When the Watch Stops

Last week I joined my family for a bit of Spring Break vacation. There are a few essentials I pack for vacation: at least one pair of shorts; one Hawaiian shirt; one pair of Birkenstocks; and a stack of books. Really there is not much else one needs when taking a few days off. I did have to drive back to Augusta for a funeral but returned later that afternoon. It was there that I “unpacked” my watch. That is, I took my watch off to ignore for the remainder of the week. I love my watch, but I have no need of it when there are no schedules to observe, meetings to attend or appointments to keep. Perhaps you remember my watch? It was the one I bought in New York City for $38, which of course is a deal because anywhere else it is valued at $38,000 (I was told by the street vendor that it is a genuine Patek Philippe and the guy looked sincere so surely it is the truth, right?). My watch is self-winding and so when it is not worn it will eventually stop. I was amused when I glanced at my watch on the nightstand later that week and discovered it stopped keeping time a few days earlier. It reminded me these lines from a Jimmy Buffett song: I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man Floating down canal It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands It always just says “now” Now you may be thinking that I was had But this watch is never wrong And if I have trouble...

And The Oscar Goes to…

Along with a handful of other TV viewers we wasted a couple of hours watching the Oscars last Sunday evening. Why do we sacrifice useful hours before the “idiot box” when we could be doing something constructive – like lobbying for world hunger or working on my macaroni art? Is it to gawk at what the celebrities are wearing this year? Oh, please. Could it be the superficial prattle of the “talking heads” interviewing the movie stars as they make their grand entrances? Nah! The Academy Award Show itself is not particularly interesting either. I suppose that one of the biggest reasons I like to watch the “Oscars” each year is that deep down I nurture some fantasy that maybe I could get my hands on one of those trophies. Think about it for a moment – it would look good right beside my vast collection of two Little League baseball trophies and a recognition plaque for perfect attendance in the third grade. The problem is I have not quite figured out what category I could qualify for – since I have never even been in a movie. Maybe a big-time director will show up in church one Sunday, listen to my sermon and exuberantly exclaim, “For years we have been looking for a bearded-Baptist-minister-who-looks-like-a-rabbi type.” And the rest will be history. Don’t you think it would be sort of neat if we could walk around with Oscars and hand them out to deserving individuals? Maybe we could start a trend on Wednesday night. After our meal I could approach the podium and announce, “For the category of Best...

Do You Like a Challenge?

I like a good challenge, especially when it involves food. There is nothing that gets my competitive edge better sharpened than for someone to say to me “I bet you can’t eat…” Count me in. I will go for it, whatever “it” may be – five hot dogs and two hamburgers (2003); one whole fried chicken (most every week in college); a dozen Krispy Kremes (1991 – they have less calories if they are hot). One of the things that make us uniquely human is our response to challenges. Some meet their challenges on the ball field. Others find it in a studio, or a concert hall or a classroom. The desire to live is fundamentally an existential challenge. There are some challenges, I am sure, that we would rather not face. The challenge of raising teenagers is not always pleasant. There are health challenges that we would rather avoid, such as chronic illnesses and diseases. And then there is the challenge to confront and accept change, like getting older, or losing something (or someone) precious to us. Meeting a challenge, however, means that we are taking serious the will to live, to be human. Yet challenges of faith are often perceived as a lack of faith, or even loss of faith. It is my contention that a growing vibrant faith is nearly always under the weight of challenge. Doubt, despair, loneliness, and brokenness, are just some of the challenges you and I must face. These are at their root challenges of faith and therefore should not be avoided. This week we enter into the season of Lent and...

Lightered Knots

Many times when I go home to visit my family in Putnam County I will walk the woods for lightered knots, or “fat lightered.” Lightered is basically seasoned pine (usually a stump, but not always). Highly flammable, pieces of lightered are commonly used to start fires in the fireplace or campfire. I discovered a few years ago that you can actually buy lightered, but it is very expensive. The next thing you know people will be looking to buy other available products of nature like mistletoe or manure. At another time and another place in my past I gave an entire lightered stump to a neighbor. She had complained to Amy about how hard it was to start a fire in her fireplace. The next day we looked out the kitchen window and a steady plume of coal-black smoke was belching out of her chimney. I have never seen a volcano erupt but for the life of me I half expected lava to come out any minute. You guessed it; she put the entire stump in her fireplace. A little goes a long way. It is easy for us to fall prey to the fallacious thought that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing. Most often a little goes a long way. A smile, a handshake, or a kind word, are actions that do not require much…just a little and I find that is usually enough. Sometimes we think we have to smother, cover and slather everything in order to be effective. This method works for the Waffle House but it is not always...

The Sky is Falling!

Congratulations! You made it. We made it. We survived another year and 2006 is over and done with. For better or for worse we have made of it what we can and now it is history. The rest is up to grace. Did you stay awake long enough to countdown into the New Year? Some years it is a struggle for me – correct that, it can be sheer agony – just to stay awake by midnight. This year my family and I spent New Year’s Eve with some good friends and we laughed and danced our way into 2007. Do you remember 1999 and all the building anxiety regarding “Y2K”? Many were convinced that the world as we knew it was coming to an end because the computers were destined to fail when the year 200 began. During the 1950s computers were coded in such a way that it was thought it would be unable to read the year 2000. Nobody really worried about it in the 1950s but by the 90s it was a growing concern. By the time programmers were seriously addressing the problem 1.2 trillion lines of code had to be checked which was essentially impossible. We were “house-hunting” in 1999 and I remember looking at a house for sale where the current owners had stock-piled supplies for a year in their bonus room. According to many the sky was falling. But 1999 gently moved into history and we welcomed 2000 with no sign that this world was coming to an end. The truth is every New Year has its own set of challenges and...