Friday, October 30, 2015

Giant, Rubber, Car Slappers

This is what happens when a full size spare delaminates and becomes a giant, rubber, car slapper at 65 mph. Okay, okay, 72 mph. The semi truck in the back ground is a happy accident to give you that genuine broken down on the freeway feel. What you can't see is the broken side view mirror, the car parts scattered along the shoulder and the finger prints in the steering wheel. Also just out of sight is the Discount Tire store two miles to the right that I was headed for. Thirty seconds before this happened, I had just finished telling Leah that I would be late getting home because of the stop.

I'm still blaming this one on Murphy, but I left out some relevant details. I put the spare on several months ago. It came with the (used) car when I bought it and doesn't match any of the other tires so I think carbon dating would call it about fifty million years old. But it looked great! Had the best tread of all of them! But that makes sense for a tire that's likely never been used. I also ignored the increasing vibration coming from the tires the week before because I was getting new ones anyway.

The moral of this story is don't antagonize time and chance. Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."  While this story raises some fair questions about how swift, strong, wise, brilliant or learned I am, I have brilliantly deduced that I helped time and chance along on this one. So whatever your metaphorical tires are, things we depend on but take for granted (including the people who help us out of jams like this - Thanks Dad), slow down and take care of them when they start to rattle your ride. We're lucky when we get some warning signs to ignore before Murphy has his way with us. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Authority Always Wins

This week has been a good lesson in the basics of authority. Most of us can feel his pain (and rock out to it) when John Mellencamp sings, "I fight authority. Authority always wins," because its painfully true. It's why we slow down when we see a cop, misbehave when the boss is gone and worry about making a good impression on the judge. It's also why kids will suddenly cooperate when they realize you're looking at them with the intent to intervene. I have to confess that's somewhat enjoyable, especially the memories it brings back of being the kid. But on the other side of authority, the side we like to be on, the cop protects you, the boss pays you and the judge makes sure they do.

Authority is also directly related to ownership and location. For the portion of your time and labor that your employer owns by way of your paycheck, the rules are different, and, regardless of what sense they make, you obey them if you want to keep your job, or, more accurately, your paycheck. Likewise, when you're in someone else's house you honor their rules or you leave. The same goes for whatever city, state or country you happen to live in. And like always, we resent authority when it works against us and love it when it favors us.

These principles govern our relationship with God as well, with one major exception; he owns everything so there's no way to get out from under his authority. Not that I wish I could either. His authority is what makes his promises worth anything. It's actually the starting point of our faith. Starting without it is a good way to look like an idiot in front of the judge and get chased out of his house with a whip. Thankfully, he's been here and proven he's the parent who's more likely to patiently laugh at his kids while he corrects them than to throttle them in the heat of the moment. Those with children (or dogs that qualify as children) can most likely relate.

But that patience is nothing to take for granted. Just like our reflex is to slow down when we see that patrol car even though we got out of a ticket the last time, our reflex to him needs to be obedience. The authoritative promises far outweigh anything we'll sacrifice for them. Authority always wins.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Praying to the Floor

Most nights before bed, I pray laying face down on the floor. It's meaningful posture, and the itchy rug keeps me from falling asleep. What I hear as a result is... about the same as anyone else. Prayer is mostly an exercise in obedience for me, which scripture assures me is very valuable to God. I have to take that one on faith (that's christianese for, it seems pointless but I do it anyway). Some people prefer to point their words horizontally or vertically but the result is mostly the same.

I'm sure there's a crowd eager to diagnose my prayer problems and confidently set me straight. Scripture does have plenty to say about why we don't get heard. But looking at how prayer went for Christ and many that he approved of leaves me unconvinced that being heard is the main problem. The cliche "sometimes the answer is no" doesn't quiet cover it either. "My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me," comes to mind. I don't have it anywhere near that bad. My biggest problem is that the carpet stinks in addition to being itchy.

Don't get me wrong. Besides all the high profile examples of answered prayer in scripture, there are plenty of big answers in my own life too, but that's not why I pray. It's a relational exercise, a weird one, but necessary.

Imagining things from God's point of view, there are some unique dynamics to acquiring freely offered and sincere relationships. Nothing says, "love me for ulterior motives," like someone who gets everything they want just because they know how to ask. And any exception is a huge one when you're all-powerful and unchanging. In the words of Robin Williams from the movie Aladdin, we would have, "the ever impressive but well contained genie of the lamp," who craves freedom more than anything. So we pray mostly in secret and in quiet to a God who answers in deliberately unsearchable ways that can be credited to luck or work ethic as easily as prayer. There's been a few that I recognized right away but hindsight is the normal decoder ring. The evidence for Him is still overwhelming to me, but a coerced gift exchange (praise for presents) is not part of it. But sometimes, even when it all makes sense, I still feel a little crazy for talking to the floor.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sprained Ankles

I sprained my ankle bouldering with my brother this week. I'm normally very awesome (compared to sessile invertebrates) but much less awesome after too large a breakfast, too much coffee and not enough water. And, technically, I didn't sprain it bouldering. I sprained it hopping across a couple small rocks on a well groomed trail to catch up to my brother after we went bouldering. But that's beside the point. I think it's time for a remedial lesson.

I was going to post a picture of my injury but that idea seemed counterproductive. It doesn't look nearly bad enough to support my story or my complaining, so this one will have to do. Everyone knows soccer players are the most believable at getting hurt anyway.

Commence the remedial lesson:
Point 1 - I hurt me. It wasn't the rocks faults. Short and not so sweet.

Point 2 - The rest of my body is still perfectly healthy, but it's not doing most of what it normally would. Instead of the routine activities I enjoy, it's catering to my totally self-centered and demanding ankle. That's actually how a healthy body works. After it's evident that the injury deserves the attention (which does not necessarily include how loudly we complain about it), the whole body caters to healing the still self-centered and demanding body part (which is somewhat acceptable given the circumstance). We'll punish it later in rehab.

Point 3 - When it's healed enough, you break it back into normal use slowly and carefully, though good rehab is selectively inconsiderate of pain tolerance. Skillfully pushing it's limits is actually what finishes the healing process. The consequences for failure to do this are more permanent injury and more time on your butt, both equally difficult to deal with.

Point 4 - Learn something. Take it from a slow learner, this is a very big deal. I sprained my ankle the first time in a severe bike accident many years ago and pretty much annually since then. It hurts a little more and heals a little slower each time. Switching gears for a second, this is especially true if your mind is what sustained the injury. And if you had to bite your tongue when I said that, don't bite it too hard. That's another common injury that can slow you down a little.

Point 5 - Your social circles (family, friends, church, humanoids, etc.) are the body we're actually talking about. We need them and we're not very good at appreciating what they do for us until they're injured bad enough to stop. Yes, this is remedial.

Friday, October 2, 2015

You Just Wait

I've given up on the idea that you ever hit a milestone in life where those who say, "Just wait till you're in my shoes," look at you and say, "you have credibility now." They say it even if you happen to be wearing those shoes at the time that the sage words are uttered to dismiss your ignorant ideas about how it could go differently. But who really stops to look at the other person's shoes before they dispense their advice anyway; like me generically chewing out the cybersphere to make my own sage words more weighty.

In the "just wait" category of warnings, I'm waiting for my marriage to go into convulsive failure, my children to turn into teenage hellions, and my body to defeat all my best efforts and disciplines at keeping it reasonably healthy. THEN, I will finally know what they are talking about. That's the short list. But at present, I do have it good enough to make myself a little nervous.

It's true that all my efforts will end in a ball of flames, perhaps gradually through personal defeat (Murphy and I are working out the technicalities of that) or shortly after the next predicted end of the world. But it turns out the "just waits" aren't actually waiting to see how you do. Some of them literally can't. Baring superhuman longevity, they'll be dead by then. The kicker to that is, even if I get it right, it's no fun winning a bet with a dead friend.

Christ had the same problem. In the sageness (spell check doesn't like that word) of their years and experience, his hometown told him he was just a carpenter's son. The most influential religious leaders told him what was wrong with his doctrine. And his disciples told him what was wrong with his ambition to give his life rather than take the throne. "You just wait. The world is going to chew you up and spit you out like the rest of us." It actually did. And that's the point.

Hardship rather than good times is naturally the more meaningful way we relate to each other, evidenced by "fair weather friend" being a common insult. God relates to us the same way. The miracle is that he's actually able to and has compassion as a result. After he had gone through a world of hurt himself, the apostle Paul said, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to mankind." Let's give others credit for being able to relate our own hardship even if they haven't been through the same thing. It's a good start. The improvement on that would be to encourage, and even hope, that they will know and do better than us. He died so we might live.