Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rivera Blows Save. Reveals Secret Of His Success.

In an interview following his first blown save of the season against the cross town rival Mets, Mariano Rivera inadvertently revealed the secret of his storied success. 

“I guess someone went to bed before the end of the game, didn’t they?” 

Rivera declined to name names.  “They know who they are,” is all he would say. 

Rivera has announced that he will retire at the end of the season, and barring some miracle, tonight was the last night he will pitch at Citi Field in Queens.  He has enjoyed tremendous success against the Mets, converting 22 of 25 save opportunities, including tonight’s blown save.

He shook his head with profound disappointment and said, “Could you not watch with me one hour?  Twenty minutes!?” 

Looking directly at the camera he said, “Let’s suck it up now.  If you don’t get on the ball, I’ll never get my playoff bonus this year.” 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Queasy On The Circle Of Life

I mowed the lawn today and I ran the mower over a garter snake.  I didn’t realize it until I saw a big chunk of it coiled in the driveway.  I thought it was the whole snake, until I got close and saw the truth.  Until I saw bits of snake in the grass.  For some reason, I wanted to find the head.  I stopped the mower, and like a macabre Easter egg hunt, searched the grass for it.  But I never found it. 

I’m not sure why this bothered me so much.  Why I felt this overwhelming need to apologize.  To ask forgiveness.  I wasn’t sure to who, or what exactly.  But that didn’t make the urge any less.

Of course the act was unintentional. Of course I couldn’t be held responsible. In fact, I never would have known if a large piece of the snake hadn’t landed in the driveway.  I would have finished and simply admired the uniform beauty of even an imperfect mutt of a lawn like mine.

I know “circle of life” and all that. Spinning in circles can sometimes make you sick to your stomach. 

Like the time I ran over the rabbit hole with the mower, the sickening thwack, thwack that stopped the motor.  I had no idea what had happened until I looked underneath, astonished, heartsick, the bloody pulps unrecognizable, and the single baby rabbit left, peering up out of the fur lined nest. Stone still. Practicing being invisible.

I've never been in a tornado. I’ve been following the news out of Oklahoma.  Is a tornado like a lawn mower passing overhead? 

An ELCA news release about the tragedy mentioned that two ELCA congregations were in the path of the storm.  They were not damaged.  The reporter who wrote the story quoted the rostered lay leader of the congregations, who proudly said that the “hand of God had protected the buildings.” 

I thought about that surviving baby rabbit peering out of the nest.  And I remembered how inadequate everything felt after that.  How I removed the dead rabbits, careful not to disturb the nest any further, and continued mowing because there was so much more left to do, and very little that I could say about it. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Someday Maybe I'll Have A Great Lawn

Lawns.  They can be an obsession.  On the TV sitcoms I watched growing up, men were concerned with three things.  Going to work.  The family car.  And the lawn. 

These were the tacit boundaries of a man's life.  You were either going to work, under the car, or doing something on or to the lawn.        

Now, I was a little worried.   I didn’t have a car, didn’t have a job and lawns where I lived were not much to write home about.  The houses where I grew up were spaced like kids in first grade gym class, at arms' length.  Kids in first grade have very short arms.     

But we lived next door to the church where my father was the pastor, so we probably had the biggest lawn of anyone I knew.  It felt like a little park.  The neighborhood kids loved to bring their sleds in the winter when it snowed because we also had a hill. 

When there wasn't snow on it, the lawn was pretty much green except the dirt parts where we played run the bases and home run derby. And the parts where we threw the ball for the dog to fetch.   Didn't seem like all that much to worry about. 

Maybe a job and a car wouldn't be such a big deal either when the time came.  I attribute this to my overriding, and sometimes unfounded, sense of optimism.  

Turns out jobs and cars were a little more complicated than I first believed.  Lawns?  Forget it.  Lawns always been way beyond my control.  Most of my adult life, I’ve lived in church parsonages where no one would ever consider seeding the lawn, not when they already put in electricity for Pete's sake. 

And besides there was always all those kids around playing run the bases, home run derby and the dogs slobbering after tennis balls.  Green looked pretty good to me most times.  Whatever was actually growing in it.   

It’s taken me a long time to appreciate a good lawn.  The kind that feels like a lush carpet.  A green so deep it seems right off a paint card from Home Depot.  I am in awe.

And, maybe some day I’ll get into having a great lawn and all the dedication and work involved.  But I’m still mostly happy with green.  And with grandkids now, and tricycles,  and dogs chasing squirrels, balls and each other, it’s just as well I think. 

When I want to appreciate a good lawn, I take the dogs and we go up the street, where the houses have some of the lushest lawns I have ever seen.  I stand and admire them and the dogs flop on their backs and roll around, groaning contentedly.  Then after awhile, they get up and shake and we go back home, where there’s squirrels to chase and balls to fetch on well worn paths of dirt that for me at least, have always been the surest path to happiness. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

It's Coming Through A Hole In The Air

10And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.  22I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 

President Obama held an oddly subdued news conference yesterday.  He was asked if he “had the juice” to complete his agenda.  He indignantly quoted Mark Twain, “the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”  As though he could simply will that energy.  But that kind of energy doesn’t come from pride.

Then, almost to prove the point, he proceeded to field questions about one dreary stalemate and debacle after another.  Gun background checks, immigration reform, sequester cuts, and perhaps the most troubling of all, if that’s even possible, the one hundred men in Guantánamo on a desperate hunger strike.   

One hundred men who have been imprisoned for more than eleven years now, without ever being charged, and despite having been been cleared for release over three years ago.  They remain suspended in legal limbo by the shameful political winds and our spineless political leaders.  Starving themselves to death is the only relief at their disposal. 

In stark contrast to this nightmare, John’s vision of a “new Jerusalem” in Revelation offers a sweeping vision of God’s redemption.  God’s redemption is not only of individuals.  It includes kings and nations.  Presidents and Prime Ministers.  Senators and Congressmen.  It is the redemption of the political processes that govern our lives and the policies which too often turn on the whim of self-serving politicians and their wealthy patrons while leaving the weak and the poor to fend for themselves.

John’s vision of redemption is the antithesis of the “nightly news” reality.  In the “new Jerusalem” God’s will saturates reality, like water soaking a dry sponge.  Nothing is left untouched.  God future doesn’t look down on the political reality, God lifts it and restores it to the life giving purpose God intended. 

Isn’t this what Jesus taught us to pray?  “...Your Kingdom come, your Will be done, here on earth, as it is in heaven.”  In heaven, the poor are fed.  Justice flows like a stream and God wipes away every tear.  

In teaching us to pray this way, Jesus is challenging us to live this way. But we can’t get there through pride, or greed, or fear.  We run out of juice before we’ve even started.  The only way to receive energy for the work ahead is to align ourselves with God’s future now. 

Not that it will be easy.  But in God’s future, the sweat and toil is part of the glorious fulfillment of what’s coming.