Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Twitter Envy

Some guys have envy issues when it comes to parts of their bodies . . . I do not have any of those envy issues.  Some people have envy issues when it comes to material goods, or the lack of material goods . . . I am pretty satisfied with everything I have when it comes to material goods and wealth.  Some guys, especially those of us who are going bald, have hair envy . . . but, I have gotten used to the baldness I have had for many, many years . . . besides, when you don’t have a lot of hair, it is easy to take care of.  Nope, I have none of the usual envies that other guys or people have . . . my envy comes from social media . . . in particular, Twitter.

Now, mind you, I did not even give Twitter much thought until this evening when I read an article proclaiming that the Pope—yeah, the guy in Rome—now has ten million followers of his Twitter account.  The Pope is now among the “rock stars” of Twitter after starting his account less than a year ago.  The man is shooting for the top as he has yet to even scratch the surface of the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world . . . I hear that he isn’t going to stop until he reaches number one! 

The news of the Pope’s tweeting success kind of depressed me when I read it.  I mean, I am a fellow clergy . . . I have an adoring congregation . . . I belong to a mainline denomination . . . I love God, God loves me . . . and, I have 35 followers while Pope Francis is celebrating his ten millionth follower!  What am I doing wrong?  What does a guy have to do to get a few more followers?

I mean, what does this guy have that I don’t have . . . besides ten million followers?  Besides a congregation of 1.2 billion members?  Besides a fancy jet to jet around the world in?  Beside a snazzy car called the Pope Mobile?  Besides looking good in white?  Besides being able to talk in several languages?  Besides being the conduit of God?  Besides being in a long line of famous evangelist—supposedly handpicked by God—that goes all the way back to Peter?  I mean, come on, the Pope and I both have about the same amount of hair, but he gets to wear a cap to hide his baldness . . . how did this guy get ten million followers in half the time that I got 35 followers since joining Twitter?  Yeah, I have Twitter envy!

I guess I could try to get a call to a larger congregation, but there are not too many congregations . . . let alone denominations . . . with 1.2 billion members.  I might have to convert over to the Catholic religion, but they are not too hot on married clergy . . . plus, the wife wouldn’t go for it anyways.  Plus, I don’t think they let you wear blue jeans and hiking boots under all those fancy duds that the Pope wears.  I also hear that the Pope has to swear to be a Notre Dame football fan upon rising to the papacy . . . I could never root for the Irish . . . nope, I am a Cornhusker through and through.  I bleed red.

I could try jumping over to the prosperity ministry . . . preach about God wanting people to have everything and anything that they want because God loves them and wants them to have the best.  The guys doing that seem to have the fancy jets and cars, but I don’t have enough hair or teeth to pull off that ministry while driving up to the church in my 2004 Ford Ranger pick-up truck.  Besides, I don’t buy into that theology . . . God loves us, but God also loves us whether we are rich or poor.  God likes to see us do a little work without laying out so much fertilizer upon the masses.  Besides, I despise three-piece suits . . . especially since the mid-life spread. 

I could bank on the fact that God also called me to the ministry . . . just as God called Pope Francis to the ministry.  The only difference is that God wanted me in Montana at a small rural church, while God wanted Francis heading a mega-church called the Roman Catholic Church.  I did not hear God ask me to move to Rome . . . Italy, that is.  Maybe, Rome, Georgia . . . but not Rome, Italy.  I don’t think I quite have the pedigree that the Pope has . . . as a minister my route to ordination and ministry is not as impressive as the Pope’s . . . I don’t think you can get to the Vatican through a small denominational seminary in Kentucky.

Yeah, I am jealous.  My Twitter account is smaller than the Pope’s.  I guess that must mean I have Twitter envy.  But, I do have some satisfaction in knowing that the Pope is lagging behind the three big hitters on Twitter—Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga—who each have more than 40 million followers each.  What do they have that I don’t have?  Apparently, talent . . . money . . . rabid fans . . . and, a heck of a lot more followers than the Pope.  I wonder if the Pope has Twitter envy?

I imagine that I will get over this phase of Twitter envy in my life.  I never did start tweeting to be popular, basically to get my blog posts out to the rest of the world.  I mean, really . . . I am an introvert . . . more followers means more intrusions into my world.  That is an introvert’s nightmare, but it would be nice to eventually have as many followers as years I am old . . . about twenty more would do the trick for this year.  In the meantime, I will keep glancing at my Twitter account . . . and, reminding myself that it is tough to beat someone who has all the clout and numbers that the Pope gets to play with.  Come on, people . . . twenty new followers . . . and, I’ll be heaven!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Road Trip

“The Americans have found the healing of God in a variety of things, the most pleasant of which is probably automobile drives.”
(William Saroyan, Short Drive, Sweet Chariot)

Saturday morning.  Long before the sun had risen.  The long-anticipated road trip arrived without a whole bunch of fanfare, but with a lot of expectations.  The destination . . . Missoula, Montana . . . where the oldest son and I were heading to meet his sister and brother-in-law for an Avett Brothers concert on Sunday evening.   It had been a while . . . over a year . . . since the oldest and I had taken any sort of a trip—much less a road trip--together.  The last time was when I traveled to assist the son on his move to Montana . . . to welcome him home after his life had unraveled.  In a way, this was just a continuation of the original journey.

Road trips are not supposed to be completely planned, but we did know our destination . . . Missoula.  When I think about road trips I think about hopping in the car, traveling down the road, and seeing where I end up . . . no maps, no expectations . . . just the trip itself.  But, this trip had a destination, a stated purpose, and a lot of expectations for having a good time.  Not only were we heading off to see a concert, I was on a mission to show the oldest parts of Montana he had yet to see.  Trust me, there is a lot of Montana to see between here and there!

So, you are probably wondering how the road trip went.  Well, let me tell you what I learned . . .

I learned that when one takes a long road trip that it is probably not good if one is an introvert and the other is an extrovert.  Ideally, this trip would have been so much more enriching for me had I gone on it by myself . . . that is an introverts ideal vacation . . . being on the road by him or herself.  We were two mismatched traveling companions—me the introvert, him the extravert.  Needless to say, it drove the oldest crazy . . . me, not so much.  I don’t need a lot of conversation or interaction when I am on the road.  Oh, I must admit, there were moments on the trip when I wish I had brought ear plugs . . . but, I listened.  I am a good father . . . I listened.  And, in all honesty, I really do not care to hear anything else about fantasy football for a long, long time. Yet, I was not much company for a person who starved for company . . . but, such is a trip with an introvert.  I was content with the silence or listening to the music.

The music . . . another sticking point on the trip.  The Keener tradition is that the person driving controls the music . . . which meant whatever was on my MP3 player was it.  Over the years my children have inundated me with all sorts of music . . . lots of it I like, but on my MP3 player I run the gamut of musical selections.  I have everything from the big band era to country, blue grass, rock, rock and roll, blues, jazz, heavy metal, Americana, country rock, pop, soft rock, folk . . . just about everything but hip hop and rap.  The oldest was cordial and did not complain . . . even said that he survived the majority of what we listened to . . . and, actually enjoyed some of it.  I think that he drew the line at the big band stuff! 

So, in the actually driving to Missoula, the score was one to one . . . he talked when I longed for silence, I blared my music when he longed for real music.

Another thing I learned is that I am getting too old for the road trips I remember as a younger adult.  Upon arriving I think that the two of us had the same expectations . . . we were going to have a great time, explore the city, experience its life, and make a fun time of it.  And, we started out well . . . but somewhere along the way, something I ate or drank, decided to exert its presence in the deepest bowels of my body.  About our third stop, a brewery, my body rebelled.  I couldn’t even finish my beer that I had ordered.  It wasn’t even five o’clock yet . . . the day and evening was still young . . . and there I sat with a growling bowel, hoping that I could keep everything down, and wishing I was twenty years younger with that cast iron stomach I used to have.

As an introvert, I wanted to sit there and quietly die.  Luckily for my son, he is an extravert.  My dilemma did not slow him down too much . . . he made the most of the opportunity to hob knob with those around us.  He easily talks to others and others are attracted to him . . . he is a charismatic sort of guy.  It is his blessing and his curse.  While he was socializing with the best of them, I was praying that whatever it was that was using my intestines as a trampoline would hurry up and settle down.  By the time the oldest had had his brewery defined limit, I was almost back among the living . . . the key term here is “almost”.  Where he was ready to hit the next spot, I was ready for hitting the sack . . . and, the night was young. 

My car, my gas, my money . . . we went to eat and it was only seven o’clock.  Though worried, the son was disappointed . . . even though we did eat at a Hooters.  There wasn’t much to hoot about . . . I ate, paid the bill, and we headed back to the hotel.  I was ready to call it a night at eight o’clock.  Somewhere in the rules of road tripping I am sure there is a rule that states that bedtime is never before midnight at the earliest . . . I could see it in the face of my son and hear it in his voice.  But, it sure felt good to hit the bed.  Ernest Hemingway wrote: “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”  Thankfully, my son loves me . . . and, I love my son.

Sunday was a new day.  It had new lessons to be learned.  I got to have breakfast by myself . . . I got to walk around, see the area, and take pictures.  I witness people out on a hot air balloon ride over the mountains . . . and, I longed to be there with them.  But, I appreciated the quietness.  The culprit from the day before was long gone, and I felt a hundred times better.  In the meantime, the son slept.

One of the new lessons I learned, only later, is that there is a difference between men and women . . . especially when it comes to fine eating experiences.  The daughter and son-in-law arrived and we headed out for lunch.  I wanted food that I had to eat with a fork . . . that came from a cow . . . and was cooked on a grill.  I chose Outback Steakhouse . . . a place I had not eaten at in over six years . . . a place I thought was fancy.  Little did I know.  I forgot that when in a new place, women want to go someplace where the food is a little more elegant and artsy-fartsy . . . not a steakhouse.  I thought I was being a gracious host . . . but, the wife informed me that I had disappointed the daughter when we pulled up to the Outback.  I explained to my wife that they were lucky it wasn’t Mickey D’s Golden Rainbow Room!  But, since then, I have made a mental note . . . next time on a road trip with the daughter in tow . . . that I will eat a meal at some place where the napkins are not a roll of paper towels on the table, the water had lemon wedges in it, and they do not have a football blaring away on twenty televisions.  I will eat in a place where the portions are way too small for the amount of money I am paying, napkins are made of better material than the clothes I am wearing, and the music is more chamber-like than rock-n-roll.  Well, the daughter was out-numbered—three to one, but the company was wonderful.  I just need to remember . . . men and women see things differently.  Though I was in heaven, others were in hell!

The afternoon was spent on the brewery trail between Missoula and Hamilton . . . something all of us would have usually enjoyed . . . all of us enjoy microbrews and Montana has some of the best in the United States . . . but, there were complications.  First complication was the fact that the daughter was not feeling well.  Feeling sick and breweries do not mix well . . . no microbrews for the daughter . . . the daughter who loves her brew. It was no fun watching everyone else enjoy the many wonderful brews being offered.  Second complication was limiting the amount anyone could drink.  This was due to time, distance, and the fact that I was driving.  Once again, the expectations of a road trip were dashed for the oldest son.  He wanted extravagant imbibing and was only getting a tease of what could be.  But, the company was great!

The purpose of the road trip—the concert—was up next.  Needless to say, the kids did not steer me wrong on the Avett Brothers.  They were great.  The music was great.  The concert was one of the best I had ever been to.  Full of energy.  It was the highlight of the trip.  Plus, they sold beer there.  The oldest was in heaven . . . good music, good beer, and great company.  Even at my age, I still quiver in the temple of good music, and I was touched.  None of us walked away from the concert disappointed . . . maybe with a little less hearing, but not disappointed.  It took me a good hour to calm down enough to fall asleep after the oldest and I wished the daughter and son-in-law a safe trip home.  I learned that good music speaks to all generations, and the Avett Brothers were preaching that evening.
Of course, the edge wears off of any road trip when reality of having to go home sets in.  The trip home was quiet . . . no music . . . very little conversation . . . lots of beautiful scenery.  A quick brunch in Bozeman.  We were home by one in the afternoon.  The oldest hit his bed, I did laundry and work I needed to get done.  And, that was it.  I learned that reality never lives up to expectations . . . what started out as having the potential to being a big bang, ended up being a fizzle.

Yet, it was a good road trip.  It was good to get away from the routine.  It was good to be with my children.  It was good to be able to go someplace new, observe it, experience it, and wonder.  It was good to connect, even in the silence and awkward moments, with one another.  It was good to see how far the oldest had come from his trip home a year ago . . . but, to realize there is still a long ways to go.  It was good to see the daughter and son-in-law . . . to enjoy her laughter, his wittiness . . . to watch them express their love towards one another . . . to be in the presence of family.  It was good to just be quiet . . . to appreciate the beauty of the place and the places we pasted coming.  It was fun to take pictures of the obscure and beautiful in places no one ever looks despite it being right before their eyes.  It was just good to be.  It was a good road trip . . . despite the silence it ended in.  It wasn’t the destination, it was the journey and the people it was shared with that made it wonderful.

As Morgan Matson writes in Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour:

“And I felt, in the silence that followed,
everything that had happened on the trip
 to bring me to this place.”

And, it was a good place to be.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Language of Regret

To feel sad . . . to feel disappointed . . . to feel repentant . . . over something that has happened or because of a lost opportunity.  That is a working definition of the word “regret”.  I imagine that there is not a single person in existence that does not know or understand what it means to regret.  I think that we are all familiar with the language of regret.

It is the autumn of 1971. . . football season.  The eighth grade class is divided into two teams.  I am a starting offensive tackle and defensive end on one of the teams.  We are combining the two teams to play a town down the road in a football game . . . a town where I once happened to be a student in the school that we are going to play.  I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to face my old classmates . . . couldn’t wait to show them—once and for all—that I was not that wimpy kid who they never picked to play in their games, always picked on, and pretty much was on the bottom of the pecking order.  I couldn’t wait to prove them all wrong . . . to rub it in their faces that they underestimated me.

But, I never got the opportunity.

There is no one that I can blame but myself for missing the game . . . the game of my redemption.  It was my fault that I skipped a practice to go and watch the freshman team play our archrivals.  It was my fault for missing practice and getting left behind when it came time to travel to my old school to play a football game.  There was no one to blame except myself . . . something that I did for a long, long, long time.  I was fourteen years old when I skipped that practice . . . missed that game, and it was in my mid-thirties before I forgave myself and let myself off the hook.  That is how the language of regret works . . . it weighs us down, keeps us from moving forward, and keeps us from growing up.
It would be wonderful if I could honestly state that missing that football game was my only regret in life . . . but, like everyone else, it is not.  I have had many regrets in my life.  Some I have gotten over rather quickly, others I have had a much more difficult time letting go of . . . it is those that have hindered my life the most. 

I believe that I speak for a lot of folks out there when I say that I am my own worst enemy.  I can hurt myself more than any other person in my life can . . . I can provide myself with a greater beating than anyone else ever could . . . and, I am usually the last person to let myself off the hook when I have screwed up.  But, that is the power of the language of regret . . . especially when we allow it to cripple us to the point that we can no longer be happy . . . no longer grow.  I don’t need anyone to tell me when I screw up, I usually know it the minute I do it . . . trust me, I have nearly six decades of experience.

Should of . . . could of . . . would of . . . language of regret.  If and only . . . language of regret.  Ever hear those words escaping from your lips when you are talking.  If so, then you know the language of regret.  Ever feel that twinge that comes when someone mentions an event from your past . . . something you wish you could go back and do differently?  Language of regret.  Ever catch yourself beating and berating yourself because you wish you had done things differently than you did . . . even ten minutes ago?  Again, language of regret.

The language of regret is all around us.

I hear it from myself.  I hear it from others around me . . . friends and acquaintances.  I hear it from my family.  I hear it all of the time.  It is in those moments of hearing the language of regret that I realize what a massive roadblock it creates in all of our lives.  We are immobilized in the past . . . stuck in a time that we cannot change . . . and, we are unable to move on.  I have experienced it and seen it . . . and, I have known the hurt that it creates.

I am not really sure what prompted my letting go of the regret of missing that football game when I was in the eighth grade.  All I know is that I came to the realization that I needed to quit whining about the past . . . especially since no one was serving cheese with my whine . . . and, to get on with the present moment.  I screwed up . . . it was my choice . . . I received the consequences of my choice . . . I missed the game . . . I missed the opportunity to set the record straight . . . I was the one who blew it.  There was no one else to blame.  I had wasted over sixteen years of my life kicking myself in the butt. 

The point is, I learned my lesson when I was left off the roster for skipping practice.  I never, ever, again missed another practice in my life . . . ever.  But, you would have thought that I never learned anything when the language of regret was stomping around in my rock garden—in my mind.  And, that is the weight that comes with the language of regret . . . we weigh ourselves down with something that we cannot change.  It is over.  The damage is done.  The bigger question is: did we learn anything?

Well, as I approach the sixtieth decade of my life, I have learned that regret is not worth the effort.  It is not worth the time and energy that most of us put into it . . . why?  Because we cannot go back and change anything.  The real power of regret is in whether or not we learned anything from the choices that we made or the experiences that we had.  Did it help us to grow?  If we cannot see regret as an opportunity to learn, then it becomes a cancer that eats away at us psychologically and spiritually to stunt our grow to be who God created us to be . . . all because we cannot let ourselves off the hook.

Well, if you are wondering, we won the football game that I missed way back there in eighth grade . . . won by two touchdowns.  I had nothing to do with it.  No, I sat at home . . . moped about blowing it.  That was a long time ago, but I will be damned if I am going to waste any more of my time regretting it.  There is too much life yet to live to be mired in the past.  It is a tough lesson to learn.  Where is the language of regret miring down your life to be who God created you to be?  


“. . . do you hate . . .
'Cause she's pieces of you?”
(Pieces of You, Jewel)

I am not always a patient driver . . . the wife will tell you that this is an understatement.  I am not a patient driver especially when I am on my way to work.  Like most impatient drivers, I have the opinion that the problem is all of those other drivers on the road with me.  I have quite an array of monikers I reserve for those other drivers . . . most range from just the plain insulting to the profane.  I have even used signed language to express my feelings while uttering unspeakable words.  I will admit . . . I am not a patient driver.

One of the reasons that I enjoy my early morning drive to work is because it affords me the opportunity to listen to music . . . lots of music.  It is the only time of the day that I get to just listen, enjoy, and appreciate the music that I hear . . . and, that includes the lyrics.  The lyrics often make me think . . .

That happened the other morning.  As I was driving to work, complaining about the other idiot drivers driving like maniacs, using my sign language, the song Pieces of You by Jewel wafted out of the speakers in my car.  As I was offering the bird to the car I was passing, the lyrics of that song shoved a knife right through my heart . . . I almost slowed down and got back behind the car I was trying to pass . . . but, I didn’t.  But ol’ Jewel wasn’t done with me . . . not only did she run a knife through my heart, she then proceeded to twist and turn that knife, back and forth with the lyrics she sang.  Needless to say, she got my attention.

Maybe you have never heard the song.  Maybe you have never had an opportunity to read the lyrics.  They are pretty powerful lyrics if you really listen to them.  In the song, Pieces of You, you sings:
She's an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She's an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She's an ugly girl, she doesn't pose a threat.
She's an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
'Cause she's pieces of you?
She's a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She's a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She's a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She's a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
'Cause she's pieces of you?
You say he's a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he's a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he's a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he's a faggot, are you afraid you're just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
'Cause he's pieces of you?
You say he's a Jew, does it mean that he's tight?
You say he's a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he's a Jew, he'll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he's a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
'Cause he's pieces of you?

Because she/he is pieces of you.  Whoa!  Singers should not practice or dabble in psychology . . . should not dabble in spirituality.  Jewel is touching base on both fronts with the song she sings.  They should not dabble in either—especially when the listener is trained in both . . . like I am.  It hits too close to home.  On that drive—on that particular morning—she ripped my heart out, stomped on it, and made me have to actually stop and think about why she created such pain.

Now, I am no idiot . . . like a lot of the drivers I have to deal with on a daily basis.  Jewel is actually dealing with a pretty simple concept that is in both psychology and spirituality, and that concept is . . . projection.  Projection is when someone projects his or her acceptable, but most often unacceptable, attributes onto others.  This is a pretty common practice that all of us exercise on a daily basis.  One of the best ways to catch ourselves doing this is to listen to how we describe people . . . negatively or positively . . . because what we are really doing is projecting pieces of ourselves onto others.  All those idiot drivers that I am identifying, naming, and projecting my thoughts upon are really nothing more than . . . well, me.  I’m the actual idiot on the road . . . except for the exception of all those Wyoming drivers I encounter on a daily basis.  That is projection.

Jewel is pretty smart in the wording of her lyrics.  She writes about the ugly girl . . . the abuse that she has to endure . . . and, the fear that in reality, she is just a reflection of the fears of those who are persecuting her.  The same for the pretty girl . . . for the person with a different sexual orientation . . . for the person who is of another religious persuasion.  She says, and I am paraphrasing here, “Are you afraid . . . do you hate . . . because these individuals are actually pieces of you?”  Are they parts of you that you do not like?

Both in psychology and spirituality, projection plays a big role in helping to understand who we are as individuals.   Helps us to understand and learn more about who God created us to be.  But, we do not want to meet those projections . . . we do not want to deal with those projections . . . they scare us.  We would rather hate them . . . pound them . . . kill them, than deal with them by coming to know them, understand them, and accept them as a part of who we are . . . who we are created to be.  Then it becomes ugly.

Needless to say, Jewel pretty messed up my morning more than all of those idiot drivers I had to deal with.  Yet, I know that it was not Jewel who pricked my heart . . . it was the Spirit.  The Spirit of God.  God uses the Spirit to get our attention . . . to confront us . . . to make us stop in our tracks and take stock of ourselves and our lives . . . to challenge us . . . to make us discern, pray, and travel the more difficult path towards God’s will.  Yet, it does not matter who gets the credit—Jewel or the Holy Spirit, all I know is that they have had me thinking for several days now about myself.

Yeah, I know I needed to consider that what I am projecting on others while I drive is more about myself driving like some half-soused NASCAR driver than the people driving around me.  I know that when I project out onto others that I am really revealing something about myself—positive or negative—that I need to consider about myself.  I need to name it, deal with it, understand it, discern its place in my life and in who I am, and pray about it . . . then, I need to embrace it whether it is something that I need to change or accept.  But, that is hard work . . . it is easier to hate, moan and groan, project, and not actually deal with it.

Projection is actually a powerful tool whether it is in psychology or spirituality because it helps us to understand ourselves.  That power, though, is lost when we are not willing to do the work that it reveals about ourselves.  It is easier to blame someone or something else than to deal with it.  Thus, the Spirit keeps knocking on our hearts.

Since hearing that song a few days ago, my early morning driving experience has gotten a lot calmer, quieter, and less profane.  My sign language is getting rusty.  It is no fun yelling at one’s self . . . that is what projection really is . . . yelling at one’s self.  Yelling at one’s self hoping that we will actually hear.  Hear . . . and, change.  Change to be who God really created us to be.  I am slowly learning this . . . but, I still wonder if that includes those drivers from Wyoming.  Yeah, pieces of myself . . . I need to get to know them a little better.  Who among us doesn’t?