I skipped last week's gratitude post. Not because I had nothing for which to give thanks, but because I simply couldn't write. Occasionally I lose my ability to focus, which means writing becomes arduous...or impossible. Last week was one of those weeks. I suspect this week might be different, if for no other reason than I expect to get some much needed time out of doors!
And that brings me to my thanksgiving for today. I am sincerely thankful for a break in the cold weather. I really don't mind the low temperatures so much. In fact, I find the cold rather exhilarating...but the icy sidewalks prevent me from walking outside and when that luxury is taken away, my spirit suffers. I'm good for a few days, but it has been nearly 3 weeks since I've exercised in the fresh air. The monotony of indoor treadmills and bikes just doesn't provide the same sense of sanity.
Forecasters are predicting several warm days in a row...and I will certainly take advantage of any sunshine. But as of tonight, the sidewalks are free from ice and that's all I needed! I feel better already.
St. Louis is abuzz with frenzy about Albert Pujols' future with the Cardinals. We all feel the need to choose sides, even though we really have NO IDEA what is taking place in hearts or behind closed doors. But we pretend to know. Mozeliak is stingy. Pujols is greedy. We pass judgement as though we have inside knowledge of the people and the process.
My favorite STL sports writer, Bernie Miklasz, weighed in today with an article that's level-headed and worth sharing. Check it out here.
In the meantime, I intend to defend Albert with some anecdotal evidence. I was disappointed with Albert during his last round of negotiations, judging him as demanding, arrogant, and not so different afterall. But I have seen evidence to the contrary in the way he has lived his life over the last 10 years. I know...most anyone can present well in the public eye, if they want to. But here's the deal.
I recently began to do some volunteer work for the Pujols Family Foundation. In addition to charitable work in Albert's homeland, the Dominican Republic, they work locally with families of children with Down's Syndrome. Many of you know that issue is close to my heart, so when Aunt Riesa left our home, I pursued opportunities there. All I can tell you is this:
At their Fall Festival, which was held at the car museum in Chesterfield, they set up a delightful evening of safe entertainment for these children/teens and their parents. It was well-organized and thoughtful, but simple too. Not the least bit ostentatious. It was all about the families and bringing joy to them. Albert and Diedre showed up with their own children, but you would never have known that a man whose name is a household staple had just entered the room. He went from station to station with his kids, and blended in like any other parent. There was no attention given or drawn to HIM. He was just there. A parent. A citizen. A Christian....doing what Christian citizen parents do in the most ordinary fashion. That was impressive. But...this event was sponsored by him and provided a relatively private and protected environment where he couldn't be rushed by crazed fans, so maybe it was safe to show up like a regular Joe.
But again, recently, I observed him in another setting without the safety and privacy of a charitable event. On Thursday last week, my son and I attended a funeral for the mother of one of his closest friends who lost her long battle with cancer. One of her younger sons is a classmate and close friend of AJ Pujols, so the Pujols family attended the funeral. No bodyguards, no attention, no bru-ha-ha. Nothing. He was there, again, as a Christian man, father, and friend. He didn't get escorted in...he didn't rush out when it was over to avoid people. He walked downstairs to the simple reception and mingled like everyone else did. And what many people in the larger community don't know, is that for months, Albert had privately funded a cook for the family since the mom was too ill to function in that way. No public posturing here...no one even knows about it. I only know because my son spends a lot of time at this family's home.
Bottom line: Albert is a genuine man and appears to live out privately what he proclaims publicly. He is not full of himself and greedy. He is generous. He is faithful. He is humble.
This is why I don't really care anymore how much money he asks for. Yes, he publicly SAYS that this money isn't his and that it belongs to God...that he is merely a steward. But his private life demonstrates that he really BELIEVES and PRACTICES that. I admire The Man.
I hope like crazy he remains a Cardinal for life (and I think he will), but if he doesn't, our city loses more than a sports icon. We lose a faithful man of God...and THAT would be the bigger loss.
We are an analytical people. That's really not such a bad way to be. In fact, as I've argued frequently in my posts on education, analyzing is one of the primary means by which we learn...that is, by which we gain knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
When done well, it carries the potential to reveal previously unrecognized glory, enhance our delight, grant dominion and increase our control. Let me try to illustrate what I mean.
In order to construct clear, concise and graceful sentences, we learn how to deconstruct them by parsing. We pick them apart and diagram them, analyzing the way each word and phrase functions within the sentence and in relationship to each other. Basically, we kill the sentence by separating and unmaking it. BUT...we kill it in order to resurrect it! When we reconstruct the sentence, it is not more glorious than it was previously (unless of course we discover error in its form and correct it!), but now we see its glory more fully because we understand it in a new way. This process of analyzing a sentence increases our appreciation for the logic and beauty of language as expressed in a well-formed sentence.
What about Literature? In order to thoroughly value good narratives, we must undergo the discipline of slow reading, detailed study, and analysis. This process of ferreting out images, symbols, figures of speech, themes, patterns of movement, etc., is tedious and can remove all sense of delight, but in the end, we will have gained insight and a more mature understanding of the story. The next time we read it for pleasure, our delight will be enhanced, as will our delight in other works of literature.
Consider Math. Deconstructing, analyzing, reconstructing and applying algorithms, enables us to take dominion over many spheres of life...from calculating how much fabric is needed to reupholster the sofa, to investigating a crime scene, to designing structurally sound buildings, to generating minute and seemingly endless sports statistics. All of these are made accessible to us through the process of analyzing mathematical formulas and the way and reasons they work, thus allowing us to rule effectively over various aspects of our lives.
In the realm of science, analyzing a plant by dissection propels us toward mastery of farming techniques, development of new breeds, heartier food supplies, redder roses, sweeter apples, etc. We are enabled to increase our control over outcomes based on the understanding we've gained through analysis.
This principle extends into nearly every realm of life...music, technology, trouble shooting, sewing, cooking, production, even to man himself. Whether in the form of self-analysis or relationship analysis, it can create opportunities for glory, delight, dominion and control.
Can an analytical approach ever be unhelpful? Well, yes. As with most everything else in this fallen world, the motivation driving the analysis largely determines whether its result is destructive or redemptive.
If a teacher analyzes her students' compositions in order to highlight their ignorance, the result will likely be destructive; whereas, if her desire is to increase their skill and effectiveness, it will likely be redemptive.
If a man sets out to analyze his relationship with his sister in order to belittle her, harm her reputation, or to prove that she is the problem in their relationship, that analysis is destructive; however, if he seeks understanding so he can nurture her and the relationship, correct his own faults and build up his sister in love and good works, that analysis will have a redemptive effect!
Because deconstruction is a necessary component of analysis, it carries a degree of risk and threat that can lead to confusion, separation and death. If the end goal is to diminish glory, extract delight, rule harshly or manipulate for selfish ends, then that analysis contradicts the image and glory of God and is ultimately destructive.
But no matter how often and to what extent analysis is undertaken in order to reveal glory, enhance delight, grant dominion or increase control in a way that builds, encourages, nurtures, and matures the world, ourselves and others, then that analysis is redemptive and leads to new and more glorious life!
Today I give thanks for another of life's simple luxuries: flannel sheets!
No matter how cold the air is outdoors or inside my bedroom, these babies INSTANTLY absorb and retain body heat! Although I like the room to be cold for sleeping, I hate to crawl in bed and shiver for 10 minutes! I need that instantaneous and pervasive warmth that sateen cotton sheets can never provide.
Besides providing instant warmth, I love all the beautiful designs available. Every functional possession should also be aesthetically pleasing!