathing, and destruction. No matter how far we get from this junk, all it takes is one mis-step for the voices to begin, causing the scales to tilt violently.

Maybe balance is no more and no less than remembering who we actually are, remembering the new mind, remembering what is true. And maybe my sign has to be scales to remind me that who I am has absolutely nothing to do with a digital readout on a glass pad in my bathroom.

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.

Catfish, pt ???: First 40 — August 18, 2021

Catfish, pt ???: First 40

The new episodes of Catfish air on Tuesdays, so almost the entire day is devoted to old episodes. (The one sad, lonely exception is Teen Mom 2 the hour before the premiere. Sigh.) I watch while I eat my breakfast and tend to my rabbit HoneyBunny. Though I didn’t personally name her, I really love it because at least once every day, I say “I love you HoneyBunny,” like Tim Roth’s character does in Pulp Fiction. Anyway. The episode this morning was a bit of an anomaly. The Catfish had been to jail and out because the Catfishing turned into criminality. Simply lying on dating profiles and direct messaging isn’t against the law, but extortion is. Nev & Max traveled several airplanes and one long drive through snow covered roads so far north to a town that may or may not be on maps in hopes of an interview. Of course, they got one – it is a TV show and reality isn’t exactly real like we know it to be. So as they left that depressing house, Nev said, “One thing I’ve learned from all these years of Catfish is that there are no monsters at the end of the line.”

I love the show, have been watching it for so long, I guess it’s only natural that this would have informed so much of my perspective. Episode after episode, for 40 minutes I think the person they’re chasing is just horrible, a nightmarish villain looking for no more than to be a wrecking ball in some poor sucker’s life. And then for the final 20, I realize I’ve been wrong. They’re just sad or lonely or damaged. (Now sometimes, they are pretty awful, but it’s so unusual, it’s a perfect example of the phrase ‘the exception proves the rule.’)

And then last night I sat down to watch the Netflix documentary on the Malice At The Palace – a riot at a basketball game in Detroit where NBA players jumped into the stands and fans stormed the court to exchange punches and injury. I’m a sports guy so I was very familiar with this unfortunate incident, and very familiar with the immature, violent ‘thug’ athlete storyline. The players were 100% wrong, referred to as wild animals, and the fans were victims, innocent bystanders, targets of uncontrolled rage. This easy narrative turned out to be what we could have all figured out is total garbage.

It’s the 100/0 mentality, or what we can from now on call the First 40 Syndrome, where we operate as if the whole truth is contained in the first 40 minutes of Catfish, before the inconvenient reveal that we share more in common than we’d like to acknowledge. We neeeeed the players to be all wrong, to be space aliens – anything other than strict division between us and them would prove that we are closer to the edge than we can handle.

In the book of Joshua (a book about us/them if there ever was one), as Joshua is fighting anyone different than himself, he comes face to face with someone new. In ch. 5, v. 13: Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

This is what we’re all asking, everyday, online, in our cars, the supermarket and on the news, right?

“Are you on my side, or theirs?” “Who is all right and who is all wrong?”

And get this, in a shocking twist, that man (who is revealed as the “commander of the army of the LORD”) standing with a drawn sword says…

“Yours, of course.”

That’s what we expect, what we need. And it’s certainly what Joshua expected. But this man says, “Neither.”Are you on my side or theirs? Yes. Which is it? Both. Neither. Who is right and wrong? Both. Neither.

Maybe we’ve been asking the wrong questions all along. Maybe we’re operating with a limited visibility, as if 2/3, or the First 40, of the show is all there is.

Joshua then asks a different, infinitely better, question, “What message does God have for me, His servant?”

And I can’t help but feel that the profound, heartbreaking reply is the same for us today: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing [whether it’s the northern edges of the earth, a stadium in Michigan, whether it’s Annville or Afghanistan] is holy.”

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.

Blind Spots — July 20, 2021

Blind Spots

We all have blind spots, right? That is something we can all agree on. I know that sounds like I’m an insane person. I’m not, as far as I can tell. (But would I know if I was?) I live and breathe, so it’s as obvious to me as everybody else that we can’t all agree on anything, except maybe that ‘we’ are 100% right and ‘they’ are 100% wrong. And that we’re hyper-sensitive, which makes us easily offendable.

Anyway, blind spots.

2 quick, great examples of this: I see people extinguish their cigarettes just before they enter the gym. On the one hand, they’re very conscious of building a healthy lifestyle, and on the other, they’re tearing it down. And Saturday mornings I go to a convenience store and buy an energy drink (again, for someone who is concerned with taking care of themselves, perhaps energy drinks aren’t the best. But wait, it gets worse…), careful to choose the option with NO SUGAR. Then I go to the donut shop because Saturday is donut day. Maybe having a “donut day” isn’t the worst, but the no sugar/sugar dichotomy invites questions of consistency.

The Bible talks about judgment and hypocrisy often. Hypocrisy is closely linked to stage acting, when we are one thing in one place and a different thing in another. The point is that we are who we are all the time, that there’s no image-making, no pretense. Bringing all of who we are under the same umbrella. Another way to say this is consistency. My dad was an alcoholic and I never ever knew which dad I was going to find, sober and awesome or drunk and awful. This isn’t exactly hypocrisy, but perfectly illustrates the importance of consistency inside and out.

As far as judgment, it’s possible that when we are extra judgy towards others, we are instead advertising our own hypocrisy and glaring inconsistencies. And when we talk about judgment and hypocrisy, social media is their breeding ground.

I’m convinced the reason we have absolutely no idea who is telling the truth in politics is because political discourse is rooted in sand, bereft of the anchors of principle, self-awareness, and consistency.

Now. This COVID crisis has drawn battle lines from the beginning: masks, quarantines, vaccines, on and on. And just like everything else, if you disagree with me, you are uninformed and/or ignorant and/or heartless. It is utterly impossible that you would be intelligent, well-read, compassionate AND come to a different conclusion.

For many years, there has been a certain debate among us that has the core of “it’s my body, and you can’t tell me what to do with my body.” One side says yes I can, especially when it comes to protecting others, and the other says no. And now there’s a vaccine with the same core, but what’s interesting is that the sides have crossed the aisle and taken each other’s talking points. And no matter what position we choose, there are exceptions that make this totally natural for a smart, thinking person.

We could talk about this all day, but my point is that maybe the Bible is right about judgment. Maybe we shouldn’t do it at all. Maybe our easy snap generalizations and categories don’t fit because they were never supposed to. We’re complex and nuanced, full of a wide range of experiences. And sure, Facebook is a wonderful place to spew vitriol, but maybe more violence towards each other just isn’t helping.

We feel the disconnect between each other, our communities, our environment, and ourselves. Of course we do.

There’s a song by Todd Snider called “The Ballad of The Kingsmen,” and it ends “Now brothers and sisters I am only one guy. And I don’t even know the words to that song Louie, Louie.” Today is heavy here, for me, and I don’t know much about anything, but maybe it’s not all that surprising that we’re separated when we’ve built concrete walls where bridges are supposed to be.

I’m really tired of being separated.

Black Widow — July 14, 2021

Black Widow

Last weekend I saw Black Widow…in the theater!! I wonder how many times I’ll have to go before that loses it’s excitement and new-ness. I know the answer is more than 2 (I saw Godzilla vs Kong in March), because I had butterflies like the Angel & I were on an early date night. It wasn’t a first date, because those butterflies were large birds with talons and teeth, and lots and lots of energy. More like a date in the 3rd or 4th month, when the nerves were invigorating and pleasant.

When I was a kid, a trip to the movie theater used to be an adventure we looked forward to for days. That novelty wore off (except for BIG releases like Fight Club or Endgame) and it was just another option in an ocean of choices. I’m thrilled that feeling has returned.

I’ll tell you if the answer is 3 in September when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes out.

You know, I used to go to quite a lot of live music shows. Once I got to a certain age they lost most of their draw – too many people, too loud, too expensive…well, I guess it was simply too many “too’s” for me. I wonder if I’d like to go back now.

COVID took so much from us for the past year and a half, I wonder if we’ll be surprised to find there are gifts to be enjoyed as well. Sometimes things are so familiar, so common they lose the wonder they hold, like kissing your wife, hugging your boy, driving your boys to basketball practice, sitting in air conditioning on a scorching hot day, pushups, deadlifts, spaghetti, fast dancing to music in the house with your sister, singing along to a song on the radio, those shoes, and on and on and on. When the scales fall, giving us the ability to see them again with new eyes, it’s overwhelming. Of all the people in the world, do you mean I’m the one who gets to actually kiss her??? Has the world really become a place where I can sit and watch these boys play baseball??

I recognize that lives have been lost, anxiety has ravaged our psyches, relationships have been damaged beyond the point of rescue, some of us still have trouble breathing, much less sleeping, the fear of What Could Never Happen (But Did) is oppressive, and going to a movie theater is way too trivial a thing on which to focus, even embarrassingly so. But sometimes it’s the trivial and seemingly insignificant that give us hope. That give us the strength to take one more step. That give us the beautiful notion that the world will continue and we might be ok, sometime down the road in the future, however long it takes.

We had a flood once that drowned our house and everything we owned. Our spirits were crushed under the weight of starting over from scratch, not to mention the looming fight we were inexplicably destined to lose with the insurance company, and the enduring emotional fallout. And in the middle of all of this, my wife’s best friend Laura gave me a book – one of my favorites: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – that I had gifted to her years before. It was her way of saying “I know it’s the kind of dark and awful that feels like it might never not be dark and awful, but this is something lovely.” It was just a book, but it was so much more than a book. It was the promise of life wrapped in her sweet heart. That horrible flood ended up having a million gifts like that, where human beings were exposed as kind, caring, and generous. Most people don’t get to experience that sort of avalanche of love, and I wish they could. It was a book about a record store, and it changed me forever.

It might have been the best movie I ever saw or it might be ok. I can’t give it a proper review because it’s impossible to detach the art from the context, and I don’t want to try. To me it was perfect.