Thursday, May 29, 2008

Some Lessons Learned From Death

Paul begins his second (or fourth) letter to the Corinthians with a very incisive observation:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

With our superficial perspective, we can sometimes reason that suffering is "bad." It certainly doesn't feel "good" -- we know that much! But as it is with many concepts in the Kingdom of God, the spiritual reality is often counter-intuitive from our limited perceptions of what is "good" or "bad." Paul says that that is not true that suffering is "bad." He says that suffering is didactic. Among the host of things we can learn during such an experience, suffering teaches about the comfort of God & how to comfort those around us.

In Job 42:5, Job remarks that "My ears had heard [...] but now my eyes have seen." Before this season of my life, there were some things that I had known about suffering in an intellectual sense, or had learned by vicarious observation. And since my parents got divorced during my Senior year of high school, I had even grieved then & knew some things about suffering. But this experience has been entirely more educational than anything I could have read, heard, or experienced before.

In many ways, my mother's death will make me a better minister. If you missed it last month, I shared some insights about how to comfort the suffering. Those weren't my original thoughts, but they ring so true about what to do (and ESPECIALLY what NOT to do) when you are with someone who is grieving and/or suffering.

One other part of this grieving experience that stands out to me is how much more in tune I am with suffering in my community & throughout the rest of the world. There was a story that hit the news today that just makes my heart ache -- Army suicides are at their highest all-time levels. I just think about what men my age & younger are dealing with, not only physically & logistically but also mentally & emotionally. As this report teaches us, not all the young men who face this giant called "War" survive like David did in his encounter with Goliath. (This was also the message of an Academy Award nominated film that I reviewed here a couple months ago, "In the Valley of Elah")

I just don't know how to fathom that much loss of human life. I don't have the capacity to understand the depth of all that grief. It certainly gives me a deeper appreciation for God, knowing that He does understand & perceive ALL of that hurt. How magnificent He must be to handle all of that.

And, of course, there are all the emotions that I deal with on a regular basis. Especially in the weeks following Mom's funeral, after all the family & friends began to settle back into their lives, loneliness really grabs hold. I did some reading about this, and I found that this is not uncommon for folks who have lost someone so close. There are some very lonely nights. Its very difficult to try to maintain a sense of dignity or self-respect (namely, not being too needy around other people) while also maintaining my sanity.

All of this really serves to highlight my own weakness & vulnerability -- two things that most men, including myself, don't like to reflect on a whole lot. I haven't completely finished conceptualizing & processing my feelings of weakness, so I don't have a lot to share yet. I just know now that I'm aware of it & will probably learn more about it as I walk around with it and meditate on it some more.

But I know that the God that sometimes can't be found will wrap himself around me with His considerable capacity to comfort. Day by day, verses like this one in 1st Peter 4:19 mean that much more to me:

So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Monday, May 26, 2008

From a Lyrical Soul

Good stuff from Christian artist Bebo Norman that spoke to me tonight:

Well of eternal things
Endless is all the life You bring
Be the water that I long for

And show me Your Kingdom Come
Father and let Your will be done
Here in me as it is in Heaven

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Dream Soon To Be Realized

I've long-wanted to take one journey in particular: a journey of realization. The kind of excursion where I experience places that I have only read about, or seen snippets of on television.

I'm speaking, of course, of my upcoming Pilgrimage. I've thought about & wanted to do this for a long time, as evidenced by this blog entry a year & a half ago. Oh how naive I was about the costs, or at least of the Fed's ability to regulate inflation. Gas will NOT be cheap. Neither were these:

The Tickets

Beautiful, aren't they?

Anyway, this pilgrimage was always something I had in the back of my mind that I'd do "someday." You know -- "Oh, yeah, I'm gonna get to that... someday."

A popular, recently-released movie, "The Bucket List," serves to remind us that sometimes someday never comes. Lucky for the two characters in the movie that they got to do some of the things they always wanted to do in life before they "kicked the bucket" -- ergo the moniker "Bucket List." A soon-not-to-be local friend in ministry (just the local part... hopefully not the friend part) was inspired by the movie to contemplate his own bucket list on his blog. In doing so, he inspired me.

So, in almost a week, I will be the envy of all my married buddies as I trek from city to city to admire the cathedrals of our Nation's Pastime. I've bought all my tickets. I got my rental car reserved. And thanks to Uncle Sam's stimulus check & inheritance from Mom, I also have plenty of discretionary income to patriotically spend along the way.

(Don't worry, Mom -- I already took a bunch of it & filled up my IRA. You didn't raise a dummy!)

Terrell Owens
"Getcha Popcorn Ready"
I hope to be able to journal at least a little each day about my reflections of each experience on my "Ballpark Pilgrimage" blog, which I linked to above. There's also a link on the side panel under "Me Elsewhere." Also, this will be the first time I will have ever been north of North Carolina. So I hope to experience a little bit of Americana along the way, also.

Anyway, for those of you who read me via RSS, you may want to go ahead and add that blog to your reading list. And as for you non-RSS readers, I also wanted to let you know so you can start checking that blog regularly for entries. I even plan on being very open about costs & such, so I'll fill in those of you who are interested on the logistics of such an undertaking as this. A little FYI: when I make it to Manhattan, I will NOT be eating THIS.

So, I hope to share as much of the joy of this Pilgrimage with you as I can. I don't have a digital camera, though, so I guess I'll have to write a few thousand extra words to make up for it. But I hope you follow along, and I hope it inspires you to start pursuing the items on your bucket list as well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Difference Between Judas and Simon Peter

"Would I ever leave this company? Look: I'm all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I'm being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly, I'm going wherever they value loyalty the most."

- Dwight Schrute

I just started reading a fun little book by James Carville called Stickin': The Case For Loyalty. I'm not always a fan of his politics, but I love James Carville. He's just so blunt & witty. In the book, he explains why he stuck with Bill Clinton through the whole mess with the Monica Lewinsky affair, even though it would have been EMINENTLY more politically & professionally expedient for him to throw the President under the bus. And he explains what would make him pack his bags & leave someone he had been loyal to: someone who would leave their wife & abandon their kids is at the top of the list. Basically, if anyone demonstrates that they are more loyal to money, power, or convenience than they are to their fellow man, Carville ain't stickin' with you.

Its got me to thinking about stickin'. So there may be a few more thoughts like these coming over the next few weeks...

I was at a Bible Study last week where the leader (a more-or-less irregular reader of this blog) was talking about the difference between Peter and Judas. He took the position that what Judas did in selling out Jesus was much worse than what Peter did in denying Jesus. I just don't see it that way. What Judas did was BAD -- low-down, dirty-snitch bad -- but what Peter did was inexcusable, too.

Bottom line: Peter was ashamed of Jesus. Ashamed enough that he didn't stick by Him when the heat was turned up. He saw the ship sinking, and he didn't want any part of drowning. When his faithfulness was tried, Simon Peter was a deserting, disloyal disciple.

Here's where the difference comes between Judas and Simon Peter...

Judas GAVE up, and Peter GOT up.

Judas selfishly took his own life. He couldn't deal with his shame. He couldn't run far enough way to escape the dastardly deed he had done. And so he went to the one place he could go where he wouldn't have to deal with the guilt: suicide. Judas gave up.

But Peter got up. Sure, there was a little intervention from Jesus to bring him back. But Peter faced the shame face-to-face over breakfast -- he didn't run away & hide from it like Judas did. He allowed Jesus to pick him back up, dust him off, and use him again. And its just a couple chapters later that its the Day of Pentecost, and who is it but SIMON PETER preaching the first Gospel sermon.

When it comes to our Heavenly Father, stickin' means getting back up off the mat. None of us are perfect. It'd be great if there was something magical about those baptismal waters -- something mystical that burned away all our sinful & transgressing inclinations. But there isn't. And so faithfulness to God -- loyalty to His name & Kingdom -- I believe will be judged in part by those who choose to get up instead of give up. As did Moses, who finally chose to lead God's people instead of wallow in his guilt for another 40 years. As did David when Nathan confronted him. As did Peter a number of times in the Gospels, and even once in Galatians. Not even "Limited Edition 1st Century Holy Spirit Power" could keep Peter from screwing something up!

Stickin' with God means facing the music. It means not running away & hiding from whatever it is that is shameful that we've done. God can't do anything with that. God wants folks who won't give up on Him and who won't give up on themselves. We may not be as far along spiritually as we oughta be -- we may not even be as far along as we WANNA be. But even though Satan comes up & roughs us up from time to time, and even though its shameful to face the aftermath, stickin' is staying on that straight & narrow road even when it would be more convenient to find some other path to walk on.

Judas gave up. But Peter got up. And that made all the difference.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Special Night at the Ballpark

Tonight, a young Red Sox pitcher threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals.

And that sentence really says so little.

In June of 2006, after a rash of injuries to the Red Sox starting pitching staff, rookie pitcher Jon Lester made his major league debut. The 22 year-old was a sensation. A couple of months later, Lester had to miss a start because of soreness in his back. It was originally thought that his ailment was related to a car crash he had been involved in a week earlier. But as further tests were done, Lester was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.


Jon Lester moved back home & underwent chemotherapy treatments. And by December 5th, 2006, he was pronounced cancer-free.

He resumed baseball-related activities by Spring Training of '07, but the Red Sox organization wanted him to take it slow. So Lester pitched in the minors for several months, regaining his strength & velocity. And by July 23rd, he returned to start a major league game against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.

I remember watching that game on ESPN. We had just moved my Mom down to Florida, and the game was on, and I told Mom how that young kid had licked cancer & was now back to full strength. The ESPN cameras found his parents in the seats, and it was evident that it was a big night for them. With tears in their eyes, they passionately rooted on their son as he got the win that night. I'll never forget the image of his mother pumping her fist with tear-filled eyes as he finished off his final inning of that game.

Jon Lester made it through the rest of that '07 season in rocky fashion. He didn't pitch poorly, but he wasn't yet making the kind of progress folks expect a 2nd year player to make. He really just wasn't back to full strength.

But October came around. The Red Sox won a draining 7-game ALCS to advance to the World Series, and almost immediately had to face the Colorado Rockies. After the Red Sox won the first three games, their top four starting pitchers were all a little too taxed to pitch Game Four. So Manager Terry Francona gave the ball to Jon Lester. And all he did was go out and win the clinching game of the World Series, less than a year removed from battling cancer.

Still, he had help in those games. He only pitched 6 innings (18 total outs) against the Indians in his return, and 5 and 2/3 innings (17 outs) in the World Series clincher.

But tonight was different. Jon Lester pitched all 9 innings & recorded 27 outs. He face 30 different batters, and not one of them could get a hit against him. Jon Lester was center-stage, and tonight he was the strongest man on Earth. He threw 130 pitches -- about 30 more pitches than the average starter throws on any given night. And even to the very end, Lester was throwing heat. His fastball was clocking in at about 95 MPH.

For Red Sox fans, it was a fun night. But for people who have been touched by cancer, and especially Jon Lester and his family, tonight was a special night at the ballpark.

As Close As Hillary and Obama Are Ever Gonna Get

Saturday Night Live did a great spoof of an ESPN/ABC commercial this weekend. First, here's the real commercial hyping the NBA Playoffs with arch-rivals, Shaq & Kobe:

And then, here's the commercial SNL aired:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Manny of the People

Manny catches a fly ball, high fives a Sox fan in the OF stands, and then throws the ball back in to double up the runner on first base.

I never can make up my mind about this guy. But I love this play. It is just a game, after all, and the guy was just having fun.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Sports Decade of Cheats

As sports news focused on the "SpyGate" yesterday, I couldn't help but reflect upon how history will remember the last decade in sports.

It is clear now that the Patriots broke the rules -- they videotaped coaches hand signals, and used that information in later games. They claim that they did not use this information IN the football games that they were already in, but there is now evidence that suggests that may have been the case. This is a football dynasty that won each of their Super Bowls by a single field goal apiece. They will be remembered as a franchise that cheated to win it all.

In baseball, this will be remembered as the decade in which the lid was blown off the steroids secret in baseball. And there's still no testing for HGH. Barry Bonds hit 73 homeruns in one year, and passed Hank Aaron with #756 last year. Roger Clemens continued pitch well into his 40's & set records this decade with no little help from performance enhancing substances. Sure, the Red Sox broke the curse, but that seems overshadowed by the inflated players & numbers of recent years.

Even in the NBA, people have always wondered in a strange game if something shady isn't going on relative to point-shaving -- be it with a player, coach, or even a referee. And then the news broke last summer about NBA referee Tim Donaghy. Donaghy made calls in games (even one notable playoff game) that affected the point spread in those games. He gambled, accrued a debt, got in trouble with some powerful people, and became complicit with their plan to make money off of his influential position.

Then again, I think that there is nothing new under the sun: we've lived in culture of cheating for quite a long time. SpyGate? The New York Baseball Giants did that half a century ago. When Bobby Thompson hit his "Shot Heard 'Round the World" (you know, the one where they play that clip & the announcer yells "THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!"), he probably knew what pitch was coming because of a complex system that allowed the Giants batters to steal signs from the catcher to the pitcher (according to Joshua Prager's book, "Echoing Green"). Gaylord Perry was a notorious cheater, known in his career for scuffing baseballs & throwing spit-balls. And yet he is celebrated in Baseball's Hall of Fame! Ask any former NFL offensive lineman and they will tell you that they could have had a flag thrown on them for holding on just about every down of football that they played. There's a way to get away with it, and the good ones learn how to do it without getting caught.

I know what the rest of you take away from all this, but it just impresses upon me how important it is for Christians & churches to be counter-cultural -- to be people & organizations of integrity. If we don't stand out as different, then what do we have to offer to the world?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Dreams of Dwight Schrute

One of the best Christmas gifts I've ever received, and the BEST I received this past Christmas, was a tear-off calendar of quotes from the television series, "The Office." Its great -- every morning I wake up, tear a new page, and laugh at the day's quote. Its genuinely a blessing to start each day with a good laugh.

I thought I'd share today's with everyone. It is courtesy of Dwight Schrute: a geeky, megalomaniacal salesman at Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company.

My perfect date? I take the girl out for a nice dinner. She looks stunning. But then, some guy tries to hit on her... so I grab him and throw him into a jukebox. But the other ninja has a knife... so I take her home... As I kiss her goodnight, I hear something in the leaves, and I flip her around. She gets a poison arrow right in the back.
-- Dwight

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Unique Experience Shared

I've read a couple of touching articles in the last couple days from a couple of other men who lost their mother. If there's one common theme I've come to discover, it is how much these men would love to be able to call their mother. And that is true. As each day passes, I discover within me a deeper longing to pick up the phone, call my Mom, and tell her what's been going on lately.

I used to be real bad at that. When I first went off to college, Mom would have to call me every few months or so. Finally, she got fed up with it, and she had to confront me. A year or two into college, she told me in one conversation:

"I want you to call me more regularly. YOU call ME. And I want you to tell me 'I love you' everytime you do that. It means a lot to me."

You know, sometimes ladies just have to spell it out for us. Mom did that for me, and the message was heard. So I began to make a Sunday night ritual of it. When I was leaving the church building from the PM worship service, I'd give her a ring. Sometimes I'd take the long way home so we could talk a little longer; other times I'd just sit in my truck in the driveway. Most times we would just chit-chat & wouldn't talk very long. But semi-regularly, on Sunday night's, I'd pick up the phone & call my Mama.

I even nearly reached for the phone last night. My sister & I have even talked about how it sort of seems like we could pick up the phone to talk to her -- except that we actually can't. I was driving home from PM worship service last night, had the radio off, and I thought about calling her. Except I actually couldn't.

My thanks to Lori for forwarding this to me Saturday: Jason Steckel wrote about this experience in the latest Wineskins:

It was less than a year and a half later, [my son] Matthew came into the world. Again, we were reminded of the hole in our families. I wished that my mom was there to share in this special moment. As a new life began, I was reminded of a life that ended too soon.

In the years since, I have often had moments where I wanted to talk to my mom. Whether it was seeking advice, wanting to share a special moment, or simply the desire to say hi, there are times when I just wish my mom was still here. But again, I am reminded that we live in a broken world where death is inevitable and no one is immune from pain and suffering.

And in Sunday's New York Times, Tom Friedman very simply tells the reader to Call Your Mother:

Whenever I’ve had the honor of giving a college graduation speech, I always try to end it with this story about the legendary University of Alabama football coach, Bear Bryant. Late in his career, after his mother had died, South Central Bell Telephone Company asked Bear Bryant to do a TV commercial. As best I can piece together, the commercial was supposed to be very simple — just a little music and Coach Bryant saying in his tough voice: “Have you called your mama today?”

On the day of the filming, though, he decided to ad-lib something. He reportedly looked into the camera and said: “Have you called your mama today? I sure wish I could call mine.” That was how the commercial ran, and it got a huge response from audiences.

So on this Mother’s Day, if you take one thing away from this column, take this: Call your mother.

I sure wish I could call mine.

Me too, Tom.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Love is Patient

In the aftermath of my Mom's passing, I've heard a number of stories about people losing loved ones. The saddest of these stories are the ones where people walk through the rest of their life with deep regret over some matter that can no longer be mended. I'm so relieved that I'm not plagued with any real deep regret.

When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer back in late October of '06, Mom decided that she wanted to try to pursue a homeopathic treatment. My sister, Katie, and I gave her a hard time about not even wanting to go see an Oncologist to pursue a more mainstream treatment. A few weeks later (the week of Thanksgiving), once the cancer began to cause extreme skin discoloration, Mom got scared enough to go visit the Oncologist. I remember that it was my sister Katie who finally talked her into going. And I drove all the way over to Mobile, AL to meet her at the clinic to escort her on the 2-hour drive back to her home.

When I showed up, she had already started to receive her first dose of chemotherapy intravenously. I remember that she was sitting there receiving the treatment, snacking on some Nutter Butters, and watching an instructional video about what was about to happen to her body. That first week with chemo I believe was about one of the roughest for her. She was painfully nauseous, weak, and generally sick-feeling. And I was there for all of it that first week. Mom would receive chemo treatments every two weeks. I wasn't able to be there every two weeks -- Katie & Mom's sister were able to be there to help her when I wasn't -- but I was there for her as much as it was possible for me to be there.

When Mom had her mastectomy, Katie was there with her. But when Katie had to be relieved, I showed up and was there for Mom. And when an infection developed from Mom's surgery & she had to be driven to the hospital 2 hours away in the middle of the night, I was there. While she was in the hospital for the next three and a half days, I stayed there with Mom for all of it.

When the cancer spread to Mom's brain, and she needed to be driven to radiation treatments every weekday, Katie & I moved her down to Florida & we were there for her. And when Mom had her seizure, began to die, and finally passed, we were there for her every step of the way then, too.

I don't have any regret about Mom in that sense. I gave & provided for her almost everything I could offer. Almost.

If there is one thing I regret, it was that I wasn't more patient with Mom. In her last year, Mom lost a lot of her considerable brain power. She would ask the same questions over & over, forgetting the answer I had already shared with her. After a while, this grated on my nerves. And when these moments continued to happen, my frustration could be clearly sensed through the tone of my voice. Mom even had to tell me one time, "You hurt my feelings. I can't help it." Naturally, I apologized. And I got better about it. But my impatience would still show through from time to time.

Anyway, if there is one thing I could share with my friends on Mother's Day, many of you with mothers who soon will be moving into the sunset of their lives, it would be for each of you to learn to love those around you more patiently. I found this letter particularly convicting. It was read by Dr. James Dobson on his radio show, Focus on the Family, some time ago:

To all my children:

A few years ago, I saw a tee-shirt with the words "Live Long Enough to Be a Burden to Your Children." Back then, I thought it was funny, Today, I don't think it's funny at all, because I am afraid I'm doing just that. None of us want to be a burden to our family, but the older we get, the more we realize that age comes not only to the aging person, but to the family, as well. Both must accept old age and make the necessary adjustments.

Sometimes I wonder how the children of Methuselah felt about their father who lived to be 969 years old. Imagine, at more than 900 years old, did he have all of his faculties at that age? Or was he blind, deaf, and maybe so feeble that he couldn't walk? Did his children worry about whether he was eating right, getting enough exercise and dressing warmly enough? How did he accept his advancing years? These questions came to mind because, as a parent, I hate having to rely on my children to do things for me that I could do for myself a few years ago.

You children are always so kind and generous about looking after me, but I want to be doing for myself. I long to drive my car again. I want to go alone to the grocery store to shop, and I want to drive myself there. I want...but you get the idea. What I really want is to be 70 again. The truth of it is, that our roles are reversed, and now I am your child needing you in a special way. I suppose my upcoming birthday started my thoughts along these lines. You never forget my birthday, or any other special day, without a gift. I realize the problems you must have in choosing a gift, because I have what I need in material possessions. This is a good time to tell you that what I truly want are things I can never get enough of, yet they are free. I want the intangibles. I want just a little more of your time, and that's selfish of me, I know, because you have your own children, and grandchildren, who want your time, and also you need time for yourselves. But all I want is just a few unhurried minutes. I would like for you to come and sit with me, and for you to be relaxed. It makes me so nervous when you sit on the edge of your chair and keep looking at your watch. We can talk, or we can be silent. I would just like for us to be together.

You children who live out of town are thoughtful to call me on the phone, but I would like it if you could just write once or twice a month. Then I could look forward to reading and rereading your letters. I don't always hear every word you say on the phone, and a letter or two would help me greatly.

I need your patience when I don't hear what you say the first time, so please don't be annoyed. I know how tiresome it is to always be repeating , but sometimes I must ask you to repeat. Now, you don't need to yell at me, just speak slowly. I need your patience when I think too much about the past. I need your patience with my slowness and my set ways. I want you to be tolerant with what the years have done to me physically.

Please be understanding about my personal care habits. I really can't see when my dress is dirty or the floor needs cleaning. I spill things. I lose things. I get unduly excited when I try to figure out my bank statements. I can't remember what time to take my medication, or if I took it already. I take too many naps, I know, because you have said, "Quit spending all of your time sleeping." Well, sometimes when I sleep in the daytime, it was because I was awake half the night. At other times, sleep helps to pass the day. When I have nothing but time on my hands, a 15-minute nap seems like an hour.

Well, there you have it: time, patience, and understanding. These are the priceless gifts that I want. Over and over again, I take my bible, (thank God that I can still read), and I read what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." But oh, how trying!

I know what it is to be in need, and what it is to have more than enough. I remember how your father and I struggled through the depression, and then how wonderful it was when we finally had a good nest egg, and had saved something for old age. I am thankful I can still care for myself financially (that is, unless I live to be 969!)

Finally, in his letter, Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." I know I can, too! Maybe I can't do all I want to, the way I used to, but how comforting it is to know His eye is on the sparrow and I know He cares for me. I guess being 80 isn't so bad after all! God has blessed me so much.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How Do You Treat Reckless Drivers?

So, about a half hour ago, I had just followed my sister to drop off her car for an oil change, and we were headed up a highway in town to go grab lunch at Chick-Fil-A. This highway (HWY 77 here in Panama City) is a 4-lane road, and on this particular stretch there is a middle turn lane and a "6th" lane on the right that is for turning into a number of restaurants, hotel, & flower shop on the right. Its sort of a strange constant turn lane.

From time to time, I'll be driving this stretch of road, and people will turn into that lane to turn right at the upcoming intersection (which is about 300 yards away) & speed up. Not only does it selfishly hog the turn lane for those who have to wait before they can get in the lane, slow down, & turn, but it is an accident waiting to happen with someone who will get ready to slow down & turn without seeing the person barreling down the turn lane at 45 MPH.

Well, this happened today. My sister & I are driving along in the right lane, doing about 35 MPH in a 45 MPH zone -- traffic was heavy, and gas prices are rather high for me to be doing a lot of accelerating. All of a sudden, this SUV turns into the right turn lane & speeds up. It starts accelerating & passes us doing at least 45 MPH in this turn lane (maybe higher, but I don't want to sound like I'm exaggerating).

So I went into diatribe mode with my poor, captive-audience sister -- "that's so selfish," blah blah, "and that's how accidents happen," yackity schmackity. You know...

And, all of a sudden, she turns right where we're going to turn. And when I finally turn there, I see that she's right in the Chick-Fil-A line that we were going to get in. And right as I pull up behind her, she rolls her window down to pour some ice out of a cup.

WELL! That's enough of an opening for me.

So I roll down my window, and I yell, "HEY!!" I wait for her to poke her head out of the window, and I holler, "That's NOT a passing lane!!"

She starts going, "Awww, gimme a break!"

And I said, "THAT is how accidents happen!!"

She says, "F@#& YOU!" And then gave me the finger. She ordered, and as she was pulling up, gave me the finger again.

As we pulled out of Chick-Fil-A, we took a short cut to go back to get Katie's car. All of a sudden, we pass this business where we see that car & that woman getting out of it. So I honked the horn at her a couple times. I didn't care to look back to see if she "responded."

My general working philosophy is this: people need to know when they've done something idiotic. And I don't mind being that guy who confronts them to let them know that what they did was stupid. If have to shame them with my horn, or my words, so be it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Takes Longer Than I Thought

I haven't felt very normal since Mom's Memorial Service. In fact, honestly, I've been a little depressed. I haven't wanted to blog much lately because I've been worried that I'd be Donnie Downer.

But I had a good talk today with a couple of my friends in ministry. Apparently, this whole mourning deal takes longer than I thought. I'd rather not be lethargic, disinterested in most things, and mopey. I'd rather get back to normal. But it is part of the process apparently. And the process lasts awhile.

I didn't realize that. I knew that folks generally take a year to begin to fully move on -- there's always those first holidays to deal with (first Christmas, first Mother's Day, etc.). I just hadn't ever really, fully conceived that each day would be so blue.

Just a little FYI for everyone out there who hasn't grieved before & would expect everything to be all back to normal within a few weeks...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Whiny Homer Announcers

The downside to expansion teams in baseball over the last 15 years is that I get to see less & less Braves baseball here in Florida. Braves used to be on "WTBS" every night back in the day. Now the MLB has contracted games out to Fox Sports Net, I only get to watch the Braves on TV whenever they are the Fox or ESPN game of the week.

The upside, however, is that I get to watch 19 Red Sox games per year. By virtue of playing the Tampa Bay Rays 19 times every season, I get to see those games on my local FSN affiliate. The Rays are playing in Boston this weekend, so I've enjoyed watching the games on TV.

There is a downside even to this, however. I have to listen to the poor souls who have the unenviable task of announcing all 162 Rays games every year. And it really shows. Bob Uecker, a.k.a. "Harry Doyle," made it funny in the movie "Major League." But these guys are clearly depressed. And it becomes evident when they start talking about the "privileged" Red Sox.

Bob Uecker
"Boy, how can these guys lay off pitches THAT close??"
They whine about every bad call, and the production crew show endless replays of it. Today, Ray Eric Hinskie had a double land in fair territory that the umps called foul, and these announcers won't let it go. In fact, they have some commercial sponsor that sponsors the "[So-and-So Company] Call of the Game." That just gave these whiners another excuse to wring their hands over that missed call again.

Kevin Youkilis especially draws the ire of these announcers. If there's a borderline pitch, and Youk doesn't swing at it, and the Ump calls it a ball, it drives them nuts. "Well, its never a strike if KEVIN YOUKILIS doesn't swing at it, apparently." "[Chuckle Chuckle]," goes the color man.

By the way... it is now the top of the 8th inning. (I'm totally not making this up.) And the FSN production team just showed the "Infiniti Unbelievable Play of the Game." And they showed a replay of Hinskie's fair ball that the umps called foul.

Its not that I'm angry that these Rays announcers are so sour & jaded. Its that I pity them. Let go of the bitterness & hate, guys!