Last weekend, Wendy and I met Zoë and Evan at a Scottish festival in Tyler. Evan was in some sword demonstrations, and he was pretty pooped when we got ready to leave. So we went to eat, he revived, and Zoë suggested bowling. We were happy to get the chance to spend some time with them doing something besides eating a meal, so we said yes.
We were to meet at the new bowling alley /movie theater complex in Tyler.
It was a Saturday afternoon.
It was really crowded.
I went in to see if there was a long wait.
Now, things are different in bowling alleys, than they used to be. The last time I bowled was 5 years ago in a bowling fundraiser for King’s Academy in Tyler. The year before, I lost to a nine year old. The next year, though, I won the trophy for best total score.
Today, the familiar sound of the subdued roar of the ball rolling down the alley ending with the clash of the ball striking the pins was somewhat masked by the sounds and bells and whistles of the myriad of electronic games now available to the less physically prone participants.
There was one lane available…family plan…48.00 for an hour…including shoe rental…3.00 apiece. They didn’t give me a scoresheet. I love keeping score. Seems that, now, the lanes keep score for you.
I paid, found our lane, found a ball. The color of the ball showed the weight, the hole size was labeled with S, M, L, or XL. I liked that. I found a 15 lb. ball with L holes. Fifteen pounds was always what I used back in the day.
By the time we got all our balls, all our shoes, figured out the electronic scoring system, and threw our first ball, about 20 minutes was gone.
I bowled first. Stand to the right. Aim for the second arrow. One/push. Two/down. Three/back. Four/release. Wow! Two throws. Seven. That ball seems really heavy! I took it back , found the 13 pound color with L holes. Now, that feels better. Maybe I was trying to prove something, back in the day.
Now, I learned some time back that making people feel hurried or rushed did not bring good consequences. So, after one of us finished with his frame, I would gently say, “Zoë, it’s your turn,” or “Evan, you’re up,” or “Now, you, Wendy.” Seriously, I was being patient, but I watched those minutes tick away.
I saw Zoe and Evan swinging their arms across their bodies, and I reminded them to let their arms swing like a pendulum…push, down, back, release…one, two, three, slide.
Evan was really tired from his earlier exertions, but he thanked me for offering help.
We finished one game. One game. We were in the middle of the second game when time ran out.
I was getting the hang of it, and Evan even said, “Your release was smoother than anyone in the place.”
An old friend from Garland came to mind. His name was Mark Eichner, and I haven’t seen or thought of him for almost fifty years.
We were not the kind of friends that spent time at each other’s house, or double dated. But my memory is that Mark was more than just an acquaintance, but an actual friend.
I can’t remember where we met. It could have been Boy Scouts, or maybe Little League or Colt League Baseball.
But, that is not the reason he came to mind.
His parents owned Fiesta Lanes on Saturn Rd in Garland, Texas, under the shadow of the KRLD radio tower.
When I was in seventh grade, our P.E. Class had a bowling session. We watched an instructional film on the basics of bowling. I bet, that whole bowling thing happened because the Eichner’s thought, “We need to get this next generation interested in bowling. Let’s teach them the basics.”
We watched the film and we practiced. In the gym.
Feet together, eyes ahead, one, two, three, slide. (The steps to approach the bowling alley.) Over and over and over.
Then we added the arm movements as we took our steps. Both hands in front at your belt…push, down, back, release. Step one, push the ball straight out, step two, let the weight of your ball bring your arm down (though now we were doing the drills sans ball), step three, let your arm swing back, like a pendulum, step four, your arm swings forward as you bend at the waist, and you release the ball at the line, bringing your arm straight up in front of you. Follow-through, just like a pendulum. Over and over and over. To be honest, it all seemed a little bit silly.
Until, after school, we got to go to Fiesta Lanes to see how well we learned.
At the alley, they showed us the dots where we would begin our four steps. You could place yourself anywhere, depending on where you wanted the ball to go. Then they showed us the arrows on the lane. You tried to roll across a certain arrow, then you could adjust for the next throw depending on where your ball struck the pins, and where you wish it had. It was a learning process.
You know what? We were actually able to learn how to bowl.
56 years later, I still remember what I learned on that gym floor and at that bowling alley.
I love to bowl. If I had stuck to it, “I coulda been a contender.”
I could have looked down on my companions that didn’t know the fundamentals like I did on this recent Saturday bowling outing, but, I realized, that someone had taken the time to teach me the fundamentals, and they hadn’t had that opportunity.
I bowled 122. I know, that’s not that great, but the second game was gonna be a lot better. Except the time ran out.
Kanye West has recently expressed a new found faith in the same savior I have followed for 47 years. He is being mentored. He is making music proclaiming this change in his life and the Lordship of Jesus over his new life.
The world doesn’t know what to think, and that is to be expected.
But, we, as believers have forgotten that we once entered into this new life as untrained, ignorant babies, excited to be alive, full of this new stirring inside of us, wanting to think about and talk about this fantastic new friend who was beginning to change everything for us.
Some of the oldtimers didn’t grasp this joy and excitement that they were seeing in these young converts, and they sometimes tended to put a damper on the thrill of this new life, trying to put us in the box they had come to be comfortable in.
I cannot let myself forget the basics; that I began with joy in this “new game”, but I had to learn the basics before I could grow.
Growing, stumbling, being rescued, growing, stumbling, crossing the foul line, being forgiven, growing.
And learning of the love of the One who has taken me to his “bowling alley” to teach me the basics.
And He watches me “bowl” and smiles with every “strike, spare, split, and gutter ball” that I throw.
Because. He loves me!
Just like He loves Kanye!
I would, now, from my own little section of this increasingly dark world, like to welcome my new brother, Kanye West, to the only true life worth living.
A life of loving the One who made him, and prepared a place for him, and has a life planned out for him to live.
To find Joy.
To shine Light into the darkness.
Starting with the basics.
Push. Down. Back. Release.