Saturday, March 29, 2008

Flotsam & Jetsam

Words & Phrases That Don’t Mean Anything Anymore
I’ve heard these words and phrases used – and misused – so often that it now makes me wince every time I hear them:

Defining moment” – Just yesterday the President told us that we had yet another “defining moment” in Iraq. How many is that now in the last 5 years? It’s interesting because I’ve only had about 3 defining moments in my entire life. I’m not sure Dubya really understands what a “defining moment” is, because it seems he throws it out there every time he opens his mouth about whatever is happening in Iraq. Calling every single thing that happens a “defining moment” is kind of like saying that you had an “epiphany” every time you learned something new.

War on terror” – For those of you who don't realize it yet, there is no “war on terror”. What there is is a handy-dandy slogan which is continuously used to justify whatever the government wants to do next. It’s kind of like having a “get out of jail free” card, or maybe the “immunity rock” on the TV show “Survivor”. It makes your actions untouchable. The difference is that it can be used pro-actively. Handy indeed.

Progress” – It amazes me how much progress we’ve made in Iraq. Every day I hear how about how much progress we’re making. Makes me feel real good. I just wish somebody would tell me where we’re going, and how we’ll know when we get there. Apparently the noun form of the word “objective” must still mean something, otherwise we might actually hear it used too. In a bad homage to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”;

Progress, progress, every where,
And all the dead did stink;
Progress, progress, every where,
What end? did no one think.

Sorry” and “Regret” – Do I even need to give examples for these? Everybody’s apologizing these days. Everybody regrets something. And nobody really means it.

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm . . .

Have you ever wondered why people will pay $6 or $7 dollars for a small bottle of dog shampoo and then pay $1 or $2 for the shampoo that they intend to use for themselves? Isn’t that a little weird?

For that matter, do you ever wonder why we’ll buy dog treats (very expensive, by the way) that we won’t even eat ourselves? I switched to Ginger Snaps. They’re cheaper, my dogs are spastic about them, and we can all share a treat together.

Does anyone else realize that “tuna flavored” canned cat food costs significantly more than a can of actual tuna in a can the same size? Do cats not like real fish?

Isn’t it interesting that while the stock of just about every other major company has tumbled in the past 12 months, Monsanto’s stock has doubled in the last year? (and in case you’re wondering, it has tripled in the last 2 years and has had a 12x increase in the last 5). They’re just a bunch of good guys, those Monsanto guys are.

Why does it always seem that we leave it to auto manufacturers to “lead the way” in designing an electric car for the masses, and we wait for the big oil companies to find good, alternate fuels? Isn’t that kind of like leaving it to the pedophiles to stop child pornography?

and finally . . .
Your Papers, Please
Mayra Figueroa — a naturalized U.S. citizen, community organizer and licensed driver — had no reason to fear being arrested, no need to worry about deported. Then she was pulled over by a Houston police officer, who told her he found it suspicious that a Latina was driving a late-model car. The first thing the officer requested? Figueroa's Social Security card, as proof of citizenship.

"I have been living here for the last 17 years, and to have an officer stop me for no reason and ask for papers, it made me feel like he didn't think I belong here," said Figueroa.

Land of the free, brother. Land of the free.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Mexican dis-Connection

According to the news reports that have been running (ad nauseum) for the past year or so, one of the biggest problems that the United States is presently facing is the “invasion” of 11 million illegal Mexicans currently working, living, and – should you believe the mainstream news – sponging off of the American people.

They are getting free healthcare, courtesy of our taxpayer dollars. They are taking jobs away from lawful American citizens. They contribute to a criminal element in this country that has already taxed the resources of law enforcement. In short, they are an unwanted, unneeded, and unnecessary burden to the American people.

Something has to be done. The border must be secured. Not only to keep this unwanted rabble out of our country, but to ensure that the threat of terrorism remains pushed back beyond our borders.

So we’re told.

For all of the talk that I hear about this “pressing problem”, there sure are a lot of questions that I don’t hear anybody asking. Maybe nobody is asking these questions because nobody really wants to hear the answers, so if that’s the case, I won’t trouble anyone by stating what I think the answers are. I will, however, at least put the questions into play.

The first question deals with the fact that these 11 million Mexican immigrants are illegally in the country. I’m fairly certain that this is true and that the number is probably correct. But the question is this: Would these 11 million immigrants bother us if they were in our country legally? In other words, if our immigration system had the capacity to allow these people to enter legally and become American citizens, would anyone be shouting about it?

I ask because, unless you are a direct blood descendant of a Native American, somewhere along the line, your ancestors – and therefore you by association – also immigrated to the United States. The only difference is that your ancestors were allowed to enter. If our system today could handle the volume of immigrants wanting to enter the U.S., and the result was that they were all here legally, would there still be a problem?

Could the real problem be, perhaps, that we don’t want to let other people into the U.S. because we simply don’t want to share?

Several years ago I watched the movie “Gangs of New York”. I didn’t care for the movie too much, but I was fascinated with the very real historical concept that the movie was based on; namely, that the descendants of immigrants who were born in the U.S. in the 1800’s absolutely hated the new immigrants who kept arriving. They didn’t want them coming into “their” country.

So I’ll ask again; would it still be an issue if they were in fact legal residents, or do we just not want someone else messing up a good thing and taking a piece of our pie and this is just a convenient excuse to use so that we don’t have to actually look our own selfishness in the face? All of us being immigrants ourselves from somewhere down the line, what would give us the right to say that other people are not also allowed to immigrate, other than the fact that “we were here first”?

Here are some other questions that no one seems to be asking:

Why do we get so upset about the "burden" illegal immigrants put on our welfare & healthcare systems but we don’t get all bent out of shape on the 80 billion dollar a year Haliburton revenue machine known as the Iraq War? Do we really think that insurance companies would suddenly make healthcare accessible & affordable for everyone if there were no illegal immigrants? Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

Why do we focus so acutely on those illegals – a very tiny portion of that 11 million whole – that are involved with gangs, or drugs, or that get busted for a DUI? Have we, as card-carrying members of the “legal” American society, ever had a problem producing our own home-grown gang members, drug dealers, or sloppy drunks (and in much higher percentages by the way)?

And one big question that really baffles me: Why do we get all upset with Mexicans for taking jobs that we don’t want anyway, and yet we don’t get upset with our own corporate American “Captains of Industry” – fully legal in every sense – when they send jobs that we do want overseas? Whose actions are crippling the average American more?

Several years ago in Casey County, KY, an American company (Oshkosh) closed down a plant here that employed 1,200 people and sent their jobs overseas. To put that into perspective, realize that 1,200 people represents a full 20% of the available workforce of the entire county! Try to comprehend for a moment the economic impact that that single action had on this rural area and the people in it. And yet I’m supposed to be upset with a bunch of poor Mexicans who are trying to feed their families?

These are all just questions, mind you. I’m not saying I know the answers; I’m just asking.

Something else that puzzles me. What is causing this sudden "influx" of illegal Mexican immigrants anyway? What I mean is this: our border with Mexico has pretty much been “open” for 200 years. This was never a big problem before; why now? What has changed in just the past few decades to drive this trend?

I don’t claim to know much about Hispanic culture, but I did learn a few things from working with many Latinos while I lived in Florida. One thing I learned is that they are a hugely family oriented culture (to a point that should shame most Americans). Another is that they are fiercely proud of their heritage and their countries.

Americans often make the mistake of generically lumping all Latin Americans into one big pot, as if everything south of the U.S. were just one big country. But that’s patently not true. Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans, Cubans are Cubans, Mexicans are Mexicans, Argentines are Argentines, etc., and none of them likes to be mistaken for anything else. Are we any different in the U.S.?

So knowing that family is very important to Mexicans, and knowing that they love their countries much as we do our own, isn’t it at least a little odd that they would leave both behind to come into the U.S. illegally and live a life as a second class person? Why would they do that?

Because this is the big payoff for that sacrifice: They get a chance to work at a job that most Americans won’t do ourselves under any circumstances for a wage that we would consider absolutely insulting.

So again, what is the real problem here? That Mexicans are invading our country with greedy selfish abandon, or that they come here because they can’t scratch out a decent existence living in Mexico?

If the problem is the latter, building a billion dollar wall will only be a band-aid on the symptom, while the real problem – whatever it is – will still exist. And when the wall fails to resolve the problem (and it will fail because it will only address a symptom instead of the actual problem), what then? Watchtowers, razorwire, & snipers?

Doesn’t all of this "border wall" stuff sound a little bit too much like the Berlin Wall? And wasn’t the destruction of that wall something that the world rejoiced in? Why then would we want to build one of our own?

You may say, But this is different; the Berlin Wall was used to keep people in, our wall will be used to keep people out.

That’s a valid point, I guess, but I think we would be very shortsighted if we failed to recognize the fact that a wall works just as well from either side.

One final question:

Let’s say that we get our wish. Let’s say that we deport all of these pesky illegal aliens back to their side of the border. Let’s say that we build our wall, and let’s even go as far as to say that our beautiful, horizontal monolith does exactly what it was designed to do.

Who then, I ask, would do the jobs that those 11 million people are presently doing? Who would volunteer to work bent over in the sun all day picking lettuce or tobacco for minimum wage? Who would take that place on the assembly line on the night shift at the chicken processing plant? Who would provide maid service for such a bargain basement price? Who would brave those Wisconsin winters just to have the opportunity to hose down stalls at a dairy farm?

Would you? Would any of us?

I’m just asking.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Just Carry Him"

I was very moved by this article; it's very personal, and certainly worth a few minutes of your time to read. Friend's death shows cost of Iraq war

Whenever I read something like this and get reminded of all the pain and suffering and human wreckage walking around in the world today, I can't help but think that it doesn't have to be this way.

It doesn't have to be this way.

I pray that God will help me to rise above the mire so that I can shine.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My "Spider-Sense" Just Keeps on Tingling . . .

I know this will sound like another shameless plugging of What So Proudly We Hailed, but I don't know what else to do. Every time I turn around I to see things in the news that keep giving credibility to the very concept of the storyline.

Knowing that knowledge is power, and knowing that the "powers that be" continue to gain more & more knowledge about every aspect of our lives, stories like the one below frighten me because they make me realize how hard it would be to take that knowledge back from them should we ever get to the point where it becomes necessary to do so. It's not their guns I fear; it's their information. After all, I can destroy a gun.

And this one just flat creeps me out. I love this line: In the judge's view — based on precedent — he contends: "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare."

"Loyalty to the state"? Are you kidding me? Somebody tell me I'm just having a bad dream. Read the rest of the article here:

If you want to see how bad it could get, read What So Proudly We Hailed. It will take you to a place you never want to go, and if we can understand what that destination is, we might actually have a chance to stop the bus before we reach the point of no return.

Simple paranoia never looked so good, nor felt so distant.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Shining

(from the book Finding Liberty)

I’ve always liked a good name. Names for people, names for places, names for things; and as someone who loves to read (and tries to write), names for stories.

My favorite book title of all time is Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. I like it not because it refers to something evil, but because through a thoughtful arrangement of five normal words, the title, all by itself, invokes a very deep (though ominous) feeling. Compare it as he wrote it to, say, “Here Comes Something Wicked”, which sounds more like the name of “a delightfully witty” Broadway musical.


If book titles were paintings, to me, that particular one of Bradbury’s would be a Renoir.

Another of my favorite book names is “This Far, No Further”. The book was forgettable, but even after ten years, its title still lives with me. It just feels powerful, like something God would say (Author's Note: in fact, I found out later that God actually says something very close to that in the book of Job).

Back in the 80’s, Stephen King wrote a book called “The Shining”. Without regard to the subject matter of his novel, this is another title that I really like, simply because by taking an adjective and using it as if it were a noun instead, he created a whole different meaning. No longer are we using the word “shining” to describe something else, we’re treating it as if the description itself is the actual thing in question. Something that is not static, but in motion. Something that simply “is”, even if there is no good definition or rational explanation for it.

In the Bible, Joseph is a fascinating person. Genesis gives a lot of history and stories about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but if you go through the post-flood history starting with Abraham, Joseph is the first one who actually starts doing things that really have an effect on a very large number of people. It’s almost like God chose Abraham specifically because He needed him (as well as Isaac and Jacob) just so that He could finally get around to Joseph.

Joseph was different from his ancestors in a lot of ways, but the most interesting difference to me was that he seems to be the first person mentioned in the Bible that people could just look at and know he was a man of God.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were righteous men also and were treated as such, but they were also powerful men, and it could be argued that some of the reverence they received from others could have been influenced by that. Joseph, on the other hand, was a nobody, a slave. And yet, without hitting anyone over the head with a Bible or preaching the Gospels or shouting the name of Jesus Christ (and we know that he didn’t since none of those things would be around for quite some time) people simply knew he was with God.

In Genesis 39, both Potiphar (the captain of Pharoah’s bodyguard) and the chief jailer (who oversaw Joseph when he was imprisoned) knew that Joseph was with God. So trusting were they of Joseph that they let him run the whole show. Potiphar made him overseer of his house and “all that he owned he put in his charge.” The jailer “committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it.”

This is pretty amazing if you think about. Both of these guys worked for Pharoah, one as the captain of his bodyguard, and the other as the overseer of the jail reserved for the king’s prisoners. From what I know about Pharoahs, they didn’t have too much of a problem putting people to death if they felt like it (as the baker in Genesis 40 would attest to if he could). If either Potiphar or the jailer messed something up or displeased Pharoah – and they were both close enough to Pharoah for that to be possible – they probably could have expected a rather blunt and unceremonious end to their lives, and yet they both put Joseph, a Hebrew slave, in charge.

What did they see in this guy? How could they be so sure of this man’s integrity and godliness that they would (in all likelihood) put their own lives at risk by entrusting him with everything? We have the luxury of having the Bible to tell us that God was with Joseph, but how did they know?

I recently read a book called “The Irresistible Revolution”, by Shane Claiborne. (I personally think it would be a good idea for this book to be mandatory reading for every Christian, but the vast majority would hate it, because the author does not even try to validate the comfortable routine that mainstream Christianity has become.) Shane lives his life in Philadelphia in what you might call an “inner city mission” located in a very bad part of town. It’s a commune of sorts, though its focus is on Jesus Christ rather than “free love” & drugs.

One of the stories he told was about a trip to the grocery store he took with another member of their little mission. As they walked down the street they passed a disgustingly dirty woman in an alley, who, crutches and all, offered “her services”. They declined, hurried to the store, and then hurried back home, giving the woman little more than a nod on the way back. When they got home, however, they found out that the bread they had bought was bad; they would have to go back to the store, and they didn’t want to because they knew that they would have to walk past the woman again. (Is that the way God works in our lives or what? “Sorry pal, you’re not getting off that easy. Don’t ignore Me. Go back and do My will.” Just my thoughts anyway).

On the way back from the store the 2nd time, they finally stopped and started to talk to the woman, just to let her know that they cared about her. They invited her back to their house where she could warm up a little and have a snack.

Back at the house, the woman started weeping and said, more of a statement than a question, “You’re Christians, aren’t you?”

The author was surprised that she had asked this because they had not said anything about Jesus or God or anything else, and their house didn’t have any Christian paraphernalia (crucifixes, Bibles, plastic fish, etc.) laying around to tip her off.

She said, “I know you’re Christians because you shine. I used to be a Christian. I used to shine like that, but the world is cold and dark, and it’s beaten me down and taken my shine away.”

Several months later, the author answered a knock at the door and found a woman he didn’t recognize standing in front of him who obviously knew who he was. Before he could say anything she spoke first, “I know you don’t recognize who I am. It’s because I’m shining again.”

In 40 years I have never impacted someone’s life in that way. It must be an amazing feeling. They changed this woman’s life! And they did it without hitting her over the head with a Bible or preaching the Gospels or shouting the name of Jesus Christ.

They talked to her.
They let her sit in their house and get warm.
They gave her a snack.
They shined.

I think that’s the same kind of thing that Potiphar and the jailer saw in Joseph. I think he simply shined. Maybe not in a physical, “visible aura around the head” kind of way, but some kind of inherent light that came from within him that people could just sense. He might not have even realized he was doing it, but because he was in such a close relationship with God, I don’t think he could have turned it off even if he had wanted to. It was just “there”, and anyone who looked at him could see it.

When Catherine & I first got married, we attended a church in downtown Orlando for several years. The church building itself was made of stone, constructed sometime in the early 1900’s, and it gave off a little of that “majesty” that older structures with stained glass windows can impart. You felt a little humbled in that building – like you were really, truly in God’s house – and the pastor was just incredible to listen to.

The congregation, however – the real church – left a little something to be desired. Most of the congregation was made up of successful businessmen, doctors, and lawyers, and we never did feel a lot of warmth during our time there. In fact, I think that when our family showed up on Sunday mornings in our 10 year old Grand Marquis that looked like it was worth every nickel of the $1,500 that we'd paid for it, a collective sigh went through the more well-to-do crowd that drove up in their new BMW’s, Mercedes’, and Cadillacs (which was just about everybody else).

In the 5 or 6 years we went there, I can only remember 3 people who ever treated us like, well, people. One was a sweet older lady who worked at the church, another was the man who ran the Sunday Schools, and the other was a young lawyer about my age named Pete.

When I think back, I was always a little curious about Pete. At the time, I was just some schlep working for a company that made sewer equipment, but Pete, he was a lawyer. Like many other members of the church, he had money, he had a prestigious job, he was in a different class altogether. And yet, he would always say hello to me or even come up to me and start talking like we were best friends.

Sometimes, I used to even wonder if he was patronizing me; you know, like that one popular person at school who’s nice to the geek because they feel sorry for them. But at the same time, I could tell – I could just tell – that that wasn’t what he was doing at all. The older lady and the Sunday School superintendent and Pete were all for real, they were simply shining. This “Jesus stuff” wasn’t just words on a page to them; they believed it, they lived it, they walked it. I imagine that they would have been surprised that I was surprised, because to them, it had to seem like the most natural thing in the world. How could they not shine?

Three people out of a church of a couple hundred. I’m happy to say that the percentage is a little higher at the church I am a part of now, but it still makes me wonder; how come we all aren’t shining? If we’ve really accepted Jesus Christ as our Saviour, if we’ve really made a true commitment to attempt to walk in His footsteps, and if we really believe that the light of Christ is in each and every one of us, how come we’re not all shining? I realize that the world can be a cold, dark place, and we all go through trying times where it wouldn’t be surprising that our shine might dim or flicker or even go out completely, but why are there so many Christians who don’t shine at all? Ever?

Do they really believe all of the “Jesus stuff” that they profess, or are they just going through the motions of superficially “accepting” Christ as a logical business decision because they heard salvation was free anyway and Hell sounded kind of scary?

I know that we cannot “buy” our salvation; it is given to us as a gift. I know too that “our works” will not get us into Heaven. But I wonder sometimes if we don’t preach those things a little too much, because knowing that I don’t have to “do” anything as a Christian to get to Heaven (since my salvation is free) sure gives me a good excuse not to do anything. But while my works will not get me into Heaven, I have to believe that they might help someone else get there.

I wonder sometimes if we, as Christians, don’t tend to focus on the parts of scripture that we like to hear, and ignore the parts that we don’t. We do read the parts that we don’t like of course, and when we do we nod our heads and say things that we know God & everyone else will like to hear like “Yes, yes, oh absolutely, without a doubt!”, but then we promptly forget what we read and go back to the parts that make us feel all warm and fuzzy, or the parts that we think justify our actions.

Funny that we should gloss over and downplay the role “our works” have in the big scheme of things, because Jesus sure does talk about them a lot. In fact, He spent a lot more time telling us what we should be doing than He did about how we get into Heaven, and though we seem to treat “our works” as optional, I can’t find anywhere in Bible where Jesus gave us a loophole.

Which comes back to the original question: Do we really believe this Jesus stuff? We say the words, we sing the songs, we speak with much reverence, but do we really believe it? Because if we do, how could we not do the things that Jesus has instructed us to do? If we have truly accepted Him as our Saviour instead of just making a superficial statement to cover our butt from the damnation of Hell, doing the things that Jesus told us to do wouldn’t be annoying burdens that we were trying to avoid, they would be natural expressions of our love – of His love – that we couldn’t stop doing even if we wanted to. We’d be shining. Whether we liked it or not.

Since I seem to have so much to say about this, you may be wondering if I shine. To be honest, I’m not really sure.

The movie Schindler’s List was brought to my attention recently, and as it had been 10 years or so since I’d originally watched it, I decided to check it out from the library and watch it again. (If you haven’t seen Schindler’s List, please know that while it is an incredible film, it earns every single bit of it’s “R” rating; definitely not for the kiddies or faint of heart).

What impressed me was that Oskar Schindler was not trying to be a hero. He was an opportunist, looking to exploit the war – and the Jews – for his own personal gain. His plan was to make as much money as fast as he could and then leave Krakow with his suitcases loaded with cash, and his plan worked to perfection. But he never left with the money. Instead, something happened to this self-serving, gold-digging womanizer that made him do something that would make him the most unlikely of heroes. Over the years, something happened to him. Something happened inside of him. But it took time.

I do believe that some people are “born again” in an instant, that one day they are “who they are” and the next they are someone completely different, but I know too that there are other people who never experience that sudden “bolt of the Holy Spirit” striking their souls in a sudden flash of righteousness. For some people, like Oskar Schindler, it takes time. I fall into this latter category.

I’ve always been a Christian, but I haven’t always lived it, and because of that fact, I have to think that I haven’t always really believed it. About 4 years ago, I really started to openly question what I was doing with my life and how I was living it. There was no specific day or time that I can put my finger on, just an approximate period when things started changing. I started changing. All of those things, those little clues, that I had been ignoring my whole life finally started getting some traction. I started to think about them; to think about what I valued, what I was doing, and how I was doing it. Even so, I still stubbornly refused to let go.

In late 2005, my career had reached newfound heights, with room yet to grow. No longer a schlep working for a sewer equipment manufacturer, I was now a sales manager at a global software company. I had a six-figure job, a title, status, respect; all of that good stuff. I drove to work in a red Corvette, crossed marble floors to a mahogany covered elevator that took me to a 4th floor office with a view of a manicured private golf course. I ate in some of the most expensive restaurants, attended conferences in luxury Las Vegas hotels, and vacationed with my family at our own cabin in the Georgia mountains.

And then one morning, quite unexpectedly, I blurted out something that I’ll never forget, something that surprised me as much as it did my boss, because even after the words had left my mouth I still couldn’t believe I had actually said them: I don’t think I want to do this anymore.

And everything changed.

So here I am, a “struggling writer” (oh! I’ve always wanted to be a “struggling” something!) living in a little town in the middle of nowhere. No big job, no fat paycheck, no marble floors, no vacation cabin in the woods.

I eat at McDonald’s now, or maybe Shoney’s or Cracker Barrel if I’m really upscaling it. I drive a 6 year old Ford Focus, if I drive at all. (In fairness, I have to confess that I do still have the Corvette. It’s currently sitting in a barn at my mom’s house, an unwanted relic of a past life. Hey, what can I tell you? When you’re running a little fishing empire the size that mine was, it takes awhile to cast down all of your nets. I had a lot of nets, and though the main warehouse has been cleaned out, there are still some back rooms [and a barn at my mom’s] that I still need to purge).

I know some people here think I’m crazy for leaving “all of that” and coming here instead. I can see the look in their eyes, their longing to break free of the “shackles” of a small town, to experience the “excitement” and “opportunity” of a big city. I can tell that many of them think they’re missing something. They are missing something, but it’s not what they think, and they probably wouldn’t believe me if I told them.

I’m not crazy, I’m finally sane. I’ve never felt so free. I’ve never been so happy. I’ve changed a lot.

But do I shine?

Well, I like to think that I do, but I’m not sure. Hopefully I have at least a little glow about me (or at least a persistent flicker) but even if I am shining, I also know that there’s still plenty of room yet to jack up the wattage. As much as I like looking in the mirror at the man I have become today, I still yearn for the man who I will be tomorrow.

God will take me there. I’m doing a better job of following now.

I think a lot of goofy thoughts sometimes. For instance, since I started bouncing ideas around in my head about this particular topic, a silly thought kept coming back into my mind, over and over. I kept thinking how cool it would be if we turned on the evening news at night and saw that all of the major networks were following a story that nobody could explain.

A new story, something no one had ever seen before, something that had started fairly recently but was showing no signs of slowing down; in fact, seemed to be growing as more and more people were attracted to it like moths to a flame. A trend that had all of “the experts” baffled as they continued to witness hundreds of millions of Christians around the world all acting like the Christ they profess to believe in. A trend in which the sheer number of “insignificant” acts of Christian charity, love, and kindness going on in the world were causing supercomputers to melt down as they tried to keep track of them all.

A trend in which all of the people involved somehow looked – as incredible as it may sound – almost as if there was a light coming off of them.

Instead of seeing all of those tired, old headlines on the TV screen like “The War in Iraq” or “Decision ‘08”, each night the world was looking at a new headline regarding this worldwide phenomenon that, for lack of a better name, they simply referred to as “The Shining”.

I don’t know. Maybe I am crazy.

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” - John 1:4

Monday, March 3, 2008

He Said - Communication . . . or the Lack Thereof

So Catherine comes up to me about 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and asks me “if I’m ready”. Having only just gotten out of the shower after yet another hard day of slaving away – yard maintenance, home repairs, etc., (you’re right; I don’t know how I do it either) – I am of course prompted to ask her (with no small amount of trepidation), “ready for what?”

At which point she informs me that we are supposed to go to a wedding that night.

At which point I ask “What wedding?” followed by the statement, “You didn’t tell me that we had to go to a wedding tonight”.

At which point she tells me that oh, yes, she most certainly did tell me about it. Two weeks ago, in fact.

Forget for a moment that I have no desire to go to any wedding and watch yet another unsuspecting young man “tie the knot” (in his own noose, of course, though they never tell you that part. You should know that years ago when I was a young man and still had the motivation to do such things, I once climbed a mountain to seek counsel from an ancient wise man. In an effort to test the value of his wisdom, I asked him what the longest sentence in the English language was, to which he replied without hesitation, “I do”).

So it shouldn’t surprise you to know that regarding yours truly, the idea of “going to a wedding” ranks just above “witnessing an execution” on the ole’ fun-meter. (None of this applied in any way to my own wedding, of course; it was completely different in every way.)

But forget all that for a moment. The real problem here is communication, or maybe more specifically, the lack thereof. And it’s not even that Catherine doesn’t actually tell me the things that I need to know (like having to go to a wedding, for instance), because she does. What I call into question, however, is her timing at informing me of such things.

Consider the following moments in time that Catherine decided would be good opportunities for her to relay important information to me:

* when I am taking evasive action to miss a deer that has suddenly jumped in front of the car

* when I have just woken up, when I am trying to go to sleep, or any other time my body is in a horizontal or near-horizontal position (up to but not including perfectly vertical)

* during the final 5 minutes of the Fiesta Bowl

* anytime there is food nearby

* when I am looking her straight in the eye while nodding my head and saying things like “Uh-huh”, “Yes”, and “I understand completely”

Ladies, you just have to understand, these are not good times to speak with your husbands about anything, much less “something important”. We simply do not have the capacity to hear what you are saying in these instances, and it’s really not fair to hold us accountable for what you might have said.

It’s not that we don’t value what you have to say – we do – it’s just that we don’t necessarily want to hear you tell us what it is, especially if it has anything at all to do with opera houses, malls, tuxedos, valet parking, activities that require applause, driving further than 5 miles in any direction, window-shopping, or eating at a restaurant where you can’t throw your peanut shells on the floor.

So, knowing that there are some inherent obstacles in every relationship that impede the effective transfer of information between husband & wife, how can you ladies open – and keep open – the lines of communication with your husband? Simple. All you have to do is keep your eye open for the 2 or 3 minutes of any given day where your husband is actually receptive to listening to what you have to say.

Once you’ve found that window of opportunity (and don’t blame us if you miss it; it’s not our fault if you’re in the other room when it happens) feel free to speak openly and honestly – and quickly, please – about whatever it is that is weighing on your heart. I can promise you on behalf of all men everywhere that we will listen intently to everything that you have to say, unless you start telling us something that we don’t want to hear.