Monday, April 27, 2009

Bullet Ants


I’m a useless trivia junky. 

If there’s any way that I might find a piece of information useful in life, my brain puts it in the circular file.

That’s the garbage, in case you were wondering.

However, if there’s absolutely zero chance that I’ll need to remember something….my brain files that little tidbit in it’s super-safe-random-access-quick-load file. 

Thus, I can’t remember why I’ve gone to the grocery store but I can remember that earthworms are in the zoological sub-class oligochaeta.

Weird.

Anyway…since I love random knowledge, when I see a link on the internet that says, “5 types of stinging ants”, I click on it.

I don’t just click on it....

I MUST click on it (and hope it’s not a virus).

So, as I was reading said list, I discovered that there’s a type of ant called a bullet ant.

This ant is so named, not because of it’s bullet like shape or it’s “superantian” speed, but because, when it stings you, you feel like you’ve been shot.

They live in Brazil which is why I won’t be going there any time soon.

But that same list had ANOTHER link which simply said, “manhood initiation” in the paragraph about the bullet ants.

That link was so compelling it clicked itself.

I was taken to a You Tube video posted by National Geographic. (the link is at the end of this post if you’re interested)

In this video, boys in their teens are initiated into manhood by wearing special mittens woven out of palm leaves and….

are you ready….

thousands of angry bullet ants!

Watching that video made me very thankful for my bar mitvah.

Klezmer music and semi-kosher food VS bullet ant mittens?

That’s a no brainer.

The boys have to wear these gloves for a full ten minutes.

But if they want to be warriors in the tribe, they have to do the whole thing twenty times.

That’s two hundred minutes of their lives spend with angry ants shooting machine guns at their hands. 

Now, lest you think that they are totally barbaric, the most interesting part of the video comes at the end.

This is when the head of the tribe is explaining why they do this. 

He says that it not only marks their transition into adulthood but it makes them better men.

“If you go through life without suffering anything or without any kind of effort, it wont be worth anything to you.”

I had to chew on that for a little while.

Especially considering my last post where I shared how much I hate losing/suffering/pain and how I’m a product of the first “t-ball” generation.

It made me think about American culture and how much we build our lives to avoid pain.

It made me think of how many people in the church are just like me and secretly have been believing that they should be exempt from suffering. 

Frankly, it made me think what a baby I am.

Now…I’m not about to go to the local ant store and purchase some gloves-o-angry-ants. 

But I do think that when suffering comes my way….and it will come…I’ll try to embrace it a little differently.

And hopefully, I’ll be a better man for it.


***Here's the link if you want to watch the video***

 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bathroom Reading and T-ball


I am, for lack of a better term, a bathroom reader. 

I’ve tried the phrase “lavatory learner” but it lacks that certain “every day Joe” quality.

So, “Bathroom Reader” it is. 

As embarrassing as it may seem for me to admit, I take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone. 

In reality, there are whole books written (and titled) for the sole purpose of being read whilst the reader is in the commode. 

Strangely, that isn’t the most embarrassing confession I’ll be making.

What I’ve been reading lately is the humiliating part.

While, at times, I’ve read whole books (not in one sitting), and lots of magazines pertaining to my work and my hobbies, my wife also places reading material in the “facilities”.  And so sometimes, if I’ve exhausted my “materials”, I’ll read the more feminine offerings.

Which is why I’ve been reading Ladies Home Journal.

Men, don’t worry…the authorities have already contacted me about confiscating my “Man Card”. 

But truly…if you can get past the pages…and pages….and pages of advertisements, there is some interesting stuff in there.  Just a note though….it seems to me that the amount of ads in a woman’s magazine FAR exceeds the number in men’s magazines. Ladies…truly….if I see another “Painter of Light” two-page spread (with order form) I’m gonna scream.  Complain already!

Anyway…one such article was about the difference in work styles/ethics/dress between my parent’s generation and the round of recent college grads entering the work force. 

In this piece, the author referred to the younger generation as “The T-Ball Generation”.

This jumped out at me because I’ve been helping out with my oldest son’s T-ball team.

See that?

Man card reclaimed!

Talkin’ ‘bout sports now…….yeah.

The reference to t-ball was not positive though. 

What they meant was that this up-coming generation has been used to getting trophies whether they earned them or not.

This is a generation that has been told that everybody wins because somebody, somewhere, said that having “winners” and “losers” would hurt their delicate psyches. 

Now….I’m not NEAR old enough to use this word, but I’ve always wanted to….

Hogwash!

I’m a gen-Xer  (who were the guinea pigs for that philosophy) and the reality is that sometimes you lose.

Brehm’s first game was on Saturday.

They lost.

This was partially because I was busy videoing Brehm’s first time at bat and forgot to send the runner on third base home. 

Parental pride, apparently, beats base coach responsibility.

But, at that age, there are so many runners and, scores it’s hard to keep track.

So Brehm asked the coach of the other team who won.

“You all won! Cause you all played a great game!” he said.

What?!?!

My son looked at me REALLY confused.

I told him that the other team won but that he did, indeed, play a great game and I was super proud.

THAT actually made sense to him.

And yet, as I’ve been thinking about all this, I’ve realized I’m not immune to the “trophy-for-all” mindset.

Especially when it comes to God’s plan for my life.

I realized this today in church when it hit me that I’ve been secretly angry with God.

Part of this has to do with a couple of good beatings my ego has taken this past year. 

I don’t like losing.

I always want to be the winner.

Because everyone is a winner all the time….right?

It sounds so ridiculous when I say it.

Even my five year old thinks it’s hogwash (yeah! Two times in one essay!)

But in my most honest moments, I believe that I should always win.

Or, at least, get a trophy.

And so part of the sting of losing isn’t even the losing itself.

It’s the expectation that I shouldn’t have to lose.

Of course, this exposes my narrow understanding of what it means to lose.

My definition of “losing” in this case, is me not getting what I want, the way I want it, when I want it.

That assumes that I even know what is best for me.

As I was sharing all these thoughts with Laura and our friend Tara today, Tara said this:

“I promise that God’s plan will not disappoint you.”

She was quoting a friend but I’ll still give her credit.

She’s pretty wise.

So, I come to a place of tension between what I’m feeling right now, and what I know to be true. 

Eventually the truth will win out.

It always does.

In the mean time, I’ll try not to be such a sore loser.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Broken Trees


Last week, at the Moritz household, our yard had a fashion show. 

Due to a frost warning, we had to cover all of our plants (the ones that had just started blooming) with blankets, sheets, and tarps. 

Since most of the sheets that were available were our plaid, flannel winter sheets, our trees and roses looked like they were sporting the latest trend from Seattle, circa 1993.

But, of course, those days are oddities.

Yes, here in Nashville, it’s springtime, even though we aren’t quite finished with the birthing pains called “tornado season”. 

The birds are chirping, the grass is green and the air is filled with the sound of mowers being pushed by men trying to evoke lawn envy in their neighbors.  It’s a wonderful time.

However, as most people know, not all plants bloom at the same time. 

Some, like crocuses and forsythias, bloom first. 

Then there are others that are “late bloomers”. 

This is not a compliment to a middle-schooler. 

To a plant….well….they don’t care so much. 

Anyway…the other day Elijah and I were driving down the road and he looked out his window and said, “Daddy, look at all the broken trees.” 

“Broken trees?” I asked, looking around for fallen branches or something like that.

“Yeah Daddy.  Some have leaves but some don’t.  They’re broken,” He said forlornly.

“OOOHHH.” I said, “they’ll have leaves later.” 

“No.  They’re broken”

I have VERY matter-of-fact kids. 

But I can see why he said that. 

If you don’t understand that some trees take longer to “leaf out” it would seem that they aren’t working properly. 

Three-year-old logic at it’s finest.

But as soon as he said it, I thought about Easter and Good Friday.

Good Friday, for those who aren’t familiar, is when Christians remember Jesus’ death on the cross and Easter is the celebration of His resurrection. 

But what about Saturday?

What about that day between the crucifixion and the resurrection?

I can imagine that the disciples thought that Jesus, the one in whom they had put their trust, was just another delusional rabbi. 

They must have thought that that tree was broken.

No life.

No spring for them.

This wasn’t just a “late bloomer”.

This was a “no bloomer”.

But then Sunday came.

And everything changed.

And Jesus, the Tree of Life leafed out in amazing fullness.

Spring had come.

Life was here.

And the cross, often referred to as a “tree” in ancient times, was the only broken tree after all.

Christ has risen!

He has risen indeed!

Monday, April 6, 2009

1950's Cliche' and Bread


This past weekend was near perfect. 

For those who, like me, enjoy reading people’s Facebook “statusi” (the imaginary plural of “status”) you will already know what I did. 

Saturday:

-       Wake up, shower, have nice cup of coffee, and manage to get 0.5 seconds of quiet time before the kids woke up.  At this rate, if I can add 0.5 seconds everyday, I’ll work my way to one hour of quiet time in 19.74 years…and yes…I actually did the math.  But, hey.  I’ll take any victory I can get….so this day had a good start.

-       Blow eggs out of their shell into a bowl.  Cook eggs for breakfast.  Save shells for Easter egg dyeing.  Score one for efficiency.

-       Head out to the Spring Hill Little League Opening Ceremonies.  Cowboy Troy (of Big and Rich Fame) tosses the first pitch, my boy wins a bat bag in the raffle, and I feel as if I’ve stepped back in time to 1950’s middle America. 

-       We get home and then I have a nice drive through a beautiful part of town for a lunch meeting.  I almost get lost on the way home but have a great time of it and manage to get back to my house.

-       The dog we’re dogsitting arrives and the kids play while I grill dinner.  Unlike the 1950’s, I grill chicken, not steak. 

-       We eat dinner and then I set up the tent in the back yard so the boys and I can camp out. 

-       Laura makes an apple crisp

-       Bed.

Sunday

            -Awoken by the singing of birds.

-Laura makes homemade scones that shame the dry monstrosities they sell at Starbucks and could compete with those made by an old British lady. 

            -Church.

So, why do I give you the annotated itinerary of my weekend? 

To gloat?

No!

Ok….maybe a little.

To prove that my life is a “Leave It To Beaver” episode where the parents don’t sleep in separate beds?

No.

It’s because I’m thankful.

I’m filled with a deep sense of gratitude that I am able to have a 1950’s, Americana, clich├ę’ weekend.

And, of course, that made me think about something that one of my pastors said at church today. 

As we were getting ready to take communion, he read from the Bible where Jesus is eating the Passover meal.  Jesus took the bread, and He gave thanks.

The Greek word is “euchariste┼Ź” where many denominations get the term “Eucharist”

Anyway, as I was, at the pastor’s suggestion, thinking about things I was thankful for, I realized that I was coming up with all the “spiritual” answers. 

Which is strange because this was all taking place inside my own head….and who have I to impress inside there?

And then it hit me that I was trying to impress God.

This, of course is even more ridiculous than trying to impress myself.

But there I was doing it. 

And so I stopped. 

I stopped being so self-righteous and began thanking God for the basic simple things.  Things like Little League and scones. 

And then I kept being thankful for the not-so-nice things.

After all, while I’m sure that fresh, homemade, 1st century unleavened bread is much better than the glorified saltine matzo they have now, it’s still unleavened bread. 

It’s still the bread of haste, rush, and busy.

It’s the hard bread of those who are about to be free but aren’t yet. 

And for Jesus, it’s the bread of His body about to be broken in one of the most terrible forms of execution in all of history. 

But he takes it and gave thanks.

And so should I.