Monday, January 26, 2009

200

It’s been an interesting day so far, maybe not so much for a Monday. It’s kind of like the Twilight Zone. I woke up this morning to clear skies….that should have been a clue right there. I came outside and started up a new, for us anyway, vehicle that we just bought yesterday. Down at the beach, there’s plenty of cars and even plenty of buses, but not many people at all. Inside Starbucks, the fireplace is actually on. … Now I’ve realized that something is definitely wrong. I boot up this trusty laptop only to have, for the first time ever, the file transfer wizard appear asking me if I’m ready to transfer my files to another computer. This can’t be good. It’s very confusing to me until, upon opening my “Office” files, I discover that, at the moment at least, none of them exist any longer. That could be bad. Now I understand the file transfer prompt….too late for that.
Interesting…… This very weekend my wife and I have been praying for realignment, to focus on what is important, to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t matter. We have even talked about my needing to put this laptop friend to rest and begin life with a new and improved model. Today, this day, this post is actually my 200th post to this blog. It’s a milestone of notice for me. Some have said that I should write a book and that they’d actually buy it…at a family discount of course. This is my book. You can read it for free. Scroll back through the years and enter in to my life if you are exceptionally bored. Almost 3 years ago I sat down and began to write weekly about my life and times, and I’ve not stopped. I’ve written through graduations, vacations, relief work in New Orleans. I’ve written though birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and weddings. I’ve written about surgeries and back problems, excitement and exhaustion. I’ve written about faith and friends and family. You can look back through the pages, it’s all in there.
And as I drove down this morning I was anticipating writing something for the occasion and where we’re at in life and to reflect on some new beginnings that I begin to focus on today. I didn’t realize that all 3 years of my previous life contained within the walls of this overgrown keypad would vanish like a vapor. Maybe it’s part of answered prayer. It just may be because, while I should be beside myself with anxiety, after all, these writings are just a small part of the entirety of my existence contained in here, my calmness reflects some type of attitude adjustment. I mean really, I have a whole semester of grad school on here and the first two weeks of this semester. I should be giving this thing mouth to keypad resuscitation. The paranoid part of me could settle on this just being the worst of some very bad Monday’s. I’m not choosing to go there. After all, let’s be honest, if the fireplace is on here at Starbucks, and the sun is out in the winter, both in the same day, then this day offers much promise. And it’s been 200 times I’ve entered and left the digital confines of my blog. So new cars, new focus, new computers, new files, it all fits in. This is my life today, and I’m just happy for the chance to start again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

change

Starbucks early on a holiday is fairly mellow. Fewer buses are running, fewer people are running, the fireplace is still not running. Anyway…..I’m sitting here in this subdued atmosphere and thinking about what everyone else is thinking about, change. I have to confess to a certain level of apathy with regards to the national hype. I know, I know, the inauguration is tomorrow and I’ve already been roundly scorned for admitting that I will probably see very little of it. I’ll watch the highlights later in the evening, but I’m going through my own change at the moment, thank you. It’s called grad school and even early in the semester I could be rolled by the amount of work at any moment and once I’m on my back, it’s all over. So I have very little time to view the television in the daytime no matter who is on.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for change. I collect it and put it in a can on top of my dresser. Every once in awhile I even cash it in and buy something with it. Actually, I do think that we need change, but I think that it goes deeper than anyone even imagines. I’m sitting here with two other people. One who is sleeping next to a dark fireplace…probably dreaming of what it would feel like to sit by one that actually works. The other is in another corner pounding away on a laptop. So just a moment ago, the one with the laptop gets up and goes into the men’s room…..carrying his laptop. So now I’m wondering. Is there better wifi in the men’s room? Does he have some type of hideous detachment disorder with personal computing devices? Was the laptop the one really needing to go and being without legs, it asked this gentlemen for assistance? ? Did he think that sleeping guy was just faking and waiting till he left it unattended, only to leap up and run off into the fog with it? Did it look like I needed to upgrade mine? Or is there something deeper still?
Is this really where we’ve come to… that we have to take our computers into the restroom with us for fear of them randomly being stolen? I’ve been here long enough on many occasions, many times with the place full of people, to need a visit to the men’s room. I’ve never felt the need to be accompanied by my laptop. It’s an unwritten law I think. It could get stolen on many other occasions and in many different circumstances, but bathroom breaks are off limits to even the most ruthless of thieves. I have had a laptop stolen before, but that was during a traditional office break in.
So I’m thinking about change and wondering if any that comes about from a new president can even come close to fixing this guy’s problem? Did Mr. Obama ever even consider that we’d need to feel safe during bathroom breaks? How far have we really declined in Western civilization that even bathroom time in our day is not sacred? So on this day before the inauguration, since I wasn’t invited, I’ll offer this prayer from the other side of the country for our new leader. “May the change that comes from this day forward not merely collect in the can on my dresser, but may it be the real social change necessary to bring peace to guys like this. In the end may we not stand around and watch one man attempt change, may we all get involved and demonstrate what it really looks like, in the hearts and minds of men and women….Amen”

Monday, January 12, 2009

clearance

My wife and I, along with some friends, had the opportunity to see “Frost/Nixon” this past weekend. I’d highly recommend it. It seems as if, at least according to movie scripts and directors, that one of the biggest difficulties that Nixon faced was the knowing of when he was “done”. Getting back into “the game” was something that apparently consumed him. In the end, an interview concluded that he was, in fact, “done”. A certain quarterback used to play in front of cheese heads, retired, and then came back to play in front of a more dignified crowd. Getting back in the game was something that apparently consumed him. He couldn’t rest with the idea that he was “done”. In the end, an injury concluded that he was.
Sitting here in Starbucks this morning, I’m confronted with all of the holiday merchandise that someone has concluded is “done”. Mark downs and red tags make this painfully clear. The gods of holiday merchandising have seen fit to put a different value on those who weren’t chosen during the season. Someone has said, quoting a movie line, “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting”. “Your time has come and the best we can hope for is to get pennies on the dollar for you.” “You now must change shelves”. When I’m tired, there’s a small part of me that envies them. They had a predetermined time established by their colors, their designs, their imprints. It’s not that easy for the rest of us. Most of us don’t come with seasonal markings. I know that I have a predetermined time, according to my creator. It’s just not that readily apparent. But when I’m tired, I can long for a chance just to know.
Some of the favorite bands of my growing up years are on the clearance shelf. That clearance is known here in the Northwest as the “casino circuit”. You’ll know them as the bands who only play what they used to be known for. Unlike the Eagles, The Stones, and Bruce Springsteen of the same era, they choose not to venture into anything new. They have kept their seasonal labels which insure a trip to the clearance rack. Even though you can see them at sometimes clearance prices, which should appeal to me because I’m cheap, I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t want to face the possibility that, if they are on the shelf, I might be close behind. Of course, my shelf isn’t nearly as high as theirs, but you have to admit, there is one for all of us if we choose it. At what point is my life going to be consumed with getting just one more “atta boy”? How will I know when I’m done? Being a teaching pastor in my community o’ faith, I have often thought that I would be “done” when I had two weeks in a row of sermons that I had self acknowledged to be found “wanting”. It is too high a calling to allow more. I’ve only recently realized that this causes me to focus on the clearance and not the season that I’m in right now. My efforts will always be found wanting if left to my own devices. I have better than that available in my corner. It’s not my role to “do”. It is, however, my role to show up.
I’ve always felt that Neal Young had it right when he sang “It’s better to burn out, rust never sleeps”. That’s my goal. Some weeks I’m closer to burning than others and some can appear more rusty than I’m comfortable with. I still control the attitude though, at least in my own corner of existence. I get to walk out of here, away from the clearance, and make a difference in a life. I can pet a dog, buy a coffee, offer a smile or a generous tip and, at least for one more day, be a full priced person who contributes more than he consumes. No clearance yet for me.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Blank

I’ve just spent the past 45 minutes staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor. You’d think after a few weeks that I’d be able to come up with just an ounce of something, but the only thing moving is my battery indicator. It’s running down like the witch’s hour glass on the Wizard of Oz, counting time before it shuts down completely and leaves me alone. Speaking of alone, I’m quite that this morning here at the beach. It’s kind of odd. Only the lights and the barista’s seem to know this place is open. Of course the fireplace doesn’t…but I promised my wife that I’d leave that dead horse to rest in peace. I’m not sure why I keep coming here except for the big comfy chair, and the fact that they open so early. Maybe it’s an indication that the rest of the world went back to real jobs with real working hours this week. It’s only me and a few cops in here right now and since we’re a bit low on donuts, I’m thinking that it’ll be just me pretty quickly.
So…………..what to write about? It’s the start of a new year…a few days late, but hey at least I’m in the right month. I could celebrate here the “dawn of a new day”…yay!!! Wooohooo!!!, wow nearly hurt myself. Never mind, I guess the age of Aquarius will just have to get on without me. Whatever… aren’t writers supposed to write about such things, new beginnings and auld lang synes and all that stuff. I’m just tired and seeking refuge trying to suck the last ounce of caffeine from a grande drip extra black coffee while I curse the cursor on a blank screen. The Eagles are in my headphones trying to trick me into thinking that I’m 20 years younger than I really am while my body is filing a protest against such foolishness. I know that the illusion is false if for no other reason than that, 20 years ago, this chair would be forming around my butt and this morning, in my present reality, my butt is forming around the chair.
By now it’s obvious to even me that the blank is disappearing from my page and being filled with characters, as is this Starbucks. The usuals are beginning to filter in. I guess if you wait long enough, all becomes right with the world again and what was once blank begins to take form and resemble something recognizable. That’s my hope I guess, as I look on the blank slate of this year that lies ahead. Really, I guess that I could and should consider this a blank page on which just about anything can be written. It’s an unknown page in my story. As G.K. Chesterton once observed, if life is a story, then there is a storyteller. Sometimes I try desperately to write my own pages and sometimes I feel like Will Ferrell in “Stranger that Fiction” as the storyteller reads my life. Unlike him though, my life progresses much more positively when the storyteller is leading the activity.
So as this previously blank page has now, somehow, been filled, my life and yours will be filled as day passes day. Each and everyone has the chance to “be all that you can be” even without joining the army. Clear your calendars, give yourself over to the storyteller, stop cursing the cursor, keep your hands and feet inside at all times, and enjoy the ride.