The Puppy Love Crush

We all dream of wanting, at least once in our lifetime, a moment when some good looking person sees you from across a room and they longingly stare at you. But what if that person isn’t so good looking? I was a youth camp counselor in Maine and our camp was treading where no other youth camps had gone before. Our camp joined underprivileged city kids and handicapped children together in the same week. This resulted in some unique challenges.

The highlight of the day for all the campers seemed to be the evening ballgame. They enjoyed seeing the whole staff joining them for a lively game of softball. We staff members would gather around the field; some would play in the game, while others would serve as base coaches and umpires. It was my turn this particular night to be the first base coach. As I took my place near the base, I was concentrating fully on the game. Nearby sat the typical host of girls that seemed to be more interested in the boys then the game. One little girl all of 13 years of age, had a crush each summer on a new boy. This summer was different because this summer it was my turn to be the object of her affections.

Let me describe this girl. She was slow and had some mental limitations. Despite her enthusiasm for life, I hate to say that a mud fence was more attractive than she was. Her spindly little legs looked like they were borrowed from Popeye’s girlfriend Olive Oyl, and she had a propensity to drool all the time. Being the good Christian counselor, I was friendly and nice to her, but I cringed how often I would catch her making doe eyes at me and it was unsettling.

Now as the baseball game commenced, I was oblivious to what was going on behind me. A couple of female staffers were prepping this homely girl to step out of the shadows of her puppy love. Moments later as I intently watched my base, I felt a tap on my left shoulder. Turning around to see who it was, this young girl in a flash jumped into my arms, grabbed my face, and lip locked a kiss on my lips that would have made Bogey and Bacall look like amateurs. It happened so fast, I didn’t know what hit me. Knowing my lips could never betray me, with the strength of Sampson I pried the love struck waif off me like a fly on flypaper. I immediately wiped her drool from my lips and felt nauseated from the realization. While it made me queasy, it had the opposite effect on her.

She walked back to her seat in the grass with all the confidence of a runway model and she was cheered by all the girls. That summer she had finally conquered her fears. We both learned a lot from that moment. I now know a kiss can make a girl smile non-stop for a full week. And me? If I jump and scream when you tap me on the shoulder, you’ll understand why.

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Can We Redefine Good? Thoughts on Ferguson, MO.

The story is told of a soldier who had been causing problems within Alexander the Great’s army. Alexander had heard from his lead commanders that a particular soldier had been reckless, undisciplined, and disrespectful to his superiors. With a lull in the day’s fighting, Alexander summoned the soldier before him to account for his insubordination. As the soldier entered the grand room and stood before the throne of the Emperor, nervousness overcame him for he knew why he was there. As he stood silently, Alexander studied him for a moment, looking down and inquiring, Alexander asked him, “What is your name?” The soldier in faltering voice stated, “Alexander my Emperor.” Instantaneously Alexander the Great jumped up from his seat and in a powerful voice yelled, “What did you say your name is?” A second time the soldier taken back replied, “Alexander.” The emperor in a fit of rage said, NO! MY NAME IS ALEXANDER, no man acts this way and does it with my name!” With eyes burning into the soul of the soldier, He issued a warning, “Change your actions or change your name, you will not betray my name!”

Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son (brings) grief to his mother.” As the cameras rolled in Ferguson, Missouri this past week we were given a storyline of a kind and gentle young man gunned down in his prime. A young man who was anxious to attend college and honor his family with his lofty goals. He was labeled a good kid, a gentle soul. The caveat was he would have accomplished all this except for one key event; a ruthless police officer for no reason took his life. Yet days later after the tear gas had cleared we saw a video of this “gentle giant” seeming to strong arm a store owner out of a box of cigars without paying for them. We also learn from a dozen witnesses the slain man unprovoked broke an officers eye socket moments before he lost his life. When the truth is fully released, will this slain young man get to keep his tag of being “good”?

As a society, what defines good? Is it being an Eagle Scout, walking old ladies across the street, is it visiting sick children in the hospital to bring them teddy bears, regular church attendance, never using drugs, what makes someone good? This week while dining in a restaurant, my wife and I saw two parents let their child scream and cry with nary a correction. The child’s actions went on interminably the full length of our breakfast. I wonder if I asked these parents if their child was a good boy they would answer emphatically, “yes!” But I bet if I walked around the restaurant and posed that same question to the rest of the patrons, their answers would be the polar opposite of the clueless parents.

I can recount famous politicians and educators with moral lapses, pastors and pundits with major character flaws, Hollywood stars who’ve betrayed their spouses, parents who never disciplined their children and begat selfish brats, yet despite all these transgressions, society allows them to keep their monikers of being “good.” I say it’s time we change.

Today, good needs to be defined by God’s yardstick. Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man what is good. And what does the Lord require? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Until I see that lived out in an individual, I’m withholding my label of good!

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It’s All in the Details

Have you ever taken a stroll in the neighborhood and inadvertently walked into a spider web. While you’re gyrating and jerking to free yourself of natures version of Glad Wrap, everyone else in the neighborhood thinks your IPOD is playing Hip Hop tunes. Besides the chance of swallowing a spider, the real angst in all of this was you never saw it coming. The web was transparent.

I enjoy my quiet times with my wife, but sometimes with her, I walk into the unforeseen web. Despite our decades together, she still pops off an occasional question I never saw coming. A conversation may go something like this, “Honey, do you remember the first time we met?” “Yes honey I do!” Then she’ll proceed, “What was I wearing when you first laid eyes on me?” And I’ll say, “Clothes!” Other questions might be, “I was reading a fascinating story on the most dangerous foods. Do you know the number one food that is responsible for early death? “Yes, wedding cake. The conversation always ends with, “You sure know how to ruin a mood.”

God never intended men to remember fashions, diets, exercise routines, or clothing styles. He only required men to remember three things in life; the Bible, sports stats, and anniversary dates. I know the first and third are true. Forget your anniversary once and you’ll never forget it again. Forget the first and God will make sure you never miss it again either. Men aren’t wired to remember the minor details of life. In fact, I feel as if I won the Nobel Peace prize if I just remember to replace the empty toilet paper roll in the master bathroom. I try to get my wife to high-five me every time I do, but it doesn’t seem to impress her as much as it does me.

When I think of my own lack of observance I am reminded of the story of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson. The two had been busy on a multitude of cases and found taking a few days camping in the great outdoors to be relaxing and refreshing. They had set up camp, left for the day to do some hunting and returned to their campsite in the evening. While they wearily got into their bed rolls, Sherlock Holmes getting comfortable finally looked up and said to his assistant, “What do you notice different about the view as opposed to last night my dear Watson?” Watson responded, “Well, I notice the Big Dipper has shifted five degrees to the west since we saw it last night.” “Excellent responded Holmes, what else do you notice?” Well said Watson, “The Moon is full and I can faintly pick out the planet Venus in the southern sky.” “Excellent indeed, you are correct” said Holmes. “But you are missing one very important factor that should be as obvious as the nose on your face.”

Stumped, Watson studied the sky yet another ten minutes before he finally turned to his boss and said, “I give up, what is the biggest difference tonight as opposed to last night?” To which Holmes replied, “It’s elementary my dear Watson, tonight we see stars, last night we did not. Someone stole our tent!”

John Henrik Clarke once said, “A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson.” One thing I’m confident about now that I’ve been married 30 years, and that is both God and my wife have my full attention!”

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The Tether Ball Meltdown

A bricklayer routinely complained about the contents of his lunch box. “I’m sick and tired of getting the same old thing!” he shouted one day. “Tonight, I’ll set my wife straight.” The next day, the men could hardly wait until lunchtime to hear what happened.

“You bet I told her off,” the bricklayer boasted. “I said, ‘No more of the same old stuff. Be creative!’ We had one whale of a fight, but I got my point across.” In front of an admiring audience, he opened his lunch box to find that his wife had packed; a coconut and a hammer.
It’s a life lesson that many of us must learn over and over again; kind words and deeds are more effective than angry ones.

This particular day was warm for a Maine summer. I was a camp counselor in the northwestern part of the state and I had been given the job of overseeing a game of tetherball. Tetherball is simple. A volleyball is attached to a tall pole by a nylon rope. The point of the game is two foes try to wrap the rope around the post (clockwise and counter clockwise) until the ball touches the post. It is then that the player can claim victory. A pudgy young teen named Anthony loved to play this game. Because of his disability with Downs Syndrome, everyone let him win all the time. He’d hit the ball, it would twirl around the pole only to bounce off the back of his head sometimes much to the delight of the spectators. One street wise preteen decided during this particular game, she was not going to give him any advantage. As quickly as Anthony hit the ball to her she jettisoned it back to him over his head. In repeated hits to the ball, she quickly wrapped the ball around the post and was quickly proclaimed the winner.

Since the outcome didn’t go all that well for Anthony, we wondered how he was going to react to his first loss. Everyone had always let him win, until now. Setting his steely eyes on her with his arms straight down by his sides, he promptly stomped over to her and faster than a cobra strike, ripped her halter top from her body. With a scream, all the girls stooped to pick up the errant piece of clothing and save her dignity. As we stood in shock over what had just happened, Anthony stood smiling with the biggest grin he could muster; he was vindicated.

I often think we are all a little like Anthony. If a person doesn’t do what we want or a situation doesn’t go the way we want it, we can sometimes do the unthinkable. Instead of us ripping off someone else’s garment, we rip off our own mask of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.

James 1:19-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger…for this is God’s desire.” I’m only asking, but couldn’t this biblical admonition be taught a little more often on the playground of our own live’s?

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