Friday, August 12, 2011

Playing For The 4th Quarter

I am not a "Tweet-a-holic." Yes, I have a Twitter account. (Feel free to "follow me." I have little of substance to add to the Twitosphere but my Twitter name is "Rotola.") Today I came across a tweet written by a friend attending a conference for leadership training in Chicago. While listening to a speaker she wrote, "Sometime when you live out a tough calling, you get beat up (like Jeremiah.) Are you available for tough assignments?"

Tough calling.

Beat up.

Tough assignments.

Is that really what I signed on for? Back when I was 13 years old and I accepted the invitation of Jesus to join His band of ragamuffin followers I knew nothing of what lay in store for me. I was just amazed that God would take the time out to speak to me, much less to die a horrible death in my place. I was stunned to realize that He had a plan for my simple life. I figured that if God is good (and He is) then I had best get on board with this offer. So I signed-up to be a full fledged Christ-follower.

Since then there have been truly great days and experiences. There have been truly horrific days and experiences. I had no clue about the highs and the lows waiting for me. I just knew I wanted to know Jesus because He wanted to know me. And I most certainly wanted to get in on this whole heaven deal.

I had no idea that this deal would cost me anything. I fully expected to live a life of my choosing. God had other ideas. It took Him a few years to get His point across but once He did I signed on for the whole adventure. I have made enemies. I have lost friends. Sometimes those I have trusted the most turned out to be the least trustworthy. I have presided over many deaths. I have physically intervened to stop at least one sure-fire suicide. I have taken a dead baby out of his mother's arms. I have seen a teenager hanging from bare rafters. I have stood next to more caskets than I can remember. I have performed weddings for marriages that didn't last a month. I have been on a first name basis with judges, child abuse counselors, DCFS case workers, and police chiefs. Seldom because anything good had transpired to bring us together. I have been threatened with physical violence both in slums and suburbs. I have chased down run-aways. I have sat on the side of an expressway in the Appalachian's at midnight with teenagers on one side of me and a broken down touring bus on the other. I have spoken to 6,000 people at once and I have spoken to 6. I have prepared just as diligently for both.

I could go on talking about my "tough assignments." But I could never ever top Jeremiah. Two huge scriptures come to mind when I think of this guy. The first one is "Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; Before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations…See, I appoint you this day Over nations and kingdoms: to uproot and pull down, To destroy and overthrow, To build and to plant." Wow. "Appointed" by God to be "over" to "uproot" to "pull down" to "destroy" to "overthrow" to "build up" and "to plant." That's quite a job description, eh? And then God told him, "They will fight against you but will not overcome you." I'm sure that must have been good to know. Nobody knows for sure how Jeremiah died but many have speculated that he was the one referred to in Hebrews 11 who was "torn asunder."

Nice. Nice.

I figure that it won't be long before I enter "the 4th quarter" of my life. I'm shooting for 80 and then I'll be ready to be done. So at 56 I've got 4 more years left in the 3rd quarter. I rather wonder what the last quarter will be like? I've watched enough football to know that you get your tiredest in the 4th quarter. I've also learned that it is in the final quarter that the game is won or lost. I want to play full throttle to the very last play. Nothing else will do. I want to win. I want the ring.

"Sometime when you live out a tough calling, you get beat up (like Jeremiah.) Are you available for tough assignments?" There isn't even a hint of a doubt in my mind ...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Dear Pai Rae ...

Oh dear granddaughter. The world has gone and done it to you already. You are not even two yet and already you feel the sting of loneliness and the confusion of change. It seems that your precious sister has deserted you on your morning drive to day care in favor of kindergarten. You must ride in the back seat of mom's Jeep all by yourself. Even your once-a-week buddy, Judah, has deserted you for another set of friends in another day care! If you only had the ability to master the english language I'm sure your cry would be, "No fair!"

I hate to break it to you, child, but you are right. It is no fair. And I hate to break this to you even more ... life itself is no fair.

Your mom said you just leaned your head on the side of your car seat this morning and cried. Gosh I wish I could have been there. I would have cried with you. Or ... maybe better yet ... we could have figured out a game to play. Or maybe we could have held hands. Oh! Or we could have eaten Oreo's with wonderfully cold milk! And we would never have told your mother. Nah. She wouldn't be mad. But let her get her own Oreos. :) Sometimes a grandpa and a granddaughter just have to keep their secrets, ya know?

Listen to me, little one. There are going to be days when the playground feels a little lonely. Sometimes your friends just won't act like friends. And it's true that, on occasion, families are even far apart for a season. Those things will wound your heart. And I'd do anything ... ANYTHING ... to protect your heart. I'll do my best to always be around but it's possible that someday I won't be. So I want you to remember something. Something really important.

Today I walked through a huge museum and looked at airplanes and space ships. They were all famous. It was a fun place. And then I came across one particular space ship. A "capsule" really. It was nicknamed "The Friendship 7." One day nearly 50 years ago a man climbed into it all alone. His mom and dad were down on the ground. His brothers and sisters were too. Most of his friends were hundreds of miles away. And when this guy got into his space ship the lit the fuse on the rocket under him and he zoooooomed off into outer space. And for a few brief orbits around our planet he was really truly alone. l As alone as a person can be. But the man had one thing working for him. He couldn't see his friends but he could still talk to them. They had these really old style radio things that were all scratchy and garbled. But they could still understand each other. And the man in the capsule said that those voices were a bit of "home" to him while he was way out in the middle of no where.

That's kind of the way life is, Pais. Sometimes friends go away. Sometimes they might even get all messed up and stop being your friend. I'm sorry, little girl, but I have to tell you that it happens. But here's the thing. If you are ever all alone and you need someone to love you ... someone to talk to ... please feel free to punch the right numbers into your own phone (or your mom's!) and I will move heaven and earth to be there for you. Lot's of people will. But do me a favor, please. Keep me near the top of your phone book. Because you, sweet Paisley, will always be on the top of mine.

A sorta old man love you ... a lot.