Good friends, a Matlock moment, and other streams

Don’t tell my friend Michelle I wrote this. I’ll explain later. More scattered thoughts on various topics to follow. I wasn’t going to write again so soon but I’ve had a very full few days since my last post late last Friday. The highlights:

  • Friday evening we celebrated the 50th birthday of a good friend and a better man. Doug’s wife Nicole surprised him with the gathering of friends and family (and a terrific poster board full of photos of Doug from baby to today). One of his sons (in their early 20s) was wearing Doug’s old letter sweater from high school. For my money one of the best things about getting older is sharing in life events such as this with long-time friends. In looking at those photos and then at the gathering of people one got a sense of being privileged to be counted among his friends. Doug is not a pretentious or arrogant man at all. In fact he would probably give me a smack upside the head for writing that sentence. I guess the best way I can put it is that Friday night I had the opportunity to get just a small taste of the difference one individual can make in the lives of so many. The best example I ever saw of this was when my wife’s grandfather died ten years ago. I’m not kidding when I say that it seemed as if three entire counties attended that funeral, because for his entire life Pete farmed the same land and was active in his community.
  • Contrast that with how the world defines “making a difference.”
  • We didn’t stay much past 10pm (insert smirk here) because I had to get up early the next morning. On Friday afternoon I was invited to attend a seminar from 8am-12noon put on by the the MIQRA Institute. Two lectures for four hours on the Book of Exodus, and in attendance were between 40-50 people of differing Christian denominations or faith backgrounds. Again, it was an invitation coming from a good friend that brought me there and while I went largely out of curiosity I’m very glad I did. It was fascinating to hear the first lecturer, a man who has made the study of biblical theology and languages his life’s work, spend over two hours deep in the details of just a few verses of Scripture about the Passover in Exodus 12. I’m sure it sounds mind-numbingly dull to some but it opened my eyes to things I’d never considered before in a way that not only made sense but was backed by centuries of scholarship. I look at things like this and how one’s mind expands when confronted by these truths and I can’t help but marvel at how sad it is that so many households today don’t have a Bible in their homes.
  • Sadder: the number of people who don’t set aside time to think…about anything.
  • Sadder still: all of the homes that have a Bible, unused, collecting dust on a shelf or serving as nothing more than a paperweight or showpiece. Anyhow…
  • The rest of my Saturday was spent enjoying gorgeous weather on Saturday and going outside to play catch with my 9-year old son. Having spent my life throwing a baseball from little league sandlots to college baseball fields, as well as coaching some high school and little league, it is apparent that since I “retired” from coaching and throwing all that batting practice three years ago my shoulder is no longer what it once was. In less than 30 minutes of playing catch with my son I learned to live the rest of the day with a dull ache in my left shoulder. Blech. (Can I say blech in a blog? I’ll let it stand.)
  • The rest of my weekend was spent researching and compiling my outline for a Lenten program I’ve been asked to facilitate at our parish by Fr. J on the practice of lectio divina (“divine reading”) for reading and praying the Scriptures. It is something I’ve only been studying and using myself for about a year but this weekend I was able to zero in and focus on it completely. I’m using five or six source texts (and my own personal experience with it) and am very excited about what I’ve put together so far. Hopefully I get the final approval this week and next weekend we can begin to promote the weekly series for five Wednesdays prior to Easter. Again, it reinforces to me the thoughts I had after attending that lecture on Exodus: we truly have no idea what we have our hands on in Scripture or how rich we truly are.
  • I’ve typed over twenty-five pages in the last 24 hours when compiling my outline on lectio. You’d think I’d be sick of typing by now, yet here I am, you know…typing.
  • Oh, and on Sunday we celebrated the first birthday of this guy. Or was it his 7th? (You know. In dog years and all that.)
Birthday beagle

Birthday beagle

Faith … opens our minds to gaze on the ineffable supernatural mysteries of God.

This … is that singular gift of God for which [Hebrews] gives the profound and meaningful definition: faith is “the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen” (Heb 11:1). It is faith which implants in man the first beginnings (“the substance”) of his eternal happiness (“of things to be hoped for”), and makes him absolutely certain of the hidden mysteries and glories of God (“the evidence of things that are not seen”).

  • We all are born with the innate seeds of faith within our hearts. Some water them, some nurture them. Many don’t. As for me, the sum of my life experiences and those that continue to occur make me “absolutely certain” of the evidence.
  • I took yesterday morning off from work for an eye appointment…my first one in four-and-a-half years. And while all the scans and probes and whatnot showed no signs of irregularities or tumors, glaucoma and such, it is apparent that my eyes, while not terrible, are not what they once were. Neither am I of course, which isn’t all bad. I’m thankful for the good test results but the routine blood pressure reading was enough to reinforce the fact that I really am in another age demographic now. I’ve been awash in a sense of my own mortality since last fall, but that single reading was enough to drive the point home. Again, not a disaster, but not what I wish it was either.
  • Being a man, in particular a man who is not concerned so much with style (my recent announcements on Facebook that I’ve decided to buy a good fedora and invest in bow ties drew considerable guffaws) I found it painful to select frames for my new glasses. While in some ways it’s easier (the men’s section is three panels of frames while the women’s section is the entire rest of the store) it was still a pain. Finally, I settled on a pair that I liked of silver wire frames. No less than two of the staff suggested I get the same design but with a black wire frame. I modeled both for them, and they again were in agreement. When I asked why the black was better the older woman said: “Because the black gives a nice contrast. The silver will only bring out the gray in your hair.” Now I normally could care less and am fond of the frost lining my temples because I’m happy to still have my full head of hair.
Don't mess with the gray.

Don’t mess with the gray.

  • So that was my first Matlock moment of 2013. There will be more.
  • Yes, I went with the black frames.
  • I’ve decided it’s time to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to making some changes. Changes to health, diet and exercise obviously. But also changes with regards to expenses. First up: dealing with the flow of flotsam in our home that arrives via television. I spoke about it with my wife last week and we decided to cut off the sieve that is our satellite bill and make the leap to Netflix. It will mean a savings of over $1000 per year, money that we plan to use to invest in health and exercise. It will also mean an end to the moral cesspool that we actually pay companies to pump into our homes and minds, and not so much as through the programming but also through the advertising (I could write a book about that topic all by itself but Neil Postman already has, and it’s a classic). One day we’ll look back at it and shake our heads at what we did in financing the unabated flow of sewage. We’ve experimented before with limiting the supply of programming in our house and have always been very pleased with the results. Sure, the kids will grumble for a while but I’m betting they bounce back quickly. Besides, they don’t run our household…my wife and I do.
jupiter-images.com

jupiter-images.com

  • I forgot about why I said not to tell Michelle I wrote this. In the first week of 2013 my good friend Michelle and I had lunch. We’ve known each other since college and enjoy catching up over the occasional meal. I told her that a goal for 2013 was consuming less media, and making time for my writing/journaling by staying off of Facebook and blogging less or none at all. On Sunday I was at her home visiting with her and her husband when she scolded me for “posting on Facebook and blogging last week”. I sheepishly admitted that I did and realize that she wants me to meet my goals for the year. Michelle’s the kind of friend who will listen to you explain a goal or desire and then look you point blank in the eyes and ask “So why don’t you?” In a good way, those types of people can be annoying as hell because they’ll hold you accountable.
  • What would we do without good friends? Thank God they exist.
  • But still, don’t tell her I wrote this. And I’ll try very hard to just stick to one topic next time. I promise. Have an incredible week. Enjoy good friends. If you don’t have any, make one.
  • Be one.
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