Do You Want To Hear About Sunday Morning?

Okay, so we’re sitting in church on Sunday, like you do, and the sermon is well underway. This is a church that is new to us, but more on that in another post. Anyway, my son Pat suddenly begins making a noise. It’s sort of a gasping, repeated, quick-inhaling kind of a noise. Now, he’s a bit of a sensitive boy, and the sermon was about cultivating relationships with other people through their, and possibly our own, loneliness. This is a topic that could very easily hit home with the boy due to his own social awkwardness. Dad mode activates, and I check on his well being, believing that he might be starting to cry.

“You okay son?”

“Yeah, I just thought of something funny.”

“Well get it together, dude.”

Dude did not get it together.

He continued his silent, barely-keeping-it-together laughing fit, for a little bit too long. Long enough that his older sister, sitting next to him also became concerned, and also assumed him to be crying. She made a sympathetic sad face and held his hand. Which made him laugh even harder, and threatened to make me laugh as well.

At this point, it’s getting uncomfortable for yours truly. People in other pews are starting to notice. Now I have to take action. It is a well known fact to pretty much all mankind that once a laughing fit starts, it is nearly impossible to stop, especially when one is in a situation where one is not supposed to be laughing. Like a school lecture, or, say, a church you’ve just started attending, are still feeling out, and you are trying to make a good impression.

The only thing left to do was ride it out, so I put my arm around the boy, looking every bit like the consoling Dad, pulled him in close and let him laugh it out into my chest. Anyone observing would have thought I was whispering something loving into his ear, like “It’s okay, buddy. We can talk about this later if you want. Let it out.” But I was really all like, “Come on man, focus, this is ridiculous. You’re missing good stuff here, pay attention.”

With the fit over, we made it through to the end of the service with no other issues. Until, on the way out of the worship center, Pat asked big sister Tessa why she took his hand. She said something about how she was concerned about him since he was crying so much. She’s got a good heart, she does. Then he told her that he wasn’t crying, but laughing.

“WHAT? I was so worried. I held your hand, man! I thought you were GOING THROUGH IT!” She was appalled. Which started the laughing all over again.

And that is how my family makes an impression on a new church.

This One Gets A Little Rant-y

I gotta stop getting bad news on Mondays, man. I get all bummed out, and then it gets kinda hard to write one of these light hearted blogs. Okay, sure, I could write over the weekend and just publish on Mondays, but that’s just not the way I do things.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little down this evening. There are some people in my family who I love dearly that are not doing very well. Emergency surgery. Hospice. Non operational. All those words that fill a person with dread the moment you hear them.

Another family member just passed away last week, my cousin Amy. She was five years younger than me. We weren’t exactly close, but I always enjoyed talking to her. She had seen a lot of tragedy in her life, but became a loving mother and wife, and I always thought she was a really good person. So even though I hadn’t actually seen her for years, family is family no matter what and it’s a shame she is gone so soon.

Of course, there’s also the state of the world today. I don’t get political on this blog very often but allow me a moment or two to vent here. The war in Ukraine is still going on, and it is insanely unjust. I am against war in any way, shape, or form, and to watch the genocide that is happening overseas fills me with anger and a profound sadness. When will the world learn?

It’s not any better on the home front either. Basic human rights are under attack, mostly by people who claim to be pro family, and paint themselves as “patriots” while they hide behind the Bible and they hide behind the flag, while passing laws that do nothing but insult both of those things. They operate on fear, greed, and hatred and I’ve just about had it with the lot of ’em. I have seen too many people hurt, too many lives wrecked, and too many otherwise reasonable people duped into following their rhetoric. It’s bad out there, folks, and it ain’t getting better any time soon.

So. What to do? How do I pick myself up and move on? I look for hope, and I try to spread a little good. To be honest, hope is mighty hard to come by these days. Yet it’s there if we look for it.

There are still plenty of people out there fighting the good fight. I donate to causes I believe in. I also give to charities that help the less fortunate (I am the king of rounding up when I buy fast food). I vote. I do my best to support the oppressed (hey, that rhymes!) and take every opportunity I can to listen and to learn. If only those in power would do the same.

That’s part of “spreading good”. I also try to make people happy as much as possible by entertaining. Not only do I have this blog, which is usually a lot more upbeat than it is today, but I try to keep my social media fairly light, and I have just started a new feature with my brother on his podcast which should be premiering soon. Perhaps these aren’t the most noble examples but if I can make somebody smile, or even give them a momentary distraction from their troubles, then that’s a pretty good thing.

Now. Hope. Where does it come from? Well, for me, I see hope in this generation coming up now, Gen Z. They have a really good handle on things from a humanitarian point of view. I see in them the possibilities of fulfilling the good works we Gen Xers thought we were starting, but got too cynical and hardened to really finish up. I have hope that they may help save the soul of this country. It’s slipping away, but they have the power to grab hold of it and bring about a better future. I hope to God they can do it-and that it’s not too late.

I also have hope in the spiritual. I still believe in a gracious, loving God who loves us all. I hold on to my faith. I’m not always good at living it out, but I try. I also think that if all of us believers, no matter what denomination or faith, focused more on the love and less on the dogma, maybe some of that peace we’re all looking for might just start to manifest.

There’s still more hope though. I see hope whenever someone holds open a door for a stranger loaded up with bags. I see hope when people laugh together. I see hope in hugs from old friends and family. I hear hope in music of all types-even the sad or angry stuff. There’s hope in the rainbow after the storm, and in the sunshine that follows.

So yeah, there’s a lot of darkness out there right now. Things pretty much suck. But still, if we hold on hope, find a little light, and spread it around as best we can, well, then we might just make it through all right.

Thanks for indulging me with whatever that was. I’ll be back with more of the usual soon. Happy day to all you mothers and please come back for more MonDAVEs.

Thinking About the New Year

Well, the Holiday Season is officially over. Another Christmas and New Year’s Eve are in the books. The decorations have all come down (well, most of them, anyway), and we’re heading into the heart of Winter. This time of year always brings me down a little bit. Partially because I love the Holidays so much and hate to see them end, but also because I am no fan of the cold, darkness, and weather conditions that Old Man Winter brings with him. Granted, this December has been unseasonably warm here in the St. Louis area, but Winter announced its arrival over the weekend and, judging from the impending forecast, intends on making up for some lost time.

I’ve often wondered why we chose January to begin the new year. I mean, obviously it had a lot to do with the harvest season and all, but it’s just interesting to me that the year begins when it does. Why now? Why not like, I don’t know, April, when things are starting to get warm and brighten up? Why doesn’t the year begin in Spring? It seems to me like it might have been better, especially 2000 plus years ago when life was extremely hard during the Winter, to finish the year during the cold period and begin fresh when nature itself does.

But then, perhaps there’s a reason why we choose to begin the New Year during these cold months. It’s a good time to stay indoors, warm ourselves with a fire, a good hearty meal, and our beverage of choice, and reflect.

We can reflect on the year that has just passed us by, both the good and the bad parts of it, from both the perspective of society at large and our from own personal feelings. What were the big successes we had this year? What could have gone better? What did we learn and, more importantly, will we ever learn?

It’s also a good time to think about the future. What concrete plans can we make for the next few months? What are our desires? What dreams can we begin to chase, and what needs to remain a dream, at least for a little while longer?

This is the proper mindset for making any “New Year’s Resolutions” that so many are fond of doing. The trouble is that most of us make a small list of resolutions half heartedly out of a feeling of obligation but we don’t take them very seriously. We may go after them for a few weeks, but then it’s right back to where we were on Dec. 31st. I think the problem is we set unrealistic goals with no real forethought of how we are going to attain them or what it would take to do so. Nor do we consider what it would actually mean to our lives if we did. Therefore we are content to make ourselves feel better for a short period of time, and then shrug it off when things don’t work out because they were “just silly resolutions” anyway.

I’ve never liked making New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s that word, “resolution”, it’s so serious and intimidating. Resolving to do something is like a promise or an oath you make to others and yourself, and it’s not something one should take lightly. Especially if you’re not going to put in the effort to make it happen. For the record, I feel the same way when a business or organization I am involved in talks about “vision casting.” I don’t like that phrase either, it makes my neck itch.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s good to think about the future. It’s good to make plans, to set goals. It’s good to want to become a better person. I’m just not so sure that being obliged to do so just because it’s January is the way to go about it.

However, since most people I know are doing the whole “New Year’s Resolutions” thing, I figured I’d go ahead and play along. Well, to an extent. I am not going to write a list of things I resolve to do in the next year. I am merely going to list a few things that would be nice to accomplish, and I will try and work in that direction. See? No pressure. No obligations. No itchy neck. Here we go.

-I would like to read more. I enjoy reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and I fully understand the importance of reading and how it enriches my life. I just don’t do it enough. It’s not due to any lack of availability. My entire family are readers and there are books everywhere in this house. Part of my problem is that I get distracted doing other things and don’t carve out the time to read like I ought to. The other problem is that when I am done reading an interesting book I need to live with it for awhile. With non-fiction books I tend to ruminate on what I have learned, be it a life lesson or just some neat little trivia. But with fiction books, I am usually reluctant to leave the world it has created for me and I want to stay with those characters I have grown to love just a little bit longer. As a result I don’t read very many books in a year, which is okay. Quality over quantity, right? But I do have room for more.

-I’d like to get my weight down a little bit. I have had an issue with my weight all my life and have never been what you’d call thin, but there’s a weight range I am comfortable with and I am currently not within it. Some of this is due to medications, but with a little more effort I can get closer to that place. I was actually doing a little better a few weeks back but I let myself go over the Holidays. Time to get back on track, methinks.

-I’d like to get outside more. You know, when it’s not cold. I need to go on longer walks. Get some more sun. See some more nature. Maybe travel more, schedule and COVID permitting.

-I’d like to focus more on my beliefs. That includes my faith, and social justice issues. Being a Christian and a Liberal is the hardest thing I do. But it shouldn’t be, since I believe that “Progressive Christianity” isn’t an oxymoron. If I begin putting faith into action, I think it could go from difficult to rewarding. I just need to do it one step at a time. Like this.

-I’d like to create more. Sure, I have this blog, but there’s more I could be doing. I have the desire and the ideas, I have just become complacent and, frankly, a little discouraged over the years. Maybe a little nervous too. Let’s face it though, I’m not getting any younger and even though I may be a little too old to set the world on fire, that’s not an excuse to not try. Connecting with people through entertainment is my favorite thing. That’s why I do this. I just need to do more, and maybe mix in some different stuff too.

Okay, that got a little more serious than I thought it would. There’s some good ideas there, though, and some nice goals to work towards. Okay, my neck did itch a little. Maybe it’s my shirt.

Anyway, see you next week.

If Wishes Were Fishes…

We’d all swim in riches. Or something like that.

We’ve all heard a version of this saying at one point or another. Usually this saying is used in a negative context in which someone is told to quit wishing their life away. But I think it’s okay to wish. Wishing is a way to deal with the difficulties of life. Sometimes wishes are within our grasp, and can be made a reality with a little effort. Sometimes wishes are pure fantasy. Sometimes they are hopeful. Sometimes they are filled with, and fueled by, regret.

Wishes are normal and healthy. Granted, we have to live in the real world and deal with it as it is. However, our wishes can help guide us along our paths and be quite beneficial when kept in perspective and used in a positive way.

In our younger years we wish for things like riches, fame, looks, and the like. I find though that as one ages, our wishes change a little bit. While they may still stay rather self centered, they aren’t quite as self-ish. Most wishes do revolve around our own self image, they begin to expand to include the world at large. Not only do we wish to make sense of the wider world, but also our place in it.

Let’s face it guys, life is a lot. It’s too much, really. How do you get through it without going completely insane? I can’t answer that for everyone, but for me I have to laugh at it, yell at it, write about it, and hold on to some of my wishes (I don’t call them dreams anymore, that’s way too optimistic for the world we currently live in). I also overshare with friends and strangers.

That’s what this particular post is all about. I am going to share many of my wishes with you, both the ones that give me hope and the ones that hurt my heart. Hopefully, this catharsis on the web will not only make me feel a little better about life, the universe, and everything but also it just may help somebody else who’s reading this to not feel alone. By the way, I had a few one liners stuck in among this list but I took them out as it just didn’t feel right. Let’s get real, y’all.

-I wish my dreams weren’t so big as a youth. Perhaps I could have achieved more of them.

-I wish I was better at this whole Christianity thing.

-I wish I saw my cousins more. I wish I saw my best friend more too.

-I wish it were easier to make friends as an adult. Real friends I mean, not just surface level.

-I wish I still had the self confidence I had in my 20’s and early 30’s.

-I wish I didn’t know so much about a lot of people. This is the downside of social media (says the guy blogging his inner dialogue).

-I wish more people were open to the possibility of God. I also wish conservative Christians weren’t so good at turning people away.

-I wish the two major political parties in our country weren’t so far apart on everything.

-I wish good grammar and manners were still a thing.

-I wish I weren’t so judgmental.

-I wish we’d seriously think about what kind of world we are leaving for the next generation. Environmentally, politically, spiritually, and culturally.

-I wish parents would listen more to today’s youth and not just dismiss them.

-I wish everyone had food to eat and a place to sleep.

-I wish everybody knew somebody loved them.

-I wish more people cared more about their fellow humans than their own pocket.

-I wish the best tasting food didn’t make us fat.

-I wish I had finished college. I also wish I was still young enough for it to matter if I did it now.

-I wish physical media wasn’t dying.

-I wish animal shelters weren’t so full.

-I wish big, scary, diseases weren’t a thing.

-I wish everyone would just do their part to bring this damned pandemic to an end.

-I wish I didn’t overthink things to the point of inaction.

-I wish I was better with math and money.

-I wish I didn’t have so many wishes.