The Yankees Owe the Red Sox

The Yankees owe the Red Sox a lot.  Not just for the Babe, that is an obvious gift.  They owe the Red Sox on a much deeper level that we easily take for granted.

The Red Sox are the exceptional nemesis.  Not only that, they are the exceptional nemesis at the most inopportune times.  Take this year.

You can write reams about the Yankees farm system and player development paying off unbelievably.  You can write about the astonishing group that together is killing the home run total for a team…other teams have one or two bombers, the Yankees’ bat boy seems to be contributing to the total.  You can write about a struggling bullpen and starting rotation based on any one game, but not a season.

You can write about the best or near best record in baseball.  You can write about the pace for a gazillion wins.

And the Red Sox are right there with them — keeping up.  They breathe down the necks of the Yanks or the Yanks, if they slouch for a game, will chase the Red Sox.  No one else in the league has a nemesis breathing down their neck, staring them in the face, rejoicing every time they stumble because a half game is the season — facing that one game playoff.  Every time either team plays in the other’s house, it is a parachute drop into hell.  Not every park knows and already hates your name.

If the Yanks achieve greatness in the World Series, they will all need to sit down and write personal thank yous to — the Red Sox.  Or, they can sit and watch the Sox in the Series, and wait for THEIR thank yous.

They owe the Sox — a lot.

hearse thief

Medical schools starting two centuries ago faced a continuing need: corpses.  They needed recently healthy corpses.  They needed the pregnant, children, old or diseased and mostly: fresh corpses.

Dying as a pauper in London or New York made a fair wager — your corpse passed to a dissection class before a grave.  Medical schools harvested no corpses. Needing plausible deniability, there arose a trade providing corpses, and these men were bizarrely titled Resurrection Men, spitting on Christians’ hope of resurrection.

If caught, they faced grave robbing charges.  Or worse, if police suspected he hurried anyone from this life to help doctors-in-training learn surgery — he faced death — and of course, a final turn ‘through’ medical school.

Grave robbers.  Hearse thieves.  Everyone — murderers, thieves, prostitutes — looked down on them and feared, desperately feared passing through their hands.

Christians were offended at such a title for these men.  This ‘resurrection’ horrifically twisted hope in Christ.

But God has, if anything, a profound sense of humor, and a deep, deep sense of irony.

So Jesus hiked from the north country through valleys southward.  At evening, He climbed up from the road to tiny Nain.  Maybe Nain was built on Shunem’s ruins or nearby.  And in tiny Nain where birth and death were bookends for few surprises, everyone could recite a time when God let a town woman push the great Prophet Elisha to attempt, to ask the impossible.  All these centuries later, every child and agnostic knew the story.  Elisha promised her a son.  She bore him, and on a hot day in harvest he died.  She rode hellbent for leather straight to Mt. Carmel where prophets commune with God.

And she answered the Prophet’s servant pointedly asking, “Is all well with you?”

“Yes!”

“Is all well with your husband?”

“Yes.”

“Is all well with your child?”

And she lied, or she believed more than a cooling corpse waiting in the Prophet’s room she built for him.  “All is well!”

It shook him.  Such faith.  Such hope.  Elisha rushed from the mountain to spend an afternoon begging God to relent and resurrect the child.  God gave him back.

Centuries ago.  Where legends live.

So, Jesus walking into Shunem/Nain stopped a funeral for an only son: a widow’s final hope.  And disregarding all civility Jesus touched the hearse to talk to — the dead boy.

Who responded.  Jesus helped him from the hearse, gave him back to his mother, and everyone paraded back into town, leaving a bewildered hearse driver scratching his head.  The first victim of The Hearse Thief, doing a dress rehearsal for Himself soon enough, and all of us soon enough.

If Jesus wept at a later funeral, He surely smiled at this one, and God, as usual, had a laugh on any who call hearse thieves by such an exalted, holy title as Resurrection Man.

Tiny Things

I hopped out of the car, arguing with myself whether I get wetter by running or walking in rain, and settled on a fast walk.  Winter was not relinquishing her fingers on our weather.  This spring it has swung from cold to temperate or hotter four times.  I marked each occasion with four rounds of the same allergies.

I kept the rain off with my Yankees hat and a down vest and layers on the sleeves.  Jill was not along, so I quickly hunted the three things I needed for dinner and returned to the entrance to Walmart, groceries in two of those ephemeral bags that someone should figure how to build houses using.

And rain came down heavier making people pause before heading into the north wind delivering rain that soaked in the cold to the bone.  Then I was out and in it and laughing that I had not used a cart as I opened the door and flung groceries ahead of my hurrying hulk into the driver’s seat.  I turned on the car and heater.

And I had parked right in front of the cart return corral so I watched him shove his cart into the corral while shivering.  Then the young dad shoved his in behind him, and the shivering lady trying to shrink inside her T-shirt against the elements wheeled by and around the end to push her cart in.

In the cold and rain, they were returning carts and I marveled.  I have seen carts stranded in Walmarts….in other cities and neighborhoods.  It is a tiny thing for people to return carts in the cold and wet, but it is perched at the top of a slippery slope.

The nigh before I talked to a friend from Syria whose family was nowhere near the gas attacks.  Okay, alledged gas attacks.  Right.  I texted another friend in Nicaragua where unrest was spilling into the streets, and in our little country, people were taking another minute in the cold rain to stack carts to return to service.

In the same instant, putting carts away was as ephemeral as Walmart bags; more stolid against the chaos than I have reason to hope.  Someone has smiled on us, but we seemingly attack tiny things that have made us great; like a tower of Jenga blocks, we wonder how many we can pull out without crashing down the whole.

So I sat there warming up as the heater kicked in and a cold spring wind blew — grateful that in the cold, these people’s character had them pushing carts into corrals thinking no one saw, on a day when others do not.

Ideas and Ugly Babies

Ed Catmull in Creativity Inc. says Pixar’s culture follows a simple premise.  All ideas are born as ugly babies.  They take work.  They require input: iteratively.  Teams know they present repeatedly in front of all the creatives.

Two things.  One, people must give precise feedback in the scene where they lost you.  Two, they must offer a solution.

When you meet again in a month, you either must employ their proffered solution, or show why yours works better.

Great entrepreneurial feedback does that.  Someone puts her finger precisely on the blind spot and explains it.  Two, she offers a testable, clear solution.

My ugly baby is growing into a brilliant, awkward teen, but knows he ‘ll be challenged, tomorrow if not today.

Scary Answers

I teach a class called “Imagination” as part of the core curriculum for Entrepreneurship at OSU.  The OKSU OSU.  I teach and assign projects in an “Open Ended” manner, on purpose.  Even when I explain, “If I tell you how to do a journal entry, and what topics to cover, I would not have seen the 20+ formats I have seen work creatively for  so many students.”

Three students will drop the class immediately when we leave the room.

One bright eyed, intent student will ask, “How many words do you want in an entry?”

We have taught students in years of schooling that there is one correct answer, the teacher’s way of doing things, and no matter what the teacher says, she is absolutely looking for one answer in the discussion.  She will smile through all the other answers, but she ends the discussion when we arrive at the right answer.

In creativity, and in innovation, we can find hundreds of answers, and all might work. — with work.

Christianity seems similar.  Many people accept that we are a mess, in need of saving, and God did this elaborate, astonishing thing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we only have to accept.  One answer.  Does not demand too much to accept.

Craig Groeschel preached this morning in his Selfless series.  He described how to see God in the moment (even in the grind) and develop new answers, new growth, see the tough things through to the end.

Crickets.  Twenty people applaud, and the rest sit in super quiet mode, eyes a little glazed over.  Millions of correct answers — with work.  Too much for some people.

The on”oanswer fits all” is a great way to build audiences, to increase church attendance.  The millions of possible answers, the kind we must work out not knowing if we are right, trusting through the falling on your face times, and trusting God is guiding — builds Christ followers.

Graduate from the answers Someone else constructed, so you only have to answer “I accept” or “I am afraid” to the answers that mutate, grow, stretch us, slap us into next week, and force us to depend on God to follow God.

It is scarier, more demanding, and full of pitfalls, like all good adventures.

Urgency

I learned urgency where I think a lot of us did: in first grade.  I did not learn it in Kindergarten, because everything was measured and it was less than a half day and if you you were half way clever, no one even suspected that you ever went to the bathroom or restroom.  Really?  People were taking naps in there?

I learned urgency when seated in my little chair either paying attention to Mrs. Criswell or watching Billy Wiebold and Jim Holder eat paste; and my body would remind me.  I had needs.  I could feel a slight pressure that served to reassure me this was not going away.  It was only going to get worse.

And adults seemed clueless that this was fraught with peril.  Even when you don’t have to raise your hand and ask (Mrs. Criswell was forward thinking there), even when all you had to do was get up and go there was peril.  You see, getting up to go meant that every one knew.  I mean, every one was getting pretty worldly, so we all knew each other went to the restroom, and maybe resting came after, but they did not know I was going right then.

It paralyzed Kay.  Sitting there in enough petticoats to be in a movie with that unmistakable trickle running off the wood and steel chair onto linoleum, and the tears forming.  We all knew, then for sure. Maybe she forgot about that before she died or got married.

Anyway, one could sit there feeling a growing sense of urgency, while at the same time exploring ways to ignore it and hope it went away.  Possiblilities abounded, lunch could come two hours early, recess could be declared completely at random, or nuclear war drill would put everyone else under their desks and you blithely slippped in and out — unnoticed.

It’s funny, is it not?  We learn both urgency and ways to make it go away simultaneously, like countries, like churches, like global warming.

I learned Adult urgency from John Edmund Haggai.  Like any evangelist he had a great Thursday night sermon on the urgency of reaching the world for Christ.  Unlike all the rest, he also built an institute in a Third World locale, staffed with brilliant Third World faculty and leaders, and ways to get them trained and back into leadership positions in countries Baptists had no hope of reaching.

And here is the other wild thing about true urgency: it is not, like in the first grade, dependent on how we feel about it. It simply is.  Urgency is not a factor of age – I must do something about this before I die – or feeling.  It simply is.

John built the Haggai Institute when he was young.  You heard he was passionate about it, but it went far, far beyond how he felt about it…and millions of lives have been changed.

In the same way, it does not matter how I feel about climate change.  The world is hurting, species and habitats are vanishing, Christians believe they have been given dominion over the thing, so they should be the first, the most devout ecologists.

Quit sitting in your chair, jiggling your leg trying to figure a way to make this go away.  Get up, act on your urgency.  People are dying.  The world is suffering.

Sic ‘em.  Gotta go now.

Holy Day: Black Friday

The holy day or holiday is upon us.  Say all you can about Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving and the rest; the heavy weight American holiday is Black Friday.

To attract worshippers on this holiest of shopping days everyone rolls out the trimmings.  Walmart rolls stock around (you noticed it’s all on rollers, right?) to make lanes where you stand in line longer than for a ride at Six Flags over Botswana to pay for their must-have treasure.

In fact, just as with Christmas where we push the celebration into the day before and name it Christmas Eve, Black Friday deals start at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  Isn’t it great?  Otherwise those poor sales clerks would be stuck at home eating with family, being thankful, and watching this year’s football version of Everybody Hates Dallas!

And like other religious rites, Black Friday’s millions of devotees have a special designation conferred on them: consumers.  You know, like pigs and other species gobbling up everything without being sated.  “Consumers”.  Our economy would be kaput without them!  This holy day is for you!

Please enjoy places for you to commune with manufactured things in the aisles and end caps!  These cardboard worship spots spring up to enable our most sacred transaction: impulse buying!  Staying home?  Our online, private worship version begs your attention in the page margins you’re viewing, but wait!  Google puts what you looked at online in the past weeks in the margin: that last nudge you need to click “Put in Cart”!

It does not matter your creed, ethnicity, or gender!  We can all fight over that last toy, apparel item equally, all hoping to consume that most wonderful possibility: something new to me!

But wait there is more!  If your consuming can wait a few days, then you can be overcome with the chills of “Winter Clearance” that runs through the twelve days of Christmas!

Enough cynicism.  I have to go put what I want on Amazon for my family to get it right this year.