Lessons so far

So, today’s my birthday. (Cue Beatles.) It might be an ill omen that Wife and the youngsters sat me down this morning so I could open one of my gifts, and I broke it within fifteen seconds. It was pretty nifty, though. The gift from my office manager was not breakable — a handy Starbucks card. I went online to register it, so I can have a free drink on my birthday. The Starbucks website has a page called “Card Management,” where you can manage your card. I can barely manage the essentials in my life, and that I do poorly. I don’t know if I have space for card management. But it’s nice of them to offer the option.

So, some things I have learned over these many, many years, in no particular order:

Life is too short to keep reading a book once you realize it’s bad and not getting better.

There are two kinds of people: those who think Elf is hilarious, and those who have corn cobs lodged in uncomfortable places.

My children spring up like plants being watered when I tell them I love them.

Tae Kwon Do is a massive money-making venture posing as a martial art.

I really just don’t like sweet potatoes.

Not only do I hate meetings, I hate people who like them.

Mayonnaise is the Devil’s condiment. It’s served in Hell, on sweet potatoes.

The slow-motion downfall of this country can be mapped directly to declining competence in literature, logic, and proper theology.

Proper theology demands a lot fewer books, and a lot more prayer.

Whitney Houston had it exactly bass-ackwards. Learning to un-love yourself is far better.

If you only act out love when you feel it, you’ll end up alone.

I know I’m supposed to love bullies, but mostly I see red and want to punch them.

Sesame Street used to be a lot better.

The point at which forwarding emails gets annoying comes a lot sooner than some people think.

When I find out that someone doesn’t read books, a little gulf emerges between us.

People who put their little girls in beauty pageants should be arrested.

Turning the other cheek is only courageous when you know you could make the other guy bleed.

You think you have privacy until your children share your business in the check-out line at Wal-Mart.

I care way too much about what people think of me.

I know several wealthy older men who would give it all away if they could get back the time they lost with their families.

I’m pretty sure that possession of lawn-edging equipment is positively correlated with constipation.

One of my best friends always calls me on my birthday, but I never remember to call him on his, and I always tell myself that next year I’ll get it right, but I haven’t yet. I have 10,000 selfish stories like that.

I really miss Mr. Rogers. I’m also pretty sure that people who make jokes about him are going to Hell.

I live in fear that people will find out just how terrible I really am.

We need more graveyards, so we’ll all think more about where we’re headed.

I never understood why my gym teacher would line us all up and make us do lay-ups, with the promise of free time after, but then make us all line up again if any kid missed his lay-up. I realize now that he was a sadist.

We get exactly the government we deserve.

I don’t like Christmas cards with pictures of people’s pets.

We should all keep our children away from people who talk more about God’s anger than His love.

No matter what my children do, it’s impossible to stop loving them. Which is how God sees you and me.

If you remember that the person in front of you really just wants, deep down at the heart of himself, for someone to love him, then he’s easier to deal with no matter how obnoxious he seems.

My favorite character in a book or movie is someone who starts off rotten and ends up doing something noble.

It’s fine to care about politics, but there is no political solution to what ails man.

I’ve wasted too much time.

I’m not as clever as I used to think.

I’m not as good as I used to think.

I need grace more than I thought.

Grace abounds.


  1. Tibby

    Happy birthday. And I like your list of thing you’ve learned. Here is my contribution – I wish I’d learned most of this stuff when I was young…

  2. Marc V

    HB TW! (Mmm, pretty personal.)

    Went to Tanglewood last night to see the lights, and told the kids to sit back, be quiet and enjoy the lights. Well, you know how long that lasts … but it’s OK as it totally beats doing stuff like that without them. Morning by morning new mercies I seek.

    I love that love is laced through your “learnings”. Whitney may have to learn how to “un-love” herself, but we’re all better off when we learn how to love others as God showed us and wants us to do. Now.

    I used to be better than I used to think, I think.

  3. cstarchenko

    I hate mayonnaise and deeply miss Mr. Rogers as well. They took him off PBS in NC and I wrote a persnickety letter to UNC TV. Isn’t it a sin to remove MR. Rogers from TV?

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  5. Donna B.

    I hate salad dressing. One of my first learnings as a young wife was that I could buy mayonnaise too – that I didn’t have to conform my taste to that of someone else.

    Miracle Whip on sweet potatoes… ugh. gag me.

  6. Chris

    Happy Birthday.

    Thanks for this, and I completely agree with your Sesame Street comment. I miss Mr. Hooper.

  7. Tari

    Belated happy birthday, and may God grant you many (more) years.

    Love the list, but I have to say, you’re wrong about sweet potatoes, mayo, and taekwondo. I’m sorry.

  8. Mike

    ‘The slow-motion downfall of this country can be mapped directly to declining competence in literature, logic, and proper theology.’

    Don’t forget ‘…the opiate of the masses, TV.’ [which detracts/undermines all of the above.
    See ‘Your Child and Your TV’ [onced used by Elisabeth Elliot on her radio program] at my website, mikesnow.org

  9. Ed Chinn

    Happy birthday, friend. I loved this post, as always.

    My daughter gave me a nice formula for those who hopes to have a reading life. Give a book no more than 100 pages to grab your attention. Then, subtract one page for each year of your age over 50. So, in other words, at 63, I give a book 37 pages to flame my interest. If it doesn’t, I toss it.

  10. Gray

    Happy Birthday again!

    I didn’t get a free drink at starbucks on my birthday, and i have a black card, which might explain why they are ending the black card program.

    I love mayonnaise, especially on a good home grilled burger and a good bacon and egg sandwich.

    I appreciate the wisdom that you share on this page…

    Please keep it up and don’t wait so long between posts.
    Your friend

  11. nichole

    Happy (late) birthday! How can you not like sweet potatoes?

    Praise the Lord that grace abounds — even when we don’t see it or don’t think we’re getting it.

  12. caveat bettor

    Tony: Loved this post! I wanted to suggest to you to check out the Matt 5:39 reference again, which specifies offering the LEFT cheek after the RIGHT has been struck. Apparently, backhands were all the rage in pharasaic Judea, and one’s right hand was considered ‘clean’ and left ‘unclean’, so Jesus was actually proposing a non-aggressive challenge to perpetrators, as aligned with His general theme on loving creatively in His sermon on the mount. Same could be said for His proposing: go naked, help the expat Roman soldier by going the second mile, and lend something to an inquiring borrower.

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