Archive for the ‘Daily Life’ Category

Vacations are good.

December 1, 2009

Holidays are great. I’m learning to appreciate them more and more. I’ve never been a “special occasion” person. I’ve always been more of an every day kind of guy. But the harder work gets, and the more responsibilities I get, the more I get what vacations are about. I guess I vacationed from blogging for a bit, too. Too busy livin’.

First, the swim team that I coach hosted a swim meet comprised entirely of other small teams like our own. It’s a fun meet, and very little pressure. While last year was a bit hiccupy because I didn’t know what I was doing, this year went great. I even got to sing the national anthem in front of a couple hundred people (well, they were turned around looking at the flag, so that made it easier). We didn’t win the meet–didn’t even come close, actually, but we had a good time anyway.

Next, the fam and I packed up and headed to Mississippi for Thanksgiving. April and I got to see New Moon, which, having read and enjoyed the books, was way better to me than the first movie. And the audience participation made it really fun. The first time Taylor Lautner pulled his shirt off, girls all over the room gasped and one whispered “There it is!” The whole movie flowed better and the effects did a good job of translating some stuff onto the screen from the book. I am told I HAVE to see The Blind Side as soon as I can, too, so that’s next on my list. I always get a kick watching Sandra Bullock because I know my dad fixed her teeth once.

Next I got to go to the Big Easy for a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, an organization which probably requires no explanation. A good friend of mine is working to establish himself in the field of Biblical Studies, and he wanted a wingman for the conference to help him navigate the lingo and the nuances of that world. Turns out, he’s got his way figured out pretty well already. So I just sat in on a few readings of papers (most of which were snoozers, honestly) and shopped for souvenirs for my girls.

My morning runs were great! Since our hotel was a few blocks from the river, I got to run down Canal Street, then along the Mississippi River for a mile or so, then back through the French Quarter, past dozens of fun-looking shops and famous restaurants, then back to the hotel. I picked up some authentic Mardi Gras masks for my girls (who subsequently kept them on for several days after I got home!) and a cute Saints shirt for April.

New Orleans has got Saints fever this year like you wouldn’t believe! As soon as I pulled into town, just as I was passing the Superdome, I heard “WHO DAT? WHO DAT? WHO DAT SAY THEY GONNA BEAT THEM SAINTS? WHO DAT?” and then of course a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.” That was alot of fun. In fact, in one half hour period I heard local radio stations play three songs which mentioned the Saints, including one called “I Believe in the Power of Love,” which features a line about the Saints going to the Super Bowl. Growing up in Mississippi, the Saints were our closest team, so they were our team. Plus, my folks went to school with Archie Manning and his wife, so we root for his team. Bill made sure I had a good Cajun meal at Mother’s before we left. The Crawfish Etouffe was fantastic!

The rest of the week was hangout time with family. My baby sister Catherine (who is almost done with Dental school now) hosted the extended family at her new place for Thanksgiving. The food was excellent, as it is every year, and like always I ate so much that there was no room for dessert. The kids had a blast playing with cousins (so did I) and the weather was great. Hanging out with cousins is another one of those things that you appreciate more as time goes on. It somehow gets more meaningful every time. There’s something about being with people who knew you when you were just a kid and so goofy all the time. Once you’re grown up, getting together with them reminds you of what it was like when life was simpler, less stressful. Sigh.

Well, we had some good hangout time with April’s folks and with mine, plus we threw in some shopping and a second showing of New Moon, so it really felt like a vacation by the time we were done. Funny how it takes three or four days to fall into vacation mode, and it’s too bad that you don’t get to start the trip at that point. But I’m still glad it comes when it does.

Now it’s back to work and juggling schedules…but only three weeks before we get to go back again! Looking forward to more R & R. Vacations are good.

Oh yeah, and the Saints beat the Patriots. Where I’m from, that’s beginning to look like one of the signs of the apocalypse. We may not have to wait until 2012 🙂

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Carpe Deus

March 15, 2007


Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
—Ferris Bueller

Just a little stop-and-smell-the-roses thought for the day:

My wife and I were chatting the other day. She mentioned how easy it has become for us to ignore when good things happen.

It sounds sick and twisted once you say it out loud. But it’s true. I find it easy to dwell on bad things happening to me. For some reason I don’t like to dwell on things going well.

Maybe I’m worried that it will be gone so fast that it’ll hurt too much, so I just won’t enjoy it very much to begin with. But that’s just crazy if you think about it. More than that, I wonder if it gets in the way of something my Father is trying to do.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 says “When times are good, be happy.”

Who’d have thought we would have to be told to be happy when things go right? That verse goes on to say that when times are bad we should consider that God made both kinds of times. Both circumstances work to accomplish what He is doing in my life.

I’ve spent years getting used to the idea that suffering is from God. I’ve been drinking as deeply as I can from the well of God’s sovereignty. I find it to be a comfort in times of trial and pain. When life sucks it helps to know that God is in it, and that He’s up to something ultimately good.

I’ve gotten so accustomed to reminding myself of this when tough times come. I’ve forgotten that the same thing is true of good times.

You come across a windfall ($). Or you get that job you wanted. Or you get a positive job review just when you thought you were probably the world’s worst employee. Or your whole family is healthy and happy. Or… whatever. How often do you stop and ENJOY the good things God has sent your way?

If you don’t, maybe they’re wasted moments. Maybe something of God’s beauty and care get missed by us when we don’t savor the times He comes to us as pleasure, or joy, or excitement, or success. Aren’t these moments instances of our Father in heaven caring for our needs? Must we ignore them simply because we are afraid to enjoy them too much? The more I think about it, the more I realize that this would be a waste.

How would you like it if you did something for someone–something that would make their life a little better or a little easier–only to have them ignore it because they were too concerned with whatever the next challenge ahead of them will be? Wouldn’t that be rude?

I like the idea that I have a responsibility to enjoy the good things that God sends my way. I will decide to celebrate the successes He brings me, because I think this brings joy to Him.

By the way, I’m having a pretty good day.

Becoming a child again

November 27, 2006

When I was in college I used to imagine that each day of my life rolled out from God’s mind like a scripted scene in an extended-length movie. All the events of the day, down to each line spoken by each person, were planned and placed exactly where God intended. I saw my life as an intricately woven play written by God. This charged each moment with purpose and meaning, and I learned to refer to him internally as things were happening since He was the one sending it all in the first place.

I don’t remember when or why I stopped thinking that way. Maybe it felt so egocentric–everything happening in the whole world arranged just for my advancement in His grace. How “me-centered” is that? Or perhaps I was afraid that thinking that way would cause me to relinquish responsibility for my actions. If the Lord brought it, then there’s nothing I can do in response, right? I don’t know which, if either, of these things led me to drop my little daydream. But somewhere along the line I did.

I’m getting the notion lately that I need to recover this perspective once again. I can’t even say for sure if it’s right, although I can quote a bunch of biblical passages that hint that it is. My favorite is when David said that every day of his life was written out like a book before one of them came to be. When Job lost everything he cared about by both nature and by human conquest, God alone received credit for what happened. And when Jesus hung on the cross before a screaming mob of his own people, he turned to His Father and asked why His Father was forsaking Him. Apparently folks in the Bible share something like this view in which everything that happens is from the hand of God.

But we’re too sophisticated for that, right? I mean, we live in the twenty-first century now, and we understand that things happen by random chance. We don’t need to invoke God when something dramatic happens, right? Aren’t we a little too old for that?

I think I want to go back to being young. And naive. I’m thinking about going back to a time when I had a simple outlook on life, and saw each day as a gift from my Father. That caused me to see Him intimately involved in every second, present beside me (or within me, or me in Him) no matter what was going on. That worked pretty well for me, and I’m not convinced I should have ever dropped that viewpoint.

Is it technically true? I don’t really know. Part of me doubts. Part of me sees that as childish, like God’s got nothing more important to deal with than my petty little life experiences. But then again, I’ve got a strong biblical precedent for this very thing. Anyway, God can multi-task, right? Can’t He simultaneously weave billions of stories intricately together like a vast tapestry?

If He had all the time in the world, He could do it. If time stood still for Him, He could fill every life that has ever been lived with all the events He desires, and each one could connect with billions of other lives in ways we little humans could scarce understand. If I could think like God, I might not even see this as a challenge.

Maybe the folks who don’t see each moment as the product of God’s creative mind are the ones who are thinking too simplistically. Maybe it’s those whose minds are “stuck in time” who have it wrong. They tend to think that God was involved at the beginning, but since then things have managed to operate on their own. But what if God didn’t just create the beginning? What if, when He created, He made everything, including today? What if, when He created, He simultaneously painted a picture of all of history from beginning to end, crafting each stroke and each event down to the falling of a single sparrow?

Now that would make me feel very close to him at this moment. Right now He’s telling a story–your story–and it involves reading this blog right now. Man, that would make Him really close. Right there with you. Don’t you think?

The God who is There.

October 25, 2005

A member of the court of Louis the XIV once wrote Archbishop Fenelon for advice about the distress he felt, due to his occupation, that prevented him from having all of the time alone with the Lord that he wanted. Fenelon wrote him this:

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“Happy then those whom God takes away from their own will to attach to his own! Those whom God is pleased to chain with his own hands are free and happy, as those who chain themselves by their passions are miserable. In this apparent captivity, they can no longer do what they wish. So much the better. They do from morning to night against their inclinations, what God wants them to do. He holds them bound by hand and foot by the lines of his will. He never leaves them a single moment to themselves. He is jealous of this tyrannous “I,” which wants all for itself. He leads relentlessly from vexation to vexation, from importunity to importunity, and makes you accomplish his greatest plans by these conditions of boredom, by childish and idle conversations, of which we are ashamed. He presses the faithful soul, and no longer lets it get its breath. Hardly one annoying person goes away before God sends another to advance his work. We should like to be free to think about God, but we unite ourselves much better with him through his crucifying will, than by consoling ourselves with sweet and loving thoughts of his goodness. We should like to be by ourselves to be more with God. We do not realize that there is no worse way of being with God, than to want to be also by ourselves…

“It is true that we ought to profit by all our free moments to disengage ourselves. Indeed we must before everything else keep some time to relax mind and body in a state of recollection. But for the rest of the day, when the torrent sweeps us away in spite of ourselves, we must let ourselves be carried off with no regret. You will find God in this sweeping away. You will find him in all the more pure a way, because you will not have chosen this way of seeking him.”
(p.16, Christian Perfection)

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This from a man who was best friends with Madame Guyon. You don’t get much deeper than these guys. But Fenelon reminds us that, since God is sovereign, you don’t have to fear that “life” will interfere with your relationship with God. You are no farther from him in your job or your daily chores than you are when you are alone with him in silence. Both times are needed, mind you. But ultimately one is not better than the other.

That’s really good. Because there’s a whole lot more of the former than there is of the latter.

Thanks, Francois. I needed that.

It’s Amazing What Perspective Can Do

October 12, 2005

I work around people who don’t get much perspective. When something goes wrong, it’s so awful. Life is terrible. They flash with such anger and anxiety about things that just aren’t that bad. We heard through the grapevine that something was going to make our jobs harder. Now people are stomping around threatening to quit. Or sue! Wow. Take a breath, man. Get a hobby or something.

I find myself laughing at the things I’m hearing. “Oh, so that’s what’s going to happen next? HA! Don’t you think that’s funny?” NO I DON’T, they say back. Oh yeah, I forgot. I often forget that I’m looking at things from a vantage point that everyone else around me isn’t necessarily sharing.

When you know there are things so much more important than your lunch break, or your professional development requirements, or your list of duties at your job, it just doesn’t rip you up inside like it does other people. Take a deep breath. Go somewhere quiet for a minute. And remember. Remember what’s important. Listen to a song or a piece of music that reminds you. Read that thing that always reminds you. Shut everything else out for a second and remember that the world is bigger than the problems of this moment.

The same thing goes for my spiritual life. I can think of a thousand things I can do wrong with that. I know so many wrong turns to take in following God, I even forget that I knew some of them. This is multiplied in an active, functioning community of believers. So many things I can do and say that will NOT benefit the church. But when I feel myself sweating over whether or not I’m “doing it right,” I step back a second. Then I remember:

Oh yeah. I didn’t start this thing anyway. I heard my name called out in some deep place inside, and I responded. I’ve felt that voice so many times, and everytime I’ve followed it I’ve found the Lord at the end of it. Every time. Like a sheep that gets afraid in a new place, I only need to wait a minute, and I’ll hear it. That voice.

I know that voice. It’s never steered me wrong. I have nothing to fear. In His care, even if I stumble and fall, He will restore me. What can separate me from such a One as this?

That’s so freeing! I’m ready to jump in there and make a bunch of mistakes! Hot dang! I get to screw up all kinds of things today! Then I get to watch and see how my Shepherd will make it all go exactly the way He wants. What a life!