Posts Tagged ‘love

19
Apr
22

Blessed Reassurance

“OOO! Teacher! I know! Call on ME!”

Oh, how I loved it. How it used to stir my soul. 

There we were, sitting in our neat rows in Mrs. Olds’ fifth grade classroom. She had just posed a question to the entire class… on which topic I am not sure… and I KNEW THE ANSWER!!

My hand shot up. And from my vantage point toward the back in the row by the door I could see that NO ONE ELSE was raising their hand.

Gazing around, her eyes finally landed on me. “Yes, Rusty?” she ventured. [You see back then, someone had the brainwave that the best way to shorten the name “Russell” was to make it “Rusty”. But please don’t tell anyone.]

I took a deep breath, confidently spoke the answer, and – wonder of wonders – I was RIGHT! The reward for my perspicacity was the prize I most coveted in the world; the smiling approval of my teacher.

Yes, I was pleased by the release of pheromones as the Right Answer materialized in my brain. I also loved that I had the confidence to vocalize that answer in front of a room full of my peers. But the form of compensation that mattered the most to me back in the fifth grade was APPROVAL. And ideally, approval from a person with AUTHORITY. 

I wish I could tell you I have changed dramatically in the 60 or so ensuing years.

But I can’t truthfully say that. Sadly, approval is still a tremendously salient “coin of the realm” for me even as an old guy. 

  • I seek Joan’s approval.
  • I seek my sons’ approval.
  • I seek approval from the members of our Wednesday night Community Group.
  • I seek approval from my server at the restaurant, the Target cashier, my cul-de-sac neighbors, and complete strangers I meet on the street.  
  • Back in the day, I sought approval from my bosses.
  • I sought approval from every congregation I ever served and the District Superintendents I answered to.
  • Heck, I am sure I am seeking YOUR approval even now as I choose the words I write.

And frankly, all this approval seeking is exhausting. It is exhausting because I require every word, every thought, and every action to pass through two distinct and different assembly line/inspection processes before they can manifest themselves in the world.

PROCESS #1: 
What is RIGHT in this moment?

PROCESS #2:

What will gain APPROVAL? From… whoever.

At first, this “disease to please” doesn’t sound like a terrible affliction, does it? A person bent on gaining approval will usually be careful, conscientious, and compassionate in their relationships with others. 

 That much is true. But here is the real pathology that lies behind perpetual people pleasing: it leaves the pleaser with no agenda of his/her own. No vision. No ideal other than the ideals of whomever the pleaser is plotting to please.

And as long as the pleaser’s eyes are fixed on hitting targets in THIS world, success will be a hit or miss kind of thing. But if we turn our eyes to Jesus for a moment, we will learn two things.

First, we will hear him remind us that this dogged pursuit of approval probably falls under the heading of “laying up treasures on earth,” which Jesus once said was a really bad idea. (See Matthew 6:19, NRSV). The problem, he says, is spoilage. A little later in that same sermon, he tries to help us set our sights on a higher, nobler target when he says, “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NRSV). 

The second piece of sound guidance we receive from my man JC is the guidance that reminds us that we already have all the approval we will ever need. In fact, we had it AT OUR BIRTH! And we received it from the Highest Authority possible! 

Once again, we listen to the words from the Sermon on the Mount, where we hear, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. [Or – apropos of this blog post; “… or who will approve of you.”] 

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? [Ed. – “Or your worth as a person more than your co-workers’ approval?”]

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27, NRSV). 

I sure hope someone out there today is helped by this reminder. But if not, it was still worthwhile because those were all assurances I needed to hear again myself.

Abundant blessings;

24
Mar
22

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie

Earlier this week, we celebrated an anniversary.

It was the third anniversary of Joan joyfully and triumphantly ringing the brass bell that marked the end of her chemotherapy and the beginning of her remission from cancer.

It has been a remarkable three years indeed.

During that time, we have uprooted and moved our home 600 miles to the west, traveled the world, endured a global pandemic, remodeled a home, mourned a parent’s death, hiked, laughed, wept, and occasionally even acted like goofballs.

In the moment of Joan’s diagnosis… and in the immediate aftermath… our focus was on what cancer took from us. As we held each other and sobbed, we grieved the fact that;

  • Cancer took our composure. 
  • Cancer took our faith in the power of healthy habits to ward off disease.
  • Cancer took our peace.
  • For a time, cancer stole our sleep.
  • Cancer (well, chemo, actually) took Joan’s lovely auburn hair.
  • Cancer took our cherished visions for the future.
  • Cancer took just about every other topic of conversation.

But here, today, three years into Joan’s remission, we have been able to refocus. God has helped train our eyes to see the things cancer could never take. 

We now know, for example, that cancer could never take;

  • Our love for each other
  • The love and support of family and friends
  • Our gratitude for the gift of every new day
  • Our faith in the God who promised us – just as he promised Joshua – that, “… As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5, NRSV)
  • The beauty of this amazing world
  • The joy of simple pleasures like a good cup of coffee, a romp with the doggies, a stimulating book, a glimpse of snow-capped mountains, a FaceTime chat with grandkids, the warmth of a cozy blanket, a quiet moment of prayer, a freshly baked loaf of banana bread, or a sassy new pair of shoes.

Without a doubt, on this third anniversary of Joan’s remission we celebrate that cancer did not, could not possibly take from us; namely…

  • The “… peace of God, which surpasses understanding.” (Philippians 4:7). 

Besides cancer, the list is very short of the things that can so profoundly shake your foundations. It is one of those events that draws a big, bold “Before” and “After” line through life. And not just the life of the one who was diagnosed, but through everyone connected to that person. 

When it arrives, breaking down the front door of your life with an axe, like it does, cancer demands a top-to-bottom redefinition of What Matters Most. It smashes every one of the precious mementoes there on your shelf and laughs in your face. 

And suddenly, you find you have not one, but TWO battles on your hands. The first is the medical battle… the one you fight with the help of doctors, nurses, technicians, and researchers. 

But the second battle is the spiritual battle. It is the battle to hold fast to the purpose, meaning, and peace that was hardwired into you by God before you were even born. 

It is the battle for your soul.

I know there are some folks who feel as if we are at one of those “shaking of the foundations” moments in the world today. There is the political animus here at home, the brutal slaughter of the people of Ukraine, the slow degradation of our air and water supplies, the continuing COVID crisis, and the rise of rates of addiction and hopelessness, just to name a few issues off the top of my head. 

When THAT PICTURE is the one we stare at all day long, it is easy to conclude that all is indeed lost. 

But we have a choice. We can choose to focus on another picture. 

We can choose the picture Moses chose to see during his 40 years in the wilderness. We can choose to see the picture Jesus chose during his 40 days of fasting, or on the stormy Sea of Galilee, or in the Garden of Gethsemane.  

We can choose to see the picture of the God of All Creation, seated on the throne of heaven, holding each of us in his loving arms and – in the face of the storms raging all around – clearly speaking the words Jesus spoke to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, NRSV).

Abundant blessings;

21
Mar
22

Risky Business

What do you consider the riskiest thing you have ever done?

Image courtesy of The Guardian: New Zealand

Back in the early 90s, I started my own business. It was a little advertising and public relations agency based in Kansas City.

But here’s the thing: I really don’t consider that risky. It came about through the confluence of opportunity, aptitude, contacts, and conditions and seemed like a very natural next step in my professional life. 

 Looking back, I would have to rank the hitchhiking trip I took in college from Tacoma, Washington to Columbus, Ohio and back again as the SECOND riskiest thing I’ve ever done.

The riskiest? That’s easy; deciding to LOVE.

If you have ever loved – especially loved another person – I don’t have to tell you that the act of loving is incredibly risky. In comparison to those who love, Evel Knievel jumping his motorcycle through a hoop over 20 flaming school buses is a total risk-taking milquetoast.

Love means pulling out that most tender, vulnerable, excruciatingly private part of YOU and offering it to someone else. Love is like voluntarily laying your life down on the tracks in front of the onrushing locomotive of ANOTHER HUMAN BEING and waiting to see what happens next.

Sometimes you walk away horribly wounded and disfigured.

At other times, you soar higher and farther and faster than you could ever imagine.

Yes indeed; our love for one another is incredibly risky. But sometimes it works out exactly as we had hoped.

GOD’S love for us, on the other hand, is always risky. Always reckless. Always fraught with danger. And in just about every single case, that divine love is a totally one-sided affair. 

At the risk of getting WAAAAY too anthropomorphic, try to put yourself in God’s shoes for a moment. Imagine pouring out 100% of your heart and soul on someone who seems utterly incapable of reciprocating. Over and over and over again you find new ways to demonstrate that NOTHING is more important to you than that human being.

To show them your love…

  • You splash beautiful sunsets across the sky EVERY DAY. 
  • You sprinkle fascinating people into their lives.
  • You continually whisper, “I love you SOOOO MUCH!” into their ears.
  • You build them the most miraculous and intricate container in which to live.
  • You LITERALLY move mountains to show them the power and depth of your love.

And in return? Bubkes. Zip. Nada. Zilch. You wonder if you might have gotten the same response if you had done nothing at all. 

And then… you decide to offer your beloved the most extravagant, outrageous, magnificent expression of love possible. You decide to sacrificially offer them… YOU.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NRSV).

And wonder of wonders… some see this gift for what it was and bow down and give thanks. Some receive it with joyful hearts and allow this gift’s power to transform them from the inside out. 

Some of these people that you’d been chasing since the beginning of time finally turned around and really SAW you for the first time. And they praised you. And they made brand new beginnings with their lives.

And yet, most kept their heads down, unimpressed, and kept right on shuffling through their lives, one step at a time. 

And to those who saw you and responded, you sent… boundless, unconditional LOVE.

And to those who ignored you and your gift, you sent… boundless, unconditional LOVE. 

Because that’s just who you are.

Abundant blessings;

05
Nov
21

EST-CE QUE TU PARLES FRANCAIS?

Joan and I have been in the south of France for the past week.

And when I say, “the south of France,” I mean THE SOUTH. As in, imagining we hear banjos and guitars having a pick-off duel as we round every turn in the road. 

In French, of course.

Don’t get me wrong… this is a beautiful place. Full of vineyards, ancient stone castles, quaint villages, winding roads and craggy hillsides. It is breathtakingly romantic and serene.

Except that NOBODY here speaks a word of English. As a matter of fact, I am not sure they know any language besides French even exists.

And so, as we have navigated our way through the amazing little towns of Boutenac, Carcassone, Minerve, Lezignan, and Coulliere, we learned to get by with some quick, seat-of-the-pants translating. When ordering lunch, for example, we had to figure out that it would not kill us to choose something off the Poisson section of the menu. It just meant we would get a nice piece of grilled fish. 

We also learned that adding a dash of cannelle to our morning coffee would give it a flavorful little kick.

Waitresses and hotel clerks and retailers regularly took pity on us and used their back-pocket English when we appeared to struggle. But for the most part, we were a couple of odd ducks wherever we went. Which – I have to admit – was kind of a new experience for both of us. 

Because, you see, most of the time, I am alert, aware, comfortable with my surroundings, and on top of my game. In my native habitat, stuff doesn’t fluster me… unless, of course, we are talking about finding ANYTHING in the grocery store! And so, the experience of being in a place where I am different… where I am lost and unsure… where I am The Other… was unsettling and frankly disorienting.

It also made me realize that it is not necessary to travel in France with a limited-to-nonexistent French vocabulary to feel out of place. Often all it takes to feel like un poisson hors de l’eau is to be a member of any non-advantaged group. 

Those of us who – because of our race, gender, ableness, or economic class – begin life on second base, are told (and believe) the story that we hit a double. We inherited the FastPass at Disneyland and can’t, for the life of us, figure out why everyone else is still standing in that silly line. We get the grades, we get the help, we get the jobs, and we get the dream… in many cases all because of factors we have zero control over. 

And so, it comes as a very unwelcome shock any time we find ourselves standing on the outside – of ANYTHING! – looking in. 

Most of the time when this kind of disquieting, uncomfortable moment happens to us, we moan and wail and kvetch. “This totally sucks!” is one of our more popular refrains.

But what if we used these pinch-point moments for a different purpose? What if we used them instead as a moment of awakening? What if we recognized them as a time when SEEDS are being sown? 

Seeds of insight… seeds of compassion… seeds of understanding.

What if – when the time comes when the cards all seem to be stacked against us, we cocked our heads, opened our ears, and heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28, NRSV) and paid special attention in that verse to the word ALL?

What if?

That would sure be tres bon, wouldn’t it?

Abundant blessings;

26
Oct
21

Singing In the Rain

Traveling is cool. In fact, I am – at this very moment – traveling down the Danube River with Joan in a COVID-delayed celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. We are seeing places like Budapest, Vienna, Krems, Remmsberg, and others at an absolutely GLORIOUS time of year.

I also love watching any kind of live sports. The experience of seeing one’s favorite, previously invincible NFL team devolve into a disorganized mess right before one’s eyes takes a bit of the shine off that joy…

… but I still get a real kick out of it.

EATING is another favorite pastime of mine. I love the taste, the smell, the feel, the social dimension, the process, really the whole thing. Unless the menu includes liver, olives, or tripe, I will tuck into just about anything with great gusto.

I am also a HUGE fan of reading. Give me a book with a great plot and good writing and I will be as happy as a clam for hours.

But you know what I really, really, REALLY love? There are not too many things that grab my soul and stir my heart like ORGANIZED GROUP SINGING. 

Honestly.

I love every single part of it. I love opening a new piece of sheet music and hearing the accompanist play it for the first time. I love sitting with my peers in the bass section and groping tentatively for the right notes. I love the gentle glow of confidence that begins to spread through my limbs as we start to hit more notes than we miss. I love it when the individual sections start coming together to form a rich, resonating, seamless harmony.

And I travel to the outer edge of ecstasy when all of us together finally present our harmonious offering to waiting ears. 

Singing with a group creates a mystical connection… between each of the singers and with those listening. It causes a spiritual “welding” of the singers to the artistic vision of the composer… raising each of us to that same rarified plane of experience, if only for a few, fleeting minutes. 

Being part of a choir puts you right into the middle of pure melodious resonance. 

I might be getting a little hyperbolic here, but what the heck! I’m going to go so far as to say that when different voices blend and harmonize, group singing offers one a little foretaste of heaven. 

From many, one.

Harmony in diversity.

As an extra bonus, I open the pages of scripture and discover that pursuing this avocation of mine ALSO allows me to follow the commands of scripture… to wit, “Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:2 NRSV). 

Oh, how I LOVE organized group singing. And oh, how I miss it TERRIBLY

It has been more than two years since I have sung in any kind of group. Once again, the prime culprit is COVID. And sadly, the church we now attend – despite all its other sterling, positive qualities – does NOT have a choir. 

So, what’s a guy to do? How can I satisfy my “choir jones”?

I toss the question to God and receive… silence. 

Over the years I have learned (the hard way, I might add) that silence is often an answer in disguise. It is the answer that says, “Wait. Wait patiently to see what I will do. There is a time for an answer, but that time is MYtime… it is not yours. Wait.”

Or, as the prophet Isaiah said, “… those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NRSV).

So, I wait. And watch. And while I wait, I sing in the shower, out on the trail, in the grocery store, and LOUDLY in the car.

Come on… anybody want to join in?

Abundant blessings;

23
Oct
21

The Inexhaustible Supply Chain

Our new couch is finally HERE! 

Hip Hip HOORAY!

Last week Joan and I were finally able to get rid of that old couch – the one that was meant for a MUCH larger living room – so that we could engage in a little “furniture right-sizing.” 

And it only took EIGHT MONTHS. 

That’s right. We originally ordered our couch in early February 2021. And it finally arrived earlier this month… you know, the month named “October.”

First there was the infamous world-wide FOAM shortage. You remember that one, right? It was when workers in the foam rubber industry all decided to bounce at the same time. (Get it? Bounce?)

After the foam crisis, the world was suddenly gripped by the sky-rocketing price of lumber. I’m sure they could have gone ahead and produced our couch as planned, but they would have had to triple the asking price and then listen to our wretched hue and cry.

Once the rubber and lumber crises settled down, of course, the world’s supply of everything was stuck 20-deep on container ships in the Port of Los Angeles harbor, waiting to unload. First there weren’t enough longshoremen (longshorepersons?). Then all truck drivers decided to leave the profession on the same day. 

After that, I’m not sure what happened. But whatever it was, it was serious enough to keep the new Brown family couch jammed up in Delivery Limbo until just last week.

Please understand… I am not trying to trivialize the global supply-chain constipation problem the world is currently facing. Waiting eight months for a couch was an inconvenience, but incredibly minor in the grand scheme of things. Lots of people are dealing with much worse difficulties than living with a couch that is too big for their living room. 

In the midst of it all, I discovered that our trifling encounter with the Supply Chain Soap Opera of 2021 DID provide several teachable moments.

First, it was yet another reminder of the incredible interconnectedness of human life on Planet Earth. We often – particularly those of us living in the U.S. of A. – like to think of ourselves as independent, autonomous, utterly self-sufficient organisms, needing no one and no thing to thrive. And yet, the reality is that LIFE is connected to LIFE. I depend on YOU, and YOU depend on me for a whole host of things. 

Actually, it is the way God drew it up. Back there at the Beginning of All Things, God created all of us and said, “Relationship! Hey, y’all! It’s all about RELATIONSHIP! You humans – created in my image, after all – will not be full, complete beings unless you find ways to regularly, compassionately, and deeply CONNECT with one another. In fact, when you depend on ME and EACH OTHER, you will live life as I intend you to.”

Did it take a complete meltdown of the U.S. supply chain to wake us up to the reality of our interconnectedness? Maybe not. Maybe we can just call it an unforeseen byproduct.

This eight-month delivery time also helped me realize that while couches, semi-conductors, soccer balls, food processors, lawn mowers, and playing cards might all be in short supply these days, there is one vital commodity the world will never run out of: 

We will never, CAN never exhaust God’s supply of love and grace. That’s because the “supply chain” that produces it never runs dry, never clogs up, never constricts, never contracts. In the history of the world, there has never been a strike in God’s grace factory.

You might say, in fact, that the more grace we “consume,” the greater the supply. 

And the price – unlike that of our new couch – is always right. The bill has been marked “Paid in Full by Jesus.”

HALLELUJAH!

Abundant blessings;

30
Jul
21

Silent Encouragement

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

One ritual that must be observed as part of any visit to the town of Pacific City, Oregon is The Climb.

That is, The Climb to the top of the giant sand dune at Cape Kiwanda (pictured here).

I have done it several times before and was ready (or so I thought) to do it again on this visit.

Reliable sources tell me it is only 240 feet from the base to the top of that big dune. The legs and feet actually making the climb tell me it is more like 1.5 miles.

And so, early on that Monday morning, my brothers and I set out to make The Climb. As we all expected, Eric – the youngest and fittest brother – was the first one to the top. Somewhat surprisingly, Douglas, the brother who has recently picked up the smoking habit again, made it up in second place. Alan was third, while I was struggling mightily, far behind the others.

Although I have been dealing with acute lower back pain since early May, my back was not the problem. The problem was my leg strength and overall stamina. 

You see, the gym and I have been estranged since my back trouble began. And so as I strained to put one foot in front of the other, that frosty relationship began taking a serious toll.  

Crawling up on my hands and knees worked for a while. It got me as far as the little rock ledge you see there in the photo. As I attained that ledge, however, I turned to myself and said, “OK. That’s it. That’s as far as I can possibly go. I will just sit here and wait for the brothers. I will head back down when they are ready.”

After a few minutes of sitting on the ledge, wheezing, and looking out at the view, I saw that Eric had arrived. He plopped right down beside me. 

Eric glanced over and said, “Hey!”

I looked at him and somehow managed to croak out my own, “Hey” in reply.

And then, for the next several minutes we just sat there in silence, admiring the view. Eric didn’t coax. He didn’t cajole. He didn’t remind me that he and the other bros were waiting for me to gather my strength and join them at the top of the dune.

He just sat with me. Silently.

And waited. 

And then, after a bit more time sitting there like that together, I decided it was time to rally myself and complete The Climb. 

Which I did.

Thinking back, I realized Eric gave me an incredible gift up there on that rock ledge. For one thing, he gave me the gift of silent encouragement. He also gave me the gift of non-judgmental support

And somehow – without the benefit of a single seminary class on pastoral care – Eric blessed me with the gift of presence, right there in my moment of need. 

He taught me – by his example – how to really BE WITH someone who is going through a tough time. And because of the way he went about it, I felt as if the victory of attaining the summit of the dune was completely MINE to claim.

All throughout the Bible, we are shown that God is the God of healing PRESENCE. In Genesis, God says to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3, NRSV). In the last part of God’s speech to Moses from the burning bush, God says, I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you…” (Exodus 3:12, NRSV).

And of course, we remember the words Jesus spoke to his disciples at the top of that mountain in Galilee, after his crucifixion and resurrection; “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NRSV).

All I can say is, thanks a lot, bro. Thank you for reminding me of the amazing power that a silent, non-judging presence can be for someone who has come to the end of their rope. 

I will be more than happy to return the favor, if and when the time comes.

Abundant blessings;

27
Jul
21

Particles of Wonder

Last weekend Joan and I went to the mountains.

It was glorious. It was majestic. It was beautiful. It was awe-inspiring.

It was a breath-taking reminder of the splendor of God’s creation. It drove me to my knees in a grateful prayer of thanksgiving and humility, reminding me of my smallness and God’s greatness.

Then this weekend we went to the Oregon coast.

It was glorious. It was majestic. It was beautiful. It was awe-inspiring.

It was a breath-taking reminder of the splendor of God’s creation. It drove me to my knees in a grateful prayer of thanksgiving and humility, reminding me of my smallness and God’s greatness.

Earlier this month, American billionaires went into space.

When they got back, they said the experience was glorious… majestic… beautiful… awe-inspiring. I suspect the experience also provided them with a vivid reminder of God’s creative genius and majesty and the smallness of human beings, though I did not hear that sentiment spoken out loud.

And of course, all of that is true. God’s creation reveals awe, majesty, splendor, and wonder. Paul makes this exact point in his letter to the Romans when he says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” (Romans 1:20, NRSV). 

My Love!

The Psalmist somehow finds the right words to say the same thing in the 8th Psalm: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4, NRSV).

 As true as all of that might be, all that praise and palaver misses a central, glaring truth. And that truth is this: we don’t need to go to the mountains, or to the ocean, or to the limits of space to find grandeur or reminders of God’s creative genius.

All of that resides right there in the eyes of the person sitting across the table from you.

Awe is there too, coursing through the veins of that Starbucks barista, that bus driver, that TSA worker, that preschool teacher, that landscaper, and that barber you visit every fourth week.

I would venture to say that there is just as much mystery, splendor, majesty, and sheer amazingness inside the skin of your brother or sister as you can see at the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Easily.

And so, with that in mind, I offer this prayer: “Lord, today I pray that you would remind me of the on-going miracle of the universe you have created. Help me never gloss over the grandeur that can be found in every single particle of your Creation… especially the people-shaped particles.”

AMEN

Abundant blessings;

06
Jul
21

What’s At the Heart

I love Hud.

Uncle Hud, in action

True confession time: at first, I did NOT love Hud. At all.

Hud (or Uncle Hud) is the name Kansas City Royals fans have given to Rex Hudler – the  guy who does play-by-play of Royals games on TV. 

Uncle Hud is definitely an acquired taste. 

Honestly, when he first started broadcasting baseball games for the Royals, I thought Hud was a dud. He is justifiably famous for a long string of “Hud-isms.” That is, words and phrases that pop effortlessly out of his mouth during a game that leave most listeners scratching their heads and saying, “WHAAAAAATT?”

Some examples:

  • How about a doink, a bloop, or a blast right here.
  • Players, really, are property.
  • I say, “Bruce, I watch you chew that gum, man. It’s amazing how you chomp that thing!”
  • I get hungry when you throw that accent out there!
  • I had a license at one time, but they’ve taken it from me.
  • That had too much hair on it.
  • Be a fountain, not a drain
  • Oh, that was nice. How ‘bout just a thing. Throw a little thing out there, Moose.
  • He wants to try to shoot that hole anywhere. Any hole.
  • Did you know that’s a video game now? Angry Birds?
  • Maybe Billy can wake those ducks up.
  • That’s not just a circle change! He curls that thing all the way up into a little donut!
  • He brings a lunch pail to work, even though he probably really doesn’t.
  • Everything went well but the loss.
  • His teammates call him Wader. I’ll say! Wader, check please!

True fans will also recount Uncle Hud’s live, on-air, in-game debate with Ryan Lefebvre – his broadcast partner – about whether or not the moon is a planet.

Hud arrived in the KC broadcast booth in 2012. The first strike against him was that he came from California… never a plus with Kansas Citians. Strike two was that he came to replace a beloved and long-time KC baseball announcing legend. 

The third – and final – strike for most people was the list I just showed you above. 

But here it is, July 6, 2021, and Uncle Hud is still behind the microphone, broadcasting every home and away game for the stumbling, fourth-place Kansas City Royals. 

The thing that turned most doubters (I’ll admit, including me) into believers can be summed up in one word: 

LOVE

Hud LOVES the game of baseball. In fact, he is regularly effusive, and gooey, and downright mooshy about his love of the game. During every game he keeps a baseball with him… spinning it in his fingers and bouncing it back and forth from one hand to the other as he describes a perfect 6-4-3 double play.

His devotion to the history, the traditions, the nuances, the aura, and the rules of the game borders on religious reverence. Probably because he spent 20 years – divided between six different Major League teams, including the Japanese League – playing The Great Game.

Hud LOVES the Kansas City community.

He LOVES his wife and his four children and rarely passes up an opportunity to talk about them… whether it is pertinent to the moment or not.

Hud LOVES his broadcast partners, the Royals organization, the fans who write him letters (positive or not), the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (located in Kansas City), the weather, the visiting team, the umpiring crew, the off-season, the chair he sits in…

… in fact, there really does not seem to be anything Rex Hudler doesn’t love in this wide world… with the possible exception of mean, unloving people. 

And so, in return, the people of Kansas City have finally come to love Uncle Hud…

[… well, most of them, anyway.]

I take particular encouragement from Hud’s story because – in a way – it is my story. During my career as a pastor, I screwed up a lot of things. I committed a lot of verbal gaffes. I slighted people I didn’t intend to slight. I missed deadlines. I overcommitted. I had bad ideas. I failed to follow through on commitments. I occasionally employed shaky theology. 

But despite my myriad flaws and black marks, I tried to keep LOVE at the heart of everything I did. 

Personally, I am counting on the truth of the verse in 1 Peter that says, “… for love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8, NRSV). 

Maybe you are, too.

Abundant blessings;

19
May
21

Tennis anyone?

Watch out for his wicked backhand!

I am not a huge tennis fan, but I do love watching a good, sustained, competitive tennis volley. Each player is moving to the ball… returning their opponent’s shot with confidence… probing to find the perfect angle to sneak the ball past the opponent… hustling to get in position for the return shot…

It reminds me of a few conversations I’ve had lately.

I am sure you know what I’m talking about. The settings are eerily similar; first, there is something in play, only in the case of the conversation it is a Topic of Mutual Interest (TMI for short) instead of a tennis ball. Second, instead of high-performance rackets, the combatants are wielding Perceptions

Custom-built, finely tuned Perceptions

Back and forth flies the TMI, vigorously batted from one side to the other. Sweat begins dripping down the face of each player as they grunt with the exertion of each stroke. Finally, one player breaks through and hits a screaming, utterly unreturnable shot past the flagging defenses of the person on the other side.

Game. Set. Match. On one side, a winner. On the other, a sad, deflated loser.

Flipping back to the tennis setting, we almost always experience great joy and satisfaction when we are the one standing on the winning side of the net. But when we shift our focus to the playing field of the person-to-person conversation, that moment of victory can sometimes ring a little hollow, can’t it?  

 Let’s all confess this right now, in unison: “I LIKE TO BE RIGHT!”

This is certainly true of me. Anytime a person makes a statement that exhibits deep, factual flaws [statements like, for example, “This whole COVID thing is a sham,” or “I’m really not sure these vaccines are safe, so I’m not getting one.” You know… dumb stuff like that] I feel a compulsion to rush in and set the record straight by lobbing a truth bomb and blowing away such blatant tomfoolery. 

But is that always needed? Are there times when there are higher values to uphold than factual correctness?

The Bible speaks frequently about the need to be “righteous,” (also translated as “right”).  By my quick count, the Good Book uses the words “righteous” or “righteousness” a total of 493 times. God is regularly quoted as saying – in effect – “It’s got to be MY way or the HIGHWAY.”

Jesus’ take on righteousness, in contrast, is markedly different than the one we find in the Old Testament. His call was for a right adherence to not necessarily all 613 commandments of the Torah, but to the Two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV). 

Here is what Jesus has to say about the relationship of LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS, as he quotes Proverbs 21:3: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, NRSV).

Being so brash as to interpret Jesus’ direct words to you, he seems to be saying here that he is more concerned with right RELATIONSHIP rather than factual or scriptural rightness. In other words, I think Jesus would be totally cool with you if – while stumbling to quote a passage of scripture accurately – you fed a hungry person. 

Which brings me back to my original question; are there times when you and I need to adhere to a higher value than our need to be right all the time? 

If you are married, you already know the answer to this one.

If you are NOT married, the answer is: YES…. there absolutely are times when you need to bite your tongue, refusing to return that shot for the sake of the relationship. 

Much easier said than done, I’m afraid. 

Abundant blessings;




Russellings Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Russellings of the Spirit on WordPress.com

Flannel with Faith

Embracing imperfection with faith, flannel, & fresh air

susiesopinions

Life at age 73, feeling like a 20 year old. You can do it too.

CHOP TALK

Know your stories

My Pastoral Ponderings

Pondering my way through God's beloved world

All The Shoes I Wear

Writing Down The Bones

Just Being Me

My life and faith - without a mask.

La Tour Abolie

An eclectic mixture of personal essays, stuff about writing, stuff about books and far out philosophy from an old baggage in a book-tower.

° BLOG ° Gabriele Romano

The flight of tomorrow

Eden in Babylon

a traditional American musical with a progressive score and topical themes

LUNA

Pen to paper

_biblio.bing_

A law student and an avid reader. Along with your desired book reviews you're gonna get great book suggestions. Books of all genre with detailed review. Thank you, Visit Again ❤️

Humanitarian Explorer

Traveling the world to discover and meet needs

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

Steadfast Pictures

Visual Media for God's Glory!

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

yadadarcyyada

Vague Meanderings of the Broke and Obscure

Pics and Posts

Goodies from my mailbox and camera

My Spirals

• Hugs and Infinities

%d bloggers like this: