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20130121-103938.jpg“You are pathetic!”

The shouted words reverberated in my ears as we walked in the door last Saturday, and I immediately knew. I could see their owner jumping up and down, with the referee only a few small feet from his critic. Indeed, we had arrived at the scene of the crime, albeit a crime of passion.

Before we go on, some definitions are in order: “Pathetic, meaning, miserably inadequate”, to which I might say to last weekend’s protester, “Touché“?

How about “vitriolic“?

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These utterances occurred in a small Oklahoma hamlet, during a “game” designed to improve the health of its participants. How sadly ironic. You see, only a year prior to this past weekend, some residents of said unmentioned hamlet were in our neighborhood for a similar roundball match up, and the cursing and anger were present even then. Our young protagonist in the picture above was on the receiving end of the rhetoric, and he was not even on the floor or in uniform.

We spoke that night last year (my young protagonist friend and I) and at times over the year to follow, about what the rematch would be like “on their turf”. While it did not surprise, it sadly did serve to disappoint.

Is this what we’ve come to? Were he here today, BBall inventor Dr. James Naismith would likely not be smiling, and I can’t say that I would blame him.

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Our beloved “KD” has begun crossing the line publicly this year, and its a little sad to watch. I have examined and found myself guilty a time or two of possessing and expressing some “vitriol” during a game or two recently, but thankfully without said profanity. Still, that is no excuse.

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Here is some history of the game for us, courtesy of “Wikipedia”:

At Springfield YMCA, Naismith struggled with a rowdy class which was confined to indoor games throughout the harsh New England winter and thus was perpetually short-tempered. Under orders from Dr. Luther Gulick, head of Springfield YMCA Physical Education, Naismith was given 14 days to create an indoor game that would provide an “athletic distraction”: Gulick demanded that it would not take up much room, could help its track athletes to keep in shape and explicitly emphasized to “make it fair for all players and not too rough.”

Therein lies a great reminder: “…not too rough”. It’s a great message for us all, and a reminder of what it’s all about. It is only a game, and the true battles royale are of the heart, and not on the hardwood. Our true enemies are enthroned anger, hate, resentment, crime, poverty, and the like, and not our opponents in a contest of skill and will.

KD’s grandma took him to task in the public eye a week or two ago, and I wish we could all take a lesson from her message.

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Our young protagonist and I have visited this year about containing our anger, both on the court and in the stands, and thankfully we both passed muster in a tough place Saturday night, with him ultimately standing tall at half court the victor in both score and sportsmanship on that night.

We both pledge to continue that battle. I only hope KD can do the same. Thankfully we have his grandma to remind us.

I wonder if she likes small town basketball, as well? We’ve got room in our car…

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“It’s going to be a cold, chilly day out there”.. The words of Sunday morning’s weather forecast rang in my ears as I looked away to finish my newspaper article about the life and ways of OKC Thunder Coach Scott Brooks.

They both had garnered my attention, both the weather caster and the coach, but for different reasons. One, for using hyperbole to artificially inflate the conditions of a day that would be sunny and mild, like so many others. The other, for how he goes about his work, deflecting from opportunities to promote himself, and garnering praise in the process.

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It reminded me of the early days of TV weather, and yes, sadly, I can say I was alive and watching within that era. Harold Taft, he of 1960’s and 1970’s DFW Channel 5 fame would garner my attention as he talked about the weather and showed his hand drawn charts of what was happening in our atmosphere.

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Even in “those days” weather was big business, and the personalities would use tools at their disposal to draw our attention and garner viewers. In this age of computerized models and high tech visual aids, the personalities, and the hyperbole, still rule the day.

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As Sunday’s weathercast snippet played out, my mind went back to the article about Brooks, his upbringing, his work ethic, and what it really meant to garner the attention that he has. And, what does this word garner really mean?

Verb garner – acquire or deserve by one’s efforts or actions
earn
acquire, get – come into the possession of something concrete or abstract;
letter – win an athletic letter

Garnering attention. Garnering favor. Garnering praise. Garnering minutes. Garnering results.

We do lots of things in this day and age to garner attention. How we dress, what we drive, where we live, what we say: we Facebook and we blog, but I digress. Touché?

I know some garnerers. I also know some Garners. In this instance, they might be one in the same. As my son’s most recent high school basketball game ended, and ended badly, I said to the eldest namesake “your sons played well tonight”. The bewildered look I received back spoke volumes, so I clarified my thoughts: “they played hard and aggressive; they never quit working”. His eyes cleared, and hopefully he understood my point. His boys are garnerers, like their dad.

Garnering, in the truest sense of the word, takes effort. It takes work. All the fancy moves, fancy gear, and fancy words, in weathercasts, in basketball, and in life won’t win the battle for you. It takes hard work. It takes persistence. It takes dedication. It means putting your nose to the grindstone, sometimes even to the breaking point.

No one ever said garnering was easy; just ask this guy…
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*photo by Bonnie Howard

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To quote a tune, “I’m finding myself at a loss for words...”

As this Mercy Me song played over the airwaves earlier today, the funny thing was, it didn’t feel OK.

You see, around bedtime last night, the last thing I needed to be heard, and to hear, was the surround sound system coming from a neighbor’s house. It was surreal. I felt it first. Was it an earthquake? Was it thunder? It almost sounded like music. But, how could that be? The house was dark, and all of my (homebound) kids were going to sleep.

Shortly thereafter, one of those kids came into the room. “Do you hear that?”, they asked. “What is it?”. As it continued past the 10:00 PM hour, the same kid headed out into the front yard “to go ask them to turn it down”. That certainly wouldn’t do.

You see, there is protocol for these type of things, I suppose. Memory of decades gone by took me back to the 70’s, and hearing our neighbor in Texas bang on the door and tell my dad to “shut that dog up or he was going to shoot it”. We never really forged a relationship with those people over the 4 years we lived there. Go figure.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been in this house for over 5 years. We know most of my neighbors, and have a mild but modest first name basis relationship with almost all, save one. That one and I have waved a time or two, and engaged in a one sentence conversation a year or so back regarding a sprinkler system question. He probably thinks I should better tend to my yard. I might think he waters too much. Living downhill, I might have half a really green yard to prove out both assumed presumptions.

But, we don’t talk. We don’t have a relationship. And yet, we are right here together. That made the necessitated late night phone conversation all the more awkward. I didn’t want to spoil his fun. I like a good stereo experience almost as much as the next guy, or at least I thought so. But as we lay in our beds, we could feel the earth move under our feet…and our knees, and our elbows, and our pillows…

So, I made the call. Things got quiet. But, will we ever be truly “neighborly”? What can I do to be a better “neighbor”? What does that mean, anyway. And it got me to thinking. We both know, that is not always fun:

Luke 10:25-37:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

…even if it means a little more work in the yard, and a lot more tolerance for the surround sound, among other more significant things…like learning how to be a more engaged neighbor.

I’m finding myself at a loss for words. Maybe it will all turn out OK.

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Here I am, This is me
I come to this world so wild and free
Here I am, So young and strong
Right here in the place where I belong

It’s a new world
It’s a new start
It’s alive with the beating of a young heart
It’s a new day, In a new land
And it’s waiting for me
Here I am

It’s a new world, It’s a new start*

It has been quite a week, a full gamut of experiences that seems more like what would be experienced in a year. One week ago today, I was awaking in a hospital room in Texas with an ailing father. We had discussions about living a good life, and desiring a peaceful time to pass into the next. Today, he is out and improving.

A few days ago, Little Frau and I made a brief sub 72 hour escape by ourselves just to catch up on each other. In days gone by, we would do this type of thing regularly, but life and health have a way of placing binders on you, and it’s hard to break free.

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In the midst of it all, the twins, wild Mustangs in their own right, were away at camp. I would love to say “the babies”, but 15+ years out, that is no longer true. Upon their return home last evening, we were treated to tales of their week gone by. Camp is such an emotional experience, and I can’t help but feel proud of hearing about their experiences and how they responded and grew.

As last evening grew late, I left the girls to their wedding dress shows to join the boy in the other room playing FIFA World Cup on the Wii. After we chatted a bit, I dozed off on the couch, only to awake some time later to see that he’d found an old VHS copy of Spirit, and he asked if I would stay up to watch it with him. A new acquaintance early in the week used the phrase with me “there are no coincidences in our lives, only meaning”, and I took that to heart as Al-boy and I watched the movie together past the midnight hour.

He asked me if he’d seen this movie before. We had, when he was 5. He asked me if he had liked it. The answer was an obvious yes. As the credits rolled later, he talked of it being a good story, and thanked me for staying up to watch with him.

As I got up and stumbled on to bed, Little Frau shared some more of their stories from the week gone by, and the simple emotions tied up and portrayed in the movie finally connected with the experiences we’d all lived over the past seven days. And I cried, just a little. Deduct man card points now, if you insist, but it was all in order.

You see, life is all about rolling with the changes, and they seem to be coming faster and faster. As we watch our little Mustangs learn to fly, and how to remain grounded yet unfettered, I can’t help myself.

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Here I am, This is me
I come to this world so wild and free
Here I am, So young and strong
Right here in the place where I belong

It’s a new world
It’s a new start
It’s alive with the beating of a young heart
It’s a new day, In a new land
And it’s waiting for me
Here I am

*Spirit soundtrack Lyrics by Bryan “cuts like a knife” Adams. There is probably a whole separate analogy in that one, but maybe for some other day….

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Greetings from the shores of Lake Pettijohn. As you can see here, it is a lush place. No, to be truthful, much like Garrison Keillor’s mythical Lake Wobegon, Lake Pettijohn is a prairie home companion of the heart and the mind, for the water is just not there. Or is it? We’ll come back to that after a few words from our sponsors.

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I drove a van load of young men down to PSCC yesterday. Prior to the blowout (on the luggage trailer, not our van, thankfully) it was a surreally quiet experience, much different from my sponsor driving past. In years gone by, this trip was filled with caffeinated young men one upping each other and making bold predictions of their planned exploits in the week to come.

Not so this year. I asked them all to buckle up, and they all promptly went to sleep. What was the difference, you might ask? I wondered that as well. My only answer was that they were tired, and more mature. You see, this was no van load of freshmen, these were seniors. They had been down this road before, and maybe they were conserving energy for the true excitement that would lie ahead. Maybe they had aged, both in place and with Grace.

The phrase “Aging in Place” is a term often used in the retirement care industry, in which I have some limited experience or exposure. It essentially means your population is getting older with you while staying in the same place over an extended period of time. In that regard, I should also talk about the run to PSCC not being my only jaunt up and down I-35 South this weekend. And yet, I have not been down this road before.

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We learned a few days ago that my Dad has cancer. The prognosis is pretty good, but the C word is the C word, and it makes you take pause in how you view your world. I spent the better part of a 24 hour window alone with my Dad in his hospital room, just us, and the team of nurses that he is of course now on a first name basis with. Them, and the good folks from Fox News, but I digress.

You see, “the cancer”, as Forrest Gump would say, is a humbling opponent. It makes you think. As my Dad and I visited Friday night and into the day Saturday, we talked about a lot of things. We talked about where he was when Kennedy was shot (that is President Kennedy, not Al boy’s good friend of the same name, but I digress again), and Reagan as well. We talked about a negative result on a medical test actually being positive, and the opposite as well. We talked about how he has led a good life, with Christian children and grandchildren to show for it. We talked about being strong. It seems that, much like the boys from the van, my dad has both aged in Place, and also in Grace. He knows who he is, and where he is going. My hope and prayer is that I, the boys from Sprinter Van 5, and many others who may follow this road can do as well. And, with no blowouts, prayerfully. If they don’t rock your world, they can certainly wake you up to the possibilities.

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So, with that, we will sign off today from the “Beautiful Shores” Lake Pettijohn. Come on in with us, the water’s Great. It is sweet, by and by….

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Actually, I do. Maybe I go to extremes to avoid going to extremes. Once upon a time, in a land not so far far away, I might have said that in reverse. Comprende?

So, as I thought on this earlier today, the words of a Billy Joel tune rattled in my head:

Call me a joker, call me a fool
Right at this moment I’m totally cool
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife
I feel like I’m in the prime of my life
Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast
I don’t know how long this feeling will last
Maybe it’s only tonight

Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot
Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got
Maybe I’m headed over the hill
Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill
Tell me how much do you think you can take
Until the heart in you is starting to break?
Sometimes it feels like it will

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
You can be sure when I’m gone
I won’t be out there too long
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Out of the darkness, into the light
Leaving the scene of the crime
Either I’m wrong or I’m perfectly right every time
Sometimes I lie awake, night after night
Coming apart at the seams
Eager to please, ready to fight
Why do I go to extremes?

And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes

I can relate, and not. I think I will keep going, especially for today. As the words to a Mandesa song related to me as I turned the key to the Jeep a few moments ago this morning Why am I waiting for tomorrow…?”“. I don’t think I am.

Darling, I think you know why.

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I took my love and I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Till the landslide brought me down

As mentioned yesterday, we had an adventure, and a story yet to tell. That will come, in time, but as #1 son and I hoofed our way home yesterday, a flood of tunes library memories were conjured up as the music kept me alert and winging our way back home. Mark Shultz reminded me of the Sherpa. Fleetwood Mac, courtesy of Stevie Nicks’ songwriting, reminded me of our mountain trek team.

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too

The Sherpa told us on the mountaintop Wednesday how nothing can live up that high. Jesus went to the mountaintop to be close to God, but came back down to minister and to serve.

As I have been home today and dealing with the return to daily life, a landslide of sorts is in motion. I suspect my younger trek companions are feeling the same as they awoke in their own beds earlier today. Laundry, cleaning out the car, or maybe mowing the lawn was in order? Or, was there even more? A loved one’s illness? News of a family in trouble? Knowing that you go into an office full of week old tasks come Monday?

As a child, camp was always an emotional time: good emotional. Coming down off that high was always tough. This week’s mountain experience has been much the same. As an adult, coming down from the Rocky Mountain high is bittersweet, but not all that hard. I’ve been down this road before, and there are potential rewards around every turn, even at 1,000 feet above sea level.

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I, I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too
I’m getting older too

So, take my love, take it down
Oh climb a mountain and turn around
If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide will bring you down, down

And If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well maybe the landslide will bring it down
Oh oh, the landslide will bring it down

Landslides can be good. Emotional landslides can bring us back to a level where the air is richer and the living is fuller. Take heart. Mountaintops are going nowhere fast. You will ascend once again. God promises just that. John 14:1-3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

So, take my love, take it down
Oh climb a mountain and turn around….

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