Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Showing up

Life is about winning, right?

On a recent call night I found myself watching the movie "Little Miss Sunshine" a comical and poignant story about a family traveling to a beauty contest for six and seven year old girls. The movie shows the family journeying several hundred miles in a yellow VW bus as they struggle with life and each other.

For me the message of the movie is distilled in to a moment when the oldest character, the grandfather, so damaged by life that he resorts to snorting cocaine to cope, calms the youngest character, Olive, the beauty queen contestant as she expresses her fears of failure on the eve of the contest.

"Grand paw, I don't want to be a loser. Dad hates losers." Olive cries.

"Your are not a loser. You know what a loser is?" Her grand paw replies. "A loser is someone who is so afraid of not winning they don't even try. Now you are trying right?"

Olive replies in the affirmative and Grand paw asks another question, "Now we are going to have fun tomorrow, right?" Again affirmation and the plot moves on.1

This scene reveals much about life. The cliche is "winning is not everything" and yet I find myself and those around me living as if being first, being at the top, is the only thing. More often than not in the most important aspects of life showing up and giving the task at hand our best effort possible is the most important part. This is when we become winners regardless of our place in the end.

1. Little Miss Sunshine Twentieth Century Fox Presentation 2006
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Sunday, January 6, 2008


The holiday decorations are gone, safely put away in the attic. One item is left. A manager scene. I thought that I would leave it until today is over. This is Epiphany. The day when the Christmas season ends with the arrival of the wise men. Taking the word literally it is the day when we see the essential nature of things.

Having these figures on the table before me gives me moments to ponder the characters that each represents. Mary, the God bearer, so close to the Christ that she holds him in her arms. Joseph, Mary's companion, who I imagine is probably just as bewildered about his role in the world as I often am about mine. A shepherd boy, confused beyond belief at the prospect that this is God in the flesh. Finally, the wise men, who, though male and dark skinned, seem to have more in common with me than the others.1

These wise men found themselves following something they could not explain. As astronomers, they had watched the sky all their lives. They were waiting, hoping to see such a strange phenomenon. Even more mysterious was the place were they ended up. Passing through the halls of power, the ruler's palace, these wise men end up staring at a baby born to an impoverished teenager and her betroth, a skilled laborer. I am sure they questioned the improbability of it all more than once.

Yet, as improbable as it all must have seemed, the wise men believed the force that led them to Mary, Joseph and the baby Christ. They acted on their belief. Leaving their riches, the astronomers returned home by another way thwarting the forces of evil.

At home, at work, even with in myself, how many times do I join with the forces that say it is acceptable to hate, to make more money than I need or to feel inadequate in more ways than I can name. It is indeed an epiphany to decide to live differently. Perhaps these figures will become a permanent part of my home decor as I hope that the message of this day will become a permanent part of my life. This scene will act as a reminder that there is a different way and it is mine to choose daily.

1. from a sermon preached today by the Rev. Shannon J. Kershner
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