Friday, September 20, 2002

(Note: If you are not in the mood for serious... move along. Read yesterday's blog. Watch The Weather Channel. Find a Sienfield rerun. But don't read this blog. Fair warning.)

His name was Zac and I didn't meet him until he was dead. That is way too late if you are a youth pastor. I know his sister. She went to Centrifuge with us last summer. i know his aunt, his uncle, and his cousins. They are all still alive and doing quite well, thank you. They are members of my church. But somehow it slipped past my attention that Zac even existed. He was not quiet. he did not keep to himself. We just failed to cross paths. Last year he got into trouble at school. He had a substance that he was not suppose to have. So when they found it they threw him out of school. His parents, in a rage of wisdom, enrolled him into a very small Christian high school. I am sure they were very angry at him for getting in trouble. Most likely they wanted to kill him themselves! And I really doubt that Zac wanted to go to this new school. All of his friends were back at Civic Memorial But he stepped up to the plate and served his sentence. And something extremely wonderful happened to Zac at this new school. Zac met Jesus. He was ambushed by the Son of God when he least expected it. Evidently Zac knew a deal when he saw it because he jumped at the chance to pray and ask Jesus into his heart. This year Zac continued on at that small, Christian high school. By all indications he was quite happy there. He retained his friends from Civic Memorial High School. Life was good for Zac.

And then came Tuesday. It was raining in the afternoon. Zac was at home but he told his mom that he had to go out for a minute but he would be right back. His mom did what most mom's would do... she said, "ok." Five minutes later Zac's mom got the word. Zac was dead. His car evidently hydro-planed. He hit a utility pole. The pole snapped. It landed on his car. It landed on Zac. A 16 year old life ended immediately.

Zac's death makes no sense. And to make matters worse, he is the third teenager to die in our community in the last three months. The police are in shock. The hospital emergency room workers and talking about it. The story has transcended our local Alton Telegraph newspaper and has been told by the more prestigious St. Louis Post Dispatch. It has been called "a horrible coincidence," a "shocking turn of evvents," and even "fathomless." But strong adjectives don't breath life back into a young mans dead body.

How odd that the very thing that seemed so bad... Zac being tossed out of public school... would wind up being the singular thing that was responsible for bringing him to Jesus. I told that to his parents today standing over his casket. I reminded them that, because they loved him enough to discipline him, he was doing much better in every area... except for his driving. I pointed out that what looked like evil turned out to be good. We talked of eternity and of Zac enjoying life far more now than he did a mere 3 days ago. They smiled through their grief and said that they had not thought of that. There is pain in the Crews family tonight. I did not know Zac and yet I share that pain. I felt it as I entered the viewing room with the family. I felt it as I clasped his father by the shoulders and felt this big blue collar worker tremble. I felt it as I hugged his little sister and brother and prayed with them. I felt it as grandma thanked me for coming and as she told me to pray for her family because not all of them know Jesus. And pray I did. I prayed the prayer of a lifeime.. And I quoted scripture about Jesus defeating death. I held them as they leaned over the casket and stroked Zac's hair and touched his cheek.

So there you go. That's what it is like to be a pastor. We live for the moment of crises. That is when we get to do our job and people actually listen. But man, a 16 year old boy that should be doing math homework tonight is laying in a casket in a funeral home instead. What do you do with that? And you know what? Zac is the boy that dated my sons girlfriend right before he started dating her. And you know what else? Five weeks ago my son was stopped for speeding on the same road ... at the same place... where Zac died two days ago. What do you do with that?

You pray. You sneak into his room late at night after he has finally fallen asleep on this stressful evening and you pray. You thank God for protecting him. And you ask Him to keep on protecting him because he has a lifetime of driving ahead of him... and you want it to be a long lifetime. And you stay up really late blogging because you can't get the picture of Zac, all dressed up and laid out in his coffin, out of your head. You feel his mothers tears drip onto your hand again as you remember leaning over the casket with her and whispering to her that her son is not here... that this is a tent that has been taken down... and that he now lives in a new home. One not made with human hands. And you pray for the many teenagers that are sitting up right now... wondering about death... and about God. They are unable to sleep because they have a funeral to go to tomorrow and teenagers are not suppose to go to funerals. They re suppose to laugh and eat and go to parties. And it occurs to you that, though life is not fair, and though it has no discernable rhyme nor reason, it is worth it. But only because of one name. Jesus.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

I rolled over in my bed this morning and, as usual, reached for the elusive remote control. Eyes closed (see earlier blog) I punched the power button and keyed in 02. The weather was of utmost importance to me. My super-high-sensitive-atmospheric-condition-sensors indicated clouds above my roof. It also indicated clouds outside my window. I thought I could feel clouds even creeping in under my garage door. I would not have been at all surprised to find clouds in my bathroom and maybe even the refrigerator. Internal alarms were going of THAT loudly.

I was in luck. Glen Zimmerman was on right now, preparing the 2.5 million St. Louis people for the day. I remember thinking, "You go, Glen. Give me the latest, dude. I can handle the truth." Oddly enough, Glen was rather upbeat. He warned of thick fog this morning, particularly in the river valleys. But he assured me that it was no big deal because it was... and I quote... "sunny outside. We have blue skies. We just have to burn this fog off." Selah. (Pause and reflect.)

Huh? It is sunny outside? We have blue skies? We just have to BURN THIS FOG OFF? Might I ask a question? I didn't go to meteorological school. One of my former teenagers actually MARRIED a TV weather man. That is as close as I have ever come to meteor-anything. Oh wait, Debbie and I had lunch once at the "California Pizza Kitchen" at the Galleria. Paul Goodloe was there eating with his significant other. We didn't talk to him. Geez, he's a big guy. Shoulders like an aircraft carrier. Maybe that is a closer connection than knowing somebody who married a weather man. Nah, probably not. I think I even did the wedding and that means that I actually know a TV weatherman myself. He was in St. Louis but now he's in Peoria. Whatever. The really cool part is that Paul Goodloe now works for The Weather Channel! Now THAT, my friends, is the big time. I ate lunch in the presence of greatness. Grant it, it isn't quite like knowing somebody on "The Naked News" but I think you get my point.

What was my point... Oh yes. My point was... isn't fog a cloud? Sure it is. That was "Lesson A" in Science 101 back at Lincoln-Way High School in 1970. Fog is a cloud with an attitude. Fog is a cloud on steroids. Fog is a cloud that descends to earth, grabs you around the throat, and won't let go. Other clouds just kind of float around up there. Sometimes they make rain (word picture intended) on you, and sometimes they just float. But fog, my friends, is most certainly a cloud.

So. Who is Glen Zimmerman trying to fool? Does he really think he can get by with this kind of fraudulent forcasting? It is now 3:18 in the afternoon. I just looked outside my office window. Guess what. It's still foggy. Only now the fog is at about... oh.... 2,000 feet. In other words it's foggy way up high. Down here it's just dreary and depressing. Oh, but don't worry... it's still a sunny day! The sky is still blue! You only have to go about 3/4 of a mile to see it... straight up.

Glen. You disappoint me. St. Louis weather has never been the same since The Dual Whammy. For you new folks I'm referring to Bob Richards on channel 5 committing "suicide by airplane" a few years ago. And more recently the departure of Trish (moment of respectful silence please) Brown from channel 4. Bob did himself in because it was discovered (by his wife) that he was having an affair. Trish moved to Lincoln, Nebraska ... which come to think of it, is kind of like committing suicide... because she was making babies. Have you noticed that, in one way or the other, all good weather people leave the business because of sex? Kind of makes you wonder about all of those "warm fronts" they keep talking about.

Well, that's about all I have to say about that. I just noticed that I have an itching bump about 3 inches above my right wrist on the inside of my arm. It has all the marks of... a mosquito bite. Drat. It's even shaped like a pyramid. I think we all know what this means. I'm doomed. I should have been a weather man.

Since my Blog Spot is named "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me" (a Shakespearean quotation) I thought it only appropriate to list...

(in no particular order...)

1. Pacing. (I really must stop that... or get more therapy.)
2. Reading
3. Journaling (no, you can't read it. it's passworded AND encrypted.)
4. Riding my Hardley with no particular place to go but winding up someplace where I want to be.... either someplace alone and quiet or full of friends and conversation..
5. Finding new and interesting "web cams" ... particularly of unusual places and things. If you are interested, try (God is watching... PASS on the "adult" link.)
6. Finding the most cushy chair at Barnes and Noble or Borders empty when I've got an armful of books I want to look over. (FYI, the best bookstore is the Barnes and Noble on Watson road just across the street and east from Crestwood Mall. Or The Borders across I-40 from the Galleria. Oh, or the Borders in Mid-Rivers Mall. Fairview Hgts. Borders got rid of their cushy chairs so I got rid of them.)
7. Surprise Debbie.
8. Dreaming about my future Mustang (red, khaki convertible top, GT, 6 CD changer.) I'm late on my mid-life crises car. Check with me next summer after the wedding...
9. Waking myself up by snoring too loud in the middle of my day off.
10. Talking to somebody (usually a teenager) who doesn't believe in God. They are so gullible. They have generally invested at least 35 minutes into reaching their conclusion. I eat them for lunch. (I call this "wasting time" because they are too self-sufficient and cool to admit that I've made hamburger out of their arguments.)

Monday, September 16, 2002

I hate telephones. I love telemarketers. Those should be mutually exclusive statements but I find that they are not. Telephones interrupt me and seldom in a pleasant way. (If you are reading this and you call me frequently, please understand that I am not talking about you. I am talking about everyone else that calls me. You are special. You are my favorite. I thank God every day that you have my phone number. Really I do.)

I have a talking "Caller ID." It is the coolest thing that I own. I keep the volume turned all of the way up so that I can hear it all throughout the house. When my phone rings I automatically sigh. And then I listen. After the first ring a lovely female computer-voice announces the phone number that is calling. Or, if you are in the top 20 people that call me, it actually announces your name. By the third ring she has finished reciting your number. By the fifth ring I have figured out who you are. By the sixth ring I have decided not to answer. You'll call back. Or you'll catch me in person later. Or if I'm really lucky you will simply email me. Take how much I hate telephones and reverse it and that is how much I love email. I can read it when I want to. I can delete it if it annoys me. I can pretend I never received it. I can claim that I mistook it for junk mail and blew it away. Or, most likely, I will read it and respond in a timely fashion. You see, email does not waste time. That's because most people don't want to spend time typing. So they get to the point and then click "send." Email is effecient! But with telephone calls you have to go through that entire thing where you are thinking, "all I really want to do is fall into my mega-cushy-chair for a few minutes and watch The Weather Channel but this person wants to chat. I don't want to chat. I want to start a fire on the stove so I can have an excuse to hang up." It isn't the people that I don't like. It's the act of talking into a wire. It's the interruption. Why do I have to jump up and answer the phone just because a bleeping noise started emitting from it? Do I really have to be that closely at the worlds fingertips? I feel like Pavlov's dog only I never get the milky bone. The phone bleeps it's 21st century tone at me. I immediately stop doing what I want to be doing and go to respond to ... who knows what? Sometimes the call is for someone else and I can smile and return to my own little world. Sometimes, though rarely, it is a wrong number and I can laugh with a stranger about the absurdity of making an accidental acquaintance. But usually it is somebody that just wants to talk whether I want to or not. And then what do you do? Courtesy demands that you be polite and pretend to want to talk as much as they do. In the meantime you have missed "local on the 8's" five or ten consecutive times. It is just not right.

But there is one phone call that I jump to answer. Several times each day my talking caller ID lady will say, "Caller Unknown." Allllll right! This is one I want! You see, telemarketers think that it is a stroke of brillance to block their number so that when you look at (or listen to) your caller ID you won't know who they are. And they know that you are sooooo curious to find out who is calling you that you will grab that receiver right up to your ear and give them a big old "howdy!" Then they'll talk at 90mph so that you can't interrupt. They assume that you are too polite to cut in and as long as they keep talking they you won't beg off and tell them "no thank you." At my house, at least, this is where they are wrong. You see, telemarketers make their living by assuming that they have you at their mercy. They know you are a nice person and you'll either listen to them or you'll hang-up. They don't mind hang-ups. Hang-ups don't take up any of their time. They move right along to the next lucky caller. But there is one thing telemarketers cannot stand! There is one thing that drives them crazy! They totally go beserk... they totally freeze up and don't know what to do... when you feign interest and ask questions so stupid that you really have to streeeeeeeeeeeeetch your intelligence to come up with.

For instance, I had one call me recenlty from AT&T. He explained that this initial stood for "American Telephone and Telegraph." He wanted to set me right up with a home security system. You see, the president of their company had been on my very block that week and had noticed that not many people had their companies burglar alarm installed on their home and if I would just allow them to put up a sign stating that I had their system... well... they'd install one for free!!!!

Now I've done my share of stupid things in life. But I'd like to think that my bucket of gullibility doesn't go that deep. Besides, as I pointed out to the kind salesman... "Isn't it difficult to take time to tap out a message to the police when someone is breaking into your house?" My comment met with silence. And then a "What?" I explained that having a telegraph as my burglar alarm might not be the way to go. If somebody is breaking into my home and making off with the family jewels it is much quicker to use the telephone to call 911 than it would be to learn Morse Code and tap out S.O.S. on the American Telephone and TELEGRAPH gadget they were wanting to install. The nice man with the foriegn accent spent the next minutes explaining how I had misunderstood the meaning of "telegraph." Of course I never heard him. As soon as I was sure he was suitably frustrated and tied into knots, I lay the phone down on the table (quietly, of course) and made my way back to channel 45 to watch Misch Michaels talk about the next cold front coming in from the upper plaines. It was a solid ten minutes before I heard the loud "beepbeepbeep" noise coming from my receiver in the next room signaling that my friend had discovered my absence and had hung up. Gosh, I hope he had a nice day.

I understand that the state of Illinois is about to put together a "Do Not Call List" for telemarketers. It will cost you $5.00 to get on the list. If you are on the list and they call you they can get in big, big, trouble. Like they will probably lose their phone books for a week or something. I haven't decided whether or not I'll pay the five bucks. I'll really miss the little guys if I turn them off. And besides, my phone will keep right on ringing. It always rings. That's because it hates me. And from now on when it rings I'll KNOW I don't want to answer it because it will be somebody that I'll know and have to see face to face soon. And if I answer it... I'll miss "Local on the 8's." Life is full of hard choices. So if you call my house, and the phone just rings and rings and rings... I'm out. Really I am. There is nobody home. And you can't leave a message because I don't have an answering machine. But... you can always email me.

(Special Note: After re-reading this blog I realize that it could appear insulting to my nearest and dearest friends. I urge you to realize that I LOVE YOU! This blog has nothing to do with you... it has everything to do with telephones. Come to my house... let's sit and drink vanilla cokes and shoot the breeze. Feel free to drop by! Let's climb in the car and go grab a pizza. I love spending time with my friends. You are the spice of life! It's just this wire that comes into my house... it keeps ringing... and talking on a wire isn't a nice as sharing a pizza. Know what I mean?)