Month: July 2018

2 Days in July

There are many reasons why you would want to run as fast as you can away from the monster of travel sports. I know, I’ve made long lists in my head. 

Both of my sons now play travel baseball, the regular season morphed into an all-star travel schedule without a breath. Only the uniforms and faces in the dugouts changed. And that’s good or bad, depending on your perspective and the day. Last weekend, we had a tournament that, true to the travel baseball model, was a test of endurance and will as much as it was skill and talent. 2 games Saturday and, because we kept winning, 4 Sunday!!! (Sadly, we lost in the championship game, 6-1.) 

Now. We sacrificed our weekend to baseball, and it’s easy to think it’s another justification to flee. But, there was about a half an hour between the semifinal and the championship game that forced me to tear up those lists forever.  

The boys sat (some laid flat on their backs), sore, exhausted & sunburned, in a circle under a tree. Though they were physically spent and had been together for 2 straight days, they remained in that circle, talking, laughing, becoming something very different than they were 3 weeks ago. Then, they were the all-stars from the individual Lebanon county midget teams. Here, they were a new creation, a band of brothers who were standing side by side, learning who they were, and who they were going to be. They were a team, in every sense of the word.

The boy who is the obvious leader deserves most of the credit. He is easy, hilarious and immediately inclusive of the others. (It doesn’t hurt that he can throw a ball through a brick wall;) There is no division (he won’t allow it), as is so disappointingly common any time more than 1 of us are in a shared space. There are no cliques, no arrogant dismissiveness. 

My oldest son, who is quiet and reserved outside of this house (where he’s a noisy, stubborn riot) has found a safe place where he can offer his wealth of gifts and personality – in that circle, he laughed out loud, teased as he was teased, he just was free to be all of who he is. The joy in their hearts and on of their faces overflowed into each other, and all of us who were given the unbelievable honor of seeing.

There are lots of reasons not to play, commit, not to engage, plenty of reasons to quit and run away from everything. We’re busy, tired, easily offended, selfish consumers. These boys showed up and gave all they had to each other, to something bigger than their own comfortability, their own statistics, their own wants. And in the giving, they received so much more than anyone could have expected, or ever hoped for. 

Yes, they lost, and that was too bad – I wish they could have cemented this time with a championship. But the celebration would have been so much more for the friendships, the bond they are forging, as it was for some cheap trophy. And that is the kind of beautiful thing that doesn’t need a trophy to show what we’ve all won.

The Sweetest Gift

Sigh. It’s raining cats and dogs and the radar shows no signs of an end for a few days.

In 2011, a storm named after a second tier jeans company barreled into our small town and decided to disobey the normal rules of weather patterns and stop moving. I understand, it’s a cool little town, I did the same thing. I remember, we had 3 other couples over for a lovely dinner on a Sunday evening. They left to walk home as it started to drizzle, and the rain didn’t stop until Thursday, after 3 of us had lost our homes and everything in them. 

This storm is eerily similar. It’s doing something called ‘training,’ which means it’s running due north, pounding the same area over and over.

I don’t want to talk about why this is happening, why 10 year storms are happening every 4 or 5, why weather events that are “once in a lifetime,” aren’t, or why ‘freak occurrences’ have become just ‘occurrences.’ I don’t want to talk about them, now, because I don’t really care, now. There will be time, later. But now, people are losing their lives (moments ago, I received an alert that a 19 year-old was just washed away & lost), their homes, and everything they thought they owned. Mat Kearney sings, “The tears are coming down, they’re mixing with the rain.” When this rain stops tomorrow or Thursday (hopefully), we’ll go back to normal, but nothing will ever be the same for some people. They will forget what ‘normal’ ever felt like.

I also don’t want to talk about the “things I’ve learned” 7 years later. I don’t want to talk about them because nobody really cares about those things, now. We all just want to survive, to make it through today without falling apart, lessons and growth are about the last thing anyone wants to hear. 

I know what’s coming, for them. I know people will say, “If it makes you feel any better, I had water in my basement.” (What kind of monster would I be if your pain did actually make me feel better?!!?) Someone will walk down to their house and say, “I was going to throw this chest away, but I could sell it to you, if you need it.” “I’m sorry, the insurance money won’t cover that.” “When your house went underwater, a pipe must have burst, so here’s that $500 water bill.” And “What’s the big deal? That was, what, a month ago? You need to get over it.”   I know, for the next 3 years, they’ll say, “where is that thing? I know we had one,” and then they’ll remember… They’ll have to replace their wooden spoons. They’ll have to wear their aunt’s (THEIR AUNT’S!!) flip-flops to WalMart to buy shoes. And where will their pet live while they’re living with allergic friends? And they will cry when they realize they forgot 1 box of pictures (irreplaceable, because they were from a time when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, when there weren’t hard drives or clouds and the photo, a little out of focus, was all you had) in the basement. And they will cry over those pictures again and again and again. And they will also cry because that present their dad bought them is gone and so is he, so there will be no more presents from him. And the kids 1st grade schoolwork!!!!! And 7 years later, when it rains, they will sit in their living room, holding each other, as the tears come again.

Yes, I know what’s coming. And if I should happen to overhear some well-meaning friend try to explain how it’s “just stuff,” that “we don’t get more than we can handle,” or the ABSOLUTE WORST, “God has a plan,” I promise I will start that fight club I only dreamed of 7 years ago. (That’s only half a joke;)

Sure, I’m different now than I was then. They will be, too. But there is one thing.

I told Elisha last night, the only thing that matters when you’re scared – and we’re all so scared now – is that you’re not alone. In that same Mat Kearney song, “I’m holding on to you, holding on to me. Maybe it’s all we got but it’s all I need.” It’s all any of us need. NOT more bumper sticker platitudes or dumb cliches. Not somebody to quote the Bible, but somebody to BE the Bible – bring a sandwich, pray, tear out some carpet, feed our rabbit, hold our hand, hold us up when we can’t stand anymore, tell us it’ll be ok, someday.

The sweetest gift God ever gave us was each other – this incessant rain would be unbearable without it. Even so, it can stop anytime.


Sunday, after the service, there was a core group meeting to talk about money and the budget. 

2 things about that, before we get to the point. 

The Bridge has a core leadership group. Of course, it does. It’s not awesome to have anything too centralized, without accountability, without different opinions, backgrounds, ideas. No one person should shoulder all of the responsibility. In fact, no 2 or 3 or 4 people should – there should be a team, like the Avengers. (Well, maybe not exactly like the Avengers, but you get the idea.) 

The Bridge has a budget. For so long, I stayed away from religion like it was a new Coldplay album because, in my experience, it had nothing to do with God or spirituality, and everything to do with business and wealth and excess. The Bridge began with that in my heart and mind, and every penny that was offered to the community was given away – there were no expenses, no salaries, we were free to direct our money to those in need. It was beautiful and easy. Then, we moved into our current building and accepted necessary operating expenses. Just like at your house or job, the lights don’t stay on by themselves. It’s a pretty big crack in the naive idealism of my youth, but with the proper perspective and responsibility, it can still be beautiful, even as it’s ease has disappeared. As we grow, there is more opportunity for gifts. More relationships mean more passion, more mission, more action, more spaces for support, with our prayers, energy, time, and money. Our orange offering box is an invitation to participate. And responsible stewardship, like anything valuable, doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes intention, and some meetings to assure that the beautiful vision of the Bridge stays sharp.

Now. We had planned this meeting in February, and it has been my primary focus since then, worn around my neck like a chain – sometimes heavy, but always present as a reminder. Many  times I was distracted from other things, it was because I was deep in prayer and reflection. Were our finances in step with our vision/mission? You know, they say that if you want to know what it is that you really believe, you can look at your calendar and your checkbook. Were ours consistent with what we said we believed and valued? More times than I can count, I left other things unfinished, because this issue was (and should have been) my priority. I laid awake nights, asking God for guidance, to lead me into rooms I never intended to go. (My avoidance was absolutely ridiculous, I might add. Looking away, pretending something uncomfortable isn’t there, is not now and has never been a very good strategy for life.) He did, He always does.

For 5 months, I lived like a student preparing a gigantic project. I imagine we all did, to some extent. Sunday afternoon, we turned that project in, submitted our paper, the fruit of so much labor. And she WAS beautiful.

But here’s the point, my wife and I came home afterwards and shared our comments and observations for an hour or 2, then… Nothing. I didn’t get started on the next thing. I didn’t begin anything new. I didn’t work at all, as a matter of fact. I just took some time to decompress from 5 months of building, took some time to appreciate what we’d built, together.

Mostly, we don’t take those moments to be where we are, even for a second. We aren’t usually content and satisfied. We continue to climb the next mountain, achieve the next goal, cross off the next item on our to-do list. Why is that?

The preparation, the creation, was 5 months of hard – sometimes excruciatingly hard and frustrating – and to simply move on to the next thing seems so disrespectful of the journey. I’m a different man now, and every step in becoming should be celebrated, or at the very least gratefully acknowledged, with the attention it deserves.





Kate Swoboda has a website called Your Courageous Life, and in one of the articles, she writes, “Instead of being “bad people” who whine, moan and complain, we are actually people who are trying to handle a lot of feelings. Maybe those responses are an attempt to release an overload of those feelings.” This is exactly what I’ve been thinking, trying to find the words to say out loud.

I am a work in progress, tip-toeing towards becoming a man who extends grace, to you, your friend, my neighbor, and to me. (Not the Grace that saves, that’s obviously not mine to give – instead, the grace that stands, trusts, and consents. The grace that holds your hand and walks through hell with you. The grace that walks in when everyone else walks out. The grace that… Well, you know what it feels like when you know that you just have to confess something, to get something out into the light, and it’s scary, and embarrassing, and you feel the crushing weight of shame? The grace that disarms those emotions, looks at you with love, and speaks a fresh word.) This is the man I’d like to be, it’s who I believe I am created to be. 

That journey comes to an abrupt halt, because too often, I simply cannot extend that grace to me. The voices in my head tell me I am less than, that I am lacking, not enough of whatever. Not that I am ‘trying to handle a lot of feelings,’ but that I am fundamentally flawed. The voices are the same that worked tirelessly since junior high to deceive me, to back me into some very dark spaces that had no exit.

I recognize this got heavy, fast, but that’s ok, we’re friends, right?


Two weeks ago, on a Saturday morning at 5:30 am (!!!), I participated in a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) hot yoga class with my sister. She meant it as a beautiful spiritual experience we could share, a sacred space, like the best church service. It wasn’t. It was inhumane. Pure torture. The room was set to a million degrees and the sadistic instructor, a gorgeous woman named Lee, was bent on destruction.

The class was an hour long, and I was a beast. A warrior. I was a finely tuned athlete who was capable of EVERYTHING, who would domesticate the assault, aggressively transferring its power to me. The Man.

This is the full truth, it happened just like I said, until I had to leave the room. I couldn’t jump again, my limbs were jelly, my heart pounded like a jackhammer, I think I may have cried a little, the room spun faster and faster, I wondered who would care for my friends at the Bridge for the months (years?) of recovery.

Once I crawled to a seat outside, my body quickly rebounded, and just as quickly, my head rang with the familiar noise. “You call yourself in shape? You are nothing, pathetic, an embarrassment.” Here’s the thing, though. I didn’t believe them, even for a moment. 

True, Lee won. And that’s ok. I almost made it – after a minute or 2, I returned to the room just in time to cool down. If I could’ve only lasted a little longer… But that’s ok, too. If I would’ve stayed, I would’ve missed the most important part. Failure. Well, maybe the failure wasn’t the most important part, but the REAL most important part couldn’t have happened without it.

I said Lee was bent on destruction, and she was, but I think maybe it wasn’t me she was looking to destroy. She opened the class with a quote, “Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of yourself.” My self has a truckload of consequences, I guess all of our selves do. And maybe tolerating those consequences (whatever they are) looks like quieting/ignoring/annihilating the voices withholding grace, telling you that you are anything less than enough, less than lovely, less than a beloved child of the Living God.

Lee won, and I did, too.