Sunday Post 99: A Simple Gesture

I’d dropped the kids off at school this morning at 7:55. Yesterday we drove up at 7:54 and the driveway was empty. Today traffic was backed up to Six Forks Road.

I had on my flannel pants, bedroom shoes and a navy fleece pullover. My daily home brewed Starbucks was in my Disney World Wilderness Lodge refillable mug.

For some reason, the radio was off. On the drive back to the house, I was sort of lost in thought, dreading a couple of mandatory meetings I was facing later in the day. Not the ones with close coworkers, the ones with folks I didn’t know very well – wondering how they would respond to my proposals, wondering if conversation would be easy or forced.

As I rounded Brooks Avenue and breezed by the park, I noticed an elderly woman walking briskly and close to the curb. She was wearing a down filled white parka, the hood covering most of her gray hair. There was fur framing her face, her wire spectacles allowed her bright eyes to shine through.

As I neared the point where our morning paths would cross, I had a great view of her face. Her plump cheeks were rosy and her lips were upward. The expression on her face told me she was a deeply happy person. As I drove by, her eyebrows raised as did her right hand. Her body language shouted, “Be happy too!”

I wonder if she intended for her simple, single gesture to make such an impression on me. I’m guessing she does that to everyone. Why don’t I?

Sunday Post 98: Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving after Lisa died, I couldn’t sit at my parent’s dining room table.  There was something about that extra leaf – the additional chairs crowded around the dark walnut wood, the missing place setting, the stuffing she offered to make because she didn’t much like my parent’s South Carolina cornbread dressing – not on the table that year.

It was painful just to walk in their house.  There were so many good memories – and at the time, every single one of them seemed torn to shreds.

The second year, the meal was easier.  The family enjoyed conversation.  We didn’t avoid her name – but the memories shared brought more smiles than tears.  But it was still difficult to be thankful.  My focus was on what I lost, not what I had.

How do you bow your head and thank God when you feel He has taken your most valued relationship, your very best friend?

I think it starts when you stop looking within and begin looking out.  Anger is natural, but it’s also pretty selfish.

When I got to the point that I could put my life into perspective, when I could see how many others in this world had so many bigger obstacles than I had, then and only then could I find a reason to be thankful.  The real kicker came when I saw numerous others, who had suffered a great deal more than I, talking about how grateful they were for their many blessings.  I couldn’t see mine, and I certainly couldn’t see theirs.

This year is different.  This year, I see so much good.

My three girls

My good friends

All of the grandparents

Uncle Jesse, Aunt Sallie, Uncle Dash, Uncle Matt and Aunt Mel

My job and my co-workers

My church family

My home

and that’s just scratching the surface…

Sunday Post 85: The Other Cheek

I did something not very Christlike recently.  Well, that probably happens on a regular basis.  But this one sort of stuck with me.

I went to a movie last week with my brother-in-law Matt.  He had free tickets to The Bourne Legacy preview.  At first I thought someone had given him the tickets – I was thinking red carpet, reserved seats.  But when we arrived, I quickly discovered, as we waited in line hoping to get a seat, that the tix came from an insert in the paper.  No carpet; first come first served seating.  If you got there too late, you were out of luck.

If my co-workers and friends could all agree on one adjective to describe me, I think it would be “late.”  Yea, I was late picking Matt up.  Had to touch base with a co-worker before I left work, oh, and finish up that last email.  It was downhill from there.

We got to the theater about 30 minutes before the movie started.  It was almost full.  We were warned that we might not be able to sit together.  Although we would have preferred to, it wasn’t a huge deal.

Matt got popcorn while I scoped out seats.  I found two on the same row.  There was one guy, who had come to the movie alone, sitting between two open seats.  He was a slight dude with a scruffy beard, and he was having an intense conversation on his cell phone.  I motioned down the aisle – “Are those open?”

He nodded.

I walked to the middle of the aisle and said, “I need them both.  My buddy is coming.”

The guy nodded again.

I sat down.  Soon Matt walked in and sat on the other side of the iphone chatter.

Matt and I began a conversation and began passing popcorn over Scruffy Boy.  He didn’t flinch.  He also didn’t offer to switch seats with either of us.  Matt looked at me, “Did you ask him to switch seats?” 

I responded in a nice tone, “Nah, he’s been on the phone since I got here.” 

When the movie started, he finished his conversation.  I leaned over and asked, “Do you mind switching seats with me so I can share the popcorn with my buddy?  I don’t want to eat over your lap.”

He pondered my request for an uncomfortable amount of time.

“I don’t mind if you eat over me.”

Now the three seats were near the middle of the aisle.  The people in front of us were the same height, no big head blocking anyone’s view.  Why wouldn’t he switch seats?

“Seriously?” I inquired.

He didn’t respond.

At that point I was resigned to the fact that I was staying put.  And I thought, It’s not that big of a deal, we’re just going to watch a movie.  But as I sat there, I found myself thinking about what I might say to this dude after the credits rolled.  Most of the thoughts running through my head included an expletive.

And then, even though I really wasn’t hungry, I conjured up an incredible craving for the buttered morsels Matt held in his large white bag.  I leaned over Scruffy, “Matt, can I have some popcorn?”  He held the bag right over the knees.  “Thank you.”  I’m always polite.  I even intentionally took my time filling my hand with the treat, at one point just stretching my fingers in the top of the bag to prolong the time I reached over my nemisis.

Then, I poised my elbow conspicuously over the arm rest on his side of my seat and leaned my knees in his direction as well.  I was strategically trying to make him uncomfortable.  He sat with his arms folded across his chest – I saw to it that he couldn’t stretch out.

How ridiculous I thought his behavior, until I sat back and reviewed my own.

“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  Matthew 5:39

I’m glad my kids weren’t there.  What a poor, poor example their father set on how to treat your fellow-man.

Sunday Post 73: Precious and Holy

Posted by Danny

Every night, I enjoy putting my kids to bed. I usually do it individually – it’s the time of day that each kid and I have the opportunity to connect with no other distractions.

One thing we do during this time is pray. We thank God for our many blessings. There was a time, right after Lisa died, that the “appreciation” part of the prayer was short. So consumed with what I’d lost, I struggled to see that I still had a lot of good stuff in my life.

As one friend pointed out, “Danny Tanner, I don’t feel sorry for you.  You have a lot to be thankful for.”  Made me sort of get over my lack of ability to find some good, even in the midst of a lot of bad.

Each night I pray that my girls will make good decision in their lives with friendships, boys, and career. I guess my hope is that when they are faced with a tough choice, maybe a lightbulb will go off – MMM, maybe this was one of those decisions dad prayed about 6,000 times when I was growing up.

Having lost our mom to cancer, it seems like folks are quick to make us aware of the numerous families in our area who are battling cancer or who are left to pick up the pieces when a young parent dies. We don’t know many of these families personally, but we keep them on our list.

I’m proud of my girls. They’re developing compassion. When we hear about the mother in Eastern North Carolina with three boys and stage 4 colon cancer, for months they ask me if I’ve received a report on their family. If I forget to pray for them one night, my kids are quick to chime in with a passionate plea for their comfort.

We laugh as we pray – sometimes having to take a break because of the giggles. I think God has a sense of humor, and I don’t want them to think that prayer has to be stodgy.

Maybe this prayer time is less for them and more for me. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that this 15 minutes each night is the most precious and holy time of my week.

Sunday Post 72: Swallow Your Camel

Posted by Danny

Some of the readers of this blog aren’t very happy with me. They didn’t really appreciate my take on all sin being created equal in my post entitled: Amendment 1.

I’m not here to argue about what is or is not a sin. It was simply my intent to remind us that we all screw up – yes, ALL of us. It says in the book of Matthew, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”  Jesus is cracking me up there, telling those mobs they swallow a camel. “Woe to you…you clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

One reader reminded me that Jesus did not condemn nor condone the woman who was caught in adultery. He did, however, tell her to go and sin no more.

That really made me think. Perhaps that passage is directed toward me. The problem is, I haven’t been able to “go and sin no more.” I try – but I just keep stumbling.

I was recently thinking about all of the poor, hungry people in the world. And then, I looked down at my feet. I was wearing a new pair of Cole Haan loafers I purchased in New York last weekend. That reminded me that on the same trip, I found another pair of loafers at Banana Republic – and they were on sale. So I bought them too.

And yet, during my posh weekend stay at the Essex House on Central Park South, 48,000 people on this earth died from issues related to hunger. I know that my greed and lack of financial generosity is sinful. And yet, last night I spent $30 on dinner with friends at Rudino’s Rooftop Bar. I’m clearly not sinning no more.

Maybe some of you have this figured out. Maybe you read “go and sin no more” and you stop.

I often do not. And so, I’m going to work to clean “the inside of my cup and dish” before I criticize the outward appearance of your cup and dish.

But once mine is clean, Katie bar the door – I’m gonna point out everything you do wrong!

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