Archives For reflection

I hate clowns.  Perhaps you should too.

This weekend Brooke and I will go on our annual pilgrimage with the kids downtown Nashville to see The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Yes, this is our third year of the madness. The kids absolutely love the animals and acrobats making death-defying flips in the air.  But every year we see those ridiculous clowns. We break out in a cold sweat when they approach us. I try to avoid hating anything but for some reason I am haunted by these crazies. For crying out loud there is a dedicated website dedicated to “clown hatred.”  It explains the rationale about clowns (my emphasis added):

They scare little kids (mine), they cause neurosis in some adults (me), they have big floppy feet (I have big feet, are they making fun of me?), they try to fit too many of their kind in a car, I could go on and on.

It was the movie Poltergeist (1982) that ruined me.  The scene where the clown disappears from the chair across from the boy and then attacks him is a recurring nightmare. I think after I saw that movie, I threw every stuffed animal clown I had in the house and quickly gave up watching Bozo the Clown.  Then Stephen King had to rub it in my face with the book/movie, IT.  Good grief.

I simply hate clowns. Sorry, it’s personal. There was a period of time as a kid when I was playing with my G.I. Joes and I would find unique ways to kill my stuffed animal clowns. I am sure some of them are nice and do some good things like attempt to cheer up children in hospitals. But I don’t buy it.

Truth is, I am a clown. I wear the mask of a clown too often. I make all sorts of facial expressions to make you think better of me. I try to entertain and show a lot of color but ultimately look just like every other clown out there. I hide behind the makeup. I try to be someone or something else.

The beautiful yet creepy song “John Wayne Gacy” written by Sufjan Stevens has a haunting line that always makes the hair on my arms stand up.  The notorious Chicago area serial killer John Wayne Gacy often dressed up as a clown to lure his victims. Sufjan saw something deeper at heart and expressed it in this line,

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid

So I may not be a serial killer but what do I hide? As a culture, I think we spend a lot of time and energy analyzing the sin of everyone else. I am incredibly guilty of that.  The song is a reminder that this mask I put on each day represents the sin of my life. Until I take off this mask and makeup, I cannot truly be the person God wants me to be. I am just a floppy-shoed fraud until then.

I take splice in 1 Samuel 16:7

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

I pray every day for an honest heart that shows compassion, love and the ‘real’ me God wants in this world.  May you as well. 

What about you?  Any clown stories you need to get off your chest?  

There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me.  And I learn something new from them every time I watch them.  I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish.  In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category.  There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams.  In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?

So what does one learn now?

I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father.  The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father.  I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.

I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone.  Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic.  There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project.  There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.

The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads.  I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us.  He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress.  I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would.  When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic.  The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day.  Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special.  We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.

A few months later my father lost his job.  During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him.  This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss.  Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened.  He lost his job.  There was good in it, though.  It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking.  He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.

But he still took me on that adventure.  He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.

In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time.  The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him.  As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc.  But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was.  His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off.  The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.

For my father and I, our rocket took off.  We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains.  God’s country.

You may not have a father in your life.  I can understand that the pain may be deep.  But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.

We can do it together and start by being there.

When I was 8 years old my family moved across town in Kansas City and found a lovely house that sat above the first hole of an executive (shortened) 9 hole golf course.  Like most kids that age, I was playing soccer, baseball, basketball, and tennis.  Later I even tried football. I was doing way too much but my parents were just trying to test out what I enjoyed and fit me best.  My grandparents that year bought me my first set of golf clubs to try out this new sport.  Thankfully we had a tremendous local junior golf program and I began that journey.

I was truly  hooked at 11 when I played my first golf tournament outside of that course.  It was the United Commercial Travelers Junior Golf Tournament qualifier for the state of Missouri.  It was a mere 9 hole qualifier and the night before the area received a lot of rain, which discouraged many players from even showing up.  The field ended up being about a dozen golfers qualifying to go to the national tournament in Victoria, British Columbia.  I can’t even remember what I scored that day but it was enough to earn the victory and get a free trip to Canada for the tournament.  My dad accompanied me on that memorable trip.

I remember thinking, “Wow, all golf tournaments must be like this.  Winning is pretty awesome.”

I remember not playing very well in Canada but what it did do was hook me into the game and so I began giving up other sports one by one.  The person who taught me golf told me I had to either quit baseball or golf, my swing would be mess unless I did so.  My summers became filled with traveling around Missouri and Kansas, playing in golf tournaments and spending endless hours practicing on the driving range and putting green.  Golf to me was perfect for my personality at the time.

Individual.

Me versus the course.

Me versus the others.

It thought it was perfect.

My college days playing for The University of Evansville

When high school came along I played on the school team.  For the first time in my life I was part of a team.  A golf team?  It is an individual sport, right?  If you have seen The Ryder Cup or The President’s Cup you usually witness a spirit among those players that is unlike any other time in their individual tournaments.  You will see high fives and cheers for each other in individual matches to succeed as well as select formats of two-man best ball and alternate shot.  In team golf there are still individual awards for lowest score but the most important prize goes to the team that wins.

I was hooked.

Throughout high school and eventually in college golf I was a moderate success on an individual basis.  There are 5-6 players that play in tournaments and I was usually the #3-#5 player.  I don’t recall any major wins individually but I do remember every big win our team made.  Even on a day I had a double-eagle in a high school tournament, what was more prominent is that our team, the Webster Groves High School “Statesmen” won that tournament and eventually went on to the state championship tournament. I was elected Captain of the team so it was my duty and pleasure to celebrate that feat. It felt amazing.

The 1997 Webster Groves HS “Statesmen” golf team

Life can be an individual journey. It is your life to live.  But you can’t live it alone and you surely cannot succeed without others.  Even professional golfers have a team of people with them to motivate, teach, and even just listen to them. Most of us in our jobs today work on an individual basis. That mentality is wrong. Look at any successful person in life and you’ll discover their teams.

I love the teams I’m a part of today: My team at work, my church St. Bartholomew, my men’s group, my close friends from Young Life, friends in Kansas City, St. Louis, Evansville, and Nashville, and I would be lost as can be without my family.

My last hole in my college golf was memorable for the most inglorious reason. I duck-hooked my drive into a lake and ended up with double-bogey. I remember being mad at myself because I felt like I let the team down.

I was blessed to graduate a semester early and later the team won a big tournament that spring. That is what I remember most. I’ll take the Ryder Cup competition any day.

Tell me about your teams.

 

 

My Funeral Music Mix

August 2, 2010 — 33 Comments

I’m not dying so don’t worry.

I apologize for the morbid post but I love music and I always find it fascinating to think through life’s ending in its dramatic way.

A great friend and mentor, Terri Adams, reminded me that these blogs will be read by my little girls one day and they can perhaps learn a thing or two about me.  No pressure, huh?

I started to think about my favorite music and the type that inspires me more than anything.  When Brooke and I got married, we put together a music mix that we gave out to those attending the wedding.  It was so much fun compiling the music that most inspired us as a newly married couple.

Why not a funeral music mix?

Sorry but The Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” didn’t make the list but have fun with me.

I Will Not Take These Things For Granted-Toad the Wet Sprocket. My sister Sarah introduced me to them when she went off to college in 1992.  This song provides such a beautiful way to live life with no regrets and to embrace every experience and relationship.  Thank you Sarah!

The Bud Light Commercials, especially “Mr. Giant Taco Salad Inventor.”  I’m from St.Louis so the tie in works. How can you not bust out laughing?  You need a laugh after a funeral.

Heartland by U2. There is something about this song that says “home” to me.  Beautiful and underrated song from U2 during the Rattle & Hum age.

Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House: The title says it all.  Plus, I just love this band as they continue to evolve from the 1980s.

Remember the Mountain Bed by Wilco.  This song, written originally by Woody Guthrie and made popular by Wilco in their Mermaid Avenue albums.  It reminds me of falling in love with my wife up on the mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee.

A Sort of Homecoming by U2. This makes me think of a place in my heart coming home whether it be a physical place like Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, or Scotland where I have lived.  But, it’s also a powerful song about the struggle to move forward in Ireland despite its violent past 100 years.

Into The Mystic by Van Morrison.  Yes, both U2 and Van Morrison get multiple songs here.  This song is played on repeat during long driving trips. Listen to it and you’ll understand.

The Trapeze Swinger by Iron and Wine. When I first heard this, I felt it was much too long but looking through the lyrics it is quite authentic and just a beautiful piece to inspire by Sam Beam.  The lyrics are questionable in meaning to me but his voice and tempo of the song makes me smile, always.

In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty.  I remember hearing this first at church and one of our Young Life kids played violin to it.  I was in tears then and everytime it hits Brooke and I hear it we look at each other and the tears come back.  The lyrics best capture my faith.  Read the story of the song here.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm…

Jungle Love by Steve Miller Band.  Yes, why this song?  Oh…it was just the hippie theme song at Castaway, the Young Life camp I attended in 1994 when I became a Christian.  How could I forget this song?  It makes me want to dance everytime.

God of Wonders (Caedmon’s Call version).  This song always gets me pumped up for church or the start of a week and reminded me of the endless possibilities God provides.  Never doubt him, dream with him.

Count Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Sufjan Stevens version).  I used to hate this song in church.  When I heard Sufjan Stevens’ version, it came alive to me and the lyrics blew me away.  It reminds me of how much God blesses me in life by friends, family, shelter, and each moment in-between.

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.  I didn’t discover this song until I heard it at the Opening Ceremony at the 2010 Winter Olympics.  How great is that?  The song is almost 40 years old now and people still discover it.  What a lovely song to help reflect on an honest life of hope while acknowleding some regrets.  By the way, I can only think of one regret, quitting Boy Scouts.  Funny, huh?  But, in the end I know that it all was for a purpose.

Take It Back by Pink Floyd.  This song just makes me want to fly.

Wild Mountain Thyme by The Silencers. I fell in love with this song when I lived in Scotland.  It reminds me again that I need to bring my wife back to Scotland.  Oh, my second home.

And we’ll all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go?
Will you go?
Lassie will you go?

These Are The Days by Van Morrison. I love Van Morrison, I mean there are not many white people who understand how to incorporate “soul” into their music.  The Irish get it.  Van “the man” Morrison does that and this song in particular. Most don’t know much about his faith but you get the feel from these lyrics. They will carry me home one day.

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one great magician
Turned water into wine

These are the days now that we must savour
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
and you’ve got to hold them, in your heart

Dance on and live well everyone.

I’m pretty sure this mix will evolve throughout life as new music moves me but it was challenging to put  this together and I hope you enjoyed.

For my daughters, I hope you learned more about me in the process and make your own mix tape of life.

What do you see as your top song you’d like played at your funeral?

Why?

Is there a story behind that song to you?

—— additional song added September 18th, 2012 ——

Learn Me Right by Mumford and Sons with Birdy. Such a beautiful song featured in the movie Brave (2012). It makes me want to fly back and run through the hills and mountains of Scotland. It shouts out freedom and dreams. Mumford and Sons also recorded a wonderful sister song version on their 2012 album, Babel.

Have you ever been asked the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

If you have been asked this question in an interview or casually been by a friend, it is much tougher to answer than you think.  It stumps many who haven’t thoroughly thought through it. I’ve always been intrigued by it and recognize that it is extremely challenging to answer during some seasons in life.  Most often I think in context and began looking back at my life. Most of the time it didn’t turn out exactly how I thought.  But, I believe that many answers are found in the past. With the World Cup going on, let’s take a look at the last 20 during those years the World Cup occured.

Recently, I re-read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  In the book, Miller shares how when we look at our lives as is, it really isn’t that interesting.  But, if you think through it as one would in writing a screenplay for a movie, many of the parts pieced together can be quite an interesting and at times adventurous story.  In those parts of life, the drama and action are brought to life for the observer, reader, or watcher.  So, I started to think through my life as a story just as Don analyzed his very own.  I cannot remember every single thing like when I drove to school on day 267 in 1996 or on day 145 in 1999 when I debated whether or not to see one movie versus another.  Pictures do help, though but unless you have a detailed minute by minute journal of your life, you just won’t remember those things.

It is the memorable scenes that stick out.

Brooke and I on top of Mt. Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany

Here are my memorable scenes from the past 20 years:

1990…West Germany won the World Cup: I was 12, Saddam invaded Kuwait, I quit football and took on golf and soccer as my main sports, I remember my sister being on Student council, and I can’t remember much else.

1994…Brazil won the World Cup: I just came through a rough 1993 as a Freshman in High School, moved from Kansas City to St. Louis, discovered the amazing story of To Kill A Mockingbird (reading it in KC and STL), found friends at Young Life and they found me, I found Christ, and am still great friends with those with me in Young Life to this day. 1994 represented my “character arc” in many ways.

1998…France won the World Cup: I was a Sophmore at the University of Evansville, locked Stan Musial’s keys in his trunk while working at a country club in St. Louis(good times), I remember trying to ditch my Christian legalism and really try to understand grace in that year.

2002…Brazil won the World Cup: Great friends like Heath Hildebrandt, Rick Ewing, Josh Lang, Mike Schwacker, my father and others watched the World Cup games in the middle of the night and got to see USA make it to the quarterfinals.  The world was getting used to being “post-9/11.” I worked for a film distributor in St. Louis and was getting used to life post-college.  I also met Brooke and we began a friendship and the following year became more.

2006…Italy won the World Cup: Went to Spring Training to see the St. Louis Cardinals and they won the World Series later that year, Brooke and I celebrated our first year of marriage, we traveled to Germany for the World Cup to meet up with our friends Tobi and Curtis, saw my cousin returning from fighting in Iraq, and also traveled with my sister and brother-in-law.  During the group stages of the World Cup, we watched games in city squares with thousands of other people.  There is nothing like it in another country.  I also remember desperately trying to find a bathroom in the German Medieval town of Rothenburg. Oh the things that stick out.

2010…We shall see who wins.  This year has been interesting reflecting on what has happened since the last World Cup.  I got married in 2005, we have had 2 wonderful girls, moved across town, and I started a job in publishing, which I love and can see myself doing forever.  The year continues to surprise me.

Watching Germany play in the World Cup at a crowded market in Munich

So, what will the scenes of 2014 look like for us?

For me?

In 2014, I’ll have won my second Oscar, saved children and puppies from a burning house, win the US Open in golf, while finding time to cure malaria or some other disease.  Good pipe dreams but you never know what God can do.

In truth, I’d like to be in Brazil for the World Cup, see my oldest daughter graduate Kindergarten, be back to Hawaii with my wife (we spent our honeymoon there and we love it) finish writing a book, and plan out a round the world trip for the family for when they can “remember” it a few years later.  Who knows?  But it’s fun to look forward to what’s next.

In 2014…

Where will you be?   What will you be doing?  Who will be with you?

Envision it like a scene in a movie and describe it.