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Butt

June 15, 2011 2 comments

We’re easing into summer in West Michigan.  One day warm the next cold the next after that really hot and muggy.  Can’t make up its mind around here.  I’m ok with that.  The day I’m remembering was a really hot day.  I’m driving in the family van on my way to a meeting at our parent church about parent church things.  The meeting has very little to do with Embody, but I go because I want to stay connected to the folks over there.

In front of my van is an SUV with the window down.  And I see a frequent flick of cigarette ashes out the window.  Too frequent, I think.  So I start to count how many seconds between each time this person sticks their butt out the window.  Flick.  6 seconds.  Flick.  9 seconds.  Flick.  4 seconds.  Flick. 14 seconds.  Flick.  10 seconds.  Flick.  6 seconds.  I’m not making this up, I remember the numbers.  Now I’m starting to do the math in my head…that averages to about 8 seconds a flick. 

Through my mind I start to wonder about this person.  Mind you I’m still completely focused on their flicking.  I’m wondering if they are finding time to suck on that cigarette between each flick.  I’m also wondering how long that thing will last, and how long it would take them to light up another one.  Would they wait for a red light?  Would the use the dying cig to start the next one?  How would they do that with the responsibility of driving?  And that brings me to it…

The thing that is really bothering me is not that this person is smoking a cigarette.  I’ve had a few in my time (sorry to break it to you, mom).  So I’m not judging them on that.  As I’m thinking through all these questions the one that really starts to get my knickers in a twist is that it seems entirely too dangerous to be smoking in such a flick-often fashion while driving.  It must distract them from paying attention, right?

They get to South Washington and turn right.  I continue on 32nd to my meeting, and it strikes me: I haven’t been paying attention to my driving.  I’ve been watching so intently the frequency of this person’s ash flicking that I’ve been on autopilot.  Guess it’s safer to drive with your butt in your mouth than with this plank in my eye.

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Green Light

May 9, 2011 Comments off

The Hope of All Travelers

One morning I travelled from my home to the Boogaart residence.  Usually Dana drops off the Bis in the mornings, but on this day it was my pleasure to do so.  So…I turn on to 32nd and head East.  Their place is on the other side of town, and it takes between 8 and 12 minutes depending on how you hit the lights.

On this particular morning things seemed to align and the lights seemed to be timed out just so, and it was as if every driver on the road had been notified that I was on my way and to make way for me.  I hit every light at normal speed – not even having to slow down for cars that were picking up from a red light.  The lights in our town have a countdown to yellow, so you can tell how much time you’ve got.  I went through each light between 1 and 7 left on the countdown.  Amazing!

I was pretty sure that God had set up the timing.  The real test was at the very end because there is a left turn.  Now to make this perfect here’s what would have to happen.  First, the light has to be green and second, either: there is a perfect gap between cars coming the other direction…or…there is a train on the far side of the street keeping any traffic from coming the other direction.  On this day: perfect gap – didn’t have to really slow down at all (just enough to keep me from flipping over – per the usual turn).

I even met another parent dropping off their kid at the same home and we turned in perfect choreography.  Like in the movies – the whole thing.

There seem to be rare moments when everything aligns and it’s like you’re in a bubble of angelic guidance.  I get those every so often, and really enjoy it.  And I don’t want to do anything to mess it up (like speeding through a light or being impatient to keep it going just so).

When my life seems smooth I enjoy it.  When it seems I’m in God’s perfect will (whatever that means) I try not to mess it up, but rather let things happen or rather let God make things happen at God’s own pace.  Keeping in step with the Spirit is not the easiest thing.  I know there will be red lights, and even worse – I’ll be the one stuck behind the train.

Switching from cars to boats for a moment (Mr. Wallenberg, my high school English teacher, would hate my mixing of metaphors): When the wind has died down sometimes you’re just dead in the water.  The only thing to do is hoist the sails and wait for God’s next gust.  To pay attention and pray for some movement.  Eventually, the heavenly light turns green and things start to move. 

Sunday we had 12 guests in worship – 8 of them returners.  We hoisted sail in dead air for months and now it seems God is kicking up the air.  Weigh anchor, my friends, and hold on.  God may be up to something new.

Stand!

Alex in Armor

It was cold out last night.  I mean, cold.  You would think that May 2 would be a little warmer, but…I’m not in charge of that.  What I was in charge of last night was Bis and Alex because Dana was at a small group meeting with some friends from church.  What to do with the kids isn’t hard to figure out when it’s baseball season.  Alex had a game.  Now, normally I’m a parent helper (I won’t call myself a coach).  I stand by the bench keep a semblance of order.  It’s like corralling cats back there.  You’re up to bat, you’re on deck, you’re in the hole. You there! Stop eating rocks.  You get the picture.

But I had Bis on my own so I couldn’t do that job.  Instead I was two halves of a parent: one half watching Bis on the nearby playground…making sure nobody creepy was hanging out near her.  The other half was watching the game.  Alex was getting his first opportunity to play catcher.  Now, if you know Alex, you’ll know that he’s the smallest kid on the field and the lightest, but probably has the highest confidence level, so it was good.

I know there’s no “cute” in baseball, but he looked darn close in all that gear.  He stopped almost every ball that the machine pitched that night (something the coach said hardly any little kid will be able to do – so I’m a little proud).  But here’s the thing I’m most excited about (and I got it on video for you) Alex blocked the plate.

You have to understand that at this level of baseball (half a step up from t-ball) the catcher does very little of import.  He’s a glorified backstop.  Until the last batter of each inning.  That’s when no matter who is up to bat, no matter what kind of a hit, no matter how many on base – everybody runs home.  It’s a train of skinny kids with huge helmets coming one after another into home plate.

Alex got the ball and positioned himself in a place where he knew he would tag out any kid running home. And he did. My son, small of frame and large on confidence, stood in the face of the enemy without flinching. I was bursting with pride. And here’s what I got to thinking: When we cover ourselves with God’s armor we can stand in the face of the enemy’s attacks knowing that we are fortified, protected, and covered. Small though we may be, and however large the onslaught, there we can be having confidence in the One who goes before us and stands at our side and has our backs covered. Don’t be afraid.

Two Hobbies (Part 2)

April 28, 2011 2 comments

If you haven’t read (Part 1) yet, you might want to.  Or not.  Obviously it’s up to you.

I’m sharing two of my hobbies.  The first one was about smiling at people (surprisingly more difficult to pull of than you might think).  The second one is far less noble and in fact I’m kind of confessing my depraved self to you.  It’s this: I like to entertain super mean ideas.  I’ll explain.  I think of the most random and mean things to say or do when people wouldn’t expect them.  For instance: I’m out to dinner and the people at the next table have a little baby who is cooing and babbling – not even crying or fussing – and I fantasize about turning around abruptly and yelling, “Shut up!  Shut that baby up!” and then calmly returning to my hamburger.

I know.  Mean, right?  I’m sorry.  This stuff really goes through my head.  Here’s another one: I was at Western Theological Seminary the other day and there were people setting up for a fancy dinner that will happen later that evening.  The people were food service caterers from Hope College (which is a little sister of a school to Northwestern College in Orange City, IA).  I thought to myself – self, you should march in there like you have authority and strongly assert the following: “No, no, no!  We expressly asked for the RED tablecloths!  Aaargh!” and then storming out.

You might have some of these thoughts from time to time, but I really do have them about 20 times a day.  Mostly it’s cathartic for me.  I would never do any of those things.  They’re mean.  Might be funny, but mostly mean.  But now you know that about me.  Sorry if I blew my cover.  I’m really quite human.

What are some of your secret hobbies?  Seriously, tell me.  I would love to know.  I promise it feels good to get them out in the open.  Share them here.

Two Hobbies (Part 1)

April 27, 2011 2 comments

I have two hobbies that I think I will tell you about.  One is the kind of goody-two-shoes hobbie that everyone expects from a pastor.  The other is just the opposite.  It’s the kind of thing I shouldn’t tell you about.  But I will.

First is smiling at people.  Now, that sounds super lame, but there’s a trick to it.  If you just walk around smiling at people they will hate you.  For instance, I walked into the post office on Tuesday to mail my mom’s Mother’s Day/Birthday present (yes, I did double duty on the gift…if you have a problem with that try having a birthday on December 23 and then complain to me) and tried doing it the wrong way.  I just walked through the whole place with a big ol’ grin on my face.  First, it probably looks a little creepy – someone smiling for no apparent reason, especially at a post office.  I got looks from people.  They were the looks that said, “Hey, pal, what do you have to smile about?  You think your life is so great?  Better than mine?  Probably, but now I hate you.”

So, that’s the wrong way to do it.  The right way can actually be pretty great.  (Warning: if you try to do the following without meaning it, you can be perceived to be a pervert or suicide bomber.)  You have to, in your mind and heart wish the best for someone, then make eye contact and a split second after making eye contact you have to generate a very real smile.  The smile has to say, “I see you, and I think that if we were to take the time to talk to one another we would like each other.”  I would say that 92.5 percent of the time that I properly execute that kind of smile I get one in return, and I’m willing to bet that it surprises A LOT of people that they smile or that a stranger gave them that smile.  Try it, but you have to mean it or you’ll come off really creepy.

Ok, the other hobby.  I’ll put that in the next post.  I promise.  But, I’m telling you that if you have some semblance of a good picture in your mind about me it will be shattered when you find out what I like to do (It’s nothing creepy).  So, if you want to keep thinking I’m a stand-up guy, don’t read Part 2.

You Mean I’m Going To Look Like You?

Spring Break.  My kids were watching TV when I came downstairs this morning.  I was prepared for many questions like: what’s for breakfast? or when are we going to crazy-bounce? or will we see our friends this week? or can you help me in the bathroom?  But I wasn’t ready for the question that did come first.  The kids were watching the animated movie UP.  I could see that they were at the point of the movie where the old man was dealing with the loss of his wife after her death.

They heard my “Good morning” and Alex made his way into the kitchen to ask me, “What happens to us when we die?”

Ok.  Good morning.  “Well, Alex, the Bible tells us that when we die we live with God forever.”  “What about our bodies?”  Now, I’ve been struggling with teaching my children dualism.  It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with, but I just went ahead and embraced it for the moment until they are a little older and we can have a better conversation about the distinction or connectedness between the body and the soul.  “Our bodies go into the ground and our souls, our thoughts and who we are inside go to heaven to be with God…to keep living with Jesus forever…in fact the Bible tells us we’ll get a new body.”

“You mean I’m going to look like you?”

“Bad news for you kid.  The older you get the more you’ll look like me.  Take a look, buddy, because this is your future.”

Then it was back to the movie and breakfast and crazy-bounce prep.  I headed out the door to get ready for Easter and began thinking about the whole interaction.  Death lurks just beyond the next corner always, but because of Easter I don’t have to fear it, in fact the adventure only turns a page…but a preface to the rest of my time in God.

The real challenge is becoming the type of person I want my children to look like.  If they’re going to look like me, I better pay a little more attention to what they’re seeing, so that when they look in the mirror in 30 years they don’t mind passing along the type of person they’ve inherited.

One Thing Matters

March 31, 2011 3 comments

The vet said that Jack (our dog) needs to lose a little weight, but I don’t care today.  Today he gets an extra treat – the good kind that makes him spin in circles.  My own doctor tells me I should eat a little more healthy and exercise (which I am doing), but not today.  Today I don’t care.  My lawn is starting to come alive outside, and there are a lot of things to get working on out there, but I don’t care today.

I’m sitting in my living room looking out my window.  Here’s what I see: Eddy, my neighbor, is raking, and mowing and getting his flower beds ready for the big spring push.  People walk their dogs – owner and pet getting exercise.  No doubt those owners had an apple for lunch and washed it down with water and a vitamin.  But not me.  Not today.  Those things don’t matter today.  Why?  Because only one thing matters today: It’s Opening Day in the Major Leagues!!!

Alex got out of school early for parent-teacher conferences.  I sent Dana.  When he got home I had everything ready: we played catch in the back yard, came in and had hot dogs, chips and a coke.  As I’m cleaning up my plate, Alex comes screaming through the kitchen on his way to the TV “The Line-Up, The Line-Up!!!”  They were showing who was starting the season.  He hollered the names of the players and where they were in the line-up.

Opening Day always starts Spring.  I don’t really care what the calendar says, nor do I care about the temperature…Opening Day is the first day of Spring, and it means a fresh start.  This could be the year the Tigers meet the Cubs in the World Series.  This is the year that the Cy Young award goes to Justin Verlander.  Every rookie who gets their first hit today is a possible rookie of the year, every pitcher who gets a win and 15 strikeouts is a shoe-in for the Cy Young award.  Every team has a chance, and it’s like Sunday.

Every Sunday is a little Easter where new life is available, resurrection in every hymn, a response to God’s word pushing us into a new possibility, a fresh, green future following the One who opens the door to the Kingdom of God…the place, the time where we enter and move our world in the direction of God’s reign in the hearts of God’s creation. 

Nothing else matters!  The first pitch created a pop and snap on the first Easter morning, and every first pitch reminds me that we just started over.  Every day, a new first-pitch in Christ.

Play Ball!!!