Posts Tagged ‘present

21
Dec
20

My Christmas of Shame

As the Christmas of my 12th year approached, I wanted a Sting-Ray bike so badly I could taste it.

Everybody has one,” I told my parents, although I’m not sure that was technically true. There were probably one or two 12-year-olds in Bangaladesh who did not have Sting-Ray bicycles.

The bike I did have was functional, but a little clunky. It certainly did NOT have a banana seat or cool, high-rise handlebars, or a sparkly candy apple red paint job. Those deficiencies caused me to be seriously ill-prepared in the “popping wheelies” department. 

Sting-Rays, as I’m sure you are aware, are PERFECT for popping wheelies.

My solution was to beg and beg and whine and moan and complain to my parents, beginning sometime in August. I assured them my life would be ruined if I did not soon possess a Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle. The shame, I assured them, would redound to them as the parents of The Kid Without a Sting-Ray. 

Of course, it did not enter my childish brain that I was talking about a very major purchase here. We were not what you would call poor, but with five kids and a stay-at-home mother, there was not a lot of room for extravagance at Christmas time. In all likelihood, my heart’s desire might have eaten up 50 percent of the family Christmas present-buying budget.    

Fast forward to Christmas morning. The kids all woke up early – as usual – and ran downstairs to see what Santa had brought us. We impatiently waited as mom and dad took their sweet time coming downstairs, making coffee, and pretending not to know what we were so excited about. 

Stockings were first, by law. Then came the distribution of all of the other wrapped gifts. My eyes kept scanning for a large present in the shape of a Sting-Ray bicycle, to no avail. 

When everything had been passed out, ooo’d and ahhh’d over, squealed with delight for, or grudgingly thanked for (when the gift was a six-pack of new underwear), there was still no Sting-Ray bicycle in sight. Suddenly my dad looked over and said, “Well, I guess that’s it, kids!” and then with a wink my mother chimed in, “Wait a minute, George… what is that I see out there on the front porch?”

“I don’t know,” my father implishly replied. “Why don’t we go out and look!”

We all trooped out to the porch to see what they could possibly be talking about and there – in all its glory – sat a shiny Quasi-Sting-Ray bicycle.

“Oh look, Rusty!” my father proudly proclaimed. “I guess there was one more thing left after all. And I think it is for YOU!”

My father had taken my old bike – the clunky one described above – painted the frame with some metallic, candy-apple red and green paint, and then replaced the original handlebars with high-rise handlebars and the original seat with a Sting-Ray-like banana seat. 

My father had undertaken a labor of love. He had assessed the wants and needs of his five children, weighed them against the available budget, and come up with a creative solution. He spent hours and hours in a secret place in the garage modifying my bike and turning it into the thing I wanted most in the world.

And in return for his love, hard work, and creativity, what did I do? 

I moped. I sulked. I looked down at the ground and tried to hide my deep disappointment.

I think I managed to mumble out a strained, “Thank you,” but my heart wasn’t in it. 

I knew that all of my Sting-Ray owning friends were going to point and laugh at me when I rode my homemade Sting-Ray down the street. It would be just like wearing a placard around my neck that read, “Hi there! We’re poor.” 

I was ashamed of my parents’ gift.

Today though, I am ashamed of me and the way I reacted. 

I look back on that moment with the hard-won knowledge of what it takes to raise a family. I now know that nothing matters more to a parent than lighting up a child’s face with joy. I know parents are hardwired to do whatever it takes to provide for and protect their children and that the only reward any parent ever wants for all of the work and sacrifice is a smile and hearing a heartfelt, “Thank you, dad,” from that child. 

That Christmas I gave my parents none of those gifts. 

Today, as we approach this COVID Christmas, I hope we can look past the PRESENTS and give thanks for the PRESENCE; the presence of love, the presence of family, and the presence of God incarnate, as the real gifts of this season. 

Merry Christmas and abundant blessings;

08
Sep
20

Waxing Nostalgic

Remember the “good old days”?

You know… back in January 2020…

… back when we watched movies in movie theaters, went to church in church buildings, when kids went to school in school buildings, when we watched live concerts and sporting events, and we all just willy-nilly shook hands with strangers?

You know… back in the times when only armed robbers wore masks on their faces?

I have to admit… I have caught myself yearning for the return of those “good old days” more than once this week.

And then, in the middle of my nostalgic reverie, this rude thought came crashing in: what if those days are GONE FOREVER… and never coming back?

Say WHAAAAATT????

In asking this I am not giving up hope on the delivery of a Coronavirus vaccine. I absolutely believe the diligent scientists working in their labs will “deliver the goods” someday soon. I also believe that we will eventually all see some relaxing in our state of uber-vigilance. 

But I also believe that waiting for life to “go back like it was” might well be an exercise in futility. Because life will never really be “like it was.”

And while we wait for that golden moment to return, we might be robbing ourselves of the hidden treasures of THIS day. 

As Jesus once famously said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26, NRSV).

No. This moment we share is far from perfect. I don’t know a single person who would have sketched this picture of the year 2020 and said, “Yeah! That’s the ticket! Bring it on!”

But let’s not let our disillusionment with what MIGHT HAVE BEEN this year steal the moments of joy that are still here to be unearthed.

LOOK! There’s one right now!

Abundant blessings;

23
Sep
19

Becoming or Being?

autumn leavesI live in the Midwestern part of the U.S.

It is the part of the country where we have four separate, distinct seasons… according to some.

You see, I used to say that we just had two seasons; summer and winter. The time in between those two seasons I called “becoming” times. What others might call spring is just winter in the act of BECOMING summer. What you might call fall is just summer BECOMING winter.

Sort of the way that dusk is just day becoming night or dawn is night becoming day.

Now I find myself faced with the realization that my cute little semantic trick has done a great disservice to the two very worthy and distinct seasons of spring and fall.

They are not meaningless passageways from one thing to the next! They really do have lives and identities of their own!

Spring and fall, I apologize for my dismissiveness.

As I think about it, I now see that I discovered the error of my ways by reflecting on my own “season” of life. What I mean is: I am certainly no longer young. But I don’t think I qualify to be called old yet either. (Unless, of course, it is by one of my sons who lovingly see me as “older than dirt.”) 

You see, if I applied the same naming protocol to my life that I used for the seasons, I would now be in the tender stage of life known as “becoming old.”

Saying that I am “becoming old” is to jump ahead. It is to undervalue the moment in life I NOW actually occupy in favor of one I will someday occupy. It is to favor WHAT WILL BE over WHAT IS.

Have you ever done anything like that? We might call it the “are we there yet?” syndrome. It happens when you are:

  • Looking forward to the trip you’ll be taking next week, and you overlook the importance of the things happening in your home or community right now.
  • Preoccupied with a message that MIGHT come to you via a social media channel, you miss the messages being sent right now… particularly those being sent by God.
  • Worried about a possible future illness or mishap, you neglect to celebrate the beauty of the moment you currently inhabit.

Guilty, guilty, and guilty as charged.

Wise coaches of athletic teams head off this syndrome by instructing their players to, “Just play one game at a time.”

Wise spiritual guides tell their disciples something like, “Be here now,” or “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”(Matthew 6:25, NRSV)

The truth is, I love autumn. I wish it would linger longer. These crisp mornings when the dew is on the grass, a gentle breeze stirs the yellowing leaves, and the birds are just beginning to stir are far too few in number.

So come… rest a while. Sit down here with me and breathe this moment in.

Here on this first, full, official day of autumn, let’s just wait here quietly together a while, shall we?

24
Apr
18

The idol of safety

Security imageThey were just sitting there at their table in that Waffle House… chatting, drinking coffee, and reliving adventures from earlier that night.

They were just out for a stroll on the sidewalk on an unseasonably beautiful spring day… drinking in the warm glow of the sun. Some jogging, some pushing strollers, some in oblivious WWT (walking while texting) mode.

They were just making their way between classes… thinking about prom, today’s homework assignment, an argument they overheard before leaving for school, college choices.

And then, in the blink of an eye, their lives ended… every one of their hopes, dreams, fears, random thoughts, vacation plans, secret crushes, and song lyrics came exploding, screaming, crashing to the ground.

And those of us left behind reacted.

We moaned and wailed and shook our fists.

We marched.

We wrote letters.

But we also cowered… wondering, “What if that had been ME? What if I had been in that Waffle House… on that sidewalk… in that school… at that ungodly moment?”

And even though we don’t like to admit it out loud, deep within the hidden recesses of our heart we ask ourselves if we will ever feel safe in ANY Waffle House, on ANY sidewalk, in ANY high school, or ANY place beyond the cozy cocoon of our home?

In moments like these, I catch myself coming dangerously close to elevating SAFETY and SECURITY to the place of utmost importance in my life. I mean;

  • … OF COURSE, I don’t want to be mowed down by an angry loner with an all-too-easily-acquired automatic weapon.
  • … OF COURSE, I don’t want to die under the wheels of a rented van careening down a tranquil city sidewalk.
  • … OF COURSE, I don’t want to be suddenly sucked up into the whirling vortex of an early spring Midwestern tornado.
  • … OF COURSE, I would much rather finish up my time here in this veil of tears in the middle of a peaceful, pain-free sleep.

But then I am forced to concede that no matter how careful I am, there is really nothing I can do to prevent any of these things from happening… and also that my life and health are at MUCH greater risk from a traffic mishap than from a terrorist or lunatic-related event.

The sad fact is that when we start to worry about the awful things that might happen to us at a Waffle House, a school, a shopping mall, or a baseball game, we begin to allow fear to rule our lives.

Another way to say that is that we have consciously asked God to step OFF of the throne and invited FEAR to sit there instead.

If we are living in fear and profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we have heard Jesus say, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own…” (Matt. 6:34), and have replied, “Sorry, Jesus. You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.”

RIGHT NOW is all any of us have.

RIGHT NOW is full of meaning, blessing, and wonder… but we can only taste that meaning, blessing, and wonder if we dare to lay fear aside and open our eyes to it.

Henri Nouwen, the great theologian, and psychologist, talked about the same idea using the word PATIENCE. His words are especially relevant today:

“Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient, we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”

I pray that you and yours are safe today and will be safe every day after today.

But I also pray that you do not sell the treasure of today for the fear of an unknown tomorrow.

Abundant blessings;




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