Tim Duncan and Plan B

Tim Duncan and Plan B

Even though we’re a long way from San Antonio, a lot of us here in Winston-Salem are celebrating the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA championship won last night. If you’re not a basketball fan, one of the key players in the Spurs’ five championships has been Tim Duncan, who is without question one of the greatest players ever to play the game and the only man to have won titles with the same team in three different decades. Some of us here in Winston started watching Tim play when he was a skinny, unknown kid from the Virgin Islands. Duncan played four years for the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. (Duncan is one of the last great players to postpone the money of a pro contract in order to play four years and earn his degree.)

Here’s what you may not know, unless you’re a diehard Wake Forest fan. Duncan wasn’t the big man recruit everyone was excited about. Makhtar N’Diaye was a Sengelese player who came to Wake by way of Oak Hill Academy and was considered a top recruit. But before he played a minute for the Deacs he was declared ineligible due to concerns about the recruiting process. He transferred to Michigan and then to UNC. He gained notoriety for his bad behavior on the court. He signed as a free agent, played about 4 games in the NBA and then spent his career playing in Europe.

Tim DuncanThere was a lot of gnashing of teeth by Wake fans when Makhtar left. He was the big man we were counting on. We were stuck with this Tim Duncan fellow, whom only one other US college had seriously recruited. It didn’t take too awfully long before we realized that fate may have given us the better part of that deal. Tim went on the become National Player of the Year and help Wake win its first two ACC championships since the early sixties.

Duncan was the first pick in the 1997 NBA draft, won rookie of the year, two time NBA most valuable player, three time NBA finals MVP and fourteen time all-Star. And, as of last night, help lead the Spurs to their fifth NBA title. He makes news off the court by not making news.

When you put the two careers side by side there is really no comparison. While few knew it at the time, Wake got the better end of the deal all the way around, both on and off the court.

One of the things that is tempting for us to do as human beings is to create stories about our lives. Actually, in telling the story of our lives we find and weave the threads of meaning. But too often we create too quickly, creating stories out of incomplete evidence – or no evidence at all. As soon as something happens in our lives we have to make a judgment that it’s the best thing or the worst. We tell ourselves that because things didn’t go as we’d planned that it’s a disaster.

We create stories about what we’re sure other people are thinking when we actually have no idea what they’re thinking of us – or even IF they’re thinking of us. We think it’s a terrible thing that we’ve lost the best recruit from this class when in fact, we’ve opened the door for one of the greatest players ever.

The next time you’re ready to make a quick judgment and write a sad story of your life, remember a swimmer from the Virgin Islands who was Plan B.
His name is Tim Duncan.

Photo: AP Photo/Alan Marler

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Legacy

Been thinking about legacies lately. Not the kind that gets passed down in a will but the kind that get passed down in our hearts.

Becoming a beginnerI started thinking about it as I read a column about a World war II vet in our area. Like Forrest Gump, he always seemed to be around when history was being made: meeting Douglas McArthur, Pearl Harbor after the attacks, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, the bomb dropping at Hiroshima. I gradually realized that I knew this vet: his grandson is married to my niece. I didn’t make the connection at first because I hadn’t heard most of the stories.

Which led me to thinking about the legacy my niece’s children have. Their dad’s grandfather was a frogman, swimming underwater to find and defuse bombs before they could blow up ships. He’d gotten the job because as a boy, he’d grown up swimming. My niece’s grandfather (my father) was a sniper in Gen. Patton’s army. The work suited him not only because he was a good shot but because much of it meant working independently, freelancing, going out ahead to scout out the land and the enemy. He liked being able to do that. An artist, he could draw what he saw.

Two great grandfathers who did what they could in a terrible time. Two young men – more like boys, really – who used what they had in order to stand up to a great evil. Two men who did a job that was terrible in ways I cannot imagine, who sacrificed more than most of us know and who came home to do the mundane, priceless; blessed work of providing for and raising their families. As family legacies go, my niece and her husband could do worse.

I profoundly hope that Jack, Emma and Olivia never have to fight in a war. (If they do, Emma will be the one with combat boot bling.) I do hope, however, that they will live in the courage and commitment of their great grandfather’s legacies: that they will use what they have to make the world a better place, that if they see evil or when they see injustice they will not be afraid to oppose it. That they will work to bless the world, whether one cause at the time or one family at the time.

I hope they realize that doing such things is simply in their blood. They are the descendants of Joe and of Clive.

Family legacies can be great treasures that inspire us. Or they can be cautionary tales that we choose to rise above. What are your legacies?

Know thyself.. if you have time

Recently I was picking out a birthday present for my just-turned four year-old great-niece. It was a pretty easy task, and not just because she already has a deep attachment to bling, pretty dresses and Dora. (Thank God for Dora, the one non-princess in her life.)

No, it was easy because we just spent a week at the beach together. I saw her when she first got up and I saw her going off to bed and I saw her for most of the hours in-between. We played together and ate together and went to the movies together. Having watched her play, I knew she loved to color. So when I found the coloring books filled with pictures of Dora and various Disney princesses, I knew I had a winner.

I knew her because I spend time with her. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. It seems that I keep seeing people (including, at times, the one in the mirror) who feel like strangers to themselves (myself). It’s not hard to figure out why. They(we) haven’t spent much time with themselves (ourselves).

I can hear you sputtering in protest from here. You already have so much to do and now I’m going to make you feel guilty for not adding one more thing onto your plate. Well gosh, I hope not.

It’s not about adding one more thing onto our schedules, except those times when it is. Sometimes we have to say no to somethings in order to carve out a little time just to be with ourselves. More and more I find myself turning off the TV at night (or never turning it on) so that I can have some time. Just time to read a book that makes me think or to play with my dogs, which both reminds me of how much I’m loved and how much I need not to take myself too seriously.

But we can also clear out the time as we go about our day. Brother Lawrence found in the humble, repetitive act of washing dishes a time for prayer and devotion and growing in faith.  As I walk my dog I can spend the time rehashing (and beating myself up for) a mistake I made or I think I made. Or I can reflect on my life, where the itch of neglected dreams or unacknowledged pain is making me uncomfortable. I can look at what I didn’t handle so well and think about ways to do it better next time (which is completely different for beating myself over the head for being stupid, not that YOU’VE ever done that).

Even if our lives are challenging, when we are living in concert with our own best selves there is a flow that feels right and good. But first we have to take some time to be with those best selves. How are you intentional with your day? How do you find time to get to know yourself?

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Do you have your copy yet? Strugglers, Stragglers and Seekers: daily devotions for the rest of us is  in print. you can get your copy here and here. Local folks stay tuned for book signing announcements.

This is the cover.
This is the cover.

from amazon review…

“As an admitted straggler, my Bible has more than a layer of dust on it. Peggy’s book is more than enough of a reason to dust yours off (come on, I know I am not the only one, here, right?). In this work, she takes Bible passages and brings them to the present day complete with our modern struggles, humor, and hope. I only received this book 5 days ago and already I feel more connected to my faith. I am reminded that living with mindful intention is at the heart of moving from being a faithful person in word to becoming a faithful person in action.”

It’s Always Something

A friend commented today that she wasn’t getting my blog anymore. I had to come clean and admit that she wasn’t getting one because I hadn’t written anything in a few days. Well, almost a month if you’re going to be picky about it.

This is the cover.
This is the cover.

A large portion of my time was spent getting my latest book finished and ready to be launched last week. I’m glad to announce that the book is finished, printed and sent out into the world.

People have asked me how long it took to write. Here’s the thing: when you write a year’s worth of daily devotions you’re pretty much setting yourself up for writing about 366 devotions. (My former 6th grade teacher checked to make sure I’d remembered leap year provisions. I did.)

I started writing a lifetime ago; really, several lifetimes. Life kept interrupting me and throwing me off course. Accident and injury. Healing and physical therapy. Illness and death of people close to me. Sorting through a lifetime of memories in the form of a house and its contents. Caring for people who had cared for me.

My first year as an Associate Minister I kept waiting for the “slow time of the year.” About the time I celebrated my first anniversary there  I realized there was no such thing. With this book, I kept waiting for the “slow time,” the time when things would settle down. Still waiting.

Because, as Rosanne Rosannadanna reminded us, it’s always something. (Here’s a link in case you missed the comedy treasure that was Gilda Radner.) If you wait for the perfect time to write a book, to write a letter, to right a wrong you’ll never do it. Because there is no perfect time. There are only times that are marginally more manageable than others.

What are you waiting for? what are you waiting to do? Who are you waiting to be?

Now’s as good a time as any other to start.

Miss Me?

Miss Me?

While I’m normally fairly consistent in posting to this blog, it’s been a while since I’ve written. A bout with a bum shoulder limited my writing for a while.

One of the things that’s been happening in my life is becoming part of a new church community. For the last seven years I’d commuted from my home to my church in the city where I used to live. While I felt much grief in the move, it was finally time to settle in and put down roots in my own town.

The new church is not altogether unfamiliar. The more I visited the more connections I discovered: from childhood, college, seminary, my clinical training. I am now in choir with my sixth grade teacher. It took great effort on my part to begin calling her by her first name.

Renewed connections have made the move unexpectedly joyful. And yet, it has also been unsettling.

This is the first time in my adult life that I’m a member of a church that I did not serve in some staff capacity. I came from a church where I’d served as Associate Minister for six years and with whom I’d been a member for twenty-four of the last twenty-six years. (I tend not to do a lot of church hopping.)

I’m having to learn names – a lot of them. I look forward to a new directory so that I can study on my own. My first Sunday processing in with the choir I was full of questions. Which way did I go? I had to figure out where the chapel was. Heck, I had to figure out where the bathrooms were.

I often see people who are struggling with a lack of community in their lives. This experience of transition has reminded me of how intentional we have to be about creating community for ourselves. As we grow older, it’s easier just not to try. Formerly, while I still had to learn the names and faces of newcomers, I’d been in one place so long that church was easy for me. Now I have to start again. One of the dangers of growing older is not being willing to risk starting new.

I sometimes see people waiting for community to knock on their front doors. It doesn’t happen that way. We have to seek it out. We have to be intentional. Creating community is work. More than that, it is risky work in the way that getting to know others and allowing them to get to know us carries with it risk.

I’d been in one community so long I kind of knew where my place was in it, the niches that called for my particular gifts. I’m having to ask those questions all over again. Where am I called to serve?

Not asking isn’t an option. Being in community carries with it a share of responsibility for the health and life of the community as a whole. What am I called to do that will help make this community stronger? How do I balance my need to serve with my need to keep balance and rest in my life?

There are times for stepping back. I know that as well as any, having just come through a four year journey of caregiving that took precedence over every other commitment in my life. But for most of our journey, just going along for the ride isn’t possible. A community cannot thrive without the investment of its members. Showing up. Sharing gifts. Risking  knowing and being known. And we cannot thrive without some sort of community.

Places and gatherings and circles of connection that promise community are not always healthy . Part of finding community in our lives is paying attention when something does not feel right or safe, seeking discernment for unhealthy patterns.

Community is a framework of connections in which we can laugh and weep, which nudges us along in the path of our dreams and sits with us in our suffering.  A community may also confront us when we are reluctant to be honest with ourselves. We need community for, as God observed in the garden long ago, it is not good that we be alone.

I’ve written here of a church community but community can take many different shapes and forms. What does it look like in your life?

Where do you find community in your life? Are you intentional in seeking community and investing in it.?

Facing Change

I recently came across this very good article in Huffington Post on mindfulness. I’ve written before about what a valuable tool just paying attention is, how increasing our awareness helps us increase our capacity to deal effectively with the ups and downs of our lives.

“Don’t look for mindfulness to cure your anxiety, depression or addiction, look at it more as a new way of relating to life, a way of coming home, nurturing a healthier heart and opening up to the experience of being alive.”

More than once when a client comes into my office they are looking for a cure. After all, that’s what they seek from their medical doctors. They want to make the sore throat go away or the painful knee to stop hurting. I have to break the news to them that what our work is about is not so much curing them.

I can’t make it so that they will never be sad again. I can help them deal with and perhaps even transform sadnesses that they’ve carried for far too long. I can help them identify the feelings that really don’t belong to them, that are based on faulty beliefs or someone else’s pain inflicted upon them. And I can give them the tools to deal with sadness that comes  in the future.

But things like sadness, grief and even anxiety are part and parcel of our humanity. They are acknowledgements of the inevitable changes of life, the ebb and flow that is as relentless as the tides.

I was at the beach with my five-year old great-nephew. He decided that he didn’t like the tide coming in. “Make it stop, Aunt Peggy,” he said. I  told him that I didn’t have the power to do that. It’s  just what the ocean did.

And change is just what life brings to us. Some changes are better than other, more joyful than others. But mindfulness is one way that we can navigate with some grace the changes that come and the feelings that they bring.

Learning From Lennox

Some of us who are animal lovers have been greatly saddened by the death of Lennox, who was euthanized by order of the Belfast City Council. The short version of the story is that Belfast has Breed Specific Legislation outlawing pit bulls. Although Lennox did not have any pit in his background, authorities decided he did and that he was dangerous. Many things didn’t add up in the story. Well-known dog trainers in the US offered to take Lennox and provide him a new home. The City Council refused, saying that he was too dangerous to place in another community. Lennox’s family included a child, and they had never had a single incident of biting, attacking or other aggressiveness.

Lennox plays with handler who deemed him the most dangerous dog he’d met.

Every professional who evaluated him found him to be loving, except for the one police officer who deemed Lennox to be the most dangerous dog he’d ever met – and whose report was the only one accepted by the council. (Here’s a picture of Lennox dangerously licking that warden.) Lennox’s family, who’d fought a two-year legal battle to save his life, was denied the chance even to say good-bye to their beloved pet. (You can read more about this story here.)

As I followed the story I felt sadness for the family and the dog and outrage at the City Council. The more I thought about it last night I realized that I was also sad for the men who were making this terrible decision.

How hard does your heart have to be to deny a chance to save a life or to let a family say good-bye? How fearful do you have to be to look at what was by all accounts a loving dog and see only danger?

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross used to say that one of the ways that we combat evil in the world is by doing our own work. When we have not healed our wounds and faced our own fears we project them onto other people – and animals. When we have not dealt with the dark places and hurt places in our own hearts we have to close off our hearts, making them small and hard and fearful. When we are fearful we resist change, for if we stop holding on so tightly for a even little bit it may be the end of us. We cannot listen to another’s point of view – we can only defend our own point of view. We see the world in black and white because it feels safer that way.

I know that as a therapist one of the most important things I can do for my clients is to do my own work. I have to keep checking in with myself (or perhaps better said, with my Self.) Am I carrying hurts around? Am I letting fear have too much of a say? Are there things I need to let go of in order to grow or are there changes I need to allow into my life? Only if I keep my self clear can I be clear for my clients.

Where are the places in your life that need attention? Tending to them isn’t self-indulgent. In fact, the world pretty much needs you  to face them and deal with them. We battle darkness in this world by first allowing our own light to shine.