Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Admission

A rusted screw is lubricated to fit tightly into the corroded oil pan of an old truck. When two things rust, especially two things that should have a bond, there must be a foreign agent introduced to get past the dirt, grime, dust, and rust, a softening blow to the otherwise unbelievably volatile collision of two hardened objects.


Tears are life’s lubricant, bonding agent, in harsh times.

I sat bewildered, overwhelmed, ashamed, angry, and a gambit of other emotions that ranged in diversity as much as a collection of pogs (if you don’t know what those are you missed out on a terribly pointless game of the 90s). Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat at the table with familiar faces of present and past. Anger, resentment, pride, shame, mourning, and humility were all united by an unexpected happening. Moments like these maybe happen only a handful of times in our lives; moments where, for the first time, you are faced with yourself, the unadulterated version that beckons reconciliation, honesty, and progressive thoughts. I sat at a local coffee shop surrounded by strangers as life’s lubrication softened the hard heart I’d been running from for so long.

I once moved to a city across the country, far removed from anything I knew to help start a community of faith, a church. I was full of zeal, but lacking wisdom and knowledge. Inexperienced and quite irresponsible I was quickly placed in leadership and given a voice I never should have had. The tears began to roll down my face as I sat at the table, staring into nothingness, considering the amount of people I had hurt with my pride, arrogance, and foolishness. I had placed the blame on so many for so long, but in that moment that morning I was struck with the reality that no one else had to bear that responsibility but me. No more finger pointing for the runaway boy from Downtown Indianapolis. A tough exterior crumbled beneath the weight of that realism. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I contemplated how many I had hurt. I am long and far removed from those circles of people and communities. The reality of who I am to them lies in my past, the boy I have grown out of, but they don’t know that. I was overwhelmed with the idea of proving myself and how much I had changed to the large amount of people I had hurt in one way or another.

As I confided in a friend about how overwhelmed I was by trying to prove myself and how much I had changed to all the people I hurt there were three words that broke through. Certain words are needed, only particular expressions will break through in moments like these. In my moment 3 words spoke to me on a spiritual level unlike any I had heard before. Something was beautiful about those three words and the discussion to follow on that day. This isn’t your typical love story though. I Love You wasn’t said, although it was in so many more words, in such an abstract way.

“We’re all fucked!”

Said one of the most genuine, humble, godly men I have had the good fortune of spending time with. He continued, “That’s the beauty of the gospel man, we’re all fucked, and it takes care of that for us, we don’t have to prove anything.” This is not to say we don’t take responsibility though, that is mostly the point of this writing.

Hear me clear, may my words infiltrate your mind and soul deeply now: I am so sorry if you have been one of the many victims of my past. My arrogance and lack of knowledge led me to say, do, and not do many things for which I can never go back and change. I accept and fully acknowledge who I have been and who I am becoming. I am a broken man, capable of much good and much evil. I have unfortunately allowed myself to act on much more evil than good in some of my dealings in the past. I ask that in your time you find it in your heart to forgive me and my brokenness. I know I have searched to find the negative, the bad, the flaws in others and in the organization I felt I was hurt by. I am sorry that many of my past writings have been to tear down the church instead of build her up. I was faced with the reality of who I have been that morning. I can be a harsh man, life is rough, and tears were needed to make a much needed bond. Life’s lubricant allowed me to see what I needed to see and hear what I needed to hear.

I realize I’ve been given a gift, a voice that is heard. That day I was told you can do three things with a gift: squander it, use it for good, or use it for evil. I recognize the harm I’ve done with this gift in some writings. The tears have dried, but I have not forgotten that day, it has impacted me, scarred me, and changed me. The future looks a lot brighter after the tears cleared.

If you’ve ever found yourself carrying burdens around, like me, remember, Jesus tells us to throw them on him. He says his yolk is easy and his burden is light. If it feels different than that it may not be Jesus at all. Don’t let guilt and shame hold you down, don’t run from your past, face it, take responsibility, and learn from it. “We’re all fucked!” True statement, as abrasive as it may come across, it is the truth of the gospel, Jesus forgives and offers a new way of life, one where we can live free from feeling like we have to prove anything.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Forward


This could totally be the muscle relaxers and pain killers talking at this point, so it should be an entertaining and/or enlightening exercise to revisit these words in a couple weeks.  On February 20 my wife and I were headed South on a major highway in Michigan.  We had just spent the weekend with some close friends at our family’s little get away in Michigan and were headed back home.  As we were shutting down and locking up the cottage snow began to fall at a fairly rapid rate.  We left as soon as we could because we didn’t want to get snowed in and we figured that the snow would lighten up as we moved further from the lake.  We were wrong by all accounts.  The roads conditions were precarious at best.  We really wanted to get home so we decided to move along being very cautious and driving well below the speed limit, 30 MPH below to be accurate.  After about the longest 2 hours of my life I turned to Julia and let out statement in relief, “I never want to do that again.”  We were just getting into better road conditions, the ice was gone and it was slush and much more manageable traveling conditions.  We made it, or at least we thought.  A SUV in front of us went to change lanes, merging left, and must have hit some ice or something that threw them into a complete 360 horror ride.  As they barreled to us I tap the brakes to assure they didn’t lock up and cause me to lose control of the vehicle.  I checked my mirrors to see if there were other cars coming that I would hit if I swerved into the other lane.  I looked over to my wife in the passenger seat, helpless and frightened.  There was nothing I could do to avoid what was coming.

It’s been 16 days since that accident.  We were fortunate to walk away from it.  The car was totaled and we already bought a new vehicle.  We walked away flawless, besides minor cuts to my hand and general soreness that’s to be expected after such a crash.  If I allow myself to think about it I can still vividly see it all happening in what seemed like slow motion.  I could allow myself to dive into the deeper issue of feeling like I could not protect my wife in a time when she needed me, but I push on.  I drove to this place where I write now.  My back and neck never got any better and just recently got exponentially worse.  I have been on muscle relaxers and pain killers for a week now.  I couldn’t bare the pain anymore as it was not improving so I went to a doctor and now a chiropractor and masseuse.  Days after the crash I didn’t drive.  I couldn’t, I was too on edge.  Today I drove to this place where I lay words upon paper.  I could allow myself to still be frightened by other cars.  I could dive deeper into the issue of feeling like I had no control over my own family’s safety, but I push on.  So maybe all this is the drugs taking full advantage of my exhausted body after a day of deep tissue massages and countless adjustments.

I listened to a podcast this morning and the general message was simple; you cannot appreciate the present or even have a chance at the future if you continue to live in the past.  I can apply this message simply to driving my car.  I cannot move forward if fear, pain, or regret from the past weigh me down.  I can tangibly see how allowing fear of getting into another accident would hold me back in life.  I wouldn’t drive anywhere, I’d sit in my home paralyzed by this fear.  I push through and eventually get into the car.  I prevail to move forward.  While it is easy to understand and apply this to concrete circumstances it gets more abstract and intricate to apply this to conceptual ideologies.  Jesus says he wants us to throw our burdens on him, but for some reason it feels good to hold onto them.  It gives us a sense of control.  If we can control it than we can know when we are in danger of pain and avoid it.  Recent events have painted a very clear picture to me, I live in fear and hold onto my burdens.  I’ve been hurt and caused much pain, but I allow it to remain hidden and untouched by the very same logic that got me driving again.  How does one take concrete methods and apply them to abstract thoughts?

The more we feel we have control the heavier and more burdensome life feels.  The longer I carry past hurts around with me the farther I drift from society.  Eventually you find yourself sitting alone at home asking yourself, “How did I get here?  This is not who I want to be.”  Face that fear.  Face the pain.  White flags must wave in the battle of life in order to move away from fear and pain into love and peace.  When we surrender our burdens and face whatever or whoever it is that hurt us we don’t redeem the past.  The past is not forgotten, ever, because we must look back to learn.  Ultimately allowing yourself to face whatever that thing is that haunts and weighs you down requires you being open to getting hurt again.  Love is vulnerable.

I know that everyone moves at different speeds and rhythms of life.  I do not prescribe any universal methodology for moving on from the past.  The general truth of the matter is this: being vulnerable allows us to love again.

Life has so many things I love and near the top of my list is basketball.  I love the sport, the athleticism involved, the rules, and everything else about it.  I love playing.  I cannot play for about 2-3 weeks and it is going to kill me.  The day I step back onto those hardwood floors will be bittersweet though.  I will be very cautious and after some time, who knows how long or how many games I’ll have to play, push through and not allow fear of getting hurt and experiencing neck or back pain again and play.  Soon I will play with more muscle memory than fear.  Moving forward is important in little areas of life, however, not nearly as moving forward in large areas such as relationships in your life.  All we can do is control how we interact with this life.  May you be faced with your fear and push through and move on.  May you allow yourself to be vulnerable.  May you not forget the past, but forgive it.  May you reconcile your past and walk with your head up into your future.





Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hardwood Memoirs

Several times a week I find myself in a nostalgic reminder of my youth, an athletic sanctuary of sorts. Beautifully waxed hardwood floors glisten as my psyche reverts to days of glory, days when sport was all life was to me. As a child I grew up living across the street from a pretty large outdoor basketball court that was quite popular. During the summers in Florida it stays light outside until almost 10 sometimes. My brother and I would sleep in and after doing some chores laid out by mom, we’d fill up a couple old milk gallons with Kool-aid, grab a sleeve of plastic cups, a basketball, and make our march across the busy street of Merrill Road. Lake Lucina Elementary boated some stiff competition from neighborhood boys in those days. There was nothing more to the joy of life than running on that court with friends all day, letting basketball tire us out until we were forced to reconcile ourselves back to our home just in time for a little dinner before we would go back across the street to play until the sun went down. I’d suppose many childhood memories are like this. As I grew up playing basketball competitively seduced me and captured my attention throughout middle school and high school. I think there is something significant to competition, but see extra merit in the child-like freedom experienced when playing basketball. Many years passed, many moves made, and too many injuries had. I’m 27, married, and live in Carmel Indiana. I find myself in much different circumstances then I was growing up in Jacksonville Florida. One common thread is still basketball. I now find myself several times a week on the same court with the same group of guys, collectively expressing our inner-child.


I once read an article about Facebook personalities. It was interesting and pretty spot on. The article basically profiled a handful of personality types that can be found on Facebook. I think that stereotypes applied to oppress people are inappropriate, but will not go so far as to say some stereotypes are not spot on and actually pretty humorous. This would be the case on the basketball court and I think it beneficial to cover those here and now. I’m sure there are many more than I can think of, but here is a start at the types of guys I’ve experienced where I play currently.

Old School- Old guy, typically wears a lot of braces, fouls no matter what, and may even be the cat rocking goggles.

You can tell he used to be a baller- similar to Old School, but actually contributes, he may be several decades removed from his prime, but watching him play defense and making the right decisions for his team mates convinces you he used to be a baller. He is the guy who will set you a nice screen, always.

Wild Youth- The young gun who has no care for his or anyone else’s safety, typically dives on the floor for loose balls, always in the paint jumping for rebounds, and fearlessly running at full speed up and down the court. You always cringe when he guards you or if he is on your team, when he shoots or goes in for any layup. Age is not a factor, there are old guys who fall into this category too.

Didn’t make it and now is pissed at the world- This guy is actually good, but has a nasty attitude. He is always yelling at people for not making decisions he deems best. He is the one you hate playing with, even though you know he can put up the points. He is critical of everyone else and feels he has personally been called to scrutinize all his team mates. There is a high percentage chance he has a tattoo of a basketball or the Jordan brand logo. He is the only one that doesn’t realize how abrasive he is.

Napoleon- This is the guy you can tell your wife about when you get home. He is the guy that you warn all your friends you bring with you for the first time about. Without even knowing who he is after being on the court for about 2 minutes anyone can point him out. Usually 5’8” and under. He loves to yell at people, much like Didn’t make it and now is pissed at the world, without the skill level. He usually thinks he is the best guy on the floor and says things like, “I could drop 40 on you if I wanted.” He takes himself way too seriously and is oblivious to the reality that he is the laughing stock of the court. People will wait out games to avoid being on his team.

Coach- Guy is always coaching his team mates. No one listens to him, yet he continues to talk. He calls out plays and tells you he wants ball screens and points you to the post. He likes to yell at others also. He is the guy people talk about how much they dislike at the water fountain. Usually he and Napoleon can be one person.

Make it Rain- Typically not a regular, but shows up just enough so everyone knows he is this guy. He is usually the one you avoid passing too because he will throw the ball up from anywhere on the court with no sense of direction. He is notorious for blowing wide open lay ups.

Obviously too good to be playing with us- This is pretty self explanatory. His skill level far exceeds everyone else’s on the court. He is usually a pretty nice guy, but just isn’t fun to play with because he does whatever he wants when he wants and there is nothing you can do about it.

JUCO dreamer- This cat loves to talk about how many years of eligibility he still has and how he is going to a JUCO (junior college) to play so he can get transferred to a D1 school. He is always good and you can often get him mixed up with Obviously too good to be playing with us but the major difference is that he is always talking about where he will play ball. He doesn’t realize it, but the reason he didn’t make it and is still JUCO skipping is his attitude is poor and he doesn’t pass the ball.

Old man in the Corner- No one ever passes him the ball, but religiously he runs the court and spots up in the corner. On the rare occasion that he gets the ball he knocks the shot down perfectly. He plays sound defense and is always a lot stronger than you anticipate him to be, which you find out when he guards you. Nice guy but no one ever passes him the ball.

Foul- This guys always calls foul. If he misses or messes up a pass he will call foul. There is no discussion to be had, he will get his way or spiral into a mess of rage. Just surrender the calls and shake your head. Resistance is futile. He’s not even that good, but he always seems to drive and get to the rack, but can’t finish. No worries though because you fouled him anyways, at least that is what he thinks.

Here are some other links to some types of basketball players you may encounter. These are pretty humorous articles.

http://www.ploomy.com/2008/07/16/the-12-types-of-pickup-basketball-players-what-type-of-basketball-player-are-you/

http://thesportsgeeks.com/2009/11/24/common-pick-up-basketball-players-and-who-to-avoid/#

There is the minority group that really doesn’t’ fit into any of these stereotypes though. These guys range in skill level, but all have something in common, they realize it is just pick up ball. Mistakes are made with smiles, missed shots don’t ruin their day, and they usually gather while waiting for the next game and have conversations. They get to know each other by name, sometimes even go out for drinks. These guys are fun to play with.

The hardwood seems magical sometimes. You take a 40 year old married man who has three kids and is in the professional marketplace and put him out on the court and he transforms into something different. Why is it that when adults get out on this gym floor everyday reasoning goes to the wind? Humiliating others, yelling at strangers, and being an overall repulsive person overshadow what actually might be a nice dude. The game moves to fast to have this logical discussion, tempers flair, and most of the time people walk away frustrated. Maybe you’ve never been called out on the carpet or realized who you may be. Don’t forget it’s just pick up basketball and the reason you are playing it is because you are not a professional basketball player, so relax!