INVISIBLE LINES

invisible lines

CLEARLY OVER THE LINE

As kids playing at the lake or on the playground, we would take turns dragging our heels backward in the sand to create “a line.” We would proceed to dare the other guys or group of guys to cross “the line”.

It was fun and someone would always cross the line, and the scuffle was on!

As we got older the lines became more precise. The chalk of the first and third base lines in baseball. The chalk of the out of bounds lines and the ten yard markers in football. The circular track lines to represent running lanes in track, and the painted lines of the basketball court.

These were the easiest lines to follow. It was fair or foul, an ample number of yards were gained or you were forced to punt. You crossed the finish line first or you didn’t. If someone stepped out of bounds or was in the paint for three seconds it was a turnover.

The invisible lines in life are a little more difficult to navigate. It started in school. No talking allowed, but they didn’t really mean no talking, just almost no talking. Then again, even that depended on the teacher and his or her mood for the day.

Then the invisible lines got even more difficult. So difficult in fact that if we danced too close to the lines we couldn’t even know if or when we crossed over them. If we didn’t know for sure, who could?

These invisible lines are measured through the heart or what some might call our soul. At the moment of infraction, we might not see or feel it, but God does.

It sometimes takes running the “instant replay” over and over in our mind until our heart finally “sees” it.

As a Lacrosse coach, there’ve been a few times I crossed over the line in our training regimen. I know I had to get very close to that line in order to get the girls in the best possible shape physically and mentally. It didn’t happen very often, I never meant any of my girls harm. I thought I was doing my best for them. Most of the times I did, but on a few occasions I went over “the line.”

That’s how invisible the lines are.

At which bite of food does eating become gluttony?

What action or thought turns ambition into greed?

When does admiration become lust?

At what point does proper discipline of children become abuse?

Is speeding in a car breaking the “law of the land”?

How many times can a person look in the mirror until it becomes vanity?

There are invisible lines that we can address in every aspect of our life. This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

The wisdom or talent to spot these lines in our lives come from our heavenly Father. That’s not to say we’ll ever be perfect at staying within them, but we bring Him honor when we try.

I’m encouraged by the people around me who strive to live within the lines or boundaries set by God. I’m even more encouraged when some of us who can’t see as well step outside the lines and are guided back inside the lines by the wise ones among us.

There will always be something or someone daring us to, “STEP OVER THAT LINE”!

We need to be watching through the eyes of our heart very closely, because… It’s a mighty fine line.

JOANN

MY FRIEND JOANN AND ME (no wonder my brothers teased me)

I got the chance to catch up with an old friend from my childhood. We were best friends for a couple of years a long  time ago. We were quite the odd pair of friends, but we were inseparable.

Our friendship started the way most of them do. By chance, dumb luck or destiny.

I was nine years old and school had just recessed for summer. Summer time was my specialty.. I may have struggled in school, but for this occasion I was a natural.

My brother had a girl friend who lived around the block. Her sister had just finished her Junior year of college. The word on the street was that she was going to be a teacher.

My mom seized the opportunity for a would be teacher who lived right around the block to start her career a little early. I was a mathematical slacker who’s summer and life was about to be altered forever.

Her name was JoAnn, and we became fast friends. She was the first adult person to treat me like an individual. This was the era of “children should be seen not heard.” Unlike most of the other adults, JoAnn didn’t wait until I earned respect to give me respect. She was very much ahead of her time.

JoAnn’s wisdom was the foundation for our friendship. On that foundation we built a relationship that it still supports almost forty years later.

We had a blast. We joked, we shared our dreams and desires. We spent almost everyday of the summer mornings together. JoAnn worked for her dad during the summers operating a catering truck, and I was the official assistant, riding in the passenger seat looking through the backward letters that read, “NO RIDERS.”

JoAnn came to many of my baseball games and was my biggest fan whether we won or lost. We shared all the parts of our lives like best friends do.

As the old adage goes, “All good things must come to an end,” and so did our summers. JoAnn would head back to college and I would start my next year of grade school, much improved at multiplication due to my friend.

We would do it again the next summer, but after that JoAnn and Spike got married and moved out of state to start working on the dreams she had shared with me.

I’ll never forget the night before she headed back to college that first summer. We were reminiscing our summer as I was walking her back home to her parents house. Her tears turned into a cry, followed by mine. I guess you have to be pretty good friends to be as sad as we were, being forced by life to say goodbye to one another.

As we were catching up, I shared with her how old my kids were now and what they were up to. I also shared with her how special our summers were to me and assured her of the spot in my heart carved out just for her and our special friendship. I added how blessed I thought all those kids were to have had such an amazing teacher who made them feel special and inspired them to learn.

JoAnn shared with me as we were catching up that her and Spike just celebrated their 37th anniversary. She let me know how all her kids were doing and where they were. She also proudly told me the names and ages of all her grandchildren.

My good friend who always made me feel special managed to do it one more time. JoAnn wrote, “You know it wasn’t a coincidence that when I started my teaching career I wanted to teach kids your age”!

Isn’t that how God works? The events in our lives are not by coincidence. One friendship can impact many lives in a positive way, even if we never planned to.

During the reflection process of our friendship I realized the style of coach I am, and how I interact with young people is a direct reflection of the person who taught me with her actions… JoAnn.

All those kids x all those years = multiple thousands. I’m still no math wizard, but even I know the beginning of this equation.

It is one + one, my friend JoAnn and me.

A Vicious Storm

a viscious storm

THE TREE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

A vicious storm ripped through our neighborhood earlier this week. It blew roof tiles off the house, ripped apart an umbrella that was closed, and turned tables and chairs over in the backyard.

As if that weren’t enough, it tore down shrubs and trees, blew water under the front door and crowned it’s show of strength with a lightning strike to the neighbors tree directly across the street.

Our neighbors had the half of the tree that got blown off by the lightning cut up and hauled off the same day as the storm. I was impressed. I was less impressed with my timeliness responding to the clean up effort.

It’s been a busy week. I have plenty of excuses. They all sound pretty good, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself that any of them have merit.

It dawned on me as I looked at the mess day after day this week while putting off the inevitable, that this was a good example not only of our physical world, but also our spiritual one as well.

How many times in life does a storm pass through and leave a disaster in our hearts and lives?

Most of the time in life I’ll have the same response spiritually as I have this week physically. I’ll live with the mess in my spiritual life. I’ll step over debris, or kick it out of the way. Just enough so that I can still function without tripping over the mess.

To start the clean up process in either scenario, whether within or without takes one very important ingredient… Action.

I’ve also found in life that in either case procrastination usually makes things worse, and the clean up process more difficult.

I finally got around to cleaning up the backyard yesterday. It didn’t take too long, but soon after I started the regret of procrastination was again a reality. If I had cleaned up the same day of the storm like my neighbors did, I wouldn’t be burning my hands on hot metal furniture.

The shredded umbrella canvas wrapped around the bottom of its stand had become the new home of a few ants and spiders. It had also become a new target for our dog Larry to mark as “his territory.”

“Sure wish I’d cleaned this up sooner”! I said to myself out loud. I knew Larry was listening and I was hoping he felt bad. He probably did, but he just can’t help himself. I’m glad he couldn’t answer back because the last thing I wanted to hear from him was, “You should have cleaned it up sooner”!

I hope I learn a lesson from this incident, I need to be a man of action in my physical life, but more importantly in my spiritual life.

In fact, I think I’ll start getting ready for the next storm in life today. I’ll batten down the hatches and secure all things inside and out.

I’ll seek God through His Word in study and in prayer.

This won’t stop the next storm, the storms in life are inevitable, but being prepared spiritually assures the weathering of them.

When the next storm blows through leaving some spiritual damage, I think I’ll try to get my spiritual house in order that same day.

Putting off the clean up process only makes matters worse.

Maybe I should get some gloves too…

FAMILY HISTORY

family history

AFTER THE LESSON

Several times a year my family will have an unscheduled recounting of our family history. It’s like an ungraded review to make sure everyone still knows the material before we continue on to the next lesson.

We share the exact same stories of our family history over and over. Since the stories are classics they never get old. We all know the tales from beginning to end, but are thrilled to relive them and laugh again and again.

We all inherently know that these are the best days of our lives, despite the struggle and strife that beset all of us. This is the one thing that kids don’t argue with parents about. Even the young ones have some comprehension of how precious and passing each day is.

A typical family retrospective at my house goes something like this. “I remember when McKenzie got rammed by a goat!” My wife recalls the details with tears from laughter rolling down. Never forgetting to note McKenzie’s arms, legs and head straight out in front of her as her body was flying backward.

Before the laughter can stop, one of us will say something like. “How about Ali’s soccer career?”  Someone else chimes in, “I think she was looking at the sky!” The next one says, “She was the only one on the field facing the wrong way and twirling her hair as the ball bounced on by!!”

We’re rolling now. “How bout Gurm’s hambugers?” – “Yeah, remember the “Hey wez my hambugaw?!!!” Then comes the answer, “Daddy ate it!” Then we all jump in to imitate her response. “EEEEAAAAHHH!!!” Laughs abound.

The roast continues. “Remember when Mom went to meet the principle and the heel broke off her shoe?” –  “HAAAA!” Then comes all the details.

I find it peculiar how we can look back on even something that was traumatic and painful, and with enough of that magical “time” between now and then, we can laugh. Maybe laughter really is the “the best medicine.” It certainly does taste better anyway.

God grants us a select number of days on this earth and each one is a gift. The older I get the more I realize how precious each of these gifts are.

I’m beginning to treat each gift with the respect and thankfulness that I should. I think the smart people call that “wisdom.” I just call it understanding, because like a lesson in school, there is a point when the teacher finally wins a battle and, “The Light Bulb Comes On.”

I believe sharing family stories and laughing together at each other and ourselves is God’s therapy. It’s like saying, “Thanks for always being there…” –  “Thanks for your understanding…” –  “Thank you for your forgiveness…”  – “I’ll honor you with these stories even after you’re gone…”  And, “I love you.”

“Hey, remember how horrible Kenz and Ali were when they first started playing piano?” I or my wife will declare. Inevitably my wife will add, “I should have never let them quit, they got so good!” I’ll add, “Yeah, but it sure was punishment for us until they got there!” We love to recount that one.

Today our youngest has a guitar lesson. She’ll want to show me what she learned today.  It will be painful… It’s partly my fault, it wouldn’t have been as painful, but I’m the one who encouraged her to pick the electric over the acoustic guitar..

I don’t know if she’ll quit, become great, or land somewhere in between. I do know this; Someday we will laugh and cherish this day.

Stopping To Smell The Roses

smell the roses

FLOYD OR FRED? YABBA DABBA DO!

A cup of coffee, my favorite pen and a fresh tablet… I guess it doesn’t get much better than this.

Understanding it is truly the little things in life that bring joy, is a gift from God. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the bigger things in life. We get consumed with the tasks of life and let them choke out the more important things in life. That’s what happened to me today.

I’ve often heard it referred to as “stopping to smell the roses.”

I’ve also bought my share of roses but rarely take a whiff in the process. I’m reminded of my bad habit of missing the important things… Again.

Today was my youngest daughters first cross country meet. Not of the year, but of her life. It’s not completely my fault due to an error by the hosting school to not send a follow-up schedule change yesterday.

I dropped the little one off at school two hours before the meet was to start. She was a bit nervous so I said, “I don’t care how you finish, I’m just proud of you for doing something in spite of being nervous.” She quickly answered with a grin, “You mean like driving the go-carts”? I smiled and answered, “Yeah, like driving the go-carts.” That was last weekends, “Face Your Fears” lesson. Her smile indicated her appreciation for my persistence.

Instead of driving leisurely to the meet, my calculations gave me about an hour and a half to multi-task and knock down a lot of birds with a few stones.

When I got the word the meet was to start an hour earlier, it was too late. I drove like an idiot trying desperately to make up time, but to no avail. I missed my daughters first cross country race. Some of her teammates got the information late and missed the race as well.

That doesn’t change the way I feel right now. I know those “important items” needing to be crossed off my list could have waited. I could have done those later and if pushed, I could have postponed them until Monday.

The only thing I couldn’t change is my little girls first race, whenever it was going to be.

As I was speeding down the freeway, glancing between the speedometer and the clock, regret settled in my stomach. Another rose I let slip away without a sniff.

My daughter has a great heart and is always forgiving. She knows I’m proud of her, not just for placing with a good time, but mostly for facing her fears and giving absolutely all she had. When I finally got there, I could see her sense of accomplishment, in her smile and demeanor. She wore her sweat like a medal of honor.

I can’t get that time back. I’ll never have the image in my mind of my little girl finishing her first race. All the years our youngest daughter watched her big sister play sports, now it’s her big sisters turn to watch and cheer, and that’s exactly what she did. My wife took time off from work to make sure she was there as well. If #2 wasn’t at college she wouldn’t have missed it either.

I really enjoyed the cartoon “The Flinstones” when I was a kid. Well, except for the part at the beginning of the show, when the saber tooth house cat kicked Fred out of his own house and locked the door.

Often in that cartoon Fred would do something stupid or selfish, usually to his wife Wilma or his daughter Pebbles. When Fred realized how foolish he’d been, he would start to physically shrink in his chair. He would shrink to the point where he was one-eighth the size of the seat itself.

I didn’t understand what the cartoonist was trying to communicate at that time in my life. I understand now that Fred was feeling regret, he was feeling smaller as a man.

That’s how I feel today…