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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Resolution - 2008 - Iron Clad Agreements With Myself


10- Less chocolate, less pizza, less Hostess Cup Cakes.
9 - I will work-out more. (I will work out a way around resolution #10)
8 - I will marry off my last child. Even if his fiance changes her mind. Even if HE changes his mind. He's getting married. End of story.
7 - I will not, not, NOT buy a dog. Or accept a dog. Or steal a dog. Or allow a dog to buy, accept, or steal me. I will pet other peoples dogs because I am tired of chasing my own dogs.
6 - I will listen to Debbie and avoid buying a large screen/medium screen hdtv. (disclaimer: Resolution #6 is only in effect when Debbie and I are in the same city. Otherwise Resolution #6 is open to interpretation.)
5 - I will become an official "Toledo Mud Hens" fan. (Definition of "Toledo Mud Hens Fan: One who attends no less than three (3) Toledo Mud Hens home games AND owns no fewer than three (3) team t-shirts and three (3) team ball caps.") This will satisfy the requirement that I cheer for an Ohio home team without compromising my allegiance to the "Chicago Cubs."
4 - I will allow my wife to move in with me.
3 - I will eat something with Elle that is completely new to her and I will not tell her mommy until it is too late. (OK, actually I have already done this multiple times but it is so much fun I'm promising to do it again. Oh, and don't tell her mommy. She doesn't know about the "Great Circus Peanut Experiment." I see no reason to bring it up now.)
2 - I will drive to my bank without having to use my GPS. (This may take until like ... October.)
AND MY #1 NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION FOR 2008 ...
1 - I am going to make my church wonder if they have called a total idiot to be their pastor or a genuine genius! (This resolution has already been achieved with multiple individuals.)
A BONUS RESOLUTION - I am going to answer the question posed in resolution #1 in a way that leaves no doubt. But ... which will it be? Oh the tension of wondering!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stupid Picture Chronicles 15


Piggly Wiggly, New Holstein, Wisconsin... you guys are a little late on this one. My kids have been doing this for decades.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Please Pray For My Friend...

I was a youth pastor for a long time. It was a great time of life. God blessed me by making me a tool. OK, I know that is not usually a compliment. But to be a tool in God's Hand ... what could be better? A tool for God.

Tools seldom work alone. I know that I did not. I had a network of youth pastor's and we walked together through ministry. We learned from each other. We encouraged each other. We laughed together. We cried together. More than once I sat with one who's wife had left him because she could not take the ministry thing anymore. There was just a lot ... a lot ... that we went through together.

One of these guys wrote a song. At least I think he wrote it. Nobody else would claim it. It was simply called, "The Booger Song." The lyrics? You know you want to know ...

"Sitting at the stop light with nothing to do
You're watching the light ... and I'm watching you
You look sophisticated in your fancy new clothes
And then your index finger disappears up your nose

And I say "Hey! You! You know who you are!
I saw you pick your nose when you were driving your car!
Don't try to deny it, you won't get very far!
I saw you pick your nose when you were driving your car!"

There's more but you get the idea. The guy who wrote that is named Ron too. As a matter-of-fact, my two closest youth pastor friends were named Ron. And so am I. Sometimes we would get together with our wives and if one of them called out to her husband ... chaos ensued.

I got a phone call from "The Booger Song" Ron tonight. I was doing a wedding rehearsal in Wisconsin and I couldn't hear him. So I tried to text message him. He responded with, "I am" and then another one with "I am in du" and nothing else. I didn't understand. About two hours later I was back in my hotel room and I checked my email. I had received an email from the wife of "The Booger Song" Ron. It seems that "d u" is "Duke University" ... as in hospital. My friend had a heart attack tonight. And he reached out to me from ICU on his cell phone and then through text messaging. And somehow I dropped the ball.

Do you know how much I hate that? I would drive to North Carolina for him tonight if he needed me. He's out there visiting friends and I guess things just went badly. His wife tells me that surgery went well and hopefully everything will be OK. They'll know more tomorrow.

But please pray for "The Booger Song" Ron. We've called ourselves "friends to the grave." I don't think he's in immediate danger but somehow I wish we had phrased that pledge differently. Ron's my friend. When I hurt he was there for me. When he hurt I tried to be there for him. The world needs more "Booger Song" Ron's. I wish wish WISH I had stopped whatever I was doing and called him back tonight. I remember thinking that he must be better at picking his nose than he is at text messaging.

But no. He was having a heart attack.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The little drummer girl

video

My grand daughter is cooler than your grand daughter!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jesus ... crashing, kicking, plowing ... and waiting

You ever go anyplace you were not invited? Perhaps you "crashed" a party or invited yourself to a friends house when you knew the timing might not be the best. It's a strange feeling, isn't it? I remember intentionally going to the home of a person in a church I served once, knowing that he did not like me. As a matter-of-fact that is precisely why I went. No, I didn't want to confront anybody. I didn't go to sew seeds of discontent or to argue. On the contrary. I hoped ... I prayed ... that my "dropping by" might open the door for new opportunities. Healing. Reconciliation.

It did not work. True, we talked. We swapped a story or two. Still, no headway was made. No healing took place. By all appearances it was a wasted visit. I will never know for sure. All I know is that I tried. Sometimes trying is all you can do. There is no forcing friendship. No coercing companionship. Life does not work that way. Oh that it were so simple.

So it is Christmas Eve. Oh Holy Night. The night that Christ followers celebrate the coming of baby Jesus into a world over flowing with sin, evil, self righteousness, and a blatant rebellion against God. He was not invited. He received no request for a visit.

And yet He came anyway.

He could have come to tell us "how it is." You know. Twist the arms of several billion people. Force the issue. Insist on instant compliance with His plan.

That just isn't His way.

Still. It does not change the facts. "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." He crashed the party. He kicked in the gate. He plowed the road. He totally opened the way for me ... for you ... to go from "self server" to "Christ follower." But even though the party is crashed, the gate is kicked, and the road is plowed the door knob remains firmly in one hand. Mine. And your door knob remains in yours. Everything on the other side of the hearts door is cleared. The path is ready. Only the door remains to be opened.

And only I can open mine. And only you can open yours.

As for me and my house ... we will serve the Lord. I deeply and sincerely hope that you will join us in that life giving endeavor.

Oh ... and Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

This is why I drive all of the way to St. Louis for Christmas...



Any questions?

I thought not...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dying of thirst at the water's edge

Water. There isn't any. I turn the faucet on. Nothing. I flush the toilet. Nope. I twist the knob on the shower. Dry. It's been that way since 11:00AM, or so they tell me. Some water pipe in the building burst. I don't know. I didn't see it. I was at my office. All I know is that H20 is missing!

Oh, the oddities of life. That giant compendium of human knowledge known as "Wikipedia" tells me that this big body of water is right outside my door. (As if I haven't mentioned that enough on this blog.) But here are the staggering facts. It's the 10th largest lake on planet earth and the 4th largest by surface area covering 9,940 square miles. It is 241 miles long and, at its widest point, 57 miles wide. That's a lot of liquid, my friend.

And I can't get a drink of water to save my life.

So tell me this. I was FINE until I found out the water was off. Suddenly I'M DYING OF THIRST! My 'fridge has milk, grape juice, orange juice, ginger ale, diet Dr. Pepper (for Debbie's all-to-rare visits,) and a 12 pack of canned Coke. Not only that but by the side of my chair is a mug that holds 55 ounces of my favorite poison ... Coke with a little vanilla mixed in. It's full. AND ALL OF A SUDDEN I'M GOING TO CROAK IF I DON'T DRINK WATER! Oh, did I mention that I also have Hawaiian Punch? And everybody knows that's just red water.

Actually, the water came back on just a few minutes ago. It's ... brown. Or if you are into fashion, khaki. I have khaki water. Anybody care to do laundry? I thought not.

I find myself flashing back to 5:00PM. I stopped at a car wash, put in $3.00 in quarters, and hosed the salt off of my Trail Blazer. My SUV has had a looooong, cold drink. I wish I was a car.

On the up-side I purchased a card table and chairs today. Nearly doubled my furniture if you count each item separately. I'd make a lousy bachelor. Debbie agrees ... I hope.

Monday, December 17, 2007

And my nominee for "Dumb Christmas Song Of The Year" is ...

"Sleigh bells ring ... are you listening?" - No.
"In the lane ... snow is glistening." - It's glistening everywhere, thank you very much.
"A beautiful sight ... we're happy tonight ... walking in a winter wonderland." - Yes, yes, and only when the wind dies down.

"Gone away is the blue bird" - I didn't notice him through all of the suicidal sea gulls. What ARE they doing out there?
"Here to stay is the new bird" - The last "new bird" I saw was a turkey on Thanksgiving and ... mmmm ... delicious!
"He sings a love song as we go along" - I don't think so. All he sang was, "feeling hot, hot, HOT!"
"Walking in a winter wonderland." - Yesterday I stopped walking for just one second and the wind pushed me forward on the ice. I slid toward the door without taking a step. Can we sing, "Sliding in a winter wonderland?"

"In the meadow we can build a snow man" - This I can do. But the scare crow is going to really be hacked-off.
"And pretend that he is Parson Brown" - OK, that's just cheesy. Impersonating a "parson" is just wrong on so many levels.
"He'll say, 'Are you married' we'll say, 'No, man'" - I've yet to walk up to someone and say, "Are you married" just on the spur of the moment. See what happens when you get a cheap "snow parson!"
"But you can do the job when you're in town." - You have a snow-man-parson" who travels? Must be the wind. Or he's haunted. In which case ... burn him.

"Later on, we'll conspire" - A blatant confession. You're going to jail. You'll love the food.
"As we dream by the fire" - Conspiring AND smoking in bed. This isn't going to look good in your permanent file.
"To face unafraid, the plans that we've made, walking in a winter wonderland" - Plans? You just finished the entire song and you never once mentioned plans. You need to lay off the egg nog, big guy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A New Branch On The Family Tree

Some days go down in the family history book as unbeatable. 5 star days. 2 thumbs up. That is today.

Two years ago tonight my son asked a young lady to go out on a date with him. She said, "yes." They wound up in our kitchen where they baked cookies. Now here is a boy who knows how to date! A cute girl AND chocolate chip cookies!

Tonight he asked her back to make more cookies. The evening started off looking like this ...

As the evening progressed the dough took this form ...

From there it progressed to this ...

And then on to this ...

And ended like this ...

Wow.

And now a personal word from an almost 3 times father-in-law...

Ms. Laura Dawn Rulo ... on behalf of Ron and Debbie Woods ... welcome to our family. I know that I also speak for Kelli, Joe, Scott and Amanda when I say we could not possibly be more pleased, more thrilled, more ecstatic to have you in our family. You know, Joe feels more like my son than my son-in-law. Amanda? She feels like my own flesh and blood. My daughter ... much more than my daughter-in-law. And having you as my new daughter-in-law ... DAUGHTER ... makes me every bit as happy as I was the night Joe asked for Kelli's hand and Scott and Amanda showed us her hand with a stunning ring on it. You are a remarkable young woman. And we are honored that you and Chris are building a new branch on the tree.

With all the love in the world ...

Your new family

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Potty Breaks And Poinsettia's

I suppose stranger things have happened. I would be hard-pressed to tell you when. I found the following news article on Fox News.com today.

"David Leggat was stuck in the bathroom at his bowling club with no food or contact with the outside world after the door jammed behind him.

The 55-year-old, who spent 16 hours of each day in darkness, was eventually freed after cleaner Cathy Scollay heard his cries for help and raised the alarm.

"There was no reason for anyone to come looking for him," she said. "David looked awfully grey and shaky when he came out but he managed to walk up the road to his house."

Let's get real for just second. Who hasn't had a nightmare of being locked in a public bathroom? have you ever had to pull on the door especially hard wondering all the while if you would ever be able to open it again? Or have you ever gone into the bathroom of a jet plane, clicked the lock on the door, and wondered what would happen if you could not get it open again?

I have.

Tomorrow I fly from Cleveland back to St. Louis to visit my family for a few days. I am one of those guys who actually enjoys going into the bathroom on an airplane. It is kind of like having your own apartment in the sky. For a few glorious moments you are living high and fast far above planet earth in your own 3 square foot bungalow. You do your duty, wash hands, and pray. And what do you pray? You pray that the door opens. Because the alternative is to know that the next sound you hear will be a flight attendant screaming her lungs out to the rest of the passengers saying " is there mechanic on board?" Much better to give birth at thirty thousand feet ... or even keel over of a heart attack ... than to get stuck in the John. At least that's the way I see it.

On the brighter side, I spent the better part of the morning visiting shut-In's from our church. I just wanted to take them a poinsettia in hopes of bringing a little Christmas cheer into their lives. Purely honorable intentions. Yeah. Well. That didn't work out so hot. It seems that the last one I visited did not want to unchain her door. After looking over the situation I realized I was not going to be able to squeeze the plant through the minuscule opening. Not that it mattered. My new found friend finally opened the door, received her plant, and asked me to thank the pastor for her. I tried to explain to her that I AM the pastor. She would not hear of it. She knows her pastor and I am not him. She finally told me to wait for a second, closed and relocked her door, only to return a few seconds later. She opened the door (leaving the chain intact,) and reached a frail hand through the opening to offer me my one dollar tip. I looked at it long and hard. Yes I was tempted. But no I didn't. I told her we are not allowed to take tips but I would thank the pastor for her, I wished her merry Christmas, and made my way back to my car.

Somewhere out there is a pastor who owes me $5.99.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I-C

To all of my friends back in St. Louis I can only think of one thing to say tonight ...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Ahem. Sorry.

It's just that you all warned me about Cleveland weather. And yes, I'm sure we have had more snow than you have had so far this winter. (Wait. Isn't it still fall?) But .. our kids went to school today. I didn't see any cars slip slide'n away. That's because we didn't have any ICE. None. Nada. Zippo. It was actually a rather nice day. Sunny. Mid- 70's.

OK, I'm lying. It was cloudy, dreary, and the lake looked like the sky which looked like a 3 year old that only had gray in his box of crayons. Tis the season.

Still, the roads were dry and the temps were high. So there. :)

I scored a victory for the little man today. I took on the mighty "Time Warner" cable company and won. It doesn't rhyme or I'd write a new song, I fought the cable company and I won..." I got my bill reduced from $51 per month to $7.25. That, my friend, is a major reduction. All I wanted was the Cleveland channels and they trotted up to my apartment and installed everything digital from channel 2 through something like 7,385. Or close to it. Truth is, I seldom watch anything in Spanish. I have no desire to spend a nano-second with HGTV. I can even live without Mike Rowe and "Dirty Jobs" if I need to. So I axed them all. Can't even get the weather channel. (I do grieve that. Paul Godloe is my hero.)

I learned today that there really is a "Cleveland Clinic." I didn't really doubt it but today I saw it and it's really there. In case you were wondering.

I ate 3 chili dogs today. And a salad. Fine dining, my friend. Fine dining.

And on Wednesday I'm flying to St. Louis to go to the dentist. It's not that they don't have dentists here. They do. It's just that my insurance (through Debbie's work) doesn't pay for them here. So I'll take wings and jet my way to the big guys drill. The screaming and begging for mercy you hear will be me. I'm sure he'll appreciate the chili dogs.

I'll be sure to tell you the awful details in a future edition.

Later ....

Thursday, December 06, 2007

10 Things I Know

1. God loves me more than I will ever understand. It's crazy love. I will never figure it out.
2. God deserves more love than my heart is capable of producing. I can love Him "full throttle" and still not love Him enough.
3. Nobody deserves to be forgiven but everybody is offered forgiveness.
4. Sometimes I sit with the simple intent of thinking about God and I have never once been able to reach the bottom of where I think my thoughts are heading. He is simply too deep.
5. Nobody deserves my judgement or trash talk. Most people that I know are far better than I am. And nobody is better able to judge that than I.
6. God loves it when I smile.
7. God wants me to care about others as much as I care about myself. And that means He expects me to care much about myself. Odd, huh? I never would have believed it if He had not said it. ("Love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF.")
8. The only true rest is found in His arms. Everything else is counterfeit.
9. Only God is not lying.
10. I could write 10,000 things about God and still not be nearly finished.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Series Of Video Messages To Debbie





Sunday, December 02, 2007

Whole - E - Cow

So I was sitting here about an hour ago video chatting with Debbie. 530 miles isn't so far away that modern technology can't cut it down to size given the right equipment and a little electricity. We were talking about nothing in particular. I think we were on the subject of my "month-a-versary." It was one month ago today that I relocated to Sheffield Lake. And then ...

WHAM!

I thought somebody was knocking at my balcony sliding glass door. Unlikely. Most people would simply ring me from the lobby rather than climb 90 feet up the side of a building.

WHAM!

OK, this was weird.

WHAMWHAMWHAMWHAM!

In less than 30 seconds a relatively mild December evening was transformed into a freight train slamming into my window. The lake had been glass-like all day long. It was always dreary and occasionally rainy. No biggie. I have no idea how hard the wind is blowing (and I know I've said this before) but it is the hardest I have heard to date. I peeked through the blinds and there is enough light reflecting from the city off of the clouds to see the lake for about 50 yards off shore. We are talking v-i-o-l-e-n-t here. The temperature is suppose to drop about 20 degrees between now and sunrise. Should make for a nice day. Lake effect snow is on the agenda. Sweet.

It's not so much the wind or Lake Erie that impresses me. Never mind. They do impress me. (I remember growing up in Chicago on really windy days they would string ropes from building to building downtown so that people could cross the street without getting blown away. Yes, really.) But what seriously gets my attention is how God has put His world together in such a way that it can change in an instant. A millisecond. Calm to positively violent. Peaceful to chaotic. And it all happened more quickly than you could sneeze.

But isn't life like that? I visited a precious woman in the hospital late last Friday night. She was very restless and moaning in discomfort. I knew that her time was short but I didn't think that she would be gone by 4:30AM. A mere split second from earth to heaven. That's all it takes.

Only God knows what the next second holds. It might be a big nothing. It might be a storm blasting winter winds against your window. It might be heaven. it might be ... less than heaven if you don't know Jesus. Tonight the gale blowing outside my sliding glass door reminds me of the urgency of the moment. I am so glad that God has brought me here to be "Jesus with skin on" to people. And He has graciously given me some "bread crumbs" along the way to confirm that this is exactly where He was pointing when I headed away from the familiar. Not every moment has been fun but then that is what you call "life."

You know what I want? I mean, in the deepest recesses of my heart, do you know what I long for? I have asked God for it but I almost feel guilty when I do. I mean, I would joyfully come here if He told me to and it was for the purpose of reaching one single soul for Christ. But you know what I deeply, passionately, and intensely want? I want to see God hit one over the wall. I want to see a grand slam by God. I want to see Him take this body of believers that I have joined up with and totally transform the community He has placed us in.

Forgive me for sounding like a youth pastor again ... but that would so rock.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round ...

I hate days like this. The "inner me" wants to let someone else deal with the big decisions ... the "responsible adult" things of life. I just get settled into that whole paradigm and then reality smacks me and I remember, oh yeah, I am the responsible adult.

This simple fact should make all humanity very afraid.

I've made this well documented move to "The North Coast" of the United States better known as "The Great Lakes." In so doing I made many promises to my now distant family that dad and grandpa (both of those are little old me) will grab grandma (sorry, Debbie) and actively work at continuing to be very real and present parts of their lives. Ain't no way I'm going to let any grand child of mine grow up without knowing us all too well. (Out of the typical four grandparents I only knew one of them. My mom's mom lived until I was about 13. I have always kind of grieved never having had a grandfather. Therefore I will NOT allow that to happen to my kids kids. Nope. Not gonna happen.)

So over the past few days I've been taking stock of the situation and I realized that there was one very real threat to keeping my promise. Our "travel vehicle" was a 2004 Explorer with 91,000 miles on it. And it had this serious "THUNK" someplace in the drive train. So the question quickly became ... "would I allow Debbie to drive this vehicle the 375 miles to Chicago (Scott and Amanda) or the 530 miles to St. Louis (Kelli, Joe, Elle, Chris and Laura) without me?

Uhh. No.

So that is when I had to stop messing with the easy stuff, put on my big boy pants and do something. That means spending money and not having Debbie around to nod at me or shake her head when I do so. Well, the good news is that my totally rockin brother-in-law, Jim, (better known by me as "Skippy") works for Enterprise (he is the very capable manager of the huge rental branch at the St. Louis International Airport) and thus I get this nifty discount if I buy one of their used and hopefully very cared for rental cars. And that discount almost doubled over this particular holiday. So today I banged my head against the wall for about 5 hours as I cut a deal and kissed our beloved Explorer bye-bye. Alas, she has been replaced by a Burgundy Trail Blazer with a mere 12,000 miles on her. And she has raised white letters on her tires. Very cool. Debbie will be totally stylin in her. Of course, she hasn't actually SEEN this vehicle yet and so at the moment I'm hanging my spotless reputation and my own personal safety way out over the edge. (Sorry, honey.)

As my old friend Bill Shakespeare once wrote, "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?' What that means in auto replacement terms is ... ya gotta take your best shot. Should you just go on and worry about the safety of those riding inside because of the reliability ... or lack thereof ... of the vehicle in question, or should you "take arms" (aka: dollars) and do something about it? In the end I figured that if I lose the dollars I lose relatively little. If I lose a loved one I lose everything. Love trumps money every time.

I asked God for help on this particular issue. The question was simple. "Buy or don't buy?" After praying and listening and praying and listening I do believe He led me to a rather simple scripture. It's a part of Psalm 34 and it simply says this, "blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." What's that got to do with anything? It's really not tough to figure out.

Life throws hard decisions at us. So do this: Take refuge in God. Fear and love Him. Do that and you will lack nothing. He will take care of you. And when you have to make the tough call, do it with the best wisdom you can muster and then relax. Trust in your God. He will take care of the details.

I'm really glad about that. Left to my own devices I will fall flat every time. But I just love knowing that God checks my heart and when He finds it stayed on Him, He will honor my walk. He will bless my decisions.

Even when they make me queasy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Help Me! I've Got More Elle And I Can't Stop Myself!!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Elle's Thanksgiving Solo



This was the best moment of a wonderful week. Elle ... you are the best granddaughter a man ever had...
Grandpa Ron

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Testosterone Kills

I have too much testosterone. Way too much. There has GOT to be a lever or a valve someplace to moderate this stuff.

Yesterday was "drive home day." Yes, I have officially declared northeast Ohio "home." Wasn't hard. The people are wonderful. The community is great. What's not to enjoy? Just get my bride here to my side and all will be well.

OK, I got off track. Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Yesterday I left B-town for the drive back to Sheffield Lake (aka: Cleveland for you Illinois/Missouri/other places readers.) The final tally was 538 miles. This time. Obviously it depends on the route you take and for some reason "Sophie The GPS" chooses a different route everytime I drive it. I'm not sure but I think there are some guys up there on the International Space Station messing with me. I can just hear it now...

"Hey Hank! He's leaving again! Quick, send a signal to Sophie. Tell her that this time we are going by way of Montana!"

"You got it, Bobby! Message sent!"

Maybe I'm paranoid but sometimes she wants me to go through Columbus. Sometimes through Lima. Yesterday she wanted to go northeast from Indianapolis through Toledo. So I just go the way I want and let Sophie fine tune my arrival. I can handle the main parts of the trip. It's navigating those final few miles into the Cleveland area that tends to sink my ship.

The last stop before hitting the highway for real was Qdobe in Edwardsville. A big part of our family was there and we stuffed ourselves on Mexican. I kissed them all goodbye and pointed east-ish. And I decided to just go. Fast. Get there. Fast. No time to be wasted on silly things like food, bathrooms, putting my eyes back into their sockets.

The final results? 538 miles. 8 hours and 18 minutes. My wheels were not turning a total of 16 minutes so I actually did it in 8 hours and 2 minutes drive time. That is 498 minutes. I do not know what that makes my average speed. I do know this.

IT WAS A HORRIBLY STUPID IDEA.

By the time I got home my windshield wipers were waving wildly in front of my face ... and they were not turned on. The "straight line" I walked toward the front door of my apartment building probably appeared like I had been on a cheap drunk. I poured Visine over my entire face.

What is it that makes a typical somewhat normal middle aged American male turn into a total freak job to prove that he can beat his old record at driving from point "A" to point "B?" Nobody was here when I arrived! There was no stop watch to click. I was home and I felt like my eyes were black holes from the deepest parts of outer space.

There has to be a spiritual application here. For the life of me I can't find it. I think I am just confessing stupidity. And actually, that is not unheard of. Tonight at 5:58PM my cell phone rang. I was in the drive through of a local McDonalds waiting for my yummy gourmet cheeseburger. (Gourmet in this case means ... hold the pickle.) I answered to hear the voice of our worship leader, Pam, ask me if I am coming to church tonight. Dumb question. I assured her that I was and the inquired as to why she was asking. That's when she pointed out that the service would begin in two minutes.

Oh.

I don't know why but I thought church starts at 6:30 on Sunday nights! I guess I confused it with Wednesday nights. Orrrr ... since I have been a member of 3 different churches in the last year AND I have recently changed time zones I might just have plain old wore my brain out and goofed up. To make matters worse, as I bolted out of the line (not before I got my cheeseburger) I got within half a mile of church only to get stopped for TEN INCREDIBLY LONG MINUTES by the slowest train ever to be placed on rails. I walked in during the last song before the pastor (aka: me) was to speak. The congregation looked at me politely (sarcastically?) and applauded. Ahhhhh. The warmth of home!

OK, so I guess this is just confession night. Tomorrow morning I will wake up ON TIME and go to the office for staff meeting. I will leave early enough to give myself at least 5 minutes to drive the one mile. I will walk in to no applause. I will sit at my desk and look official. I will say something intelligent. Under no circumstances will I drool.

Tomorrow is Monday. There is absolutely zero chance that I will be able to pull off anything that I told you I would in the previous paragraph.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I See Dead People ...

I guess I'm a total wuss. Yesterday Debbie and I decided to go and celebrate our anniversary by looking at dead people. OK, it wasn't really like that. I mean, it was like that. But not really. We went to "Body Worlds 3" at the St. Louis Science Center. I have to tell you. This is some weird stuff.

"Body Worlds" is this traveling exhibit that displays the often split open and always skinned bodies of deceased people. You might just want to sit here for a minute and think about that. Then think about this. We paid $42 to get in. There was probably a funeral somewhere around that we could have attended for free. Might have even copped a free lunch for our efforts. But for us it was "Body Worlds."

It's actually a little more complicated than I made it sound. All of the bodies were donated by the deceased (prior to the deceasing I would assume.) They are put through a process called, "Plastination." Here is what it says directly from the web site...

"I developed the Plastination technique at the University of Heidelberg’s Institute of Anatomy in 1977, patented it between 1977 and 1982, and have been continually improving the process ever since.

When, as an anatomy assistant, I saw my first specimen embedded in a polymer block, I wondered why the polymer had been poured around the outside of the specimen as having the polymer within the specimen would stabilize it from the inside out. I could not get this question out of my mind. A few weeks later, I was to prepare a series of slices of human kidneys for a research project. The usual process of embedding the kidneys in paraffin and then cutting them into thin slices seemed like too much wasted effort to me, as I only needed every fiftieth slice. Then one day, I was in the butcher shop in the university town where I was studying, and as I watched the sales woman slice ham, it dawned on me that I ought to be using a meat slicer for cutting kidneys. And so a "rotary blade cutter," as I called it in the project-appropriation request, became my first Plastination investment. I embedded the kidney slices in liquid Plexiglas and used a vacuum to extract the air bubbles that had formed when stirring in the curing agent. As I watched these bubbles, it hit me: It should be possible to infuse a kidney slice with plastic by saturating it with acetone and placing it under a vacuum; the vacuum would then extract the acetone in the form of bubbles, just as it had extracted air before. When I actually tried this, plenty of acetone bubbles emerged, but after an hour the kidney was pitch black and had shrunk. At this point most people would have dismissed the experiment as a failure, and the only reason I went ahead and repeated it a week later using silicone rubber was because my basic knowledge of physical chemistry told me that the blackening effect was due to the index of refraction of the Plexiglas, and that the shrinkage could be attributed to having permeated the specimen too quickly. The next time, I carried out this process more slowly, using three successive silicone baths as a means of preventing a single bath (along with its contents) from curing too quickly. After curing the specimen in a laboratory kiln, I had the first presentable sample of Plastination.

That was on January 10, 1977, the day that I decided to make Plastination the focus of my life."

Gunther von Hagens
Inventor of Plastination"


You go, Gunther. When I am in the butcher shop watching them slice ham all I want to think about is my coming sandwich, not the poor soul on my slab back at home. (NO I do not have a slab. Leave it alone.) Folks, I gotta tell you that this exhibit bothered me. It didn't seem to bother anybody else in the room. School groups (mainly form local high schools) trotted around as though they were checking out the latest assignment at the Art Museum. Debbie was fascinated. Me? Not so much. I did not get queazy. I didn't puke. I just felt ... repulsed. I suppose it's a fair reaction to seeing people displayed like so much rump roast in the fresh meat section of your local grocery store. Or maybe I'm just not curious enough.

I have no qualms at all about people who do autopsies to discover the cause of death. I totally understand the need for bodies to be donated for the purpose of science and finding cures to horrific diseases and to train doctors. I get it. No problem. However, if I had come to this display without a deep faith in God and His purpose, promise, and plans for all men willing to trust Him ... I would have left seriously depressed. This display just might have led me to believe that, as Peggy Lee use to sing (well before my generation) "If that's all there is ... if that's all there is my friend ... then let's keep dancing ... let's break out the booze ... and have ... a ball ... if that's all ... there is."

The bible says that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." Body Worlds shows us just how wonderfully made we are. It is amazing to see what God has done with us. But to see somebody stripped of AND HOLDING their own skin ... uh, no thanks. I"m not on a crusade against Body Worlds. If you want to go you have my blessing. Personally I wish I had saved the $42 bucks, plus the $9 to park. The best money I spent was in the gift shop when I got robbed of $11 (there is no prices posted on anything) for a plastic football to give to Elle. Now SHE is a hunk of meat that will hug me back.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Letter To My Wife For The World To Read

Dear Debbie,

How can I possibly thank you for who you are, what you have done, and for loving me without reservation for three decades? It is impossible. Thirty years ago today I took your hand at an altar and before God shared a promise with you to love and cherish each other until the ugly cold hand of death should separate us. Thus far that hand hasn't been able to lay a glove on us.

Our love for each other has produced three incredible children. We share a deep pride in each one. Not one has walked away from us or the love we have instilled in them for God. And now as we have added a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter the days just grow sweeter and more meaningful. There will, no doubt, be another daughter-in-law added to the mix someday. And more grandchildren. Those are the only ways I can imagine improving on the nearly perfect.

But for me ... it is all about you. The way you smile. The sound of your laughter. The grip I feel on my hand when we walk through a crowd of people. The quiet moments. The shared meals. The smooth, easy, deep sounds of your sleep washed breathing by my side on a dark night. For me, those are the sounds of peace and satisfaction.

Would I change anything?

I would move you to my side in our new hometown more quickly. I would take away the asthma that sometimes reduces every breath you take to a major battle. I would sit with you more often with absolutely no agenda. I would stare more deeply into your eyes and listen more intently to your words. I would memorize every moment. I would work harder so that you could work less.

Other than that? No. I would change nothing. I would stand at the same altar at any moment you choose and take the same vow of love and faithfulness. I would spend our days the same way we have spent them, in the same places, with the same people, and with an intense sense of pride to have you by my side. For you are the best part of me.

Thank you for loving me. I can never say it enough. I love you. I love you. I LOVE YOU.

And I will be by your side for as long as you will have me.

Ron

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Joy

My wife is here. Life is complete.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

He Loves Me

Life is a sermon. Every incident, every detail, every nuance has a purpose and a meaning. I do not know why some things happen but I also do not believe in accidents. Not for the Christ follower anyway. The problem is that I do not know where that leaves me. A little girl that I have been praying for because she had Leukemia died this week. Did God cause that or did God simply allow it? It has to be one or the other. There does not seem to be a third option. What happens and is not caused by God is allowed by God. I like to know which it is but I seldom do. So I sometimes fool myself and pretend that I know. But God is too big. His ways are too high. And honestly, I usually do not know.

So I trust.

What is my part in the sermon? In the sermon you hear. You. The person reading right now. Do I have a role in your life because if I do not .... why are you reading? Am I good news or bad news? Am I a parable or a bullet point? Maybe I am the bad example. I cannot know. I can only be and do and try. I can only seek and see and respond. What becomes of my words and my actions when they leave me and enter your "zone of awareness" is beyond my ability to control or even know. It is out of my hands. How many times have I seen my best intentions become broken wires refusing to make a positive connection? Too many times to count.

Few things in life are as simple and clear as they should be. But this much is. God is good. God is strong. God loves me. God loves you. There is more to fear than fear itself. Much more. But it becomes a mute point when God speaks. In the presence of the voice of God there is nothing to fear. His voice says, "Peace. Be still."

The wind still rages outside my glass wall. I suspect it will for the duration of my stay in this building. It is midnight and I can still see white caps far off into the darkness. I watched those waves today and I understood that God keeps a running count of them. He watched every snow flake that fell this afternoon. He counted and maybe even named the hailstones that pounded the head of the lady I saw run across the parking lot. And through it all He still never took His eye off of me. Or you. And He will not. Ever.

That is why I can close my eyes as I hover some ninety feet above the earth, up where the wind takes a second breath and comes around to give you more. That is why I can sleep though I know people in pain over the loss of a nine year old child to a sadistic, evil disease. That is why I can smile, laugh, dance and even sing when I am not in the shower. He loves me.

He loves me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lake Erie asked me to remind you ...

Tonight there is this amazing wind blowing in off of Erie. My patio door is just howling! I just got up and turned on the fan over the stove ... which is in my living room/bedroom/dining room/den combination. The fan drowns out the wind noise. I was sitting in the dark with the blinds open and my binoculars trained on a ship out miles from the shore. How in the world do guys stand it? I can't imagine what it must be like out there. The waves are hitting the concrete retaining wall with the walkway above it across the lawn from our building and EXPLODING at least 15 feet into the air. I wish it was daytime so I could get some pictures. It surely reminds me of the strength and might of God. I would hate to be walking along that sidewalk right now.

You cannot look at this scene and not think back to that stormy night when the disciples were trying their best to row across the sea and along comes this scary figure that turns out to be Jesus walking on the water. You know what? I worship Him because He walks on water. But I also worship Him simply because He has the courage to take the stroll in the first place! I love water. I love it in the shower. I love it in a jacuzzi. I love it in a cup with ice. I love to look at it from the shore. But I'm really not so hot about being out ON it. I swim like a chunk of concrete only with less style. So I'm not stupid enough to tempt gravity while splashing in the ocean. Or the lake. Or a deep swimming pool for that matter.

Jesus MADE the ocean and the lake. He chose the course for the Mississippi River in St. Louis and He lay the foundation for Lake Erie and the rest of the Great Lakes here "up north." And when the real cold weather hits and the snow comes crashing into my window off of that lake He will be the one that sends it too.

How can you not love a God like that?

I spent my supper tonight at a table in a Wendy's talking to a man of another faith. He was a young guy. Maybe 23 years old. He just was accepted as a candidate to become a fire fighter in a local suburb. Right now he works at the Wendy's. We talked about our faith and how they have similar points and radically different points. And then you know what I did?

I ate him alive.

When it came to Jesus he really could not hold his own. He had rules and numbers and all sorts of thoughts and ideas that just don't really appear in the bible in any relevant context. It was not even a hard discussion. So I invited Him to my church. I gave him the address and he said he would come. We'll see. But I really want this young man to walk into his first life threatening fire with the love of God wrapped around him like a protective blanket.

Jesus. He walks on water. He's my hero. He deserves my worship.

Lake Erie asked me to remind you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunshine and Chocolate

Well now. That's better. The SUN came out today and the sky is actually still up there. I hereby vow that I will never take that fact for granted again. (I solemnly swear ... yada, yada, yada...) I came home from the office to grab some lunch today and a couple of guys were fishing off the mini-pier that juts out into the lake below my building. Very cool. There was some big ore type freighter in the distance. And beyond that I could see the Canadian province of Ontario forming the horizon.

OK, that last one was a lie. A total fabrication. You cannot see Canada from here. When I was a kid growing up in Detroit, well that was a place you could see Canada from. It looks like America. Only backward. Nevermind. But I did notice at the grocery store tonight that they were selling "fresh Canadian walleye." Who do they think they are kidding? All they had to do was go half way plus an inch across Erie and they were IN Canada. That Canadian walleye might well have been swimming in Ohio water half an hour before being nabbed. If I want walleye I'll ... well, actually I have never wanted walleye so I don't know what I'll do. If the urge hits me I'll get back to you.

Where was I?

Oh. Sunshine. The sunshine was complimented PURRfectly by my good friends Cheryl and Danny Dingeldien. (Yes, that is pronounced "Dingle" and "Dine." I think it's swedish for giver of great gifts.) At their great effort and expense I received a package today. The good people in the offices here at Erie Shore Landing did not want to give it to me. I reminded them that it is a felony to tamper with the U.S. mail and so they relented. Oh the wonder of it all! It was a box with the "Hershey's" logo all over it. Nothing bad e-v-e-r comes with a Hershey's logo on it! So I ripped it open post haste. Lo and behold ... this is what I found inside ...



Yes, friends, it is a HUGEMONGEROUS brick of chocolate shaped like a computer keyboard and monitor. Inscribed in still MORE chocolate on it are the words, "Have Fun! Download This!" Not a problem, Danny! No sweat, Cheryl! Tomorrow I shall call the staff around my desk and we shall partake of dark brown goodness! And all because of my wonderful friends. Danke, danke, danke!

Oh, and i promised Danny I would post his picture on my blog tonight. So here it is. This is the best shot I could find, Daniel. Remember? You posed for it at Cannoli's last time you visited us. :) It's my favorite Danny shot ever!



God bless Danny! God bless Cheryl! God bless ... HERSHEYS!

Monday, November 12, 2007

That ain't what you want to see ...

Sometimes you look over the edge of the balcony and you see waves lapping on the breakwater. Sometimes you look over the edge and you see sea gulls soaring on lake breezes. Sometimes you look over and you see this ...

''

And ya know, a good fire drill just was not on my agenda this evening. It's raining. It's cold. It's dark. I much prefer a "Hot Apple Blast" from the Caribou Coffee in Avon and maybe a good book or a dvd on the laptop. But noooooooo. Instead there are men in thick rubber coats bouncing around the hallways with thermal image monitors trying to determine if anything ... or anybody ... is really on fire. They have been looking for over an hour now. I am pretty sure somebody would have screamed by now if there were flames dancing around their apartment. The drama has been replaced with tedium. Don't misunderstand. I'm being really nice to these guys. I am very grateful for them. They want to be at home in front of their fireplace too. And I really appreciate their making sure that my marshmallow doesn't roast tonight.

How ironic. There is a 300 foot deep lake outside that is about 35 or 40 miles across. That's got to be enough water to put out all of northern Ohio should the need arise. It won't. So let's all go to sleep.

Say "goodnight" Gracie.
PS... Tonight I ate a bowl of Frosted Flakes and milk with a fork. It can be done.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Steve Jobs ... I love you


(Just before Scott joined the chat)


I just love technology. Tonight after church my wife and I did our usual "video chat." We've talked face to face via computer every day since I quit my job and left her. (OK, you know what I mean. I did quit my job and I did leave her to go set-up life for us in a new city. It was a joke. So laugh! There ... thank you.) But I had also talked to Eric, one of my best and most missed buddies from back in St. Lou. He's a mac guy too. So he and his wife Stephanie (maker of all things fudge and master mind of the spectacular "biscuits and chocolate" breakfast) joined in. And then I got an IM from my son, Scott, in the Chicago burbs. Yep, a mac guy. Suddenly we had this "quadrophonic" video chat going. On the fringes of the pictures were Christopher, Laura, Amanda, and Sarah. It was a reunion!

AWESOME!

Video chat is the strangest thing. You can see your family and loved ones just like they were in the room with you. You can hear them. In the case of Scott and Matt I"m pretty sure I smelled them too. You just can't touch them. Last night I was doing a video chat with my wife and daughter from her home in St. Charles, Missouri. Of course, baby Elle was the star attraction. She was so into it that she tried to feed me from her plastic fork through the laptop screen. Now THAT is a computer age child!

It amazes me how God blesses. I am, according to my GPS, 553 miles from my house. And yet I can press one button and talk to my family or the friend of my choice. It's called "speed dial." I can fill out a little form called an "email" and shoot off a message for them to pick-up and read at their leisure. I can click another "virtual button" and see them as live and real time. It is hard enough being away from those you love. I'm grateful to my Father that the only major time of separation I have ever had from my bride of nearly 30 years (as of the 19th of this month) comes at a time when computer genius guys have made it so much easier.

Steve Jobs ... you are my hero.

Friday, November 09, 2007

11 Things I learned today ...

-Eddie Bauer rain/wind proof jackets ... really are.
-A thunder storm rolling in off of the Great Lakes at night when you are sitting in a darkened apartment 9 floors up and watching through a double paned sliding glass door is EXTREMELY impressive.
-Wind is loud.
-Watching "Scrubs" on-line is as good as watching it on regular television but singing the theme song by yourself ... not so much.
-Every time I look out my window I feel like I am on a cruise ship.
-Cell phones, e-mail, and video chats are priceless.
-Living alone is boring.
-The attraction of "fast food" is not that it is fast. It is that it is easy.
-Furniture is optional. Family is not.
-Dropping trash down a garbage chute is oddly addictive.
-The eastern time zone is a rip-off.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I can't think of a good title for this post

So here I sits ... propped up in my obscenely luxurious apartment. Reclining on an air mattress (I really must buy an air pump someday soon) and leaning against my not-painted-within-the-last-five-years wall. Don't get me wrong, the view is awe inspiring. Well, it will be if the sun ever shines again. I woke up this morning and peeked out the blinds to realize that I literally could not tell where the lake ended and the sky began. It was as though some fledgling artist had painted my entire window GRAY. Lovely. I'm solar powered and I'm living in a gray world.

After work today I came home and sacked out for a few minutes. OK, maybe a couple of hours. It occurs to me now that perhaps my life has been measured by what program is on television. No, I don't watch it much but if I'm home ... wherever that it ... it's usually on as background noise. And so now I have no way of regimenting my time. This is a pathetic confession. I should be able to do better. Perhaps tomorrow.

After I rose from my slumber I felt a rumble in my tummy, grabbed a jacket and headed out the door to forage for food. I turned left out of the parking lot onto Lake Road and instantly felt compelled to turn around and go to church. Why? Dunno. It was just this clear desire. So I turned around and drove the (exactly) one mile to FBCSL. Lights were on. Uh oh. I'm the pastor. Am I supposed to be somewhere? Am I missing ....A MEETING? I parked and went inside to find thirteen teenagers and one adult in the auditorium practicing a drama. They smiled and waved. I smiled and waved. They don't know me. I don't know them. They asked if they could do a drama for me. So I took a seat and waited. Music began to play through the sound system. Seven kids on the stage began doing motions to a song by "Casting Crowns" called "I'll Praise You In This Storm."

Oh.

That song has probably had more air time on my ipod in the last year than any other song. And there are a LOT of songs on that little bugger. And then I realized ... one year ago tonight ... no ... one year ago at that very moment ... I was reading my resignation to another youth group. The youth group at FBCB. And now I was the pastor of these kids. These wonderful kids who had no way of knowing what my last year had been like. No way of knowing that they were the hands, feet, and voice of God to me on this evening. What is it with me and youth groups. I made a lousy teenager when I was one. Now that I am an adult (so they tell me) I just can't get them out of my system. I think God programmed me backward.

So you have to admit that is a bit amazing. But then this God that I serve is a bit amazing. This has been a hard week. I am coming to love the people in this new church but I don't really know them. They have washed me in blessings and grace. Still, I must admit an intense feeling of emptiness as I deeply miss my family. I don't doubt that God has called me here. I simply am going through the process of separation. (You have no idea what I would pay right now for a Hit 'N Run "Hum Dinger" with just the right amount of vanilla.) I am away from my family and all of the familiar items that have represented "home" for twenty-four years. And it all has caused me to give some funny looks God's way. There are hundreds of churches within easy reach of my family and He calls me to one 556 miles away. Why? Why would He do that? Because He chooses to. That's good enough for me. But it doesn't take the sting away. By the way, He can handle my funny looks. They probably crack him up.

I spent an hour today back at the hotel where I had been staying before moving into the apartment. They had called my church to tell me I had left a suit in a closet. They had been wearing the coat and pretending to perform exorcisms. No joke. At least that's what they told me. Sounds legit to me. So anyway I stopped in to get it and got into a conversation with the hotel manager, Kitty. (Actually, it's Kathryn but somehow she thinks "Kitty" is a better name. Must be a Cleveland thing.) Kitty grew up in the church, became a nun as a young woman, and then twenty years ago got burned by someone in leadership. And so now she's not in a church at all. She has dabbled in "the mystical" side of life. She has learned the danger of believing in God but not having a "community" of Christ followers to help keep you on the sane side of the line. Religion will make you weird or mean if you don't have checks and balances. I told Kitty that I would define her as "a seeker." She said, "Yes, that is exactly what I am. I am a seeker." The desk began getting busy and I excused myself with a promise to return and continue our discussion.

It's people like Kitty that make me certain that this call is from God. It's moments like tonight with the youth group that bring me encouragement and confidence that God does indeed know what He is doing.

So as an extra added bonus tonight here's a picture of my office as it looked when I left this evening. Lot of things to be moved, hung, shelved and thrown out. The chair is cushy and the desk is big. And the walls? The walls are very, very blue. There is a story there but we'll save it for another day...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Moving. Again.

The view from the balcony on a cloudy, cold, snow flurry filled day...


For 5 days I've been living out of the back of my Explorer. No, I have not been sleeping there. Nothing like that. But when you move you pack your "stuff." You don't pack a suit case. So every night I had been walking down to the parking lot and dragging some clothes for the next day out of a box or a duffle bag. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not fun. Today I moved again. This time into the apartment. I made 6 trips up to the 9th floor carrying "stuff." (4 elevators. No waiting.) Then I went to Debbie's favorite store. Yes, the infamous Dollar General Store. Ugh. But she told me to go there and I miss her so much that I would indeed jump off the roof if she told me to. I've never filled a household from the bottom up before. I pushed my little cart up and down every aisle like a 90 year old woman on social security. i grabbed this. I grabbed that. I spent the Dollar Stores name times 62. When I got back to the apartment I started carrying up the last huge arm load of "stuff." That's when one of the rental agents asked me if I wanted to use the cart.

The cart.

I was on my 7th load ... the 7th time I walked RIGHT BY THEIR GLASS WALLED OFFICE ... and now they want to know if I want to use "the cart."

Yes, please.

I had no idea a studio apartment could take so long to organize. And I'm a "type a" personality but I'm certainly not "ocd." Anyway, it's not done yet. I'm camping out in my living room (I own 2 these days. Want to buy one in Illinois?) on an air mattress. No tv. I do have my trusty ipod and a speaker system. And fortunately one of my neighbors neglected to password their wireless internet. Tsk, tsk. Lucky for them I'm just tired and a bit lonely. Another neighbor might be criminal.

Tomorrow is "day 7" of The Great Cleveland Adventure. It might last 7 months, 7 years, or the rest of my life. Who am I to say? I'm here on orders. Video chatting with my wife and family has kept me sane thus far. But I'm off work on Friday and Saturday and have no idea what to do to kill off those days.

Maybe I'll buy a dog.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Snowing, sloshing, and soon to be sleeping

Snow? Isn't it November 6th? Today was crazy. Debbie flew home. Got there safely and we had a video chat complete with Kelli, Joe, and Elle in attendance with her. Then we added Scott, Amanda, and Matt in Crystal Lake, Il. It was the coolest thing. A family reunion without starting a car.

And then there was the weather. It thunder snowed, rained, hailed, and ... winded. Like a constant 40mph wind with these gusts that made my Explorer shudder. At home storms knock my trees apart. Here? There was this thunder storm with snow in place of rain. But that is not the strange part. I was just watching the weather and Lake Erie sloshed today. That's what the nice weather guy in the PURPLE SUIT said. The wind was just roaring all day long and Lake Erie, being an average of 62 feet deep and maxing out at 210 feet sloshes. I mean, that's deep enough for me. But as the Great Lakes go it's pretty shallow. And so when the wind goes nuts like this it pushed a bunch of the water to the east and it piles up there. I'm freaken serious. They showed a photo of where the lake usually hits the shore in our area and then one of where it was today. It looked to be a 3 or 5 foot difference in a shallower way. When the wind stops ... it will slosh back. They called this "the bath tub effect."

I live by the worlds largest bathtub.

Oh, and we gave up on the trailer. I'm not going to be an RV guy after all. My incredible father-in-law did his dead level best to make it work out but it just kept getting harder and harder. We finally had a talk and agreed that this was just not the way to go. So last night Debbie and I rented a nice studio apartment. Nothing fancy. It's just a little place ON THE 9TH FLOOR OVER LOOKING LAKE ERIE WITH A BALCONY FOR MY STILL-TO-BE-PICKED-OUT-LAWN-CHAIR. The entire north wall is glass. My glass apartment over looks the worlds largest bathtub. I'm telling you I've moved to the land of Oz. I would not be at all surprised tomorrow if a scare crow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion are waiting for me in my office.

At 52 years old I finally have a swinging bachelor's pad. (www.erieshorelanding.com) No, there isn't any shag carpeting. But the three painted walls are creme colored ... with about a 3 foot wide (tall) horizontal brown stripe mid-way up the wall. Why? I dunno. Some girl lived in it last. The apartment people were going to paint it. I told them I'd rather they just leave it alone and cut my rent. So they took $75 bucks a month off. Deal! I'll find a way to maximize that brown strip. If you have suggestions leave them in the "comments" link below. Right now I'm considering painting grass on top of it. Maybe some earth worms in the middle of it. We'll see. Did I mention the work-out room? The free tanning salon? The great room with a fire place and surrounding windows on the lake? It has a huge laundry mat. You don't put coins in the machines. There is a machine on the wall. You put money in it and it gives you a debit card that you swipe in the washers and driers. I MAY NOT BUY A HOUSE AFTER ALL. Ok, Ok. I could have cut $100 a month off the rent by taking a apartment facing away from the lake and having an outside entrance. Nope. I live alone in Cleveland and if you live in Cleveland you gotta have SOMETHING to look at. My furniture will be easy enough to arrange. Mainly because I don't have any. ANY. A-N-Y. Not one piece. So tomorrow I procure an air mattress and maybe a trash can. Might throw in a toilet brush if the price is right. I'm going to throw my shirts in one corner, my pants in another, underwear by the bathroom (of course) and suits in the closet. Which, by the way, is big enough for a microwave oven if you have a small one. I'll bring some real honest to goodness furniture when I come back from Thanksgiving in B-town.

Yes, I actually have showed up at the church every day this week. but my office is still bare walled and totally disorganized. I've been busy dealing with setting up life. Everybody has been great about allowing me the space and time to accomplish that. What I haven't been doing much of is sleeping. And that starts .... NOW!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thank you...

I need to step aside from regular blogging for a minute to say "THANK YOU" to all of the people who have either left comments or sent emails and text messages over the last week. I can't begin to tell you how much it has meant to me. The Cleveland 'burbs is where I am called by God to be, need to be, and therefore want to be. But right now I admit that it feels like the far side of the moon. It has nothing to do with any lack of kindness on the part of the people or the church here. On the contrary, they have been so wonderful to us that it has totally taken us by storm. Even the hotel we are spending our first 3 days in has been unreal. I spent about an hour talking to "Kitty" the last time I was here. She is the hotel's general manager and quickly became a friend. And when I made the reservation this time she upgraded us to this fantastic suite AND cut the rate. It's been unreal.

But you guys, whether I know you in real life or you are someone who has just become a friend in the wonderful world of blogging ... wow. Your kind words, encouragement, and expressed hopes that I will continue blogging have been so humbling. I write for fun and for personal fulfillment. I write to keep my soul alive and to fight off the stagnation that comes when I don't. Quit blogging? It's never even occurred to me. (Though my son-in-law tells me I'm supposed to keep it to 150 words. HEY, JOE. YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO ONLY READ THE FIRST 150 WORDS! AND YES, I'M TEASING! NO I'M NOT! CHOOSE ONE!)

Today I asked my GPS to find local banks for me. I listed a few dozen within 30 miles and suddenly one appeared that was 43.2 miles away. I don't remember the name but the word "Montreal" was in it. Odd. I punched "map it." You know what? It is a bank across Lake Erie in Canada. Yes, it's only 43.2 miles away ... as the crow flies. To drive there was something over 180 miles because of the water. Ain't no bridge across the Great Lakes! See what I mean about the far side of the moon?

You know what's a truly great thing that isn't mentioned nearly often enough? The proliferation of the cell phone. I miss my kids really badly today. I called each of them right after church this morning. All it takes is punching one single button on my phone and ... bingo-bango ... there they are! That is a very cool thing that is way over looked. I wish Elle could talk on the phone.

And then there is Staci who made me this huge batch of brownies that I ate all of the way to Sheffield Lake. Staci was in my youth group like ... 60 years ago. Well, roughly 60 years. Give or take. When we arrived in my office this morning there was this big box waiting for me on my desk. The return address was that of my friend Stephanie. It seems that this world class friend spent $24.50 to overnight express a huge box of home made vanilla fudge to me. I love me some vanilla fudge! Staci and Stephanie, you are two of my favorite people E-V-E-R! And seriously ... you both brought smiles to Debbie and I when we needed them. You and your husbands, Kevin and Eric are priceless friends. (Hi Eric!!!!)

Well anyway, thanks. You have lifted my spirits and been a great encouragement. I am humbled and thankful for the network of real and cyber friends in my life. Pray for me and I'll pray for you ....

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Disjointed bits of vitally important reality

Cleveland. Hmmm. Eastern time zone. The end of "daylight savings time." Tomorrow I begin as Sr. Pastor of a new church and I have no idea what time to get up ... much less show up.

Today I secured my spot on my trailer park. I think it is named "Twin Wells Mobile Homes" or something like that. It's pretty nice. Well, it's decent. OK, I don't think anybody has been murdered there in a few weeks. It is in Lorain, Ohio. "Lorain" sounds like a sad drinking song that Willie Nelson would sing. Or maybe a "free love" song by Eric Clapton. I'm going to be living on twin 30lb propane tanks during a Cleveland winter. This may not be one of my brighter ideas.

I am 516.84 miles from Elle Parker McGill (my perfect granddaughter.) I am maybe 30 miles from Canada if you do not mind going by way of water. I am 238.2 miles from Niagra Falls, 484.64 miles from Carnegie Hall (with or without practice,) 395.09 miles from George Bush's bedroom and 155.29 miles from Pittsburgh. Why is my favorite place also my farthest place?

As I was driving in to my hotel parking lot tonight a man walked out of the door and he was a horse from the waist down. I suspect it was a costume but I have no proof. I didn't know they accept pets here. He waved at me. I yelled "giddup."

People here seem to be proud of the fact that their river caught fire back in the 1970's. I think we should stop bringing it up and laughing. It just encourages them.

Tomorrow will be exciting because it will be my first day pastoring the people of this church. Monday will be interesting because it will be my first day in the office and we have staff meeting.. Tuesday will be sad because Debbie flies home. Wednesday will be fun because I am meeting an old friend (who happens to be in town) for lunch. Thursday will be spent in anticipation of finding a laundromat on Friday. Saturday ... that day might be a problem.

Birds have nests, foxes have holes, and the Sr. Pastor must now find a place to lay his head.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Notes from "A Wondering And Very Distracted Man Of God"

In brief ...

I showed up in this town on a Saturday evening 24 years ago. Some new friends unloaded my truck, dumped my belongings in the living room of a roach infested apartment and left to go play volleyball. My confused bride and I did our best to get our kids into makeshift beds and then get up and arrive at church on time the next morning. We pulled it off.

Since then we have loved on thousands of teenagers. About 20 of them are in ministry themselves tonight. I got to baptize hundreds of kids after leading them to faith in Jesus Christ. We raised 3 incredible kids of our own that I would not trade for any I have ever met. Tonight they teasingly gave me a "living funeral." It began as a joke by "Bella," my youngest son's precious girl friend and, hopefully, my final daughter-in-law someday, and morphed into a fun evening of pizza and puns at Bellacino's and Kelli's house. I held my amazing granddaughter and quietly gave thanks as I spent time staring at each and every person in the room, giving thanks for all they are in my life. My family helped me "count down" the moments to "a new day" in life and ministry. Bella read a two page long letter that left me with tears in my eyes and no words in my mouth. (Thank you, my dear Laura.) Did I mention that Scott caught a train from Chicago and took the time to come and enjoy this last evening in Bethalto with me? Tonight I sat up with he and Christopher until after 1AM watching TV and laughing. Joe, Jim and Alisha rounded out the perfect evening. Debbie and i are overwhelmed by the love of our immediate family. We miss our Amanda who could not get away from work but we know her love for us runs deep and we can't wait to see her at Thanksgiving.

And so it is over. There is a "For Sale" sign in my front yard. I will end this part of my life on a Friday. Tomorrow at this time my former home town will be far away in my rear view mirror. My future hometown will still be half a days drive from my windshield. There are no roaches in our home anymore. No babies. Everyting has a place and fits well in it.

To think that after tonight ... TONIGHT ... I will never again have one of my own kids as a permanent resident in the house I am living in just boggles my mind. I got up about 3AM last night and just walked through the house with no lights on. Obviously everybody was asleep. I walked the entire house (which isn't THAT big!) without a light and without having to do anything to orient myself. 14 years in one place will do that to you. In my mind there were birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, Thanksgiving dinners, quiet evening around a pizza ... going on in every room. Ghost memories. Then I walked to Christopher's door and put my hand on it and prayed for his wisdom, safety, protection from evil ... you know ... all of the things that we pray about for our kids. I prayed over Debbie.

Why does life have to be such a jumbled pile of good and bad. Fun and painful? Full and empty?

Well. Because God says so. And the end of the day ... that's all we've got. Because God says so. I've been "clocked in" on this planet for 52 years and I know that "because God says so" is enough. It's just that it does not remove the hurt. It only promises the pleasure. And the greater the obedience and faithfulness in the midst of the pain (the war) the greater the pleasure when we see His Face.

I'm typing this while sitting back in my huge-mega-chair in the living room. Cold orange juice by my side. And I know that after I hit "send" my next job is to sleep and then actually finish packing. Like ... clothes. Books. Office stuff. Computer stuff. Pack it and sit it in the middle of the garage floor so that I can throw it in the Explorer and drag it 560 miles and pull it out again. Then I'll go find a laundry mat, a grocery store, a cleaners, a "Hit 'N Run Vanilla Coke" replacement. And if there is enough daylight left I'm going to drive the 1 1/2 blocks to the lake, find a bench that faces water, and watch the sunset. I don't plan on asking God "why." I'm going to do my best to say "thank you." Not sure I can pull that off but it's my plan. Life is a blink. Yesterday my mom was handing me my pajama's and today I'm packing for Cleveland. Tomorrow? Cremate me and do whatever you want with the ashes. Makes no difference to me. I'm going to be Home. HOME. I figure in the game of life I'm about mid-way through the 3rd quarter. There are a lot of snaps left to take and a lot of yardage yet to be gained. I'm really, really tired of playing "defense." It's been about 5 years of "the big D" now. Tomorrow I get to go on offense again.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, "Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of hell." After these last years I smell sulfur on myself. That mission a yard from the gates of hell isn't really over ... not really ... until I am out from under the shadow of the building down the street and around the corner. It started at 2:58AM on November 19, 2003. It ends tomorrow around 4PM. Perhaps that was too blunt of a statement. It is the first and only time you will read it here. Forgive me if it offended you. That was not my purpose.

I gave it my all. I left everything I had on the playing field. I rested and healed for one year minus four days. I have neither sorrow nor regret for the decisons I made and the plays I ran. I did my best. "He" knows. "He" surely knows. "He" knows my thoughts and intent.

And as the old season ends and the new one begins ... that is more than enough.

Monday, October 29, 2007

When in Texas ...

Every now and then you just have to go with the flow. I spent three days in Texas and ran right out and bought a pair of boots. What are you going to do? When in Rome ...

It was not just a shopping mall pair of boots. Noooo. It was the Texas Boot Super Store kind of boots. Texas builds boot stores like Missouri builds fireworks stores. I found a nifty little pair (minus the rodeo, yee haw, giddup, stitching) of plain brown, thick leather, rubber soled 11" tall boots. In just a few minutes I am going to put them on and go to Home Depot. I suspect I will command more respect than usual but we will have to wait and see.

When I went in to buy my boots my wife found the exact pair I was looking for. I put them on. Mmmmmm. Nothing feels better than a fine pair of properly fitting leather boots. Well. Maybe a foot rub but that's an entirely different blog. A cowpoke strolled up with a Clint Black hat on and asked if he could help me. I told him that I think he can. I believe my foot needs measuring.

"We don't measure feet."

"Huh?"

"It doesn't work."

"How do you know if they fit?"

"How does it feel?"

"Good."

"It fits."

And just like that I bought my boots. The reason nobody is in a hurry in Texas is because they have not figured out that time is a finite thing. They think it goes on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. And I don't mean that in a heaven way. I mean that in a Texas way. And, regardless of what you may have heard, Texas is NOT heaven. (Calm down, Larry. It isn't.)

I got to the counter and produced my debit card. He told me that if I will be moving to Cleveland I need to buy "this" bottle. It will condition your leather, keep it from drying out, and make them whistle "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" everytime you put them on. I was about to politely decline when the delightful young woman in the cowgirl skirt and red bandana told me that she just LOVES that stuff. I asked her what leather items she put it on.

"My saddles."

"I'll take two bottles."

(Insert sucker punch from my favorite wife here.)

Well, Clint sold me my boots but neglected to remove the security tag. And it didn't set off any alarms when I left the building. This makes sense to me. This is why we are so worried about the Texas/Mexican border. If they can't protect their boot stores how in the world are they going to protect their desert border crossing? Forgive me, but I have this mental image of thousands of illegal aliens darting across the border wearing those plastic security tags and not a soul bothers to slow them down. It's probably just me.

So yesterday I had to go back to the boot store for the removal of my silent, non-exploding security tag. (Perhaps it was intended to irritate my leg so badly I would die of infection. Ahhhhh. That's it! Those sneaky Texans! Who would have guessed?!) Another cow poke mosied (mosyed?) up to help me. He roped me, pinned me to the floor, and removed the tag. I rather enjoyed it. And then I asked him to show me, please sir, the most expensive boot in the store. He produced a crocodile skin boot that cost a couple of thousand dollars. It was creepy. He told me he could order me a $6,700 boot (that is a SIX THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLAR BOOT FOR YOU MIDWESTERNERS) which is made from the skin of three seperate crocodiles that come from the Nile.

"Ahhh. Egyptian cowboy boots," I declared in my ignorance.

"No. They come from the Nile."

"Uh. Isn't the Nile in Egypt?"

"No. It's a river somewhere."

God bless Texas.


Here we are soaking our feet in our friends not-yet-finished-pool behind their not-yet-finished-house. (Hi Dave! Hi Lynda!)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon Us

So here we sits in lovely Dallas, Texas. Actually, Arlington. Well, more specifically, Mansfield, Texas. Whatever. We are in Texas. The best I can tell it all looks alike. Flat. Scrubby. Lots of boots. Pick-em-up trucks with cow crud dripping down the side. You know the place.

It's been a week since I've done a wedding and so I thought I'd fly on down to Dallas and do one for the son of an old friend. The wedding is on a golf course. Last weeks was at a park. The park was fine but the golf course has already gotten me into trouble. It was the rehearsal. "Talk through it and walk through it" time. I got to the point where I asked, "Who gives this man to be married to this woman?" The bride interrupted. "Why do they always give away the bride? Why don't they ever give away the groom?" (Shaddup, Betsy.) Ok. My job is to marry them and, as much as possible, cooperate. "Fine. We'll give away the groom." The next nano-second played out in my mind in a way that leaves it re-traceable for the rest of my life. I remember thinking, "Stay within the theme of the wedding. Golf. Use a golf metaphor." For some reason that brought to mind a driving range which led me to a bucket of golf balls. Perfect. And then it was coming out of my mouth. "Who gives this bucket of balls to be married to this woman?"

Selah.

Silence.

The air was sucked out of the place.

This is an outdoor wedding. I turned away from the wedding party to face the first tee. I hung over the railing (we were on a balcony) and totally lost it. I was vaguely aware of the uproar going on behind me but there was nothing I could do about it. The words were out. I was just trying to find oxygen. Trying to get the tears out of my eyes. If you know the groom you know that this ill chosen phrase is PERFECT for him. And I mean that with all of the love in the world. Adam is a great guy. He just deserves this kind of slam.

About five minutes later we had all composed ourselves and the rehearsal continued. And now I have to go do the real wedding. And I know what might well happen. I am going to get to that point ... the place that blew up on me last night ... and I MUST GET IT RIGHT. NO laughing! NO tears! Certainly NO repeat! So much for protecting the solemn occasion from verbal terrorism.

On top of that, one week from right about now I will become a resident of Sheffield Lake, Ohio. You think that is not on my mind? Was Neal Armstrong thinking about the consistency of lunar dust when he took that first step onto the moon? You betcha. Were Wilbur and Orville considering the potential reality of "lift" when they cranked that first airplane down the beach in North Carolina? Darn right. To say that next weekend is on my mind about every other second is like saying "Hey, water is wet." It is a given.

Ohio? Get the pork rinds ready. Here comes the RV.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Tree of Blood ... A Great Christmas Tradition


Christmas. A time of white snow and green trees. Tasty cookies and parties with yummy snacks.

Unless you shop at Ace Hardware. That, my friend, is where you will be accosted by ... THE TREE OF BLOOD! ($519.00 ... get 'em while they last..)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Putting the "Hustle" back into Hustler

Flying to Dallas on Friday. Staying through Sunday. Doing a wedding. Nothing unusual about any of that. One of my "old" teenagers is marrying his heart throb. Still, quite common and ordinary ... which, in the case of a wedding, means extremely special and unique. Did that make sense? It only applies to weddings.

I talked to his bride to be tonight. Her name is Betsey and she is marrying Adam. They are an amazing couple. They look like this ...

There is a twist to nearly every wedding. This one does not just twist. It goes into a convoluted state that boggles the mind.

It seems that the brides mother hired a photographer. This is going to be a rather casual affair, held at a country club and attended by a mere 50 guests. The photographer should have it easy. I mean for a man of his great experience. It seems that he use to work for a magazine. Taking pictures. Lots of them. Some of them got "air brushed" and published with a staple in the middle. The bride did not know. Momma only told her that the photog was a pro. Worked for a long published and high volumn magazine. You have probably heard of it.

It is called ... "Hustler." Betsey's wedding pictures are going to be taken by a porn photographer.

This brings up a whole set of questions. Will he bring his portfolio with him? Will the wedding pictures be shot in soft lighting with nothing left to the imagination? I made the bride a promise. I told her that I would be standing right next to him when he began taking his photo's. I have watched hundreds of wedding photographers ply their trade over the years and I am quite familiar with the standard poses. If he suggests something that seems unreasonable ... I'm taking him out.

Correct me if I am wrong but Jesus turning the water into wine is not the first century equivilent to a photographer turning a bride into a porn star. I'll turn over his table and chase him out of the "temple" so fast his camera won't have time to flash.

And i'll do my best to confiscate his portfolio in the ensuing chaos. Hey. Don't say I didn't do my best to uphold the honor and integrity of the moment.

Thank me later...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

They Tell Me "Cleveland Rocks"

They tell me Cleveland rocks but I really wouldn't know. I've only seen the tops of a few sky scrapers from the windows of a jet plane on a late night flight. They tell me there is a museum where they chronicle the history of "rock 'n roll music." I understand that their beloved Indians blew a trip to the World Series tonight as they caved in to the Boston Red Sox. They have a football team named simply "The Browns." What does that mean? What is brown? They have a basketball team named "The Cavaliers." I checked and a "cavalier" is a "gentleman trained in horsemanship and war." Or simply "a soldier." Perhaps they play basketball on horses in Cleveland. I do not know. They do not have a hockey team and so I am automatically suspicious. Cleveland is situated on the shores of a big lake named "Erie" which gives me pause. Haunted houses I have heard of but a haunted lake? They have a river named the Cayahoga. It caught fire once back in the 1970's because it was so polluted. Somebody must have put the blaze out because the river is still there. The lake looks pretty clean and is home to many sailboats and yachts. So they tell me. Like I said, I've only seen the tops of some buildings.

But what I have seen is a town named "Sheffield Lake." There is no lake named "Sheffield" in Sheffield Lake. It too is on the Erie beach. This town has lots of homes and precious little industry or retail. They seem to have saved that for communities directly surrounding Sheffield Lake. One thing it does have is a body of Christian believers named "First Baptist Church."

As of today I am their pastor.

I could tell you a little more about this church and this town. But just a little. Actually I do not know any more about either of them than I do about my own thoughts and feelings. I am looking for words. Struggling to comprehend my own emotions. Grasping for a handle on the entire thing. Several friends that I talked to on the phone today said the same thing. "I can't wait to read the blog you write tonight." Actually, I probably would not have written a blog tonight had it not been for their comments. But they unknowingly made a good point. This little blog spot gets about 50 "hits" per day and about 300 "unique hits" per month. Many of those people have been praying about this with and for me. It is only fair say something. Just so long as you understand that there is a lot of emotional and mental fog between me and the keyboard tonight. I reserve the right to take any of it back at any time.

Here is what I am thinking ...

-How very gracious of God to allow me to live in one town for 24 years and completely raise my children here. I know many youth pastors and none of them can make the same claim. And it wasn't me. It was God. I ticked off enough people (and got ticked off myself enough times) to have realistically been gone long ago. I wrote my resignation on more Monday mornings than I care to remember. All but the last one wound up in the shredder. My kids knew stability. They knew consistancy. Most of the time they felt loved by their church. Ok, so it blew up in the last few years. They were big enough to deal with it by then. And they are all directly serving King Jesus so it must not have harmed them too badly.

-I am 14 days away from leaving every human being that I know. I will live alone in my father-in-law's awesome "5th wheel" trailer until our house sells and Debbie joins me. Christopher may come but it is doubtful.

-Every familair landmark in my life is about to become a part of my personal history. From the grocery stores that I frequent to Jessica, the lady that cuts my hair. From the names of the streets to the name of my mayor and friend. Just yesterday I was driving down a street in my community when I noticed a police car driving toward me. I mean driving TOWARD me. Like he was playing "chicken" with me. When he got close he veered off and waved as he went by. I know his name. We've worked together with some problamatic teens. If a policeman drives toward me in Sheffield Lake I will assume he is trying to take me out. The police chief stopped to talk to me at a local quick mart a few days ago. He is my friend. We have walked through dark buildings at 3AM together looking for people that were not supposed to be there. I do not even know if Sheffield Lake has a police chief. They must. But it is just a guess.

-I never really understood "The Arch." And now I am going to have to explain it to people who will wonder about St. Louis. I have to make up a story. It is big and shiny and half missing on foggy days. And no matter what you say ... it is wierd.

-Having been a youth pastor for 32 years I fully plan on doing "youth ministry for big kids" as a Sr. Pastor. They will never know it but that is exactly what I am going to do. Before you tell me it's a dumb idea please remember that Jesus said we had best become like little "children." I'm thinking it is the only way to go. They will never figure it out. They probably expect that a normal guy is moving to town. He is not. I know I am many things but "normal" is not one of them. I am going to teach this church how to pray and obey. They will learn or they will tolerate me or they will fire me. Check back in a year.

-If this sounds harsh I do not intend for it to. Had I resigned 5 years ago and moved away I would have had several hundred people to say "goodbye" too. But I resigned a year ago and spent the bulk of my time healing on emotional, physical, and spiritual levels. And today when the decision was made and the deal was done I only had a handful of phone calls to make. That is not something that gets blamed on anybody. It is just one of the facts which stem from taking a year and laying low. But still, it made me profoundly sad.

-What will I miss the most? People are exempt. The following things come to mind. Forgive me for butchering paragraph form and all of the rules of good grammer. I will miss fighting about the Cubs and Cardinals. (Cleveland is an American League town.) I will miss fighting about the Bears and the Rams. (Cleveland is an AFL town.) I will miss toasted ravoli, Imo's pizza, scores of teenagers, my house, Dierbergs, Becky "Queen of Carpet" commercials. I will miss the central time zone. I will miss the occasional Boeing test pilot trying out the latest F-18 hardware at St. Louis Regional Airport and a case of Fitz's rootbeer.

-I will not miss the refineries 5 miles to my south. I will not miss incredible heat and humidity, totally inaccurate winter snow predictions, oil and chipped roads, all of the closed Wendys restaurants, the mad dash to see who can build the biggest and coolest new facility on Moreland Road, pork steaks, Hartfords flammable dirt, the Mississippi River and her miserable shortage of bridges, the only lake in town being at the cemetary, highway 140's "suicide lane," and walking the hay of homecoming.

All I know for certain is that I am going to the Cleveland suburbs. That is in Ohio, the state that is so friendly it says "hi!" in the middle. There are people there that need Jesus and God told me to go tell 'em. I have not baptized anybody in nearly a year and my prune fingers are not pruney anymore. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. I have asked God for a church, how big or how little is immaterial to me, but a church that wants to fall in love with Jesus. I have prayed for a body of believers that were not going to be afraid to throw away the mold and even beat the heck out of the mold maker. I have asked Him for a group of men and women who are willing to learn AND teach. I believe that He has answered my prayers in the form of FBCSL. I am aware that I have every potential to walk in and screw it all up. But my plan is to hold on so tightly to His coat tails that I cannot possible miss a turn in the path of following The King.

How do I feel tonight? I'll close with some singular words. Maybe that is the most honest way to go.

I feel honored. Humbled. Trusted. Loved. Ready. Rested. Ambitious. Determined. Lonely. Excited. Frightened. Tenative. Prepared.

Of all of those words my favorite is "loved." Loved by my Father. My Abba. And I am ready to love Him back and to love my neighbor as myself. 14 days and counting. Let's do it.