Waiting for Star Wars

Most of Life is Waiting.

I am always dreaming about the next adventure or reminiscing about great experiences of the past. I live for the “big moments” of life.

I have this same attitude with movies.

You might call our family “Star Wars fans”. This summer, our kids binge watched Episodes 1-6 during a road trip out west. They own a Star Wars encyclopedia and spout off random facts like a Jeopardy champion. Heck! Our first-born was named after Laura and I watched Episode 3 in the theater. Need I prove our love for the films any more?

When we found out there was a whole new round of Star Wars movies being made, our family was giddy with anticipation. Well…except Hayden, he held a “healthy” dose of skepticism (as usual). Still, after the latest trailer even his heart was warmed to what lies ahead.

It is fascinating to watch how our society has reacted to the release of another Star Wars movie. I am left with the question, “Could it be that we have totally lost our ability to wait?” Each trailer is anticipated like a movie of its own. Chat forums are full of theories and speculations. Movie theaters are already sold out. We don’t know what to do with all the time between now and the release of the movie.

Here are some observations I’ve made about our culture over the last few years…

When our internet doesn’t connect within 2 seconds we start to get anxious.

Unprecedented access to each other through cell phones, texting and social media means there is an expectation that we will always be able to reach someone right away.

Our entertainment is available immediately. For example, I never have to worry about listening to the radio to hear my favorite song. I can just go to iTunes or Pandora.

Even our questions are answered without delay. We simply ask…our phone.

Waiting is a lost art.

I can spend so much time thinking about the future and seeking to avoid waiting that I miss out in the here and now. That little conversation with my kids, the extra minute with Laura, experiencing the emotion of what others are going through. All of these get lost when I refuse to wait. Perhaps a reason why I refuse to wait (even for good things) is pride. I have a desire to be in control of my universe. I want to make the rules.

The events I spend so much time longing to “hurry up and get here”, rarely satisfy in the way I hope. At best, it is like watching a good movie. I am wrapped up in the moment but quickly move on afterward.

I pray that I will have the courage to wait well. Whether cooking ribs, growing blueberry bushes or traveling to a galaxy far, far away, the good stuff happens when we wait.

Why I like Chicago Cubs Fans

It was a muggy mid June day. My 10 year old son and I pulled into the last parking spot on a crowded Chicago street. We jumped out of our mini van and ran a mile to reach our destination. In the distance was a stadium I had seen my entire life but never visited. A ballpark and antiquated seating. It’s a place on the bucket list of any true baseball fan, Wrigley Field!

I am not a Cubs fan. I have cheered for the Philadelphia Phillies my entire life…a fate not much better than sticking your fork in the electrical socket or putting your hand down the garbage disposal…but that is another story for another time.

Yet, for one late spring day, my son and I were rooting for the Cubs and I must admit…I liked it!

The Cubs hold the distinction of being the team with the longest “championship drought”. They have not won the World Series in 108 years. After their playoff loss last night it will be at least 109. They haven’t even been IN a World Series since 1945. Championships have evaded the Cubs like thunderstorms “just miss” the lunar surface. Yet, when I walked into Wrigley Field there was no trace of this painful past. The spirit of the  ballpark was more alive than any baseball field I have visited.

Wrigley Field is also beautiful! It’s like being transported back in time and into the future all at once. The grass is a vivid green. It’s a shade different than the ivy on the outfield wall so they both stand out to your eye. The scoreboards manage to have both a modern and “throwback” feel. The city skyline beyond the park is the only thing reminding you that you aren’t on some gorgeous baseball planet.

My day as a Cubs fan makes me appreciate a couple of things about people who cheer for them everyday…

First of all, they are tenaciously positive. I don’t mean there aren’t a ton of people in a severe depression today. They don’t skip over the reality of their situation. They feel pain and loss like the rest of us but they keep on having hope. My guess is next spring, they will once again fill the stands expecting that.. maybe this is the year! I want to be tenaciously optimistic no matter what my circumstances may be.

Second, I believe Wrigley Field is a direct reflection of the fans who walk through it’s turnstiles. In other words, you don’t need a World Series ring to put forth your best effort. Sometimes the beauty isn’t found in whether the official score has a “W” or a “L” at the end of the line. The game in itself is worth giving it everything you have. I want to be the kind of person that doesn’t need to “win championships” to create beauty around me.

In a culture obsessed with “success”, I appreciate the Cubs fans in my life. I’ve won some games in my life and lost others. I’ve never had a “World Series” moment but there are people who cheer for me regardless. Those are the people I appreciate more than I can say.

For you Cubs fans feeling down today, I hope that some World Series in the near future you hear the words… “Cubs win!!!”, “Cubs win!!!”

Happy Wife, Happy Life?

“Happy Wife, Happy Life”

If there was a Hall of Fame for “married man one liners” this one would certainly be a first ballot inductee. It would take it’s place next to “Yes, Dear” and “I’ll get around to it!”

Inwardly, I respond to these four words in a couple of different ways.

My first reaction is to envision myself sitting around with the Little Rascals (no short jokes here please). Someone comes up to us and says “Happy wife, happy life” to which we all respond, “Aaaaaaannnnnd Hoooooooowwwww!!!” The fact is, when I am truly caring for Laura and I’m deeply invested in her happiness, life just seems better.

That being said, I always feel a little creepy when I hear this phrase. Maybe it’s because most of the time it is uttered on the golf course, in a locker room or in a group large enough that if your wife actually hears you say the words, there will be safety from whatever reaction she might have.

I also think it is dysfunctional because it places my wife as the ultimate source of happiness in my life. When I am living this way, Laura can tangibly feel the difference. I start to look to her for constant affirmation. Is she doing Ok? If she is- PHEW! I can be OK too. What if she’s not “all right”? Well then, I’d better find a way to make her happy so that I can be “all right”. Ultimately, she ends up feeling the weight of carrying my emotional well being around with her.

You may have picked up by this point that I am a man of extremes. This does not have to be an either/or scenario!

It’s odd, but I believe one of the biggest ways I can show my wife that I love her and care for her is to be devoted to something greater than myself (or either one of us). She shouldn’t feel the pressure to be the only place I run for affirmation and peace.

My guess is a lot of guys know this. The breakdown occurs because we (and I place myself within the collective “we”) run to the wrong things to fill that gap. We turn to fantasy football (ever wonder why Fan Duel is so huge?), our work, even the Buffalo Bills…Please don’t run to the Buffalo Bills!!!!!

These things (and many others like them) don’t satisfy because I can never get enough from them. They are superficial and can’t meet the deep relational need that I have. It’s not enough to intellectually know the unconditional love and acceptance that I crave. It needs to hit my heart. If I don’t genuinely experience that on a continual basis, I will look for my happiness in all the wrong places. Yes, including my awesome wife!

There is only one place I can turn to fill my deepest relational needs. That is the One who knows everything about me, is always with me and loves me through it all. When I am experiencing the fullness of that, I love my wife on a richer level than I could ever on my own. Dare I say, she may also be “happy”.

The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love

The Peace Corps came up with the motto “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love”. With respect to them, I think another job deserves that title.

The “toughest job that I love” in my life is being a Dad.

Some guys make Fatherhood look really easy. They have 5 (or 8) kids. All of their children behave like little angelic beings. The Dad simply speaks and the kids do what he says. It’s almost like these men were given the secret diagrams for the 80’s T.V. infomercial sensation “The Clapper”. They took these schematics and engineered a way to implant it in tiny humans. I have a deep respect and awe for guys like that. It just so happens that I am not one of them.

On the other side, I regularly see the pain in the lives of young people who have grown up without a loving Father. The wounds they carry with them can last a lifetime. Sadly, this is becoming the norm in our society. Sometimes when people tell me their stories I silently think to myself, “How in the world are you even functioning right now?!”

I become overwhelmed by looking at either extreme. When I compare myself to the “perfect” Dads, I feel inadequate. I start asking myself things like, “Why did my son just spill all his yogurt drink on the couch when he knows he’s not allowed to even have that drink on the couch in the first place?” (It’s not like that just happened last night or anything) Then my mind turns to “What kind of Dad lets his kid spill his yogurt drink all over the couch?!” “I bet this never happens to ‘Mr. Perfect Dad'”.

When I compare myself to the Dads who have caused their children a lot of pain, I begin to live in fear. “What if I mistakenly do that to my kids?”, I wonder. Letting myself linger too long there can be paralyzing.

I guess comparing myself to other Dads is never really helpful. It seems the only way to be the kind of Dad that I am called to be is to experience the perfect love of a Perfect Dad. I can’t pass on to my kids something that I don’t have. My hope is that I will increasingly internalize God’s love in my life. After all, that is what I want my kids to experience most in their lives. As much as I love them, their Real Dad loves them more!

Being a Dad is really tough, but it’s opened my heart to love in ways that I never knew existed before.

The First Step

I hate running.

I like the way I feel afterward but I really don’t like much about it in the moment. The pain…the strain…the sweat…I want to eat a bowl of ice cream just thinking about it!

Why would I go out into the road and start running around? Can’t there at least be a ball to chase or something to throw so that I can distract myself from all the “good” I am doing for my body? Here’s the weird thing…as much as I loathe running, I still do it. “Why?”, you may ask. Great question! The best answer I’ve got is what people refer to as “The runners high”. Immediately following a run and several hours afterward, I feel better about life. I’m more energized. I have increased positivity about the world. I feel ready to take on whatever challenge is headed my way. All right, that may be a little extreme but you get the point.

There’s one part of the running experience that seems more difficult than any other- the step out of the front door. Some days it takes all my will power just to grab the door knob and pull back. Sometimes I have to drag my legs with me because it feels like they have cinder blocks attached to them. Often these physical realities are surrounded by an internal monologue that goes something like, “It’s too cold (or too hot) outside, I just worked out yesterday (or a couple of days ago) my body could use the rest, I didn’t have enough carbohydrates yesterday to sustain a quality workout (I don’t even know if that is a real excuse but I can make up some crazy stuff!). Yet, once the fresh air hits my face, I know I am committed. As much as it might hurt temporarily, it will be worth it.

This blog post is my “step out of the front door”. I’ve been wanting to start writing my thoughts down for quite a while but have always perceived it as painful or that I have too much else I could/should be doing.

Some people run because they are training for an olympic event or a professional sport. I don’t run for that reason. Some people blog because they want to change the world or impact the lives of millions of people. That’s not my purpose for blogging either.

My goal in both cases is to become a slightly healthier person. I’d love to have you “run” alongside me every now and then if you’d like.