Setting Records with Manning

I had a dream. It was a sports dream, which is unusual for me because I’m not exactly the world’s most athletic guy. I don’t watch football and I don’t ski downhill. In fact, I’m more likely to make great chicken wings for people who watch football and more likely to fall downhill.

But last night, in my dream, my wife and I heard that Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark were trying to break a record for the most receiving yards on a ski slope. It was a pretty ingenious set up. Dallas was on skis. Peyton was at the top of the ski hill; this is Indiana so it wasn’t really a mountain. Peyton would yell Omaha and Hike! and fall back while Dallas would shoot off in a downhiller’s tuck. Peyton would cock that shotgun arm and throw the ball. As Dallas approached the bottom of the slope, he would reach up with grace and ease and snatch the ball out of the air, pulling it into the numbers every time.

Because it is a dream, my wife and I decided to go to the slope and see if we could help. My reasoning was that I could be sliding down the hill and receive a ball or two while Dallas took the ski lift back for another run. We could double the yardage thrown (and set the record as a team).

When we arrived at the top of the slope, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were sorting through a box of my old bank statements. While everything else about the dream felt real, that part didn’t make any sense and the illusion began to fade. Al and Cris said that Peyton had just thrown a whopper of a pass to Dallas and in his enthusiasm, had run downhill to celebrate with his receiver. Not to worry, they would be right back.

I agreed to wait. My skis were strapped on and I was ready to get into the game. My wife, while nervous for me, was supportive and encouraging. As we waited I practiced my snow plowing, because it’s been 40-years since I strapped wooden boards to my feet and voluntarily threw myself headlong down a mountain.

But minutes turned into hours and despite Al and Cris’s reassurance, I realized that Peyton and Dallas had gone into the ski lodge. They’d set their record and left the slopes, without me.

From there, my dream shifted to a school and/or diner / and or Welcome Back Kotter episode and the entire storyline fell apart.

As a general rule, I don’t interpret dreams but I’d like to give this one a try. We all know that dreams reveal our subconscious desires. It’s obvious that my subconscious somehow connected to Peyton’s subconscious, subconsciously. What I learned in that dream and from my subconscious connection to Peyton Manning is that he is trying for a comeback, and my subconscious knows this. He’s calling out for help. I think I’ll email him today and ask how I might be able to ease his pain.

I have no idea why Dallas was in my dream. He’s a nice guy and all but just like a yellowshirt character on Star Trek, he is just an extra in my movie of the mind. Al and Cris were simply obnoxious.

I feel better unpacking that little drama; now here is to helping set the record!

I’m leaving Facebook, and not for the reasons you suspect.

It’s a turbulent time in our country. The election. The hatred. The frustration. The protests. Coincidentally, I’m stepping away from Facebook, but it isn’t for the reasons that so many of my other friends are leaving the social media world.

I’ve decided to step off of the Facebook platform and social media in general, not because I’m offended, which I am. Not because people have exhausted me with their non-stop complaints, which they did. Not because people are out of control, which they are. But because I realized how much of my precious time I’m wasting in the virtual world that keeps me from being in touch with the real world. For every hour spent in virtual relationships, I’m missing out on so much time with face-to-face interactions and meaningful encounters.

I’ve been pondering this move for quite some time. It isn’t a spur of the moment decision. But there was a moment today when the decision became clear, when it hit me square in the face. As I walked through the cafeteria today from my table in the back corner I saw that every table had someone who was not engaged with others but instead, looking down, and thumbing their phones, checking email, commenting on Facebook, viewing videos, Twittering and Snapchatting. This is no exaggeration. It was EVERY. SINGLE. TABLE. In fact, I passed one table in which a woman was actually surrounded by people with their phones out while she was reading the newspaper. It didn’t even look real and I nearly went over to congratulate her for the bravery and outlandish behavior.

Nearly nine-years ago a movie named Wall-E came out. It was a big hit. You probably remember it. But I hated the movie. One of the most troubling aspects was the image of disengaged humans who were depicted as massive blobs too lazy to walk, with giant cups of some drink in one hand and video screens poised in their pudgy other paw. They were over-fed and over-entertained. In this anesthetized state of ignorance they floated along on reclining chairs, completely disconnected from the reality of their situation.

As I walked through the cafeteria today, I realized we are only a hovering chair away from this pathetic reality.

I want to read from books that have pages. I want to look people in the eye as we meet one another. I want to eat a meal without being interrupted by someone’s social medial emergency. I want to turn off the tube. I want to shut down the screen. I want to escape the pattern we’ve created for ourselves.

And so today, as a first step, I’m leaving Facebook. I’m removing the app from my phone. I’m removing the link from my favorites on my computer. I’m stepping away from the vortex that is social medial.

Of course, I’m not going away entirely. You can still chat with me via Messenger. You can still see my pictures on Instagram. You can text or call. Or, and this is a radical idea, we can meet for coffee or share a meal. We can even go for a walk if you prefer.  We can play cards, work on a puzzle, discuss hard topics like (gasp) politics. You see, it isn’t personal. It’s survival. It isn’t anti-Trump. It’s pro-meaningful life. It isn’t against you. It’s for us. As hard as it is to remember, there was a time before social media. There was a time when we engaged one another in the real world.

That’s my goal and I invite you to join me. Pull your noses away from your screens. Straighten your backs and lift your heads to the beauty that is this world. It’s a site to behold.

Exploring Rome

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The Colosseum.

Our trip to Italy is one I will long remember. It was filled with many wonderful memory-building events, amazing food, sites, sounds and smells. During our short time there we took in the Vatican Museums by night, marveled at the Colosseum, climbed the Spanish Steps, gazed in wonder at the Sistine Chapel, and stood in silent awe at the grandeur of a Sicilian sunrise.

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Sunrise over Catania, Sicily.

It certainly is not hard to consider the idea of history and legacy when in a place like Italy. Reminders of a once grand civilization stand at every corner in the form of broken columns and shattered sculptures. The Romans were a powerful presence in their day. In the height of their glory they built armies that marched across the continent. Of course, now every soldier is long dead and buried. The Romans formed a government that would be a standard of greatness for centuries. But ego and madness resulted in its fall to ruffians and barbarians. They erected magnificent structures to honor their heroes. However,  few remain standing as anything more than tourist destinations and rubble.

 

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An ancient Roman calendar found on the archaeological site of Toarmina.

We went to Italy accomplish more than site-seeing. We went to learn about the refugee crisis happening in the Mediterranean and we learned so much more.

Millions of displaced people are fleeing war, famine, civil unrest. They seek a place of hope and peace. They seek lives of meaning. Young men and women leave everything they own. They leave family and friends. They leave home and country. They travel thousands of miles, traverse the Sahara Desert, board crafts that are generously called boats, travel 300 miles in open seas, in search of a better life; a life of peace. A life of meaning. Desperate men and women do the unthinkable in order to survive.

In a place known for its history, we were challenged by our own legacy. In the face of this global crisis the question is obvious, “What will we do?” What action will we take? Our children’s children’s children will look at this time in history and judge us, not by armies mobilized, policies enacted or monuments built, as each of these turn to dust and fall from memory.

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Walking through ancient archways.

There is no good ending to this story if we do not act. And while our nation ponders a reality show election, while our leaders practice their narcissistic aggrandizement, in truth, while our country sleeps, the world is imploding all around.

We have the opportunity to make our mark in history by leaving a testimony to merciful action, love and compassion to nations scattered, people hurting, a world broken. Will our ancestors live in a world changed by a powerful proclamation of peace or will they shake their heads in wonder at our self-absorption and inaction, and the failure of this generation to change the course of history?

 

 

The 1,000 Foot View

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ve heard the phrase.  You’ve probably said it yourself:  “Can’t see the forest for the trees“.  And, if your life is anything like my own, it is often so very true.  We examine the situation, we study the problem, we analyze the issue but the closer we look, the less we see a solution.  We can’t think about the bigger picture because we’re so worried about the details of the problem.

You know the solution.  You know the answer:  It is often helpful to take a step back.  In fact, it often helps to take about 1,000 steps back.  Get the bigger picture.  Take in a wider view.  Climb the mountain and look down, removed from the situation and free from the entanglements of the problem.  Look at the slopes, experience the wind on your face, celebrate the light brightly shining above the canopy of the forest that often shades the decaying detritus and duff.

The next time you find you are without an answer, the next time you struggle for a solution take a walk above the tree line.  Hike the heights.  Mount the mountains and see if it doesn’t help.

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Can I tell you about my friends, Lindy and Tim Siefker?  Can I mention that this last year has been quite a journey for their family?  Can I tell you about her cancer diagnosis and surgeries?  Can I outline Tim losing his job in the midst of her treatment?  Can I tell you about their boys attending college during this tumultuous time?  Did I mention that they have boys…nothing but boys (that should be enough right there)!

I would tell you about these things and outline a tale of struggle and frustration and bad news followed by more bad news.  But these thing are all secondary to what matters most in this story; a marvelous tale of hope and grace.  The illness and treatments, the job search, the new work and extensive business travel,  the college expenses, the shuttling of one son who is yet to obtain his license; all take a back seat to what matters.  In the middle of all the chaos, all the turmoil, all the life-change, Tim and Lindy are shining examples of faith, hope and love.

As Paul wrote, when all things are taken into account, these three remain.  These three matter most: Faith, Hope and Love.  And these three words summarize Tim and Lindy.  They tell us exactly who they are and what they believe.  Because, the Siefkers are beacons of FAITH that there is a stronger power.

They are lights in darkness pointing to the HOPE of God’s love and sovereign purpose.

They live lives of LOVE for one another and all who enter their world.

I’ve known this couple for more than a decade.  They are special to me, not because of their talent, charm and wit (although, they brim over with all of the above).  They are dear to my heart because, through it all, they are dear to God’s heart.  And more God is central to their own hearts.

I hope that there are a few people in your life who challenge you to be better, who know that life is tough and prove that God is tougher.  I hope you have people like Lindy and Tim who lead you to a better place by living exemplary lives of Faith, Hope and Love.

I’m so thankful that these friends are part of mine.

A Call to Action

Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth,

Last night was cold.  While I slept warm and snug in my bed, there were people sleeping on the streets, under bridges and in doorways:  People in this very town slept under the stars and exposed to the winter chill.  They are unknown to me.  They are a problem for some government agency to fix.  They are people who would benefit from a program of some sort.

I’m praying today because I realize that these people are not unknown to you.  You know them by name.  If they matter to you, they should matter to me.  If they are precious in your sight, they should be precious in my own.

And so I pray that you will lead me to action.  Guide me to caring.  May I know how to act on your behalf before another blanket of bone chilling cold settles this night.

I pray.

AMEN.

Beating the System

new radarI saw this on Facebook today and already it is raising eyebrows.  Mine sure went up.

How can the government be allowed to place silent, unmanned radars in remote locations?  How is it possible that they are allowed to monitor my MPH’s?  It use to be a free country.  My rights and liberties are being infringed upon.  I will not stand for this.  Don’t tread on me.

But, I have a plan.  I know how to beat this new electronic surveillance system that is invading my privacy and challenging my right to drive any speed I choose:  I’LL DRIVE THE SPEED LIMIT.

That’ll fix ’em.

My Wife’s Org Plan

IMG_4190We all need to be better organized.  We lose track of our schedule, forget to pay bills, change the oil at 4,000 miles and fail to remember birthdays.

We’ve tried daily planners.

We’ve mastered the to-do’s.

We’ve used stickies.

We’ve filled white-boards.

All to no avail.

But the other day I walked in and found my wife practicing a new form of organization.  It’s a priority system based on color strips.  Those items written in the lighter shades of color require more attention.  Those in the darker shades, further down the sampler, can be done with less urgency.

Of course, when she showed me the stack of samples she’d “borrowed” from our local hardware store, I was shocked…and a little impressed.  I’m not sure how she convinced the sales person that we were debating between 748 different color schemes for our home but, there they are stacked in nice neat rows between the stir-sticks and the blue painter’s tape.

She has a rainbow of color samplers that run the gambit from Blackberry to Abby White.  In fact, she has an entire pile dedicated to the White spectrum.  There’s every variation of white you can imagine (and some you can’t):  White Dove, Cloud White, Chantilly Lace, White Diamond, Simply White, Linen White and Navajo White.  There’s Dune White and Ivory White and, not to be confused with White Dove, there is a Dove Wing White.  There’s Honkey White, White As A Ghost and my personal favorite, Snow White (from the Disney Collection).

And don’t get me started on the shades of green!  Everything from Forrest to Spring.

But there is method in her madness.  At least that’s what she tells me.

And she might be correct.  So far, we’ve repainted the house twice in the last week and yet, she’s had time to complete every one of her outstanding tasks and has been on time for every appointment.  And she’s only in the Yellow section of her paint strip stash.  Thanks, Banana Yellow!

I think she may have an award-winning program…As long as Benjamin Moore doesn’t catch on.

Life Lesson #1739 – It’s NOT POT

Japanese Maple Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum 'Bloodgood'
Japanese Maple
Acer palmatum var. atropurpureum ‘Bloodgood’

My Japanese Maple is NOT POT.  It is a decorative tree (Acer palmatum, var. atropurpureum ‘Bloodgood’) planted in my back yard.  It adds color and texture to my flowerbed.

Please stop picking the leaves and trying to smoke them.

Thank you.

From Roses to Revelation

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My wife’s newest addition to her flower bed.

While shopping at Lowe’s this past week, I found the most beautiful rose bush.  I instantly new where it would go in my yard.  I wasn’t the only one who thought the flowers were pretty.

Or so I thought…Because, on my way to my car, another do-it-yourselfer stopped me in the parking lot and gushed over my newest purchase.  She asked how much it cost and where it was located in the store.  She commented on the perfect flowers and the dazzling whiteness of the petals.  She loved this flower…Or so I thought.

After loading my purchases and putting my cart away, I turned to walk back to my car and the same woman came walking toward me, a book in her hand.

“Sir?” she approached quickly and with purpose, holding out the book for me to see.

“I keep a copy of this book in my car and wondered if you might like a copy?”

I took one look at the thin booklet and it’s title printed in bold letters across the front, “REVELATION”.  She held it out to me as if it were a precious gift.  And in that moment, I realized that the conversation about the flower had nothing to do with the flower.  I felt manipulated and used.

“No thank you.” I said and without another word, I turned to my car.

Without even looking her direction, I started my car, backed out of my spot and drove away.

I’m sure she didn’t think anything of it.  I know that people like her and millions others are used to having the door slammed in their collective faces.  And yet, they keep at it.

But here is the thing:  She took what I thought was an authentic moment of connection over something as wonderful as a white rose and turned it into a cheap method of proselytizing.  She was more concerned about getting her foot into my emotional door than the actual beauty of the moment and the flower.  But now, I truly believe she  commented on the rose for no other reason than to pitch her belief system.  And to be honest, if this is how it has to be done, this isn’t any belief that I want to be a part of.

As I drove home, and nearly every day since, I thought about that interaction.  I’ve studied the scene over and over in my mind.  I’ve re-played her statements.  I’ve analyzed my response.  And then I had to ask myself a very hard question:  Do I do the same thing to people I meet?

After all, I’m an outgoing guy.  I laugh in the lunch line with total strangers.  I’ve become friendly with sanitation workers and lunch ladies that I see on a daily basis.  I talk easily with co-workers and patients.  But why?  Do I have a hidden agenda?  Do I, at some deeper level, do this little social dance as a means to get my foot in the door?

Please understand, I NEVER talk religion.  It’s just not my thing.  But is there another reason I engage others?  Is there a hidden agenda?  Will I want something in return some day?

How about you?  Do you talk to people so you get to know them or so they can know more about your beliefs, your thoughts, your agenda, your TV shows, your kids, your aches, your pains?  Have you ever had a conversation with someone without saying something like, “I know what you mean!  Something like that happened to me just the other day!  Let me tell you about it.”

What if we just listened to people?  What if we complimented someone without expecting something in return?  What if we had and entire conversation with someone and never once thought about our response, only their words and their true meaning?

That would be a breath of fresh air, wouldn’t it?

Early Birds

A Conner Prairie rooster guards his flock.
A Conner Prairie rooster guards his flock.

People often say that it is the Early Bird who gets the worm.

I see several problems with this statement.  First, is there really only one worm that is available early?  Second, how early do you have to be out to get that worm?  If you are too early, it’s just dark and then you don’t see the worm at all.  Next, what about grain or corn?  I often prefer them to worms.  What if I just wait for daylight and then forage for kernels of wheat?  Finally, let’s say I’m not really a morning person (in this case, a morning bird) and I prefer to start my day later…won’t there be worms in the later afternoon when all the Early Birds have returned to the coop?

I’m just trying to think outside the egg carton.

A Prayer for Guidance

100_9612Dear God,

Decisions have to be made.  A choice looms.

Two roads offer themselves and we desire Your wisdom as we select the best road to take.

May we have insight into the direction they will take us, the journey we will experience, the sights we will see because we decided to take the right or left pathway.

And may we know peace when we are at the end of the journey, no matter the decision.

AMEN.

Words and Their Source

Calm MorningThree people expressed their view of my project. They all shared a similar view but their varied approach and the responses they received were much different.

One person is nothing more than an bitter irritant to nearly everyone she meets.  Her words were like rough sandpaper being used to remove a boil on the back of my neck:  They were painful, too rough, too close and definitely the wrong tool for the job.  They caused me to withdrawal violently to avoid more pain.

One person is a lost, lonely and sad fool who covers the pain with laughter that is too loud and too often.  His words are sarcastic and biting.  His snide comments were like my neighbor’s dog barking at the fence:  Teeth flash but are harmless as long as I never try to get close to the unpredictable animal.

One person is quiet and often speaks wisdom beyond her years.  Her words were carefully chosen and represented many  hours of thought.  Like a surgeon’s blade, they cut right to the heart of the issue, making plain the action that must be taken without excess damage.  She did not attack the person, but the problem.

Three voices.  One similar opinion.  Three means of expression.

How do you speak?  What response to you produce?

A Friday Prayer

Dear God,

This has been quite a week and there still remains a few more hours of work.  If ever there was a day that I needed focus, it is today.  If ever there was a time when I needed direction is is now.

Help me to stay on task.  Help me to keep my mind on the work I have before me and not on the activities of the weekend.  Help me to stop looking at the clock.

AMEN.