The difference between two and seventeen is either fifteen, if counting items, or two and three-quarters, if counting hours. And because it is now seventeen, I am even angrier at you than before.
I’m angry because today, I, like many of you, am asking the LORD why he isn’t granting his mercy to our children while they are in school. Nearly every day I pray, “LORD have mercy on us and protect our children while they’re at school.” Once again, the LORD has not responded in kind. About this, I’ll have a talk with him later.
But there’s more. I’m angry at you, fellow parents, because you are obviously not teaching your children forgiveness. What is your problem? Why don’t you teach this to the little ones? Do you not know about forgiveness? Do you not believe in it? Do you think forgiveness is some kind of joke? Do you think forgiveness is intuitive, natural, or some logical deduction? Well, you are wrong. The price of forgiveness is blood. It cost the LORD his only son’s blood, it is costing us our children’s blood.
So help me God, if your negligence in teaching your child forgiveness ends up costing me my child in some future shooting, I will be more than angry. But I go too far. Do you see? To receive forgiveness from our heavenly father, we must–that means it’s not optional–forgive each other. I’m calmer now. Contemplating forgiveness will do that. And the old rugged cross carries incomprehensible peace, too.
But now you have a Son-of-God-given mission: By all means, take a moment to teach your child forgiveness. Do this soon. I’m begging you.
Now, back to talking to the LORD.
Michael Mann still owns pacing–he always will. But director Paul Thomas Anderson owns something else. What is it? I have not found the word yet. But when I do, it will describe the way Phantom Thread is not about dresses. It will also convey the way this motion picture about some dressmaker makes me want to wake up early every morning. Oh, and this word will describe how without Mr. Anderson spending any precious time on patronizing summaries, technical explanations, or unambiguous declarations, I felt like I learned something–something that I might have otherwise missed. I wonder, what will you learn?
Out doing some last and only minute Christmas shopping. I couldn’t help but notice that in the line ahead was some poor old lady with this disease. Fortunately, for me, the inability to purchase something not on sale isn’t contagious. Or unfortunately.
The following is something I have not shared with very many people. But it has been on my mind of late and I just want to put it down on paper, so to speak.
Lately, as I spend more and more time with African-Americans, I have come to see that everyone hates them. With Denver having a booming African population, it has become clear that even, and sometimes especially, Africans hate them. Naturally, this triggers my desire to defend them. But why?
Why do I love African-Americans so much? They aren’t my culture. We have very different lifestyles. There are some similarities in worldview, but once we leave the Gospel and Word of God, there is often a terrific break. My daughter loves the church and her friends there, but as she gets older, it’s going to be more and more difficult for her to live in both the white and black worlds. Yet I persist. Why? Why? Why? Why?
I’ll tell you.
So there I was. Balad, Iraq, ca. 2008 AD. It was my third of three deployments. My squadron–the aircrew at least–was exclusively male. The lone life support troop was often female. Can you imagine it? She’s half-way around the world, all by herself. Not all by herself, of course. She’s surrounded by men in their most primal environment. At this point in my story, you can probably guess that she was African-American. And she was Christian. I noticed this right away. The LORD was her rock.
One evening, she was with us at our dinner table. She ate quietly. The conversation was loose and the jokes were filthy. One of the more senior officers couldn’t seem to avoid vulgarities. Some might say he was in rare form with this woman present. It was like he was a fly and dick jokes were the light. He’d tell a story, and then the next would be worse. I kept looking towards her and I could tell she was not happy. I just wanted him to give it a rest. He didn’t.
When we returned from dinner, this woman went back to where she worked. There, for at least ninety nights, with no days off, she diligently cleaned and prepared all of our helmets, survival radios, vests, and most importantly the night vision goggles. She was the definition of mission-essential. She did this all by herself–save for when one of us would grace her with some attempted pleasantry.
Something inside me would not let the dinner scene go unaddressed. So I got off the couch and took a moment to walk over to where she worked and struck up a conversation. I said, fully expecting an explosion of gratitude, “If I was more of a man, I would have put a stop to the conversation you just had to listen to at dinner.”
I remember her stony eyes more vividly than her words, but I do remember that with great resolve, she said, “Would you have?” Then she repeated it, “Would you have?”
What about you, reader? Do you possess enough penetration to see my mistake?
She didn’t want some empathetic friend. She didn’t want some “we’re all in this together” moment. She wanted righteousness. And the fact that I admitted that I knew it was wrong, made me more guilty, more unrighteous, than my boss.
This young woman had something most of us don’t recognize and are unable to do anything more than talk about if we do see. It’s something only got by experience. It’s something that’s forgettable–but that would be a tragedy.
The more you hate on her, the more you kill it. And for what?
I don’t know. Maybe that might help you understand why I love African-Americans and think you should too.
“Yes,” I am aware that I am a hypocrite. But “no,” that is not going to deter me from changing my wicked ways and speaking truth to power (that’s right, ladies, you are powerful).
I cannot remember precisely when it began for me, but if I give it a thought, it was probably when I first headed from little pink house-Lenexa to the Rocky Mountains to ski as a teenager. It may have been the drastic difference in how you appeared on the mountain versus how you appeared in the restaurants, that is, the change from puffy snow-pants to form-fitting leggings.
Or maybe it was the cheerleaders’ underskirt attire during cold-weather events. Aren’t cheerleaders the rightful leaders when it comes to fashion?
Whatever it was, as a young man I wasn’t going to say “no”–if you weren’t. More form-fitting clothing, more of the time, I said!
But now, after two or so years of all y’all–no matter how short, tall, fat, or thin–wearing nothing except leggings, I’m telling you it is time to put your pants back on.
Oh, and here’s a tip for the next time this trend surfaces: I maybe could have lasted for a few more months if you wouldn’t have started wearing leggings that have massive patches of fabric missing around your not-naughty bits.
Here’s the tru tru. I have a daughter. As you know, I cannot fight every battle and win the war. So help a brother out! She deserves better from you.
“I’m so excited about St. Patrick’s Day because I get to wear green and my mom’s favorite color is green!”
“Ha. That’s true. When is it?”
“I think it’s Thursday next week.”
“Are you going to wear green?”
“Now H-, when have you ever seen me dress up for a holiday?”
“Do you want to get pinched?”
When attempting to describe my sense of humor to people who are new to it, I’ve used the label “cosmic humor”. When I’ve said that, I intended to convey that even if it seems like I am laughing at rather than with a person, I’m not laughing at the person at all. I’m laughing at the cosmic situation. Sometimes people get it, other times people do not. Recently a blogger friend asserted that she didn’t think my icebreaking attempts at the gym were funny. Upon reading that, I felt bad and have wanted to try to explain why they were funny, moreover I wanted to explain how I can laugh at someone without actually making fun of them. Two days ago my brother gave me just what I needed.
I got this text from him in which he shared that he had the amusing thought of trying to deduce the origin of the “he who smelt it dealt it” phrase. After giving that problem more than a passing moment’s thought, I couldn’t help but laugh. And then it hit me that besides this unexpectedly pleasant laugh, Sam also unintentionally gave me a perfect way with which I can describe my sense of humor and offer its brilliance to you for your own application in this crazy, crazy world.
Picture with me the first time a couple of human boys heard a fart. Picture the very first time–caveboy style. I’m not talking about the purposeful farting that happens around puberty or so, but when the lads were probably four or five years old and off a ways from the tribe, just screwing around in the woods. It’d have to have been an otherwise quiet moment when all of a sudden this silly noise emanates from one of the boys. Surprising even himself, the perpetrator turns to the other boy and smiles. The other boy responds in kind with a innocent chuckle and a, “What the heck was that?” expression on his face. And then I picture the boy that didn’t fart to playfully laugh with an attitude of, “That was a really funny sound your body just made,” which would likely be followed by the hopeful command: “Do it again!”
See how the non-farter is laughing at the farter, but not really? He’s more laughing at the fact that farting occurs. It’s the slightest of distinctions, but I promise it’s there. And that’s my humor. That’s how I laugh at everything. We’re all on this human journey and these bodies we have utter words and make faces and take things serious and believe they’re important or right etc. etc. And so I laugh. I see stuff happen, especially things I do, like walking up to random women and pointing out how they can do life better, and then I laugh. I laugh with an attitude of, “What the heck was that?” and “Can you believe my body (brain included), in all its glorious wonder, just made that noise?”
And sometimes, just sometimes, the stranger laughs at the sound with me. And in that moment–that rare moment–a great friendship forms.
So lighten up, because I could use more friends. And after all, we’re all just a bunch of farters.
Not to argue with Shakespeare, but from my humble experience all the world’s not a stage–it’s a runway. I don’t mean Top Gun runway, I mean runway like Zoolander–the place where fashion is king.
Topping a long list of very surprising situations in which I have discovered, post Air Force, that appearance reigns is last Saturday’s episode. I found myself wearing a black suit with a black open-collar button-down underneath it. A gold chain around my neck suspended a gold security officer badge. I was stationed at the front of a bar while the St. Patrick’s Day parade was passing by just outside. My mission: prevent liquid from passing by me in either direction.
At least I had a stool to sit on.
The guy who arranged the gig freely told me he wanted me specifically (out of three others) to man this highly visible post at the fairly nice bar because I had “the look.” It didn’t take long for a few of the older women from the group nearest me to come over.
“What are you? Off-duty cop?”
“Right. You’re the best dressed off-duty cop I’ve ever seen. What’s that badge say?”
“It’s just for show.”
“Sure it is. I like your glasses.”
“Can we get a picture with you?” Turning to a friend, she says, “Hey. Use my phone, I want to get a picture with this guy. Isn’t he the best-dressed cop you’ve seen?”
One of the older guys with them then says to me with a knowing nod, “It’s pays to be good-looking, no?”
That proved the day’s only photo-op (luckily–it was exhausting) but about three more times before the end of the shift I found myself unable to convince talkative admirers that I was not an off-duty policeman and that the badge was just a psychological aide to calmness and security for the less talkative. Can you imagine my consternation? I’d suggest envisioning an ironic, unbelieving smile for starters.
A new portrait of the world is slowly forming in my head. One that includes me dressing like a millionaire and parking my Elantra several brisk-paced blocks away.
After passing through the doors at 9am, he walks up to the nearest manned register.
Perturbed that she didn’t immediately speak up upon his approach, he clears his throat and asks, “Excuse me. I was wondering if there is perhaps a sales associate who can take my measurements for a suit? I have to order a tux online for my brother’s wedding, but I don’t know my measurements for the shirt and coat.”
She looks mildly confused but after a moment’s consideration replies, “You’ll have to go back to customer service for that.”
The line at customer service is short. The problems are not. Finally, it is his turn.
“Um, yes. I just need some help with finding my measurements for a suit. My brother is getting married and I have to reserve it online, but I don’t know my measurements. Do you have someone, maybe in the men’s department, who can help me with that?”
The bewildered woman silently stares at him when she suddenly remembers something. Pressing her radio button, she says, “Jewelry: I have a customer here who needs you to take his measurements.” Then she turns to the man and says, “Just head on back to the front to the-”
“Yes, I heard. Jewelry department,” he concludes for her, seriously considering skipping the wedding.
Before he is able to leave the area, an associate more experienced in customer service stops him.
“Excuse me, sir. What did you need help with?”
Annoyed at this extra and unwanted attention, he only slows his walk as he explains, “Oh, I just need some measurements for-”
“Well what size shirt do you wear?” she interrupts.
He freezes mid-stride and wishes he would’ve said, “Perhaps you couldn’t tell, but I don’t know my size. That’s why I’m here. I don’t know my size because I’m an idiot. What’s worse is you should have recognized me for what I am and ignored me. But you didn’t. It seems I may be contagious–all the more reason to let me by unmolested. But, again, you didn’t, so now you get to listen. The clue you missed was that you were talking to a man standing in a Kohl’s because he believed that someone employed here would have the dexterity to use a tape measure to help a brother out. In any case, please stop talking to me now. Mind you, I don’t point the finger your way for causing this situation. I accept the blame readily. You see, just like you, I should have recognized I’m an idiot because only idiots would shop at a store where everything is always 70% off. By definition that’s not possible. And now I have a question for you. What’s it like to work for a company whose destruction would improve the world?”
All below units are U.S. Customary
Neck – 16 1/2″
Chest – 42″
Sleeve – 36″
Brain – Pea-sized with little room for growth
Have I told you much about Greeny? The following paints as accurate a picture of this war hero as any, I suppose.
Taking off his skis Saturday afternoon, he stops and says, “I just learned something about myself. See that woman over there? I watched her come down the mountain on tele’s and thought, ‘You know. I could marry her.'”
“Wow, man. Pretty deep,” my brother and I’s wide-eyed response.
“No, you don’t understand. You know what my girlfriend said to me the other day? She said, ‘It’s cold out here.’ I couldn’t believe it. It was like 60 degrees. I told her, ‘You can say, ‘I’m cold.’ But you can’t say ‘It’s cold.’ You can’t say it because it is not true.”
He always has been a stickler for the truth.
What I really want to share though is what happened at the club Saturday night. The seven of us in the bachelor party play pool for a few hours until most are losing interest and ready to head back to the condo. I convince Greeny to hang out a bit longer, because, well, we’re good friends and you never know when some new war will break out etc, etc. It was about midnight, and we had had enough to drink that I finally suggest we tempt fate on the dance floor where there are probably eight ladies and only one dude. (Focus on the decent odds, not the lame club.)
The entire floor cleared when we walked onto it.
I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt my body move more from laughter fits than any attempt to bust a move. Greeny was more still. He gets this look. The wheels are clearly turning behind his thousand yard stare, but from experience I assure you not necessarily very fast. He scans the room one last time and then reports, “Pete. If you and I are in any other country in the world and walk onto a dance floor, the women would leave their seats to join us. Here, they return to them.”
Now, ladies, I know what you’re thinking.
Wait. No, no I don’t. Never have. Same for Greeny.