Sticks in the Middle

When you hear the same analogy twice in less than 24 hours, you have a hard time ignoring it. Especially when it solicits both joy and nostalgia.
Shinny.
Yep, shinny.
One night a good friend shares about leaving competitive hockey years ago, which leads to discussing others we know of who have done the same. All siting the same lost feeling for the competitive game. But the eyes light up when we talk about what everyone really enjoys, just throwing the sticks in the middle of the ice and playing shinny till way past bedtime.
The next morning I’m listening to our mutual friend Stuart McLean on Vinyl Cafe, (he has a lot of friends), and he happens to talk about an old game of shinny from back in 1945. It’s made up, but great for the nostalgia bone. He shares how as the Great War was coming to a close, the members of the Canada and Czechoslovakia men’s teams were not interested in taking part in anything called ‘sudden death’. So, to decide the winner of that Allan Cup, they went into overtime the way everybody starts the game in the first place. You throw your sticks into the middle, make teams, and play until everyone has to go home.
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When I played hockey, my least favourite times were with a jersey, equipment and refs. Those were distanced from the joy and purity I found every school night at the rink down road. That was where I learned the most about hockey, and a fair bit about life and faith.
There were no fights.
Rarely did we have a winner.
Almost no hitting.
Some of the best moves I’d ever seen on skates.
The time on the clock was determined by when the person with the key wanted to shut off the lights and go home. But it had to be after 10pm.
I occasionally like to watch a pro hockey game on TV. In person it’s much better. But the further you are from the ice, the more you seem to be distanced from the joy and purity of what makes the game great. This becomes clearest to me when I consider games that have the lowest payout, but appear to have the most at stake. People go on and on about the fighting, or the hitting, or whatever other aspect that is not the game but is what they are enamoured with at the moment. But you put the pros on an outdoor rink, or say, put them in the Winter Olympics, and they play like they are little closer to what got them into the game in the first place. They play the game, and look a little like the guys I learned from by the end.
Joy in doing what they love. Together. Nothing at stake, yet giving everything in the moment.
Purity in the subject. Not in the details of the rule, but the actual nuances of the game. You might say, the art, not the science. All periphery items were exactly that: On the periphery.
Amazing what you can take away from a good game of shinny.

The X-Files changed working culture

The X-Files had a profound effect on me. And this new reboot on it did not let me down. In watching that first episode, it struck me why the philosophy of the show impacted so many GenXers just like me. It embodied a way of thinking. Here are a few common threads that stood out.

#TheTruthIsOutThere

The idea of pursuing your passion and working to get fired for what you think is right, is very GenX. Even if it gets blamed on the Millennials, they basically embodied an old idea. Fox Mulder played this role throughout the whole series. This sentiment was passed on to the coach of the Carolina Panthers, and recently reiterated as they soundly won the NFC championship: “You’ll eventually get fired anyway, so do what you feel is the right thing to do.”
I am working towards an older and bigger truth, an idea of what should be, beyond the curtain of reality. And that is a much bigger than a job.

#IWantToBelieve

This thing I am working at is not a maintenance role. And I may get fired for the pursuit. But I am working to discover a truth that is greater than just a mere existence to fill the space and time required to earn a paycheque.

There is something bigger. I look bored when I am forced to only uphold a mediocre standard. The pursuit and discovery of the greater truth, asking the terrifying questions, that is a calling.

#TheSmokingMan

He is the entity behind all the mysteries and road blocks. There will always seem to be someone with force and the wherewithal to keep things they want them, usually from behind the scenes. And they do not live the one who asks hard questions or demands that all may see the truth behind the curtain. The X-Files reminds me that this pursuit will always be terrifying to those who do not have the answers.

The Office Coffee Museum

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Bit of a giggle moment at the office yesterday. No, not the empty can of Maxwell House that has been there forever. It’s that breakfast tea!
It’s been sitting propped on the shelf for almost 3 years, and no one dares move it! Just a funny moment as we consider what it means to be living in a culture of curators. Even in our food space.
I double dog dare you to post your best staff coffee room pics. If you feel brave, maybe you’ll even post something from your home pantry!
Happy Saturday.

Historic Disruptions #Christmas

Last year I shared about my first Christmas as an adult, and you can refresh your memory on that post here:
https://realational.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/god-in-a-christmas-box/

This year I look back to Christmas eve 21 years ago. That’s right, the first Christmas my wife and I shared as a married couple. Certain parts of that momentous occasion stand out in my memory like it was yesterday. New bride, new love, new life together, new place, new job, all made for a fresh Christmas moment.

I recall my search for our Christmas tree. She said it was fine to go without one. Those who know me, know that is simply not acceptable. Due to my strict work schedule I did not have time to get the tree until Christmas was almost knocking at the door. Truth be told, it was kind of a family tradition to put it off, and then hunt down a tree by some unconventional method. I was simply continuing a historical lineage.

I drove all over the countryside looking for a tree, resisting the urge to simply fell a pine on crown land off some country back road. As the sun set, and my options slimmed, I drove further from home and further into defeat. Then, out of the blue, I stumbled upon a small cache of trees, in a small town, on someone’s front yard, somewhere near the end of my Christmas rope. I went to the door, only to realize that no one was at home. Of course, all normal people were doing something festive. I left my new bride at home alone, in the middle of the country, so I  could treat her to her first amazing Canadian yuletide.

Evidently, she was a godly woman already at that time… Or gracious… Or trapped…

Anyway, I was at a loss. Again, the urge to simply place a tree in my car and just drive away presented itself. Frustration can do that to a man. But my ethical muscles out wrestled my physical desires to be done with this venture. I walked over to the small grocery store across the street, and appeased my conscience.

“Do you know the people selling trees across the street?” I asked the bag boy.

“A little” He looked a little unsure of whether he should reveal any information. I may have looked a little disheveled at this point.

“Can you tell them I left $10 in their mailbox for a tree? Thanks.” I walked away feeling satisfied, and he looked confused.

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Tree in car, joy in my heart, I made my way home. I arrived to a warm reception, and my wonderful young bride preparing homemade decorations for the new tree. I had never seen anyone do that before. She was adjusting to get new surroundings, her new husband, and was making one of our new traditions. My heart melted. I’m not sure when I fell in love with my wife, but that Christmas eve stands out as a fall in love moment.

Our histories were officially disrupted as we embarked on making a new history together.

That seems to be a theme for Christmas, right from the beginning. The story turns, the unexpected happens, and what seemed unlikely is now a new history. God interrupted history in an unlikely manner, and we celebrate it. Why? Because Christ disrupts our history as people who tend to lock in on what we want to be a safe bet. A controlled, safe trajectory with no surprises. God just doesn’t play that game.

Happy disrupted history!

Your Message Here #Advent

“We didn’t do it (not sing cuss words) to avoid the parental advisory sticker. It’s not that we don’t use profanity in daily life. I’m a big fan of it. It’s a great way to sum up a feeling. When you’re writing lyrics, the last thing you want to do is cheat the music by summing up the message in a small phrase. We want to express ourselves to the fullest, and vulgarity doesn’t add anything special. We found just the opposite. If you don’t use it, you get your points across better.”
–Chester Bennington, singer and song writer for Linkin Park (Rolling Stone, March 14, 2002)
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I always liked this quote in discussing the importance of your message and method of delivery being aligned. Where did it come up? Teaching youth about living a life of faith that stands out for all the right reasons and is evident in all arenas of living. The passage quoted in the graphic sums this truth up so well. It is a message that is most evident in our methods of conveyance; particular when we did not intend to convey anything at all.

Advent is a season of messages conveyed. In particular, this is the week of love, a message the world craves and contrasts all at the same time. The days leading to the actual celebration of the birth of Christ are marked by this love. God taking on skin to create an image of His perfect communion with the people He is loving into eternity. He chose a messy scene historically, I imagine to show His compassionate interaction with our mess. Helpless, in danger, hunted, accepted by only a few. Feelings and circumstances we all identify with, and countered only by love. That message is historically deafening, largely because of the way it was sent.

Consider your message this week. What is spoken, what is exhibited, what is true to those listening and observing. The purity of your message may be maligned by the alternate messages you are sending unintentionally. The irony of the quote above is that the band did the exact opposite within a few years. The ‘Parental Advisory’ was very clearly placed on the jacket. Did the message change?

Waiting

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It’s funny how little patience we have when we feel stood up. We expect a large heaping of grace when the shoe is on the other foot.

Our foot to be exact.

Advent is an irony. We are waiting and anticipating even when we assume we are in control and content. Waiting for anything reminds me how tender the earthly balance of being full and empty truly is. The moment of grace experienced should result in the awareness of how universal the need is for all. Unfortunately while we wait we can easily forget the need. When we are full, we forget hunger.

While you wait for the Christmas celebration, remember how good it is to have someone waiting for you. Regardless of what time you show up.

Caught somewhere between hope and peace

As is usually the case, I found another op-ed debate piece in the New York Times both intriguing and challenging in our times. Have a gander, and then read on, or just read my post:

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/12/03/does-motive-matter-in-mass-shootings-like-the-one-in-san-bernadino

We are moving from the week of hope to the week of peace on the Advent calendar. Not surprisingly, those both prove to be a challenge to the average person these days. We are swimming in luxury and convenience, both of which were intended to create an experience absent of worry and trouble. Both are in high supply, and seemingly high demand. Not wanted, but readily given. Reviewing my recent conversations on social media and in person, regarding the frequency and mercurial motivations of these mass shootings, there is no end to solutions and supposed influences at work.

We are caught in-between.

Hope is a place of anticipation and relief. It is here we expect the coming King, the fulfilment of promises, the reward to those who waited. At least that is a large part of the Advent message. Hope is not fulfilment, no matter how deeply you wish for it. It may appear sad and forlorn in the darkest moments, but it is not despair. Despair is the absence of hope. We hope for all that we desire, and we hope our desires are true and pure.

Peace is tough. It has a sense of completion to it. It is whole. I cannot imagine a partial peace. I can only see and experience how my mind and heart crowd peace out with my fears and hurts. When I speak of a small sense of peace, it has more to do with my clouded vision and the ‘tinnitus of the soul’ which limits my spiritual hearing. That is why the peace surpasses all understanding, because when I have a handle on it, I probably was not in a place where I needed to fully comprehend it. It is when I do not understand that it strikes me, and I realize I had nothing to do with perfecting it; I had nothing left to fight against it.

In many ways hope sees its completion in the presence of peace, at least in how we experience it on this side of the veil.

But when we look at the world around us, that is being caught in between. It is a constant reminder that we cannot expect hope’s completion in this world. And we kid ourselves if we say we do not fall into this thought trap. When people let us down, when we are shocked by stupid actions, when we experience hate… those are all moments where we sought hope’s fulfilment in another. And it is at that moment where peace appears to be an impossibility.

This Advent, when you are feeling caught somewhere between hope and peace, be reminded that the Christ-child embodied both. Even when our vision is blurred and the world is too loud to hear the message.