Dream A Little Dream–And Then What?

photo courtesy of Kym Mackinnon on Unsplash

Brooklyn, at four, asks a lot of deep questions. I doubt many adults have their minds pursue the unique inquiries she makes. Spiritual, philosophical, larger-than-life issues that she is truly curious about.

She explained how she doesn’t like the dark. I agreed wholeheartedly; I’ve never been fond of the dark. As a child, I was terrified to be in a dark room alone. I’d have the most unbelievable nightmares that often would stay with me for days.

Brooklyn’s dislike of the dark follows much the same pattern. She doesn’t like what she becomes afraid of when she can’t see around her. She has light in her bedroom that makes it easier to fall asleep and banishes fear of what might be out there to hurt her.

Being afraid of the dark is not an uncommon fear. As an adult, I do better being alone at night in a dark house. I used to leave lights on everywhere so I could see in case I woke while it was still nighttime. Nightmares happen on occasion; too often they come from reading a thriller before I go to sleep. My imagination takes over and I’m in the midst of something I could never envision in daylight.

The whole idea of nightmares came roaring back while I was in a zoom meeting, and one of my coworkers, in his presentation, shared an old Japanese proverb.

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”

We’re living at a time when everyone is putting forth a vision for what they believe our world should look like. Much of what is talked about either seems too good to be true or doesn’t have the substance to be real at all. True vision is the ability to think and plan for the future with imagination and wisdom. We need imagination to think outside the box to what is possible. We also need wisdom to take into account all who are impacted by a given vision so as many as possible can benefit.

What makes sense with that proverb is the reality that many can think of grand ideas for growth and hope yet have no follow-through to make it happen. It remains pie-in-the-sky. But taking action without a vision or hope for what that action can cost others is nothing short of a terrifying nightmare.

Brooklyn had it right. We need to cast light on these grand thoughts to see them clearly, to understand the impact they could have, to prepare for misunderstandings that will surely arise.

God is that Light. Even in the midst of the darkest situations, His light of truth shines on what we need to see and understand. Darkness is a cover for those who don’t want their actions to be seen, for those who hide.  Bringing ideas and conversations into the light exposes what we may not see at first, what may be a hidden problem, what might cause more hurt than help.

As adults, we don’t want to be the cause of nightmares, for ourselves or anyone else.

If we invite the Light of God into our lives, He will deal with those fears.

Action and vision together create hope.

 

 

 

Play On!

Soccer has been a family passion since my kids were first introduced to the beautiful game years ago. All of them played; each found a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in the team effort.

My job was to cheer my kids with all the affirmation and hefty decibel level I could muster.

The enjoyment continues with several of the grands now playing.

But I’m finding I have less capacity to deal with the environment than I did when my kids were in the game.

This past weekend, I joined my daughter to watch her son play; he’s a remarkable keeper with the exact personality that someone who stands in the goal needs. A little cocky, remarkably confident, a wonderful sense of humor.

But it rained. Not just a little rain. It poured, with gale-force winds creating a challenge to visibility on the field. Heather and I stood on the sidelines, soaked and freezing, as wind-whipped rain found every inch of us. We could barely see what was happening on the field because of the intensity of the downpour.

We gave up about halfway through the first half. We parked the car so we could see the field from inside the dry space, the wipers constantly on to catch glimpses of the game.

Teagan made some amazing saves. The ball was slippery; every time he grabbed it, he appeared to be juggling it. But he didn’t allow any goals to be scored against him.

We felt confident they’d call the game at halftime. The ball couldn’t be passed as expected; there was so much water on the field that it would mire in deep puddles and not move forward. Every player was struggling to run through the quagmire of mud and grass; their shoes were waterlogged.

The game went on. It finished, in spite that the rain never did. Teagan’s team won because they figured out how to deal with the water on the field.

It’s so easy to quit. To not push through when the going gets tough. Unlike Teagan, it’s often more frustrating to figure out how to work with our new normal than to adapt and grow with what new awareness we have.

It’s also easy to go all bad on a situation. To shift blame to the circumstances over which we have no control. That puts us in a victim mentality where we condemn others and lay responsibility at their feet rather than embracing what we can do.

God understands how unfair life is. He’s given us free will to choose what paths we take, what we will believe, what and who we will follow. He has also provided a means for us to find wholeness in this life through a relationship with Him.

Our choice.

There’s no honor in blaming others for our bad situations. We’re all complicit in making life harder for each other. Our selfishness and entitlement often prevent us from seeing the pain we cause others with our choices.

How amazing would it be if we ceased to focus on the wrong and bad in each other and focus on Who has given us a platform of commonality and unity?

That’s how to truly play on.

 

 

The Best Adventure Isn’t In The Known

With Labor Day passed, more schools are beginning, and kids everywhere are into a new normal.

Huck, in Pennsylvania, is heading to Kindergarten with the joy of an outgoing boy who loves people. He boldly took the bus for his first day–that’s miniature moxie.

Huck has entered kindergarten with a bold, brave brashness that comes from youth and an anticipation of the adventure that awaits him.

Not everyone enjoys school as much as he does.

My older grands, with experience under their belts and lacking in a vision at this point for the adventure called “school”, would just as soon see school behind them.

There’s a reason people say “Different strokes for different folks.”

A mid-twentieth century expression, there are many possibilities of how it originated. One option is Mohammed Ali, the boxer. He knocked out two famous heavyweight champions, Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson. He didn’t have a particular punch he was known for–he merely hit hard and fast. So when asked how he was able to knock both men out, he commented, “I got different strokes for different folks.”

What works for one person, might not work for another.

The origin of this expression doesn’t matter; what it communicates is we are all different. What can be achieved in one place with one group of people, may not accomplish the same results with a different group in a totally different environment. To expect that one size fits all doesn’t work well with any diverse population.

Our differences are a gift. The only way to truly understand our distinctions is to engage one another in the conversation to discover who we really are. To listen to those who aren’t like us. To discover and validate their story.

That takes time and intent. Right now we live in a world that’s quick to label, quick to condemn what is seen as contrary, rather than making time to actually talk to one another.

Most act on the presumption that our perception is one hundred percent accurate. We don’t take into account different grids from varied backgrounds and experiences.

God created us as unique individuals who need community with others to be our best selves. Community isn’t a group of people who are all the same–nobody can grow if we are only with those exactly like us. We become narrow-minded and suspicious of anyone who isn’t absolutely the same as us.

The gift of humanity that God has blessed us all with is a gift of learning and appreciating. Different expands our thinking, opens our hearts to who can be part of our lives, and gives us the perspective of a huge tapestry of stories that we can’t afford to miss out on.

When Jesus died for the brokenness of all people, He did it for every human being who has ever lived. He Himself was Jewish; that didn’t keep Him from dying for those who didn’t agree with Him or didn’t like Him. No qualifiers.

We will have disagreements with most people. That shouldn’t keep us from valuing them for who they are and recognizing how they enrich our lives.

Different strokes might make us better folks.

 

 

 

 

Stop And Smell The Hope

One of novelist Rita Mae Brown’s characters in her 1983 novel, “Sudden Death”, made the statement, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Repeated actions, with no change, typically bring the same results. Adults get this.

Children, however, are different.

There is a beautiful naivete in the very young that allows them to embrace the world in wonder and awe, without cynicism and sarcasm. They try things and have an expectation of a response that makes sense to them. They have hope.

Beck, at almost two, is a true nature lover. His parents have taken him on hikes, walks, camping, places that have helped him develop the same joy in the outdoors they have.

He loves flowers. Smelling flowers is something he does because he’s learned that many flowers have wonderful scents. They bring a smile to his face as he closes his eyes and inhales.

When Beck walks into his daycare room and sees huge paper flowers tacked onto the wall, his response is to smell them. There is no sweet smell, but he smiles anyway. It’s a flower.

The next day, he tries again. He takes a deep whiff of the paper posy. No scent. But the smile remains.

Every day Beck enters the class and smells the paper flower. He smiles, not because he can smell anything, but there is hope that someday this flower will do what it’s supposed to do. Smell sweet.

That’s not insanity. That’s hope. He knows what a flower is supposed to do. He doesn’t question his perspective; he acts out of simple faith that flowers have a capacity to have a delightful scent.

In many ways, I envy Beck’s faith. His ability to believe the best in what he sees without being disappointed with what he doesn’t understand.

As we grow older, we become more calloused in the way we look at life, and having a simple faith in anyone or anything seems impossible. Questions come too quickly; doubts rise up rapidly; the unwillingness to listen and hear what is being said grows stronger.

This definitely applies to faith in God. We look at what we see, the injustice, pain, loss, grief around us and miss the beauty of a child’s laugh or a magnificent tree. We don’t value that we wake up in the morning, get out of bed, make decisions, live life. We focus on what we don’t have, what we can’t get, where our demands fall short, and hope is lost.

True insanity is lost hope.

Rather than being in awe of the fact that life happens, babies are born, flowers grow is overlooked when those babies don’t turn out like we wanted or flowers develop blight. When what we want isn’t what we get.

But God.

We will never have all we want here. Our brokenness has affected our world, and rather than putting hope in us fixing it, we need to recognize God is sufficient even in what we don’t have. He is hope, even in darkness and despair.

We need to stop, admire the flowers, and take a whiff.

Hope isn’t in the smelling.

Hope is in God who made the scent.

Is There Ever Enough?

I stared at the improbable pile of drinks.

Dr. Pepper, Root Beer, Bubly, Polar, Ice–more drinks than John and I could consume in a year.

They’re not for us. We don’t drink soda.

We do, however, have a parade of grands and their friends that come through here daily to choose what they will imbibe at the moment. They don’t have to ask; they feel at home enough to get what they need.

My kids tease me about this. We never bought this stuff when they were growing up. It wasn’t in the budget, and soda is bad for the teeth.

At least, that’s what I told them.

Now, after soccer practice or when they get home from school, our home is a destination. I love that their friends feel comfortable coming in and grabbing a drink. They’ll often sit awhile and talk–about life, politics (these are teenagers who are hearing many things from a variety of people), and dreams. It gives me space to enjoy them and their thoughts.

And not worry about dental bills.

We’ve learned what they like. We don’t buy random drinks–that really doesn’t satisfy any need other than wasting money. Their tastes vary; sometimes there is something new that piques their interest, and they ask if we could get it. Sometimes they tire of what’s here, and we stop putting those drinks in the refrigerator.

They’re fascinated that we listen to them and buy what they like.

This isn’t a big deal. Yes, it’s a bit of an investment, but in the long run, the investment is in the grands and their friends. My kids didn’t really have any grandparents growing up; for one reason or another, we never connected much with them. We wanted to be those grandparents who chose to impact the grands positively.

Not all are in town. Some of the grands are in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. We try to FaceTime with them as much as possible. We want them each to know how very much we love them.

Lavish love. When our kids were little, we didn’t have much to give them but our time. We gave what we had, choosing them over convenience or stuff.

God does that for us. He loves lavishly; He has given us all we could ever need for a life of hope. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! For that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

To be loved as children of a perfectly loving Father who knows our every dark corner is love indeed.

God doesn’t look disinterestedly at His creation and choose to leave us to our own devices. He has engaged in love, giving His best so we could experience His hope. He has taken on the one thing that has separated us from love and forgiveness–our own brokenness–and offered a solution. Lavish and beautiful, giving His best in spite of our worst.

Love is what we long for; being accepted and valued for who we are and not for what we do is a gift.

All we need to do is receive it.

I guarantee it will satisfy.