Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Blended Holiday

When I was a child (or young’n, as they say down here in Tennessee) we had distinct seasons. 

I’m not talking about winter, spring, summer, and fall. 

I’m talking about holiday seasons.

For whatever reason, it seemed like there was actually a marketing pause between holidays. 

But now….now there is a distinct climate change. 

Blame my carbon footprint if you must, but there is a noticeable “global warming” of holiday merchandising. 

And by “global” I mean “American”. 

It started slowly. 

Halloween decorations started showing up in stores around, say, late September.  Thanksgiving had a nice long run from November 1st until we all woke up from our turkey-induced comas. 

Christmas always enjoyed a pleasantly festive hoorah.  Or, if you were Jewish, like my family, you had eight whole days of gifts, dreidels and fried foods. 

New Years was next with the appropriate revelry. 

Then, a pause for a dignified remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Valentines, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, April Fools, and The Fourth of July were all checkpoints along the way.  But, like the proverbial frog in a stockpot, the heat is being turned up and no one seems to notice. 

Nowadays, Halloween is blended with “back-to-school”, Thanksgiving has gone the way of the dodo, and, if my predictions are correct, we will soon see a line of Easter themed, candy hearts in stores for Valentine’s day or people dressing as Santa Claus for Halloween. 

Even worse, we may see the blending of holiday names into unholy, inbred marketing unions:


St. Eastentine’s Day.

The Fools of July.

Oh The Madness! 

When will it end?

This year, however, there is an overlap that I feel is most appropriate. 

Thanksgiving blends with Advent.

The first Sunday of Advent falls on the weekend of Thanksgiving.

Isn’t that perfect?

Doesn’t a holiday dedicated to thanking God for His amazing provision flow seamlessly into a season of praising God for sending His Son?

After all, THAT is an expression of God’s ultimate provision. 

In fact, of the four Sundays of Advent (Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy), has anyone noticed the conspicuous absence of “Thanks”? 


I believe that it’s because thankfulness is assumed.  If God has given you hope, peace, love, and joy, you would think that one would be thankful. 

So that’s my “Thanksgidvent” hope for me, and for you.

That as we sit and enjoy our turkey and football (you can’t forget football!), no matter how humble or princely the meal, that we would remember the pinnacle of God’s provision, Jesus Christ. 

And we’d give thanks.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Deliverance Hamsters and The Geckos

Back when I was twelve years old, my middle school class had hamsters.

We began the year with two, but by June, we had a small tribe.

It was a good lesson for health class. 

It was also a good lesson for genetics, since the two original hamsters were closely related and thus produced mutant spawn.

Please know that when I use the term “mutant” I’m not talking about the cool “Spiderman” or “Fantastic Four” kind of mutants. 

I’m talking about the kind showcased in the movie “Deliverance”. 

These were backwoods, rural Appalachian, scary hamsters. 

It wasn’t pretty. 

Some of them were blind, some had stumps instead of legs, and all of them would pee on you when you tried to pick them up. 

So…come the end of school, the teacher asked who would like to take them home for the summer. 

No one wanted them. 

I, having not yet seen “Deliverance”, thought they were mildly cute and enjoyed the sound of their dueling banjos. 

I took them home. 

They lived about a month. 

I wish I could say that they died of complications due to their “inbredness”.

Unfortunately, they died from my neglect. 

One morning, I cleaned their cage out (it was one of those cool ones with two levels and a tube connecting them) and thought it would be nice for them to have some fresh air.  So I placed their nice clean cage in the shade on the deck, so that my little, incontinent friends could enjoy the morning breeze. 

But then things went South. 

My mom and I got in a fight over something (I can’t remember what) and then discovered that we were late for an appointment.  We ran out the door and rushed off. 

Now, here’s the funny thing about planetary movement. 

The spot where the shade is in the morning is not where the shade is in the afternoon…..what with the rotation of the Earth and all. 

And so, we returned to find our furry wards baked inside their cedar chipped habitat by the noonday sun. 

It was truly as terrible as it sounds. 

We gave them a proper burial by the shed in the backyard. 

Fast forward to this weekend. 

Laura works in a middle school where the science teacher has several animals for the students to enjoy.  This includes two gecko lizards named Izzy and Lizzy. 

Since our kids love animals but don’t have any pets of their own, we volunteered to keep them for the weekend. 

They came with instructions. 

1) Pick them up from behind their front legs. 

2) Don’t grab them from behind their front legs.  You’ll crush their lungs.

3) If they get scared, their tails will fall off. 

4) Handling them, looking at them, or taunting them, will scare them.

5) If they get too cold, their tails will fall off. 

6) Reading this list will make their tails fall off. 

With my history of killing class pets, I was a nervous wreck. 

Brehm, however, LOVED them.  His favorite thing to do was to hold them firmly, but gently, in his hand and pet their backs.  Apparently the geckos liked this because their tales never fell off. 

They would just rest in his hand while Brehm watched TV. 

Eventually I relaxed enough to let them climb up my shoulder and onto my head. 

They looked just like the Geico gecko but they never offered us insurance. 

I guess they considered us a risk. 

Lately I’ve been fearful that God is more like me than like Brehm. 

That He will start to do something to bless me but then get distracted and leave me to bake.

I’m not sure why this is. 

Everything in the Bible and everything I’ve experienced these past few years indicates that I can trust God.  That he will not neglect me the way I neglected those inbred hamsters. 

And so this weekend I’ve been praying that I would be more “geckoish”.

A fragile creature resting in strong but gentle hands. 

I’ve also been thankful. 

Mainly I’ve been thankful that, no matter how scared I get, I don’t have a tail that can fall off.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I, like many men, have a super-spy fantasy. 

In this imaginary world, I appear to be an ordinary, mild-mannered citizen but underneath that innocuous exterior is a lethal, highly trained man of mystery and intrigue. 

While I know it’s a pretty common daydream, I admit that I’m a bit embarrassed about it. 

I’m embarrassed, partially because I’m a grown man with a ridiculous imagination and partially because, as anyone who knows me will attest, there is nothing lethal, highly trained, or mysterious about me.

But I’m working on that. 

Thus far, the efforts to increase my “spyness” have included:

1. Increasing the level of black in my wardrobe

2. Keeping my eyes opened for a good pair of sunglasses. 

3. Begging any friend who owns a gun to take me to the shooting range.

I know none of these things will have the CIA knocking on my door like, say, learning fluent Farsi, but, hey….I can hope. 

AGENT 1: “Mr. Moritz, come with us.  The President needs you.”

ME: “It’s about time!”

The problem with this fantasy is that, in recent years, I’ve become increasingly self-examining. And nothing ruins a good fantasy like asking yourself “why” you have it in the first place. 

It’s kind of like asking what’s in a hotdog. 

Once you know, you don’t enjoy eating them anymore.  

And so, for example, it’s not enough that I realize that I prefer Starbucks or I actually enjoy shooting guns. 

I have to ask myself “why” I like those things. 

Do I like overpriced coffee because I REALLY like it, or am I seeking some sort of identity in being seen holding a white cup with a green mermaid on it?

Do I REALLY like shooting with friends or am I seeking some sort of affirmation of my masculinity and the sense of personal security that a gun can bring? 

Truly, if left to my own devices, I’d make myself crazy because, like the Bible says, a man doesn’t even know his own heart. 

Only God does. 

And so, I’ve had to ask God to reveal my motivations to me…in all things.  And sometimes the answers God shows me are mixed. 

I actually do like Starbucks coffee and enjoy the ambience of the store. 


But I also feel “rich” when I drink it and so I tend to crave it when things are tight financially and I want to pretend that they aren’t. 


The same is true with guns. 

I truly do enjoy them.


But part of the enjoyment is that they are an easy antidote for fear because they make me feel powerful and cool.

Doh!  Doh!

With both of those scenarios, the key is security. 

If I’m not careful, I can become a security junkie.

I like to feel comfortable, safe, and in control. 

I don’t like stress or difficulty. 

And, while I know that God is the ultimate source of security and refuge, too often I seek that elsewhere.

But the reality is that, whether it’s a cup of coffee, a firearm, a 401K, stylish clothes, or a President, if my sense of hope and security is in anything but God, it’s misplaced. 

And that’s a worship problem. 

That’s a trust problem. 

Now that I’ve gotten you all to be as neurotic as me about your choice of clothing and coffee let me say this:  None of the things I’ve mentioned are “bad” (for the record, I’m typing this as a wonderfully delusional Americano steams sweet nothings next to me). But I believe an essential part of being a follower of Jesus is that we ask Him these sorts of questions and then pay attention to the answer.  We need to allow the great lover of our souls to reveal the inner workings of our hearts, and then let Him bring healing so we can find our rest in Him.

And that’s where security is found.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the President needs me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Plumbing and The Violinist

Part I:

About a week ago the weather in Nashville began to change.

Having grown up in the Northeast, both my wife and I welcomed the cooler temperatures with gratitude.  There is something severely wrong about serving turkey on Thanksgiving in shorts and a tank-top. 

Like most people, fall weather makes me crave certain foods.  

Unlike most people, those foods include parsnips and brussel sprouts. 

I know it sounds crazy but you can blame Rachel Ray. 

She taught me about roasted brussel sprouts and root veggies and I was hooked. 

The sprouts are pretty easy to prepare but the root vegetables need to be peeled. 

This led me to one of the many lessons of home ownership. 

The average garbage disposal does not like to have large amounts of vegetable peels shoved down its gaping, grinding throat. 

Mutiny will ensue. 

Thus was the case, about a week ago, when I was making a batch of (drool) sprouts and roots. 

That’s when our sink backed up. 

I flipped the disposal switch hoping to move things along. 

The water “vortexed” and then spun to a lazy halt peppered with chunks of parsnip and carrot peel. 

I sighed a frustrated, “Of course!” and began to figure out how to fix the problem. 

We have a two-basin sink and water flowed down the unclogged side without a problem.  Therefore, I reasoned, the blockage must be between the basins, in the pipe that comes out of the disposal. 

This led me to lessons number two and three of home ownership:

2. You never know as much about plumbing as you think.  And

3. Before you attempt to remove your garbage disposal…empty the water out of the sink. 

A roll of paper towels, two saturated dish rags and copious amounts of nonsensical muttering later, I sat with my entire garbage disposal disassembled and strewn across my kitchen floor.

I looked down the pipes, I checked the disposal and could not find the cause of the block.

So I put it all back together and ran the water. 

It backed up again. 

Now, you would think, that sloshing backed-up dishwater all over my face would have drilled lessons two and three (outlined above) into my brain.

If you thought that, then you would have thought wrong. 

Another roll of paper towels, three more dish rags and a flurry of muttering later, I began to expand the focus of my hunt. 

Against all reason, I start disconnecting all the pipes under the sink. 

And that’s when I found it. 

It looked like a normal, unassuming pipe from the outside, but this one was different.

Where the garbage disposal fed into the drain from the other side of the sink, the pipe had a divide in the middle, greatly restricting the diameter of the pipe. 

And that half of the pipe was jam packed with parsnipy coleslaw. 

I cleared it out, reassembled the pipes, reconnected the disposal and ran the water. 

It drained perfectly.


Part II:

Back when I was a kid, my parents used to host traveling students at our house.  From “Up With People” kids to roaming string quartets, we always had an open door.  It gave me an amazing opportunity to meet people from all over the world.  Countries like Switzerland, Sweden, and Texas found their way into our lives. 

They taught me about alternate guitar tunings and how to iron a shirt. 

It’s the latter of these that is pertinent to this story. 

Since the classical musicians that stayed with us often wore tuxedoes for their performances, they had developed several ironing shortcuts.

One particular Italian violinist explained it this way, “If they never see what’s under your jacket, why iron it?” 

It seemed to make sense.  Why fix what no one will see. 

This same lesson was reinforced, later in life, by a boss who said, “don’t waste time sanding the top of a wardrobe.” 

The essence of these statements is this: 

What you don’t see won’t hurt you so don’t bother fixing it. 

I wish I had let that lesson apply only to ironing and sanding furniture. 

But I didn’t. 

For a long time, anything I could hide from other people got left alone.  I didn’t work on it and I didn’t let God work on it either.  But, like the pipe and parsnips, God, in his mercy, let things get backed up.  

He had to disassemble, and examine….everything.  Not just where I thought the clog was.  God even had to take apart the places that seemed to have nothing to do with it.  

That was the only way to get rid of the clog and get things flowing again.  

While I know that, when He was on Earth, Jesus was a carpenter, sometimes I think He might be a plumber as well.