Friday, April 08, 2016

A Golf Story

I made some fabulous pimento and cheese yesterday. Because the Master's.  I'll have to post the recipe on the food page (since I only have two recipes on there).  Sad.  Anyway, to commemorate this big golf weekend, I thought I'd tell you a little (possibly true) story I once heard.  Everybody quiet, now.  Listen up.

Once upon a time there was a young mom who had just brought baby number three (third baby in four years) home from the hospital in late April.  The Master's was the next week!  Husband had tickets to the practice rounds and was really excited.  The sweet young mom didn't want to tell him he couldn't go, so she smiled sweetly and said "sure, honey!  Go ahead and go and have a great time! You deserve it!"  And so, he went!

Husband returned from the Master's raving about the pimento and cheese sandwiches and brought back some cool green plastic cups, a shirt, and something that looked like a boat oar (odd!) as souvenirs. The lovely, sweet, and gracious mom had survived the weekend with the three littles and husband clearly had had a great time watching golf on a beautiful spring weekend in Augusta. So everybody won. And so life went on.

Many years later, this (not so young anymore) mom had a garage sale.  As she was digging through boxes in the closet, she came across husband's odds and ends he had said to put in the sale.  As she started out of the closet, she noticed an odd looking paddle in the corner.  How bizarre, she thought! We don't have a boat!  And they say if you haven't used anything in more than a year, you should get rid of it.  So she threw it in the box and hauled it out to the garage.  A few minutes later as some middle aged man sauntered through the sale, he picked up that paddle and asked anxiously, "how much?"

Uhhhhh..... "A dollar sound okay?" she shrugged her shoulders and asked.  He quickly drew four quarters out of his pocket, tossed them on the table, and took off with this odd treasure.  So weird!!! (she thought, laughing).  Who would want a silly looking tiny kayak paddle with scribbling all over it?

Husband came out to check on the garage sale and wife, still laughing, told him about the strange transaction.  Husband stared blankly.  "My quiet paddle", he said (quietly).  "Huh?" she asked. "My QUIET PADDLE! From the Master's!" he responded (not so quietly).  "I walked all over that place to get Phil Mickelson's autograph!  And you sold it.  For a dollar."  (insert sad face).

Wife felt really bad about it.  For about 30 seconds.  Then life went on.

The End.

*Some of the details may have been altered to protect the guilty.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

I Call Hating Running

I have finally started running / walking again for exercise again after my foot surgery last fall.  Let me just say that I realized I still hate running.  I really do. As in....I need a t-shirt that says I Hate Running and even though I've run several half marathons, I don't have one of those 13.1 stickers on my car because I couldn't find one that said "...and I hated every mile."  But I love having run. In fact, the only reason I do it and the only thing that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other is knowing how great I will feel after....because at the moment the torture I feel would likely violate the Geneva Convention.  But I do as much as I can to make it bearable, like chew my favorite gum and listen to podcasts.  My absolute favorite way to start my morning run is to listen to Tim Keller who, I believe, is one of the best speakers/writers/theologians of our time.  He's our generation's C.S. Lewis.  He just has a way of making the gospel simple and relative to my life, right where I am.

This one really got me.  One of the things I battle constantly in my home is the "I call" announcement.  I cringe when I hear those words come out of my kids' mouths.  "I call the chocolate donut!"  "I call the front seat!"  "I call the last piece of cake!"  "I call that chair!"  It's like this major proclamation that no one is as important as I am and what I want is all that matters....never mind what anyone else wants - it's all about me.  

But it's not just kids.  We adults do the same thing, don't we?  We may not say it out loud because, well, that would make us look just foolish. But inside we're feeling it and thinking it.  "I call the corner office!"  "I call the seat next to the cool people!"  "I call that teacher for my kid!"  "I call that PTA committee!"  

You know we do.  And we hurt each other with it.  It hurts my heart to see one of my kids put him or herself above the others, because what it means is, someone gets left out.  Someone I love gets the shaft.  The short end of the stick.  Or no end of the stick.  And that makes me sad.  I imagine God feels the same way when he sees the way we treat each other.  

Here's an excerpt from the Tim Keller sermon I listened to this morning:  

I hate cancer.  Cancer has taken away a number of friends and family members of mine.  But there is a relational cancer - a spiritual cancer - and that is the deep default mode of the human heart, instinctive, to say "me first".  So, for example, if you go into a marriage - and marriage is in some ways the most intense kind of human community - in a marriage, if both people are saying to the other you first - you first - I'm putting your needs ahead of mine...If both people are saying you first, you're going to have a great love relationship.  But if either one or both - hear that - say "me first" - it's like a cancer eating at the marriage.  It might not survive.  Now, the me first impulse is absolutely natural.  If any of you have ever raised children, you know you don't have to teach children to say me first.  Me first!!!!  It's like they're born saying it, practically.  Or at least they're born feeling it until they have words to say it.  And what we have all learned from our parents hide it.  To not say it.  And I guess our parents are saying we shouldn't even feel that way but of course the fact is all we have learned to do as we get older is to hide it.  Little children just let it all hang out.  We can't get rid of it unless something radical happens to us.  And this is the reason the gospel starts with repentance and faith.  

Repentance is admitting that your whole life is permeated with self-centeredness.   Repentance isn't just "oh I've done some bad things".  Everyone says that.  That doesn't change your life. That doesn't connect you to God.  Saving repentance connects you to God.  ....  Repentance is saying that self-centeredness, self-absorption, self-righteousness, "me first", has - it permeates - everything.  Not only my bad deeds but my good deeds.  You have begun to become a Christian when you realize even my good deeds I've been doing to try to control God, control people,and even my good deeds are done in self-righteousness and self-regard.  So repentance is - Christianity starts - with saying I realize that my big problem is me first. 

(I think this is the link where the sermon can be found but it doesn't look like it's made it onto the site yet....or you can go to iTunes and download the Redeemer Presbyterian Church podcasts and it's the 4/3/16 sermon to hear the rest of it because there's so much more good stuff there.)

Let's try to re-program this default, y'all. This "deep default of the human heart to say me first."  I think we can.  I really do.   I want my kids to think you first instead of me first.  I want them to stop "calling" everything and instead ask, what would you like?  Instead of them thinking "it's all about me" I want them to think "it's all about you".  

And it needs to start with me.  

And I still hate running. But I love the revelations I have along the way. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Holding Patterns

A few years ago I was on a flight that started out pretty uneventful.  The plane left on time, I had an aisle / emergency row seat, and the guy next to me didn't smell bad, take his shoes off, or want to talk which always makes for a pleasant flight.  Things were rocking along just fine until out of nowhere we hit some pretty awful turbulence and the pilot announced that we would be making an unplanned stop until the storm passed.  So we did.  And we just sat on the tarmac at a strange airport that wasn't even on our itinerary, unable to get off the plane, yet unable to go anywhere....and no one could tell us how long we'd be there.

We tried to make the best of things.  The flight attendants even started passing out food and drinks to make us a little more comfortable.  It helped, a little.  But no matter how hard I tried to be calm, I was incredibly anxious.  I knew that there was no way I would make my connecting flight, and I'd unlikely be making it home that night.  I had children to gather from grandparents and a job to show up for the next morning. I had appointments, commitments, responsibilities. This detour was not working into my plans whatsoever and the worst part was....I was completely not in control of anything.  So as I sat there, I remember thinking that the only way I was going keep from having a full blown, anxiety laden meltdown was to focus on just the next thing.  The big picture was way too overwhelming because I had no idea how....or when....this detour was going to end and I would be back on track.  So I did the only thing I could do at the moment...

I stayed seated.  I breathed.  I read.  And I enjoyed a free candy bar.

When we finally made it back into the air and arrived at our airport, we were forced to circle in a holding pattern for what seemed like days, because there wasn't a spot for us to land yet.  We had to wait until it was safe.  When the traffic finally cleared, we landed.  A little unnerved, but safe. Nothing else really mattered at that point.

Life has a way of throwing us off our charted course, doesn't it? Sometimes an ugly, unpredictable storm comes up and you find yourself at a dead stop, and then sometimes you find yourself in a holding pattern.  And sometimes the only way to survive is to focus on just the next thing.

A few months ago my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Hello, turbulence!  After her lumpectomy, they told us that they got it all, it had not spread, and they thought she would only need a few weeks of radiation....such a huge relief.  Over and over we all said how grateful we were that she would not have to go through chemo or any other surgeries.  Then a few weeks later, after additional testing, they determined it was worse than they thought and not only would she need chemo and radiation, but they didn't get clear margins and would have to do another lumpectomy.  

More turbulence.

Then midway through her first round of chemo, they discovered a serious heart issue and told us last week she would need to have open heart surgery.  At that point the overhead bins flew open and all the luggage landed on top of us.  I think we're still digging out.

After meeting with the cardiologist last week, we left with a plan which includes another 12 week round of chemo, the surgery to re-excise the tumor, then after she recovers from all of that, open heart surgery, another 2-3 months to recover, then radiation.

The big picture is much too much to even process.  She's truly handling everything with grace and courage and strength, but I keep reminding her that her focus has to be just on today.  Or maybe I'm just trying to remind myself.  Not only because of this, but life has really thrown me off course lately and I feel like I'm just sitting on that tarmac again....completely not in control and unable to do anything but be still.  And breathe.  

And so I picked up a few candy bars at Trader Joe's the other day because, well, chocolate makes everything a little more bearable.

If you're a praying person, pray for my Mom, will you? And for those of us who are on this uncharted course with her.  We need patience, peace, and grace for the journey.

And chocolate.