Monthly Archives: June 2013

Let’s go streaking.

Breakout the celebratory piñata, this is my 30th post in 30 days.

pinata

I met my goal of writing every day for a month.  I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of joy out of putting my thoughts in order and sharing them.  I seem to learn more about myself when my words and thoughts are on the way out rather than trying to assess what’s going on inside.  Many times, I have an idea of what I want to say, but often it takes shape as I write.  Perhaps it’s bad form, but I don’t do a lot of refining and construction.  My posts have been more raw and spontaneous.  I use Evernote for all my note taking and have notes upon notes of thoughts, ideas, poems and projects left to share.

Now that I’ve completed my 30-day challenge and experienced the satisfaction that goes with creating something personal, I’m going to be more loose with my postings.  There will certainly be consecutive days, but there may be some gaps, too.  There are things I want to write about that require more research and time to develop than I have in a single day to post.

Here are some interesting stats.

  • Over the last 30 days, my blog has been read nearly 1100 times.
  • The blog has been read by people in the US, UK, Israel, Canada, Belgium, Madagascar (thanks Mahoneys!), India, Australia, Sweden, France, Malaysia, Ecuador, Jordan, German and Netherlands.  Wow!  I have no idea how these people found me.
  • Aside from the homepage, the individual posts with the most views are my first post, this one about wrestling and this one about my time as a lifeguard.

Over the last 30 days, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable and transparent.  I’ve laughed out loud at myself and I’ve shed some tears while writing these posts.  Early on, I referred to a question my Blogging Sherpa brought up when I was inquiring about audience.  She asked, “what would you do if you were guaranteed to never get anything in return except personal satisfaction?”  I found my answer.  I’d love it.  I’d certainly keep writing.  I understand the value of an outlet.  From time to time, I have gotten comments from some readers.  I sincerely appreciate all the thoughts, comments, texts and emails I’ve gotten in response to the blog.  You have really encouraged me and I hope you have laughed or been encouraged as well.

 

 

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One Fish, Two Fish. Dead Fish, Flush Fish.

Dun. Dun. Dun. Another One Bites the Dust.

Sadly, this will be the last post in the Trilogy of the Fish. It started here when we were given two fish (Siggi and Devo) over the weekend. Next, things escalated quickly when Siggi really did go “swimming with the fishes.” Then, yesterday I got the following texts from my wife.

Devo's dead.

Devo’s dead.

In the matter of just a few days, our kids had their first pets, their first experience with death and their first blasé response when confronted with death. Luckily (I think), we still have our loud, fat, missing-toothed bag of fur named Gilligan. He’s a 12ish-year-old cat and a cancer survivor. Yeah, he had a lumpectomy a few years ago. I’m pretty certain that Gilligan is immortal, so my kids can love on him for decades to come.

I got Gilligan when I was in college. He has lived in eight different residences, with two different college roommates, two different dogs, a cat, a wife and now two kids. During the day, the kids constantly want to yell at him, hug him, attempt to cut him with a toy knife (from a kitchen set), sit on him, cuddle with him, ski behind him while holding his tail and chase him. His tolerance for putting up with crap is low. Gilligan goes from I-love-you-I-love-you-pet-me-pet-me to I’m-gonna-punch-you-in-the-face in about six seconds flat.

Gilligan laying on a kid's puzzle box top

Gilligan laying on a kid’s puzzle box top

Gilligan has been a great pet. He’s put up with a lot. He’s brought a lot of laughs. He gave me companionship during some of the biggest moments of my life. He was with me in my first apartment by myself after college. He was with me when I moved into my first house. Gilligan was around when I got married (not in person) and when our kids were born (again, not in person).

Gilligan has helped protect our home, as evidenced here:

There (might) be a day when Gilligan gets bored enough with this world and decides to move on. When he does, our son will certainly wonder where Gilligan has gone. Our kids weren’t around the fish enough to really care about them, but they have been around the fur bag for their entire lives, and over a third of my life.

Once that day comes, it will surely be sad, but I see a silver lining. It gives me a teaching moment to describe a real heaven where we will go one day. I can describe the scene that John writes about in Revelation, minus all the wrath, destruction and pre-tribulational theology. Rylan read the chapter in his kid’s Bible tonight about Revelation. He loves the part that says, “Jesus will return again soon.”

I used to have visions where I was standing at the end of a diving board. Below me was a huge black chasm. The visions made me fearful and filled with anxiety over life, afterlife and my purpose. But, something happened. Once I started growing in my faith, exploring the truth and seeking answers, the visions drifted away. I know where my future home will be. I have complete comfort and peace in knowing where I will be once my body fails me.

In order to prepare for that day, I suppose I should put some thought in what I want done with my body so we can document the instructions. Casket? Cremation? Or flush down the toilet like Devo and Siggi?

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10 Life Lessons from the Movie Big

You know the scene.  Josh and Billy are walking down the street after a busy day of being kids.  They start singing –

The space goes down, down baby, down, down the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, sweet, sweet, don’t let me go. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. I met a girlfriend – a triscuit. She said, a triscuit – a biscuit. Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on the top. Ooh, Shelly’s out, walking down the street, ten times a week. I read it. I said it. I stole my momma’s credit. I’m cool. I’m hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times.

I have no idea what this song is, but I know that I’ll never forget it.

Big_Poster

Big came out the day after my 7th birthday in 1988.  If you’ve never seen this movie before, immediately stop what you’re doing and head to Netflix.  In case you haven’t seen this piece of cinematic wonder in a while, here’s a brief summary.   The movie is about a 12-year-old boy, Josh Baskin, who wishes to be ‘big’ in order to fit in and win over a lady.  The morning after he makes the wish, he wakes up a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks).

I have no idea how many times I’ve seen the movie, but it’s somewhere around 174 (just guessing).  Here are 10 lessons to apply to your life immediately.

1. Be happy with who you are…and when you are.

Zoltar Speaks

Zoltar Speaks

Josh was so frustrated with being a small 12-year-old and he just couldn’t stand it any more. After dropping a coin in the Zoltar Speaks machine, he wishes to completely bypass the most important years of his young life and skip right to being an adult just to fit in.  While you’re ‘growing up’ you have a lot of milestones to look forward to.

  • 10-years-old – double digits!
  • 13-years-old – you’re a teenager!
  • 16-years-old – you can drive!
  • 18-years-old – you can vote / you graduated high school!
  • 21-years-old – you can drink!
  • 25-years-old – you can save on insurance!
  • 30-years-old – you can kiss your youth goodbye!

After a while, there’s not a lot of personal milestones to anticipate.  Soon, you start getting excited about those milestones for your own kids.  No matter what age you are, you’re going to feel somewhat unfulfilled, too young, too old, too early, too late, too awkward, too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall, too carefree, too worrisome, too too too.  If we spend all our days waiting for what’s next, we’ll forget to pay attention of what’s going on now.  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

God made us in his image.  He planned for our existence at this very time.  He didn’t plan for us to be around in 1730 or 600 or 300 B.C.  He chose for you to be here now.  He chose the way we look.  He chose our skills.  He chose our weaknesses.  When we try to force changes or wish upon a Zoltar, we’re telling God that we think our plans are more important.*

*(They aren’t.)

2. Don’t forget about your friends.

big_joshbilly

As we get older our circle of influence grows wider and wider with the people we work with, go to church with or parents of the friends our kids hang out with.  But, I think over time our inner circle of really close friends thins out.  Graduation, relocation and reproduction all pull us away from the friends we used to see all the time.

During one scene, Josh and Billy are arguing because Josh’s job is consuming all his time.  Josh tells Billy that job is important.

Billy replies, “I’m your best friend. What’s more important than that, huh?”

We need to embrace our friends, both literally and figuratively.  Take the time to call people.  I struggle with this.  I get selfish with my time.  I might be on a three-hour drive across the state, but I just want to zone out and listen to music.  I truly miss several of my friends and I love that I can pick up where I left off with many of them.  It’s been hard moving to a new city and having to build my friend base over again.  I miss cutting up with my friends.  I miss serving my friends.  I miss being able to give them an actual hug (my man-card says I can do that from time to time.)

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

3. Realize that things are temporary.

big_apartment

Greatest.  Apartment.  Ever.  What kid (heck, what adult) didn’t want this bachelor pad.  Josh had a Pepsi machine (mine would have been Coke, but still…) in his apartment!  He had ridiculously high ceilings and a massive trampoline outfitted with rubber balls.  He had a basketball hoop.  Inside.  He had bunk beds (“I get to be on top!”)  He had a 6′ godzilla-blow-up-thing and pinball games.  This place was awesome.

But, Josh started to fall in love.  As he did, more and more of his time was spent at his girlfriend’s place, or out on dates.  Eventually, he started realizing how out of place he was and how much he just wanted to be back home as a kid.  His things became less and less important.  You could walk in his apartment and think he had the world on a string, but inside Josh was insecure and scared.

Who are we once you strip away all our belongings?  How much do we rely on our things for joy instead of relationships with God, family or friends?

4. You’re never too old to have fun.

This is probably the most iconic scene in Big and one of the most timeless scenes ever.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…”

5. Speak up if you don’t understand something.

A co-worker and I have created our own term.  When a vendor is trying to explain something to us and we just don’t quite follow what they are saying, we say that we “Tom Hanks it.”  Simply, this just means that the value proposition or main point is not being clearly communicated.

In this scene, Josh doesn’t understand how anyone could have fun with a building that turned into a robot.

6. You don’t have to blend in.

big_tuxedo

For the record, I believe that everyone should own a great piece of thrift store formal wear.  I have a couple of pretty stellar suits that haven’t been in style since Big came out.  I quite enjoy wearing them when I get the opportunity.

Josh made a heck of an entrance when he showed up to a company event dressed in an all-white tuxedo.  He didn’t blend in with all the other traditional black penguin-style tuxedos in the room.  If we were all preoccupied with being someone else, no one would be themselves.

7. Do things on your own terms.

big_dollars

Josh Baskin’s first paycheck working for the toy company was for $187.30.  Josh went to the bank (this was way before auto-draft) to cash his check and the cashier asked him a profound question.  “How do you want that?”

“Three dimes, a hundred-dollar bill and 87 ones.”

We should do what we want every now and then.  God still wants us to have fun.  He kinda invented it.  We have the physical ability to feel fun, excitement and spontaneity.

Ecclesiastes 3:13 reminds us that God wants us to have enjoyment, “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

8. Do what you love.

Billy: So you got a job, where you play with all these toys.

Josh: Yup!

Billy: And they’re gonna pay you for that!

Josh: Yup!

Billy: SUCKERS!

Colossians 3:23-24 tell us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Whether we are working in ministry or in secular careers, we should be working to benefit the Lord and we should love doing it.  Not everyone is called to work in ministry.  Some are called to serve in other industries that keep the world moving.  We need doctors, teachers, farmers, assembly line workers, white collars, blue collars and volunteers.  We need to prayerfully consider how our career could impact the church body and how our own personal ministries can penetrate the workplace.

9. Throw thermal pod.

big_wizard

Early in the movie, Josh is playing an old-school computer game and he can’t get past a certain level.  He is standing among slain ice dwarfs and has to defeat the evil wizard, but has no idea how.  Eventually, as Josh’s life experiences influenced him and gave him wisdom, he revisits the game and conquers the evil wizard with the command “throw thermal pod.”

We need to intentionally pray for wisdom to overcome our current and future dilemmas.  Solomon prayed and his “wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.”

There are over 200 references to wisdom throughout Scripture.  Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

10. Hug your mom.

big_mom

For heaven’s sake, hug your mom.

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The Day Noah Left

2001 was 12 years ago.  What’s up with that?

To put in perspective how this concept has blown my mind, here are some things that happened way back then.

  • Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod

  • A gallon of gas was $1.46
  • Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died in a crash at the Daytona International Speedway
  • The XFL was launched and subsequently flopped

xfl

  • The most popular movies included Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Shrek, Ocean’s Eleven and Pearl Harbor
  • Dharma & Greg, Everybody Loves Raymond and the Drew Carey Show were still on television
  • Terrorists attacked the US on 9/11 killing thousands of people

ny-times-september-12

  • Oklahoma Sooners beat the Florida State Seminoles (sadly) 13-2 in the Orange Bowl
  • Baltimore Ravens won the SuperBowl 34-7 over the New York Giants.  Ray Lewis was the MVP.
  • This was the top song of the year:

In 2001, I was entering my junior year of college.  I was enjoying waking up late and eating food from the cafeteria.  That year, our lacrosse team was 4-7.  That year, I broke up with someone for the first time.  I like to refer to that day (October 3, but I’m not keeping track) as my Independence Day.

So much has changed since 2001 both in our culture and in our lives.  I was a happy student, surrounded by impressive grades and great friends.  But, I was missing something and didn’t even know it.  God was doing a work in me that I wouldn’t see for many years to come.

During my junior year, I started taking the first of a couple semesters of poetry writing.  I recently remembered the following poem illustrating where my thoughts were at the time.

 

Today I watched Noah sail away

everyone in town had been helping him build

they’ve been working for weeks

I’ve been sleeping for years

but I heard he wasn’t going by himself

so I washed in the best stream, put on my best white suit

and brought my tools, even though I’m not a very good carpenter

 

As I walked up to the side of the ark

I was pushed aside by a pair of antelopes,

two beavers followed, damn, and some camels, too

even a couple of doves flew overhead. I didn’t see them though

but I knew they were there.

they seemed to have dropped a little something on my shoulder

 

So I took off my white jacket, hung it from the branch of an apple tree

and then the skies turned from friendly to mean, light to dark,

I heard a heavy thump at my feet, it was a ladder

and Noah, his wife and sons and their wives, and hundreds of animals

looked down and waited

 

Looking at the bottom rung of the ladder,

I realized all I had left were some problems

and a black umbrella to hide me from the rain.

 

It’s very humbling to look back at this poem and see how God was filling my thoughts and convicting me about how I was missing him.  It would be another couple years before I would make a decision to commit my life to following Christ, but the Holy Spirit was already working on me.  Poetry has always helped me understand myself.  The subconscious creeps in and lingers.

The loneliness, abandonment and disappointment I was feeling when I wrote the poem is completely different now.  God has accepted me.  Christ has redeemed me.  The Holy Spirit guides me.  The emptiness I felt has been replaced with hope.  The desperation I felt has been replaced with joy and satisfaction.  The shame I felt has been replaced with love.  I thought I was completely unworthy, but Christ showed me my value.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  -Ephesians 1:7-8

 

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Siggi’s dead.

Well, that didn’t take long.  If you read the post from yesterday, you might remember that we received two goldfish as a party favor at a kid’s birthday party.  Our son named one Devo and we named the other one Siggi.

Siggi’s dead.

fishbowl2

Siggi is (was) the floater on the left.

Elizabeth noticed that one of the fish had “taken a break” from swimming.  To eliminate the thought that he was napping, I poked him with my finger.

Uh oh.

Now what?  Well, we did what any parent of a nearly-three-year-old might do.  We started the cover up.  First, we had to dispose of the body.

“How are we going to get it out?  We don’t have one of those little nets,” asked Elizabeth.

“I think I’m just going to pick him up,” I said.  And I did.  I laid him on a paper towel and did a brief autopsy.  Yep, he wasn’t moving.  Elizabeth distracted Rylan as I jetted to the bathroom.  Upon entering the bathroom, it occurred to me that I actually had to use the bathroom.

Do I pee first?

Do I pee on the fish?

There was no need to waste two full tanks of water on separate flushes.  So I rationalized that I should be humane and dump the fish in a bowl of pee rather than pee on the dead fish.  It seemed like the dignified thing to do.  As I dropped the fish carcass into the bowl, it hit at such an angle that it appeared to glide through the water.  For a brief moment, I actually thought Siggi was alive and I would have to stick my hand in the pee-water and pull out our Lazarus fish.

“OK, the fish is gone,” I announced quietly back in the living room.  “Do we tell him?”

We considered our options.  We could go get another fish and complete the cover up.  Two fish entered, two fish would remain.  Or, we could try to have “the death talk” with our son and wonder if he would understand.  Or…

Or, we could hope he doesn’t notice one is missing.

“I kinda feel like we’re lying to our son,” I said.  “No,” Elizabeth added, “as long as the other one is still there, I think we’re OK.”  As we were spiraling towards denial, our son said, “I want to feed the fishies.”

Fishies.  Plural.  Great.

“Sure, buddy,” I replied.  “You can feed the fish.”

Singular.

I picked him up and held him next to the food and the bowl.  He grabbed a pinch of the $4.25 goldfish food from Walgreen’s and dropped it in the fishbowl.  “Yay, he’s eating it!”

Whew!  It appears as if we dodged a bullet today, but we still need to formulate a plan for when Devo kicks the bucket…er…bowl.

Until then, long live Devo.

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