Category Archives: Humility

…And Now I Know What to Change

bobby posting:

I spent all of last week as a Kaleo (leader) at a Christian sports camp called Kids Across America.  I’d been told that as a leader, the whole week would be a “bubble bath in Jesus.”  Sure enough, when I got to camp, there was a notecard on my bunk that said just that.  This week was about relaxation and rejuvenation and restoration.  But for me, it became about so much more.  I found myself growing significantly spiritually in all sorts of ways.  The  most profound though, was during our Men’s Bible study time.  The camp director took a room full of pastors and youth leaders and volunteers and walked us through a Biblical view of conflict.  I’m hoping that time changed the course of the rest of my life.  I know that’s a big statement, but I’m good at making those.  And I earnestly want it to be true.  Perhaps you can even join me in the change.

– –

During our first session, our teacher asked us to play word association with the word “conflict”.  Men all across the room began throwing out words:  misunderstanding, hurt, shame, loss, pain.  I chimed in with “tension.”  I could even feel my body clench as I said it out loud.  Conflict has always created that reaction in me.  Maybe it’s the peacemaker in me, that whole middle child thing, intervening and settling down and hoping for everyone to just get along.

We would’ve gone around the room again with more negative words and sour faces if it weren’t for Taido, my friend and mentor.  There was a lull, a quiet hush, and then Taido spoke up.

“Opportunity,” he said.

“What was that?” our teacher asked.

“Conflict creates opportunity.”

Opportunity?  Taido’s good at stuff like this.  He has a knack for always flipping the coin to the other side.  And usually, the other side of the coin looks pretty good.  If not always shinier, at least more interesting.

A light bulb clicked all around the room.  Conflict creates opportunity…for good.  Sure it wouldn’t be easy, but looking at conflict through the eyes of Christ changed things.  Immediately.  It was as if a veil had been removed from our eyes.  I know I began to see clearly.

You know all that pain and frustration I wrote about yesterday…the kind that came from seeing my friends always hugging and laughing after those “serious conversations”?  Well all that rose to the surface because I couldn’t possibly believe that conflict could create anything good, much less anything better than before.  I thought of conflict as a necessary evil, not a potential blessing.  Certainly not as an opportunity for God to have great victory in our lives.

But isn’t that the story of our God over and over and over again?  Isn’t this the God I know and love and follow?  Isn’t our God the one who came in the face of conflict and conquered it?  On the other side of that conflict, did the Apostles become bitter and broken?  Or did they come to life in ways they’d never dreamed of before?  Look at the Disciples in the Gospels.  Then look at them in the book of Acts.  They’re hardly recognizable.  So what happened?

Conflict.  At its worse.  Opportunity.  At its best.

– –

You ever set yourself up for failure?  I’m pretty bad about it.  Big, giant sweeping statements.  Writing blog posts about change that’s gonna come.  That kinda stuff.  I can already tell you where I’ll be weakest.  How do I know?  Because in the few days since I’ve been back from camp, I’ve already taken note of where I’m still missing the mark.

The little things.  Yep, those same little things that I’ve written about before.  Love is in the little things, right?  And in all the little things, where the conflict usually starts, that’s where I’m forgetting that “opportunity” is still sitting right there, waiting to be discovered and put into action.  I find myself waiting to pull out “opportunity” when the BIG conflict comes.  When a relationship is falling apart or a friend is let down terribly by a job or bad situation.

But opportunity’s knocking at spilled milk as well.  It’s tapping on your shoulder when you and your spouse are communicating terribly that day.  It’s whispering in your ear as you’re confronted over something you forgot to do.  It’s there beside you as you get tired late in the day and become selfish and lazy.  It’s everywhere.  In the BIG and little.

Conflict creates opportunity.  Do you see it?  I’ll keep trying to show you.  I’ll keep trying to see it myself.  Seeing is believing.  Believing in something good out of something bad?  That’s everything.

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A Change is Gonna Come

bobby posting:

A few months ago, I came across a statement that went something like this:  if you can’t remember the last time you changed your mind about anything significant, than perhaps you’re not willing to grow.  About a month after I read that little nugget, a group of guys posed this question to me:  how will the way you live your life look different five years from now?  Needless to say, the idea of change has been cycling through me like Lance on a climb.  I had no desire to become some old, crusty curmudgeon, stuck in my ways to the bitter end.  I wanted to grow.  And if you know anything about our God, if you admit to being willing to be stretched, well he answers that kind of prayer.  Gladly.  Certainly.  2011 has since, certainly been a year of growth.  Here’s just one of the changes I believe is coming out of me.  At least, I sure hope it is.

– –

In 2004, I made what I considered to be one of the wisest decisions of my young life.  I decided to move in with three of my best friends into a nice little, apartment right off campus.  The ViaChicago boys all living under the same roof for the first…and last…time.  Four solid Christian men together, constantly pushing each other further down the road to love and servanthood.  Well, that’s what we all desired going into the experiment.  But that year was tough.  We were all going through difficult things in our personal lives and collectively had a hard time managing expectations for this unit living together…as one unit.

The hardest part, though, was managing conflict.  Because we were all “solid Christian men”, we felt the need to constantly correct each other.  We’d sit down and have “serious conversations” and poke and prod for the deeper err beneath the error.  Frankly, I hated it.  And I let it show.  All.  The.  Time.

On a scale of 1-10, my ability at dealing with conflict was somewhere between zero and zero point one.  I hate to admit failure, but I sucked at conflict management.  Terribly.  I’d shut down and roll my eyes and respond with sarcasm.  And that’s when I would actually respond.  Most of the times I’d do my best to avoid the conversations altogether.  I’d dart from conflict like a deer after a rifle shot.  There’s a certain story that about me and a 2-on-2 basketball game and a shove and an f-bomb and me sprinting off into the night…but we don’t need to get into that.

As much as I hated being in the conflict itself, though, I hated even more the aftermath of the moment.  It just ate me alive.  The other three guys would come through the muck and mire with smiles on their muddy, ruddy faces.  They were somehow closer than they’d been before.  There’d be boyish laughter and manly hugs.  Hope would conquer heartache and new life would spring forth like a good rain.  For everyone.  Except me.

I’d sit there with my head tilted and eyes squinted, looking back and forth at these guys with a strange mixture of confusion and disgust.  How could these men enjoy each other’s company right now?  How could things magically be all good again?  How could anyone be for the better after conflict?

Conflict for me simply created more conflict.  It did not create anything of value.  And I couldn’t imagine a world in which anything was different.  I looked at my friends as inauthentic and insincere.  The thought that conflict had crafted them into something stronger, had chipped away and fashioned a faithfulness and fidelity among them was beyond my thought process.  Like a toddler with times tables, the concept was not only foreign, it seemed utterly useless.  Out of my reach.  Until recently.  Really recently, actually.  Like maybe a week ago recently.  A light bulb finally clicked.  Better late than never…

And that’s where we’ll go tomorrow.


Acedia. Me. And You.

bobby posting:

The way I see it, there are two different types of people in this world.

How many times have you heard that?  And it’s always two different, different types of people.  Are the people who are half-full the same as the people who prefer their Pop-Tarts un-toasted?  What about the people who never text and drive and the people who really don’t care for dessert?  Same folks?  Makes my head spin.

That being said, I have another set of two different types of people in the world:

1 / People who have no regrets.  Who are content with the way their life has played out.  Who learned from their struggles and hardships and are all the better for it.  Who keep moving forward.

2 / People who desperately want to change things.  Who want to hit the reset button.  Who have played it all out and are crying for a “do-over”.   Who hated learning the hard way and yearn for a new innocence.  Who long to go backward.

– –

I’m several pages into a new book, The Wisdom of Stability, and it has me thinking about returning to my roots.  I left Arkansas in 2002, primarily for college.  But the secondary reason, to see the world, was not too secondary.  I knew since I was a little kid that I wanted to experience life away from home.  When it came time, I didn’t even apply to a single in-state school.  Nothing within even 5 hours of home.  I was ready to go.

But in 2008, after years away, home came calling once again.  And home I came.  And home is certainly where my heart is.  Even if I find my heart wandering every now and then.

– –

In my book today, I came across a word I didn’t know.  Acedia.  Uh-SEE-dee-uh.  I love words.  Especially new ones.  And when I find one I’m not familiar with, I search for the meaning.  And for meaning beyond meaning.  I found some great writing by none other than Kathleen Norris (I strongly recommend it) that really made the word come alive to me.  Like an arrow piercing somewhere deeper within.  I had just shared this thought and idea of restlessness the day before with Taido.  But this word, acedia, not only clarified my current state, it magnified it.  This was no easy demon to dismiss.  Norris writes:

The early Christian monks regarded acedia as one of the worst of the eight “bad thoughts” that afflicted them. It was ranked with pride and anger, as all three have the potential to lead people into deep despair. Acedia in particular could shake the very foundations of monastic life: once a monk succumbed to the notion that his efforts at daily prayer and contemplation were futile, life loomed like a prison sentence, day after day of nothingness. In a similar way, acedia can make a once-treasured marriage or vocation seem oppressive and meaningless.

Nothing in my life seems oppressive and meaningless.  And I mean that.  But I can certainly see how seeds could be planted.  Quickly and deeply.  I’ll share those thoughts with you tomorrow.  How walking down one path for a while can cause you to look over your shoulder.  To wonder if you took the wrong turn.  To forget to even look at the road you’ve chosen.  In all of its goodness.  In all of its possibility.

Maybe you’ve been there before.  Maybe seeds are being planted in you right now.  Maybe you’re further down than I can imagine.  Either way, I’m hoping a little digging will uproot any growth that’s already found soil.


Bobby and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day / Part Three

bobby posting:

Ryan Bingham – “The Weary Kind”

And we pick it up, one last time.  It’s around 3pm, Saturday, March 12, 2011

– We’re tired.  Worn down.  Ready for rest.  We head up to the restaurant for lunch before we hit the road.  I’ve always wanted to make my own meal in a restaurant kitchen.  I get the green light from Mom and go to work on Bob’s World Famous BLT.  It’s a pretty perfect creation.  Toasted bread.  Lettuce.  Tomato.  Bacon.  Parmesan cheese.  Homemade Caesar dressing.  It’s a joy working in that environment.  Somewhere, not too far down in my soul, this is a dream of mine.  I grew up cooking right alongside my Mom.  Learning her tricks (add more butter).  The simple task of making this perfect sandwich is somewhat cathartic.  That and the homemade potato chips.  The whole process felt like Adam Sandler’s character late at night in Spanglish.  If you don’t know the scene I’m talking about, listen to my advice…again…and see that movie.  Lunch hit the spot.  In every possible way.

– We say our goodbyes, load up in the Subaru, and get ready to head on back to North Little Rock.  Ames is driving.  Abe’s in the back.  About 20 minutes down the road, he begins to get fussy.  Part of me begins to clench up.  Another part of me reaches to the CD player, turns on a beautiful song I’ve been drawn to recently, and witnesses my baby boy ease into peace like Florida’s waves at night.  I drift off to sleep.  All is well.  All is well.

– I wake up with an hour to go in the trip.  I look back and see Abe still napping.  He looks like a gift.  I take a picture.  I hold on to this moment as long as I can.

– Shortly thereafter, Abe wakes up and is ready to be home.  He communicates this clearly.  Effectively.  Maybe he should be a politician one day.  Or just cut the crap and be a dictator.  He knows how to let you know what he wants.  With authority.  And he’s relentless.  “Passionate”, Amy says.  “Feisty”, she adds.  “Menacing”, I mutter.

– Abe won’t give up.  Amy’s driving and trying to entertain Abe at the same time.  This might be a safety hazard.  Abe drops a toy.  Amy reaches back into the floorboard to pick it up for him.  As a consequence, tiff number twelve happens.  Just drive, I “politely” tell her.  Believe it or not, that last sentence may have been the first use of fiction in these blog posts.  I think I said something else.  I’ve since blocked it out.

I decide my energy will best be spent, for everyone’s sake, in the back with Abe.  I climb back, committed to entertain this boy like a circus clown.  We will be happy.  We will be happy.

– Abe laughs without abandon.  Over and over.  Wholeheartedly.  Fully.  Joyfully.  I read to him.  Sing with him.  Laugh back at him.  I’m wearing myself out and this magician is just about out of tricks, but there’s no greater reward than keeping a smile on your child’s face.  Cliche?  Sure.  But true?  Never written anything truer.

– As we pull closer and closer to home, with the sun beginning to set and the day drawing to an end, I reflect on the events that have unfolded.  I’d written down all the hard stuff earlier.  Now it was time to write the good.  Like making a good sandwich, I needed this experience.  My wife has been doing a great exercise all throughout 2011.  She regularly keeps a list of things she’s grateful for.  What a beautiful thing to do.  Inspiring.  So much so that I had to create mine.  In the midst of a royally crappy day, I decided to take off the blinders and see what I’d missed.  While sitting next to my boy, with a scribbling pen and fading daylight, here’s what I wrote:

* One of the greatest rear-window-sunsets of all-time.  Brilliant.  Beautiful

* Handing Honey Nut Cheerios one at time to Abe for a car ride snack.  Seeing his hand reach into mine and clasp.  Thinking of all the bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios I ate next to my dad growing up.  My spoon racing to keep up with him.

* Seeing a colt dashing thru a field.  Running full steam with those little locomotive legs to a larger horse.  To Dad?  That’s what I’m gonna believe.

*  The continual landscape portraits being painted outside my window.  Gorgeous countryside.  Cattle.  Trees.  Water.  Hills.  Sun.  Grass.  Eat your heart out Thomas Kinkade.

* Birds formed together like a black cloud, flying high in a massive group.  Splitting up.  Joining back together.  Smoothly.  Gracefully.

* “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?  I see a white dog looking at me, ” I read.  “Ruff ruff,” Abe responds.  Genius.

* Handing my boy his bottle.  Those strong arms tilting it up.  My hands running thru his soft hair.

* Breaking off a couple of cardboard pieces from two old hangers.  Letting Abe use them as drumsticks or magic wands.  Seeing him hold them out the window, enjoying the tension the wind provides.  Pulling them back in.  Repeat.  Release.  Cardboard swords sent back to the wild.

* “Free Falling” on the radio.  Cranking it up in the dark of the night.  Abe clapping along.  So the boy likes Tom Petty.  Score another one for Amy’s genes.

And that’s the list.  A couple more notes before the day ends…

– We pull into town, make our way home, unpack the car and put our boy down to bed.  I run to the score to grab us a pint of ice cream.  As I turn off my street, I see giant fireworks in the distance.  Blue and gold lighting up silently in the distance.  I drive quietly, looking up among the trees and streetlights to see these colors explode into the black.  And fade.  The blackboard erased.  Chalked up.  Cleaned off.  Just enough to make me look even higher up in the sky and say a quick, “Thank you.”

– At the store, I was looking for something else, but I come across a Ben and Jerry’s flavor named Dublin Mudslide.  It’s our 5 Year Anniversary trip to Ireland in the form of sugar, milk, and lots of chocolate.  Manna.  But much, much tastier.  God is good.

– I head home and we turn on a movie we’d rented earlier in the week.  127 Hours.  We sit and watch as this man fights for life.  To live.  Even days like this.  That days like today would be a welcome blessing.  That he’d probably be okay with a life full of days like today.  127 Hours made my 12 hours look like dust.  My heart is softened.  Awakened.  Filled.

– Amy and I head to bed.  I’d love to stop typing now, to let you know that tiff number 27 didn’t happen.  But somehow, flesh came forward once again.  And I have no idea what the fight was about now.  Fitting, right?  But I know that as I lied down to bed, knowing a time change was happening, that tomorrow was coming faster than today had the night before, that I was ready for morning’s mercies.

I was frustrated and tired.  Yet I felt God would win.  I believed the light of day would be a return to running in form.  I knew a change was gonna come.  If not in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day…then surely in tomorrow.

– And Sunday was good.  Not just good.  Very good.  Sunrise to sunset.


Bobby and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day / Part Two

bobby posting:

Joe Purdy – “Wash Away”

…and we pick up things up on Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 9:45am.

– Abe’s been fussy all morning.  To say the least.  After the choking incident especially, his reserves are empty.  The little man needs a big nap.  We put him down in a back office at the Restaurant and head to breakfast.  Peace restored.  Momentarily.

– I’ve been looking forward to this breakfast for a while.  A chance for us to just sit down with my Mom and check in on her and relax and enjoy some good food.  Unfortunately, that’s not happening.  Mom’s busy getting work done the whole time.  She gets up from the table to take our order to the kitchen instead of letting the waitress handle it.  She comes back with paperwork that needs to get done.  We get in a tiff.  Mom leaves the table again.  Amy goes to restore peace.  Amy comes back.  Mom comes back.  Breakfast is eaten.  Breakfast is over.  Dang.  Today is rough.  But I’m telling you, those are some great pancakes.  Did I taste vanilla?  Mmm…

– Mom has to head to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things for the restaurant.  Amy and I are going to hang tight and read while she’s gone.  Mom borrows our car.  And, incidentally, our books.  Amy and I are left with just each other.  And about 2 hours to kill.  I’m pretty sure tiff number three is happening somewhere in here.

– Tiff number three occurs like an on-again/off-again spring rain.  A couple rolls of thunder.  A little wet hair.  All in all, at least lightning didn’t show.  We sit in about twelve different spots inside and out at the marina.  Unable to find one spot comfortable enough to keep our restless selves situated.  Anxious to get on the boat, I must have checked on Abe at least 25 times.  I was committed to finding him awake at some point.

– Abe comes out after the 26th try.  Amy’s carrying him.  As is the routine, we head to change his diaper.  Without a changing table anywhere, we pop the trunk in the Subaru.  Abe’s rolling around and restless and ready to not be lying down.  He stands up in the back of the car without a new diaper on yet.  We think it’s kinda cute.  We even take a photo.  And then the rain starts pouring again.  This time from Abe.  All over the trunk.  Pee everywhere.  CD case?  Yep.  Grey sweatshirt?  Check.  My contented soul?  Yep.  Peed on that as well.

Before the Storm...

 

– Finally, Mom gets back from errands and says she wants to get on the boat with us.  She just has a couple quick things to do.  45 minutes later, we’re headed to the dock.  All our troubles are about to be washed away.  Surely…

– As we’re loading up, we realize the sunscreen we always have packed in Abe’s diaper bag isn’t there.  We head into the marina to buy some.  No sunscreen there.  A marina without sunscreen?  Isn’t that like an ugly Australian?  The folks inside tell us the boat has a canopy and to just use that.  Great advice, folks.  I think if we were studying this in English class, the teacher would’ve pointed out that what just happened was referred to as foreshadowing.

– We hop in the pontoon boat, embrace the beautiful, sunny day and head out on the water.  Life is good.  We’re a little worried about Abe getting too much sun, so we decide to set up that canopy.  I wrestle with it and do my best to rig it up, but I can’t find the appropriate tools necessary for it to hold in place.   Use the canopy, eh?  Nice.  While still working it out, the canopy decides it’s done staying in place.  The canvas and metal come sliding to the front and crashing down.  All I see is my son in harm’s way.  And then hear a loud bang.  I feel the weight of terror and anxiety.  My wife, on the other hand, felt the weight of the crash.  Son is safe.  Crying hysterically, but unharmed.  Amy, though, was slammed on her head.  Adrenaline is the only thing keeping her standing.

– And as she’s standing there, in the shock of the moment, I look at the inside of her arm.  A spider the size of Abe’s outstretched hand is sitting right there.  My wife hates spiders.  Like Indiana Jones hates snakes.  As I briskly alert her, I’m worried that in the midst of all her bodily flinging and flapping that Abe’s going to be tossed overboard as well.  I haven’t seen anyone move this quickly since a P90X infomercial.  Which got me thinking, maybe Amy could market this exercise routine?  I digress.  To make matters worse, we can’t find the spider afterwards.  For about three minutes.  Until we see it stuck on the back of Abe’s life jacket.  Are you kidding me?

I’m ready for the day to end.  But it has to get better at some point.  Right?

–   Wrong.  We’re trying to feed Abe.  He’s gone mad.  We don’t have any utensils.  Food is flying everywhere.  Someone videotape this and show it in Sex-Ed.  This is birth control at its best.

– Again, we move forward into the day and onto the lake.  We’re pushing on with forced smiles and reckless hope.  I push the boat to full throttle and announce to everyone, “Hey everyone, I’ve pushed the boat to full throttle.”  Within a beat of getting that sentence out, we  come to a crashing halt.  My Mom’s holding Abe at the front of the boat.  They both slam to the floor.  The jolt was so hard and violent that it easily could’ve sent them into the lake.  Abe’s ready to kill someone.  Judging by the looks on my mother and wife’s faces, they might be too.  I’m supposedly at fault here.  I promise them that I did nothing.  Right in the middle of the lake, we slammed into an underwater sandbar.  We’re stuck.  If this last little bit isn’t just the most incredible extended metaphor of a day gone bad…

– After 10 minutes of steaming anger, I decide to do something about the situation.  I strip to my grey boxer briefs, grab a paddle, and hop into the water.  Pushing and grunting and swearing like the Dad fixing a flat in Christmas Story, I finally get the boat unstuck.  I climb back in the boat, grey boxers and all, and sit in that captain’s seat.  Defeated and stripped down.  Literally.

– I have no idea how we managed to enjoy the rest of the ride around the lake, but we did.  It was certainly a minor miracle.  Maybe it was the fact that we finally figured out how to rig up the canopy safely.  Maybe it was how adorable our boy looked in a life jacket.  Regardless, after a while, we decided not to press our luck much more and instead headed back to the marina.  As safe and peaceful as the water seemed earlier, the shore was looking like the pearly gates right about then.

– As we pull up to the dock, a fishing guide boat is sitting next to our slip.  The owner looks serious, almost as serious as his boat.  I have room to maneuver, but I can’t exactly afford any significant error.  I’m cautious and careful.  And I’m just about sliding into home when I feel a clang, a bang, and a boom.  The roof of the marina juts out further and lower than you’d ever imagine and the canopy, that darn canopy, is fully erect.  The two collide and send the boat backward.  Edging near the fishing boat.  Edging near disaster.  Disaster somehow averted.  I breathe again.

Even though all ends up just fine, I still ride a quick tidal wave of emotions.  Embarrassment.  Anger.  Frustration.  Resignation.

Dry land was toxic to us all day.  Getting on the water was no better.  I find myself looking at the sky, tracing vapor trails with my eyes like I’m looking for a way out of this maze.  Hey, maybe we should get in a plane.  Maybe the air is the answer…

…And we’re almost home free.  I’ll be wrapping it up tomorrow.  It doesn’t get worse, but it might be a stretch to say it got much better.


Bobby and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day / Part One

bobby posting:

Stuart Murdoch – “Another Saturday”

My parents recently opened up a restaurant at a marina in Northwest Arkansas.  A few weeks ago I wrote here about heading up there for the opening.  Well this last weekend, the Harrison family made the three hour drive up there again for the official Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting ceremony.  And because we just wanted to see the family, eat good food, and maybe get out on the lake for a little sunny day stroll. Friday, all went pretty much according to plan.  But Saturday?  Saturday things changed.  All day long.

I’m not writing this for you.  No, no.  I’m writing this for me.  ViaChicago will serve as my journal today.  Let’s hope I find a way to leave the teenage angst out of it this go-around.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

– Abe wakes up a little earlier than normal.  No biggie.  We’re staying in a rent house with the family.  Everyone else is still sound asleep, so we’re trying to keep things quiet.  But he’s not exactly a menace or anything.  Yet.

– I decide to go for an early morning jog around the neighborhood.  Only the neighborhood just sort of ends.  So I head out on the main streets around the neighborhood.  That lack sidewalks.  And only have uneven, patchy grass.  Terrified of ankle sprains a week before I’m heading on a ski trip (it’s happened before), I tread lightly.  Knees are hurting when I get back.  But still, no biggie.

– Abe is no longer content.  He’s fussy.  Bored.  Upset.  Maybe a little tired.  Crying is happening.  No more staying quiet.

– I’m going to refer to any and all “fights” with the missus as “tiffs”.  All day long, we never really had a full-blown fight.  Well.  Maybe that’s a lie.  But nonetheless, tiff number one happened around this time.  Why?  Who knows?  Why do tiffs ever happen?  No one really remembers.  Do they?

– We decide to head to the marina for breakfast and to put Abe down for a morning nap.  He’s sleepy.  My Mom decides she’s joining us.  She just has to do her hair.  She’s a Southern woman.  Always has been.  Always will be.  Even when she lived in Chicago blizzards.  Just “doing her hair” means 45 minutes.  Abe’s unhappy about this decision.  He wants us to know that.

– Mom wants me to get her makeup out of my little sister’s bathroom.  Which my little sister’s boyfriend happens to be occupying at the time.  Mom doesn’t understand why I won’t go in there to retrieve said makeup, even if it means intruding on another man in a bathroom.  It’s man code.  You don’t do that.  You don’t put two lions in a cage.  You don’t put two lions in a cage.  Right?  Sounds right to me.  Think that may be inaccurate.  Anyway…

– Little sister gets out of bed to slam the door because we “were all being too loud while she was trying to sleep”.  She’s since apologized.  I’ve since stopped rolling my eyes like a little jerk.

– We load into car.  Abe’s still crying.  Have I mentioned that?

– A car in front of me is taking about 3 minutes to take a right turn into an empty parking lot.  I’m unhappy.  Chicago driver comes out of me.  I honk.  Perhaps excessively.  Perhaps.  I’m a jerk, again.

– I admit my immaturity in that situation to my wife.  Thank God for clarity.  And a sense of humor.  See what’s next…

– Mom tells me to take a left down another road for a “shortcut”.  Shortcut road looks like an old country highway.  I drive accordingly.  Shortcut road speed limit is not 47mph.  It is in fact 30mph.  I have an encounter with a mildly sarcastic Bethel Heights police officer to thank for that information.  And a $170 ticket.  Believe it or not, I wasn’t even a jerk to the cop.  If you know me, you know that’s a miracle.  Like water to wine.  On a side note…I’d be a lot more okay with paying ridiculously high traffic citations if the money went to a charity or a mission field.  Wouldn’t you?  To know my nearly 200 bucks was going to fresh water wells in Africa?  I might get me a Hemi.

–   Back on the road, driving 10 miles under the limit, Mom offers to pay my ticket.  It’s her fault, she says.  Because she made me take the shortcut.  I get upset with Mom for the offer.  Don’t want her trying to take care of me like a child.  I’m a big boy.  I can pay for my own ticket.  I’m also a big jerk.  Again.

– As we pull near the marina, Abe begins to choke on a bite of food in the backseat.  Screaming ensues.  I snap.  Man, I wish I was making myself sound better here.  Nope.  Major jerk this time.  For no real reason.  Abe’s okay, but is crying hysterically in the chaos and fear of the moment.  Tiff number two occurs. The word “tiff” may have been used incorrectly in that last sentence.

– We arrive at marina.  Safe and sound.  It’s about 9:45 in the morning.  And the day is just beginning.  No kidding.  I’ll save the rest for tomorrow.  Believe it or not, it doesn’t end here.


Payback

bobby posting:

Alexi Murdoch – “All My Days”

Last Friday I had one of those lovely little lunches with the parents.  My wife and I have had a healthy bit of double dating with them ever since we moved back home (to within 5 minutes of both of our parents’ houses).  We always laugh a lot and enjoy some good food.  But more than anything, we just enjoy each other.  It’s a really great place to be.  It makes me proud of Amy and my mom every time they laugh at/with each other.  That whole in-law thing can be tricky, but we’ve both been blessed with great relationships (after some work, I must add) on that front.  But that’s another blog post for another day.  After the meal, I did my normal routine and pretended to get out my wallet and offer to pick up the meal (which I have actually done…once).  At this point, my stepdad always snatches the check and always pays for it.  If we’re not completely broke, me and the missus pick up the tip.  Think my folks are losing on that deal, but they always seem gracious and generous and happy and pleased as can be about it all.  We are both always grateful and appreciative.  And most of the time, I feel some sense of being forever indebted to their kindness.  But should I?  Am I missing the point?

Later that day I hopped in my Pops’ suburban and headed over to his office to move out his things.  Both of my parents have recently been laid off.  I have been absolutely awestruck by their response to this monumental happening, but again…that’s another blog post for another day.  After 5 hours of grueling lifting and loading, of carrying a desk that had to be made from the most solid, giant, lead-filled tree ever made my God, the two of us had finally finished the task.  We’d cleared out his old work space and moved it all home, that giant piece of office furniture somehow lonely and out of place in his new “office space” in my sister’s old bedroom.  I felt worn out and weary, a bit sad and a lot sore.  I stepped outside and thought some good old end-of-the-day thoughts on the best place to do such a thing, the front porch.

I was feeling a tad bit guilty about my parents paying for our meal earlier.  Did me helping with the big move make up for it?  Were we even now?  Hey, maybe since the move was such a big task it made up for lunch and the last movie night that they’d paid for.  Did it make up for the ice cream date they picked up recently?  Maybe that’s going too far.

What about bigger things?  Would there be a way that I could ever pay them back for ways they supported me all through childhood?  Countless soccer trips with dues and hotel rooms and food and gas and equipment and time and time and time?  A car with insurance and more gas and way too much of a familiarity with local towing companies and car repair garages?  Home cooked meals almost every night of the week?  Half of what I owed for my college tuition?  A honeymoon in paradise?  A down payment on a house?  A closet full of clothes?  And of course, in all of it, I didn’t choose the cheapest option.  We didn’t exactly honeymoon in El Dorado, and for college I wasn’t exactly getting “in state” tuition, if you know what I mean.

Just writing it all out makes me realize a couple of things:

1 / I’ll never be able to write it “all”.  There’s things I’ve never even thought about.  There’s the doctor and dentist, and everything in between and after the crib and college.

2 / More importantly, though, it’s not about the money.  It never was.  It never should be.  Furthermore, my whole idea of “paying them back” is such a warped American idea that it completely misses the point.  What’s worse…this idea blatantly bleeds into another major walk of my life.

Spiritually, I find myself overwhelmed with the gift that God has given.  I find myself defeated with guilt and the thought that I’ll never be able to come close to that sacrifice of self.  I find myself hiding from God because I have not given “enough” recently or, better yet, ever.  I find myself justifying certain amounts of time I spend in Scripture, whether it’s a lot or a little.  I find myself playing that same game with prayer.  If I’m really lacking, God must be tapping his foot in anticipation for more.  If I’m really engrossed in all of it, God must be saying a prayer of gratitude and praise to Bobby for his faithfulness and generosity.

To put it simply, I think I’m missing the point.  In fact, I know I am.  Badly.

But you do it too, don’t you?  I’m not alone here.  That, in and of itself, is both comforting and confounding.  It’s bittersweet.  I wish we didn’t think like this.  I wish I didn’t think like this.  I wish I didn’t live like this.

My parent’s didn’t buy me lunch so that I’d help them move a bunch of boxes and office furniture.  Just like they didn’t give me lunch money growing up so that I’d rake the lawn and keep my room clean.  Okay, maybe that’s a bad example.  But seriously, they didn’t support me in every way growing up, financially and otherwise, so that I’d one day buy them a beach house and a sports car.  Although I think this dream did finally come to a crash in my Mom’s mind when I left the TV business for full-time ministry.

Listen, God didn’t give his Son so that we’d spend all of our waking hours doing our best to pay Him back for it.  In fact, why he did it isn’t as much of a mystery as we all often make it out to be.  The most widely known verse in the world tells us everything we need to know:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”

Did you catch it?  It’s right there and we miss it all the time.  I certainly missed it for the first 10 or so years of my Christian journey.  I still miss it often today.  Why did He give?  Why do the good parents of the world do the same?  Because they “so love” us.  That’s it.  They don’t give for any other reason. Man, that’s hard to hold on to.  It goes against everything we practice in our society.  There’s no payback.  No I.O.U. or even bartering.  There’s nothing there but love.  Yes, we are called to love back.  But we are loved regardless.  We are not so loved SO THAT we will express love in return.  That wouldn’t be love.  We’re simply loved…and that’s it.  Nothing else.

This kind of self realization can lend oneself to smile more and stress less, but that doesn’t mean that it makes everything easier.  It’s the kind of weighty understanding that makes you look at your folks and your God with something deeper.  It’s not that I want to pay them back anymore.  It’s that I want to love them back.  Sure that whole love thing is easier said than done.  But the doing, or at the very least, the trying, will certainly be worth it.  In fact, it will be “it”.  It’s something I’m just beginning to grasp as my wife is now nearly 5 months pregnant.  The love I already have for this child is beyond anything I’ve ever felt.  It’s the kind of love that would cause a man to put himself last, to give and give and give unconditionally.  I’m going to love this kid in spite of all those diapers that are soon to come.  Just like my parents did.  Just like my God does with the mess I still make everyday.  That’s love, and that’s all it is.  That’s all there is.