Monday, September 27, 2010

It's OK - We're With the Band

This weekend was a big one for me. First of all, there was a football game. The Eagles of Georgia Southern University defeated that mythical bird, the Phoenix of Elon University. It was a well-deserved, soundly administered beating and it was enjoyed by the home crowd immensely.

Secondly, there was a reunion of a number of us who were part of the Baptist Student Union at Georgia Southern so many years ago. A number of us from the "glory days" of BSU spent some time catching up with one another. Some of us had not met since graduation, a day nearly lost in the mists of time. We told each other that we hadn't changed (of course we have) and how good it was to see each other (it really was).

This whole extravaganza was the brainchild of my friend, Dedra, or Dee as she is known to some. Dee has become the driving force and Fearless Leader of our small but intrepid band of rag-tag rebels. No, wait a minute - that's Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica. Dee is the power source for that small group of shady characters who refuse to be controlled by some faceless power structure - no wait, that's Firefly. Anyway, Dee is the one who puts it all together for those of us who need putting together.

In the midst of all the scheduling and planning and the preparation of copious amounts of food, it might have been easy to loose sight of what this was all about. It wasn't about the ball game. To say that is near sacrilege to some, but it's true nonetheless. It wasn't about the food either, delicious as it was. It was about friendship reaffirmed. Those of us who hadn't seen one another in decades shook hands or embraced, smiling or laughing out loud at the opportunity to see each other again.

We met at the BCM building on campus. There were a lot of current students in and out during the afternoon and most of them looked at us wondering who these old-looking, young-acting people could possibly be. Every time one of them looked my way, I was tempted to say, "It's OK - we're with the band." That's a magical phrase that is supposed to get you into places that you're not usually allowed. It means that you have a good reason for being there and that without you, whatever happens won't happen as it should. It means that you're important to what's going on.

Each of those persons who came through the door to reconnect with one another is important. Each is a complex set of dreams, ideas and emotions. When these individuals come together, the result is a unique music of the soul. The harmony of relationship is incredible! Some of us provide the melody, some provide the vocal interpretation while others create a rhythm to which it all takes place. It's love, laughter, faith and hope and it's wonderful.

My friend, Island Mike, and I talked about dragging out the guitars and doing music together again. It would be the launching of the "Reclaiming the Dream" tour. As Island Mike put it, "We're coming to shove our dream down your throats!" He meant it in a good way. I think. Whichever way he meant it, wherever we go our response to the curious and questioning looks will be:

"It's OK - we are the band."

Friday, September 17, 2010

There's a Reason for Everything - Just Not Always a Good One

I hear it a lot. Whenever something happens that most of us would consider unfortunate, bad or even tragic, someone is sure to say, "That's OK - it's all good." Or perhaps they will get even more Christian and philosophical and say, "Everything happens for a reason."

I'm not one of those who subscribe blindly to the theory that everything that happens is ultimately the will of God. Not that I don't believe in God or don't believe that he has a purpose. I just don't always see how some things fit into that purpose.

I know, I know - someone out there is saying that I have only a human perspective and that I can't see a God-sized picture with my human eyes or grasp an infinite purpose with a finite mind. Well, that's true. However, there's more to it than that. To say that everything that occurs is ultimately the will of God is to make each of us part of some divine puppet show. If that's true, we have no will of our own and therefore the choices we make are really not our choices - they are the choices of God, predetermined and ordained for us.

Maybe I'm naive, but I really think that God has other things to do than to plan out our every move and choice for the day. I mean, think about it. Let's say that God wants us to be healthy. Therefore, it was his choice that I eat the mini-wheats for breakfast this morning instead of the doughnut that I wanted. So, whose responsibility is the bacon cheeseburger that I'll eat for lunch? If it's God's, then he is contradicting his own purpose. If it's my choice, it's not a particularly good one and I'll pay the price for it somewhere down the line.

I do think that God has a purpose for his creation. Part of the way it seems to work is that you and I have been given a lot of freedom within that purpose to be creative, caring and active. The other side of that hypothesis is that we also have the opportunity to be selfish and destructive. Most of us, if we're being honest, have had moments on both sides of the supposition. We've all been caring and creative in our own way. We've also had moments of selfishness. Is all that predetermined for us? There are good people who would say that it is. I disagree.

Without personal freedom, there would be no meaning to the choices we make. Any consequences for moral or criminal failings would be arbitrary at best (and if there are no consequences then that too is predetermined - I guess that's how some people get away with the things they do). The bottom line is that we each make choices. These choices govern us and our relationships with others. Often we are affected by the choices of others, for better or worse. Is that always what God wants for us? No. Is there always a reason for it? Often there is, but sometimes that reason is bad or petty or selfish.

When you get right down to it the choices that set the course for our lives (both our choices and those of others) are only half of the question. The other half of the question is this: How do you and I live with and through the choices we make and that are made for us? I haven't found any magic wand or incantations to make it better.

I can only depend on love, hope and second chances. I choose to believe that all three are possible.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Life Is Stalled In Committee

I paused the other day to take stock of my life. That is, I tried to take stock of my life. When I looked, my life wasn't there. It had been there that morning. If not that morning, I distinctly remember experiencing my life one afternoon last month. At the least, I'm sure it was around here sometime last spring.

I immediately began a search which would leave no stone unturned and no question unasked (except of course, "If you were in a car traveling the speed of light and you turned on the headlights, would it make a difference?". There is no real answer to that one and the valuable energy you waste searching for one could be spent doing something constructive, like fantasy football or searching for an honest politician).

Back to the search for my life. As I said, my life wasn't there. I was immediately suspicious. After all, it isn't something I would just misplace. I'm too used to picking it up whenever I need it. The only conclusion could be larceny. Some nefarious thief or greedy bureaucrat had made off with my life! The question is: WHY? It's not like they would instantly become popular, good-looking and successful. For that it would be necessary to steal George Clooney's life.

Suddenly, I remembered the last time I had experienced my life as I had come to know it. It was just before the committee meeting. It doesn't matter which committee. They are all the same in one respect. Nearly every committee gathering I have been a part of has done its best to sap every bit of creative energy and positive self-image I could muster.

You've been there. Maybe it was the budget committee or the decoration committee or the Committee for the Responsible Treatment of Self-Important Bureaucrats. Whatever it was, you were ignored, condescended to or openly opposed for having the audacity to propose a bold, creative idea that would have resolved all relevant issues in one fell swoop. After all, we've never done that before - therefore it just won't work.

Doesn't it make your jaw clench tighter than a Republican's wallet at a PBS fundraiser? I had always thought that the function of a committee was to bring into play a degree of creativity and energy impossible for a single person. Instead, the average committee seems compelled to find the lowest common denominator and sink to it with the speed of a televangelist asking for an offering. The result is not innovation, problem solving or a better way of life. It is, instead, just More Of The Same. Same discussion, same boredom, same "let's adjourn and go get barbecue."

Committees are bizarre animals. It seems that our society cannot function without them. Whenever we don't know what to do or when we do know what to do and don't want to do it, we form a committee. It's a great way to act responsibly without actually doing any work. The problem is that many of these committees feel that they have been granted divine right to rule over the rest of us. If they only realized that they would not exist without our consent, things might change. I might even get my life back. That may not be much to you, but its all I have. Perhaps we could form a special blue-ribbon fact finding committee to study the matter and report back at the next meeting.

That is, if we haven't all lost interest by then.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When Worlds Collide

I've recently had the wonderful experience of reconnecting with some friends from college. It has been years (decades, really) since some of us have been together. Before the fateful day of that rendezvous on Tybee Island, I wondered how it would be and whether we would still feel as close as we did "back in the day."

I needn't have worried. It was a day and evening of laughter, tears, hugs and some kind of magical confluence of spirits that allowed us to seemingly pick up where we had left off so long ago. I hadn't realized how thirsty I'd been for this kind of connection until I tasted it once again after so long. It's good to love people.

And now, suddenly a new reality has reared its head. It happened unexpectedly, when I was feeling all nice and mellow over re-establishing connections and lines of communication. You see, I live a lot of my life in a compartmentalized fashion. It keeps me sane (or as close to it as I'll ever get). I have my World of Work (WOW for short). WOW is the place in which I function as an administrator, counselor, minister, public speaker and cleaner of toilets ( my WOW is nothing if not diverse). I also have my Home Base or HB (you get the pattern I'm establishing here?). My HB is where I can try to relax, to connect with my wife, release some of the tensions of the day and, hopefully, be less defined by a job description. My HB also has a dog, which creates a whole new sub-world that we won't go into here.

My reconnection with the friends I loved in college is another sub-world of HB - they were (and are again) a blessing of living a life without specific job requirements. All they ask of me is that I be who I am and if that person is going through changes or a time of rediscovery, that's fine with them. That's part of the beauty of the relationships. We take care of each other. We take care of each other because we're friends - and because we have some really good dirt on each other. There are things that are uniquely OURS. To understand them, you had to be there.

Here is where the check-engine light of my aforementioned reality starts blinking. One day, my college-age daughter became "Facebook Friends" with two of my own college friends from the Tybee experience. Who knew that Facebook was so cross-generational? It was then that I realized that she was a step closer to hearing stories and finding out things that she never knew about her father that she really doesn't need to know.

You see, when you're a dad (which is better than being a just a father), the last and maybe best chance you have of being a hero is in the eyes and heart of your daughter. Years ago, when she was a Little Princess, Bekah and one of her friends came to me with a toy that had broken. It wasn't really broken; it just needed to be re-assembled a bit. I performed said re-assembly and they went happily on their way, but not before I heard her confide to her companion, "My daddy can fix anything!" Anyone who knows me knows that this is profoundly untrue. I have great problems fixing any number of things. But for one brief, glorious moment I was the hero who saved the day.

Now my worlds are about to collide. Friends I've had for decades and the child I raised are about to become more than stories to one another - they will become real, living persons with relationships. Worse yet, they might start telling one another stories about me! I don't know if my highly compartmentalized, emotionally precarious state of mind can take it. For all my trying, there's nothing I can do to stop relationships from being complete organic messes. Who knows where it will all end?!

There's nothing that can be done about it now. All I can do is hope that my friends don't corrupt my daughter for life and that my daughter won't tell my friends about my many faux pas of dadhood. Well, maybe there is a little more that can be done. I can hope that all these folks see in one another what I see in them - love, hope and friendship. That's what makes it great to have friends and to have family.

To have them all in one place might be a good thing after all.