Sunday, November 30, 2008

Return of Fanboy, the Christmas Rapper

Blue Kid Kraze shirt with stitched on Batman cape and Justice League pajama pants..it's the return of Fanboy! I had the opportunity to host Kid Kraze this morning @ WEC. Kid Kraze is our environment for K-5, complete with jamming music, storytelling and small groups.

My character, "Fanboy" was getting ready for his job interview as a Christmas Rapper @ Macy's, by displaying his lyrical talent. Oh yeah, here's a taste of the goodness...

"If ya excited about Christmas, gimme a Ho, Ho, Ho! Let me hear you say Ho, Ho, Ho! Everybody say Ho, Ho, Ho...Yo! What's up everybody it's Christmas time! I'm here to say that its really fine. If you want presents under yo tree, You better ask Santa, don't ask me..."

Second verse, only gets worse, so I will spare you the details. Props to my DJ Dillon for hooking me up with a mad beat. And I guess Macy's was looking for a wrapper, so I did not get the job.

What I love about occasionally filling in as a host in Kid Kraze is being around the kids. Seeing them really get into worship, before it becomes uncool to get a little undignified. Hearing their answers to questions, that help you see truth through their simple eyes. I wonder, is this is why we must "become like children"?

Hometown Heroes

After 7 hours on the road yesterday, I needed sustenance (and a bathroom break), so I decided to hit up one of the local Chik-fil-a. My family loves Chik-fil-a, it's like high end fast food, with a play place. Oh yeah!

Wearing my road miles, I gorged on the Number 1 with waffle fries and lemonade (another perk of C-F-A). As I was eating, this wonderful lady brought me a mint and a moist towelette. She asked how my day was and actually seemed interested as I relayed my trek across Virginia. We conversed about Thanksgiving for a moment and she was on her way. She even stopped by again later to make sure I was doing well.

It's amazing how you can tell when people really love their jobs. They have this twinkle of excitement in their eyes and tend to make your experience all the more enjoyable. So today, while they are closed, I honor my Chik-fil-a host on Jefferson Ave in Yorktown, with a job well done.

Who is your hometown hero?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Red light brigade

Ahh...unfolding myself after seven hours in the car. I just returned from Bristol, VA where I visited my wife's family. I survived 3 days with no internet, it can be done. Life moves a lot slower in Bristol. Luckily, the traffic does not.

AAA estimates, 41 million people traveled more than 50 miles during this holiday weekend. In the rush to get from point A to point B, it can be easy to miss the journey between. Enjoy the ride!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Whats the deal?

Today is Black Friday...a shoppers day of paradise. Due to the economy, many retailers started their sales early this year, but I am sure that did not deter the faithful masses. Are you out shopping today? What is the best deal you found?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Family Traditions

I am sure all of our families have odd Holiday traditions. Those we try not to let out, because then people would really begin to question the gene pool we crawled out of. Like the obscure uncle that likes the egg nog, and somehow ended up in women's clothing that one year. Hopefully that does not become tradition.

Our family gets a little odd around the breakfast table. Really, I like to think it is that we are "cultured". In Portugese it is know as Omolette de Mioleira, which sounds really classy. In Austria, it goes by Him Mit Ei, very masculine sound. Or we can just use the English, very Hannibal Lecter sounding, Brains n' Eggs. It is exactly what it sounds like. Yeah, my wife won't kiss me until I brush my teeth.

In my defense, for one day, I can truly say, I have more brains in me than her. Something I can not usually claim. So, what are you odd traditions? Don't worry, they will be too concerned about me to make too much fun of yours.

PS. They are better fresh from the butcher than in the can.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Defeat of the Snot Monster

I think sometimes we confuse forgiveness with tolerance or indifference. To really find freedom, we have to deal with our pain, with the monster we have let build inside of us, or our forgiveness is token at best.

In the message of Jesus, I find less about "forgive and forget" and more about deal with it and forgive. When we deal with our hurts, it does not allow the deceptive bitter bile to take root. Dealing with it means we have to talk about it, to the person that hurt you. When we keep short accounts, we don't make a bed for the "Snot Monster" to make a home in. When we let the person know "it did matter", "it did make a difference" we make the relationship the priority.

Forgiveness is about not letting what happened determine the people we will become. Forgiveness is about putting it out on table, as opposed to keeping it inside, or avoiding the offender. Forgiveness is about bringing people back together, not dividing them further.

It is not easy. Battling monsters never is. It is better than settling for cheep imitation forgiveness.

I dunno maybe I am just full of snot.

Thoughts?

Snot Monster's Revenge

"Forgive and forget", even the phrase can make me angry. It seems so passive. Honestly it seems like the person is getting away with wronging me. It says, "I don't mind. It did not matter." But I did mind and it does matter. Where is the justice?

They wronged me and I am supposed to just swallow it, not say anything, pack it away in a box and just...let...it...go? When I see them the next time, I smile, pretend like I love them, maybe even share a laugh. The whole time inside, I am dying.

Bitterness becomes a cruel master, lashing your heart with tendrils of anger.

To relieve the tension, we share it with others. "Can you believe what he did to me?" "Watch out for...he will stab you in the back." Oh, it gets much worse, but we feel a small release. Soon enough it will be right back, like this stinking cold.

If it did not mind and did not matter, there would be nothing to forgive.

To borrow a phrase from Desmond Tutu, "There is no freedom without forgiveness."

Battling the Snot Monster

Like a thief, he crept up on me. I did not hear him coming until his icy grip plunged into my face, but in that moment it was too late. The Snot Monster had the death grip on my sinuses.

I despise colds. They come at you out of nowhere at the most inconvenient times and make your life miserable for days. Your head feels full of cotton, eyes water, breathing becomes a labor. That is where I find myself today.

I find that past wrongs are kind of like colds. We all know we should forgive and forget, right? But then you see that person...the one that borrowed money and never returned it, that broke your heart, that stole your girl, that shared a secret, that told a lie. That in some way wronged you.

Old feelings flood back. Anger swirls, remnants of a fire once intense, puffed back to life. We question ourselves, thinking we had let it go, finding ourselves incapable of deleting the memory. Maybe we have been told to leave it "at the altar", but find no release. It always seems to sneak back into your heart at the most inopportune times, kinda like a cold.

How do you forgive and forget?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saturday Morning Cartoons

In yet another sign that the apocalypse is surely upon us, Fox has announced they will no longer air children's programming on Saturday morning. Instead, you will be treated to hours of mind numbing infomercials.


As a kid, Saturday morning cartoons were the gas tank for my imagination. They led to hours of reinactment in the woods out back...Snake Eyes slipping into COBRA base, being chased by Sleestak or saving Polly Pureheart.


At least, it is Fox, which airs my least favorite line up; Biker Mice from Mars...really? This does signal the end of the Turtles, who apparently are returning to the sewer, to draw unemployment, rather than being featured in a Ginsu infomercial.


My favorite Saturday morning programs were the Superfriends and Land of the Lost. What are your favorite Saturday Morning programs?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Invisible Man

The Invisible Man waits patiently, under the street lights that cast circles of solace in the murky darkness. He is wrapped tightly in the coat of some sports team, he knows little about. A scarf, fends the cold from his neck and fills the space beneath his stocking cap. The light changes and he begins to cross the street.

Old, cold limbs take precious moments to carry him across the four lanes that divide the sidewalks. He is ten feet from his destination when the light changes. Traffic charges like an angry bull. He tries to make himself small, the lines on the road a tight rope, as the cars buzz by like angry hornets.

For a moment, he is no longer invisible. He knows this because of the blaring horns and the voice echoing out of a passing Lexus, "Are you stupid!?" His head lowers, seeking refuge in the scarf, like a turtle. An eternity passes, in a few brief seconds, and the traffic has moved on. Taking his time to travel the last expanse to the sidewalk, he continues into the comfort of the shadows, invisible once more.

Watching him cross the road tonight in Hampton, I sat numb, wondering how often I have confused another as an obstacle, nuisance or distraction. A neighbor, teacher, co-worker. What hope to do we have to offer, when we drive on by? What hope do we have when we are the one standing in the road?

Plymouth Apartments

I met a young couple today. You could see the searching in their eyes, so we struck up a conversation. "We are just looking for someone to talk with." They were at the tension point between unease and desperation. They had lost their jobs and were living out of their Plymouth. They were not married, had met only a few months prior.

This time of year, you see a lot of people asking for help. You hear a lot of stories. Some true, some maybe not. There are a lot of arguments against helping.

If they really wanted they could just get a job. They should look to family. Handouts only encourage them to continue to beg. If you give them money they will only spend it on alcohol. They could be dangerous. They could be lying. They could be that fabled guy who dresses up like a homeless man and goes home to his mansion each day he bought with the money he swindled off you and other gullible do-gooders. They are living in sin, they should get their act together and then I would help. I don't want to condone their behavior.

There are probably many more I could come up with, have come up with. Thirty dollars later, they left the Shell station with a tank of gas and bag of groceries. I came up with two excuses on why I should...because I can and because of what was first done for me. Happy Thanks"giving" Week!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dear Santa

Visiting my family this weekend, we wrote out our letters to Santa. Macy's has a big red mail box that is a direct line to the North Pole. (They donate $1 to charity for each letter in the box.) They even provide the post cards. So our post cards are in the mail, now we wait for the jolly man to arrive.

To give you some insight into my boys, I have included the contents of their lists. We'll start with Logan.

Dear Santa,

Will you please bring me Ben 10 action figures, superheroes (Captain Atom, Invisible Girl), Justice League movies and art supplies (blendy pens, paints, paper).

Love,
Logan

I think the list is pretty doable. Nothing out of the ordinary. Not excessive. Then there is Cole...

Dear Santa,

Skateboard Ramp
Air Compressor

Cole

Keep in mind, Cole is four. Why does this scare me? What does a 4 year old want with an air compressor? What is my insurance deductable? I think I may give Ole Saint Nick a call and make some ammendments to that list.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hot pants

The heat went out in our office on Monday, Tuesday was the coldest day of the year. They say our heat will be working again by Thanksgiving, so our landlord graciously provided "Mr. Heater." Mr. Heater is our new best friend.

Yesterday, I was chatting with Rob, hanging out by Mr. Heater, when it was brought to my attention that my pants were on fire. I guess this could be a compliment, unless your pants really are on fire. Mine were. Luckily just a little smoke and minor singe.

Honestly, I did not feel the heat that much. A few more minutes and I am sure I would have. I think we can think of a time we stood too close to the flame. I mean if you are not payng attention, you can get drawn in like a moth and before you know it. Not just the big things, but the little things that draw us off track.

It starts rather innocent. Our intent is not to get burned, really it is the furthest thing from our minds. Then before we know it..."Well it was going to happen anyway", "I'll be stronger next time"...we give up.

And then we hide. It's good to have friends that don't let us hide and tell us when our pants are on fire.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Birth

Today is an exciting day at Waters Edge! The anticipation has been building. There have been birth pains and sleepless nights. We have marked the days off on the calendar, even experienced false labor at times. But today, the birthing begins!

For months, there has been so much work happening. We saw a little of it as the curbing started to go in, or maybe you saw a big hole in the ground. A lot of the work has not been visible, but all had to happen for today to get here.

Standing out there today as they were putting up a crossbeam, I reflected on my life and how change is not always visible at first. There comes a day when people start to notice, even remember the moment they recognized the change. For that day to happen, a lot of work had to be done that many people will never see. A lot of pain, maybe baggage, that has to be stripped away.

In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C S Lewis, there is a scene I think best captures change. Eustace encounters Aslan, and realising that his previous life must change, must shed his skin. He starts rather tentatively tearing away little pieces. Then seeks help from Aslan, who cuts much deeper, to find the new boy hidden within.

The process takes time, and can be painful, but in the end we celebrate the birth of something new. For now it is time to Celebrate!
For more pictures and updates check out The Big Dream.

The Choice

Do you remember MacGyver? He always seemed to know “what if?” I remember watching and just being amazed. Now, when I pop the hood of my car, I am just envious. If I put a chocolate bar against the hole in the pipe, will it bond with the fumes to form an epoxy? Or maybe, if I use the foil wrapper off my gum, I can make a bomb and just blow it up?

For such a small word, “if” carries a lot of power. If comes with a promise. My mom might say, “If you do that, then you will be sorry.” If you stick your finger in the socket, then you will get shocked. If you eat all your dinner (or at least hide it where your mom will not find it), then you will get dessert. If defines the expectations to get the reward or consequence.

If” can be pretty intimidating as well. “If” requires something of us. “If” demands a choice, how bad do we want it. Are we willing to do what is required? Is the reward enticing enough? Are the consequences severe enough? Can we define what will happen, if? If it is a true statement, then we can. All that is left then, is a choice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deerly Departed

Helping out at the Rescue Mission can be pretty interesting. Usually it’s the conversation, or the guys I meet that make it interesting. Monday, it was the food. We had deer stew over mashed potatoes. Someone had donated the food, so that’s what we ate. Pretty good too.

Deer meat is nothing new to me. There was this guy I worked with in Florida that would make this amazing deer sausage.

Dwayne, one of the guys that I work with in the kitchen, told me that every once in a while they get moose meat. I don’t know why I find this disturbing. Maybe I am just more of a Bullwinkle fan than I am Bambi.

Just in case, I found this recipe for Jellied Moose Nose. Just make sure you remove the hairs.

Marry, Marry, quite contrary

I thought I better explain the whole "experiment, try new things...push the boundaries" of marriage, before you had any more bad thoughts about me. Being together 150 months, probably qualifies us to be "rookies" when it comes to marriage. Most things we learned from the amazing people around us, many we learned from messing up. But here it is, my first top 10 list, things we have learned thus far:

1. Fight well - If your marriage is "engaging", you will have misunderstandings and even fight, at times. There is a lot that can said here but don't make it personal, listen (you would not be arguing if you were not passionate about it), get to the point not just the little things that lit the fuse, don't go to bed mad, work together on a solution.

2. Guys don't always think about "aerobics in the dark", but we do have needs. Just like the ladies. Don't hold out, its a sin. Physical intimacy is important to a healthy relationship.

3. Talk - "How was your day?" "What did the kids do?" are great starters, but move deeper. Guys, a little talk goes a long way. Beyond that, everyone wants to be known. Not just to know about them, but to know them. “I don’t care”, is never the right answer.

4. It's not the end of the world - Most trouble, can be fixed. Finish together.

5. Get a TAT - Time Alone Together goes a long way to creating intimacy. That means no kids, leaving work at the office, cell phones off (the babysitter can handle a couple hours), date your friends some other time, kind of being together.

6. Come home - Steward your time at work. Get the big rocks done, so you can go home and really "be" with your family.

7. Lead well - You are in it together, but every team needs a leader. Men, they are probably just waiting on you to step up.

8. Every day is special – What did you do today to make your spouse feel like they were your most prized possession?

9. On your knees – Intimacy with God is best shared. Don’t be embarrassed, she’s already seen you naked, get naked before God.

10. You will never be the One – There are things that we will never be able to do for our spouse, that can only be done by their creator. Your spouse is not God, they will never be perfect. Stop trying to make them be perfect and love them any way. Work like it depends on you, but put your hope in God.

There’s so much more, and honestly, many of these I need to work on. If you have a few to add to the list, I would love to hear them. You never arrive. Marriage is an adventure, play hard!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Affairs of the heart

It began as a hot steamy love affair. I lived close to her so I would go see her often, sometimes slipping away just to be with her. Sometimes I would take friends, just to show her off. One day, it became too much and I gave her up and walked away.

Thus was my short history with the game of golf. Maybe for you it was a musical instrument, cooking, skateboarding, skiing, a hobby, a new job, or maybe even church. When we start new things, it can be exciting and we find ourselves filled with new passion. We hit a few good shots. Learn a basic song. Win a big account. We feel we were meant to do this one thing. We dream about being the next Tiger Woods, the next Bill Gates, the next Yngwie Malmsteen.

But then beginner's luck starts to fade and we are faced with the long hard plod toward mastering the skill. I remember with golf when someone told me how to hold my hands the right way...it ruined what little game I had. So I did what most of us do, I went back to my original grip, and settled for that level of success. Until I quit.

Very few people are experts right out of the gate, but we all want to be. When it gets tough, we either settle for, or give up. Or we just try harder. Hitting a golf ball harder, just makes bigger dents in cars. When the initial passion wears off, too many times, we would much rather chase after the next exciting thing that comes along.

If we are ever going to achieve our true potential, we have to experiment, try new things, maybe revisit some old things, push the boundaries, seek advice from those further along.

Maybe I am not just talking about business, but something a whole lot more personal. I have found the same holds true in marriage, and would not have the amazing relationship I have now after 150 months with my wife, if I settled for or gave up.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The worst in me

Try as I might to change, there is this part of my heart that is filled with malice. Maybe malice is not the right word...but everytime the Duke Blue Devils lose a game, I get intense feelings of joy. I have been known to break out into spontaneous dancing (in public places), which is scary.

It's that time of year again. College basketball. When my revered Tarheels, once again make the run towards March Madness. This will be accompanied by late night harassing phone calls, jibing emails and probably ruin the holidays for family and friends, when my cousin Mike and I start going at it.

Maybe one day I will let it go, but until then "Go Heels!" Are you with me?

The Grand Picture Show

"Cole. you are going to miss the movie!", Logan cried with glee.

Curious, as the voice had come from the porch and not the den, I poked my head out to see what they had rigged up that might represent a movie. I found my two boys, seated on the porch bench with a tray across their laps, munching away at the snack they had laid out, watching the leaves fall. Two squirrels became central characters as they twittered after each other.

The backdrop came alive as clouds rose, puffed up and moved on. Periodically birds made their entrance, only to depart just as quickly. A family of four deer, cast as "reindeer", stepped in to make sure little boys and girls were not naughty, but nice.

I find myself in awe once again, at the ability of young minds to grasp the beauty of creation, we often miss. If only we stood still long enough.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Walk of Shame

I watched her cross the last few yards of the field, as I made the turn onto the drive leading out of the neighborhood. I paused to let her cross, an uncomfortable smile brushes her lips. Yesterdays clothes, slightly akimbo, wrinkled from where they were discarded thoughtlessly. Make up smeared, blurry like a picture out of focus. Hair a nest.

Head down, she moves quickly now, for the safety of her home, behind closed doors. Her penance complete, her walk of shame.

Where has she been? What has she done?

Is she searching to fill the painful void, ever present with each heart beat? Acceptance found ever so briefly, in the coupling with strangers?

Is she trying to feel again? To break the scar tissue built up by broken relationships and broken dreams? To hide the ugliness she sees every time she passes by the mirror?

No stones to cast, the spell is broken, I have to get to work. Compassion fills my heart, for I too have walked the walk, in search of forgiveness, love, acceptance, and truth.

At the end of your rope, do you find a hangman's noose or a Savior's arms?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Open up and say Ahhh!!!

Cole's blood count came back lower...no hospital!! I am so proud of my little man! No hide and seek today. The only tears came when the needle went in. On the road to recovery now.

Thanks for all your thoughts, prayers and encouragement!

A brother's perspective

"Is Cole going to die?", Logan asked though damp eyes.

All he has to base it on is his experience. A year ago this week, his Granny, Tara's mom, passed away after a prolonged battle with a blood disease. A year ago, he stood by the coffin, and proclaimed her "Sleeping Beauty" as he comforted his cousins.

That's the problem with experience. It can color our imagination, and neglect the infinite possibilities and wonders that are creation.

"Rest well my son, your brother is in good hands."

Note: Heading to the doctor now, for the blood tests, will post an update in a bit.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My son Update

Cole's blood count continues to rise. We were given the option of another shot or admitting him to the hospital. Cole hates shots, so much so, we began a game of hide and seek at the clinic. He hid under the chair in the room at the clinic. When we moved the chair he scooted under the examination table. It took four of us to hold him down when they drew blood and gave him the shot. We opted for the shot, know he would be poked and prodded even more at the hospital.

It broke my heart to hear him screaming as we were holding him down. The pain in his eyes as he stared at me through the tears.

If his count does not come down tomorrow, he will have to be admitted to the hospital. Your continued thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Port-a-Potty Porters

Before I left to come home today, there was one more job to be done. It seems the Port-a-Potties from our volunteer event never made it back to their rightful place. They could not be picked up today, so Rob, Bill and I went to remove them from the park.

Our volunteer event was a month ago, so you can imagine the amount of accumulation and fermentation that has happened. It smelled so bad I could taste it. At one point I gagged, amidst the laughter. As I was driving back to Lynchburg tonight, Rob called to tell me he could still smell the aroma hours later, admittedly I could as well.

Carrying other peoples "stuff" is a pretty nasty job. I have higher regard for sanitation engineers now. The truth is though, we are called to do it. To listen. To encourage. To pray. To carry each others "stuff".

Its not always easy to allow others to carry "your" stuff, we have an image to protect. On the other hand, its not always easy to carry other peoples "stuff" either. I was greatly encouraged by the response to the previous post. The prayers. The encouraging comments, on here and Facebook. Thanks for carrying my "stuff".

Cole is sleeping, somewhat restful and we look with anticipation toward what tomorrow may bring.

My son

You have met Cole in previous posts, he's my four year old son. For the last four days he had a fever that would pop up once a day, then after a nap it would go away. This morning he woke up with a cough and congestion. My wife took him to the doctor and he has bilateral pneumonia. Not sure what this means, but his blood count should be 10, for his age, and right now it is 19,000. They gave him a booster, but if his blood count does not come down, he will be admitted to the hospital in the morning.

I am tying up some loose ends and will be heading home to help. I appreciate your prayers and I'll update our latest adventure soon.

Diagnosis: Atychiphobia

Growing up, the rule at the dinner table was you had to try everything. Don't even try to get out of it. My brother tried it once, by covering his mashed potatoes in pepper, creating this mushy gray mess. Our evening entertainment that night was watching the tears roll down his face with each agonizing bite.

We can have the same reaction in life to trying new things. Let's face it, we don't like to fail. Think back to a sports coach, or maybe even a boss that said, "There is no room for failure." This may be true if you are trying to pick between the red wire and the blue wire, when defusing a bomb. Outside of that, fear of failure kills innovation.

We can get stuck in what has worked, our past successes, and hold on mercilessly until extinction. Ultimately, people stop trying new things, because "failure is not an option", or they hide their mistakes, hoping no one ever finds it. Think of all the lost potential, as we create a culture of mediocrity.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -Robert F. Kennedy

Like crabs in a pot, there will always be those that tell you "you can't." If you listen to them long enough, it will become true.

Why is it that the fear of failure is greater than the hope for success?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas with the King

It's that time of year again...the music in all the stores has changed, there is a nip in the air, all the houses are starting to light up, children dance excitedly as they write letters to Santa...but lest we forget what Christmas is really all about...



Elvis silk and sequined boot shaped stockings with matching tree skirt and Graceland (manger?) for the mantle. Visit the Kmart near you, and you too can enjoy Christmas with the King.

Personally, I think this is one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

Changing the game

In high school, there was this amazing punter, Travis. He could put the ball just about anywhere on the field that the coach wanted. When he got up to kick, the punt returner would back up, because he could put some air under the ball.

Just like any athlete, this came with practice. The thing is, after kicking the footballs in practice, he had to go get them.

One day, Travis got this bright idea. If he kicked the balls straight up, they would come right back to him, or at least in the general vicinity. That way, he did not have to run all over the field to retrieve the balls. Everyone shared a laugh, and Travis got away with it.

That Friday, the stadium was packed with eager fans. During the fourth quarter, there came a crucial play. The team was winning by a field goal in the closing minutes. They were pinned back near the goal line, but no one was sweating, they had Travis. All he had to do was kick the ball deep and the game was over.

By now, you can probably figure what happened next. Travis kicked a beautiful spiral, that sailed straight up. Quick hands a few yards later, the opposing team scored. His team lost.

What we do when the crowd isn't watching, prepares us for those moments of divine opportunity, when we can change the course of the game.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding traction

It started as a leisurely drive on I-81 in Virginia. This time of year, the scenery can be beautiful, the leaves changing color, creating rainbows along the roadside. It can lull you into a false sense of serenity, until you see twenty pounds of rubber fly over the roof of the van in front of you.

It unfurls at its apex, then balls to increase velocity, like the meteor out of Armageddon. A split second decision. At 65 miles and hour, pinned tight between the weekend traffic, you take the hit. An explosion of sound, the remnants of a truck tire roll up the windshield of the van, clawing it's way down the roof, preparing a surprise attack on the next vehicle in line.

Seventeen hundred dollars later, thank you Geico, our "new" van is as good as new?

Two months ago, our Xterra was totaled in a rear end collision, while we sat at a stoplight. In the last two months, both my boys, Logan and Cole, have had visits to the emergency room, my other car broke down twice. Because we are still trying to sell our house in Lynchburg, I see my family on the weekends. There is more I could say but you get the picture.

The worst is not seeing my family. Not wrestling with my boys. Not holding my wife. Not having the casual conversations over breakfast. Not doing many of the stupid things that families do. Not being there in the midst of a lot of the challenges my wife has faced. What can I say, I am married to an amazingly strong woman, that I love immensely.

It has given me a new perspective on Hell, or the short end of the stick when we get to what comes next. I would not wish the "separation" from family on anyone, but I can not imagine what it would be like living in that kind of separation to the One that gives me hope in the face of all the challenges we face. To me, that separation is more real than any flame filled room, haunted by the goateed man in red spandex.

Wherever you find yourself, whatever closet you still keep hidden, or who you are with, know there is a story being written that is so much more than than the pain, the loneliness, there is hope for a new day. We are not promised an easy life, but I would not trade my journey, my life, for anything.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Taking the Hit

Do you remember the first fight you were ever in? Fourth grade, bathroom break. I was so excited because I dodged the first two swings. So excited, I forgot to go on the offense. And then the third swing came. At that point I gave a thorough inspection of the bathroom floor, which was amazingly clean for an elementary school.

Disclaimer: You may want to send the kids out of the room at this point. Rated PG for "slap"stick humor.

Well, the real Santa was not injured, he was probably too busy laughing at the stunt double. Recognize those eyes. Yeah, that's me getting my dental work rearranged. The funnier part, in a sick kind of way, is we had to re shoot the "slap shot" about 8 times. I think it was part of my initiation into WEC's staff. So be at the Christmas Eve service, so my pain is not in vain.

Modern Airport Security

If you have been to the airport recently, you have probably seen the latest technology in use to keep our skies safe. In a world with "sniffer booths" and full body scanners, it's nice to see security still includes a more traditional approach.

Just the other day, on a United flight from Puerto Rico to the US a passenger got a little unruly. She "struck a flight attendant on the buttocks and repeatedly pulled the hair of a blind passenger seated near her."

After repeated attempts to restrain the passenger with ankle cuffs, someone got a bright idea. RIP! The distinctive sound, known world around, and music to the ears of one particular blind person...duct tape. They restrained the passenger with duct tape while they diverted the flight to off load the offender.

While I cheer the ingenuity, it does reincarnate fears of flying knowing that the airlines keep duct tape on hand. What other uses could they have for it?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's my life


Ring Master

He had tried before and failed. The last time we were here, he found himself hanging on for dear life, all momentum gone, facing the inevitable plunge into the mulch. Today was a new day.

Logan began talking about it on Thursday, "Dad, I can do it now!" Unsure what "it" was, as "it" was to be a surprise when I had lunch at Logan's school. "Can't wait buddy", it came out muffled from the writhing mass of wrestling boys.

Logan stood on the precipice, all the was required was to let his body swing out while reaching forward. The next ring is not so far away, much closer than the ground. Hands grasping, reaching, grasping, reaching.

A month ago he could not, but now he can. He is master of the rings. His smile is wide as he shows off his new skill to his dad, who could not be more proud. As much for all the times he failed and did not give up, as the one he finally succeeded.

When was the last time you accomplished something you previously thought impossible?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Foxy Lady

The crisp morning air burns in her lungs, matching the strain tingle in her calves, urging her to forge ahead with her morning run. The light of a new sun, bathes the park in a glow, making everything seem fresh and new.

Focused intently on her path, she barely glimpses the flash of red before the searing pain shoots through her heal. She reaches to remove the source of the attack. A fox, it’s jaws, clamped mercilessly.

Using all her strength, she disengaged the foxes mandibles, only to have it double over upon her and affix itself to her arm. Hope fleeting she begins to run. She travels the mile and a half back to her car, fox flailing from her forearm.

At the car, she finds the strength to peel the fox from her arm, trapping it in the trunk. She drives to the hospital and receives treatment for rabies along with an animal control officer that was bitten while removing it from her vehicle.

As I heard this on the news last night, I must say, my first thought was, “I hope someone puts this on YouTube.” Can you imagine seeing someone running through the park with a fox dangling off their arm? Or hear, “It’s okay ma’am, I am a trained professional, I'll get it out of the car. Ouch!” Maybe it’s just my sick sense of humor, sorry.

We all have those days when nothing seems to be going right, the foxes sneak up on us and latch on, threatening to tear us asunder. In those moments, I try to remember to smile and maybe chuckle, even in the midst of pain, knowing that I AM, not alone.

Everyone was recovering nicely from the rabies treatment at last report. I pray it continues to go well.

Naked

Well, not quite...but my boys live pretty close. At four and six years old, they would rather run around the house in their underwear. At best, they may accessorize with a pillowcase as a cape. This is one reason you should call before you drop by.

As an adult sitting around the house in my underwear, just feels vulnerable. Maybe a little weird. I would not want anyone to see me, and honestly sometimes, I don't even want to see myself. Sometimes, I struggle with those same reservations when it comes to my openness with others.

Being human, I want others to like me, I want to be accepted. This can be dangerous, like most things, when taken to extreme. Our relationships become work as we try to keep up the personas we have created, all the while dying a slow, lonely relational death.

Opening up can be just as painful, because we are not selling the Ferrari, maybe more like a Yugo. People then have to make a decision, not on what they see on the outside, but what is on the inside. We have to trust them.

Either way, relationships don't just happen, they require effort. Trust does not just materialize, without someone taking the first step. The more open you are, the more deep and meaningful the relationships you will have. There is freedom found in being relationally naked.

Although, I might hang on to the pillowcase. For aerodynamics, of course.

What keeps us from getting there? What keep us from accepting others unconditionally?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Detour

I had another post ready to go for today but somewhere along the way found myself turning the car around, or maybe just pulling over for a moment to make sure the car is running right.

Last night was a historic night and when we woke up this morning we had a new president-elect. Today we have another important decision to make, and that is how we respond. Maybe you have already expressed your thoughts in your Facebook status. I imagine you will have plenty of opportunities to express your thoughts at the proverbial "water cooler" this week.

Do the words you use bring unity or division? Do they bring life or reap death? Do they bring honor or hostility? What comes out of your mouth comes from your heart, is it an honest reflection...of you...of what you believe...

I learned a valuable lesson last night while chatting online with a friend...our words and attitudes have a lasting impact. Choose them wisely.


What is more important than how we vote on Nov. 4 is how we live on Nov. 3 and Nov. 5. We vote everyday with our lives. We vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips, and our wallets….ultimate change does not just happen one day every four years. —Shane Claiborne

I'm a Joker, I'm a...

Hehe, want to see a magic trick…The clown prince of crime, yep that’s me the other night at the Halloween party. A friend asked me that night if it made me think differently when I had the Joker face on. Maybe I was getting into the character a bit much.

It can be pretty liberating to be behind the mask. To do the things you have wanted to but were afraid of what people may think, to hide from the condemnation, to give you some sense of control, to bury the pain, well brushed makeup to hide the flaws and keep our secrets locked tight in the dark recess of our basements. What are we really trying to do when we wear them?

Fit in. Stand out. Separate ourselves from one group while seeking entrance into another.

All the while, setting a bar ever higher for those on the outside looking in. A glimmer of perfection, that can shatter like so much glass, when the weight of the mask becomes too much. In the aftermath of the mask shattering collision with reality, is there more collateral damage from your inauthenicity? Masks only cover, they do not erase that which is on the inside.

What’s behind your mask?

Behind my mask: the need to feel accepted (why else would I care about my blog stats), the need to feel some sense of control

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Pot Head (sequel to The Salesman)

Sleep still crusted to his eyes, as they took in the remnants of the previous night, rising like a fog across the floor. He tosses a lazy arm off him, wondering where he is. What day is it? How long has he been gone? Could he go back?

Donny shared his story with me over dinner tonight. We had just met, but we talked with the comfort of old friends. He grew up in church and knew a lot of the stories, but found himself wandering further and further from the truth. He was (is) married, has two little boys, but has not seen them in over a year. The last year is a haze of marijuana smoke and bad decisions.

A week ago, he woke up after a nightmare, where he watched his family slipping from his grasp. Lacing up his shoes, he began to walk, chasing a wisp of hope that there had to be something better out there.

Faith to him is the hope in new beginnings, a resurrection from the relational death of the previous year and in forgiveness. "It won't be easy. I'll see old friends and they won't understand, they'll want to pull me back in. I'm clean, my thoughts are clear and I know God has a purpose for me. Maybe one day, I'll be back with my family."

Sitting, listening to Donny, I notice a light in his eyes. Is faith the hope, or the willingness to act on it?

The Salesman

Sometimes, life finds us in the most unexpected places. Building a new building, there are a lot of behind the scenes details that have to be resolved; trash disposal, security, pest control, etc. This requires meetings with sales persons. I used to be one, so I know they can be pretty interesting, but one I had today, was divinely appointed.

For the first few minutes of the sales call we discussed our families. He was married, his wife died last year. His son is struggling to find his way and making poor decisions. He lost both his parents in the same year. We moved onto the services that the company had to offer. There came a point though when he stopped and looked up at me and asked, "What is faith?"

To further expand on this as our conversation progressed...was my life preordained? Did God plan the pain, the trials? What does this say about His love for me? I could tell it was a personal question, and not one that just needed an academic response. It was an amazing conversation that left me humbled.

You tell me, dear readers, what is faith?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weird Science

There is nothing like the howling screams of your 4 year old to rouse you from a Sunday afternoon nap. The boys had been playing in the backyard. According to Logan they were doing a science project. He always has the most amazing explanations.

Cole is writhing in pain on the floor, crippled, unable to walk, because he seems to have half a tree stuck through his foot. Ok, it was a splinter, a rather big splinter. When Tara and my father tried to remove it, he thrashed like the girl from the Exorcist and pummeled them into submission. Yet another trip to the ER...

Which I find hard to believe considering I spent hours convincing my dad I broke my thumb playing baseball, and was finally taken to the hospital when I offered to forfeit my allowance until the bill was paid, if it was not broke. What changes when you become a grandparent...oh yeah, not their insurance any more. For the record, it was broke, but I digress.

Upon arriving at the ER, Cole is the perfect child, calm, waiting patiently for the doctor (Imagine elevator music in the background) until...the scalpel comes out...(the record skips and now you hear Quiet Riot). In the Miller tradition of "if you are going to do it, might as well do it with excess", the doctors proceed to pull a 2 inch splinter out of the middle of my sons foot. He is only four...where is all the wood coming from.

The good news they did not have to amputate and he is home safe and sound. I am still wondering though how this all ties into a science project?

Rest in Peace

There have been many days I have wondered if I would have to wait until my final days to actually rest in peace. There always seems like there is so much to do, so much to experience and not wanting to miss a minute of it.

Yesterday, I was afforded with rare opportunity to take a true day of rest. Sabbath if you will. My family was in Bristol, VA visiting my in-laws and I intentionally had no agenda for the day. I stayed cocooned in the covers until 9 AM. After a shower, I rolled over to Barnes & Nobles and read while drinking my grande Pikes. The closest thing to work was digging under the seat in the car to scratch together the change needed to pay for the coffee.

The day was beautiful, so I took my book with me on a walk and found a tree to sit under and read, while enjoying the sun. If you have not figured it out, my favorite way to relax is with a book.

Don't get me wrong, a day with my family is better than any day alone, but in a fast paced world we seem to have forgotten the need to truly rest. There was a day when working on "the sabbath" was punishable by death. Maybe thats what it takes to learn to "rest in peace."

If you had a "free" day, what would you do with it?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Smackdown - Walmart Style

At Walmart yesterday trying to figure out what my costume will be for the evening festivities. The aisles were packed, as it seemed like half of Newport News made the last minute decision to buy a costume. As I slipped out of the aisle, I heard a comment behind be that called into question not only my courtesy but my masculinity.

I turned to make sure I had not inadvertently bumped some one (pretty sure I did not) when her gargantuan partner (think Zeus, from the old, really bad Hulk Hogan movie) says "Yeah she is talking to you..." The dots stand for comments now directed at my mother. Now why do you have to bring someone's mother into this.

As I attempted to apologize, if I had bumped into her, it became apparent that they were primed for a handicap match WWE style. I felt like I was back in the lunchroom at highschool, when all the students gather in a circle to watch the hapless victim that sat in the jocks seat get pummeled.

Realizing that nothing I could say would derail the pain train, I just smiled and walked away. There are much better things in life than duking it out on aisle 3. I figured they got off lucky, because little did they know, I've seen most Chuck Norris movies, and that just about qualfies me as a black belt.