Monthly Archives: July 2013

Ghostman on third!

Mrs. Gwendolyn Jones’ third grade class was divided in half.  There was a good half and a bad half.  This was not a generalization of the social climate in the classroom.  There was quite literally a ‘good side’ and a ‘bad side’.

You had to earn the opportunity to move your desk to the good side.  You had to be quiet, do your work, clean up and be attentive.  I was good at three of those four things.  I was not good at being quiet.  As a result, my desk stayed on the bad side of the room practically all year.

If you were lucky enough to get promoted to the good side, you actually picked up your desk and chair and proudly moved them across the room.  However, if you acted up and got demoted to the bad side, you had to begrudgingly drag your desk (which immediately seemed five times heavier than before), back to the bad side.

Week after week, month after month, I sat on the bad side.  I watched my friends move their desks around.  I envied.  I coveted.

But, then there was one day, one glorious day, I earned the right to move to the good side.  When I got called up to the big leagues, I crammed all my books and papers in my desk (the really old-school kind with the flip-top) and scooted/strutted across to the good side.  Bye-bye, dark side.

My time (albeit short-lived) on the good side was amazing.  What made it extraordinary is that Mrs. Jones picked me to be one of two captains for a class kickball game.

More than just a ball.  A way of life.

More than just a ball. A way of life.

I loved kickball.  It was a way of life.  I can still remember how all my classmates kicked.  I know that Joe would kick it straight over first base.  Jesse would ground it by third.  Robert would slam into the outfield over second.  It’s what got me through the day.  Recesses was the second best time of the day.  First pitch in my backyard after school was the best.  Except, sometimes we didn’t have enough people to play.  There was nothing more devastating to a kickball aficionado than being ill-equipped to field a full team.  So, occasionally we would resort to two-on-two or even in the rarest of events, one-on-one kickball.  That’s when we relied heavily on the ghostman.

If you’re rusty on your backyard kickball terminology, having a “ghostman on third” meant that as a runner, you have advanced the bases as far as you can get on your own.  You made it all the way to third base and got stranded, leaving no one left to physically “bat” for your team.  So, we would make a declaration that there was a “ghostman” on third base (or whatever base you advanced to.) The only way for a ghostman to move to the next base was for you (the runner) to advance to the place where the ghostman was located, pushing the ghostman forward.

The purpose of the ghostman was to hold your spot while you did something else.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could have the ghostman with you all the time?  The boss needs a report?  Ghostman on Powerpoint!  Kids need a bath?  Ghostman in the tub!  License expiring?  Ghostman to the DMV!  Line too long at the grocery store?  Ghostman on lane seven!

The ghostman allowed you to still put points on the board even if you couldn’t get all the way home on your own.  The ghostman in kickball was like the Holy Spirit of playground sports.

I’ve been struggling a bit recently.  A few weeks ago, we did a spiritual gift survey in our Sunday school class.  I was not surprised at all with the top three categories, in fact, I quite expected the results.  But, the area that I scored the lowest in was discernment.  Huh?  Am I that bad at making a decision?  Am I that weak in understanding God’s will in my life?  Am I that oblivious to the Spirit’s guidance and influence over me?  What the heck?

I know, I know.  It’s just a book.  Books can be wrong.  But, the top of the spectrum is what I expected.  My top spiritual gifts are evangelism, leadership and administration.  Quite the conflict with discernment, wouldn’t you say?  Who wants spiritual guidance from someone who lacks confidence when assessing God’s will?  Who wants a leader who doesn’t judge well?

The book says that people with the gift of discernment know with confidence if individuals, teachings or motives are from God.  So, if I’m not able to interpret things clearly, I must be inserting myself where I don’t need to be.  I’m putting my needs first.  I’m not relying fully on God.  It’s frustrating because I’m trying to be obedient.  I’m trying to follow.  I think I’m going about my life the way God wants me to.

It’s a hard thing to deal with.  It’s difficult to be the head of your household and lead your family spiritually when you constantly are second guessing decisions.  It’s not easy being an executive at work and having to make decisions that effect hundreds of sales people and their clients.  Some times you just have to turn off the noise in order to hear things.

I had a refreshing drive home from work.  Typically, I have music playing all the time.  But, today I drove home in silence with the windows down so I could just listen.  I wanted to hear the cars.  I wanted to hear the breeze.  I wanted to hear the music in the car next to me.  I wanted to hear the clickclickclick of my turn indicator.

I think I need a ghostman to take my place so I can turn off all the rest of the noise in my head and just listen.  Listen to the world.  Listen to God.  Listen to my heart.  Just listen.  Maybe once I quiet down like Mrs. Jones wanted, then I can see what it’s like on the other side of the room.

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No one cares, Samuel.

Some kid’s book are pretty terrible.

Some are cute, some rhyme, some are playful, some have wonderful illustrations.  And some just suck.

We got one real gem from a kid’s meal.  Usually Chick-Fil-A has some good books like Clifford the Big Red Dog,  but Wild Animal Baby has a pretty rough plot line.  Try to follow me here.

Page 1-2: “Polly the Polar Bear.  Polly and her mom live where it is cold and snowy.”  OK, not bad so far.

Page 3-4: “Polly likes to climb on her Mom’s back and go for a ride.  When Polly and her mom get tired, they snuggle together for a nap.” Not bad, it’s cute and fuzzy.

Page 5-6: “Numbers.  How many puffins can you count?  Four puffins stand on a hillside.”  What! What happened to Polly?  You build the story and then just dismiss the bears?

Page 7-8: “Samuel can jump!  Can you jump?  Look at the kangaroo jump.” Where are the puffins?  Who the heck is Samuel?  How did we circumnavigate from the arctic to Australia?  Why is there suddenly a creepy skunk wearing overalls in the corner?

samuel

Page 9-10: “Look at the animal shape.  It is a duck.  Can you find the real duck on the next page?”  So…Samuel got killed off already?  Did a dingo eat him?  I’m so lost.

I’m certainly not saying that all children’s book need to have character depth and significant plot development, but there should at least be one train of thought, right?  And the language.  The language should at least reflect how people talk.  Try this line on for size:

“You burst upon our world like a comet, like birdsong in the silver silence of dawn, and how could we help but love you?”

If that’s not some over-thought poetic nonsense, I’m not sure what is.  Indulge me, tell me when the last time you used the phrase “silver silence of dawn”?

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading to my kids.  I love Dr. Seuss as much as the next dad.  My favorite is The Foot Book.  I read it all the time when I was a kid.  My dad and I would alternate reading pages and by the time we were done I had it all memorized.  I like the books that give me the chance to do voices or find an appropriate time to tickle the kids and make them laugh.

To say that today at work was challenging might be an understatement.  When I came home, two screaming things wielding plastic weapons sprinted toward me for a hug.  In approximately sixteen seconds, I learned what my son was just doing, that he was reprimanded for having an accident, that he went to Target and that he was highly curious about whether or not I had spaghetti in my belly.  After a long and stressful day all I wanted to do was sit down in silence.  But, instead I was assaulted with reading material.  During the first book, a Paddington Bear thriller, I read it without much passion and probably just exhaled in impatience the whole time.

But, then we read another one called Count Your Blessings.

I opened the book, having never read it before and was largely pessimistic about how much fun it was going to be.

Page 1-2: “I have so many blessings that I cannot count them all.  And they are very big even though I’m still so small.”  Great, I thought, this one is starting off nice and cheesy.

Page 3-4: “I’ve got seven happy days a week to rise and shine.  Six pretty morning glories bloom and twine.”  Oh yeah, lay on the cheese nice and thick.

Page 5-6: “Five bitsy toes to wriggle in the sand.  Four funny finger puppets on my hand.”  Why do we have so many books that use the word ‘wriggle?

Page 7-8: “Three cheerful friends who giggle and play.  Two little hands I fold to pray.”  Hmm, I haven’t prayed much today.

Page 9: “One little me with lots of love, counting all my blessings from the Lord above.”  You know, work was tough, but I do have a pretty good job that takes care of all my family’s financial needs.

Page 10: “Dear God, thank you for all my blessings for each new day, for the beautiful earth, for my amazing (yeah it said that) body, for all that gives me joy, for my friends and family.  Thank you for listening to me.  I love you!  Amen.”

Oh.

I don’t think reading this book was for my kid’s benefit.  I think it was for mine.

I seem to have forgotten my own advice.  There’s a retired coach that runs the gym where I play basketball each week.  God had placed him on my heart and I have been building a friendship with him.  It started by talking about the NBA playoffs and built to me asking him if I could pray for him during the week.  He wanted me to pray that his spirits would be uplifted.  I told him I would be praying for him and I did all week and continue to do so.  Last week, I shared with him that I had been praying for him all week and that he should read Isaiah 12.  It’s a passage that really stood out to me recently as I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah.  The passage says:

1 In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. 2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

God is my salvation.  God is awesome.  God has done glorious things.  A bad meeting doesn’t take that away.  A missed day at the gym or the fact that your DVR didn’t record your favorite marathon doesn’t give us reason to wallow in our self-pity.  This is a no-wallow zone.

It’s pretty hard to sit on the couch feeling sorry for yourself when you have your arms filled with beautiful, energetic kids who only want to hug on you and have you read them cheesy stories.

In the immortal words of philosopher Ice Cube, “It was a good day.”

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