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Saturdays are for Accomplishment

July 15, 2017

It’s true. I feel a major sense of accomplishment after I mow the jungle. Our goal is to one day give up the exotic flora  to have a lawn to mow; my goal is to one day have enough lawn to need a riding lawnmower (it’s a guy thing).

Saturday is mowing day. I’m sure I must have mowed the lawn in Seattle, but evidently mowing in the rain isn’t as memorable as mowing in the equivalent amount of humidity. In Seattle, sweat wicks off before it stains. In Florida, I look like I fell into the pool when I’m done. What can I saw? Mowing is good for the pores.

It’s also a day of discovery. Green stuff grows fast and long here, so it’s a surprise when I find Thunder’s favorite dumping grounds in the back yard (Grizzly’s favorite place is the patio). In the front yard, if I’m lucky it’s only our neighbor’s chi Sassy’s, but as often as not it’s the other neighbor’s German Shepherd, who likes to build mountains. Yuck.

Then there’s the fauna. We mostly have an agreement. The spiders now spin their webs above six feet so I don’t walk through them, and the squirrels have stopped throwing acorns, but every now and then I find something new. Today’s insect was Biblically instructive. I think it was a locust. Maybe you’ve had the image of John eating honeyed grasshoppers like popcorn, but just a couple of these monsters would be enough for a meal. I left that as a though experiment.

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I’d also say mowing is a good time for musical appreciation, but I listen to disco and old time rock and roll on my iPod. It’s impossible not to sing along when Donna Summers sings, “Hot, hot, hot!” I can only hope AC/DC and Bob Seeger come on when I’m in the backyard. It’s hard not to make non-mowing approved movements when those guitar riffs blast in my ears.

A good day is completing the yard, front and back, on one tank of gas and with no coronaries. Today was a good day. I typically have a long list of things to do, like sweep the patio (yuck) and clean the pool, chop down trees that weren’t there last week, and power wash the back wall so we can repaint, and then to repaint. In the summer, if I complete mowing, I’m happy.

Down here, winter is described as the weeks where you don’t break a sweat mowing. The rest of the months are, “What is that smell? Did Dad mow the jungle again?”

The cool-down period is almost as long as the mowing. In the South, you can’t shower when you’re wet. I know that sounds odd, but if you do, you’ll Never.Ever. Get. Dry. So you have to sit around until the sweat cools and the kids start throwing things at you while holding their nose.

I wonder if you sweat when you’re using a riding lawnmower?

Let’s Talk About Introverts

June 25, 2017

I am an introvert, and that surprises a lot of people.

I’m not shy; I don’t find social situations painful; I can speak and perform in front of small and large audiences; I enjoy parties and can often be the last guest to leave.

So what makes someone an introvert?  Not a clue, really, because like any group, we aren’t all alike. I’m a performance introvert, like many entertainers. I’m a decent actor and director, and take pleasure in both.

But they wear me out. Acting and directing, parties, social situations, and even church can exhaust me.

I’m married to a different kind of introvert. She is the opposite of the second paragraph of this post.

Given our druthers, we would both elect to stay home. We find comfort in each other’s presence, which doesn’t always mean interaction. She can work on her things and I can work on mine.

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This is why I don’t understand protesters.

In college, I was a theater major who accidentally earned three degrees. The one I value most was playwrighting. It’s funny, only one senior a year could graduate with honors in my program. A classmate was in the same situation I was, but focused more on acting than writing. She got the honors because I spent my time reviving New Playwright’s Theater, a program that showcased student writers. We mounted more than 30 plays over my four years in college. Many of us won awards for our writing. I coached about 50 students in writing, acting and directing; taught playwrighting classes to freshmen. But the extrovert got the honors. It sounds like I’m bitter, but I’m not. Ultimately she was the better bet to go on and make a name for herself.

As an introvert, I put others forward. I give credit where credit is due; I’ll promote others rather than myself, and in most jobs, that goes unrecognized. One of the things I love about the company I work for now is that they DO recognize it–and value–it.  The funny thing is our CEs and senior managers are extroverts. They also happen to be incredibly intelligent.

The biggest example of my introversion is when my family goes on  road trips while I stay home and work (they used to feel guilty about this, but they know better now). I have wonderful friends who promise to keep me busy while they’re gone. And they follow through with invitations and I pray they aren’t offended when I turn them down. I like being alone. I am sometimes lonely and I enjoy it.

Two of my kids are introverts, each in their own unique way, and the youngest is an extrovert. We drive her crazy. Completely up the wall. Our house is often silent. The tapping of keys, muted music, blessed stillness… until my extrovert can’t handle it anymore. Then it gets noisy.

I like individuals; I struggle with groups. My trick at parties is that to me it isn’t a group event, it’s a bunch of one-on-one encounters in a short space of time. If that’s not possible, I put on my observer hat and just watch. Extreme extroverts wind my clock down very fast. If I’m around them in the morning… torture.

What kind of vert are you? Intro-, Extro- Other-? Let’s talk about it.

 

The Stupidity of Global Warming/Climate Change

May 4, 2017

This post isn’t about whether there is GW/CC.  Maybe it’s real, maybe it’s just another cycle, maybe it’s cooked data, it just doesn’t matter. The truth of it is, there is nothing we can do to stop it. Drop everyone’s carbon emissions to zero and the planet itself will keep producing carbon. That whole “science denier” debate is ridiculous. Truth is, the planet goes through changes; that’s why we had ice ages and arid seasons throughout planet history.

The stupid part is all the money being spent on something that CANNOT BE CHANGED. Millions, perhaps billions of dollars are spent ‘researching.’  What, that it exist; who cares? Solutions that don’t work, again, who cares?

Stop giving money to these guys and instead fund the only thing that matters.

If the temperature goes up several degrees in the next decade, or drops a few, leading to regional or global ice age or drought, the only thing we need will be WATER.

Which, coincidentally, is what much of the world needs today. So stop wringing out pocketbooks for climate change and instead spend it on:

  • Means to cheaply make seawater drinking water.
  • Means to cheaply turn bad water into drinking water.
  • Means to cheaply create water from hydrogen and oxygen.
  • A global pipe system for, you guessed it, water. And some way to keep it from freezing or boiling on the way.

Let’s start in the areas of the world that have no water. Call me silly, but they’d be a good test case to making sure we have that life sustaining liquid wherever it’s needed.

Even if the seas dried up, the underground oceans dwarf what’s up top. Let’s solve the problems of usability and distribution. That’s needed today.

So the next time you see a protester screaming about global warming, tell them to go make water.

Don’t Judge Me!

April 30, 2017

It’s a common refrain these days, but it’s been around since the beginning. Fear of judgment, fear of being weighed and found wanting. In fact it was Eve’s motivation for the first sin.

You might think that the first sin was Eve eating the forbidden fruit, but it wasn’t. The fruit came from the tree that granted knowledge of right and wrong. Whether you believe it was literal or symbolic, or both, it doesn’t matter (though if you don’t think food can alter the state of your mind, you should talk to my nephew about his love for certain mushrooms).

Prior to the mind altering experience, Adam and Eve were, in essence, driven by instinct. Nothing was off base for them, other than the forbidden fruit, they were as unself-conscious as a dog or cat. They were motivated by stimulus-response, like your pet. I’m not saying the weren’t smart; we have smart dogs, pigs and dolphins; Adam and Eve were a good deal smarter. They knew not to eat the fruit the way Thunder knows not to do dookie in the house; he’ll be disciplined if he does.

In the pet scenario, Grizzly, our Chihuahua, is Satan and Thunder is Eve. Grizz uses puppy-pads because he’s afraid of hawks; Thunder has tried that, but he’s barked at (by us) and knows the consequences.

Eve was tempted, but without the knowledge of good and evil, it wasn’t sin. Ah, but once she gained the knowledge of good and evil, she knew what she had done. She became self-conscious and feared judgment. The first sin is when Eve offered Adam the fruit, knowing it was wrong, hoping to share the blame. (Let no one make hay that sin is women’s fault; if Adam had gone first, he’d have done the same thing. Some denominations like to say the first sin was Adam not leading his wife. Bosh. You can’t lead without knowing the dangers of evil. Eve represents people, not a gender).

Something new had been introduced to humanity. Instead of instinct, or stimulus-response, it was now reason; stimulus-consideration-response. Some instincts are intact; fight-or-flight, instant reaction to pain, but for the first time, Adam and Eve had to ask, “is this right or wrong?”

“We are naked, Lord.” We are exposed, and we don’t like it. We have done wrong and you’re going to judge me. And he did judge them.

Was this awful of God? He knew the fruit was going to be salad for them. But here’s the thing. Pets are wonderful. They love without judgment (because they don’t know good from evil), but they don’t rationally love. If you feed and water them, treat them well, and don’t abuse them, they will “love” you. They have no choice.

Now think about if they knew right from wrong. Consider all they’ve seen; consider them judging you for what they know about you. All the food and care in the world won’t make them love you; now they have a choice. Most of us wouldn’t have dogs anymore.

That’s what God gave us. The ability to reject him. Because without that ability, it ain’t really love.

Today the knowledge of good and evil seems really screwed up. The cry of “Don’t Judge Me” is shouted loud and long. They’re right of course. We don’t have the right to judge one another, because we are not without sin ourselves.

But we do.

In our heart of hearts, we judge. All these movements of “my sin isn’t wrong!” works to a point. We don’t outwardly judge (thank goodness), but inwardly, yeah, admit it, we do. We may argue with ourselves, we may delude ourselves, but we know.  That’s wrong. Whatever it is. The fruit gave us that ability.

It goes back to my last post. “I’m unlovable!” plus “Don’t judge me!” equals, “I’m unlovable but love me anyway!”

We couldn’t if God didn’t first love us; that he does means we must.

But not judging doesn’t take the sin away; the unlovelyness. We can gloss it over, but eventually we’ll come up against the one who has the right to judge. Let him take the sin away first. Repent and believe that Jesus is enough. Because he HAS taken your unlovelyness and made you lovely.

The Age of Innocence

April 20, 2017

No, not a title of a book or movie (well, maybe, but not how I’m using the term), the Age of Innocence is that creeping moment when a person becomes truly accountable for their own actions. In a faith-based household, it’s when a child becomes responsible for being a sinner. In a non-faith home, it’s when kids become accountable to the law, or morally responsible (“you should know better!”).

I think it’s more than that.  First, it isn’t an age, but a dawning awareness, much of if subconscious, that we really are sinners (or non-perfect). It doesn’t manifest this way, though, because, like Adam and Eve, we want to hide our sin and our awareness of sin (or imperfection). I don’t think the word “sin” is used in their heads, it’s more of an emotional awareness, and it’s expressed in a fearful thought, quickly buried:

“I am unlovable.”

This will never be expressed by a child. Such fears are unvoiced, but it manifests in anger, arrogance, and deception. In acting out. It’s a childish test. “If I’m bad and you don’t kill me, maybe I am lovable), but such behavior actually only confirms it to their little hearts.

In grace-filled homes that confront this, the kids might not struggle with this as much (but everyone does, because (gasp!) it’s true.)

In legalistic homes, or strict homes, or permissive homes, the struggles will be, as someone-who-shall-not-be-named, “’UGE!”

I believe this fear is responsible for a whole lot of stuff, if not everything, in a teenager’s life. What we do with our bodies, who we give it to, the bad, bad choices we make in significant others, it’s a long list.

Touching the third-rail, I think this is largely responsible for LGBTQRSTW stuff.

It’s why a kid will “fall in love” with a jerk, not because of who that person is but because “that person loves me!” It’s why a kid will go psycho when their first xfriend breaks up with them, because “oh my gosh, if that person doesn’t love me, NO ONE WILL!”

You think the idea that “I’m unlovable” is a lie on its face. But it’s worse than that. It’s the truth.

But it’s also not.

I am firmly convinced that if anyone was telepathic and could read other people’s minds, they would go insane. Our minds, hearts and thoughts are snake-pits. Anyone who truly knew us would HATE us.

Almost anyone.

God doesn’t.

I’ve argued with Him about this. “But God, I’m horrible!”

“Yes you are, but I covered it for you. Cross, resurrection, faith. I don’t see those horrible things any more. I love you.”

“But they’re still there!”

“No they’re not.”

“Pretty sure they are.”

“Try letting go.”

“Can’t do it, I’m still a mess.”

“But you won’t be. So relax. I love you, believe me.”

You should believe Him, too.

Our pastor last Sunday quoted a nut who said, among other things, “We must reinterpret our understanding of the Bible.”  She meant we shouldn’t actually believe in God anymore, but I think it’s wise advice in that my understanding was simple (Sunday school level), and that without disregarding the truth, I must reinterpret from an adult level, with more complex understanding.

This post is an example of that.

I don’t understand how anything other than belief in Christ fixes this “I’m unlovable” problem. Because it’s true, it must be dealt with. There is no other way to deal with it than with Jesus.

My dear, beloved, sainted mother did her best to let me know I was lovable. She told me so, she praised me, she was so amazingly positive. But inside I knew the truth, and that what she said wasn’t true. We went to church a little bit when I was a kid, my mom had faith, but I never heard/understood the Gospel. She didn’t say, “yes, you have a sin problem, but I love you any way.” I never knew that other people had sin problems (or in my head, :I’m a monster, You’re not!”).

At church, I teach a class of young kids. Many of them haven’t ended or even started to end the age of innocence (innocence = I am lovable).  Some are starting. They are getting that the Gospel is more than just a “sure, OK” thing, but a “wait, does this mean something to me?” thing. It’s wonderful to be their teacher at that age.

The plaintive cry of any sinner (meaning anyone) is, “Somebody, please, LOVE ME!”

But do we know what love is? Love is total knowledge of someone and accepting them anyway. I love my wife. I love my kids, my sisters, my niece and nephews, but I I don’t fully know them. I can’t read the transcript of their thoughts, and believe me, they don’t want me to. Because they know. To know me is to not love me.

So imagine. The only being who fully knows you is God. And he gave his life for you so that you might be… lovable. Both being worthy of it and being able to give it.

Oh my.

I am lovable!

My next post will be looking at “judging” in light of this. Feel free to pant with anticipation.

 

 

The Sixth Love Language

March 24, 2017

Gary Smalley, may he rest in peace, coined the five love languages:

  • gifts,
  • quality time,
  • words of affirmation,
  • acts of service (devotion),
  • and physical touch.

My wife adroitly pointed out a sixth love language all my own: Food.

She is so right. When I found out the kids aren’t going to be home tonight, my immediate thought was not “flowers,” but “Dinner!”  My mind raced through the possibilities. Fettuccini Alfredo, pizza, Public’s subs (the gourmet’s sub sandwich)… maybe a cheesecake, or Crunch bars (my wife’s secondary love language)… cook or take out? I’m breathing heavy just thinking about it.

My wife’s primary love language is Quality Time. We (I) blend hers with mine and we spend time over good food.

That’s why I’m fat, because I’m passionate.

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Can I just say, “Heaven!”

Even our Valentine’s Day family tradition is home-made, heart-shaped pizza. Christmas, we eat enough food to stuff Chinese orphans all over the world.

My idea of Cupid is a fellow with a delivery cap and a hand out for tips (I normally avoid them by picking it up myself. I’m a lover, not a spender).

I love kitchen aisles more than other men love Home Depot. My kids get me cooking utensils and appliances for Christmas.

If I had more energy, I’d be a cook instead of a guest. I’ve often reflected that what I thought was a teenage love of chemistry was really a love for molecular gastronomy.

My idea of poetry begins and ends with A Visit from St. Nick, which combines my primary and secondary love languages, at least a metaphor for food and sleep. “…all snug in their beds while thoughts of sugar plums dance in their heads…” Sure, they aren’t asleep yet, but snug in bed is the heart of joy, and while sugar plums aren’t actually food, but an old English term for metaphorical sweetness (as in words – another love language, i.e. “sugar plums fell from his lips” which means he’s speaking sweet nothings) or syrupy romance (NOT a love language, I’ll deal with it.

Perhaps because I have no love of morning, I don’t eat breakfast before noon, but often after six. Breakfast for dinner is an ecstatic conundrum. (I admit, that’s why I don’t attend Men’s Breakfast at church. Not only is it a sin to wake up and move early on Saturdays, morning breakfast makes me gag. Am I the only one who wants Men’s Lunches? Maybe we could meet in the middle with Men’s Brunch?)

The fact that I like to eat at night speaks to the stars being the beacons of love. Hmmm, I wonder what starlight tastes like?

Is America a Christian Country?

March 20, 2017

The short answer is Yes, and No, and Sort Of.

First, I’m not sure a country can be Christian, which I’m pretty sure is reserve for people. That being said, the roots of America are decidedly Christian. Each of the colonies was a different denomination – they were all sorts of Christians. Some were so antagonistic toward each other that the founding fathers made it clear that on a federal level, no church would hold sway over the state choices.

Much is made of the fact that many of the founders weren’t Christians, or were bad Christians, or simply Deists. That view side steps the fact that the founders were at least informed by the Christian worldview and the moral principles of Christianity.

There’s also the pesky “Our creator endowed us with inalienable rights….” While many of the founders may well have been versed in several religion’s creators, they most certainly aligned with God the Father. (As an aside, certain politicians have gone on record that it’s the government who endows us with those rights; vote ’em down if they don’t know government merely secures the rights inherent in people. It’s a nightmare to believe otherwise.)

Then one has to ask, is this the kind of country Jesus would have founded? The answer is yes on the broad plane, in that he founds all of them; but is America going to be the model for the New Jerusalem? I’d think no.

Harken back to that fundamental miracle of the founders; the idea that all people are created equal before the law. That we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This was not a unique thought (the Bible certainly ascribes to it, since Jesus came to set us free), but it was the first time government founders had such a thought.

We’ve become confused today, trading “fair” for freedom and thereby achieving neither. Equal and fair seem to have bedazzled America lately.  “Equal” refers to the law, in that a poor person should be treated the same as a rich one.  It does not equal opportunity. We have mixed up equal with pursuit of happiness.  Life isn’t fair.  Some will start on a lower societal rung that others. It is easier for some people (I am not saying “white people” because there are downtrodden white people), and harder for others. But few just walk into prominence, and those that do, still have to work to stay there.

We are a product of our choices and those of our parents and community. If those are poison influences, it may require Herculean effort to break free, but it’s up to you to do it. And sadly, if don’t make the effort, it isn’t anyone’s fault but your own. We can take steps to make it easier, certainly, but we shouldn’t guarantee it. Hand outs are seldom hand ups.

We’ve also allowed unbridled compassion to take us down some truly stupid roads, believing “freedom” means embracing immoral behavior. Compassion without morality is a fire that engulfs reason. I am not saying people who indulge in such behavior should be stopped if it isn’t harming anyone; freedom does apply to such people, but it’s wayward compassion that believes we must embrace such behavior. Redefining morality when morality isn’t ours to define has proven to be a trap.

Is America a Christian country? I believe God is very active here, that there is a vast remnant of believers, and that He blesses us beyond reason. It also welcomes (or should) people of differing mindsets, as long as they embrace the ideals of America. If you can’t get behind freedom, respect and individual pursuit of happiness, then don’t come here. If you desire to change America from the founder’s dream, then don’t come here and leave if you are here. You owe it to yourself to find a country that you can support, rather than trying to change ours from the original intent (which were bad at for a long time and are finally getting to place where we can try it for real).

God bless America and God bless you!