Life in the Neighborhood

Daniel Striped Tiger
"There is no normal life that is free of pain. It's the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth." -Mr. Rogers

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood... Words that most people are going to recognize - the opening song to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

I'm confident and man enough to admit I watched this show long past an age where most would quit watching. (Though I know some of you feel me on this one, because you still watch Arthur on PBS now, too.)

Anyway, Mr. Rogers the man was full of wisdom. And that quote at the top really resonates with me. This might as well be a continuation of yesterday's post. No normal life is free of pain. It's a fact that we cannot escape. Life is a big roller coaster ride.

Yet it's in and through that pain where we can experience growth. How so? Well, it's very simple. The pain and the problems humble us. It's hard to think more highly of yourself that you ought to (the definition of pride) when you've fallen off that cliff. The pain and the problems reveal to us our need for help.

Last year was such a time for me. Without turning this blog into a dissertation (big word), an issue for me is dealing with stress in, well, not good ways. More to the point, I tend to keep it bottled up, only for it to blow up in my face. So rather than talk about the stress or something constructive, it was bottled up and eventually became heart palpitations. Which I'm here to say: those suck and are scary to experience.

Needless to say that was a low point. A very low point. And recovering from that low point took a lot of time, learning, and re-learning what I had already learned but failed to act on. You can see more of what I learned here. Without that low point, I wouldn't have truly appreciated the words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 nor experienced the peace that does pass understanding. Without that low point, I wouldn't have seen the way I handle stress (because it piled on for a while) and worry. I grew from that low point.

Mr. Rogers got it right. The pain can be the impetus for our growth. Or it can continue to send us spiraling out of control as we continue to believe we have everything under control and don't need help - from above and/or others. If you don't see the need for help, you'll never grow. But if you finally admit that you have no control whatsoever, that's when things can slowly begin turning around.

I promise I'll have something light-hearted posted here soon, but when you get inspired by sunrises and the Neighborhood of Make Believe, you have to write about them.



"But God..."

I snapped this picture on my phone this morning crossing the small skybridge between the parking garage and office building. It fit with what I have been thinking about.

Life is not easy. Let's be honest - it sucks sometimes. There are a lot of times that are not any fun. That's just reality.

The pastor at my church (also a great friend and mentor to me) snapped a picture yesterday that also fit in with I have been thinking about. Yesterday was a cloudy, rainy Monday, but toward late afternoon the skies began clearing. In his picture there were patches of blue breaking through the gray clouds.

Life can throw a lot of gray clouds rain storms hurricanes at us. Storms that shake us and leave us wondering if there is an end in sight. Life has peaks and valleys, but it also has cliffs from which we free fall and keep falling. I know. I've been there. To keep hoping for a bottom that hasn't come yet? It sucks.

The Psalmist in Psalm 73:26 says, "My heart and flesh may fail..." Translation? "I'm defeated. I'm falling. And I'm waiting to hit the bottom." Sound familiar? Stress, worry, money, job, relationships. You name it. Anything can send us free falling.

The Psalmist doesn't stop at, "My heart and flesh may fail..." Our stories don't end at "I'm defeated." The free fall doesn't go on and on.

"... but God..." is what the Psalmist writes. Two words. Six letters. Infinite power. "But God." We don't even have to read the rest of the verse. "But God." Translation? "It's over." The free fall will end. The light is coming. The blue skies are coming.

"... but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever." Yeah, life may suck right now. Yes, the valley is dark and deep. But God is. And that is all we need.

There's a song by Matt Maher called "Alive Again"...

I woke up in darkness
surrounded by silence
oh where, where have I gone?
I woke to reality
losing its grip on me
oh where, where have I gone?
Cause I can see the light
before I see the sunrise

You called and you shouted
broke through my deafness
now I’m breathing in
and breathing out
I’m alive again!
You shattered my darkness
washed away my blindness

now I’m breathing in
and breathing out
I’m alive again!

The skies will clear. The storms will end. Hold onto that glimmer of light that creeps over the horizon, because the darkness will be shattered.



RT, Please?

Social media. Buzz words that have taken the world by storm the last few years. With good reason, too. Suddenly it's become hip and cool to be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, FourSquare, Lifeshare, Pinterest, PPL, ULive, FindMe, and LetsBeFriendsEvenThoughWeNeverLikedEachOtherInHighSchool. (Note: some of those aren't real.)

You get my point. There are a lot of sites out there falling under the "social media" umbrella. All of them try to offer something different. All of them are trying to find their niche in the Interwebs. Which means we the consumers have to find our niche as well.

Therein lies the problem. It's very easy to get caught up in the tidal wave. Of trying to be on every site. Of trying to attract a following on every site. It's middle and high school all over again, trying to fit in with the popular kids and get that all important popularity boost. More followers or friends or likes or +1's mean more people like you. To become popular, you decide to change who you are and write stuff that really isn't you. What good does that do? You're already caught up in the rat race of real life. Why carry that over to social media?

Sure, I've had grand delusions of having a blog read by thousands of people every day with site sponsors or having my witty, sometimes cynical tweets retweeted across the globe. But that would mean changing who I am, or at least who I want you to think I am.

My wife I think has it figured out, at least more than I do. She recently culled her Facebook friends down to 110. From somewhere north of 400. Why? Because she didn't interact with 75% of those people. She didn't care how toasted they got or how they were never happy or blah blah blah. At 110 friends, she's more interactive. She and fellow moms can talk about being moms. She can put up a question and get several responses in an hour. That's the value of social media. Finding your niche and creating community within that niche. If that niche only has 50 people, that's 50 people you can interact with, support, and encourage.

That's my opinion anyway. What's yours?



College Football Week 3 Picks

Some rather important games on the schedule this weekend, including a showdown in Tallahassee that I'm excited about. Onward we go!

LSU @ Mississippi State (+4.5): A Thursday night showdown in the SEC. LSU might be the team to beat in the SEC West (Alabama may disagree of course), and Mississippi State does not want to start the season 0-2 in the division. Thursday night. Home underdog. The cowbells ringing through the night. The only thing I'm worried about is how Les Miles manages to pull out a victory, but we'll ride the Bullies again.
The Pick: Mississippi State 16-13

Auburn @ Clemson (-3.0): It was wild and crazy, but Auburn found a way to stop Mississippi State at the 3-inch line last week. This week, they travel to Clemson, where the battle of the Tigers should again be another crazy game. At some point, Auburn will lose. My expert analysis says they will this week.
The PickClemson 35-27

Tennessee @ Florida (-9.0): This game now is a little more interesting since Tennessee is actually good some people think Florida may be "down" this year. I wish they still had ties in college football, because I would certainly hope for one here. One team will win. One team will lose. I don't really care which one is which.
The Pick: Florida 31-24

Michigan State @ Notre Dame (-4.5): At some point, I'll quit picking Notre Dame games, but picking against them is too fun. They might win finally, but they won't cover.
The Pick: Notre Dame 23-21

Louisville @ Kentucky (-6.0): Let me be perfectly clear. I grew up in Memphis; I cheer for Kentucky; I want Memphis to do well, too. There was absolutely no way Louisville stood a chance at being liked by me. Kentucky will make it 5 straight victories over the Dirty Birds. No question about it.
The Pick: Kentucky 27-17

Game of the Week:
Oklahoma @ Florida State (+3.5): #1 vs. #5. This showdown is going to feature talent all over the field. Jimbo Fisher has the 'Noles on the right track, and a win for the 'Noles would catapult them into BCS consideration. Last year, Oklahoma humiliated FSU in Norman. This year the Seminoles will get revenge.
The Pick: Florida State 34-31

There you have it, my readers. 6 games. 6 picks.