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Who took the lane lines?

I thought I was just too early for Master swim when all I saw were four bright orange rescue rings floating on the surface of the pool. It turned out the absence of lane markers was on purpose. Today’s workout would be free-form. “Choose a direction and swim outside the rings. Pull a few, kick a few, swim a few, whatever you feel like.”

Today we were doing the pool imitation of an “open water swim.”

Actual open water events are pretty much free-for-alls, with every swimmer fending for him or herself. There’s climbing and clawing and a sprint to the front in order to avoid the same. And if the dark, choppy water doesn’t provide ample challenge, there’s the matter of keeping your bearings… and contending with cramps, hypothermia, injury or exhaustion. Of course, for those swimmers who cannot continue, rescue boats are close at hand.

None of this happened at the neighborhood swimming pool today.

At least not to me. Because, after jumping in, swimming a few strokes, looking up every two or three to be sure I wasn’t gonna clobber another swimmer, then taking extra irregular breaths to gauge my bearings per the buoys, then preferentially stroking with right arm to navigate the turning radius, I completed one lap and climbed out.

“This just isn’t my thing,” I apologized to the guy who set up the course. “I come here more for the Zen.”

But what I really meant was, “This is totally nuts!” There’s no way I voluntarily subject myself to an hour of dizzily circling the pool while hyperventilating in fear of ramming somebody. All that just because nobody set up the lane lines…

One of the guys called to me as I was leaving, “What’s the matter? Don’t like the waves?”

Nope. It wasn’t the waves. Effort I am okay with. It was the tight turns and uncertainty I objected to. It felt… debilitating.

Wow. As soon as I named the feeling, it all made sense. This open-water swim felt like the year and a half we’ve been living. Our orange buoys — pandemic, climate change, injustice and cultural division — have set us a-spin. They’ve changed all our rules. Boundaries we thought were fixed have now moved. Truth may not be true. Our friend may not be our friend. The system we thought was fair, isn’t. Temperatures trending upward may not be temporary.

What we thought was unchangeable isn’t; the world can change in a minute.

Life right now feels like an open water swim, and even if you’re a good swimmer, it’s disconcerting and dizzying. Our opportunities for collective Zen have gone missing.

I need to inject more of my life with stuff like organized Master Swim. I need lane lines, a planned workout, the right equipment, a clean, well-kept space and some hearty companions. Because in that space, even and especially after supplying maximum effort, I find peace — the peace that settles my mind and clears my head, the peace that trains my heart and uplifts my soul.

How I am longing for structure, discipline, order and clear expectations where I can be free to supply my effort, my skills and my talents to contribute to my world as it is and make it better. To find a bit of good news and amplify it. To uncover a good idea and inspire a group to pursue it. To lift up the work of others who are on track toward something great. And to lend a hand where I can.

Because this head-spinning time needs a-righting. And getting out of the pool isn’t an option.

Get Off the Couch!

Ever been chased by an angry dog while you’re riding your bike?
Me too.

People will tell you how to handle this.
Most of them say… get off your bike and walk, keeping the bike between you
and the dog. Keep your eye on the dog, but don’t make direct eye contact.
He’ll consider that a challenge.

img_3423While on a group bike tour our guide taught us a different approach. It will surprise you… Look straight at the charging dog and yell,
in an authoritative voice: “GET OFF THE COUCH!”
He’ll be so startled by the command he knows and the tone he recognizes, he’ll stop in his tracks.

Works every time, the guide told us.

I didn’t have to use it that trip, but I tucked it away for another day. Because … what do you do when the angry dog comes after you?

It may be our GET OFF THE COUCH! moment.
But … yelling at a charging dog is likely to be harder than we think.
Even if we pedal fast and have a very authoritative voice.

When did prayer become fast food?

Three times a day, need it or not.
Gotta eat. Gotta pray.
Gotta get some energy to
carry me through the day.

God is great,…

IMG_4803Do we say it in the drive through?
At the bus stop? In the lunch line?
On the job? On the run?
Here’s a bagel, forget the plate;
Hurry up kids, we’re running late!

God is good,…2012-03-05_10-21-47_940

Do we say it over Starbucks?
pull a snack from our desk drawer?
guzzle Red Bull, just one more?
At quitting time; I’m finally free,
to raid the frig and take care of me.

Now we thank Him for our food, …

Say it over TV dinner?
homework calling,
sister balling,
screens alerting,
newscaster blurting,
watch the game,
evening news it’s all the same.

IMG_5273Wait, wait, let’s
take a minute here.
Something’s coming.
All stand clear.
I’ve been caught up in the fray,
Something’s calling me back to pray.

Look, look, the
Majesty that I’m wearing,
Quite unique, even call it daring,
Behold the machinery within,
Buffets me, begs me to begin.

Somewhere deep in the far away,
I remember what I want to say:

God is great.
God is good.
Let us thank Him
for our food.

Amen.

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