Friday, December 23, 2005

Starry Night

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

What does love look like?

The image of a humble child, in a makeshift cradle, born to impoverished parents.

God become man for the sake of the fallen and broken.

Whenever I read this passage, especially at this time of year, I find myself more aware every year of exactly what this holiday truly represents. It is not about what kind of presents I give or receive, whether I was able to get free shipping from Amazon on my purchases in time for delivery by December 23 or if I finally figure out how to get the timer for the Christmas lights to work correctly. It isn't even about me, it is about God.

Having seen the brokenness of his children, despite our rebellion, sin and seeking ourselves rather than Him, he came to us. I can't even get my head around that concept at times. I try to compare it to times when others have wronged me. Having been injured, could I come to that person and initiate the process of healing, forgiveness and restoration? But that is what God has done only on a cosmic level. He initiated the healing of the world, regardless of our transgressions. He came to us. Glory to God in the highest for he is able to do what no person could do.

Not only has he come, but he came in the most humble of circumstances, modeling the humility and generousity that should be the hallmarks of his people. Is that the kind of person I am? Hardly, though I pray to become that kind of man. What must it have been like to give up all that, to walk this earth, in this skin? I was talking about this very thing with my oldest boy last night and we were both amazed at the thought. I told him Jesus coming here and giving up everything would be kind of like us agreeing to give up our nice, warm, safe house and live in a cardboard box on Skid Row just so some homeless people we've never met could live in our house. We both just stared at each other in wonder.

And he came for me and you, all of us. He came that I might be rescued from the self destructive life and spirit that I had created for myself. He came that I might know the sweetness of his grace in more ways than I can count. He came that I might know what a real family is like. But that is not all. He lay in a manger, not just so I could be safe in the knowledge of my own salvation. He came so that I, we, would be agents of his kingdom. That we would bring the kingdom of God to those who can not see it for themselves. Not that we would preach with brimstone and condemnation, but that we would reach the hungry with bread, the sick with medicine and oppressed with justice. Though he is interested me, he is equally interested in what he can do through me, for the sake of his kingdom and the saving of all who would believe.

This means my family is not mine, but his. My job, not mine, but his. That he may use my station in life to save a girl from cutting herself, or show to inner city young men on a daily basis that a man can be civilized without appearing weak and that the only thing truly free in life is grace. Those are the gifts I can give. I can give myself, all that I have to his kingdom. Just a s he did.

Pray that I would.

Merry Christmas friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Captain Bladder Control and Attack of the Orange Beasties

This is how my Saturday morning went.

I had to wake up early to take my son to his first of four soccer games this weekend because his team is in a tournament. The game started at 8:30. No fear, the boy was up at 5:30. On a Saturday!

Anyway, he and I piled in the car after I had consumed two cups of caffienated courage. I poured myself a third in a commuter mug that I took with me. We arrived at the game, the team did some drills and soon it was time to take to the field for the game. The oppossing team showed up late.

Que the ominous music.

These kids were huge. Draped in flourescent orange jersies and attitudes to match. Their smallest kid was as big as our biggest kid. When they walked across the field, I swear the ground shook. I almost dropped my coffee. One kid on their team yawned right before kickoff and a flock of birds in a nearby tree took flight. Another kid was shaving as the ref read aloud the rules of game play.

As the game progressed, it was obvious my son's team did not stand a chance. But they were playing their hearts out. The Orange Beasties, as I came to call them, were all over the field, blocking the sun from the humungous shadow they cast across the field. They were fouling left and right but apparently the ref was either blind or on the take. I mean this guy was missing calls that Stevie Wonder could see. Twenty minutes into the game panic set in. Those three cups of coffee I mentioned, had finally hit. I needed to pee more than Nick and Jessica needed counseling.

I looked across the field and noticed there was a public restroom conveniently located nearby. I jogged over to it as the Orange Beasties had scored their 37th goal, determined to make it back in time for halftime to console my boy. I get there and find that though my tax dollars have paid for the construction and maintenance of said restroom it is locked up tight and thus not available when I need it most. I hurry back to the field just in time to tell my son what a great job he was doing and to make sure that he hydrates before the game resumes. The entire time, my head is literally pounding from my struggle to not think about the fact that at any moment, I could wet my pants in the brisk 53 degree morning. After some whinning about the oppossing team and their tactics, my son takes the field with his team and the game resumes. I quickly scanned my immediate surroundings and noticed that there was a Walgreens within walking distance. Surely, they must have a restroom. After leaving word with a team mom that I trusted as to my whereabouts I sprinted across the field toward lavatory liberation. By the way, running does not help when you have three large cups of coffee tap dancing on your bladder. As I made my way to the intersection, I could hear the congratulatory yells of parents on the opposing team. My poor son. Oh, well, that will have to wait. At this point I have to pee so bad my vision is literally blurred.

Once inside the Walgreens I made my way to the back of the store and I ask for someone to open the door to the restroom. Three days later, someone finally gets back there and as he unlocks the door mentions that the restroom is only for paying customers. At which time I mentioned that I would buy everything in the store and marry his ugliest daughter if he would just let me go pee. He did. The wedding is next Thursday.

Once business was taken care of and my vision restored, I headed back to the game with fifteen brutal minutes left. Soon after I got back my son had possession of the ball and was moving it down field. I was cheering him on. It looked good. Then, an Orange Beastie came out of nowhere. This kid was so big, he had his own zip code. The Beastie attacked my son, got the ball away from him and knocked him down in the mud. The ref was nowhere to be found. My boy got up, brushed himself off and ran after the Beastie to get the ball back.

We lost. We lost badly. I don't even want to mention the final score. I will say at least my son's team scored so it wasn't a blowout. Next time I'm asking for a urine sample from the oppossing team. After the game, my son and I limped back to my car. I told him how proud I was of the game he played and he vented his frustrations. As we got in the car he said he could not wait for the afternoon game. Then he asked. "Dad, where is your coffee mug?"

I does not matter son. I don't want to see it again. Ever.

And it was only 10 a.m.

Be well all.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What Guys Talk About

I don't think I'm breaking any code of silence here with this post.

I normally don't hang out with guys because:

a. I don't have time to hang out with anybody
b. Most of the guys I want to communicate with I already do through blog
c. once guys start talking sports I might as well be gay because I have no idea what they are
talking about nor do I care. Unlike a gay guy I don't even care about the tight fitting
uniforms the players wear.

Anyway, tonight I was invited by a guy from my church over to his house with some other guys from our bible study to just hang out. I knew all the guys there so it wasn't a big deal. It sounded like fun. Once everyone got there and got settled in people started talking.

You know what guys talk about?

Yeah, a little sports talk, but in general these guys at least talked about:

Their wives. In positive, generous terms.

Their kids. How they wish they didn't work so much and what a hard time their wife was having getting their newborn to nurse or what to do about their boy running through the house naked all the time.

Their jobs. How they hate it and how it takes time away from the things they really care about. Or if they love thier jobs, how rewarding to feel productive and valued (maybe not in those exact terms).

The upcoming vasectomy. Enough said.

How their ailing parent was doing or the most recent tribulation involving a troubled sibling.

Their finances. How to save more and get the most out of their retirement plans.

The anxiety of trying to decide when to buy a home.


Home improvement projects.

I was pleasantly surprised at how the night went. It seems men are three dimensional after all.

There were some things discussed that should be kept confidential. As it is with girl talk. Then again, any truly wise man does not want to know what girls talk about.

Peace and good health to all.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Of Matrimony and Pasta Sauce

I love food.

I love my wife.

I reflected on both over dinner tonight.

You see, my wife and I are both Italian, though she is only half and the wrong kind of Italian to boot. But that is a story for another post. Anyhow, when we first got married we both had very different ways of making that staple of Italian cuisine, pasta sauce. When she first made hers for me, I immediately recognized how different it was from mine. It was good, but it wasn't quite right in my paradigm of cooking. After tasting my sauce for the first time I got the distinct impression she felt the same way. It was good, just very different and completely foreign in some ways.

For a few years I tried to get her to see how she was cooking her sauce wrong and how I was doing it right. In my defense, she did the same to a lesser degree. We would take turns making it just to show the other one up in a very loving, fun and yet mildly competitive manner. We often joked that we should have a dinner party and do blind taste tests among our guests to see whose sauce was better. After we had kids, we had our guinea pigs. Turned out to be a tie.

As the years went on something began to happen. Whenever it was her turn to cook the sauce, I would sneak a little of my own seasoning or add a little extra oregano or garlic while we were in the kitchen talking and enjoying the aroma therapy of a good Italian kitchen on a Sunday. Likewise, whenever I cooked she would nuzzle up to me and playfully add a little extra wine or gently ask me to cook the sausage a little longer before I added the tomatoes. And I would because I began to think nothing of it and so loved having her close to me. Slowly, I noticed that over time I was adding less garlic and using more wine. She was putting in more oregano and a smidge more garlic.

What was true of our relationship, was true in our Sunday sauce. We were becoming blended. The two very different people who were still maintaining vestiges of their independence while merging into a married couple were slowly, beautifully creating a new pasta sauce that was a reflection of their union. Now if you are actually still reading, you may be confused. You have to understand that to a proper Italian food is life so this makes perfect sense to me. Food is a metaphor as was our cooking a metaphor for our marriage. I came to realize that my sauce was better with more red wine and really well cooked sausage just like my life was so much better with her. What was once very two different things has merged into something that is better, sweeter and stronger. Yes, I know longer recognize my own sauce from hers, it just doesn't matter. What there is now is so much better than before.

Tonight we had chicken cacciatore. As I sat across from my bride this evening at dinner, while the baby was crying "all done!" and my oldest was talking about his cello lesson I looked at her as I ate. I was acutely aware of how much better my life and my cooking is because of her. It has been a long week. She has not been feeling well lately and I've been working too much. Still, there is this closeness, intimacy if you will that pervades my thinking whenever I think of her. With every bite I could detect a kick of oregano and a stronger hint of red wine. Two flavors blended together. Good by themselves. Better together. Just like us.

Peace and good food to all.