The first page of the introduction slapped me hard across my face:
This is what it said:
I don’t believe there has been a moment in history when the temptation to be a worship leader for all the wrong reasons has ever been greater, never a moment where the seduction of personal glory, fame, followers, adulation, money, self-gratification and earthly reward has more surrounded and infected this precious thing we call worship.
Then, I turned the other cheek so I could read it again.
I first heard about The Reset: Returning to the Heart of Worship and a Life of Undivided Devotion from a friend of mine. I was intrigued, so I purchased the short book, expecting to finish it in a day. It took me a week because I had to spend time reflecting after each chapter.
The book causes me to pray for those musicians who play or sing in multiple churches but who aren’t a part of any. At the same time, it reminds me of the times when I’ve settled for less than what God wants of me as a worshiper and a disciple of Jesus Christ.
If you desire to worship the Lord in a way that is deeper than music, status, and position, this book is for you.
This past Friday at 6am, I checked in to the hospital for my colonoscopy. I signed up to go first. I was happy to have the procedure because it meant I was finished with my prep: a clear liquid diet, four laxative pills causing explosive diarrhea, and two bottles of liquid solution torture water. My prep began at noon on Thursday and ended at 3am Friday morning.
Let’s just say I became very acquainted with my bathroom.
The morning of the procedure, I dressed in a hospital gown and jumped on my personal rolling bed. I had promised myself I would stay calm, but that was hard when the staff arrived. They asked me for my date of birth while they simultaneously took my temperature, blood pressure, and pulse.
One of the assistants asked the doctor, “Why do we ask all of these security questions for a colonoscopy? It’s not like he’s trying to sneak in here to take someone’s test!”
“That’s true,” said the doctor, before turning to me. “Any kind of music you’d like to hear?”
“Doesn’t matter to me,” I replied. “Whatever will help you all be calm and steady.”
“Ah,” he said. “Good answer. I think it’s time for some Michael.”
“Oh good,” one of the nurses replied as a grin covered her face.
As my IV was inserted, Michael Jackson sang, “I want to love you, PYT, Pretty Young Thing.”
Suddenly, Groucho Marx entered the room, removed his cigar, looked at me, and said, “So today, you get to be the guinea pig.”
My eyes grew large. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Don’t say that to someone about to have a procedure!” scolded the doctor.
Groucho shook his head and said, “Well, anyway, here’s his anesthesia iPad.”
I breathed in deeply as Michael Jackson switched to Blame It On The Boogie.
“We’re trying this for the first time,” said a nurse, trying to comfort me. “This iPad sign in, I mean, not your procedure.”
“We really are medical professionals,” said the doctor. “I promise.”
A nurse shook her head at his comment, turned to me and said, “Before we put you to sleep, can you turn onto your side please?”
I did as she instructed and noticed a monitor showing the ceiling. Something told me the picture was coming from the camera they would use to, well, you know.
“Ok,” said the anesthesiologist. “I’m putting you to sleep now. Believe me, you wouldn’t want it any other way. This might burn a bit at first.”
I started getting sleepy. The last thing I remember is the music switching to Montel Jordan’s This Is How We Do It.
I woke up later to hear a nurse say, “Looks like you’re waking up. Would you like some water?”
“Yeah,” I mumbled. “Thanks.”
I dressed as the nurse went for my water. She came back and shared my results as I sipped my water. Everything was fine.
As I stood to leave, she handed me a thank you note from the staff.
“We’re really glad you came,” she said as if I had visited her church.
“Ok,” I said, feeling awkward. “It sure is quiet at this end of the hall.”
“Oh, it will fill up soon. Your procedure was first this morning.”
“Oh yeah,” I said with a smile, “I always wanted to be number one, just not quite like this.”
Most people give up too early. Their closets are filled with unopened saxophone cases, shrink wrapped canvases, unassembled carpentry tools, unopened art supplies, unread books, unlearned language resources, and dusty exercise bikes with 2.4 miles on the odometer. Giving up on dreams can be devastating to people, but can also have disastrous results for others.
Here’s one example:
As a young man, Adolph Hitler applied to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and endured a two day entrance exam where his drawing and painting techniques were evaluated. He failed the entrance exam. He demanded an explanation. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that his art demonstrated a lack of talent for artistic painting, especially when it related to the human form.
Although devastated, young Adolph vowed to develop his skills and reapply the next year. However, he was distracted by his mother’s illness and abandoned most of his projects before they were completed. Hitler did reapply the next year, but wasn’t allowed to take the final artistic exam because of his lack of effort.
Hitler became homeless for a short time on the streets of Vienna, until he finally moved into a homeless shelter. Once there, he abandoned his art, sold his paintings to Jewish merchants, and joined the German military. It is said that on the day war was declared that he fell to his knees and thanked heaven.
Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, makes the following observation: “Call it an overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”
Don’t give up. Don’t give in to distractions. Pursue it, whatever it is, passionately. Pray for direction and work like your life, and mine, depended on it.
At school. At home. At church. On tv. Even in Comic books.
No matter where I went, someone was proclaiming, “You are what you eat” like they were the one who coined the phrase.
I’ll tell you a secret.
I never listened.
But you probably already knew that.
So now, decades later, I get to hear it again from my wife, various health care professionals, and other mean people. Only now, they often follow the phrase with a question, “So, if you believe that, then what does that make you?”
When my wife asks me that question, I almost lose it. I hold my head high, stick out my chest, and say, “Listen here, woman! I’ll be the one asking the questions in this house! Now go and fix me something filled with sugar and gluten.”
I don’t really say that. I’m not stupid.
Instead, I smile sweetly and quote the food pyramid from the 1970’s: “Well Honey, I’m 4 servings of fruits and vegetables, 4 servings of grains, 3 servings of dairy, and 2 servings of meats.”
Ok, that doesn’t happen either.
Honestly, my head hangs in shame, tears well up in my eyes, and I reply, “I’m a large pizza, a half gallon of ice cream, a bag of microwave popcorn, a gallon of soda, and one serving of broccoli.”
She shakes her head, takes a deep breath, and says, “John…”
“I’m sorry,” I interrupt. “Was that your broccoli?”
She has never laughed at that.
So I’m going back to the message I learned as a child.
I am what I eat.
My body will be made up of the foods I put into it.
If I consume healthy foods and water, I will see the benefits of eating healthy foods and water.
If I eat a lot of fat, greasy food, I will become a fat, greasy dude.
There I stood in my kitchen, frustrated beyond belief. The task before me was daunting and try as I might, I was unsuccessful. My wife had long since retired for the night. After what seemed an eternity, I surrendered to the agony of defeat and dropped the fresh new garbage bag to the floor, unopened.
I have a malady, a disorder or deficiency if you will. No matter how hard I try, I simply do not possess the ability to open a new garbage bag. I just can’t seem to pull the plastic apart. It’s like, when the garbage bags see me coming, they all cry out, “Here comes the buffoon! Everyone, fuse your molecular agencies together and make his attempts to fill you with trash unsuccessful!”
It’s a completely different story with my wife and garbage bags. She calls them liners which is just weird and wrong. While I’m asleep or at work, she must charm the bags so they will open for her. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say this, but when she is within a ten foot radius of the bags, they fling themselves into her hands, fully opened, ready to do her bidding. They practically fly through the kitchen and the rest of the house, picking up trash items and emptying smaller trash receptacles into themselves. I kid you not, one day I saw one of them vacuuming while another was cooking dinner.
If anything ever happens to my wife, I’ll have no choice but to become a hoarder. My house will be filled to overflowing with used tea bags, microwave popcorn bags (which I can open), and pizza boxes from years gone by. I’ll roam the streets for hours at a time, simply looking for fresh air and pondering my inadequacy as a functioning adult. Adults will see me and shake their heads in disgust. Women will run from me because of the stench. Small children will point at me and cry out, “Look, there’s trash house man! Isn’t he stupid? He never learned to open a garbage bag. Now he can’t even get to his bedroom because of all the trash.” Then one day, I’ll just disappear. People will wonder if I just buried myself in my own garbage or relocated to the city dump.
Yeah, I guess that’s my fate. Glad my wife is here to help me survive.
*Thanks to Dimitri Houtteman and Unsplash for the image
The dental hygienist was a size zero but her protective gear doubled her weight. She wore a weird combination of hazmat suit, welder’s gear, and executioner’s hood. Her breathing would make Darth Vader proud.
The dental chair jerked back as she thrust the interrogation lamp inches from my face.
“Shall we begin?” she asked in a creepy whisper.
“Ok,” I said tentatively.
She switched on the lamp and my face was enveloped with a zillion lumens of light. My eyes started to water. I wiped them quickly, hoping she wouldn’t think less of me.
She ignored my uncomfort and picked up an old spear from her rusty pile of tools on the floor.
“Open up!” she commanded with the authority of a drill sergeant.
I opened my mouth nervously and tried to move my lips and gums away from my teeth, even though they’re attached.
She laughed and shouted, “Wider!”
I may have pulled a muscle somewhere in my face as I obeyed. I opened my mouth wider than ever and then doubled it. I’m not sure because I was blinded by the light, but she may have actually stepped inside my mouth for the remainder of the examination.
She began the exam by jabbing the gums surrounding each of my teeth with a javelin used in the 1988 Olympic games. Then I was forced to remove all moisture from my head and upper torso by closing my mouth around her industrial strength straw vacuum. After using what sounded like a spin saw to coat my teeth in gritty goo, she rinsed my mouth with at least 20 gallons of water. Fortunately, she removed it once again with her liquid sucking torture device. Finally, she pulled out a large rope salvaged from the Mayflower and used it as dental floss. She jammed the rope (and probably a few chains) back and forth through the rows of my teeth as I wept silently and gripped the sides of my chair.
Then, her verbal assault began.
“You haven’t been flossing. You know you can get floss anywhere. Pharmacies, grocery stores, Walmart, Walgreens, Dollar General, they all have it. Even some gas stations sell dental floss. You have no excuse… No excuse.”
Finally, my punishment, uh, exam was over and I was able to close my mouth and breathe normally.
Suddenly, I heard upbeat 80’s music and the dentist popped in.
“So, how’s it going, my man?” he asked too energetically. “Open wide and let me peek inside.”
I opened my mouth as before and he examined my teeth for approximately 8-10 seconds.
“Looks great!” he cried as he shoved a plastic bag in my hand. Inside I found 6 inches of dental floss and a firm toothbrush that we’ll probably use to clean the grout between tiles.
“Thank you,” I replied to thin air, not realizing he had disappeared.
I crawled to the checkout desk and paid my copay, the most enjoyable part of my visit.
“See you in six months!” cried the clerk as I limped away.
I vowed at that moment to switch dentists, but I’ll probably forget, just like I forget to floss.
*Special thanks to Jonathan Borba and Unsplash for the image
Every so often, my wife proclaims that we (meaning me) need to eat healthier. This mostly happens on New Years Day, my birthday, our anniversary, and every morning. These proclamations are followed by conversations about water, produce and a lack of taste. Often, to help us (me) on our (my) journey to better health, we visit new grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and organic centers where you lose weight by spending all your money at the checkout.
Recently, we visited a bougie chain grocery store fairly new to our area. I learned the term bougie (also spelled bougee, boujee, boozhee, boojee…) from a coworker while visiting a local overpriced, groovy smoothie shop. I feel old and stale for writing this, but I learned more about the term from an old USA Today article. It comes from the word bourgeois and describes assumed high end tastes like driving your Tesla to get Root of Eggplant Juice after your Aqua Shiatsu massage.
To protect the bougie store’s identity, we’ll call it Tater Toes.
After a short wait which stretched across the front of the building and halfway to the back, we entered Tater Toes. What we found amazed us:
Banana Date Nut Bread Crisps
Organic Teriyaki Seaweed Snacks
Blood Orange Chocolate Chip Ricotta Cheese
Sriracha Air Fried Organic Avocado Bean Sprout Tomatillo Vegan Chicken Flavored Wafers on Dill Pickle Flavored Black Forest Grown Sticks.
You know, interesting things you wonder about but don’t buy unless someone makes you.
After walking down every row five or six times, we found two items we actually wanted to purchase: bananas and blueberries. We pushed them in our almost empty cart across the immaculately clean store to our enthusiastic cash register/checkout specialist. This guy was so friendly that I’m sure he must have turned down a management position at the Magic Kingdom in order to train for this job. After complimenting my wife’s jacket and offering to do our taxes, he asked if we had found everything we were looking for.
“Yes,” said my wife as if our cart was full. “But I was also wondering about your seasonal food products.”
He smiled in an understanding way as if he had just learned that we were raised by wolves in Canada’s northwest territory and didn’t understand how human society works.
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “Our seasonal items are so popular, you should probably buy them nine months in advance. The good news is that they’ll be on our shelves in a couple of months.”
We walked out, produce in hand, feeling like cave people who just encountered the wheel. We’re determined to learn the ways of bougie food grocery stores, even if it takes several more visits. In the meantime, I guess I’ll be standing in line outside of Tater Toes and eating a lot of organic bananas and blueberries.
I love watching George Bailey grow up and struggle to help a town he desperately wants to leave. I smile when George and Mary fall in love and move into an old abandoned house, when he’s in the business of helping people move into new homes. I love seeing Clarence, Angel Second Class, jump into the freezing water because George would jump in to save him. I love hating the miserly Mr. Potter, especially when he keeps the $8,000 that belongs to the Bailey Building and Loan.
Because It’s A Wonderful Life has become such a part of my Christmas traditions, I was surprised to learn that Jimmy Stewart almost declined the role of George Bailey. Having returned from his World War II military service, Stewart considered giving up acting as a career in lieu of something that might be considered “more important” to society. Conflicted over his decision, he sought advice from Lionel Barrymore, a seasoned actor in Hollywood. Barrymore encouraged Stewart to continue with acting and to accept the role of George Bailey, emphasizing the positive message of the movie. Fortunately, Mr. Stewart followed the advice of Mr. Barrymore and accepted the role of George Bailey. Ironically, Lionel Barrymore was also cast in the film as Mr. Potter, the evil rich nemesis of George Bailey.
Years ago, I wrote a paper on heroes and villains in movies, cartoons, and comics. In many fictitious worlds, heroes are all good and villains are all bad. If a villain repents, he often becomes all good (Like The Grinch, Scrooge, Anakin Skywalker, etc…) But in reality, only God is totally good and only Satan is totally bad. Most people in the land of the living are actually somewhere in between, even though their stories rarely create the conflict needed for best sellers and box office hits. So, how do we deal with this in storytelling? We create heroes and villains who are all good and all bad to continue the conflict to make the story interesting.
Unknowingly, we sometimes do the same thing in life.
I know I do.
I make people out to be all good or all bad because it enhances my own story. Life is just easier when there’s a villain. When there’s a bad guy in my life, it makes it easier for me to cast myself as the hero, the all good hero. Rather than striving for communication and understanding, it’s easier for me to blame my woes on those who are different from me, you know, the villains. When I’m struggling, I find myself creating Mr. Potters out of anyone and everyone who is an easy target. It’s a shame, because unlike the world of movie, cartoon, and comic book villains, behind the many Mr. Potters I’ve created are countless Lionel Barrymores, full of insight I just might need at just the right time.
No one ever told me that passing 50 meant I would become a preschooler.
Recently, I felt I deserved an extra dose of happiness, better known as a chili dog. It was an hour before dinner so I figured it was an appetizer. It was also top secret, meaning my wife was never supposed to know about it.
I purchased my extra dose of happiness from the cheapest fast food place available, pulled into the street, and took an enormous bite all the while trying to balance my food so it wouldn’t drip the overdone chili into my lap.
My happiness turned to sorrow when my first bite got stuck in my esophagus.
I parked in front of a Burger King and stood to my feet, thinking that would help. It didn’t.
I raised my arms over my head to help the food go down. It didn’t.
I took a big drink of soda thinking it would force it down. It didn’t. Instead, the drink mixed with the chili and I vomited it all over the Burger King parking lot which I’m sure was an appetizing site for those inside the restaurant window while trying to enjoy their Whopper.
Fortunately, I could breathe, but the food was still stuck in my throat.
I drove home, stopping to spit up in front of various homes and businesses. Finally I walked through my front door, thinking that being home and seeing my wife would magically cause the food to go down. It didn’t.
In between non productive vomiting spells, I explained the situation to my wife. Very calmly, she grabbed her purse and keys and said, “Come on, let’s take you to the doctor.”
As she drove me to the nearest urgent care, I sat with a garbage pail between my knees and realized she wasn’t going to destroy me over this.
Later, in the examination room, I managed to tell a doctor about what had happened. The doctor, who was at least 13, nodded without saying much. She left the room and came back with what she called an upper G.I. cocktail.
“Drink this,” she said. “It will relax your throat and help you swallow.”
“If I drink that, I’ll throw up,” I said.
“No you won’t,” she said.
So, I drank the cocktail and instantly threw it back up in the small sink.
“Ooo, that’s pretty gross,” she said. Not sure I’ve ever heard a medical professional say that in front of a patient before. “Let me get you another one.”
Thankfully, the second dose relaxed my esophagus and my food finally found its home in my stomach. I thanked my doctor, wished her luck at her upcoming Jr. High Homecoming dance, and drove home.
The moment I parked the car, my wife went berzerk. Her eyes grew to the size of basketballs and stared straight into my soul. Her mouth opened wide enough to swallow giant watermelons. Her mouth moved so fast that I heard the boom of the sound barrier break. Our neighbors opened their doors to see if some sort of explosion had taken place.
I deserved it. She was right.
Now, in regards to food, I feel like a preschooler. My wife regularly reminds me what I can and cannot eat and does so almost daily. I get the privilege of trying to digest kale and passing on most fast food delights. I often get the stink eye when ordering in restaurants. Sometimes, I even have to change my order because I’ve made the wrong choices.
Yeah, it’s the little things that make you feel loved. And even though I complain, I have to admit that she loves me. I know it’s her way of showing me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just heard the recess bell ring.