Blow Over –
I have a confession. I don’t like air dryers in public restrooms. They either blow too lightly and just move the water further up your arm or they’re so powerful they make the skin on your hands look like ripples on a lake. I would rather have paper towels. They’re quicker and paper towels are something you can grip, and apply as much or little pressure as you like. You can get them into the crevices and all sides of your hands. When you finish you crumple them up and throw them away,
Today, at a community baby shower in Coffee county, Tennessee, there were booths and tables all over the local mall. Parents, expectant parents and anyone else could discover a lot of information and hands on experience from family experts. Every booth or table had free giveaways. Our table had books and free book bags for families if you listened to my “speech” to help dads understand the importance of reading and being involved in the education of their children.
Each of the community and faith-based organizations were there to help. They allowed parents to know the help and support that was available in the community. The baby shower itself was like a blower in a bathroom covering a lot of things but to get the full coverage, the assistance a family might require, a follow-up would be needed. An opportunity for the organization to get more than a name and contact information. A chance for the family to see the organization in action.
Wisdom teaches us that we must be careful not just to “blow over” each other with banal gestures of friendliness but rather to connect with others in a deep way. Our relationships are not to be a mile wide and an inch deep.
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Digging Around –
This week I had to take three days of classes to qualify as a Certified car seat Technician. Part of the assessments required the students to install, uninstall, spot problems with seats installed by others and know which need to be replaced. It was three long days full of information and statistics.
One of the difficult tasks is sticking your fingers in places you can’t see when you’re searching for tethers, anchors and seat belt clips jammed in between the seats. Not every car is as clean as one would like and you never know what you might find when you’re digging around.
Last week, during therapy, my “talk doctor” told me we’d begin digging deeper in the coming months. We had reached a plateau and now it was time to turn over some fresh dirt. I agreed with her that it was time and needed. I’m not necessarily looking forward to the mental, emotional and spiritual energy required but I also know if you don’t look closer, feel around, poke harder, dig deeper there’s a chance you won’t find what you’re looking for.
Balancing Act –
There is an area in our yard next to the road that is tricky to mow. It is a sharp incline and in order to the get the job done the mower and the rider has to be at a steep angle. When I mow this particular spot in the yard I sit halfway on the seat with my body leaning in the opposite direction of the incline. The balance has to be perfect. Too far off the seat the mower doesn’t sense enough pressure on the seat and shuts off. Don’t lean far enough and there’s a chance the mower and rider could topple over. It’s a twenty-five yard long, difficult and dangerous, balancing act.
Life is also a balancing act. We live in perilous times. All one has to do is turn on the television, log online, and get the sense our families, communities, nations, and world is one mistake from toppling over into a dangerous place and we may not recover.
The problem is balance. Sides are chosen, political parties picked, litmus tests are given, judgments made and those on the other side, even ones seeking a middle way, are labeled as; “the enemy.” I don’t know if we are going to make it back from the edge of disaster but I do know it takes more strength to listen than to ignore, to understand than to shout down, to accept than to reject, to see others as us than ‘less than,’ to find balance than to demand conformity.
Life Lost –
Today, I stopped by Wal-Mart for a couple of items and headed to the checkout area. I had my choice of a person checking me out or self-checkout. The self-checkout had a couple of registers open so I chose one of them. I wasn’t in a hurry, didn’t have an appointment to go to or a schedule to stay on top of, it was simply faster and mindlessly I chose it. Instead of human interaction, an opportunity to say a kind word to a cashier, a chance to stand in line and share a smile, I went with the quickest and the most isolated.
These are the choices we face in our culture. We are able to order online, having most items shipped for free or close to it to our homes, open our doors and live without interaction, relating, or sharing our lives with one another.
At a time when communication is easier than it has ever been in the history of humankind, we are lonely. In a world full of hurting and wounded people we look in another direction to avoid seeing them. On a journey we should be making together we prefer to travel alone. Instead of caring for one another we see the other as a burden to carry.
Earlier this week I watched a powerful documentary on people being released from prison. It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law. Simply stated the law demanded that any criminal who was arrested and found guilty three times received a harsh prison sentence often 25 years to life. After almost 20 years of being in place, the penal system and the citizens of California realized it wasn’t effective, led to overpopulation in the jails, severely impacted people of color, and left a trail of broken families in its wake.
The documentary follows two of the thousands of men who have been released for petty, non-violent crimes, after serving decades in jail. The transition for both of them was difficult, however, one was able to get back on his feet stay clean and sober, get married and be promoted in his job. The other man, who had a strong family and church structure, struggled mightily. Old demons such as drugs and mental health issues kept him unbalanced and unable to find his groove the way the first man did. At the end of the documentary both men were still out and making their way the best they could.
As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel for both of these men. I work with men who are incarcerated and addicted. Addiction is a powerful force for evil and destruction. Incarceration can also be a doorway to a life of crime and recidivism but I’ve also seen men who learn how to make different choices so as not to end up in the same predicament.
Men who do three things greatly reduce their chance of going back to jail or getting back into their addiction. The first is having a positive home environment that might not necessarily be with their biological family. The second is a full-time job, a chance to do something and receive. The third might be most important and that is living a life around positive people, folks who will pull you up not drag you down. These three things, which most of us take for granted, will help men stay balanced, sure-footed, and on the path to a new life.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Life can be hard, difficult, painful and full of loss. There are times, seasons, when the chaos of existence seems to strip us of everything we hold dear and we wonder; “Is there a reason to keep going? What’s the point when everything has been taken away?” When all around us has crumbled, our foundations have been shaken and those things which we’ve placed our faith in no longer exist and we come to place where love, grace and miracles are illusion, what do we do?
At this crisis point we are faced with the decision to trust when there doesn’t seem reason, to see blessing when your way is cursed, to expect life as death hovers near. From the rubble of disappointment, disease, defeat, dejection, even death comes a chance at a new beginning, an appreciation for what will emerge after all we value disappears.