Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Formula For Success

a+b=c. We view life as formula, if we can manipulate and account for each variable we control life and arrive at the desired outcome. We take our vitamins every morning to assure health and prolong life. A woman I know works hard to put out ‘positive energy’ believing the force of her thoughts will create favorable results. For all her gyrations, her life is chaotic and unfulfilled. Though we exercise and eat the right foods, the old lady next-door inhales a pack a day with coffee or bourbon and she turns 80 next week. The forty-year-old marathoner drops dead or is hit by a bus.

Christians ascribe to the same formulaic approach to life. They exercise, eat the vitamins and use the bible to put god into a box. Some tithe trusting God to fill their storehouses to overflowing. Many of us have lived good lives so that God would like us and grant us pleasurable lives. We work hard at turning out good works thinking God will pay back our sweat equity. We have A and B figured out but C never turns out as expected.

I live in relationship to God the father. I do not serve a wizard who rewards according to mathematical equation. That is both the scary and the stirring reality. In the midst of a broken world we never can be certain of outcomes. Having a Father that moves in relationship with me as I move through my days gives them a positive spin. Still I have no guarantee.

Years ago I went through severe financial difficulty. Pray as I would no relief came. I never landed the miracle job. I went to bed calculating how I could rob Peter to pay Paul always realizing that I owed more than Peter had ever amassed. I had plugged in my formula and God had not provided as expected.

I try to imagine how it is that God raises me up by looking at how I raise my daughter. There are days that I allow her junk food and Mountain Dew, movies and late bed times. I allow it because I know she will not need significant sleep or sufficient sustenance. At other times, state testing for example, sleep, vegetables and protein are important. By the same token our relationship moves according to periods of play and periods of trial in our lives.

In Christ we have a relationship that surprises, delights, upholds and strengthens. God will move as He sees fit; not in response to a bottle rubbed for wishes or a good deed done to bribe the Judge. If there is a formula that works it is that we give up trying to control and manipulate and we rest in the providential care of God.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Green Grass and Sweet Candy

It began with a little experience and a large get-rich dream. We started out mowing one lawn. It grew to two. Soon that doubled and in months we were doing landscaping for many houses in the tract. We worked every Saturday, only Saturday. We had money to burn. We were rich. We were 12 years old.

The Saturdays were full and the work was hard. The work was strenuous, dirty and we often worked until after dinner. Keith would run the gas-powered edger (an investment we made after quickly tiring of the manual version) while I mowed the yard. When he finished he would begin sweeping up the cut grass. We cleaned up leaves and clippings rather than blowing them into the yard of someone else. I have only good memories of those workdays. I’m guessing there are good reasons for that beyond failing memory.

I worked with my best friend. Certainly we got stressed out and had the occasional argument. He usually won---because he could pull the, “It’s my dad’s lawnmower” card. We argued about pricing too; he hated telling homeowners we were raising our rates. Whenever the time came to ask for more money I was the one that had to do the speaking.

We were our own bosses. If we were going on vacation we could just change our workday. We didn’t have to answer to any board or boss. If we wanted to take a ten minute break we could. If we wanted to take a three-hour break and work until nine-we could (at least during the summer months).

We spent our earnings on whatever we wanted. Most weekends we wanted candy. We would walk down the street to J.C. Penney where they had large display cases filled with candy; non-pariels, butter-toffee peanuts, chocolate haystacks; heavenly. Nobody made us put a portion of our earnings away for retirement. We didn’t pay taxes and we didn’t worry about healthcare.

Why does work seem like, well, work now then? Is there anything I can take away from this when I roll out of bed these next days? There seems to be an answer in the Saturdays, the candy, and in the freedom. Being a kid and working Saturdays allowed plenty of time for rest. Rest is difficult now; I fight against it. I burn the candle, I make excuses to keep busy. Physical rest and soul rest come hard.

I need to spend more money. Really I spend plenty---it’s that I need to allow myself to blow a chunk of change on something that is fun even if its fleeting. Relax, enjoy life, don’t worry so much. That’s the real ticket I think. Yeah, I have to show up for work. But it’s my Dads’ lawnmower I’m pushing.

Photo courtesy of Hot Meteor

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Perverse Pleasure

It is a perverse pleasure and I delight doing it in public. I can’t help myself. I found myself doing it again in the Mexican restaurant. As I ate my burrito I eavesdropped on the conversation at the next table. Most of it escaped me except this small sentence. “She really needs to know,” the woman said. She wore plain pants and a shimmery shirt which looked and hung from her shoulders as a shower curtain hangs from the rod. The guy next to her looked like Colonel Sanders with two chins, his attention glued to his ITouch. The man with his back to me was so plain as to be rendered invisible. “This tomato is huge,” the woman said when nobody responded to her earlier statement. “It is the largest I’ve ever seen atop a burrito.”

I almost stood up and walked over to their table. “What does she need to know?” Did she have cancer? Was her husband an alien; all smooth skin on the outside but scaly and oily underneath? Did he have plans to take over the world one woman at a time? Perhaps it was something simple like she’d been watching episodes of 24 on Tivo and nobody dared tell her Jack Bauer wasn’t coming back. Not knowing the rest of the conversation is the danger of my manner faux pas.

Still I can’t help but overhear snippets. Walking down the hall this week I heard, “…and those pictures would make it into porn magazines and be seen everywhere.”

The same day a gal in the back room spoke with a vendor that said, “The blood was tainted.”

“Will you sue,” the gal asked then, her body posture slacking as she said, “Or will you just let it be?” Of course I didn’t hear the outcome. Nor do I know how the blood was tainted. I assume the situation with the tainted blood and the situation alluded to at the Mexican restaurant are one and the same: Aliens are among us.

Now I am faced with a significant moral quandary. Listening in on the conversations is rude and twisted. Yet if aliens are truly amongst us then I have a duty to be the eyes and ears of the good guys. It’s the same problem James Stewart had in Hitchcock’s movie, “Rear Window.” Watching your neighbors through binoculars isn’t right but when one of them commits murder you are bound to make it right.

What is your moral conviction? Do you live in the moment and maintain others privacy? Admit it…there are times when you can’t but help overhear. If you do overhear and there is mention of space ships, mind control or taking over planet Earth…leave me a comment. We will band together and save the world.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Full Disclosure

The death of a father, a missing will, a stepmother of questionable character; my sister and I spent hours on the phone discussing the implications. No information was forthcoming on the will; and the letter that arrived from the stock broker office was less than vague. The implications were these---for a brother and sister schooled in law under Jack McCoy, Lennie Briscoe, and Detective Columbo, it didn’t feel right.

My sister had seen an episode of Columbo in which the family is called together for the reading of the will. We’d had no such reading. During my seasons of studying law I’d learned all about full disclosure, A priori, A fortiori, bequests, caveats and dyspepsia. I recognized that no full disclosure was happening here.

Lawyers seem to have their hands in everything. I had a lawyer handle my divorce, and a different lawyer handle my mothers’ estate and my fathers’ will. Close friends of mine trying to navigate debt and bankruptcy issues are being advised by a lawyer. The pundits I read are lawyers as is my favorite talk-show host. One has to mind ones’ own conscience in this arena. The directive of Christ is to pursue peace and avoid advancing adversarial contests. Warnings to be wise abound in scripture as well. I hire a plumber to fix my pipes. It is reasonable to hire someone knowledgeable (albeit five times as expensive) to handle my legal issues.

So it was we found ourselves on the 22nd floor overlooking San Diego and the Coronado Bridge. We sipped cold water from glasses with the name of the legal firm etched on them and set same glasses down on engraved coasters. We received appropriate counsel and took the initial steps in the process toward discovery. Now we wait.

Waiting for anything worth waiting for is difficult; a love letter, an inheritance, next weeks’ blog post. I know some of you have been in turmoil and have suffered greatly waiting for the next post. As did my sister and I, you found yourselves thinking, “It just doesn’t feel right.” Many of you questioned my commitment to the cause, my character and my word---“Didn’t he promise a blog post every week?” Unsettled you seek full disclosure.

January found my calendar full as a new year began. I promised a blog post every week for the year 2010. These last few weeks found me feeling like the drunk man on a horse in Luthers’ parable; I sway back and forth between legalism and grace trying to just stay in the saddle. I scribble down blogging ideas at work only to find that life overtakes me when I walk through the front door. So I have fallen on the side of grace.

As January slides into February I renew my commitment to blogging and have rearranged my calendar to reflect my priority. I have carved out Mondays to post. Legalism would have me bound to every Monday, but grace allows me to promise myself and you a post sometime between Monday and Wednesday save weeks of vacations and significant calamity such as sickness or the cancellation of Law and Order. There you have it, my posting update; a priori and fully disclosed. All rise.

Note: Law and Order SVU continues to run both in season, reruns, Netflix and Hulu. Yes, Law and Order no longer runs as a series.