really important choices

It's been a while since I've been to a high school football game. In the south, the weekly ritual of fans, bands, teams, cheerleaders, mascots and local politicians gathering around a manicured, painted and roughed-up field to root for their local favorite is akin to a Sunday morning church experience. That's where I was last night.

The hottest ticket in town this weekend was to watch the University of Kentucky basketball team take the floor and, well, practice. It wasn't a game - just practice. But it's an annual tradition that native and transplanted Kentuckians all over the country plan for all year long. It's called Big Blue Madness, and they come from everywhere to watch the future champions begin their journey to the Final Four. According to the local paper, over twenty-three thousand tickets were snatched up in less than four days. (I have to tell you, the Lexington newspaper is not known as a reliable source for unbiased info on much of anything. However, their coverage of Wildcat basketball and the obituaries are usually fairly accurate.)

But why would I want to be there when I could be in Irvine, Kentucky watching the Estill County Engineers play their hearts out at a high school football game? The team was getting thumped. But I was there to see the cheerleaders. Well, one of them anyway.

I had just had a conversation earlier in the week with my daughter Casie. I told her that I was disappointed that I hadn't been able to see her cheer this season. She said she'd let me know when the next game was so I could watch her in action. I learned yesterday it was last night. The same night as the Madness. And four of those hot, in-demand tickets had my name on them. In fact, they were proudly in my pocket when I got the call that notified me of Casie's upcoming performance. This was a conundrum for sure. Until I thought about it.

Huge, must-see annual event featuring future star athletes,lights, lasers, smoke and hot nachos in a massive, state-of-the-art arena!
- VS -
Chilly, weekly event that showcases the athletic talents of a future teacher or engineer (Estill countians will like that) while sitting on cold, metal bleachers sipping pop/water.

Obviously, I went to the football game. For one thing, Casie was there. And so was Christian. That was reason enough. But I also had the chance to visit with friends I hadn't seen in weeks, show pride for the most important girl in my life, support a local school club with my concession stand splurges and wipe hot chocolate off my son's face. Now what could be more valuable than that?

blind loyalty

It's just a truck. And the only reason I'm even driving it is because mine is on the fritz. I have a weekend full of stuff going on that takes me from Lexington to Alexandria, Indiana to Detroit and back, and I had to have something reliable to drive. The car rental folks didn't have the smaller car I'd reserved, (gas prices and all) so they upgraded me to a nice big Dodge Ram truck (so much for the gas idea). That's when I became aware of what seems to be the battle of the big trucks.

Evidently the folks who drive the big Dodges, Chevrolets, GMCs and Fords are all in direct competition with each other. There must be some features and traits that make a person want one truck over another, but from what I've learned these last couple of days, it seems to be more of a pride thing than anything else. It didn't take me long to learn either. I hadn't been behind the wheel but just a few minutes when I got the thumbs up from a fellow Ram tough driver and a couple of direct challenges and snarls from some non-Dodge men in their own non-Dodge trucks. I couldn't tell you the differences in them myself. So I wasn't even aware of what was going on at first.

Labels. They make for great marketing. People will pay a lot more for their favorite logo, and pledge allegiance to their brand of choice many times simply because it is the popular thing to do. Younger folks need to be seen in the right clothes to be accepted by certain groups. Their jeans, shorts, shirts, shoes and even their underwear has to have the hip logo somewhere in view, or they just won't fit in. Any business executive who wants to appear successful has to flash the proper signature or their credentials could be called into question. Look at their briefcases, sunglasses, luggage, suits, shoes and ties for proof. I've talked to enough of them to know how important this is to them and their image.

If it isn't pride that causes us to choose one brand over another, it's probably our loyalty to heritage that does. I know life long Republicans and Democrats who are what they are just because their family always has been. Party platforms aside, they will find a good reason to be loyal even if they don't believe it themselves. I wait with a great sense of longing for a time that most likely will not come when allegiance to principle will mean more than the proper name of the political group. Sometimes even when they agree on an issue, the leaders of our government can't say it publicly for fear of supporting an opposing party's initiative. If we all hope to achieve the same thing, working together would be a great way to do it.

We do it in church too. There are a lot of political parties in our country. There are a million times as many different types of churches. How many times have you been to a gathering of Christians to hear someone get up and ask how many Baptists or Methodists or Pentecostals are in the house? We label ourselves. I understand that we have to call all of the varieties of belief something. But I actually know some who feel their denomination is superior to the others. Most don't feel they are exclusive, but some actually do. And some wear their denominational affiliation like a teenage preppy does their branded clothes. If we all hope to achieve the same thing, working together would be a great way to do it.

Loyalty is admirable. I am loyal to a lot of things and people. Some folks may feel my loyalties are valid, and some may not. But I hope my allegiance will not be a barrier to anyone. And I certainly don't want them to be cause to challenge the guy driving the other brand of truck when I don't even know why he's driving it.


just because they belong to me

I wonder if God enjoys spending time with me the way I love being with my own kids. This is fall break week in my kid's school district, so we've had a chance to hang out and spend more time than usual with each other these past few days. I've had a blast. Christian and I traveled to North Carolina together this past weekend. All of those hours in the car with my son were a treat for me. I think he got bored. Casie and I have watched movies, shopped and eaten more in the last couple of days than is probably legal. Our excuse is the occasion. Daddy-daughter time.

I often lay down at night wondering what is on my kid's minds. What are they thinking? I can ask, but they don't often tell. I can't imagine that they are always thinking of video games, cars and boyfriends. But then again, maybe they are. I don't expect them to have me on their minds all the time, but do they ever think of me the way I think of them?

If you have kids, you know that it is impossible to think of life without them. Of course, I know some folks who don't have kids, and don't want any. They couldn't imagine life with them. But I'm in the former group. My life without my children in it would simply be incomplete and void of a certain element that I can't even explain. I get frustrated sometimes with my inability to express to Casie and Christian how very, very deep my love for them is. I wish there was a word for it. Or at least one they could understand.

I could imagine how corny it would sound to them for me to say, "You are my child, my blood, my creation. My love for you is agape." They'd say, "When do we eat?" They have no idea what agape means. But that is the closest word that explains the passion that I have for my children. They don't have to earn it, pay for it, manipulate it, convince me they deserve it, work it up or even appreciate my love. They don't have to understand what motivates it, or why it is so dependable. They are in a position to simply receive my love. And just as they can't do anything to make me love them any more, it is impossible for them to force me to stop loving them - try as they might. They are my children, and I will love them through the worst decision they will ever make, the ugliest moments of their lives and even when they resent it. That is agape love. Sound familiar?