Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Yahtzee Cup of Life

"We're all just seeds in God's hands...Where we land is sometimes fertile soil and sometimes sand." -- Kathy Mattea

I grew up living in the apartment across the hall from my grandmother and grandfather.  When I was in the second grade I lived with them for awhile when my mom was sick.  I think that was the first time I played Yahtzee.  Yahtzee is a dice game, a bit like poker, where the object is to use strategy and luck to score more points than your opponents.  My grandparents and I had hours of fun playing Yahtzee back in the day, as did my kids when they grew up and, when dad twists a few arms, sometimes today.  It is a simple game in an era of video games, Angry Birds and Words With Friends where no computer is needed.  Just five dice, a score pad, and a pencil - the dice cup is optional.

I can't remember the first time I realized that life is a lot like a Yahtzee cup.  I think it was when I was at a conference, meeting with a number of really cool people who I had never met before.  We were beginning a two-year class and had been randomly put together for one of the first assignments.  Before long we were sharing, thinking and connecting like old friends.  Strangers thrown together sharing a time in life, a Yahtzee cup if you will, that was virtually out of our control and yet was an opportunity to create something meaningful together.  I realized how often life is like that; we get to be with people "randomly" who we might fall in love with, create something amazing with or, simply, enjoy a few moments in time.

I was reminded of the Yahtzee cup the weekend before last when I attended a retreat sponsored by the Center for Courage and Renewal and facilitated by Parker Palmer and Marcy Jackson.  Parker has been one of my mentors and teachers over the years and I was nervous and a bit giddy to meet him.  He was one of my closest companions during my lowest days as he has written extensively about his bouts with depression with a poignancy and honesty that is rare to find.  He was everything I hoped he would be and more.  But I was in for a surprise, a surprise that one often finds in the Yahtzee cup of life.

The first evening of the seminar I noticed a woman in the class who looked familiar.  Her name didn't seem right but a trip to Google Friday night confirmed my suspicion.  It was one of my favorite country singers of all time, Kathy Mattea.  I listened to Kathy's song, Seeds, almost every day in 1996 when I was contemplating leaving the corporate world and entering seminary to pursue ministry.  The song inspired me and challenged me to look at my life to find the fertile soil and not the sand.  I overcame my feelings of awe on Saturday morning and invited Kathy to share a small group with me.  After our group discussion I told her about the difference she had made in my life and connected with her, during the rest of the weekend, not as a star-struck groupie but as someone who shared a hunger for learning and a deeper connection to the sacred.  She was everything I hoped she would be and more.

Parker and Kathy weren't the only "stars" in the class.  Each one of the 24 people in our circle were amazing people who were CEO's, homemakers, artists, educators and clergy who were stars in their own right.  One of the great lessons of the retreat for me was a reminder, maybe at a deeper level than I ever have realized before, that people who create great things and inspire others, especially me, are not all that different than anyone else.  And when I, when we, live from our deepest, most authentic calltrpreneur-self, we can do the same.

Forrest Gump said that life is like a box of chocolates.  I think I'd say it's like a Yahtzee cup.  By a combination of strategy and mainly luck we are thrown together with people we may or may not know, with a chance to make something beautiful and even surprising happen.  Maybe it's a piece of art, a new company, a deep friendship or a pair of aces.  Who knows?  Our job is to show up and play the game, taking as many rolls as we can knowing that the possibilities and consequences are often out of our hands.  We're all just seeds in God's hands...or dice in the Yahtzee cup of life.

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