I’m not looking forward to the day when I have to sit my grandkids down and explain to them the bad things that happened last week.
It will be hard to tell them that we used to live in a world where we hurt and killed each other because of anger or protest or because our religion dictated it.
It will be hard to tell them that the sport of running lost it’s innocence on a special day in Boston. A day when people gathered together to celebrate hard work and dedication. A day when we watched men and women demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit.
After I admit to them that I don’t know why people did that or what that sort of act accomplishes, I’ll share with them the beauty of how we responded as Americans, runners, Christians and as a community.
I’ll tell them that there were heroes who rushed people to safety and assisted the wounded and consoled the frightened and confused. There were runners who kept running to hospitals to give blood and how local Bostonians opened up their homes to those who were displaced.
I’ll tell them that there were millions who prayed for healing and safety and justice. And even though we didn’t understand why God allowed these things to happen, we believed none the less.
I’ll tell them how our nation gathered around Boston. How rivals became allies and how we became a single community. I’ll explain to them how we were glued to news outlets all week as authorities hunted the ones who did this and how we and Boston and the nation celebrated when it was all over.
I’ll be proud to tell them that attacks like these never stopped us. We may have been afraid but we didn’t let fear cripple us. We may bend and bleed but you can’t break the spirits of Americans, runners and Christians.
Finally, I’ll tell them that nobody is perfect. People do bad things. We do bad things. And neither us nor them are never to far gone to receive grace and mercy.
Here are five things that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. Jet lag is real.
2. Pollen is ridiculous.
3. Running + golf = speed golf.
4. I wish I had 1/10 of the golf skills that the pros have.
5. You are never to far gone to receive God’s grace.
What did you learn this week?
So this is my last weekend in my thirties. My fortieth looms ominously just three days ahead and I’m not sure what to expect. Will there be a dramatic change? Will things suddenly stop working? Will I start moving slower and all hunched over? I wonder.
Will I get a letter in the mail on Monday from the AARP? Will I pay closer attention to those TV commercials with the old lady on the floor who can’t get up? Should I learn the intricate strategies of bingo? Not likely.
It’s just forty. It’s no big deal. Turning twenty didn’t bother me. Neither did turning thirty. So why should forty? I don’t fear it… I welcome it.
As I crest this hill, the one thing I look forward to is this new character type that I’m supposed to become. The wise old sage. To put it in Star Wars terms, I’m past the days of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Now I’m Obi Wan.
And in this day and age, don’t we need more Obi wan’s?
I’ve reached the age in life where I can refer to those younger than me as “Sport”, “Punk” and “Junior”. And I now have the freedom to scream at them to get off my lawn.
I’ve reached the age where I can own the silver in my hair and the wrinkles around my eyes. I don’t need a product to cover them up. They distinguish me. They let people know that I have a story to tell.
I’m thankful for my first thirty nine years. I thank God for making me who I am today, the lessons He taught me, the people He put around me and the future He has in store for me.
So as I crest the hill, I remember that I am a wily old veteran of life while still living it. I’ve been there and done that and am still doing it. There are new lessons to learn and more work to be done.
Forty is not the end.
It’s a new beginning.
After just having been cut off by a man wearing a suit and driving a luxury sedan, a mom in a faded green mini van pulls up beside me and turns on her blinker. I realize her intentions are to get in front of me so that she can make the next light.
She’s too busy talking on her bluetooth and managing a handful of kids to acknowledge that I exist. In the back of my mind I wonder if she’ll be grateful if I let her in.
There used to be a time when drivers would give you the courtesy wave when you let them into the lane in front of you. It was always expected that they would genuinely appreciate the fact that you have freely given them that space and that they would be grateful for your sacrifice.
But for whatever the reason, those days of the friendly wave are gone.
I have to shamefully admit one of my many flaws. I suffer from mild road rage. It upsets me when I let someone in front of me and the don’t acknowledge my friendliness. Something flips in my mind and I become less like Stewart and more like Mad Max.
For a short time, I decided that I wouldn’t let people in front of me anymore. I had to protect that space in front of me like it was the last of a precious commodity. Everybody wanted it and they would do anything to get it.
In my mind the road to work became a post-apocalyptic, desert highway and the others on this road were bandits trying to steal my space. No longer were they moms driving mini vans or business men driving luxury sedans. They were wild renegades with feathery mohawks and face paint who would stop at nothing to get my space.
My little, silver Mitsubishi became a 1973 GT Ford Falcon with all the bells and whistles. It has thick tires and a big engine that pops out of the hood. It has secret compartments that hide weapons like crossbows and sawed off shotguns. I sit in the drivers seat with a black leather jacket and a scowl.
The bandits try to shoot my tires out but I swerve and weave and narrowly avoid drifting off into a ravine but my Ford Falcon is swift and powerful. The bandits growl at me and wonder who I am and where I’m from. I glare back at them over my dark sunglasses and they see it in my eyes.
Me Max and this space in front of me is mine mate.
But then something hits me. I come out of this fantasy and realize how foolish I’m being. This isn’t my road. That space in front of me isn’t mine either. It never belonged to me.
The thing that hit me was grace. Grace is love and mercy. I don’t deserve it and I can’t earn it but God gives it freely. Grace is the thing that sets us apart from the rest of the world.
Max does not show grace but God does. Max is not merciful but God is. And if God shows grace and mercy then so should Stewart.
I realized that even in the smallest things we can show grace. At home, at work and even in traffic.
So the mom in the mini van keeps her blinker on and chats away on her bluetooth while handing out fruit roll ups. I let off the gas to give her space. She moves in front of me and I wait for the wave but it never comes.
But that’s ok. Remembering all the times that God has shown me grace, I glare at her through my sunglasses and let it go. And then I think to myself:
I’m Stewart and this space in front of me is yours.
It didn’t take long for me to see the competitiveness of the Burton brothers. I had heard of their legendary will to win and how serious they take competition. On that overcast, Friday afternoon on the golf course, I witnessed their passion to win and their desire for perfection first hand.
The Burton brothers take their sports seriously. They play tennis, golf, softball and volleyball among others and the only time they relish in the joy of these sports is if the results earn them a notch in the win column. From physical sports to Iphone games, the only foreseeable end for them is with a victory.
Golf is a leisure sport. But not for the Burton brothers. From hole one to eighteen, they embody the eye of the tiger. They analyze every lie and every break. They judge the wind and argue the accuracy of yardage markers. A round of golf for them is not leisure. It’s business.
It’s when things didn’t go their way that I saw their true passion. A bad decision or a hitch in their swing leads to expletives and outbursts. It was only until I saw the shiny nine iron flying over my head followed by the eight iron that I knew that one of them had missed the mark.
A bad day of golf leads to lots of flying golf clubs when you play with the Burton brothers. And by the end of that day, their throwing arms had to be sore.
If you joke with them about their golf balls landing in the woods, their passion turns towards you and you have nowhere to hide from their wrath. In the heat of the moment, their skin is thin. You don’t haze the Burton brothers unless you’re their father.
“I thought I raised boys!” their dad says when one of them leaves a putt short. Their faces turn red and their brows furrow. But they don’t return their fathers chastisement. They never would.
Before playing golf with the Burton brothers, I always thought that I was overly passionate about competing. I’ve been labeled a sore loser, an ungracious loser. I’ve lamented over a run that didn’t go my way. I’ve pounded my fist on the poker table when the cards didn’t fall my way.
But I learned something about my passion when I played with them that day.
I learned that pitching a fit may make you feel better but it doesn’t make things better. There is a better way to deal with failure than throwing clubs and screaming four letter words.
While playing with the Burton brothers, I learned that I didn’t want to lose that way. There can be grace in failing.
How do you handle failure?
I watch the clock tick down on the two big screens on each side of the stage. When it hits zero the lights go down and the blinds lower over the windows, blocking out the sunlight. The drummer stomps the bass drum and I feel it reverberate as I lean against the back wall of the worship center. The room is a subwoofer and I am right in the middle of it.
As a member of the church host team, I often stand in the back just in case I’m needed. You notice a lot of things from back here. You see who’s coming and going. Who sits where and who they’re with. You see joy and pain. You see relief and enlightenment. You see it all.
There’s the married couple who sits in the same section every week. He keeps his arm around her and she snuggles in close and every now and then she’ll scratch his back. They seem comfortable and happy to be there. It’s one of those things they do together. Worshipping as a pair.
There’s the large family on the opposite side. They take up half of a single section. The widowed matriarch sits closest to the aisle and she is joined by her children and grandchildren. They are surrounded by each other. Not only is it just children and grandchildren but they’re also joined by cousins, nephews and in laws. Today they grow closer as a family as they grow closer to their maker.
There are the teenagers down front. No one worships like them. They exude spirit and excitement. When the music is playing they jump and dance and raise their hands to the sky. They’re uninhibited; wild and reckless. And when the sermon begins they are attentive. They soak it in like a sponge.
The older people, in the next section over, find the kids either humorous or annoying. It’s hard to tell. They smile gingerly when they let out a scream or a whoop.
But the kids are setting the example, showing us how it’s done. Why are we not following? Worshipping freely and wholeheartedly?
There is the singe lady who sits by herself every week. She is receptive to the message that is being taught. You can see it in her unblinking eyes and the way she nods her head. The lights are going off. She gets it. God is making sense.
When the pastor ends the sermon and the music starts up again, the people in the room seem rejuvenated and restless. Sometimes it’s like witnessing an aftermath. Their world is wrecked and re-imagined. Like a tsunami has washed through.
From the back wall I can see that hope has arrived. Voids have been filled and doubts have been crushed.
From the back wall, I see that God was here today.
I’ve never been a fan of the word “blog”. It just sounds too technical. It lacks heart. The shortened version of “web log” just doesn’t sound personal. A web log sounds like something doctors, lawyers and IT people use to record technical data. To me, this blog is more than a web log. It’s a piece of me.
This is my 100th post. I started it almost a year ago. And I can’t tell you what motivated me to do it. I’ve always enjoyed writing and over the years I have amassed a few notebooks full of stories and ramblings, nothing completely finished. I keep those notebooks in a box in the closet. It’s something personal to me. Something that I’ve never felt comfortable sharing… until now.
Why do I do it? Good question. The best answer is this. I have something to say. There is no ulterior motive. I have nothing to sell you. I’m not trying to make a buck, yet. I’m not trying to aggressively build a platform. It comes down to the simple joy of writing.
Writing feels good to me. It’s fulfilling. When I finish a post, I get that same feeling I get when I finish a run. It’s almost as if writing releases endorphins. No longer do I just get a runner’s high. I get a writers high.
So what you read here is from the heart. I try to tell you a story and let you see the world through my eyes, as twisted and quirky as it may be. It’s more than a log. It’s a piece of me.
Thank you to all that follow me and share. I’ve enjoyed the journey so far and look forward to the future. Here’s to 100 more!
Here are five things that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. Milk is not a good alternative to coffee creamer.
2. I crave candy corn when I’m running.
3. It’s nice to imagine God giving God sized hugs.
4. I’m the sorest of sore losers. I don’t lose with grace.
5. 2 Fast 2 Furious should have been left out of the Fast and Furious saga.
What did you learn this week?
There is no mistaking Donald Trump for anyone else. From his swooping, reddish gray hair to his stern demeanor, it is impossible to accidentally mistake him for another. He is one of a kind.
He has become a pop culture icon, not for his business savvy or his political ambitions but for his lack of mercy in a camera filled boardroom. It’s here where he puts ambitious young business men and women and celebrities through the ringer. He asks tough questions like: “Who is your weakest player?” or “Who would you fire if you were me?”, all intended to make the contestants squirm.
Two words have made him famous. The two words that the contestants never want to hear but the millions watching at home can’t wait to hear.
What if God was like Donald Trump?
When I was a child, I imagined God was like this. I imagined a stern older man sitting in a big, cushioned chair with Gabriel and Michael seated on either side in equally as cushioned but slightly smaller chairs.
I imagined walking into the middle of a smoky, white room and standing directly in front of God. I could feel all the residents of heaven looking at me, sizing me up, determining whether or not they could predict what God would do with me. Let me in or fire me?
God would look me over for a second before He would speak. And then came the poignant questions:
“What were your weakest moments?”
“Why should I let you into Heaven?”
After I gave my response, He would confer with Gabriel. Gabriel would give him a long list of reasons why I should be allowed in and why I shouldn’t. Mostly the latter. Then God would stare at me again while He rubbed his chin, pondering my fate. In or out?
He then turned to Michael and asked for his opinion. It was much of the same. The two arch angels at God’s side were not helping my cause. I was sure that I would hear those two fateful words and be asked to leave the boardroom and Heaven for good.
But thankfully God isn’t like that.
As I grew older the message changed. People stopped teaching that God was all about fire and brimstone. The message changed to who God really is. He is loving and full of grace.
God doesn’t want to fire us and send us to Hates. He takes no joy in that.
He doesn’t want to scare us straight. He wants to love us and have us love Him in return. He wants a relationship.
Now could you imagine Donald Trump saying, “I love you.”, instead of , “Your fired”?
Weird isn’t it?
How did you imagine God growing up? How do you see Him now?