Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy 2nd Anniversary Sweetie!

Two years ago today. Wow.

Hope we'll be making music and still going strong when we're old and grey like this couple. They've been married 62 years and played an impromptu recital together in the atrium of the Mayo Clinic shortly before his 90th birthday.

Here's to growing old together.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Up for adventure

The redhead and I caught the movie Up yesterday afternoon.

I can't remember the last time I was so deeply affected by a film. Within the first five minutes, my eyes grew wet with tears and by the end of the movie, I was a blubbering idiot in desperate need of an action film to redeem my manhood.

Stories have great power to move us, even animated ones. In a recent interview, Up writer and director Pete Docter said, "There's something of the divine in the way we respond to stories and how we're created as people—that we're so driven by relationship that even when we know we're just looking at a bunch of drawings, we still connect emotionally." Boy, do we ever! Even when we're not aware of it, our longing to connect with others moves in powerful ways.

The film had so many great themes: the consequences of misplaced priorities, the danger of devoting your life to the wrong things, the beauty and simplicity of an ordinary life, and our deep need to connect with others. I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it yet so I won't give away too much here. Check it out for yourself. Just be sure to bring a box of kleenex.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Work is a rubber ball

"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.  You name them-work, family, health, friends, and spirit-and you are keeping all of these in the air.  You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls-family, health, friends, and spirit-are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered.  They will never be the same.  You must understand that and strive for balance in your life." (Brian Dyson).

As much as I think balance is a never ending quest for the unattainable, I find myself resonating deeply with this quote.  I can drop the work ball and survive but if I drop one of the others, then life will never be the same.

What about you? Can you relate?  How do you keep from dropping the wrong ball?

Monday, June 1, 2009

More than Plain Vanilla

Nearly every summer during my childhood years, my parents would haul my sister and I up to Virginia to stay at my grandparent's house for the week. Though we loved our Nana and Papa Jim, after a couple of days in their home, we were usually ready to pull our hair out.

Nana's house was a tidy home nestled on a quiet street in Richmond. She had a garden out back where she grew the tomatoes that ended up in pots of her famous stewed tomatoes, a dish that still gives my sister and I nightmares. Everything was proper at Nana's house. No chips and sandwiches for lunch. Everything served on pink depression glass and good china. Days were quiet and peaceful. Evenings were set aside for card games like "crazy eights" that we played while eating bowls of vanilla ice cream or munching on popcorn.

A few days of this and we were ready to lose our minds. All we could think about was what was waiting for us across town, at my Aunt Anne and Uncle Graham's house. Anne and Graham and their four kids lived in a home that was nothing short of amazing for two kids from flat-as-a-pancake Florida. Their house sat at the top of a hill. A steep driveway curved around back. A creek ran behind their house and best of all, their home had (get this) ..a basement! Whoa! This was a room that was actually buried in the ground, something we never heard of or saw in Florida. And in that basement was a roomful of everything a kid could want: a closet full of boardgames, a pool table, a drumset and a big TV. But the door leading out to the garage opened up to the greatest find of all: not one, but two motorcycles.

We sat at Nana's house trying to look amused and well-behaved. But all we could think about was getting over to Anne and Graham's house. Sometimes, while sitting at our grandparent's house, my sister and I would call our cousins, just to find out what was happening at the fun house. One time, my sister practically begged my Aunt and Uncle to come and rescue us from the grandparent prison.

Sometimes, I think the way we think about "good" or "being good" or "living a good life" is sort of like how I perceived life as a child at my grandparent's house: it was a place to be nice, polite, respectful. A place to enjoy a few well-mannered amusements and perhaps be rewarded for good behavior with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. A place to be good, moral, and nice.


What if "good" is more like life at my Aunt and Uncle's house: a bold, risky place of adventure, excitement, new experiences, noise, games, relationships, fun, laughter, and new sights and sounds? What if "the good life" is a flourishing life full of abundance instead of a flat two-dimensional life of moral duty? What if it's a life rich with adventure, purpose, and intimacy?

It's easy to portray evil in popular culture. Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in the last Batman movie was dark, sinister, and amazing. It's harder to portray good in a way that doesn't come up flat. Evil is often portrayed as sexy, alive, and pulsing with energy. Good comes across as flat, ordinary, and dull.

Maybe the richer portrayals of good are found not in popular culture, but in the rich tapestry of men and women that surround us. I think about the bold risky lives of a group of my friends who want to make a difference in the lives of orphans. Tonight, the Redhead and I listened with excitement to these friends as they told us about their work in funding an orphanage in Uganda and their plans to take supplies over next week with a group of people from our church. Another couple talked enthusiastically and tearfully about the unsolicited generousity of friends who were funding their adoption of a blind infant girl from Ethiopia. Still anther couple suprised us all with the news that their family was about to grow as they announced their plans to adopt two more children from Kazakhstan.

These men and women are my heroes. Unselfish ordinary people living extraordinary lives rich with goodness in the fullest sense.

When Jesus promised an abundant life for those who would give up everything they had to become his disciples, I think this was the kind of life he was talking about.

It beats a bowl of vanilla ice cream any day.