27 July 2013

Things I Want at 3 a.m.

1. To go back to sleep.
2. Someone to understand my inner turmoil.
3. Understanding of my own inner turmoil.
4. To undrink that pot and a half of coffee I had during Les Miserables tonight.
5. To make something beautiful that will last beyond my fruitfly lifespan.
6. A life full of grace and meaning, and devoid of fear.
7. An empty inbox.
8. Reassurance that I matter to someone. (Anyone.)
9. Deep, reliable relationships.
10. Did I mention sleep?

Insomnia is cruelest when it happens on the one night in the past month when it would be OKto sleep past 8 a.m. :-(

11 July 2013

Some Thoughts on Heroes

Our culture tells us that a hero is someone who pulls a child from a burning building. Or perhaps someone who single-handedly foils a bank robbery. Or even someone who scores 50 points in a basketball game.

I don't think that these feats begin to scratch the surface of true heroism.

A hero is someone who consistently sacrifices his own ambitions, dreams, and sleep for  the good of others. A hero is someone who stays when it would be much easier to leave. A hero is someone who serves even when it is costly or unrewarding.

When a father chooses family time over Halo, that is heroism. When a mother chooses to bake cookies with her daughter to the neglect of her Pinterest boards, that is heroism. When I choose the well-being of my wife and sons over another hour at work, I like to think that is heroism, too.

I started writing this post on June 16, which was Father's Day. I guess that my mind turns naturally toward heroics on that day, since my father is one of the most heroic men I know. His whole life has been poured out in service to his wife, his children, his church, his students -- in short, anyone who needed help.

Dad is a kind, thoughtful, sympathetic man. He loves to do good work, to solve problems, and to give his family what they need. He is intelligent but not puffed up, skillful but not proud, and full of wisdom without giving an air of superiority.

I remember riding into town with Dad when I was an undergrad at the university where he taught. We would park a couple of blocks off campus and walk together down side streets toward his office. As we went along, I would talk about all of the exciting new ideas I was encountering in my classes. Dad always listened carefully, treating me as though my unoriginal thoughts mattered immensely.

I still remember one of our exchanges very vividly. I was talking excitedly about Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, which Dad didn't have a lot of use for. After patiently hearing me out, he said, "Son, I can tell you love to think about these ideas, and that's great. Just remember this: People are always more important than ideas."

To say that people are more important than ideas is noble. To consistently live it, even when the people are ugly and ungrateful and have serious problems, is heroic.

I'm very thankful that this particular hero is my father. I can't imagine a better one.

10 July 2013

Beauty Within the Mess

This morning, I was in a hurry to get to work. As I opened the car door to put my laptop case inside, I noticed that my lawn was looking a little shaggy. Or, to be precise, a lot shaggy:

I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible groundskeeper. My grass is always the longest on the block, and every August, it's one of the first to die from the overwhelming heat. (Just between you and me, I would kill it off earlier than that if I could.)

It's not that I wouldn't like to have a nice-looking lawn; it's just that I normally have better things to spend my time and money on. Nonetheless, that doesn't stop me from feeling just a wee bit ashamed when my yard looks like this. I mean, who likes having a constant reminder of his failings every time he steps outside his door? Not this guy.

So, with my daily dose of yard-guilt successfully internalized, I was ready to rush off to work, hopefully not arriving too late for my first meeting.

Then, as I was putting my laptop case and lunch bag into the car, I saw something that stopped me cold. I have probably looked at my front yard a dozen times in the past week, but I never noticed this: 

 Or this:

 Or this:

Lovely, no? They have been buried within that messy yard for a long time, but I never had the eyes to see them until this morning. What's more, I wouldn't have even gotten to see them if I weren't such a negligent homeowner.

Suddenly, I didn't care how late I was going to be. It seemed much more important to take a little bit of time to intentionally enjoy these blessings that my gracious Maker left in the most unexpected of places.

The New Testament book of James says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

My experience this morning made me realize that I am perhaps too hasty in deciding what those good and perfect gifts are -- or aren't.

I'm glad the Giver has a better imagination -- and a farther-reaching vision -- than I do.