Unexpected And Unwanted

I’ve always wanted to live in Colorado. The majesty of the mountains, the luxury of the many lakes, the glorious sun that shines more than in the Sunshine State.

Granted, I haven’t lived there during the winter months. I’ve walked in the drifts there that last forever, but I haven’t had to live in it. There’s been no need to get up early to allow the car to heat up before I get in it. I’ve not shoveled a driveway in years. I don’t own winter clothes of any kind.

My daughter Courtney called to share what she was experiencing in Denver.

I’ve never been more grateful to not be somewhere.

Sunday had been warm and sunny. 75 degrees, perfect weather for taking long walks and playing on the playgrounds that dot the city. Shorts were unearthed, sandals found, and it felt like early spring.

It wasn’t.

Monday the temperature dropped to 19 degrees, and five inches of snow fell. Shorts were put away, and the sandals went back into hiding.

In Denver, winter often lasts until May; major snowstorms are no respecters of calendars.

It was the hint of hope, however, that was Courtney’s undoing. The teasing warmth of a single day, the invitation to believe that cold and snow were over for this year. It was a taunt by a wacky weather system.

How many times in life have I been pleasantly surprised by something I hadn’t anticipated only to be discouraged with what came of it.

When we were little, Dad surprised us one Christmas by bringing home a beagle puppy. We named her Holly and fell in love with her on the spot. We had wanted a dog for so long; begging had become a daily affair. But Mom had been insistent; there would be no dog.

Dad had other ideas. He’d had dogs growing up and had wanted to get us one for a long time. Mom had had dogs as well but clearly remembered it was her mother who took care of them. We promised we’d be responsible; the first night my twin sister and I slept down by Holly’s crate and took her out the moment she woke at 5 a.m.

We were faithful about walking, feeding, and cleaning up after her. We wanted this dog more than we’d wanted anything.

Our undoing was Holly’s chewing.

She began by chewing up the legs of a small table in the den. Mom was furious, so Holly spent much of her time out back, tethered to a rope that allowed her to roam the back yard.

She chewed through the rope and ran away.

And got hit by a car.

Dad eventually took her to a friend’s farm, for her health and Mom’s sanity.

Pleasant surprises are often followed by unpleasant realities. Life is not neat, orderly, or controlled.

That’s what we yearn for. To plan and have those plans realized.

Control.

God alone knows the bigger picture. Only He can walk us through the challenge of the unexpected, the hazards of disappointments.

If we let Him.

Can you let go of what you think you deserve to receive from Him His gifts of hope and life?

All it takes is faith.

 

 

 

 

 

How Is Super Defined?

 

I’ll freely admit I’m drawn more to the creativity of the million-dollar ads that are part of the spectacle.

The half-time show has become a little uncomfortable for my refined tastes.

For me, watching the Super Bowl is a mix of occasional glances interspersed with conversations among friends.

Tagged with the superlative “super”, there’s an expectation that this is the game to end all games. The two top teams in all of football play each other to see who is the best of the best–for the year.

Are they really the best teams?

There are teams which fell apart due to critical injuries; players expected to be on the field couldn’t do what they anticipated doing. Some teams just had bad days, where throwing was off, guys missed easy passes, balls were dropped, quarterbacks weren’t protected as they’d hoped to be.

Even football players make mistakes.

I understand the drive behind this game, why it’s called Super. It’s an advertisers’ dream come true, with millions watching clever snippets that will encourage them to buy products they may never really need. It’s an opportunity for the host city to make big bucks on all those who come to see the game and cheer their team on to victory.

And of course, there’s football, the all-American sport, where really big guys go after each other like individual wrecking balls to prevent a pigskin from crossing the goal line.

I’m not being cynical. I actually enjoy the game.

But it’s just that–a game.

Many will bet big money this weekend on who will win. Statistics will be thrown around and talked about; factoids that will seem like the difference between meritorious and mediocre. Men will be defined by how they do on the field in a three or four-hour time slot.

I would never want who I am or how I’m remembered to be earmarked by a fumble or a missed pass. A mistake.

Mistakes on national television, on a game seen around the world, can seem daunting.

It takes great people to play under that pressure and not cave to fear. Showing up in a situation that can be uncomfortable and demanding and still seek to do your best no matter what the results–that scenario is more telling than winning a game because everything works in your favor.

We’re all quick to get on the bandwagon of winners. It’s a vicarious experience of doing the deed well.

The true “super” folks are those who diligently go about doing their best, whether or not they’re recognized. They show up in faithfulness and kindness, treating others with respect and value because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s what Jesus did.

You won’t find them in the limelight. They won’t be asked to endorse anything of importance. They won’t be on any Fortune 500 list.

They’re the first to volunteer when people need help. The ones who stay late to clean up after everyone else has left.

Unsung heroes.

Super may be overused in our common vernacular.

For this year, the Kansas City Chiefs are super.

Who but Jesus can be consistently super?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Measure Of A Man

I’m not a huge fan of basketball; soccer and football are more my games.

I’m a great fan of people working toward excellence. Who don’t take for granted a God-given talent but maximize it to become the best they can be.

We will be eulogizing Kobe Bryant for a long time. So many of the sportscasters are lauding him for his incredible skill and athleticism, his presence on the court; legitimate ways of remembering the man.

It was what he did when no one was looking that made him the player and man he was.

One sportscaster explained how many basketball players will take enormous amounts of time to rest during the months of April to October. They’ll practice and stay in shape, but a lot of vacation happens.

Kobe’s attitude was different. He’d take a week after the finals and relax. Then it was back to the 5 a.m. alarm and consistent workouts, pushing to improve his skill set. He counted the cost of what it meant to be an amazing player, not resting on his achievements but raising the bar for himself constantly, always seeing ways to improve.

Not a value he expected of anyone else.

More than anything else, he was a husband and father. The world saw a basketball player, but what required more work and effort was family. His wife Vanessa and his four girls were his biggest fans. Gianna, the second daughter, fell in love with the sport as her father and grandfather had years before. She was working to become the best player she could be.

Kobe wasn’t perfect. He almost lost his family quite a few years ago due to a bad decision he made. He lost sight of what was important for a time, but he owned his mistake. He and his wife fought for their marriage; that kind of work is harder than preparing for the NBA finals. You can’t settle for defeat, can’t allow losing all you’ve fought for to be an option. You work harder; marriage is worth that.

When Kobe and Gianna died in a helicopter crash this past Sunday, people mourned the loss of this hero and all he represented to the sport of basketball.

What outlives us?

The talk of legacy comes up every time someone famous dies. Rightfully so; we don’t often think of our mortality till we see someone we admire pass. Kobe wasn’t thinking it was his last day when he entered that helicopter.

How we live matters. Our lives reflect our values and character; our decisions impact not only us but those around us.

None of us is perfect. Jesus came to redeem the mess we’ve made of ourselves, to give us the grace to live out of victory instead of defeat.

Kobe’s value of hard work and excellence will be around for a long time. His influence on his family even longer.

We don’t know the number of our days; only God does. The challenge we have is to live them well.

Would you choose differently if you knew the date of your last day?

 

 

 

 

Color Me One

 

photo courtesy of Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

Color makes me happy.

I’ve gravitated to bright colors all my life. Where Mom loved avocado green for most of her days (she graduated to purple in her last years), I’ve always enjoyed the deep jewel tones of red, blue, and green–and anything bright and cheery.

The very first piece of clothing I bought on my own was a bright red shirt. Really bright. I remember one kid at school–those snarky comments you never forget–said, with his hands shading his eyes, “Gonna need sunglasses to look at you.”

I never wore that shirt to school again.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve cared less about the comments of others concerning my color selections. At different times in my married life, I’ve painted rooms bright colors that made me smile. Or reflected other emotions. One of my daughters now is a bright-color aficionado, and her home pops with color. Bright and cheery.

When we painted the inside of our downstairs, however, I found I gravitated toward a pure gray.  At a time when life felt very unsettled, this seemed a solution to calm my exterior so it would affect my personal interior.

But too much gray was boring. We’ve added spots of color here and there that maintain the calm but add the spice.

Color is an expression of who we are, our emotions, our perspectives, our dreams.

I think it’s why I love kaleidoscopes so much. As a kid, turning the knob to watch the colors morph into new shapes and hues was fascinating. The smallest turn would produce a whole new picture, unexpected and beautiful.

We all look at the world through our own color grids, which have been shaped by who we are and where we’ve come from. There are those who’ve been raised with bright, daring colors, and others by more temperate hues.

It’s a source of disagreement, but it’s who we are.

Even in the world of faith, we are hampered by how our different grids operate. As a Jesus follower, I want my perspective to be more of a big picture, seeing individuals for who they really are, how unique and amazing everyone is, as Jesus sees us.

I confess I’m not always successful. I’m easily drawn into finger-pointing and putting distance between me and those who don’t agree with me. I hate being put into a box, especially when it’s inaccurate. Lumping me with all others who claim the same faith as I do isn’t taking the time to know me. To understand my journey, my story.

I’m not a perfect reflection of the God who loves me.

The bigger problem for the world is that folks have forgotten to look at Jesus and see Him as who He claims to be–God. Awesome, all-powerful, good. Instead, they point at His followers, who are anything but all good and perfect. We mess up–everyone does.

What we have as His followers are grace and forgiveness. A love that can’t be explained by the world’s definition; an unconditional, fully-forgiving commitment from the God of the universe.

Jesus embraces our differences–color, thoughts, backgrounds, dreams. No one is beyond the reach of His love.

That is one cosmic kaleidoscope of awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perilous Pleasure

 

There’s something incredibly beautiful about an ice-covered lake, with hues of deep turquoise layered amidst frozen waves of white. It’s magnificent in its frigid structure, a sculpture made by wind and glacial temperatures. When the sun glints off the surface, it’s like diamonds are refracting light everywhere.

I appreciate it. I don’t want to be in it.

My little sister lives in Wisconsin near Green Bay, which is freezing over. This time of year is the smudged line between beautiful and harsh–for me. She loves her seasons.

I envy her those seasons–for about a day.

I’ve visited her when the ice is so thick that cars drive onto the bay itself for ice fishing. The bring tiny houses filled with whatever necessities are required to stay out for hours on end. Holes are cut in the ice, and the small abodes are put over them. Setting up home on ice.

Not my idea of pleasure, but to each his own.

What’s fascinating is the number of cars that fall through the ice each year.

I have no idea what thickness of ice it takes to keep a car from submerging. It’s not uncommon, however, for cars to fall through the ice every year. Often during ice fishing, individually or in competition.

When a car falls into the water and is completely submerged, the damage done often destroys the car. An afternoon of fishing then costs more than anticipated.

The problem in many states is that, if your car goes under, you’re responsible for getting it out. There are companies that specialize in resurrecting cars from watery graves. But it’ll cost you thousands of dollars to do so.

That beautiful ice is looking more sinister by the moment.

Huge floes of ice hold a major challenge for shorelines. Caused by currents, strong winds, and cold temperatures, ice is pushed up on shore, often causing damage to homes and roads. Called ice shoves for shoving their way wherever they please, they’re very common around the Great Lakes area. People familiar with them climb them as winter playgrounds. But awareness is necessary–they move fast, and if you’re not ready to move, they can be hurtful.

Harsh beauty.

There are many things in my life that intrigue me, draw me in, beg me to participate that aren’t always good for me. I’ll admit to being somewhat of an adrenaline junkie; parachuting, parasailing, heights don’t bother me.

Most of the time, I know my limits.

There are those times I justify my poor decisions. Wrong actions are undertaken because they look fun. Or everyone else is doing it. Or it can’t be that bad, can it?

That’s a temptation. It isn’t something I should choose to do, but if I’m drawn enough, rationalize enough, I’ll step over the line.

God knows my heart is prone to wander and do its own thing. This world holds hard choices, and I’ll always be pulled to what isn’t good for me.

God fully forgives. I’m still responsible for the consequences of those poor decisions, but He’s with me even as I work those out.

Perilous pleasures? Always.

Freely forgiven? Oh, yeah.