Saturday, February 28, 2009

Neurological

I guess you could say I never meet a stranger, or maybe I am just nosy. Sitting at the Barnes and Nobles, my family on the way to visit my in-laws, when we met. He was sitting at the next table reading the latest neurological text book, when we both stretched and popped before our extremities went numb.

Quickly a conversation ensued about life and our inabilities to stay current in our professions. Being unemployed, staying current can be difficult. He on the other hand, at the wizened age of 50, seemed to have a pretty good grasp on all things having to do with the grey matter between the ears. As fascinating as his discourse was, I was captured by a story he shared of another random encounter...

He had been at Walmart with his wife, when his head became swimmy from a recent ear infection. Seeking solace, he found a place on a bench in the Pharmacy. Next to him sat a little old lady, reminding him of a grandmother. As they began to converse, she talked of students. He discovered she was a teacher, and due to the wisdom shown by the reflective greying of her hair, assumed she had been teaching a long time.

"No I have only been teaching five years." she said.

Curious, he inquired and found that she had raised 8 kids of her own, then at 75 gone back to college to receive her degree. Since that time, she had been teaching and hoped to continue for some time. She said the kids respected her because she looked like their grandmother and she had a hand in raising most of them so they could not pull one over on her.

The Neurologist shared his life lesson from the story, "It shows me that it is never too late."

Many of us resign ourselves to the patterns that life has created for us. We feel stuck in the choices we made in centuries past. While we can learn from our past, our future is yet written and it in never too late to...experience something new...resolve a broken relationship...accomplish the dreams we have been given. All it requires is the will to do it, and a little faith.

What have you always wanted to do, but felt like you couldn't?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sleeve

On the little sleeve that wraps around my coffee cup, I found a quote:

We do not remember days, we remember moments. ~Cesar Pavese

This morning we awoke to new day. A vacation of sorts, as Logan is out of school Thursday and Friday for Teacher workdays. We started with a few chapters from the latest Junie B Jones book, a new favorite of Logan's. I think maybe it gives him permission for the adventures he finds himself in or maybe just that he is not alone in trouble.

We were sent a beach ball of the world this week. This has become a new plaything more than an educational toy, other than maybe learning how to throw the world around. The boys stand on the landing of the loft and throw it down to us, then race to see who will catch our next pitch.

Breakfast, while not meeting the strict nourishment requirements of most that keep them, was fun. We created home-made pizza last night...peperoni for Cole, Neapolitan (just cheese, no sauce) for Logan and peperoni and onion for us. The remnants were calling me this morning, so the boys joined in, just to be like Dad. They dip theirs in ranch though, much too early in the day for that, for me.

I do not know what adventures the day will hold for us, but we race headlong with abandon into the unknowing. Take time to have fun today.

What moments made up your day?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Toy

Woody: Look, we're all very impressed with Andy's new toy.
Buzz: Toy?
Woody: T-O-Y, toy.
Buzz: Excuse me, I think the word you're searching for is "space ranger".
Woody: The word I'm searching for, I can't say, because there's preschool toys present.

What is a toy? One definition I found was "plaything: an artifact designed to be played with". To this, I am content to say, I am happy to live the life of a toy.

My toy persona changes daily. Some days I am a professional wrestler as the boys leap from the couches, as if it were the top rope, knocking me senseless. Others I am a great adventurer leading them through the dark shadows of the basement. And still others, I am just the jungle gym. My arms, ropes they scale to reach my highest peak.

Just the other day, I was a ninja. We chopped and kicked, wrapped in our dark pajamas. We made throwing stars out of duct tape and knocked down cup targets scattered about the room that represented hordes of attacking Huns. No eyes got put out this time around, but then again we have not made our swords yet.

The greatest fret of a toy is that someday they will be replaced by the newest plastic polymer space ranger, at least that is what Woody tells me. I know that one day, my boys will grow up, they will fall in love and it will be time to cleave from their parents. Such a messy sounding word, to cleave.

Hopefully these times we have shared let them know they can always return to talk or play and the importance of playing with their own children. Until then, I am happy to play and be a toy.

Curious

In war it is axiomatic that the victors of the last war fight the new one with the tactics of the old. Having won, the victor is content with what won for him, but the vanquished wants to know why he lost. ~Robert Leckie

We have a tendency to rely on what is familiar and what has worked for us in the past. We find this in business as well as our personal lives. This works in some situations, but find more and more frequently that when we rest on what has worked, we miss out on greater outcomes from what will work.

There are a lot of reasons not to try new things, Seth Godin captured a few a these a couple years ago, here. For many it is about a fear of failure, which when you try new things, is a very distinct possibility. Failure is seen as a destination, which makes it avoidable. It isn't. Keep doing what you have always done and you will arrive there, eventually. Success keeps us complacent, maybe until it is too late.

Failure happens. What you do with it makes all the difference in where you go from here. Innovation, on the other hand, happens when curiosity overcomes the fear of the unknown and our present success. Just like George, it will get us into trouble from time to time, but will cause us to learn so much.

The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on our gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence; and makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool. ~William Bolitho

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spice

Arriving home this weekend, I found that Tara had, once again, rearranged the cabinets in the kitchen. There is always a good reason, economy of space, boredom etc., but can be mildly frustrating when you go to get a cup and end up taking on a quest through multiple locales. Why is it always the last one you check?

Seeking understanding, or maybe insight into my wife's thought process, one of the boys asked why she had moved everything around. She replied, in language they can understand, "The spice and the tea had to be separated, because the spice was being stinky."

I found this elementary explanation humorous, but it got me to thinking about relationships. As our proximity or intimacy with another increases, it affects us in many ways, like the flavor of the tea was being changed by it's proximity to the spice. Our personality can begin to take on characteristics of the other. Even the way we talk or think. Like some science fiction mind control, if we are not careful, this can happen without any conscious effort on our parts, until someone points it out to us.

Our relationships add spice to our life, but how do you make sure they don't spoil the soup (or tea, in this case)?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dodgeball

Playing with the boys this weekend, when it just happened. One minute we were playing superheros, the next stuffed animals were whizzing through the air like scud missiles. They took the high ground, perched upon Logan's bunch, with a ready supply of ammunition. I was left to defend the floor, grabbing whatever animal was in reach and zipping it back. Sometimes two or three at a time. Laughter and giggling intermixed with requests to hurry with the next barrage.

In the midst a healthy back and forth battle, Cole turned his back, just trying to stem off the incoming animals. After a few minutes, we realised he had become a walking wounded. One strike had caught him in the eye. He did not cry out, just tried to go on the defensive to protect what was left.

We can easily get wrapped up playing the game (life) and miss those that have fallen. When we are the fallen, we go on the defensive, not letting anyone know, just trying to get by.

Cole was okay, just a "flesh wound", quickly forgotten as we moved on greater adventures. The bump may have been harder than we thought, as a bit later Logan asked Cole for his middle initial and he started down the stairs to get it out of his closet. Through our laughter we beckoned him back to the loft. I wonder what he would have brought back?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday

It feels rather weird to wake up this morning. It's a Sunday and I am not out the door to set up the church at the YMCA. I am not up at the crack of dawn to put up tents, check the rooms, cut the lights on and prepare for people to show up. Today, I will eat breakfast with my family and then head over to Brentwood. I am sure I will find my place to serve again, but for today, it just feels a little weird not to have anything to do, but experience it.

It feels like a fresh new canvas, I am just trying to figure out what to paint.

What do you usually do on a Sunday?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Help

There are times when we all need help. Sure we try to hide it, as if we have to prove we have what it takes or that we are man enough to handle all that life throws at us. Ultimately that burden becomes too much and we collapse under the weight. We can feel like a fool asking for help, but isn't it more foolish to try to do it ourselves?

Over the last several months, I have been working with a guy on a project. Actually a small part of a much larger project. He was putting together some specs and a bid, but on the day they were due gave me a call. It seems life had caught up with him. He had been trying to out run it. Work harder and hope that they went away. The issues dealt with his family, but it was starting to affect his work and he acknowledged that.

After hearing his story, not knowing what else to do, I prayed with him. I would love to say, this is always my initial response, but many times when you are faced with someone else's adversity, it is much easier to say you will or realising there is nothing you can do, let the opportunity pass you by.

Two days later he called me back. You could hear a change in his voice. Did it turn out the way he had hope. Not exactly, but he was at peace with the outcome. He was looking at the challenge in a new way, and at what responsibility he had in the situation. Instead of fighting, he said he needed to seek forgiveness.

While he was appreciative of the time I took with him and the prayers, I must say, I got as much as I gave just listening to how his perspective had changed and how he was going to approach it going forward. In giving the help, I found the help I needed.

What keeps you from asking for help? or giving help?

Friday, February 20, 2009

First Day

The first day of the rest of my life. Driving home last night, the first 20 miles stretched like I was escaping gravity. Once I got past Williamsburg, the time flew by as anticipation built.

Arriving home, I caught my wife asleep on the couch and boys tucked warmly into their bed. I gave each a kiss, before we retired to the bed. I lay there reflecting, the house quiet except the noise of sleep and the wind. It's good to be home. I have been blessed with an amazing family.

This morning, Logan is sick, so he is resting on the couch. Tara had let me sleep in, so Cole jumped in bed with me and gave me a big hug to wake me up. After a breakfast, we unpacked the car which was ladened like a pack mule. If it was a mule, I am sure it would be panting from all the miles of the last several months.

Cole helped me unpack the boxes and bags, examining each thing as if it was a present on Christmas day. When he got to the tie-dyed Star Wars shirt they gave me on Fathers Day a few years ago, he told me I had to always keep it. He has one as well.

Now I sit at the computer, reading comments and emails from friends, warm wishes for the road ahead. My family extends well beyond the bounds of my home, my city and even this country. The first day of the rest of my life, and it feels good to know I do not travel alone.

The family - that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to. ~Dodie Smith

Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted. ~Paul Pearshall

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Turn the page

Second star to the right and straight on til morning ~Peter Pan

Today is my last day at WEC and my seven month exile from my family is complete. I have learned so much in the last seven months about myself, about church, about life. I leave for no other reason than it is time to be back with my family. One definite thing to take away from this time is the importance of family. Mine has loved and supported me amazingly. I appreciate the amazing staff and families of WEC that have shared life with me during this journey. In many ways you have been my surrogate family.

When we told Logan, two things he was excited about. I can pick him up from school and we can go to church together. Funny how they identify what is important to them. What is next? I do not know. I leave without a job, but great peace in knowing that I will be with family and faith that it will all be taken care of. (If you have any connections on a job, let me know!)

At the end of many television shows these days, you hear the words, "Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode." A foreshadowing of what is to come. If only life were that simple. I have found that while you may be shown the next step, you don't always see the one after that. It's been a great adventure. Sometimes the shortest chapters in a book are the most significant. For now, it is time to turn the page.

Library

What is a great love of books? It is something like a personal introduction to the great and good men of all past times. Books, it is true, are silent as you see them on their shelves; but, silent as they are, when I enter a library I feel as if almost the dead were present, and I know if I put questions to these books they will answer me with all the faithfulness and fulness which has been left in them by the great men who have left the books with us. ~ John Bright

Have you ever been shushed at the library? As if your whispers will awaken the spirits contained within the pages. Or maybe this space is reserved for the voices that ring loudly within their bindings. I love to read, and will try just about anything I find on the shelf. It's like a new adventure, getting lost in some one's thoughts and musings.

Tara takes Cole to story time each week at our local library. Each time I go, it makes me sad as it seems more like Death Valley than a thriving repository of knowledge. A few mom's with kids, and the unemployed researching jobs on the free computers. Just down the road, the Barnes & Noble is thriving. Maybe libraries should start serving coffee?

Are libraries going the way of roadside attractions? What are they missing?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nails

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost
For want of a horse, the knight was lost
For want of a knight, the battle was lost
So it was a Kingdom was lost
-- all for the want of a nail.
_George Herbert (Jacula Prudentum 1651)
We all want to know our life is signifigant. That it meant something. In many ways we look for it in fame, possesions or power, but that is fleeting. In doing so, we can miss the simple purpose for which we are destined. What gives you life signifigance?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Precipice

The boys were giddy with excitement. Cole awoke at 5 AM and would not go back to sleep. The day had finally arrived. Not Christmas, as you might expect, that was when we got the tickets. Today was the day we finally got to use them. Monster Jam!

Before the show, we went to the pit party and the boys were able to walk amongst the monstrous machines. We talked with drivers and tried not to get run over by the mob of devoted fans. The pre-show was entertaining as little kids raced their four wheelers around the track. Seconds ticked down as the show was about to start and we found our seats.

BOOM! A loud explosion and the lights went out. Fire erupted in a shower of sparks and the beasts roared to life. Cole was terrified. He was ready for the trucks, but went into sensory overload with the cacophony of noise and fireworks. What was once a moment of great anticipation, became a moment of great fear. He buried his face in my chest, crying "Daddy I want to go!"

I held him, whispering reassurance in his ears. After the initial onslaught, he uncoiled and began to watch the show. Still flinching when the noise grew in volume, he found peace in arms wrapped tightly around him. Eventually, my dad took him for a walk.

If you ask him today, he loved it and is excitedly talks about the trucks.

How quickly, what we once anticipated can lead to anxiousness when we stand upon it's threshold. And yet we find peace, in the arms that hold us, as we boldly step forward.

The question becomes, do we listen to the noise and run away or the whisper and take the step?

Unique

After church today, Logan, Cole and I settled on the bed to play some games on the computer. Cole snuggled up close to me and started to nod off. Being the good brother, Logan tried to keep him awake, but Cole shook him off. Soon he was resting peacefully in the crook of my arm. For the next two hours, we were at peace, he asleep and I warmed by the benefits of fatherhood. I love those moments.

I was reminded by a friend today that we are each unique, and how that makes us special. How easy it is sometimes to forget that. We easily slip into the crowd, finding comfort there, lost in the sea of faces. It keeps us from the responsibility that comes with the uniqueness.

It can be easy to look at someones life from the outside and wish our life was like theirs. Our individual successes and challenges shape us for the unique opportunities we are given. Everything we have been given, everything we have gone through, has brought us to this moment.

Take you out of the moment, it changes everything. How has your uniqueness affected the lives of people around you?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Monster Jam

How did we spend our Valentine's? Among monsters...



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Cheese

What is love? Baby don't hurt me... As long as there is love, there will be cheesy love songs attempting to explain it. Let's face it, we all wanna know what love is. want you to show me...[Foreigner, 1984]. A lot of the songs come across like something that died in your arms tonight. [Cutting Crew, 1986]. But I'd do anything for love [Meatloaf, 1993] including listen to sappy songs while making googly eyes at the one loves me, Faithfully [Journey, 1983]. What is your favorite cheesy love song?

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Bible Says...

Driving down to Roanoke this evening, I heard a phrase that caused my radar to kick in. Logan said, "Cole, the Bible says..." Growing up in the Church of Religious Pharisee, CORP for short, I find it interesting what the Bible has to say, or at least what some people interpret it to say. Your hair must be at least a half inch above your collar, while your hem line must be half inch below your ankle...

Anyway, Logan had said "Cole, the Bible says we have to pee outside." I was afraid he had heard the guy on the Internet with his "he that pisseth against the wall" sermon, but really he was saying that in Bible times they had to pee outside. I guess if you were a shepherd that was definitely the case, but I corrected Logan in that it was not a commandment, or we would all be in trouble.

What makes this even funnier, in a guess you had to be there kinda way, is that the first time I tried to get Logan to pee outside he refused. We were driving from Maryland to Virginia, late one evening, in one of those long stretches exits, when I heard, "I gotta pee." Knowing the next exit was miles away, I was determined this was a great time to teach Logan about fertilization and environmental stewardship.

Out of the Xterra, on the grassy roadside, I instructed Logan to relieve himself. I gave him the obligatory warnings about checking the wind. He refused. He was not allowed to pee outside. Explaining that it was okay when mom or dad said so, he still refused. After I showed him that lightning did not strike me, he still refused. After extolling him with the virtues of writing your name in the dirt, he refused. Frustrated, we piled back into our vehicle and broke land speed records searching for the next available restroom.

Logan has since gotten over his resistance to public urination, under the proper circumstances. I am still getting over some of the CORP training. When someone tells you "The Bible says...", check it out for yourself. Does not matter who it is, even a pastor. We are human and can make the Bible say a lot of things.

Any funny 'The Bible says..." stories out there? or maybe just a slip of the pastor's tongue?

Asylum


One of my favorite Batman tales is Arkham Asylum. The inmates have taken over the asylum, and Batman must enter and face those he helped put there, to save the lives of the staff. A very dark and abstract tale.

I found myself reminiscent of this after my visit to Logan's school today. For the last two days, Logan's teacher has been out. leaving her class to a substitute. Far from Berringer, this one was getting run over. Managing 30 kindergartners is scary enough, imagine if they think they own you. Personal boundaries, out the window. Listening, not so much. Respect, Dangerfield got more.

I tried my usual bag of tricks on the playground, which worked for a few minutes, but they were too far gone. Cole was with me, boy wonder to my Batman. Instead of saving the staff, we escaped with our lives.

At the end of the graphic novel, having chosen to release the Batman, Two Face recites a line from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards."

The world can be a pretty scary place. Abuse. Slavery. Child prostitution. Starvation. War. Disease. Economic collapse. Job loss. Broken homes. The list goes on. We can sometimes wonder who is in charge. Have the inmates over run the asylum? Who cares? Left feeling like another card in the deck or the substitute trying to regain some control.

God is not ignorant or deaf. He hears the cry of the oppressed. When we find ourselves at the end of our rope, we open the door for more of Him. For one who feels out of control, in this I find comfort.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Top 5

Here are the plays of the day for first day of vacation...

1. I awoke in bed with my wife and to the sound of little feet. While this may not sound amazing, bit it is darn near a miracle in our lives.

2. Went with Cole to story time at the library this morning. The topic was animals. We sang songs, marched around the library as if we were various creatures, and played with stuffed animals. It was cute, and fun.

3. Cole gave me a Valentine..."I wrestle with you. I love you lots. Happy Valentines." Funny what is important to them.

4. Watched Nights in Rodanthe with Tara last night. It's a pretty good story with a sad ending. Good for cuddles, but not one you will walk away feeling happy. The book was better.

5. The Carolina - Duke Game...enough said

Asleep at the Wheel

Welcome to vacation. (The reason this blog post is not at 1 AM). It could have been, as I drove in after Community Group last night and got in pretty late. My friends in group were prepping me for the late trip, offering Red Bull and suggestions on staying awake. Holding a cold drink out in front of you was tempting, but was afraid if I fell asleep it would spill in my lap and cause me to wreck.

Cresting a hill, somewhere on 360, I stumbled into a scene from Cars. His truck, lit in running lights, played pong across the two lanes. Ten miles below the speed limit, I hung in his wake until I saw daylight and punched gas to power through the gap. Honestly, I hope the guy made it home.

It can be pretty easy to fall asleep at the wheel, in life. It can happen at work, in marriage, in relationships, church...You get into the rhythm of the road, making great progress at first. Something happens though and as you get tired, bored, monotony sets in, the rhythm never changes, your foot slowly rises from the pedal. What was once a straight trajectory, becomes a scribble across the page. If it does not change, you will eventually crash. Or end up somewhere you never intended to be.

How do you keep yourself "awake" in life?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Insert Your Record Here *

A-rod. Michael Phelps. Hakuroza. Santonio Holmes. Names that you probably have heard in the recent past. Ok, maybe not Hakuroza, he's a Russian sumo wrestler in Japan, oddly enough. Each of these sports figures have a few things in common. Relative fame and fortune. International attention. Drug allegations or admitted drug use.

Being in the limelight is not easy, but comes with the success and big salary. In Phelps case, he lost an endorsement with Kellogg's. Other companies he endorses have called it a non-issue. Is it an issue? Does an expectation of accountability come with the fame? Is your opinion different with performance enhancing drugs rather than recreational drugs? Is marijuana a performance enhancing drug when it comes to sumo?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Misery

Have you ever found yourself reading a book and wondering why you are even reading it. Waiting for my family to arrive last Friday, I was trolling the Richmond B&N, when I came upon 11,002 reasons to be unhappy. Intrigued, or maybe just a glutton for punishment, I picked it up and began to peruse. It's a massive stream of consciousness list, that took the authors 6 months to create. My question is, why did it take you so long?

In a recent blog post, one of the coauthors commented she had "become an expert in seeing the misery in just about anything." Maybe you can relate. This is probably the easiest field in which to become an expert. Seriously, all you have to do is read the newspaper, watch the news, check out a talk show or two, hang around the water cooler. People will help you master this skill. Misery loves company.

The elusive skill that seems hard to master is finding the joy in life. Taking our eyes off what we do not have and recognizing all that we have been given. This is hard for me sometimes, especially when I lose sight of hope. Without hope, there is little joy. Life is not meant to be endured, but enjoyed.

What is one thing that brings you joy?

Sin e'

On Saturday, Tara and I snuck away on an early Valentine's rendezvous at Sin e', an Irish pub, in downtown Richmond. I love places like this. We used to visit Tir Na Nog, another pub, in Raleigh when we lived there. Both are very rustic in appearance, in an old world style, lots of wood and stone. Curious quotes by an ancient pagan poet adorn the ceiling.

The food was amazing, Fish n' Chips of course. It was hard to steer away from the Shepherd's Pie, arguably my favorite food, but I had heard stories of the fish, which I will attest to now.

What I enjoy more than the decor and the food is the environment. The pub is a place of gathering, when no one's a stranger, only a friend yet met. The stones ring with stories, shared by companions on the journey. If only we could capture that essence and transport it with us.

A significant life is only possible through significant relationships. When I look back at how my life has been shaped over the years, as much as it was the situations or events, it was equally the people that I shared them with. Not casual acquaintances, but those that I have allowed behind the exterior armor. Those that I live life with, not just regale with stories that create false importance or fool to think I have it all together all the time.

What significant relationships have shaped your life?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Volcano

The view was serene. The boys were climbing around the play place, envisioning adventures they could only see in their minds. Tara and I were chatting while reclined on the couch, our attention half on each other and half on the mob of kids, bouncing and running within the confines of the play area at the mall in Richmond.

In Pompeii fashion, our world was shaken by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius magnitude. It started with one child screaming, which caused all parents radar to immediately ping. Heads swung from conversations as maternal and paternal instinct kicked into overdrive, visions of dismemberment in our heads.

At the center of attention, one child sat peaceful, as putrid brown sludge crept from pant legs and waistband. Her mother grabbing her, in hopes to lessen the damage, sent fecal meteors in various trajectories. I watched, bending at impossible angles to avoid, as one flew passed in slow motion. The steaming globule depositing itself mere inches from my hand.

This is one of those time when you wonder how could all of that come out of such a small child. Nothing was left free of the carnage. Then there was the wave of stench that rolled across the devastation.

"Don't worry, I'll clean it up." the embarrassed mother tried to console.

Moment lost, peace shattered, families fled in all directions, leaving the play place once again at peace, waiting for the next unsuspecting victims.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

One day


Moments like this make me smile. I want the camera, not just to capture the moment, but slow down time and allow us to live live there. Life goes too quick. Hourglass sands slip through our fingers as we watch the ones we love grow and change. Don't let these moments pass you by without a fight. Live richly, Love deeply.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Celebrate


Who says dinosaurs are extinct? Evidently they are Steeler fans as well. I found this dinosaur this summer while on a missions trip to Pittsburgh. At the time he was emerging out of a mural of Noah's ark. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday, when a friend sent me pictures from the victory parade in Pittsburgh, to find the dinosaur had joined the festivities.

Celebration is an important part of life. Success and good times can become easily lost among the myriad of responsibility and quick pace at which we live. Seldom do we erect monuments marking moments of great significance in our lives, that we can look back on in times of trial and struggle, resurrecting the joy of the occasion. Celebrations are cause to spend time doing what we love with people we love. Celebration allows us to relax and unwind, and reflect on that things that really matter in life.

What are the things you celebrate in your life?

Romantic Hot Dogs

Too many times, I have heard from struggling couples that "all the romance is gone" from our relationship. We work real hard to woo our partner, get married and then life happens. Work gets busy, you come home exhausted. The kids are going crazy or maybe they just want to play, to get attention. By the time they are in bed, you are ready to call it a day as well. Your love life feels like it has been left in the fridge too long.

Romance doesn't happen if we are not intentional about it.

The online dictionary defines romance as a love afair; a relationship between two lovers. I have found that romance is about making the one you love feel special. It requires time and attention, given to someone, not our own selfish needs.

It can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. I have had a romantic lunch with my wife at a hotdog stand. Nothing says romance like a hotdog. Compliment the one you love, tell them how much you love them creatively, surprise them with gifts, get a babysitter and go on a date. Make it a point to hug daily, plan time alone together, be physically initmate more often.

Romance will die from inattention, but only if you let it.

How do you keep the romance fire burning in your relationship?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Temptation

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to meet a childhood hero. Ok, he was not a hero, more like a villain. I was on a sales call in Florida, when I spied a sign, "Boba Fett here today." Curious, I stopped in and met Jeremy Bullock, the actor that played Boba Fett. I picked up a commemorative action figure that he signed, which I have displayed on occasion on my bookshelf.

While Logan was at school last Friday, I pulled out some of my old toys I keep in storage in our loft. Autographed baseballs, bobble heads, action figures, and of course the Boba Fett. I shared the toys with the Cole, but explained to him why the Boba Fett was unopened and that he could play with any toy except that one. I placed it on top of the bookshelf, safe above reaching hands.

Saturday morning, we were cleaning up the house and I went up to the loft to pick up the toys and put them away. As I topped the stairs I saw remnants of the packaging. I am sure I woke the neighbors with my bellow, "Who opened my Boba Fett?"

Silence. I questioned again. Tara joined in and Logan stepped forward. "But Cole gave it to me and told me to open it."

Why is it that we are drawn to the forbidden fruit? With all that we are given, we want more. It seems also that we are tempted most when we are feeling tired, hungry or powerless. Hungry in more than the physical sense, when we are desiring more, better or greater things. Are we so sure of grace, that we assume their will not be consequences?

There is a balance. You will have to leave the garden, you will feel pain, you will work hard, but I still love you , I will clothe you and I will watch over you. The boys faced their consequences, but I made sure they understood that I loved them and I even apologized for my initial anger. I understand, because I have received grace and a few consequences along the way.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Psalms

Reading the book of Psalms is like eating comfort food. You feel refreshed, like someone understands and it's going to be okay. No matter the struggle I can usually find solace there. It's amazing how, when you let it, the scriptures will read you.

I recently received The Gift of the Psalms from Thomas Nelson for review. The book is beautifully presented with a simple yet elegant cover and high quality paper. Fifty Psalms are presented with accompanying reflection by Lori Jones. Also included are three CDs, upon which thirty Psalms are dramatically performed by well known actors. Each of the tracks also includes the devotional, which I found unique.

Much like any devotional book, I found the author's reflections to be hit or miss. For some I felt like they captured the essence of the scripture well, others I was left wondering if we read the same verses.

I was initially apprehensive about listening to scripture on a CD. One friend even joked about my ability to stay awake listening to the Psalms on my way home. I began listening out of obligation, but found the performances enjoyable. Psalm 119, my favorite track on the CDs was a melody of voices, as various actors read small sections of the scripture.

As I alluded to earlier, scripture has a way of reading you just where you are. As I was driving over the last couple weeks, I have found myself going back to Psalm 42 and the devotional attached to it. My initial apprehension at having someone read the scripture was erased.

The book would make a good gift to someone about to take a new step in life, such as graduation or marriage or someone who finds themselves in the midst of one of life storms.

Talk isn't Cheap

I was sitting there minding my own business, once again at the local Barnes & Noble. I was about 150 pages into the new James Patterson novel, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a young man toting a backpack and computer bag. He was obviously looking for somewhere to sit, but seating is premium.

Inviting him to sit at my table, I turned back to my book. For the next hour and a half I read about 3 pages. Within seconds we embarked on a conversation that would take us from college, to the FBI, to Gnostic gospels, to Arabic languages, to stories, to Jerry Falwell, to confessions and maybe a little hope. It all began with being willing to put the book down and notice someone around me.

Earlier in the day, I had visited a local organization seeking a favor. As I began to talk with the Director, she introduced me to a member of their board. Our conversation took more twists and turns than a country road. I learned all about her kids, their church, the history of their organization. We talked about volunteer work I did after Hurricane Katrina. At the end of the conversation she invited me to live in their families home, if I needed a place to stay until my family could join me here in Yorktown. Mind blowing that this is someone I just met.

Conversations are opportunities waiting to happen. I am fascinated by people's willingness to share, when we take the time to notice them and acknowledge their existence. What would happen if we truly took an interest in the people around us?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snot

For Christmas, Logan got a "Gross Science" kit. It is filled with all the things little boys wonder about and love to play with. We have petri dishes in the closet growing bacteria from our breath, our spit, sweat from our toes and mucus from our nose. Amazingly, more bacteria is growing in the breath and sweat dishes.


With the weather being cold and uninviting this weekend we decided to break out the kit and have a little fun. One of the experiments was making fake snot out of gelatin. Included was green food coloring that was a color that I want only coming out of my body if I have already passed away. The instructions stated, "If you want runny snot, just add more water." Nice.


Upon seeing the oozing mixture, Logan exclaimed, "That is one kind of snot I would never eat." This was mildly disturbing, as I pondered what other kinds he had sampled.


The boys had fun creating the mess, but then did not want to touch the completed snot. Being the good dad and wanting to teach them the dangers of not washing your hands, I hid it in my palm and shook their hands. An amazing snot fight insued.


It made me think though about the messes we create. We have little problem creating them, but stuggle at times to own them. It is so much easier to leave them for someone else to clean up. We do it with work, the environment, relationships, sometimes even our own family. We can try to hide it, but what started off as a little mess can end up with snot all over the place.

What mess do you need to own today?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Six Rings

You watch your quarterback scramble. You have three defenders in your area, yet the ball comes your way. It floats for a brief moment over their outstretched arms, before landing in your hands. Falling out of bounds, your toes touch briefly. And then you get hit, not by an opponent but by your own team mates mauling you in congratulations.

My terrible towel was twisted, wrapped around my hand. I twisted it, chewed it, but did not wave it until the final play was complete and the Pittsburgh Steelers had won their record setting sixth Super Bowl. Wow! What an amazing game and culmination to some amazing stories.

Most people know Kurt Warner's story. From bag boy, to NFL Europe, to Arena Football, to the 1999 Super Bowl, to the bench and finally to the Super Bowl again. James Harrison, cut by the Steelers four times and Baltimore once, sets the record for the longest play in Super Bowl history. Arizona made an incredible comeback from being down 13 to take the lead with a little over 2 minutes to play. And of course Holmes amazing catch to clinch the game for Pittsburgh with 35 seconds left.

There were a lot of twists and turns in this game. My Inbox filled with text messages from well meaning Ravens fans, much love guys. The Brenneman's put up with my antics, and I was even thanked for "adding to the entertainment." Jordan Regas is my new favorite sports commentator..."all they have to do is score." I think he was just trying to make sure I did not have a heart attack.

Did you watch the game? Impressions? Funny stories from the party you attended? Favorite commercial?

Super Bowl

At the end of the day, there will be a new NFL champion. The Super Bowl will be over, the commercials will be the rave of the Internet and one team will become a footnote. There can be only one winner.

Both teams have risen to the challenge. They have each been counted out at one point or another. "Can't beat the big teams." "Never make it passed the first round." They have battled adversity, injuries and played hurt.

One team will celebrate. They will tour the talk shows, walk in parades, visit the White House and be remembered for the season they won. T-shirts will be sold, Sports Illustrated will give away leather bound commemorative sets, and they will be the measuring rod for statistics next season.

One team will leave their hearts on the field. They will watch the celebration with a certain numbness. Plays will be remembered that could have changed the game, but did not. Film will be reviewed, players will be traded or retired and for several months people may remember they were in the game, but not for long. Second place is seldom celebrated, or remembered.

Win or lose, what you do with it, determines the identity of the true Champion.