Archive for October, 2003

A Perfect World

Posted: October 27, 2003 in Everything

The baby’s room is just about finished now. The paint has been pristinely brushed on the walls, the border aligned perfectly along the baseboards, the dresser stained and polyurethaned and polyurethaned and polyurethaned again. Diapers are stacked, the changing pad is waiting and the smell of joy and baby powder is in the air. You can cut the anticipation with a knife! Even our sweet beagle, Ralph, has perused the room finding the perfect place to sleep while he guards the door and window from unwanted intruders into our child’s world.

It’s a crazy time. Every minute I am home not doing something baby related seems wasted, every item displaying the least bit of imperfection is frustrating and carries more feelings of failure than I ever imagined possible.

If it were up to Rochelle and me, our daughter would live in a perfect world. She would have a perfect childhood; wonderful and magical. She would never be harmed. She would have no scars; physical or emotional. She would somehow manage to overcome the immense faults of her parents (at least the immense faults of her dad ) that are bound to be passed on. We want her to have a perfect world! That’s why we’ve worked so hard on the part of her world we might be able to manage; her room.

We have no illusions. We know that our faults will hurt her. All parents somehow wound their children. Like extended family passing photos at a holiday gathering, children cannot be handled with love without being fingerprinted by their handlers.

That’s why Jesus teaches us to forgive! So that as we look back at the photo album of our lives, we can remember the incredible instances God has given us and love the people whose prints have smudged the pictures.

It’s in those moments when life on earth is a snapshot of life in Heaven. Now that’s a perfect world.

Baseball Family

Posted: October 17, 2003 in Everything

My wife, Rochelle, hates the baseball postseason! Not because she loses her husband to late-night, extra-inning games but because she loses herself. It seems that in recent years the baseball playoffs have had heart-pounding, heart-breaking drama.

The much belied slow pace of the regular season becomes palpable moments of pregnant expectation in the playoffs. Each moment hangs like a curveball without enough zip. Cameras pan the pained faces of the crowd as pitch after pitch carries the blessing or the curse of winning or losing. It’s agonizing. It’s wonderful.

You can’t do that in football…it’s too fast. It won’t happen in basketball…the shot clock is ticking. Don’t expect it in golf…it’s too quite. Forget soccer…I think we already have!

Only baseball has that magic drama of team against team, and one-on-one.

Rochelle is drawn in, like a moth to a flame to the tense drama only baseball can provide. She sits and watches, rises and falls with every late inning pitch–hoping to death that the Yankees will lose. They hardly ever do.

It is in those moments that I am most aware of family unity. I grew up in a baseball family. I’m an Atlanta Braves fan because my mom was. Rochelle grew up in a football family. Rochelle is a Dallas Cowboy’s fan because her dad was. Parents shape us in more ways than we know. Adults pass along their love for sports and sports teams as easily as they pass the bread around the kitchen table.

Working with parents in a church setting, I’m often approached about how to pass down the faith from one generation to the next. We all want to know the magic formula for faithful children. I’m not sure if there is one. There are a thousand theories and none of them are fool-proof. But I think the answer may be more simple that I ever realized: love the thing you love and let your children know you love it!

That’s what we do with sports. We might be on to something.

Hungry? Why Wait?

Posted: October 16, 2003 in Everything

G.K. Chesterton once said, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” It seems that all of us seek transcendence through tangible means. It’s people, or possessions, or power. But we never find the taste that will satisfy our hunger. We are people of indulgence because we are seekers at heart. We want to find the one thing that will bring us wholeness.

Recently I have been reading through the Sermon on the Mount and something has jumped off the page. Jesus says, “blessed (a word meaning ‘happy’) are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

Most of us spend our time chasing phantom dreams of power and influence, far fewer of us hunger for righteousness. I wonder if we would find the scratch that would finally cure the itch if we took Jesus seriously?

It’s more than apparent that pursuing the other lovers of life will not and cannot make us happy: a drinker keeps drinking, a eater keeps eating, the greedy never stop cheating and the unfaithful spouse keep being unfaithful. Our endless courtship with undesirable lovers often leaves us believing that the desirous one would not want us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God pursues us with a relentless, ferocious longing to win our hearts.

It seems that if we were at all astute, we would chose the God who has already chosen us. As Oswald Chambers has written, “There is only One Being who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Humble Hero

Posted: October 8, 2003 in Everything

Being from Atlanta, and a Braves fan, October always brings me a sense of fulfillment or resentment about my hometown team. The truth is I was a Braves fan before my family moved from the coast of Mississippi to the capital of Georgia. I started young. I can still name the starting lineup for the Braves from 1982–I was in second grade.

In the summer, our lives dripped baseball like a cold glass of water on a sunny Mississippi afternoon. And each night as we returned home, my mom would flip on the television to the SuperStation. Intermingled with countless commercials from Georgia companies compelling consumers to buy outdated records, were the Atlanta Braves–and they were terrible. They did much more losing than winning, except for the occasional offensive break-out wherein they might score 18 runs. That would be soon followed by an a ten game streak of minimal scoring.

The only bright spot for the Braves was Dale Murphy, my hero. I loved Murphy! He was tall, great with the glove and batted in the four spot. I batted in the four spot, too. He was the clean-up man. He was the guy responsible for driving in the runs, producing the offense–he was “The Man.” Every little boy wants to be THE MAN! I was no exception. Dale Murphy hit home runs, won Gold Gloves and won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award two consecutive years.

Boy, did I want to be Dale Murphy. What could be better than getting paid to play baseball for a living? On my first trip to Atlanta, I found an autographed baseball signed by Murphy under the bed of the hotel. A day later I got the real thing. Dale Murphy signed it for me before my family watched the Braves fold like a cheap accordion at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. I love those balls. Even today they sit alongside myriad Little League trophies my brother and I won as children. They are trophies unto themselves. Something about those balls belongs with my childhood–they are too precious of memories to be tarnished by “maturity.”

Dale Murphy was more to me than a picture of a great ball player. When the Braves traded him as his career was coming to a close, I remember feeling hurt and betrayed (kids do not know and do not care about the business side of heroism). I pledged to never watch the Braves again. In search of their own redemption, the Atlanta Braves celebrated ‘Dale Murphy Day,’ shortly after the slugger retired. I watched every minute of it. The team showed a montage of highlights from Murphy’s career. There were great catches, terrific throws, and of course, hundreds of homers. Any sane person would question why the Braves traded him in the first place. Then I remember very distinctly what Dale Murphy said immediately after the highlight reel. He said, “they only showed the good stuff, I probably struck out one-hundred times for every home run.”

It was at that moment that Dale Murphy taught me his greatest lesson: humility. I learned in an instant that it was okay to fail at something, but it’s not okay to stop trying. Murphy attributed all of his success to God, not his own abilities. Truthfully, I don’t remember any plays Dale Murphy made, but I do recall what he said. And every time I feel a twinge in my ego to take a little credit for something I may have done well, I hear Dale Murphy in my ear telling me, “it wasn’t your ability, it was God.” I think that’s what heroes are supposed to do!