You Don’t Know If You Like ‘Em Till You Try ‘Em

“I wanna purple!”

The plaintive cry of a four-year-old could have been easily misconstrued for something of incredible importance. Her tears were real, and her need seemed to be as well.

She wanted a purple jelly bean.

We spent time with some friends and family, and John, being the consummate Papa, pulled out all the stops to engage the kids. Make ’em happy so they’ll remember this as the fun house.

When he pulled out the container of gourmet jelly beans, 41 flavors of fun, eyes grew wide and smiles grew wider.

Jelly beans, it seem, are a universal language.

We’d had a relaxing dinner that was kid friendly followed by desserts that should have whet the whistles of the most demanding child.

It took jelly beans to get the puppy-happy response from the kids.

There are two ways of eating these tiny morsels of unique flavor. Some picked through the container, comparing the picture with the flavor sought, and eating with relish. Others grabbed handfuls of beans and shoved them all in their mouths at once, mixing flavors and colors, seeking the sugar rush rather than the flavor blast.

When the little one was crying over her need for a purple, her parents were shaking their heads, making adult comments like, “No more sugar, honey. It’s too close to bedtime.”

She was inconsolable. We talked over her wailing until we realized we didn’t need to talk over the din. She’d stopped. With a grin on her face.

Dad broke. She got her purple.

People are a lot like jelly beans. Made of basically the same stuff. Sugar and spice and everything nice. (No, that’s just girls.) We are pretty much the same, though–made in the image of God. We have different stories with a variety of settings, different ways of doing things because of culture, and our diversity of looks comes from histories we’ve not had any control over.

There are those folks who get along with everyone. The ones that see the jar full of variety and become excited about the fun mix of flavors different people bring to the table. Others have been raised with only one or two flavors, and they’re hesitant to try new things only because they’ve not experienced new taste options.

And there will always be those who just don’t eat sugar.

The three main ingredients of jelly beans are sugar, corn syrup and food starch. Then they add flavors and color.

That’s what we experience–the different flavors and colors of each other. Our differences make life rich and enjoyable. We all add to the mix.

I may not like the pomegranate or sour cherry flavors, but when I mix them with spicy cinnamon or buttered popcorn, they taste amazing.

I just have to be willing to try them.

I know I can’t reduce life to pieces of candy. Too simple.

But if we could see one another as an opportunity to experience a new story, as God intended us to be able to do, we might find that we appreciate and value each other more than we expected.

How sweet would that be?

 

 

 

 

We’re Back!

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a gardener. Working in the yard is one of those necessary activities that keeps the local HOA off our backs.

We give them so many more things to grumble about as it is.

We’ve been dealing with this patch of weeds/crabgrass/unwanted stuff in our back yard for longer than I want to admit. It’s insidious stuff–from a distance it looks green and good. When you get up close, you realize it’s not what it appears.

My neighbor, Ed, told me that baking soda kills such weeds without killing the real grass.

Frankly, all I wanted to do was obliterate this stuff with the nastiness of Roundup, the ruthless herbicide killer of all things green. It’s not all that great for people, but it does do a dastardly number on growing things.

I’ve periodically spread pounds of baking soda on my lawn. It looks like it’s been sprinkled with fairy dust, all white and powdery. Soon, it starts doing the deed on the weeds, and within days, what was once green and growing is now brown and mostly dead.

Herein lies the rub. Much like Miracle Max in The Princess Bride when he pronounces Wesley is only mostly dead. Like my weeds. Max is able to revive him with a potion dipped in chocolate, and eventually all things end happily ever after.

My weeds were made of sterner stuff, like Wesley, and thinking they’d just go away because I dusted them with my baking soda potion was not great planning on my part.

If I leave these little buggers in the ground, something not so magical happens, and they begin to revive. I’ve got to pull out the mostly dead things so they can be completely dead and no longer a nuisance to my yard.

Extra work I hadn’t counted on. Gardening, as I said, is not my cup of tea.

I anticipate the death of these weeds. If I do the work, I can get them all out and they won’t keep spreading like a contagion all over my yard. I have neighbors whose lawns are beautiful–it takes time to  keep them that way.

I’d love my life to be a lush lawn. None of the uglies of my own weedy wrongdoings. My critical spirit. My judgmental attitude toward others. These and others are the weeds that occupy my life. The Bible calls them sin–those things that miss the mark of perfection, which is the standard we have to keep up if we’re to be fit for heaven.

Problem is, no one can do that. We all suck as gardeners in that respect. We can identify a few weeds here and there and make an attempt to pull them out. To be diligent and deal with every one of those pesky wrongdoings won’t work.

We’re not that good.

Jesus is the ultimate Gardener. He doesn’t destroy us with Roundup or smack us down with cosmic consequences. He forgives with grace and mercy.

I’m going to keep dealing with my messy lawn–at my house and in my heart. Jesus is weed-whacking the mess in my heart, with love and diligence.

Now if He’d only deal with my back yard.

 

 

Too Little Of This, Too Much Of That

 

California Highway Patrol/ Reuters

 

If anyone tried to make en epic movie about disasters and the human condition, all they’d have to do is film what’s going on across the U.S. today.

From raging hurricanes and flooding in the south and east to devastating fires in the west, our country has experienced a plethora of natural catastrophes in the past months. Loss of life, lifestyle, property and peace have been our new norm. We live with a “grass is greener” mentality. If the east and south had more of the dryness of the west, there wouldn’t have been so much flooding. If the west had had a portion of the south’s moisture, there wouldn’t have been such a huge loss to the flames.

My sister owns a condo in Santa Rosa. The area is still burning; she’s no clue if she’s lost her home. You can’t wait out a fire–the quixotic wind drops burning debris where it will, with no protection possible. The brave souls who held on during the hurricanes weren’t faced with smoke inhalation or being trapped by flames.

photo courtesy of Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

She’s upset by the potential loss. Not just of her home, but of neighbors and a way of life she’s come to enjoy. The rolling hills of Sonoma and Napa Valleys are looking more like fields of tinder than row upon row of growing grapes. Family has visited her out there, and places we’d been to and enjoyed together are no more and will only live in memories.

Natural disasters are reminders of how little control we have over many things in life. We can pass blame like a platter of vegetables, letting it move from hand to hand, watching folks just pass it on. It’s not global warming or a matter that can be determined and fixed by laws and regulations.

photo courtesy of Jeff Chiu/AF

Catastrophes undo life as we know it. In California, at least 21 are dead, with several hundred missing. Seven counties have been affected, and thousands have had to flee from their homes. The loss of property is massive.

Fighting this feels impossible. Firefighters are valiantly working to contain these wildfires, but the crazy winds are battling back with force and fury.

No matter how tightly we hold on to “things”, possessions we prize or property we value, those can be taken away in a moment with a turn of the wind.

These folks who’ve lost everything because of fire are going to need our help and support as much as those who lost it all in the hurricanes.

We don’t have to look far to help others. We can step outside our comfort zones to really see people and engage with those we’ve chosen to overlook in the past. That’s the focus that matters–people.

Since all are made in the image of God, we’ve a connection to one another that is deep. No matter what we look like, what we do or how we view life.

All people matter. Disasters remind us of that.

photo courtesy of Jeff Chiu/AP

Allow God to give you the courage and kindness to reach out to others who need you. It doesn’t have to take catastrophic events to move us to engage. Today we can give of ourselves to someone who hurts more than we do.

Besides, seeking to help others is a welcome break from our very human obsessive self-centeredness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Unity For The Beautiful Game

It’s the end of baseball season, beginning of football and soon basketball will begin its forever run.

I love soccer. All six kids played, and the grands are now filling the ranks of those engaged in the beautiful game.

It took Americans awhile to get onboard with what the rest of the world calls football. Not like our football, where large, refrigerator-sized men hit other refrigerator-sized men and run down a field to score with a run, kick or pass. 

But we’re in now, and as with most things American, we go big or we go home.

Thanks to a traveling son-in-law, I had the chance to attend the game between the US and Panama. A World Cup qualifier where we pretty much needed to win to go on.

I’ve not seen many professional matches, so the thrill of spectacle is huge.

And there was spectacle.

We sat in the nosebleed section and had a great view of all that went on. Each chair in the stadium had a colored board that we were to hold up during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Members of the military and others carried out a gigantic flag which was unfurled for our national anthem. The cards spelled out “One Nation, USA” around the stadium. Fireworks exploded and people cheered.

Unity in a country that’s been divided by so much confusion and pain.

The tag line for our US men’s team is “One Nation, One Team.” Which is beautiful when you see the roster and recognize the diversity on it.

Fans showed support for both sides by wearing team jerseys, wrapping themselves in national flags and carrying all manner of things that reflected country loyalty.

What was even more impressive was the fan interaction.

There were different ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, political parties and genders represented. None of that made a difference. When we scored (which we did four times and won!), people high-fived others around them. Folks hugged, laughed, cheered, slapped each other on the back.

The camaraderie was electric. We jointly celebrated the win. Even those supporting Panama were good-naturedly joking with the US supporters.

All because we were fans of a game.

Yet none of our lives would be forever impacted by that game.

Our passions are fickle. Why can we agree over goals scored and yet fight tooth and nail over politics and beliefs?

We care about that which affects our lives day to day.

One nation. One team. But we don’t live life like a team.

We live demanding what we want. Not listening to others. Not seeing the worth of the person. When it comes to caring about what counts–people–we leave team and nation behind.

Jesus reminds us of the value of the individual. He taught us to love our neighbors and our enemies. To do good to those who treat us well and those who don’t. Unselfish compassion founded on a Savior who died for us all.

If we could selflessly care for others with the power Jesus offers, we could become one team.

Globally.

That’s something to cheer about.

 

Washington Can’t Make Us Better

photo by David Becker for Getty Images

Stephen Paddock had his fifteen minutes of infamy.

A millionaire gambler who appeared to have it all made the decision to play judge, jury and executioner for a group of people he didn’t know.

What goes through the mind of someone who instigates the deadliest mass shooting in US history? What does it take to fire on a crowd of unknown people focused on enjoying a concert, murdering 58, injuring 527 before turning the gun on himself?

Nobody will know what Paddock was thinking before he let loose that barrage of bullets. Why he thought this was the right thing to do in this place at this time. It’s known he’d been there three days and had an arsenal of weapons that implied a desire to cause a lot of hurt and pain.

This is not a political issue. To politicize it takes away the value and dignity of those killed and hurt. It diminishes the courage shown by those who heroically threw themselves over friends and stepped in to help people to safety. Everyone of them has a story of significance.

To deal with this as anything less than a tragedy is wrong. It minimizes our humanity.

We can’t change what’s happened. Analyzing the minutia on the public stage turns it into a momentary horror. A second of sadness. Then most of us move on.

This is not about gun control. Those who want to hurt others and use a firearm to do it will find a way to get a gun. Laws won’t stop people bent on evil.

Evil does exist in the world.

The question of what to do about gun violence has been around for years. Some folks demonize the NRA while others whole-heartedly support them. There are those who believe we need freedom from easy gun accessibility and others who say we need freedom to bear arms to protect ourselves.

Those aren’t the issues. The truth is freedom without virtue and compassion is chaos.

A former vice president and senior counsel for CBS was fired after an inappropriate Facebook post where she commented about those attending the country music concert were probably gun-toting Republicans for whom she had no sympathy.

Did she really not care about the dead? Was she really so calloused toward people she didn’t know? Her apology was heart-felt, but what she’d done was practice free speech.

Without virtue or compassion.

If I want to change my world, I need to begin with me. Treating others with kindness, recognizing their value and seeing them for who they are.

The Bible calls it the Golden Rule. Jesus said to treat others as we want to be treated. Which means putting actions to our words and not just talking to get those golden sound bytes for social media.

It’s a great goal, but we can’t do it ourselves. All the laws and self-help books in the world can’t give us what we need to be kind and care for all people–friends and enemies alike.

It takes heart transformation, which only Jesus can provide.

Washington can’t save us. No matter who’s in the top seat.