Monday, October 31, 2011

Redeeming Mischief Night

When I was growing up the 30th of October was called Mischief Night.  It was essentially the night that young people got together and decided to soap up windows and rearrange porch furniture and perform all kinds of unsavory tasks under cover of night.  It was really a stupid thing to do especially when the very next night we would be seeing all of these people again the next evening to ask for candy.  But we did it anyway.  Talk about chutzpah.

I love the adventure in it - the risk of being caught.  I really felt alive running from the guy who just got a bunch of tomatoes on his siding.  Definitely not the most Christian thing to do, but exciting nonetheless.

As I got older it wasn't mischief anymore, it was a misdemeanor offense.  So when children came along I thought, "yes! I get to relive mischief night with my kids!"  The only problem is that helping your children participate in mischievous acts means you are really weird.  In fact I think there is a felony in there somewhere.

So I was forced to re-think mischief night and my wife and I came up with a cool new twist.

We make little signs with candy attached to them, sneak up and tape them on people's doors.  We write "you've been ghosted" on them, but you can come up with whatever positive message you like.  Then beat the door and ring the doorbell a half dozen times and run like mad.  Seriously, kids love this stuff.  Just last night I ran with my little 6 year old and her little heart was ready to come out of her chest.

And it wins with the 12 year old too.  They love being out at night in all-black with the fear of being caught.  We loved running as fast as we could behind a bush to watch friends and neighbors look bewildered as they pull the sign from their door.

Each child can have a specific task - my 9 year old loves to be the watchperson.

With some friends it can escalate - to the point where they lie in wait and you have to sneak in unknowingly.  Good times.

So there you go - a freebie for family fun that will give you plenty of exercise and great memories for years to come.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Do you have questions or are they doubts?

I have been mulling over what doubt really is.  Some would say it is a lack of certainty.  While that is true in many instances, it doesn't seem to encapsulate what doubt really is.  Some say that doubt is good - that in the same way that black velvet dramatically shows off the splendor of a diamond - doubt is the backdrop to our faith.  I don't know if I go for that either, however.  Yes, faith needs a doubt (in the same way that warm needs cold or high needs low) - oppositional ideas are best drawn out by their counterparts.

But if doubt is so great why does Jesus continually chide the disciples for their lack of faith?  In fact, you could say the entire Christian religion is unique in how much value it places on faith.  How can we be so content to harbor doubts?

I need to think some more about this, because I don't think that we can ever say that we have no doubts.  I think we would be lying to say that we don't have doubts.  But something may be helpful here - is it really doubt we struggle with or unanswered questions?

I am starting to think that whatever we come to believe about the world requires us to have questions and then go on to answer those questions.  If we wonder whether someone will feed and take care of us, we get that answered when our mothers call us for dinner or tuck us in bed as kids.  As young adults we wonder what our life will look like and that answer gets slowly answered over time.  We have no doubts when the question is answered, but when the answer is slow in coming the question begins to rot and becomes doubt.

So I wonder if doubt is just a fermented question.  The question we have not answered. Maybe we are too tired, apathetic or scared to seek it's answer.  Doubt does not mean that there is uncertainty out there, it means that there is uncertainty within.

How do we get rid of doubt?

Face the question.  Answer it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I was standing in line for the bathroom at a Burger King in New York City.

Why?  Because we were about to spend a day in the city and my children needed to use the bathroom.  So naturally we looked for the cleanest and most convenient place to use a toilet and settled on the Burger King across from the protests in New York City.

Now I am a fan of protests - there is something dramatic about a group of people standing up and saying, "we've had it!"  It could be any issue and I would find it enthralling - intriguing - just what makes a person risk something to speak out against the norm?  I find it courageous and exciting.  Even those that I disagree with, I have to applaud them for their passion.

So the protests that were going on were secondary to my search for a bathroom as I stood in a line about 20 people long for the men's bathroom with one son who just couldn't hold it any longer.  He was about to protest he had to go so bad.  As we stood there (for a very_long_time - it actually wound up about 45 minutes) I noticed two very weird things, almost Orwellian.

It looks like the good people at BK realized that one bathroom for 3 floors of food service creates long lines.  So they put a TV in between the men's and women's room.  The TV was tuned into some kind of MTV.  So basically my kids had images of barely clothed women moving to a beat that we couldn't hear while some guy in tattoos sings about the joys of thug life.

I was tempted to change the channel.  So I checked out everyone else's reaction.  I thought if everyone else thinks this is ridiculous then we can change it.  But I was astonished.  Like a giant video pacifier, about half of the people were glued to the screen.  In fact one of the protesters sat at a table and stared at the screen.  Staring is too soft a word.  You would have thought there were a pool of saliva at his feet - he was completely glazed over watching the screen.

Maybe he was tired.  Protesting is draining.

But then as I saw others, I was weirded out thinking that everyone is okay with this.  It is times like these that I feel like an alien on my own planet.

Standing in line I wanted to change the conditions - I wanted to protest against the garbage coming through the screen.  But each time I think about that, I have to remember I am an alien on my own planet.

If the Christian message is true, then it must be conducted through my demonstration of it, not my demonstrations about it.  I effect change by the way I move through this planet - that is a movement - a collection of people acting like Jesus (who left no instructions for political movements, field guides or talking points).  The conditions change when I engage other people in line and make conversation and show grace.

But I am still figuring it all out . . .

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Other Steve Jobs

Like many people I was very sad to hear about Steve Jobs' death.  I was actually surprised at my reaction.  I wouldn't have called myself a fan of his or a friend.  But when I found out about his death, I felt like I just lost something.

I think many have felt this way and we can't really put our finger on it.  None of us felt this attachment while he was alive (although his periodic reveals of new products were exciting) but now that he is dead we feel the lesser for it.

I was encouraged at how he overcame the odds of being adopted and not staying in school.  I was bolstered in my own difficulties in hearing how he was ousted from a company he formed only to be begged back into it.

But there is a strange side to Steve Jobs that is unnerving.  He credits taking acid a few times in life for his ability to think outside the box.  Weird.  And some say it was his embrace of alternative healing methods that likely made his condition worsen.

He was a very interesting and complicated kind of person.  A riddle in some respects.  In some ways that is refreshing and in other ways a little disturbing.  I don't know why - perhaps it is because that is not what you expect from someone like Jobs.

And I can't help but think what it is like for him now.  I know, my skeptic friends would answer, "he is gone, done - its over."  But what is it like for him right now if that is not the case?  What kind of Steve Jobs shows up in that scenario?