Sunday, December 30, 2012

Colts Win! Coach Wins More!

If you're from Indiana, Chuck Pagano is a household name. If you are not a Hoosier, I will tell you two things. One: the original meaning of 'Hoosier' is widely debated and is not important. Two: Chuck Pagano is the coach of the NFL team, the Colts, which plays in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for home games.

Now sports are usually not a topic I write about. Namely, because I know little about sports. My four kids played sports, but I was either chasing a toddler, working in the concession stand mixing up 'suicides' for thirsty players, or I was talking to other moms in the stands. Suffice it to say, I was better at laundering their uniforms than I was understanding the finer points of the game. Once my oldest son asked me: "Mom, how could you sit at all of our games and learn nothing?" Well, I learned plenty. None of which would ever help me understand why the NFL needs two kickers--one for punting and one for field goals. I mean...a football is kicked by, umm the foot. How hard can it be? But I digress.

Back to Coach Pagano. Today marked his first Sunday back on the sidelines after a rigorous treatment for leukemia. Now this guy had only coached three games here in Indy, before the Colts team docs addressed some fatigue and bruising Pagano had been experiencing. The diagnosis was made, a plan of treatment put in place, and the football world in Indy was on stand-by.

This afternoon, the coach returned to his team. And an amazing thing happened in that stadium. Everyone gave this survivor of leukemia a standing ovation-- even the visiting team and their coaches. I don't know what was more healing for the Coach; the radiation or the cheers radiating from the stands. His tear-filled eyes and solemn look of thanks said it all. It was the noisiest and most emotionally-filled 'Get Well' and 'Welcome Home' card in history.

And the Colts won. That's always good. But even better when it represents a victory off field as well. Cancer isn't choosey. It can ravage the body of a nine year old, a celebrity, someone's grandma, or the coach of a football team. Nothing brings one in touch with his inner self, faith, or mortality more than a bad diagnosis. But if the medical condition afflicts a person like Chuck Pagano, no amount of HIPAA privacy laws are going to work. Nope. If the person is well-known, the doctors' notes will be too. The public feels entitled to every detail. Funny, there's nothing so basic to humanity as puking in a basin, mustering the strength to shuffle to the toilet, or losing one's hair. Sick is sick. The protocol is the same: match symptoms with a diagnosis, form a plan of attack, say a lot of prayers. Kind of like that quote that says: "Expect the best. Plan for the worst. Take what comes."

It was a winning day in the stadium. And I think football had little to do with it. This Sunday, the disease was defeated. The victor appeared and claimed his prize: the love of a city. I know that Coach Pagano may have more health battles ahead, but there was such a spirit of healing in that stadium downtown and it was just the medicine he needed. 'Chuck Strong' was no longer a was    a reality.

Coach returns. Cancer loses. Colts win. City celebrates.

A well-played game coached by a man whose real game plan is wellness.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Worldly World Awaits

Well, here we are. Christmas once again. Time for me to get in the shower and hustle over to the Christmas Eve service at church. I have a cold and my head feels like it is full of snow. Or snot. But no matter....the holidays are still steeped in joy. All because of that wee King born in a manger, oh so many years ago.

We lose track of that, don't we? Sometimes we make this holiday season so hard and it is so simple. A birth that would change our hearts and souls. An unlikely group of visitors-rich and poor- in a place that would never have been considered an appropriate birthing site. All of this unfolding at a time when the census made Bethlehem seem like the Indiana State Fair. A complicated mess, when you think of it.

But life is messy. New life, especially. I have tried to wrap my head around delivering a child in a stable/cave/barn and I can't get past the sticky prickly straw. And no trained medical staff. I mean, yeah, I did the natural childbirth thing with four kids, so I get the no epidural protocol...but there's just something about a young girl being attended by a man who is trying to process pregnancy by the Holy Spirit plan. That puts a whole lot pressure on those involved.

But I am a Christian and I don't doubt a word of the Christmas story. I get it. I live it. I love it. But when we go through the motions of this season, we think perfection. Of greeting card loveliness and Hallmark movie endings; of warmth, tenderness, and a star's bright light. Of love so rich and rampant that hate hovers at the outermost regions of our lives. that world we don't need a Savior. We don't need second chances and redemption. It is because of darkness that we are sent a great light. We are both rich and poor in spirit, depending on the day. Makes great sense that simple, poor shepherds and wise rich men gathered at the manger. This is all of us at various stages of our lives.

We need that babe in the manger, of simple parents and a divine plan. As our news feeds and headlines shout of slaughter, greed, and evil too heinous to comprehend, once a year we stop and peer into that stable. We pause, reflect, and take our own personal census. We gaze skyward at stars and realize how rich we are, as we pull our little lambs closer to our hearts. And maybe we accept the gift that we have been bows or pretty wrapping, just a little guy, swaddled and silent with salvation and hope within those tiny fists. I would have rushed out to see him. How about you? Every year someone asks me what I want for Christmas. I give them the 'Sears Clearance Aisle' standard response. But in my heart I know what I want and need: to make it to the manger.

You may be asking this Christmas: what is the world coming to?
But I would rather say: look who is coming to this world!

Don't miss His coming! Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas - Hurry! Boy...Do We Need It!

Well, it's been a while. Life gets in the way of my 'ponderings' and I see some of you folks have still been peeking on the blog to see what I am yammering about today. Thank you for your kind readership and loyalty to what the ole' girl is up to now.

I think that Christmas is coming rather quickly. Am I ready? Heavens no. But that's okay...neither were Mary and Joseph. Afraid of what the holidays may hold? Own those feelings. The shepherds were afraid too, and the angels calmed them down. Feeling lost? Yep...our culture can do that to us. I suggest you just look up. That's what the Wise Men did, and that star did not fail them.

That's the good thing about coming to the manger. You don't need an E-Vite or pass code. No ticket or GPS. Just show up. No shirt no shoes no service? No problem. Come just as you are. Frazzled, disappointed, worried, heartbroken, exasperated, joyless. Come into the barn, move the sheep out of the way, smoosh down the straw and make yourself at home. Gaze at the new life and accept the Christ Child's guidance and freedom from the daily chains of life. Lots of power packed in that little fist. Plenty of grace and mercy tucked inside that tiny King. Feeling brave? Lift that infant from its shabby crib and cuddle the Prince of Peace. Kiss the face of face of your Creator and smile at all the good He has done in creating you. And remember always: Emmanuel craves your attention.

I have heard some folks are muttering about forgetting Christmas.
The recent tragedies have extinguished the fire from our souls. Our nation's economy is going over the cliff like the Grinch's sled. Wallets are empty and worry is on overtime. Pantries are turning folks away as their cupboards are bare. The world is mean.

Hmmm. No Christmas? My small brain cannot fathom such thinking. Christmas cannot come fast enough! We need the hope that is found in the manger. Our techno-minds need to unplug and just wonder about the wisdom in the prophecy. This world needs the color, music, and dance that we call Christmas. Cancel Christmas? Absolutely not. Every soul needs that stirring, fire, lullaby that soothes our sagging spirits.

The requirement of Christmas is really this: just show up. Love those who have been walking the journey with you. No gifts, please. Ribbons and bows, while pretty won't do it. Authentic conversations, bubbly giggles, warm hugs....this is the essence of the holiday. We make it so hard and it is so simple: a birthday in a barn of one who would change the world.

Years ago, I was filling in for a Sunday school teacher with kids of pre-school age. I was desperate for a lesson idea. I scribbled out a poem, traced their handprints and made a grand mess with glitter. But many parents would hang such handprints on their Christmas trees for years. I still have my daughter's handprint ornament. She was about four then, and is in her thirties, now. The poem goes like this:

                              Baby Jesus was asleep
                              So I tiptoed to his bed;
                              No one saw me sneaking
                              As I touched His little head.

                              Jesus raised His little fist
                              And spread His fingers apart...
                              First He touched my little hand
                              And then He touched my  heart.

We need a tiny hand to touch our hearts and fill us with hope.
Come. We are waiting with expectancy and anticipation.

Christmas hurry! Boy--and I mean Mary's boy-- do we need it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Stories of My Soul' FOR SALE!

Dear Readers of My Blog:

First of all, thank you for "looking over my shoulder while I ponder life" in this blog entitled, "Ongoing Stories of My Soul."

You are both brave and kind.

At the urging of my family, publisher, and checkbook, I am letting you know that if you would like to purchase my book, 'Stories of My Soul' which was published in 2007. It is available for the cost of $15. If I need to mail it to you---or to someone else, the cost is $17.

This might be just the gift you are needing for that special individual. I would be pleased to write a personal message to that dear person, if you so desire.

A book is usually more welcomed than Chia Pets or ill-fitting  underwear. Or, maybe more than an ill-fitting Chia Pet. Sigh.

Just contact me at: if you are interested.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Taking this Blog to the MAX!!

Sh-sh-sh. Promise you won't tell. If you do tell, I will be in my crate for a month....and I, Most Magnificent Max, the rescued canine wants none of that mess.

I just wanted you to know that what the DebLady says about me is not true. She thinks I am "not quite right" but I think that is quite wrong. I bring her glad tidings of great joy. I bring her the mail...sorted and in chunks. I organize her books...and remove the covers if they look tacky. I recycle all plastic by chewing as fast as I can. I chase the cat so she gets regular exercise. I trim the bushes to lessen the yard work. And now...this.

Holiday decorations! I saw her hauling them in over the weekend. She has a lot of stuff! I sat there and knew right then that this was going to take me into overtime. How in the world does she expect me to chew up one artificial tree, drag garland through the house, plus unwrap all of the gifts?? A dog only has so many hours in a day. Combine that with chasing Harper, barking at the mailman, and pulling down the curtains---my day is full!

This lady is making me crazy! All I ever hear is "MAX! Why did you tear up the pillows? Max...why did you chew up the markers and the dish towel??" Never one word of thanks or a doggie treat. Just that constant yammering about why I did this or that. You want to know WHY I did all of those things? Because you left them out for me while you were gone all day. Are you a moron or what? Dogs chew. We chomp. We break things down from a finished and complete state to the original. Consider us canine engineers. Jeesh! Why is this so hard to understand?

Well, I had better hurry up. DebLady will be back in here and I don't want her to know we talked. A dog has to vent, you know. I thought about calling the Dog Whisperer but I did not feel like whispering---I wanted to yell! I am under so much pressure to keep this house in shape.

And now this. All of these extra doodads sitting around just begging to be covered in dog slobber and teeth marks. I hope that Santa Paws still brings me all that is on my list. I deserve those steak bones and bacon treats.

Being the Most Magnificent Max is not easy. I only want to be appreciated and loved for all the extra that I do on her behalf.

Okay...I'm done. If I can't figure out how to post this blog, I will just chew up her laptop and blame it on the cat.

And if that doesn't work....I am just going to blame it on you. She won't smack you with a newspaper.

Will she??

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why? I Can Only Imagine...

In my teaching this past week, an old quote popped up. It goes something like this:
              "We are the only species who asks 'why'."
I would go a bit further and add,
                 "And we are the only species that imagines."
Now, the quantitive aspect of these bold quotes, is that if other species do indeed, ask why and imagine, we cannot measure such. And we all know that in science, it is what is measurable, observed, and can be proven that matters. As it should be. We can't look at an animal and say conclusively, " is sad." We can observe and conclude, "The animal's behavior is lethargic and without energy--this behavior is typical of an animal that is not interacting with its environment/caregivers due to a physical or mental occurrence." Then the process begins to look at what is known, the variables, and the evidence of such can lead to a conclusion.

Perhaps we will find out, one day, that we have been wrong. Our dogs might have imagined a day when we did nothing but play fetch with them, walk them, and fed that pesky cat last. The horse might have asked why getting shod was such a big deal. Or the salmon might have asked WHY swimming upstream was mandatory for spawning. Couldn't someone just have  let the term "go with the flow" apply to them?

And here is one I have pondered: why do we call all ladybugs 'lady'? We have some gender-confused bugs out there shouting from our overhead lights: "I am NOT a Lady bug...I am a Guy bug. Get it right!" And if a praying mantis is an atheist, he/she would not have been praying, but instead, just rubbing their legs together, just as some of us rub our hands together before diving into a steak or baked potato. It is about lunch, not religion. But let's not fault those early Greeks who peered up at the moon and called the dark spots 'Seas'. They knew water made dark patches on our planet, so there must be water on the moon. Still today, those regions are known as 'Sea of Storms' and 'Sea of Tranquility' and 'Sea of Vapors'. They weren't stupid; they just had limited access to proof.

I like asking why. And imagining. It takes us places we would never have gone without those mental springboards. The 'why' factor is the reason polio has been eradicated in most of the world. Once we ask 'why' something occurs, we can control its reason for being....thus a cure or improved quality of life. When we imagined what was over the Rocky Mountains--clear to the shores of the Pacific, we sent explorers like Lewis and Clark to see if what we thought was what existed. And in our focus to answer one 'why' we create countless tools to be used for civilization elsewhere. Been in a trauma room lately at your local hospital? Many of the monitors, computers, surgical tools, etc., were the result of 'spin-offs' from NASA's space initiatives. We don't waste what we discover...we imagine new applications for it. We're a pretty cool species, huh?

You may be snoozing through this blog. It isn't especially funny or poignant. But as I deal with youth on a daily basis....I am finding that telling them WHAT to think is, well, scary. But if I can empower them TO think....then questions will be raised, processed, and our species will be, oh so much better.

But there is a danger. What kids question and imagine can change lives. Ask Jonas Salk. Neil Armstrong. George Washington Carver. Sally Ride. Charles Drew. Harper Lee. Bill Gates. Steven Hawking. Robert Goddard. Oprah Winfrey. Benjamin Franklin. Robert Ballard. Beethoven. The Beatles. Eli Lilly. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ask your own kid what they could change--and why. Then look at your grandkids and think about  the potential that is perhaps, silent now---but one day soon, will have a big voice.

Why? Just imagine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Kid's First Look at Life: Kindergarten

Have you spent anytime recently in the presence of a kindergartener? Well, if so I hope you are as spellbound as I.

There is a certain magic about a kid mastering the sounds of letters and pronouncing words, as if sifting through a treasure chest of great toys. The energy that a little one exerts when puffing out initial sounds, medial vowels, and ending consonants is simply exhausting. Yet, it is fired by the thrill of 'owning' those words-- so when their little eyes spy them on the page the words are not strangers but friends.

Recent recollections of three particular kindergarteners has left me in a curricular euphoria. The wee-sized scientist who mystified his
older brother by showing three states of matter...solid, liquid, and gas with the well-known 'inflate the balloon with baking soda and vinegar' experiment. The curiosity and determination of building musical experiments with paper plates, peanuts, cardboard, glue, and chocolate wafers, was unmatched. Little fingers which shape the letters on a page with a determined pencil and outlook is their pathway to literacy.

And yes....the funny comments, too. Like the one grandson who came home the first week of school, tossed down his book bag, and pushed up his glasses and exclaimed: "Do you know that kindergarteners have to go ALL day? It's soooo long! I'm exhausted!" Bad day at the office, huh, kid?

It is announcing that the class gets a pizza party and when the parent said, "Yes, I know" (he had read it in an email), the little one inquired, "Was it on the NEWS?" Their world is so small yet so big. They know about trapezoids, acquiring mathematical theory as easily as a song about holidays. And just about the time we think their childhood is slipping away, they climb into your lap and beg for a story, wiggle their loose tooth, and tell you about Santa.

Kindergarteners learn by watching as much as doing. One of my grandsons was relating to his mom about the day of sharing pets. He was naming which kid brought what critter, when he finally said, "And Jacob brought a goldfish." When his mom asked how that went, our boy replied in all earnestness: "It was....quiet." So sincere, so straightforward, and so funny.

I have to hand it to those 'Early Childhood' educators. Anyone who thinks the younger they are the easier it is, has not been in a K-1 classroom. It is exhausting! While those little guys can be cute, they can be demanding, short-tempered, frustrating, and suck the life right out of ya! Everything is vitally important, must be shared at this very second, has to be fair, and cannot wait! This goes for everything from bladder control to 'what comes next after 19'. A kindergarten kid lives in the moment. No one is more important than the person speaking to them, and the glue can slide off the paper if they are engrossed in a tale from a pal. And if a band-aid is needed, in their mind it is time to call 911. Stat.

You know that poster that was around a few years ago that said, "Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten?" Think about it. The foundations of civilization are really rooted in these experiences: literacy, law and order, scientific principles, social interaction, mathematical equations, courtesy, honesty, creativity. A little kid sees worth in a broken crayon, a car with three wheels, the kid who cries. They are as forgiving as they are fun.

I could go on forever. Seeing the world through the eyes of a five or six year old is such an event of discovery. I don't want to miss a thing.

Thankfully, they won't allow it!