You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2008.

Most fun (not to mention clever and smart) man ever. Exhibit A.

There are times when I don’t want to call. Like when I know a friend’s marriage is failing, and I know I should call, but it would be uncomfortable, and I don’t really know what to say to help. Or like when my cousin’s husband is dying with a brain tumor – is there anything comforting she hasn’t heard already? Or when a friend’s parent has died – the call is looming, I know I need to make it, but my stomach is in knots. She’s devastated, and nothing I can say is going to make her feel better, and I’d kind of like to just distance myself from the grief if at all possible.

But we have to call. Not e-mail. Not Facebook message. Call. As in using the phone.

It may require a herculean overcoming of nerves. In all likelihood, it is not going to be a fun conversation. Do it anyway. Until you’re the person in the distressing situation that others don’t want to call, you may not understand, but the beautiful thing about community is knowing that even when you are in the lowest parts of the deepest despair, someone cares about you enough to rise above the awkward conversation and call to tell you that she’s thinking about you.

Just call. You don’t have to offer groundbreaking advice or inspiring words of wisdom. Just tell the person that you know about the situation and you care. That’s enough.

I played a tennis match yesterday against two of the nicest opponents I’ve ever faced. They consistently applauded the good shots my partner and I made and were genuinely gracious when they lost (sure, they were sweet, but it still felt great to win). Their kindness made it difficult to be angry about iffy line calls and net slams, and it made for a most pleasant experience overall.

We often default to being catty or snippy or sarcastic or even jokingly abusive to the people around us because negativity almost always gets a laugh. But this almost always comes at the expense of the one being joked about.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was standing at a department store makeup counter when a guy walked by whom I had a serious crush on. Instead of saying hi to me, he looked at the lady helping me and said, “Oh, Beth doesn’t need makeup. She’s pretty just like she is.” I thought I would melt. I’m not even sure I got a reply out. And in thirteen years, I haven’t forgotten that encounter.

Mike and I have made it a point to never, ever, ever even jokingly say negative things about one another in social settings. The three seconds of uncomfortable laughter it might elicit is not worth the detriment to our marriage.

So just be nice. It’s way more fun.

  • College football
  • Sleeping with the windows open and waking up cold
  • Candy corn
  • High school football
  • Soup for supper
  • Fire
  • Fleece blankets

I’ve been looking forward to this day for months – the fall return of The Office and 30 Rock. Because we’ve been so intentional about not watching TV for the last several weeks, our plans to sit in front of it for at least two hours tonight feel like a first meal after a 40-day fast. I honestly think I’m more excited about these season premieres tonight because I haven’t been entranced by mindless television in the past few weeks.

The always insightful and witty Mike Nelson brings light to the fact that we really haven’t missed anything by not succumbing to television’s wily ways.

But on the serious, if you don’t watch The Office and 30 Rock, you should.

Update: Severely disappointed to find out that 30 Rock will not show a season premiere until October 30. That’s a long, long time.

For a variety of reasons, lately I’ve been pondering a graphic representation of community. What image correlates with the idea of gathering together in true biblical fellowship? The one thing that keeps coming to mind: casseroles.

Maybe it’s my Southern heritage. Or the fact that almost all of my fondest memories involve food. Or that I’ve been raised by a family of great cooks. Whatever the reason, when I think of belonging, community, fellowship, and togetherness, I invariably think of good food. Whether the occasion is joyful or mournful, once-in-a-lifetime or everyday, I feel a calling to choose the perfect side dish or dessert.

Why does food bring us together? Why do most of our social gatherings involve eating? And why, when Jesus was giving His disciples a way to remember Him, did He tell them to remember him by eating and drinking? I think it’s a way of making the association between nourishment for the body (food) and nourishment for the spirit (community). Both are vital to our existence, but God in His infinite creativity makes them fun at the same time. Kind of like sex.

Roughly 53,000 Chinese babies have gotten sick from contaminated formula and the Chinese government is just now beginning “to crack down.”  How is this possible? When I was in college, I and about thirty of my friends got sick from eating at a Wendy’s on Sunday, and by that Wednesday the Health Department was in control of the situation, having paid for all of our lab work and addressed and corrected the problem with the restaurant chain.

It’s beyond my realm of comprehension that a number of children only slightly less than the population of Johnson City, TN have been affected by contaminated milk – the vast majority of them requiring hospitalization – and no companies have been shut down and no one has been arrested.

Makes me want to adopt a whole bunch of Chinese babies.

  • Spinach
  • Bread
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 0-Calorie spray butter
  • Salt

I joke about it with my friends Caryn and Mandy, but it’s true – many of my most important life lessons have been the result of marching band. I spent eight years in junior high and high school as part of the band, my latter years in the flag corps, and for as much as I hated it at times, I wouldn’t trade it for anything now.

Because of band, I know that 15 minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.

Because of band, I am able to walk and do other things simultaneously. It’s difficult to twirl a flag and walk a specific path in-step with 249 other people and not drop something or hit someone. Although, admittedly, I still cannot walk and drink from a cup at the same time.

Because of band, I learned to lead a team of 34 other girls as peers and as their captain. And let me tell you, if you can lead 34 high school girls, you can lead anyone.

Because of band, I formed friendships that extend beyond Carrollton High School. There’s a kinship with fellow band members that ties us together, transcendent of space and time. It’s the understood dorky quality coupled with the knowledge that you can probably play the Theme from 2001 in your sleep.

Seldom does a friend feel more helpless than in the hour of grief. In most cases, we have the ability to turn a bad situation into one slightly less horrible either through some kind of purchase or great effort. But when it comes to grief – deep, consuming, soul-shaking grief – there isn’t much to be done.

Two and a half years ago, on a Thursday night, my best friend’s mother died from a sudden heart attack. As I drove to be with my friend the next day, the knot in my stomach grew at an inversely proportional rate to my distance from her house. Anything I could conceive to do to help seemed a meaningless action.

Then God called to my mind a single verse from Job:

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (2:13)

I was arrested by its simplicity. Don’t do anything. Don’t say a word. Just be there, in the grief, mourning together. The Jews call it sitting shiva, and I think it’s one of the most effective ways to help.