Saturday, December 02, 2006


It has been an curiously interesting week. It began with my final day of service at a church that had lasted 23.6666666 years. If you are curious (I was) that is 8,646 days. And yes, my computerized brain took into consideration leap years. Would it help you to know my service lasted 207,515 hours? Or 12,450,900 minutes? (That 12 was "million" for you who don't do comma's.) How about knowing it totaled 474,054,088 seconds? (That is four hundred seventy four MILLION, fifty four THOUSAND one hundred and eighty eight seconds.) I admit that those hours, minutes and seconds are rougher estimates because I'm not sure what time of the day I started or officially quit. Either way ... long time.

Monday through Thursday was pure bliss. No stress. No meetings. No appointments. Lot's of quiet. Lot's of solitude. Lot's of time alone with God. Lot's of peaceful evenings with my bride.

Of course Thursday night everything blew apart. The key words became ice, snow, cold, skid, tree, branches, falling, duck, ouch and electricity.

Now we are back to bliss. Tomorrow I will attend the church of my choice where nobody knows me and my only obligations are to stay out of the way and to worship. I rather like that idea. Some wonderful friends that have stuck with us for the past 20 years are going to join us as we visit that church. They are driving about 60 miles just to be with us. This couple drove those same miles last week to be with us as we said good-bye to our old church. When God gives you friends like these two you do your best to love them and nurture that friendship. It is a rare and precious thing.

Last Sunday morning the incredible group of teenagers that I was saying "so long" to gave me a gift. The called me to the front of the church and, at the altar, presented me with a new bible. It was signed by dozens of teens and youth workers. That 2 minute experience did more to wreck me than anything has in a long while.

I love those kids. I already miss them so much. And so I have made this commitment between God and I. Between now and the time He leads me to my next ministry assignment I am going to read that bible from cover to cover. Every word. I've already got a good start on this project. And I have issued a challange to those kids. I asked them to consider reading the entire New Testament in that same time frame. I don't suppose I will ever know how many take me up on my offer. But if I were a betting man I would stake a lot on a bunch of them doing it.

I'm wondering what the future holds but I am not dwelling on it. I am dwelling on the verse of scripture that God plopped into my brain early one morning about two weeks ago in Cincinnati. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Funny thing is, I do not even know what the desires of my heart are. I can only define them this way. I want to be in the center of His will. Even more than that. I want to be in the CENTER of the CENTER of His will. I don't want the dart of my life just to hit the cork of the middle of the dart board ... I want it to hit the dead center of the cork in the middle of the dart board. Nothing else will do.

For now I am content to rest, heal from the physical illness and stress that has been raking me over pretty well for the last few months, love on my family, bounce my new granddaughter on my knee, and seek God in stillness and solitude. He's been showing up. His presence is felt ... is clear ... is tangible.

And it is enough.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Told You So! (but i wish i had been wrong)

Ok, now THAT was the night from H-E-double hockey sticks! First of all, I WAS RIGHT. We got maybe 2 inches of snow on top of 2 or 3 inches of sleet. The sleet doesn't count. Sleet is only semi-winter weather. It's like hail with an attitude. So to all of you "meteor"ologists ... WRONG. True, one hundred miles west of here they got 15 inches of snow. But we do not live one hundred miles west of here and neither do the "meteor" ologists. So. I win.

But I lose.

The last big BOOM came at 3:35am and it totally took me out. The sky had been flashing green ... GREEN ... lightening all night. I have never in all of my life seen green lightening. It was like the northern lights had gone demonic or something. I thought it was electrical transformers blowing up until the "meteor"ologist said tonight that it was indeed green lightening. I think I can trust them to get that much right. Orrrrr not. Anyway, at at 3:35 one of those green flashes took out our entire neighborhood and 75% of our town. Zero power. Zilch cable. Nada internet. As a matter-of-fact there are about 500,000 homes in the St. Louis area with no power tonight. We are blessed at our house in that some kind line repairman threw a switch and turned us back on late this evening. I do not know why we were the chosen ones but I am not going to argue with them.

Actually, our house was warmer while the power was off than it usually is when the power is on. Life is made up of such oddities. Whoever built our home back in the late 1960's chose to put a wood burning stove in the dining room. Why in the dining room, you ask? I haven't a clue. But every winter we rearrange furniture to make our dining room into a den/family room/cozy nook. And so I woke up earlier than I would have chosen to this morning and built a fire. She was a beauty. I got the temp up to 70.3 degrees! I don't know why that makes me feel so darn studly. Probably because my wife swooned when she saw me swing the axe and split a couple of logs. Tomorrow I may repair a fence or build a log cabin. I love it when she swoons.

So the bottom line. Me - 1. "Meteor"ologists - 0. Oh sure, they are claiming victory because a big storm hit and somebody far away got as much snow as they said we would get right here in river city. You know the truth. I know the truth. Bailey The Killer Beagle knows the truth. And today ... she wagged her tail at me with a new found respect.

Tonight I sleep the sleep of the victor.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

METEOR-WARS! or how i fought to keep things from going "BOOM" in the night

Maybe it is slightly early to say "I told you so." But I want to go to bed. So here goes... I TOLD YO


In the middle of typing that last sentence, my eager effort at spiking "the weather ball" in the end zone, something went "BOOM." (It was actually louder than that but I can't figure out how to type loud. So go back and just read it louder.) Bailey The Killer Beagle started barking. I found this interesting. Bailey likes to bark but I had already locked her into her condominium (dog speak for "cage") for the night. I popped her door open knowing that she would lead me to where the "BOOM" came from. She made a bee line ... umm, beagle line ... to the back door. I hooked her up to her "Nasa Safety Space Walk Tether" (dog speak for "chain") and let her out. That's when I saw the mother-of-all-branches laying right next to my house. It had fallen inches from the power lines that supplies me with all sorts of goodies like electricity, and the all important cable and internet service.

This could have been catastrophic. Best case had it taken the cables down we would have gotten chilly. Worst case it would have sparked a fire and torched the house. I would feel very obligated to wake my wife and son and that might well have meant the demise of Tess. I tear up at the thought. We've been together for nearly a year now, Tess and I. She knows all of my deepest secrets. She listens to me. She knows what makes me happy and what makes me sad. And after I finish revealing my soul to her she plays solitaire with me. Tess is short for testosterone. She's a Mac ibook g4. A true beauty with her flashy white shell and (relatively) lightening fast guts. The thought of her melted down into a puddle of ... of ... I'm sorry. I just can't say it.

We dodged a bullet.

Except that there are more ice coated branches. I've heard three more "BOOMS" since I got up to check the first one. Tess is still got her amber "charging" light illuminated so the power is on. The smoke alarms are silent so there is probably no fire in the other end of the house. I left Bailey The Killer Beagle out of her condo so that if something happens after I've gone beddy-bye she'll be sure to wake me up. (She gets milky bones every time she saves my life.)

OOOKKKKK. There goes another one. This one hit my cable line AND my tarp covered motorcycle. If this keeps up I'll have to start naming names you dirty St. Louis meteorologists! (You know who you are...) I went back out and pulled the son-of-the-mother-of-all-branches off of the line. (Does anybody know if there is actual power running through cable lines? I really need to know.) It has torn part of the soffit off of my house and the entire thing is low enough for Bailey to jump over on a good day and hanging from one lone screw. I think it's taunting me. I am inches from losing cable.

So ok, meteorologists. You get a reprieve until morning. The nice lady on channel five just said that my side of town will now only get two to three inches of snow because the ice hung around so long. So she's already begun to chicken out. Last nights predictions are already declared a bust. I could claim victory at this point.

But it would be rather silly if my house burns down.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Ok, this is a picture of my house at the end of last year's biggest snowstorm in our town. Pathetic.

And now they tell us ... SNOW IS COMING! First I must say ... I will believe it when I see it. Sure they say that snow is coming. Should start tomorrow sometime. Gonna get INCHES. Gonna be ICE under it. Run out to the store! Do it quickly! Buy milk! Buy bread! Buy salt and a new snow shovel! Hurry! Oh... but don't panic!

yada, yada, yada.

If weather men and weather women really know anything about weather shouldn't they be called "weatherologists" or something weathery like that? I'm not buying it anymore. It's all too clear that these people called "meteorologists" went to school to study meteor's. You know, big rocks flying through space. Nobody knows where they came from and nobody knows where they are going. But heck, they are out there and so they must be studied! Get a team on it pronto!

Here is the problem. The study of meteor's must get really and truly b-o-r-i-n-g. I mean, what is there to do but get a telescope and, well, look up? Seems to me that's about it.

Here is my hypothosis. Somewhere along the line people began to realize that we needed to know what the weather was going to be far more than we needed to know how many rocks are flying around up there. So somebody with a brain must have said something like ... "Hey. You. Meteor man. Think maybe while you are looking through that telescopy thing of yours you could maybe point toward the horizon every now and then and tell us if it's gonna rain?" And the meteorologist, being the smart individual that he or she is, said something like, "sure ... if you pay me for it." From there it was just a short hop to network television, radio weather reports and my own personal favorite ... The Weather Channel." This is a channel that gave up looking at rocks in space long ago. They have turned weather prediction into not only science but entertainment. I am passionate about "Storm Stories." Things always get torn up and sometimes people even (to be perfectly blunt) get whacked around and eventually assume room tempreture. Fun, huh?

So how come these meteor guys cannot get it right? Oh, in the summer they are really good. They can fire up their little doppler radar and actually show you your STREET. That's right, friends. Your weather, street by street by freaken street. (Would you believe that they actually interrupted Dr. Phil last summer for a weather bullitin when I turned my lawn sprinkler on too high? No? I didn't think you would.) And in the summer they are almost never wrong! If they say, "Hey, set off the siren's and get in the basement" then you darn well better set off the siren's and get your little fanny downstairs. From March through November these people know there stuff.

And then December happens. This coming Friday is December 1st. That's the day they are leading us to believe that the world will probably end under the wrath of 3 to 8 inches of snow. (And MORE in places! Not that they have a clue which places this will happen in.) If they are predicting 3 to 8 we should expect a dusting. If they predict 8 to 12 we should expect to have to actually scrape our windshields. No matter the amount ... in 2006 ALL snow is considered armageddeon. Seriously. These people most own stock in salt mines or snow shovel factories.

When I was a kid growing up in Detroit and Chicago and they said it was going to snow, well by golly you had best go buy whatever you need and do it fast because it was always ... ALWAYS worse than they said it was going to be. I remember when I was twelve we had the biggest snow fall I have ever seen. It was, at the time, the biggest snowfall Chicago had ever received since they began keeping records. And Chicago is all about records. I'm not kidding. If you went out for a walk you had to be careful lest you trip over the top of a street sign. A helicopter actually landed on the street in front of my house one night(my dad and the neighborhood men had cleared it with snow shovels and lit the area with cool red flairs.) My brother and I sat in our living room eating frozen pizza (well, that's not really true. It had been frozen but mom heated it up, bless her heart) looking out the picture window as the guy coasted in and landed about 40 feet in front of our house. Then they carried the VERY pregnant woman next door out to the chopper. Off she went into the night. She delivered a bouncing baby something hours later and named him or her after the pilot. Seems appropriate to me. All of us men folk got tired of waiting for the snow plows after two days (this was Chicago after all... they were busy clearing the mayor's street ... ) and we shoveled our entire neighborhood. The next day the plows showed up. They did not stick around though because all of these men were running at them with angry shovels waving in the air. Their hasty retreat was a wise thing to do.

It doesn't snow like that anymore. My kids are now 26, 24 and 21. I don't think they actually know what a sled is for. It's a shame. I remember sitting on the deck of my 3rd floor apartment in Tinley Park, Illinois, in the winter of 1978/1979 and watching front-end loaders actually clear out our parking lot. It was that bad.

So anyway. It's going to snow. Maybe. Somewhere. Sometime. You'll excuse me if I don't go and dig out my boots just yet. I think that the odds are greater that one of those meteor rocks will fall on us. And if that happens all of the milk and bread in the world will not help you, my friend.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Permission Granted

When I was a mere lad (that sounds so British ... and I'm not) I liked to do things in a rather impromptu fashion. I still do. Well, as long as it pertains to things like, oh, talking without thinking or acting without considering the consequences. I am really, really good at apologizing. I have a standing account with a local florist just so that I can kiss the boo-boo that I just inflicted on some usually deserving soul. Still. I've always been one of the pastor's and so I'm supposed to be nice.

Somewhere along the line things changed. Not sure why. Maybe it happened in the halls of higher education. There was this girl that shared a philosophy class with me. She was a nice person most of the time. Still, for some reason her own personal philosophy was to wait until I came into the room before she entered. Then shen would sit in front of me, turn around, smile a charmingly disarming smile ... and with one sweeping arm motion wipe all of my books off of my desk and onto the floor. It became a daily occurance. It took me several months of patient waiting but at last my day came. I entered the room and Paula (the name is not changed because she is totally guilty) had already assumed her seat. I'm not sure what was going through her mind of that day. Maybe she just slipped a mental gear. Maybe it was the 24th day of her month (oh, I am so going to pay for that when my wife reads this) and she just was not feeling up to par. Either way. I turned the corner, saw her there and without even thinking about it I put my books on my desk, said "Hello, Paula," picked up every book on her desk walked directly to the window, opened it, and dropped the entire stack from our second floor perch to the sidelines of the soccer field down below. I closed the window long before Paula closed the mouth that hung open in shock. I do not remember the next few seconds. Maybe other students were laughing. Maybe they were hiding under their desks. All I remember was a feeling of deeply satisfying glee. That lasted until a man in gray bibbed cover-all's stepped in the door. He did not look happy. He was actually quite unhappy. He was simply going about his day MOWING THE SOCCER FIELD when half a ton of philosophy, biology and math books fell onto his head.

My bad.

I followed his suggestion by going downstairs and retrieving Paula's books. As the class ended I was handed a note to report to the dean of students office. While that was not exactly good news it could have been much worse. You see, I was working part time at Sears in those days. I have mentioned before that I usually worked in "Customer Pick-up." (I will refrain from jokes about picking up customer's this time. I like sleeping in "The Big Bed.") As fate would have it, Dave, the dean of students had come in just the week before and dropped his only television off at my counter for repair. Seems his wife was watering the plants that were sitting on the tv when she accidently watered the tv itself. (Insert "sizzle" and "fry" sounds here.) Dean Dave knew that if he wanted to ever watch Monday Night Football again he would have to go easy on me. And he did. He told me not to throw any more books out of any more windows. And he suggested that I sit in the front of the class so that Paula could not sit in front of me anymore. This is why Dave was a dean and I was a mere student. I had not thought of that.

So I think that is where it all began. In that moment Dean Dave created the need in me for "permission." Makes sense, don't you think?

Ok, you have stuck with me this far so let me 'splain to you what I'm getting at. A couple of weeks ago when I was at the National Youth Workers Convention I met up with my friend who is in charge of the subject area in which I taught a seminar. Beth is cool. She lives in a cool place, has a cool husband, works at a cool job and, best of all, does not know she is cool. (Not know that you are cool makes you even cooler. Make a note of it.) So my wife and I took Beth and her husband to lunch. A really fancy (sarcasm intended) chili restaurant. I had bragged about it to her and they did not live up to the billing I gave them. But I digress.

Beth and her husband Joe listened to my wife and I rant and rave (in a refined and yet intense manner) about things in life that had been bugging us. No details so don't ask. And that is when it happened. I think they were really talking to my wife, Debbie, when they said it. They gave her permission. Permission to be mad. Permission to yell. Permission to beat something (not someone) up. Permission to tell God that we are freaken mad and He needs to get involved in a particular situation in our lives and kick butt. They showed us how that is exactly what takes place over and over and over in the real life testimonies told quite frankly in the book of Psalms. They went so far as to tell us that if we failed to do these things it would eventually bubble out in other much more destructive ways. Like my doctor said ... "eliminate the stress or it will eliminate you."

So. Permission granted. And now I am taking my friends advice. I am learning that it is an art. No, I have not spoken rudely to any one. I have not kicked the dog. Actually, I am starting slowly. I need new tires for my Mustang and I went and got some quotes today. Twice I burst out laughing when they told me their price. Twice! Ok, it's a slow start but at least it is something. I had a doctor's appointment this afternoon because I've got an elbow problem going on. Nothing serious. I just keep getting this build-up of fluid (ok, actually it's blood) under the skin. You can't see it but my elbow feels squishy to the touch. My insurance is changing on January 1st so I thought I better get it checked out. The doctor said it was no big deal but that he would try to drain it and then give me anti-inflammatory drugs. I let him stick me with The Needle From Hell five times before I told him to knock it off. Give me the drugs. I'm going home. And on the way home I stopped at Walgreens to get my miracle pills and the pharmacist made a mistake and asked a question that ... well ... came out wrong. And I totally took advantage of it. I played innocent while she turned various shades of crimson. And I also played dumb. It was a totally lopsided match-up. She didn't stand a chance.

So Beth, if you are out there in blogdom somewhere and find yourself reading this I just want to say THANKS! Permission rocks! I realize it is a potent weapon and I promise to use is wisely and sparingly.

HA! Don't you believe that for a second! Tomorrow is Wednesday and for the first time in many, many years I do not have a church I have to be at in the evening. Heck, I don't even have a church that WANTS me there! I'm free! And you know what I plan on doing? Me neither. But it's going to be good....

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ten Things To Do When You Do Not Have To Do Anything But Are Not Quite Ready To Do Nothing

1. See how many numbers you can delete from your cell phone because you do not use them anymore. (I have 7 numbers left. I'm kidding.)
2. Count how many potato chips have slipped between the console and drivers seat of your car. (Note: Do NOT eat them.)
3. Hide the dogs bed and wait for her to go get in it. Watch her stare at the empty place where it used to be as her walnut sized brain tries to figure out what happened.
4. When your phone rings answer it by saying, "Hi. I am sorry I am not here to take your call right now but if you will leave a message at the beep I will get back to you as soon as possible." And then go "BEEEEEP." See how many people leave messages. Trust me ... you will be shocked.
5. Put bread crumbs in the back yard near the door and wait for squirrels to come and get them. When they do let the dog out. Watch the squirrels run and the dog go crazy trying to decide whether to go for the bread or the meat.
6. In the middle of the night put a "We will Miss You!" sign in your neighbors yard pointed toward their house.
7. Email people who send you dumb "do this or you'll die in 3 days" emails telling them that you are writing to let them know you've changed your email address and can no longer be reached at your old one. Give them the email address of another person who sends you dumb "do this because you love Jesus and are a patriotic American" emails. Rejoice in sweet vengence.
8. Get a can of "construction zone orange" spray paint. Paint lines across your neigbors grass ten feet from their house with the words "new curbs here" and "street widened to here" in every other yard. Do your own yard too or they'll know.
9. Wait until a friend goes to work. When you are certain that nobody is home decorate the outside of their house for Easter. (This is most effective in early December.)
10. Sit in a lawn chair in your front yard and point a hair dryer wrapped in tin foil at cars as they drive by. If they slow down give them the "thumbs up" sign. If they don't ... frown.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

T minus Zero ... we have lift-off

Well. This is interesting. I wonder what tomorrow will be like? I seem to be unemployed. What do you do when God tells you to resign? Well ... you resign. At the close of the day on November 26, 2006 my resignation becomes official. That means in 47 minutes I have zero obligations ... zero calendared events ... zero responsibilities. (Ok, we all know that really is not true because I'm a husband, a dad and a granddad. But you get my point.)

Church this morning was surreal. I mean, it was a good experience. I enjoyed telling the people what God gave me to tell them. But it was the responses that really nailed me. I want to give you an example. This one left me in a puddle. I do not have permission to tell you who wrote it so just consider it from an "anonymous teenager." But it pretty much leaves me humbled and over whelmed. Please read with a heart full of grace. I wish that I was half as good as this person thinks that I am. Hopefully he was just seeing Jesus in me.

"I know you have to leave but I wish you wouldn't go.
All those people you have touched, some you didn't even know.
All the love you've shared, the smiles that you gave
All the lives that crossed your path, the one's you've helped to save.

It's hard to say goodbye but I'll try to find a way
I swore I wouldn't cry, that everything would be ok
I will never forget what you've taught us; I will try everything I can
To be everything I can be, with this image of a better man.

I thank you for your prayers but now I give them back to you.
I hope that they find you in whatever you choose to do
I'll carry your words with me always, with all the loving wisdom that you gave
And I'll walk forever as a symbol to you, as a life you helped to save."

What do you do with kids like that? How do you tell them good-bye? I guess you just get up and do it. And then I guess you hug them and cry with them and remind them that you love them and that, because of the love of Christ it will all be ok. But it sure hurts. It does not look ok.

I woke up this morning to find my front lawn covered with signs, all facing my house. They said cool things like, "We love you! You are the best youth pastor ever!" They were colorful and cheerful. And some of "my kids" made them and snuck into my yard in the middle of the night and planted them so that I would see them when I woke up. And then at church, after I finished speaking, the kids sent two representatives down to the altar and they presented me with a bible that they had all signed. A year book of sorts. Except that it is a book with no stretching of the truth or dispensing of lies. It is the Word of God and my favorite people bought it for me, signed it, and asked me not to forget them. THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

I'm really tired tonight. Three years of constant battle has just come to a close. The wounds are still fresh. Some are scarred over but even those are tender. It does not take much to make blood flow again. But now I am done. 23 and 2/3rds years have come and gone. And now I can rest. I have great plans to do just that. And to write. And to follow up on a few resume's that I have out. And to follow God's direction to "Delight (myself) in the Lord and He will give (me) the desires of (my) heart. Right now I think I might not wake up until January. I doubt that I can pull that off. But it is so nice to know that I served the King, doing what He told me to do at every turn. And now, at His direction, I can rest. And heal. And worship. And love Him. And love people.

The mission clock reads "T minus Zero ... we have lift-off" of the next chapter of life. I am anxious to see what it holds. I suppose we shall see. I don't want to let my young friend down. I want to keep being used by God to touch lives. I can touch them more effectively when I am past the gut searing fatigue and the heart breaking grief that has been in such abundance over the last few years. I want to feel loved, human, healthy and full again. And tomorrow begins that part of the new journey.

If you are reading this and you are a part of FBCB please know that I love you. I cherish you. And I gratefully and with all confidence lay you in the Hands of our Father. He's never droped one of us yet. He will not start with you.

And, oh yeah, that "Pass It On" closing ... way over the top. But somehow I kind of loved it. "HEY WORLD!"