Category Archives: Family

My Team Stinks

600x480_astrosAs April begins, Houston is alive with our Springtime awakening.  The flowers bloom, the birds sing, and the sports menu is out of control!  Basketball’s March Madness reaches its pinnacle.  The professional golf & tennis tournaments are Houston happening today.  Planning is underway for the NFL draft, and Spring college football fills the air with rumors and innuendo.  Now for the bad news: baseball season begins.

Many folks find the beginning of baseball is a cause for celebration.  I’ve heard that it’s a great time; because every team is undefeated and full of hope.  The problem is…I follow the Astros.  Today they are undefeated.  In fact they have the honor of hosting the first game of the season.  We even have a new place for our cellar dwelling team.  The bottom of the American League West.  ARod earns more individually than the entire Houston Astros team.  Hope does not spring forth this spring.

So what is a fan to do confronted with such a situation?   The truth is that we generally lose when we face a hopeless situation. I am big on sports analogies for life, and I know that in life many of us face hopeless situations.   Some would tell you full speed ahead and ignore the facts.  Butting my head into brick walls is a skill set I have honed.  That makes a favorite saying of mine…it feels so good when it quits hurting.  I probably stole it from an old country song.  Some folks tell you that whatever you believe will happen.  I have found that facts are hard things that we must deal with honestly. do get that attitude can influence a situation.  I understand if all you see is doom & gloom you are likely to find it.  I also think there is a place for an honorable effort even when the results are not likely to be what we desire.  I play tennis, and some folks are better players.  They are faster, stronger, in better shape, and this chaps me to admit…but younger.  I have a suspicion this circumstance is not headed in my favor, but I can still enjoy playing tennis.  A friend once told me that if you never lose it says more about the quality of your competition than the quality of your tennis.

We are not always going to win.  That is true for our sports teams.  That is true for our own athletic endeavors.  That is true for our lives.  We can do our best and enjoy the process, but that does not mean victory in the end.  My Astros are likely to set a record this season…for the most losses ever by a MLB team.  Mets fans prepare to rejoice.  I can still enjoy my team.  The stadium is awesome, the beer will still be cold, my buddies will still be fun, and a real upside is the tickets will be easy to get.  I can worry the young guys on the tennis court, but fewer will fall in defeat.  I can enjoy the exercise, the competition and the camaraderie.

When we face tough circumstances, we need to focus on the process.  Rather than focusing on the end goal, set smaller intermediary steps that we can accomplish.  Find that enjoyment one small step at a time.  With a realistic attitude, we might even get surprised by finding a bit of hope…perhaps even a surprising victory.  Here’s hoping the Astros have a great season….not expecting a pennant…but hoping!

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Easter Reflections

background-vector-easter-cards-and-decorations-butterfly-eggs-05-vector-mate-15-14471-images-300x300Today the entire family gathered for our Easter celebration.  Saturday just worked easier for our hectic schedules.  The food was great, but the most fun was that we had some Easter Egg hunting to do.  My one year old great nephew was extremely cute in his quest.  As I watched the little one command everyone’s attention, I

thought about how he was a great metaphor for the season.  That little one year old brings so much hope and joy.

The Easter symbols of butterflies, flowers and eggs make sense.  Not only did we have plenty of those in the back yard, but the lemon tree is in full bloom filling the yard with its sweet scent.  Spring is that time when “the green blade rises from the buried grain.”  Seeds, eggs and cocoons seem dead but hold the potential for life.

The Easter story of life springing forth from death is that ultimate sign of hope.  The knowledge that no matter how dark the season or situation, life and love still have a chance.  For Christians the season is not just about chocolates and pretty clothes.  We believe that no matter the circumstance, we are not alone.  Faith does not promise a pass around life’s troubles.  Faith offers a path through those difficulties and a guiding hand. We find tremendous resilience in the knowledge that no difficulty is ultimate.

Anybody looking at the events of Good Friday would have assumed that the Sanhedrin had the last word.   Our culture rewrites the Psalm: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I am carrying my .44 magnum.  Anybody with good sense knows that power & money triumph over love.  A handful of His followers were locked in a room scared they were going to be next ones taken.  The knock on the door brought fear.  They never considered the possibility that they would find hope and a love that would not let them go.

My faith gives me hope in every circumstance.  I find courage when giving up seems sensible.  I see life springing up even when death surrounds.  I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a love that will not let me go.  That changes darkness into light.

Decoration Danger

Not really Mom & Dad...but...

Not really Mom & Dad…but…

The season has changed in Angleton this week.  I helped take down the Christmas decorations.  This might sound like a small afternoon project if you didn’t know the Gardners.

Several small communities inhabit the Gardner Christmas village.  Wooden Aggie angels are gathered around an Aggie Christmas tree.  Of course the mandatory Nativity scene is in another part of the yard.  A few other especially cute figures fill out the other part of the yard.  Organization was provided by a few hundred maroon & white lollipops holding huge strings of lights.  Appropriate flood lights focused attention on the scenes.  The backdrop was framed by the icicle  lights strung around the house.  All in all a dazzling enough show attract traffic to a normally quiet neighborhood.

Xmas santaYou might suspect that taking this down was a big job.  It did take a day to get the outside Christmas stuff put away, but that was not the challenge.  The frightening task awaited inside the Gardner manse. Through the years, my parents have amassed a significant collection of Christmas…I hesitate searching for the right descriptor here…let’s just call it stuff.  Counting the number of Santa Clauses would not be achievable.  They range from tiny figurines of an inch or two to a life size…yes life size Mr. & Mrs. Claus.  The Santa’s are easily outnumbered by the nutcrackers.  I noticed with a bit of anxiety that they received even more as gifts this year.  As a faithful family we of course have a creche or two…hundred.     China cabinets and shelves are emptied to make room for the various Nativity sets.  We have Eskimo & Polynesian, Mexican & Native American, Asian & African, and all sort of other themes made from wood & stone & porcelain & ceramic & glass & plastic & metal & really strange materials that are  tough to figure out.  I almost forgot the Christmas trees.  There was at least one for every room…yes EVERY room…yes even the bathrooms.  I stopped counting at 9 trees because I was  exhausted.  Even the porte-cochere (that was the breezeway when I was a kid) had a tree!

Everything must be disassembled, carefully wrapped and placed into coffins…I mean large plastic containers; then carried to the garage for final disposal…I mean for putting into the garage attic until next year.  Most of the coffins…sorry…I mean storage containers came pre-filled with the stuff that had to be relocated to make room for the Christmas stuff.  Virtually everything is fragile, precious, and has a story.  The risk for a klutzy guy in assisting with this is high.   Fortunately I was able to hide all the evidence.

Well it really only took a few days to get everything packed and stored.  I was feeling pretty satisfied about the entire operation; when Mom discovered a couple of items that we had missed.  My suggestion to throw them away seemed reasonable.  If we get rid of the offending items, we don’t have to put them up or take them down next year.  My idea was met with an icy stare that meant I was back up in the attic locating the least filled coffin…storage box…carting it down…adding the items and taking them back up into the attic.  I am actually starting to get good at this routine after the eighth time.

xmas treeMy favorite moment of the season came when we were watching a TV news program one evening that featured a family that did what the reporter called extreme Christmas decorating.  Their light show was set to music and the house was tough to walk through because of the Christmas…stuff.  Mom declared after the report was done, “Those folks are just crazy!  They went way overboard!”  Then,  Mom & Dad went to the computer to see exactly how those folks got the soundtrack to sync up with the light show. As I left, Mom shouted, “You will be back to help us get decorated for Valentine’s day…right?”

The Blame Game

Since the horrific events of December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, I have tried to figure out how to respond.  I spend last week answering the unanswerable questions in the Sunday School class that I teach.  I can’t imagine how empty the Christmas season must be for families  that have presents that will never be opened.

I want some sort of soothing salve that I can pour over the situation and smooth away the pain and anger and fear.  I want answers; so we can all make sense of this.  I want to know how and why it happened; so we can make sure it never happens again.  I want to know if it was the guns, mental illness, bad parenting or video games that caused this. I am looking for someone or thing to blame.  I also want to choke the life out of the next person who says it was all a part of God’s plan.

Faith should provide answers to the problems of great evil.  Faith should prove hope in times of grief.  Faith should provide light in the midst of darkness, but spiritual giants have often witnessed the “dark night of the soul.”

Faith as a “get out of hell free card” or “fire insurance” is too often the message.  My witness is to a faith where God is with us in tragedy not creating tricky escapes.  My faith is in a God who deals with the tough times.  My faith is in a God who weeps.

My faith is also in a God who loves and laughs.  I suspect there is a lot of time spent giggling at my foolishness.  My faith is in a God who can use tragedy; not one who seeks or causes it. I believe that in the midst of grief, God’s love is still present providing hope.

My faith is in a God who entrusts us with a mission to make the world better.  Most amazingly my faith is in a God who has faith in us,,,yep you and me.  Ain’t that crazy!

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Adultery…not that kind!


Christmas Joy

A little kid who  just started the first grade, was asked to memorize the Ten Commandments.  Upon reciting the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” he was asked what does that mean?
With absolute seriousness he replied, “That means that you shouldn’t want to become an adult.”

I just got back from a community Christmas fair on the town square in my home town.  The last vehicle in the parade left the children breathless .  In a perfect metaphor for Angleton Texas, a mule drawn carriage delivering Santa Claus. Looking at the scene with my jaded, adult, citified eyes, I admit that I felt a bit envious of the excited kids running after the carriage.  OK not the one who stepped in the mule exhaust.  Even he will have a great story to tell in later years about stepping in Santa’s mules’ poo.

For us adults, Christmas becomes so stressful.  Spending too much on gifts with too little meaning.  Stressing over holiday plans and travel.  Worrying about how the extended family can survive our time together; while the kids just want to have fun…apologies to Cyndi Lauper.  Kids steadily seem to enjoy Christmas despite our adult efforts to make a complicated mess.

I wonder if this applies to more than just holiday stress.  I believe a more childlike approach to life would create some of that pure childish delight for each of us even today.

Robert Fulcrum says, All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten:

Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush.  Learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.  When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder.


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