There Is No Dress Rehearsal

I’ve been to my share of graduations. Celebrations of a rite of passage, a task accomplished and a new journey ahead.

Most of them have been from high school or college.

This was my first kindergarten graduation.

Yes, this is a thing. I didn’t realize that so much attention could be focused on finishing this entrance into school. But it was done with panache–and a lot of attitude.

The opening number was entertainment. The children performed a song, complete with sheep masks and hand motions.

Ryken had missed the dress rehearsal. His knowledge of what was going on was limited, but he gave it his best effort. He was sometimes out of sync with the others, yet his enthusiasm made up for missed moves.

There was a brief intermission while the very young graduates exchanged their sheep masks for graduation caps. They marched in, and as each child was named, they went on stage to receive their diploma and pause for pictures. Each parent had submitted a description of the uniqueness of their child.

Each one of them were proclaimed to be personable and helpful geniuses in the making.

Some kids ran up on stage. Some refused to be on stage. Still others posed long enough that they had to be asked to get off the stage.

No dress rehearsal could have prepared anyone for this.

It was the most fun and funny graduation I’ve been too. Possibly because it was blessedly brief.

We all yearn for some kind of recognition that informs our hearts that we are worth knowing, that our presence is good and necessary. As we get older, the affirmations become less frequent; the encouragements don’t come as easily; our sense of accomplishment can feel overlooked.

We have no dress rehearsal for this life. No chances for a do-over when we make a mistake; no options for revising failure. Our mistakes impact our lives in ways we don’t want to embrace. One misstep can influence the trajectory of our lives.

Failure too often feels fatal.

That’s the lie.

God gives grace to those who ask for it. Unmerited favor that can’t be earned or paid for. Forgiveness for the mistakes we make because of the love He has for us.

Love not based on what we could ever do for Him. He chooses not to hold our wrongs against us if we know Him.

I can’t count the times I’ve said something without thinking and wished I could make the words go away. I imagine them as darts to the heart, hurting far more than any weapon could. The disrespectful way I’ve treated others because I was hurt or just didn’t care what someone else thought. How many times have I not cared how my actions or responses have hurt someone?

More often than I want to consider.

We’ve been given one life with the incredible privilege of being the best people we can be. Individuals of positive influence rather than negative impact.

We will blow it.

God knows there is no dress rehearsal. He’s given us this chance to live fully–and be forgiven for our mistakes freely. If we just ask Him.

God gives us courage, wisdom, and strength to do the next right thing.

No dress rehearsal needed.

Everybody Has A Gripe

The scene looked too familiar. People angry, pushing against barriers, screaming for reform. Police trying to hold the line, attempting to bring order, to no avail.

They rushed onto a field, screaming to oust a certain person.

Then they kicked a soccer ball around.

Because they could.

This past weekend in the UK, a much anticipated soccer game was postponed because of of a protest by the fans against the owner of Manchester United Soccer team.

English soccer?

Our whole family is rather enthralled by the English Premier League. Everyone has picked favorite teams even though none of us have ever seen any of these teams play in person. Except for one daughter and her husband who managed to see a Manchester Untied game while in England.

The upheaval was a response to the Glazers, American owners of Manchester Untied who had planned on becoming part of a European Super League, where the purpose was more profits for club owners and less opportunity for fans to see and be part of their beloved games.

The fans want greater involvement in the day-to-day running of the club. The Glazers bought the club about fifteen years ago and haven’t given interviews or addressed the concerns of the fans.

The people just want to be heard. And have their support for their team valued.

Everybody wants to have a voice. To be heard and respected, that what we have to say is important. Professional sports are a big deal because of the huge fan base for individual teams. The fans are the substance of the game; they follow and connect with who and what they love.

Without the fans, playing sports is just another job.

If owners and coaches are unwilling to listen to those who pay to watch these teams play, interest will wane, attendance will drop, and the beautiful game won’t look so pretty.

We all have a gripe. Something that pushes us to say something that may not be received well but releases a little angst in our souls. The problem escalates when our attitudes, demands, and actions infringe on others’ space or personal beliefs or feelings.

That will always happen. We each have our limits of what we feel we can handle. Once that limit is surpassed, we fall into stress, despair, anger, and disruption.

We don’t live in individual bubbles where we’re protected from what we don’t like. Our lives collide with others, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Rather than react in anger, wouldn’t it be amazing to engage in conversation to try and see issues from the perspectives of others?

Jesus called us to think more of others than we do ourselves, which is humility. Humility isn’t flashy. It means we become fans of people in general, supporting others even if they’re different from us.

Jesus impressed people because He listened to them. He took the time to hear what they had to say, responding with kindness.

Imagine what it would feel like to really be heard. To know your voice mattered.

It does to God.

Balloon Bash–Or Bust?

When we finally celebrated John’s birthday with all the grands, it was more a party along the level of an elementary school child.

It’s why John connects so well with children.

The kids had gotten a plethora of balloons for the celebration, filled with helium and bobbing around like apples in a tub of water.

The bobbing didn’t last long. Within minutes after they brought them home, they began to descend in that sad state of lost helium. Bobbing turned to bumping around on the floor.

Quite dismayed over what appeared to be poor workmanship and less than acceptable service from the store, they made a call and informed the people that they expected more balloons to replace the sad floor sitters that now scattered over the room.

When they arrived at the store, it was then that the owners explained that nine-inch balloons don’t hold helium as well as larger balloons.

A small fact they neglected to tell them when the balloons were purchased.

They brought home new balloons, but the resilience of maintaining height was just as disappointing. We had a room full of bobless balloons. The different heights made the room look like a forest of bobbing balls. All gently falling.

This didn’t deter the grands from enjoying them. They came up with new ways of playing that didn’t require floating.

There are many areas of life now that we’ve never had to confront before, things that need to be addressed and understood so we can make knowledgeable decisions.

We don’t have all the details.

Nor do we have any idea how others, those close to us, those in authority over us, will respond. The decisions we and others make often affect us in ways we don’t anticipate.

We can’t be prepared for every circumstance. There are no insurance policies available to cover the cost of mistakes or unexpected emotional responses. We can cover hurricanes, tornadoes, even floods. But there’s nothing available for restitution from despair and disappointment.

Inner pain needs to be addressed with inner peace and hope. Frustration and disappointment demand a sense of perspective and confidence that come from a viewpoint greater than our own. We easily get stuck in our heads and circumstances so we can’t see past our emotions.

God offers an alternative to frustration–faith. The conviction of things we can’t see based on a relationship with the One who is greater than our circumstances.

It’s easy to default to dismissal because of what we can’t see. Or imagine.

That’s why Jesus came, to show us what it’s like to live by faith, to trust the unseen One whose presence He experienced.

One of the disciples, Thomas, said he refused to believe Jesus was alive until he could put his finger in the nail holes of His hands. When he was given that chance, Jesus told everyone present that belief because you can see is not as potent as believing what you can’t see but know is true.

God gives us what we need to live in hope. He outlines that plan in the Bible.

Increased information leads to new choices.

Kind of like knowing the small balloons couldn’t hold much helium.

Love Ya Lots!

I learned long ago to never let anyone leave the house without telling them I love them. Not to be maudlin, but there are no guarantees I’ll see them again. I don’t want my last words to someone to be expressions of anger, disappointment, or guilt.

I’m not great at it, and there are many times when I am calling that person as I drive away to apologize or say “I love you, you know that, right?” If I can remind someone of my heart and not my reactionary words, it may go a long way to restoring a relationship. Or reminding someone of how I truly feel.

Within our family, it has become a habit for people to yell as folks walk out the door, “Love you!’ or “Love you lots!” The “lots” was added by my daughters to show the superlative aspect of their emotion.

It works.

The grands have picked up on it–even the older ones who might have felt a little self-conscious about making such statements out loud. As each of them leaves, I yell out, “I love you!”

I always get an “I love you” back. Not because they feel forced to say it, but because being reminded that we are loved fills our hearts with warmth that can’t be bought, manufactured, or faked.

When my Dad was sick–he’d had a series of strokes–I was trying to get back to Chicago to visit him. The trip kept getting put off, which frustrated me, but I didn’t feel I could do anything about it.

That’s when I got the call from my sister telling me that Dad had died. I hadn’t had a final time to tell him I loved him, to smile into that beloved face, to hug him tightly and remind him how special he had always been to me.

I missed an opportunity. Regret is a heavy burden to bear.

Time and again I’ve walked away from someone and have later questioned how I could have ended that conversation better, how I could have said what I did in a kinder way.

Or maybe not said it at all.

We each need those special words of belonging, of knowing we are significant to someone. It reminds us that we matter, which does wonders for our self-esteem.

Relying on people to show us genuine love is tricky. We’re not consistent; we all have track records of disappointing others. Love is one of those things that’s hard to give if you don’t have any yourself.

But God.

He made us for love out of a heart of love. Offering what has been often refused.

The power of love is it goes where it’s not wanted but deeply needed. It’s not discouraged by rejection but suffers for the sake of the one loved.

God isn’t offended by our attitudes. He persists, loving us even as we don’t deserve it.

In that love is the kind of acceptance and forgiveness, warmth and hope that’s hard to dismiss.

It’s worth the conversation.

I Want What I Want

There are so many life possibilities for a three-year-old.

They’re learning to be autonomous; they’re separate from their parents and can make choices.

They haven’t yet learned that choices bring consequences.

Cal is an outside-of-the-box thinker. Most kids his age are because they’re not aware of the boxes they’re supposed to operate within. Adults, culture, laws are the creators of these boxes for purposes often not understood by the young.

Or even some of us older folks.

We have a racetrack at our house that he loves to play with. The little plastic pieces fit together to create tracks of all shapes where they then run battery-operated cars.

Cal has become more creative with the track pieces. He makes crowns, lion manes, and small circles where a single car can fit in and run around the house like a hamster on a wheel.

Because he wants to.

He has a strong “I wanna” disposition that pushes him to choose his desires over smarter, safer options. When he comes to our house he immediately asks for gummy bears. We keep a healthy supply because that’s what seasoned grandparents do. He prefers sweets to real food and can put up a fuss if made to eat what he doesn’t want to eat. Or if he’s restrained from eating what he desires.

His “I wanna” mentality pushes him to make poor choices. The adults of the family were sitting around our kitchen table having a conversation when Cal’s mom glanced out the window and saw him walking down the street.

He’d left because he wanted to go home. He didn’t inform anyone of his decision.

He walked out the door.

I was grateful he’d been seen before he’d gotten too far. The repercussions of such an act, even in a somewhat “safe” neighborhood, can be staggering. He could walk into the street without any attention to traffic. Someone could have grabbed him. He could have become lost and found himself in one of the ponds in our neighborhood–he’s not the best of swimmers.

We all have that “I wanna” mentality. What we desire leads us to make decisions that are unsafe, unwise, or just plain hurtful to us.

Bad choices often aren’t immediately harmful. We make a small decision to do something questionable and there are no severe consequences. Without a negative outcome, it becomes easier to continue with wrong choices. Small steps the wrong way lead to worse consequences.

These often go unnoticed until the pain of what we’re doing catches up to us.

That’s when we ask ourselves what went wrong.

Just because we want something doesn’t make it right or good.

Cal’s parents watch out for him. His dad was after him in a heartbeat, picking him up and holding him close, reprimanding him in love and protecting him from his poor choice.

God does that for us. As a good and loving Father, He reminds us of what is good and helpful for us to be all we can be. Jesus taught a way of life that gives us great freedom; He is also our safety and refuge.

We all want what we want.

Does what we want make us better, peace-filled people?