Marching Band Season

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Earlier today a friend of mine posted that, a few weeks into football season, he finally got to see the marching band.

I responded that in my opinion seeing the marching band is the only reason to go to the game.

Yes.

I am a band geek.

Proud of it.

To those who participate, marching band teaches important life lessons:

1. You have to listen to each other.

Sure, the drums and the trumpets are easiest to hear, but each instrument adds to the overall sound. If you don’t listen for all the parts, you are likely to lag behind the group or rush ahead. The end result: chaos and confusion.

2. Measured steps result in success.

If everybody takes eight steps for every five yards, then you stay together and the designs and pictures your band leader worked so hard to lay out actually look as intended. Even though you can’t see the big picture from where you stand half way between the 40 yard line and the 35 yard line – from up in the stands the image is clear.

3. You have to step off the sideline to start the show.

You can practice. You can suit up in your uniform. You can memorize the music. But eventually, you have to step off and get going.

4. Some people will talk during your performance.

Perform anyway –for the ones who are paying attention and for yourself. Not everybody gets it. Not everybody cares. But some people do. Perform for them and ignore the skeptics.

5. Excellence means doing better than you did before, not necessarily better than the other guy.

Yes, there are marching band competitions. But a more common gathering is the band-spectacular-type event. These feature multiple bands, all performing their shows and cheering each other on. It’s about celebrating excellence, not “crushing” the competition.

6. Practice, practice, practice, and it will look easier than it really is.

Marching eight to five, executing various stops and turns, while simultaneously playing a musical instrument, and – in the case of a good old-fashioned grass field – trying not to have your pretty white band shoes sucked off into the mud – now THERE’S multi-tasking.

Did I mention you are probably wearing some crazy uniform that is two sizes too big or too small and has been held together over the years with safety pins and Velcro? And it is probably either roasting hot or freezing cold?

Did I mention that band people are some of the best people you will ever meet? Which brings us to:

7. Being part of something larger than yourself can be pretty awesome.

Teamwork and community are worth the effort.

March on, dear friends, march on.

*** (Photo by Dewayne R. Lowther)

If the Sky Could Talk

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Last night we emerged from a local restaurant to the view of an outstanding sunset. The sky is often beautiful, but this was one of those stop-in-your-tracks-and-stare sunsets.

It took my breath away. It spoke to my heart. It made me smile. It made me feel happy.

This morning as I headed out to the mailbox to get the paper, I stopped in my tracks again, craned my neck back to look straight up, and admired the moon.

The wispy clouds were moving across the face of the moon in a manner that reminded me of one of those time-lapse scenes in a movie.

It took my breath away. It spoke to my heart. It made me think. It made me wonder about all of the moments of human history that have played themselves out under the gaze of that very moon…like scenes in a movie.

I’ve heard the remark, “if walls could talk.”

But what if the sky could talk?

What would it say about us humans? Would it talk about our frequent inhumanity to one another?  Would it elaborate on our ability to create and appreciate beauty, to love and care for one another?

What would it say?

We get caught up in the endless bad news – the terror, the massacres, the hunger, the disease, the earthquakes, the wars, the floods.

The moon and stars have witnessed brutal violence and heart-wrenching sorrow.

But none of that is new. People have been horrible to each other and natural disasters have occurred since the beginning of time.

But the moon and stars have also witnessed tenderness, thoughtfulness, creativity, beauty and love.

That is not new either. People can be pretty wonderful. People can be pretty creative. The world is a marvelous and beautiful place.

What if the sky could talk?

In fact, I think it does.

“There will always be good and bad,” the sky says. “Call out the bad and address it. But don’t focus on it. Remember the good. Celebrate the good. Be the good.”

So, today, look for and be the good.

Look for the beauty.

If we do that, the sky’s the limit…

Psalm 19:1 declares: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”

*** (Photo by Zane Wagoner)

Alles Klar Herr Kommisar?

I don’t watch much television.

I start each morning on the treadmill, pinging back and forth between CNN’s Early Start and our local news.

That’s about it.

But I must admit that one of my favorite pastimes of late is to watch German television shows on my iPad via the magic of the ZDF app.

It’s interesting to watch the German news and get a different perspective on world events.

Among my favorite shows to watch, though, is “Soko Koeln” – a CSI-style drama. This one is set in Cologne, Germany, a city I lived in for a year while working for Radio Deutsche Welle.

The pattern for each episode goes something like this:

A dead body is found.

The special commission (Soko) sets about to solve the crime.

43 minutes later (in TV-time), they have ferreted out the guilty party or parties.

Cue the credits.

If only things were wrapped up so neatly in real life.

But of course they are not.

The police detectives on this show seem to always know just the right people to question, just the right questions to ask, and just the right object to dust for the incriminating fingerprints.

Everything somehow becomes clear – “Alles klar.”

Black and white. Suspect nabbed. Case closed.

This evening I watched one of my other favorites – “Die Rosenheim Cops.”

They got their man. (Believe it or not, the butler did it.)

As I watched the show, the day’s news stories continued to play across my mind – terrorists attacking innocent people at a shopping mall in Kenya; Christians being murdered during worship in Pakistan; and civil war continuing in Syria.

Unlike on TV, we don’t always have closure or understanding as to “why” these things occur. We don’t always see the guilty parties punished and brought to justice. We don’t always get closure.

“Alles Klar, Herr Kommisar?”

Nein.

Chew Toy

This morning I was having some trouble concentrating on my Bible study for the day.

(I am working through the prophets and am currently reading Hosea.)

I have had a couple of encounters this week that left me dealing with anger and disappointment in some people I don’t feel are acting awfully “Christ-like”.

In fact, they are acting awfully.

So, that’s where my mind kept going, but I tried to keep reading.

You know how when you are having trouble concentrating on reading, you tend to re-read the same sentence a bajillion times over?

Yeah, well, here was the sentence this morning:

“There is no faithfulness or loyalty,” it says in Hosea 4:1, “and no knowledge of God in the land.”

There goes my mind again, darting back to the anger and resentment.

Loyalty.

Knowledge of God.

I am struggling here.

I glance over to the right, and there, on the floor, are a couple of our dog’s chew toys. One is obviously much the worse for wear.

I feel like that toy looks.

The major theme of Hosea, according to my Wesley study Bible, is that God’s ultimate purpose is to reconcile the people to Himself, to one another (emphasis added), and to the entire created order.

And this I know: God’s ultimate purpose will be achieved.

So, while I deal with my anger and disappointment in people, I will hold onto that promise and remain loyal to that vision.

He wants loyalty and reconciliation.

Ultimately…He will get it.

I may feel like a chewed up dog toy this morning.

But that’s not how God sees us.

That’s not where things will stay.

Say Good Morning to the Sun

Cherry Nutrigrain bar on the dashboard

So I’m driving up the Interstate on the way to my annual health checkup.

Drinking my coffee and eating my cherry Nutrigrain bar.

Staying out of the way of “Those-Who-Must-Drive-Faster”.

Listening to K-LOVE radio.

The Newsboys are belting out “…My God is not dead – He’s surely alive…”

When, all of a sudden – BAM!

There is the sun in all its early-morning-glory-ness – streaming out, highlighting the bit of fog balanced over the hilltop.

It made me happy.

It made me actually smile out loud.

I didn’t have to get any shots at the doctor’s today.

But that shot of sunshine inoculated me for the day (and hopefully longer) – giving me patience and empathy for those I’ve encountered and a general-all-around positive outlook on the world.

There’s another song I hear sometimes on K-LOVE. It’s by Matt Redman. I think it puts into words and music what my heart felt this morning:

“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes”

So… that’s always my plan.

I sing good morning to the sun and then I step on the gas and head out into the day.

Bumpy Road

Photo of a Tire from a Honda Fit

On a number of occasions I have found myself reminding our son that – in the grand scheme of things – there are some things just not worth getting bent out of shape about. Yes, perhaps they are annoying; disappointing; and/or frustrating. But in the long run… not such a big deal.

Take a look around, I will say. There are people in this world with REAL problems. Try being a kid dodging bullets (or worse) in Syria. What about the teen who has lived in six foster homes in two months? What about the family dealing with an unexpected illness?

So I deliver my “Mom wisdom” and shake my head when he struggles to let go of an issue that – to me – does not seem all that big of a deal.

But, oh man! Then I find myself getting annoyed, frustrated and – yes – angry at the stupid new speed bumps some people installed along the road between my house and the rest of the world.

Three speed bumps.

All within 20 yards of each other.

The size bumps that require my car – a Honda Fit – to come to a complete STOP…three times…within 20 yards. Three times going down the hill. Three times coming back up the hill.

ARGH!

What were they thinking!?

Yeah, well, maybe they weren’t thinking.

I don’t like the bumps.

But, I am not dodging bullets and chemical weapons while driving my car over them. And, by the way, I HAVE a car.

So, take a look around, I should say to myself. Deep breath. Move on.

The road may get bumpy, but that’s life.

In the grand scheme of things, there are some things just not worth getting bent out of shape about.