Love With A Capital L

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

Stone Etchings — October 28, 2022

Stone Etchings

I’ve been thinking lately. The world around us has been crazy. I recognize that election cycles bring this sort of angry division to the forefront, but it certainly isn’t solely in and political discourse and nasty advertisements. It’s on Facebook and highways and in grocery stores and schools, Tuesday afternoons and Sunday mornings. Nowhere is exempt from this rage-filled polarization, seeping into the culture and transforming it into it’s own image.

Or is it?

Of course I see the mean posts, condescending looks, the (physical, emotional, spiritual) violence. How could I miss them? But they remain exceptions. I mostly find people to be kind, gracious, smart, funny, and generous.

Once I read that negative experiences print on our souls immediately, positive experiences take much longer to make an impact. This is why you can get 900 hearts or thumbs up and forget them, and 1 mean face emoji and wonder why for the rest of the day, week, year. That 1 mean face seems to weigh significantly more than 900 hearts.

Is that why the 1 person that cut us off on the road today stings in our brain while the rest of the relatively capable, conscientious drivers (99.99%) are unnoticed? Or the umpire’s 1 bad call trumps the 200 good ones?

I am not saying that the bad calls or dangerous risky drivers are unimportant. I’m not saying hateful posts are not problematic, or that the horrible incidents of violence should be ignored. They are symptoms of a broken world, of which we are all a part. We act out of our insecurities and fear just the same as the people that lead the news, and they all must be studied and addressed, all must be given their proper, loving attention.

What I think I am saying is that those heartbreaking incidents don’t have to steal our hope or drive us into despair. That person’s cutting remark isn’t proof that people are all awful. True, that person might be (or they might not be, they might be overwhelmed or tired or depressed or anything), but it isn’t a judgment on everyone.

My idea is that we probably get what we’re looking for. If we’re looking for fantastic songs, we’ll find them. Or smiles or empathy or help or respect or love. People hold doors open, let you go first, say hi, and are willing to spot your bench press.

The songs that suck are still there (Coldplay’s will, sadly, always exist;) but they don’t have to occupy as much of us and color as much of our outlook as we usually let them. Some marriages will still end in divorce, but lots and lots of marriages are inspiring and fulfilling. Some days it rains and the weather forecasters are shockingly wrong, and those errors stick out in our minds, but they are right waaaay more often, probably 352 days of the year.

It’s not that the good moments don’t print, it’s just that they take longer. The key is to give them that time. When someone says your shoes are nice, maybe we don’t shrug it off or tell them they’re wrong (like we so regularly do), maybe we just say “thanks,” and take a breath and appreciate our shoes and the person with the compliment with whom we should spend more time. Or look at the heart reaction on the picture of your dinner, think about the person who sent it, and count to 15. Or 100. However long it takes. Take the time to feel the softness of the skin on someone’s hand when you hold it, or the sweetness of their lips in a kiss. We all know there’s no one to vote for, but we get to vote – do we ever take the time to acknowledge how extraordinary that is?

It’s the difference between entitlement and gratitude, I suppose, and we won’t always get on the right side of that divide, but usually all it takes is some attention to the beautiful things to regain perspective. To look up and around. My son is going to have a high school “Senior Night” at the football game tonight, and if you listen carefully, wherever you are, you might hear my heart break. But I will be there, fully present. I have been there, truly been there, every day of his life so far, and I have thoroughly enjoyed those days. And yes, it’s sad that he’s not my baby boy anymore, but he’s not my baby boy anymore and that is no small gift. I will hold this moment tonight with 2 hands, I’ll cry and I’ll laugh, mourn and celebrate, and give it all the time it needs to etch into me in stone.

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.

Shorts — June 14, 2022

Shorts

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

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

I won’t be wearing shorts.

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

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

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

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

See? Hopelessly old fashioned.

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

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

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

What Is The Truth? — November 8, 2021

What Is The Truth?

I’m thinking about the well-known saying, “There are 3 sides to every story; his, hers, and the truth,” and am discovering that I don’t agree at all. In the Bible, the Roman Governor Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” And I’ll ask that now. When we say “his, hers, and the truth,” what are we talking about? Simple facts? Can something be true without being strictly factual? Is truth only what can be objectively stated? Can something be real, genuine, authentic and not be true? Or are real and true interchangeable synonyms?

Maybe.

Maybe there are different kinds of truth. Sometimes truth changes with more research or information, changes with years and generations, changes with circumstance. And there is the Truth that stays exactly the same forever.

I’m talking about the 1st kind, and in that case the cliche should read, “There are 2 sides to every story; his & hers, AND they’re both true.”

This idea began to take shape for me when I got married. A general maxim is that “perception is reality.” If one believes/feels that the other works too much, there is no amount of data that can change that one’s mind. 99 out of 100 can think he/she does NOT work too much and 99 out of 100 don’t matter at all. What does matter is the one who lives in that house who is empty and disconnecting because their spouse works too much. There aren’t enough PowerPoint presentations that can convince him/her otherwise.

When my wife felt neglected or in second (or 10th) place, I had work to do and changes to make. I couldn’t reason my way out of it by invalidating her experience, even if I wanted to (which I really really did, then). Her neglect was completely true.

This tiny shift has allowed me to hear with new ears. I don’t have to, in fact I can’t, decide if someone is right or wrong, I just have to accept the existing paradigm. I just have to be present without judgment or taking a side. Actually, maybe they’re not new ears, maybe they’re just ears. If we could be free of the natural tendency to pass judgement and declare winners and losers, we could simply listen and truly practice empathy. What happens if we don’t have to know who is right and who is wrong? What happens if we are able to just be where our brothers and sisters (and selves) are, compassionately, totally engaged?

I don’t so much care what happened anymore. Sometimes I do. Maybe that makes sense. Life and relationship require us to not only know the right thing, but the right thing at the right time. And harder still, when the right thing at the wrong time is no longer the right thing. Unless it is.

There are 2 verses in the Bible – Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5 – that are direct opposites. 4: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” And 5: “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

They didn’t make sense to me before, now they do. They make perfect sense and are both absolutely true.

Expanding/Contracting — October 7, 2021

Expanding/Contracting

This week on the People’s Court, there was yet another dog bite case. If it wasn’t for dog bites and security deposits, there wouldn’t be enough material for a 10 minute short, much less 25+ years of daily episodes. Anyway, in this one, a Rottweiler got out of the house and chewed up a cut little mixed breed. The owner of the Rottweiler was caught on video days later with another of her dogs on a walk off leash, and when questioned, she responded with the ridiculous, “It’s my personal choice.” So, the judge reprimanded her, explaining that it wasn’t, that there are leash laws in almost every town & city in America, and that in a society, your personal choice has limits. After every case, the litigants speak with Doug in the hallway, where she again said that her personal choice would still be to not leash her dogs.

We’re starting there, but I don’t want to talk about leash laws or this woman’s boundless arrogance. What I do want to talk about is – we’ll get there in a second.

This morning, I watched another documentary on the Google/Facebook illuminati. It’s funny, I don’t watch any horror programming, giving exactly none of my time to anything scary. (The new Dr Strange movie is being called Marvel’s 1st horror-ish offering, and that will be an interesting conundrum for me when it is released. Which immovable object will be rolled aside?) Yet I continue to gobble up these documentaries, terrified at the level of control humongous tech companies have.

They watch and listen and know everything; our waist size, our favorite food, eye color, who we voted for, and when the last time was that we flossed. When her family begins to talk about tracking devices in vaccines and conspiracy theories, the Angel always correctly points out that nobody needs conspiracies or chips, they already know us better than we know ourselves.

Each of the documentaries ends with an appeal to get us to delete our accounts, which we, of course, never do. Facebook was down for several dark, hopeless hours this week and we wandered aimlessly through abandoned streets in withdrawal without seeing filtered pictures of food and the photoshopped perfect lives of people we haven’t seen in 20 years. They want us to not “Google” anything, not use our Gmail or Chrome, or scroll TikTok. Ha!!!

Now, here’s what I want to talk about, and why Zuckerberg reminds me of that unlikable woman on the People’s Court. There’s a concept in ancient wisdom traditions called Zimzum where God contracts Himself (or Herself, if you prefer) to make room for creation, for trees and oranges and you and me. We do that, too, anytime we enter into a relationship. We make space in our lives, schedules, hearts for another’s lives, schedules, hearts. We stop being only me and become us. Ideally we’re not so selfish and allow for the cares of somebody else.

We contract. We put limits on our freedom or “personal choice” or what we want. We put a leash on our dog. We don’t so that they can. We give and receive. I don’t date other women, as is my right or choice or whatever, because I have made space for the Angel in my life. I don’t delete my accounts because these products add value to my life. I like to email, I like that Amazon Music knows just what new songs I’ll like, I like that when I search for watch bands, I’ll get 1,000 ads for watch bands on Instagram. We make these choices everyday.

But this woman is only concerned with expanding, only concerned with herself and her “personal choice.” I don’t like that I can’t mow my grass at 6am, I don’t like that she can’t leave her dog off leash if she wants, I don’t like that Google most of the time gives me what it wants to give me or that it knows where I am and why 24 hours a day.

Contract or expand? It’s different and dynamic for each of us. What we choose today might not be our choice tomorrow.

I think my point is that we choose with intention. After watching these films, the real problem seems to me that we are unaware of this expanding/contracting decision. It’s vital we know there’s a choice to be made. We can give & receive OR we can leave our dogs off leash, so what about you, your dog or what either of you think. But if we can’t see the paths in front of us, then we’re simply being herded into the nearest enclosure based on algorithms and apathy.

We just get this 1 life and it’s way too short to not pay attention. It’s also way too precious to spend it selfishly. So, let’s make room for each other, love someone, and put a leash on our dogs.

This Book I Just Read — September 13, 2021

This Book I Just Read

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

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

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

What will we do?

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

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

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

Both Hands — August 24, 2021

Both Hands

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

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

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

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

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

Now. — August 11, 2021

Now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kong — April 8, 2021

Kong

Last weekend I saw the movie Godzilla vs Kong.

First thing to know about me, while you might think it’s just the kind of movie I’d like, it’s not. There are roughly 2,500 movies in existence with King Kong and/or Godzilla in the title, I haven’t liked one. This wasn’t an exception. My sons loved it, so I said I did, too. I want them to like mostly everything, to not become one of those insufferable snobs who thinks it’s cool to hate. I used to be that guy. I’d tell them (and anyone else who would listen to me self-righteously pontificate) about dialogue and plot holes and blah blah blah and they’d feel silly for loving it and who wins in that? No one. I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures,” either. We can like anything we like and there’s absolutely no guilt in that. Unless it’s that song “Watermelon Sugar,” by that boy that I think used to be in One Direction. Anything else, have fun, man. Life is heavy a lot of the time, if monsters pro wrestling each other is your deal, this is your movie, enjoy!!!

That’s my review of the movie itself, but I’m writing this to tell you how much I LOVED going to the theater to see Godzilla vs Kong. I was overjoyed to buy tickets and popcorn and sit in a mostly empty deafening theater with other actual flesh-and-blood human beings having an experience together.

COVID stole a lot of things from us, and to take them back inch by inch is wonderfully satisfying. Our friends have been on screens and telephones, hugs are virtual, smiles have been obscured by masks. Theaters have been closed. There has been so much loss in these past 13 months, a monster movie in the theater is hardly the most important, but sometimes it’s the little things we might consider trivial at another time that perfectly capture the pain or the hope in any situation.

One time a flood destroyed my home and all of my things and that was horrible, but it was months later when I had a wedding to attend and realized I didn’t have dress socks that broke me into a million pieces. I wept loudly, bitterly in my truck along the highway. Dress socks were hardly the most valuable thing we lost, but as symbols go, it was priceless.

Godzilla and Kong ushered in a new mindset for me, for us, that pointed to a reality outside of quarantines and pandemics. It illuminated a hope that we would be together again, that we would connect, that we would hold each other’s hands in our own, that we would be human again.

And as far as experiences go, I can’t imagine one better than Godzilla vs Kong.

So, Let Me Tell You About Yesterday — December 11, 2020

So, Let Me Tell You About Yesterday

So, let me tell you about yesterday. 

The Angel & I took the boys to school and left immediately, driving north to Scranton (home of Dunder Mifflin Paper) for the funeral service of a friend’s father. He (James Chickson) was a terrific dad, husband, and man – exactly like my friend. At the Bridge, we would call men like him bull elephants, and the world doesn’t have enough of those, so we gathered to mourn. It was a catholic service and as a general rule, I find catholic services a little sterile and impersonal (just me, just my opinion, but I am very messy, overly sensitive, mushy and untraditional, so I would), which this one was…UNTIL my friend stood to give the eulogy. He was beautiful. He was all of the things we love about him, and probably all of the things we loved about his dad. It was awesome and exhausting, just what a funeral service should be. 

Then we came home, picked my boys up from school and had some ice cream because ice cream is perfect for a broken heart. 

Then at the dinner table (dinner after dessert is also perfect for broken hearts…well, any hearts, really), we discovered that there were new PA COVID restrictions that would, among other things, “pause” school sports. It was then that my boys expressed their emotions in what is sometimes the only appropriate way, with tears of sadness and rage. 

Now, I know school sports are comparatively minor in relation to the widespread wreckage COVID has wrought, but it is absolutely real to them. And to me. Because we all have those comparatively minor’s, right? 

Once the tears stopped and we were able to re-focus and gain a smidgen of perspective, then I began the phone calls to the core group of the Bridge to discuss what we would do, if anything, to address the new restrictions. Again, a small church in Annville is comparatively minor in the grand scheme, but it is my family and it is definitely doesn’t feel comparatively minor. 

We are losing loved ones, businesses, homes. We have been disconnected and isolated, and that leaves us raw and exposed, sensitive to very fine points. I remember months after the flood took our house, I had an appointment where I would need dress socks. I rarely wear dress socks and now that I needed them, I realized, I didn’t have dress socks. The pair I had was lost in the flood. I was working, driving on a major highway towards State College, when I realized this insignificant detail (big deal, stop anywhere and pick up a new pair) and had to pull my truck off the road when my sobbing made driving impossible. Everything was overflowing, all of the months of “What are we going to do????” and utter powerlessness to answer had crested, and dress socks pierced the thin shell that barely kept it all on the inside. 

High school seniors have lost proms and graduations, weddings have been moved, suspended, our lives have been radically upended, and we know that a missed dinner & dance for upperclassmen is nothing in relation to 200,000+ dead in this country alone, countless more worldwide. But that doesn’t make a canceled school dance hurt less. There isn’t a finite amount of love and care in our souls, we can deeply feel all the things in this human experience. There isn’t a cause/effect relationship where ignoring our pain leads to an increase in empathy. I would suggest if there is a relationship, it’s an inverse connection, where turning the blind eye to suffering (in any and all forms, even our own) leads to a practiced desensitization to suffering (in any and all forms). 

I bring all of this up because what I notice is that we often say the words, “but other people have it much worse than me/us,” as a way of minimizing or trivializing our own pain & suffering. At funerals, we say the person is in a much better place or that God has a plan (which are both true) and pretend that we are fine, that are hearts aren’t shattered. In the Scriptures, God asks us for 1 thing above all. He asks us to bring who we are, everything we are, honestly and without pretense, to Him. He says that He doesn’t want our sacrifices, He wants our hearts. He weeps over the death of a man He intends to resurrect to validate the suffering of his community. 

The Bible says, as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death… and it’s that through that makes all the difference. We can’t walk around, or avoid, or fake that it’s not the shadow of death. We can’t get through anything without going through. My beautiful buddy’s eulogy had very evident pain and loss, and it also had a lived-in gratitude that his dad was his dad, and I’m pretty sure the 2nd doesn’t come without the first. 

So, I guess what I’m saying is this: Sometimes you need ice cream to ease the ache of a broken heart, or screaming rage for a 3-week break from basketball, or an offering of bitter tears over dress socks. There are no comparatively minor’s with God. There is only us, and that’s enough.