Posts Tagged ‘preparation

05
Jul
21

The Day After

I went to the football game on that Friday night in October. Going to the game was an important ritual in the town where I grew up. In fact, in the 1960s in the midwestern U.S., it was an act as central and essential as going to church on Sunday mornings. 

[Except that the football game was ALWAYS a whole lot more exciting.]

This particular game was a nail-biter. The outcome would determine whether our team went to the playoffs or stayed home. In the last quarter, with 2:30 left in the game and the hometown Wildcats down six, our incredible junior running back, Ronnie Brewer, broke outside on a sweep around left end and rambled 62 yards for the tying touchdown. 

The extra point was good, and we held on for the last two minutes to win the game. The crowd – and the whole town – went wild. It was truly a memorable moment for all of us. 

But for me, the EXTRA memorable thing happened the following Monday at school. That year I was a freshman… new to the school and still awkwardly making friends and finding my way around. But as I walked down the hall toward my locker that Monday morning, I turned the corner and LITERALLY bumped into Ronnie Brewer… the hero of the previous Friday night.

Ronnie just stopped, smiled, said, “Excuse me,” and went on about his business, just like it was any regular school day in Hilliard, Ohio in the month of October. 

Which, of course, it was.

Little ol’ freshman me, however, was still living in the Golden Hour. I had not come down from the high of our school’s (MY school’s) historic football win from Friday. I wanted to keep milking the thrill of that moment for as long as I could, savoring the unbridled joy of it all.

And yet, here was the guy at the center of it all… just sauntering down the hall with his books under his arm, schlubbing along like any one of the other 300 students that day.

It wasn’t until much later in life that I was finally able to learn the great truth about mountaintop experiences; the truth that reminds us we can’t live at the top of the mountain. Sooner or later (and sooner is usually better), we all have to come down. We have to get on with business back down on the ground. 

Ideally, when we come down, we will bring something of the mountain back down with us. We use it to shape our flatland walking and talking in a fresh new way. But we have to understand that any lasting difference in the world is going to be made DOWN HERE and not UP THERE

There is the story in Matthew about Jesus taking three of his most trusted disciples (Peter, James, and John) up to the top of a mountain. While there, they have a profoundly life-changing, mystical experience. When the disciples expressed their desire to remain on the mountain, memorialize the place, and bask in the golden afterglow, Jesus instead hustles them back down the mountain and says, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9, NRSV). 

Today is July 5. For most Americans, it is the day after a day of celebration marked by picnics, parades, and pyrotechnics. For the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, it was the day they all stood around in a circle, looked at one another and said, “OK. Now what?”

Majestic, memorable moments are important. They often ignite a fire in our souls. They either articulate or remind us of a lofty vision of life. They can fill the gas tanks of our motivation and resolve to get out there, take a risk, and make a mark. 

But history wants to remind us that the real difference is made on the day after… the dull, regular, mundane, plodding, routine, endless road of putting one foot after the other until one day the vision becomes reality.

Abundant blessings;

21
Jan
21

My Prepared Self

As we sat yesterday watching the inauguration speech of Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., 46th president of the United States, Joan leaned over and asked me, “Is he reading from a teleprompter?”

It sure didn’t look like it. Uncle Joe, as I like to call him, was looking straight into the camera, making piercing eye contact with everyone who tuned in, including Joan and me. His words were direct… heartfelt.

“Pretty sure he is,” I replied. “They all do in situations like this.” 

As I thought a little more about it, I realized there was a question behind Joan’s question. I think what she wanted to know was, “Does he really mean what he is saying?”

If you watched any of the Inauguration proceedings, you know there were stirring words aplenty… from the signed-and-spoken Pledge of Allegiance, to the oaths of office, to the acceptance speeches, to the soaring, magical, heart-stirring poetry of young Amanda Gorman. 

And the same question – I suppose – can be asked of each: “Do they really mean what they are saying?”

What we saw yesterday were the PREPARED versions of each of those people… their very best selves on display. Each one of their words had been carefully crafted. Their clothes and grooming meticulously assembled. Their postures and gestures all a matter of intense forethought.

Nothing left to chance.

That caused me to think: wouldn’t it be awesome if the people around us were only able to see the PREPARED versions of each of us? 

I mean, what would it be like to speak to people as if carefully scripted, reading from an unseen teleprompter… reacting perfectly to the questions and events we encountered throughout our day? 

What if NOTHING ever took us by surprise or made us stammer and hem and haw or bumble awkwardly the way I (often) do? What if there was ZERO degrees of separation between my PREPARED self and my IN-THE-MOMENT self?

Wouldn’t the world be a much better place? 

I think the sharp-eyed observers among you already know the answer to that question.

While there might be a whole lot less friction in a world populated by impeccable automatons, there would be absolutely zero need for GRACE.

You and I would never have to exercise our forgiveness muscles, realizing that our neighbor’s silly gaffe (“I’m sure he meant it as a compliment, sweetie!”) was neither intentional nor malicious. 

We wouldn’t ever need to periodically stop and look into our own hearts and assess whether we just now acted out of spite, resentment, jealousy, prejudice, or plain old garden variety stupidity. 

And we would certainly never experience the need to humble ourselves before God, go to our knees, and ask God to – in the words of King David – “Create in me a clean heart… and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10, NRSV). 

No, as alluring as that “polished, prepared” vision might be, I think there is a really good reason God only lets us see the rough drafts of one another. 

The words of that old hymn by George Beverly Shea says it best:

“Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Or, in the words of Colossians 3:13, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Abundant blessings;




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