Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Be Thou My Vision

The 8th century was a long time ago. I mean a SERIOUSLY long time ago. But there was this guy named Dallan Forgaill who wrote a song that doesn't get much airplay anymore. It should. Read it for yourself. (The capital's are Dallan's. The parenthasis are mine. He out wrote me using much less words than I did.)

BE THOU MY VISION, OH LORD OF MY HEART (God ... would you please be my eyes today? I have so much sin in me that the way I see things is skewed. Let me see life, the world, myself, and people the way you do.)

'NAUGHT BE ALL ELSE TO ME, SAVE THAT THOU ART, (Please do not let anything else in me matter compared to you! Not my wants and desires, not my opinions and thoughts. Nothing.)

THOU MY BEST THOUGHT, BY DAY OR BY NIGHT, (God, nothing enters my mind that is worth anything at all compared with my moments of meditation upon You.)

WAKING OR SLEEPING, THY PRESENCE MY LIGHT. (It matters not what my condition. If I am awake You are my light. If I am asleep You are my light. It is all You, oh God!)

BE THOU MY WISDOM, AND THOU MY TRUE WORD; (My best ideas are foolishness next to your most simple idea's, Father. Every word You speak is greater than my greatest utterance.)

I EVER WITH THEE AND THOU WITH ME, LORD. (What can seperate us? Nothing. Nothing! Because You, oh Lord, will not let it!)

THOU MY GREAT FATHER, I THY TRUE SON; (Our relationship is real. It is deep. It is everlasting. You are my Father. I am Your son. Legally. Eternally. Really.)

THOU IN ME DWELLING, AND I WITH THEE ONE. (When I feel empty You are still inside of me. My feelings mean nothing. It is all about fact. And the fact is that You are in me. We are so closely intertwined that we are one!)

BE THOU MY BATTLE SHIELD, SWORD FOR THE FIGHT; (When evil attacks, Father, You alone shield me. And I can counter attack because You are my Sword in this spiritual battle.)

BE THOU MY DIGNITY, THOU MY DELIGHT; (I have no dignity on my own. You give me worth and integrity. And that makes me delight in You all the more!)

THOU MY SOUL'S SHELTER, THOU MY HIGH TOWER; (In You do I hide, my God. You shelter me from life's storms. I need not worry about anything sneaking up on my or anybody bigger than I am picking on me because You are the biggest, tallest tower around. I can trust You!)

RAISE THOU ME HEAVENWARD, O POWER OF MY POWER. (I get spunky and feel powerful sometimes. But when I wise up I realize that You are the power that powers my power! Pick me up, Abba! Hold me in Your arms! Lift me high toward heaven!)

RICHES I HEED NOT, NOR MAN'S EMPTY PRAISE, (Money has come to mean nothing to me. Stuff is simply ... stuff. I pay no attention to them. The same is true of the words men speak of me when they are being kind. I pay no attention to it. I live to hear Your voice, oh Abba.)

THOU MINE INHERITANCE, NOW AND ALWAYS, (You give me all that is Yours. You love me. I am never broke. I am never hopeless or helpless. My Father is always rich.)

THOU AND THOU ONLY, FIRST IN MY HEART, (You have no competition with me, oh God. You have won my heart. The fight is over. The contest has been decided. I forsake all others for You alone.)

HIGH KING OF HEAVEN, MY TREASURE THOU ART. (You are the pearl of great price. You are the treasure above all treasures. No diamond, no gold, no check or money order, no power-ball victory can come close to being Your's and having You!)

HIGH KING OF HEAVEN, MY VICTORY WON, (It's over! I marched under the banner of my King and I ... WE ... won! The dragon has been slain. Yes, his tail still swishes sometimes but he's down for the count. The victory is won!)

MY I REACH HEAVEN'S JOYS, O BRIGHT HEAVEN'S SUN! (I may have won and I may reign with You on high but right now my body and my soul are right here on earth. It's still muddy and foggy and polluted. It is still dangerous. Please, Abba, bring me home! Let me enter Your presence soon!)

HEART OF MY OWN HEART, WHATEVER BEFALL, (My heart beats to the rhythm of Yours. Your heart defines my heart. No matter what! Forever! You, oh God, are the very heart of me!)

STILL BE MY VISION, O RULER OF ALL. (The enemies darts still come blazing at me, Father. I walk with You and the victory is assured. But battles still rage. The enemy has not conceded. And so even if his fiery darts should pierce my heart, oh great God, keep my vision on You. For You are ruler of all that is!)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Santa is in the house

Is there a Santa Claus? Of course there is. This picture is proof.

I thought Santa was a "he." Turns out he is a "she." I thought Santa comes down your chimney. No, she comes through your front door in her car seat/baby seat combo. I believed Santa brought presents. Wrong again. Santa IS the present.

You have to admit that Christmas is a pretty cool holiday. It is the day somebody selected for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Kudo's to them. That, of course, is the best part. We give and get presents. Some we need, some we want, and some ... we neither need or want. (That is why the stores are open on the 26th.) We cook and eat awesome amounts of quality foods. We build fires in fire places and sit as families and maybe actually even talk. There is usually a football game on tv. Hey, it's all good.

And then Santa shows up. And she comes on Christmas afternoon rather than very, very early on Christmas morning. And she smiles at you in a way that rearranges all of your plans, desires, and opinions. Suddenly it is very important to you that the world be a safe place for a long time to come. And there is nothing you would not do for Santa. NOTHING.

So, you see, there is a Santa. We got that fact right. We just got the details wrong. And you know what is really cool? Of all the people Santa knows ... I am her favorite. Sweet....

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Questions for Christmas ... late night wonderings

As the seconds continue to slip away I cannot help but think about the majesty of the events of the day we call "Christmas." It all seems so unlikely. Nearly impossible. Certainly unthinkable. And yet I am convinced they are true. God sent His Son, in the form of a common man, to this fallen planet to purchase us back from the penalty of our sin. Born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died as a common criminal, resurrected to new life on the third day. The story line is better than any Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or the greatest block buster movies of all time.

God. Putting on skin. For us. Amazing. And it makes me think and ask ...

What did Joseph really ... I mean REALLY ... believe about Mary's pregnancy in the deepest parts of his heart?
When Mary said "Let it be to me according to your word" did she "get it?" Did she have a clue what she was getting herself in to??
When Mary was giving birth was the declaration of the angel on her mind or was she just too busy screaming to think about it?
What did it feel like to breast feed and then burp God?
Did Joseph worry about getting into trouble with God? He was, after all, a surrogate father.
What went through the minds of Mary and Joseph when they thought they had lost Jesus coming home from Jerusalem? ("Oh, man. How in the world and I going to explain this to God? I lost His Kid!")
Did God (Jesus) ever ... throw up? ... stump His toe? ... get constipated or get diarrhea? ... ummm, pass gas a little too loudly? ... get mad enough at us to consider quitting the whole "saving us from our sins" thing? ... want to just slap the living day lights out of a pharisee? ... get embarassed by accidently saying something that could be taken the wrong way? ... hate any particular food that, by the way, He had originally created? ... wonder if we were worth it?

There are a lot of other things I ask when it is late, the house is quiet and only my laptop "Tess" and I are awake. But I think you get my point. It was truly a BIG DEAL for God to come to earth. I just spend two days traveling to and from the Chicago suburbs. Nine of us went to worship at Willow Creek as we had obtained free tickets to their Christmas presentation. It was amazing. And it has made me think ... why? Why would a God who could have anything He wanted decide He wanted us ... me? Why would He go to the trouble? The pain? The misery? I am just not worth it. But He thinks I am. We are. His economy must be so different from ours.

But it is really true. People matter to God. Every single one of them. Every single one of us. I have never looked into the eyes of someone Jesus does not love and die to give an opportunity to be adopted into His family. I believe in predestination. I have tried to get away from it but the only way to get it out of the bible is with scissors. I believe in the God given free will of man. I like the idea of being in charge of my own life until things get a bit hairy and then I want to believe that God is in control. And I do make my own decisions. The bible tells me to make good ones therefore I must be free to make them. And yet God is soveriegn. How does that work? How does that paradox find its way into reality and fact on this hard and demanding planet? I seem to believe that two things that just do not add up in my brain do add up in God's. So I will believe Him and trust Him for it.

Christmas. CHRIST-mas. The day we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child. I am so glad that it is true. I wish I understood it better. I wish I had more answers to my questions. I wish I could make the paradox of it all less paradoxical. I am a pastor. I am supposed to understand these things. But I am currently churchless so I can be honest without worrying about the deacon's or elders nailing me for it. Here is my honest answer ....

I haven't a clue.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What Christmas Is All About ...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Doin Time For Baby Crime

I confess. I am a news junkie. I do not subscribe to any newspapers. I do not read Time or Newsweek. My computer home page is I usually start there and then go hunting. I am already aware that we are at war and that the war is very unpopular. I know that all kinds of whack-o countries are developing nuclear weapons. I realize that St. Louis has been named the most dangerous city in America. That is not the news I am addicted to.

I like ... the wierd stuff.

Did you know that earlier today a grandmother ... a sweet loving grandmother ... ran her one month old grandson through the carry-on x-ray machine at an airport in L.A.? I mean, can we just think about that for a second? Several things come to mind when I kick this around my frontal lobe. Things like ....

WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? Did she mistake her grandson for her purse? Is this kind of mistake more common that I would have imagined? Did she think that maybe the little fella was a "terrorist infant" and wanted him checked out? Did she mistake that chubby little belly for a belt of dynamite sticks? I'm clueless here.

WHAT WAS HE THINKING? I am truly at a loss to imagine what a one month old thinks about. If I had to guess I would probably say ... oh ... a bottle or a mother's breast? (Perverts ... please go to another blog immediately.) Maybe he would be dreaming of a chocolate covered pacifier? The mother-of-all absorbant diapers? Again ... I'm clueless.

WHAT WAS THE SECURITY GUY THINKING? I can picture this poor burned out guy sitting at his monitor quietly whispering,"hair dryer ... laptop ... stick deoderant ... infant baby ..." Did this guy stop the conveyer belt and back it up to check and see if he really truly saw a baby? Did he go back and forth to check the gender of said child? Did he confiscate the baby and put him with other dangerous items like nose hair trimmers and liquid cough syrup? Did the little guy make his flight or did he have to wait for a later opportunity?

Friends, we live in a truly strange world. When I flew home from Seattle recently I had a carry-on with a laptop computer, an ipod, a gps, two sets of headphones, and miniature speakers. Not to mention wires to plug them all in and spare batteries. Nobody looked twice. Nope. They were busy scanning for babies.

I could tie in some deep spiritual revelation at this point. Like ... oh ... God sees through everything. He knows your inner motivations. You cannot hide anything from Him. He sees all and knows all. But why ruin a classic example of stupid with a classic example of truth? All of those things about God are true and most people reading this blog know that. (Or at least know that I believe that.) No, I will resist the temptation. Sometimes stupid must simply stand alone. Way to go grandma.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Melon Collie

Sitting in front of my fireplace today (yes, of course it had a fire in it. It's December ya know,) I had just finished an extended time alone with God. I didn't know what to do next as I had already been to the mall and polished off my Christmas shopping. So I tried to come up with a good word or term that would cover all of the bases on what my brain and body are saying to me of late. I thought I had the perfect one picked out. Then I was not so sure.

The chosen word is "melancholy." I have always wondered about that word. First of all I had it all misspelled in my head. I thought it was like "melon" and "collie." Yes, I realize that this is weird but I pictured this big long haired dog with a head like a cantelope, a body like a watermelon, and legs like some strange gourds. This would not be a fast dog but then you would not expect him to be fast if he were feeling meloncollie. I mean melancholy.

Just look at that word. MelancHOLY. I don't sense anything more holy about that particular feeling than I sense anything doggie-ish about it. It's just a word that doesn't seem to accomplish much. So I decided to look it up. That was not easily done seeing as how my spelling was all screwed up. But I kept playing with my mac's "widget" dictionary until I hit upon the right combination. Turns out that I didn't know what melancholy means after all.

"Mel*an*chol*y: Noun: A deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness. Adjective: Sad, gloomy, or depressed."

Drat. Now I had to look up "pensive."

"Pen*sive: Adjective: Engaged in, involved in, or reflecting deep or serious thought."

I didn't know it was going to be this complicated. I almost decided to settle for sleepy, tired, semi-light headed and dizzy, deeply weary, or even relaxed yet exhausted. All of those fit pretty well. The last time I got smacked by this adrenaline exhaustion crud it stayed pretty much in the acute stage for 7 full months and hung around for a full year. This time my doctor told me to quit or it would likely finish me off eventually. (I did not ask him specifically what "finish" was meant to imply. Why ask what you don't want to know?) The last few weeks of rest seems to have broken its back this time but it is not vanishing into thin air just yet.

Anyway, back to the point. I kept feeling called back to melancholy. So the first thing I did was to toss out the last two thirds of the adjective thing. I've never felt LESS gloomy or depressed. I had to keep the "sad" in because it was listed under the whole noun thing too.

"A deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness." I thought I ought to chew on it for a few hours.

In the meantime Debbie came home and we had a split vote on what to eat for supper. I nixed her idea of cooking because I was feeling too lazy to help and too guilty to let her do it alone. I offered up the suggestion of a local barbeque place. She took me up on it. So we got in the Explorer and i drove to a Chinese place. She looked at me really funny as I parked but, hey, it was a buffet so who is going to argue with that? She's no dummy.

After eating wahn lahn poo or something like that we went to the mall. It was one of those in and out trips. Debbie went to some girl store and I, being the Man of God that I am, went to the Family Christian Store. About ten feet from the entrance was where it happened.

"It" was three high school girls. I did not know them. But they had these bright eyes. They were smiling and laughing. Having fun. As I passed them they probably thought I was "one of those guys" because I just stared at them. It was their eyes. There was life in them. I looked around at the adults like me and our eyes are either darting around trying to figure out which way to go next or staring down at the floor in deep thought about difficult issues. But not these girls. Their eyes danced. When I saw them I felt a a hand grenade go off in my heart.

That is when I knew what I felt. Melancholy. A deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness. I miss a whole bunch of teenagers. "My kids." I miss Rachel who I always called Sarah and I miss Sarah who I always called Rachel. I miss Casey because he liked to hug me and it was a real hug that meant that I mattered to him. I miss Deano and his laugh and his smile. I miss Hannah and the way that she always looked at me like I was an idiot (that would have offended me except I realized that she was right.) I miss Hillary because, well, because she's Hillary. I miss Chelsea because she was about the only teenager that consistently called me "Pastor Ron." Actually, I think she was the only one that realized that I am a pastor. Ok, not really. But they never treated me in that high and holy way. They let me be old and gray haired and much slower in JPL than they were because they knew I had my physical pedal to the metal and they were good with that. I could go on. And on. And on. And on. I miss them all. Every one of them.

I do not miss meetings. I do not miss purchase orders. I do not miss schedules. I miss them. I miss loving them, helping them, encouraging them, teaching them and just being with them.

God created me to be a youth pastor. He let me do it for a really long time. I know that I will never get over it. I do not want to get over it. I did it for 32 years and that is considered a career. In the military I would have a really sweet pension if I had given them 32 years. And now two of my three kids work with teenagers and the other works with preschoolers. My brother was a youth pastor. It is in our blood line. Our genes. There has not been one day since 1973 that one of my immediate family members was not a youth pastor. We've overlapped each other a few times but never has there been a day since I was in high school (my brother graduated first and went right into youth ministry) that one of us was not in youth ministry.

I spoke at the National Youth Workers Convention last month. The youth pastor's in the room were very attentive and absorbed in our topic. Then somebody asked how long I had been doing youth ministry. I told them. Expressions changed. NOBODY lasts 32 years. But there is a secret. I quit just about every Monday. I wrote more letters of resignation than you would believe. I just never turned them in until last month. Lasting 32 years was not a me thing at all. It was a calling ... a gift from God.

And now it is over and I am looking at an entirely different type of ministry. And as much as I am looking forward to it I just have to admit something. Leaving youth ministry was exactly what God directed me to do. I was obedient. And now? Now I am feeling very, very ... melancholy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm kicking my tires and checking my oil ...

Illinois? Missouri? Indiana? Wisconsin? Florida? They are all on the current short list.

Where am I going to live? It has been many years since I seriously asked this question. Sure, there was a time or two while living in our current dwelling that I considered other opportunities. While I did take them seriously none of them seemed to be a place or a situation God was directing me to.

This is different. I know that I have completed my call here. After 3 weeks of reflection and seeking God's heart I am firmly convinced that I began in this town on the day God wanted me to begin here. March 26, 1983. Furthermore, I believe that my last day serving here was the day God determined would be my last day. November 26, 2006. I am held to this town by one thing. I own a home here. Ok, two things. My wife works nearby. Oh right, three things. Family lives nearby. (Specifically a precious daughter, a fantastic son-in-lawy, the most beautiful granddaughter on the planet, a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law.) Wait, four things. God's given me a few life-long friends here that it will be tough to say good-bye to. But I look at the questions differently today than I did in the recent and not so recent past. I am fully aware that God is sending me to a new assignment. And I do not know where. As tied to this place as I am by real estate, Debbie's occupation and, most importantly, family and friends, I have to place all considerations secondary to the will of God. He has made it clear that I may be remaining in the general surroundings of this metropolitan area. It is a distinct possibility. But there are other distinct possibilities too. I do not feel any pressure at all because the decision is not mine. The decision is God's.

And this is a decision He has not yet revealed to me.

Several people have asked me if I am stressing over not knowing what comes next. The answer is "no." Not at all. Not even a little bit. The moment I finished my most recent assignment I felt the pleasure of God rest upon me through His Holy Spirit like I have not felt it in a long time. That makes no sense. It is illogical. But then God generally makes no sense and is most often illogical. So why should I be surprised?

You know what I feel? I feel honored. This may make no sense to you but that is ok. It makes sense to me and that is enough for now. I feel honored that God would ask me to trust Him at such a level that it would require me to resign from my long held ministry position with absolutely no clue as to what comes next. I feel honored that He would think that just maybe I would trust Him enough to do that. I feel honored that He has given me this Christmas season to totally skip all musicals, meetings, parties and everything else that has been such a part of my past 2.3 decades. While those are all excellent things they do begin to wear on a pastor. I have learned that Christmas is more fun NOT being a pastor than it is being a pastor. I have read approximately 25% of the bible in the last 3 weeks. I have spent countless hours alone with God. I have sung to Him and He has been kind enough to listen which simply cannot be a pleasant experience. I have shared many evenings alone with my lovely bride just enjoying her. We have worshipped with a lot of people that we do not know and they have all been very gracious to us. I actually purchased some Christmas music this year. I never purchase Christmas music. Something must be going on in my heart! My new pastor took me to lunch last Wednesday and we spent 2 hours just talking. I already knew him (slightly) but I did not know that I would like him as much as I do. He knows that my time at his church will be short. And you know what he told me? He told me to rest. He told me to come when I am up to it, to visit other churches when I want to and ... in a very gracious way ... he told me to feel free to stay at home, sleep in and major on just healing and getting well when that is what I need to do. Do you know how that made me feel? Honestly? I felt like I was having lunch with Jesus. My new pastor was Jesus with skin on to me. He even picked-up the check.

It feels good to feel good. I know, I know. That is redundant. But if you have ever felt really bad and I mean REALLY bad in a scary way, you know what I mean. Sometimes lately I just sit down and revel in the reckless joy of knowing Abba has His hands under, above and around my family and I. Sometimes I just feel free in a way that I have not felt in a very long time. I suspect that it may be something like a soldier feels when his tour of duty is over. Certainly not that dramatically but I think there is a parallel. And honestly, sometimes I feel totally wasted and junky. Occasionally when I take a nap in the afternoon (you can do that if you are unemployed!) I wake up feeling really strange. Other worldly. And the most annoying thing is that my left eye decides to rebel in those moments. it goes all blurry and all foggy. I do not understand that. I remember some similar things happening when I was ill in 2001. This is pretty much the same. I'll go to my big kahoona eye doctor in January if it is not better. And I've got this lump on my left elbow that keeps filling up with blood. They gave me meds to try to fix it and it did not work. But what it did do is mess me up because the new meds did not like my old meds. I really do not think I am old enough to be taking 14 pills a day. FOURTEEN! My next door neighbor is 87 and he is pill-less. I take more pills than my 15 year old friend Ashley did when she had leukemia. Kind of ridiculous, wouldn't you say? 5 years ago I was a work-out-aholic. I miss my daily runs. Turns out that adrenaline is important and when you burn yours all up ... you are going to feel an "owwie." And you are going to take pills. Yum.

Oh well. That's just a me update. Some of you have been asking what's going on in our lives. This was the best way I could think of to answer. It occurs to me that it might just be one big whine. If so ... sorry. But it is, after all, MY BLOG!

Comedy is tragedy with distance. Next year ought to be hilalrious.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Prison Break ... Beagle Style

I was home alone this afternoon. No, that is not a bad thing. I had stuff to do and I could do it better and more quickly if I had less distractions. And then the Bears happened. They played the Buc's today and those wiley Floridians started to make a game of it toward the 4th quarter.

That is when the bells rang. We have this leather strap hanging from the knob of the back door of our house. Debbie has trained Bailey The Killer Beagle to jump and ring the bells if she wants to go out. She jumped with about 50 seconds left in the 3rd quarter. I groaned, got up, hooked her to her chain and let her into the back yard. I went back to the living room and continued screaming at the television and the Bears victory that was clearly slip sliden away. The game went into overtime. I hate it when that happens.

That's when I realized Bailey was still outside. I walked to the back door to let her in. Gazing into the backyard I saw the end of her metal cord of a leash sitting all lonely in the grass. No Beagle. This is not the first time Bailey has managed to escape the steely grip of her forty feet of freedom. I put some sneakers on, got in my car and started to drive. And drive. And drive. I put about 5 miles on the car in 45 minutes. That is a lot of driving when you are only doing 25mph in and around my neighborhood. No sign of Bailey. Anywhere. I gave up and went home.

There just was not much I could do. She could be anywhere. Beagles are famous for having great noses. Hopefully she can track back home when she gets hungry enough. Assuming she avoids the pick-up trucks and mini-van's that roam our street. I decided to get my mind off of Bailey by cleaning our bathrooms. All 3 of them. Ok, I'm clearly lying. Nobody that knows me would believe for a minute that I just "decided to clean the bathrooms." I was saving my marriage. Don't ask.

I first heard it when I was on the second bathroom. Something slammed into the back door. Bailey? I jogged toward the kitchen in time to see my Beagle dart away from the door and begin a loop around the backyard. She was being followed by a VERY LARGE chocolate lab. And she did not have much of a lead. After she made her circle she slammed into the back door again, jumping against it so that she could briefly see inside. I have to wonder what was going on in her walnut sized brain. The lab got there before I could do anything about saving her. And so she began her next lap around the yard with the lab in hot pursuit. When she came around and slammed into the door again I opened it and tried to drag her inside but the lab was too fast and he ran over her in an attempt to get in himself. I slammed the door catching him mid-body. Then I pushed him back outside. This did not please Bailey who suddenly found herself circling the yard yet again. Hey ... it was her or me!

It took 4 more laps, a pair of thick leather fire place gloves and a well placed pile of milky bones off to the side of the door (hopefully to distract the lab ... though it didn't work) for me to grab her around her little scrawny neck and yank her inside as the big dog snapped at her tail.

You have never seen a beagle look more grateful in her life. She did not even wait for her usual "welcome back into the house and thanks for peeing outside milky bone." She went straight for her cage and dug under her blankets. I do believe that if she had opposable thumbs she would have closed and locked the door behind her. The lab trotted away. Probably finished off a squirrel or two before going home himself.

It's been nearly 5 hours since the prison break ... Beagle style. Bailey has not rung the bell once. She doesn't want to go outside. I think I may have to grab a baseball bat and go with her if I want her to go outside before bedding down for the tonight.

Thinking back on this day I have to say that church was really wonderful this morning, I had a great Mexican lunch and the Bears (finally) won this afternoon. And yet I really think the highlight of my day was seeing Bailey The Killer Beagle "get hers." After all the times I have chased her around the neighborhood this was total justice. She is the most arrogant dog alive and today she received the gift of humility.

Thank you, Mr. Chocolate Lab, wherever you are.

Friday, December 15, 2006

5 Reasons To Glue Your Ipod Headphones Into Your Ears

(The surgeon general is not here but I will take it upon myself to warn you that I feel crabby tonight. The following blog, specifically item #3, is not to be taken personally by anybody ... except one of you ... and you know who you are. Oh, and that last part was a joke too. Maybe.)

1 - Daytime television. Watch it and you will want to give yourself a lobotomy.
2 - Radio. Can ANYBODY play anything different for cryin out loud? And shouldn't "talk radio" really be named "Everything You Never Wanted To Talk About" radio?
3 - Cellphoneitis. Are there really 30 people a day who need to call me? If they SAW me they probably wouldn't say "hello" but give them a cell phone and I find myself on their "must call" list. It isn't like they have anything to say. They just want to talk. Aren't their medications for this?
4 - If you do not have a Beagle go and buy one immediately. I promise your ipod will become your best friend. Nothing barks like a beagle. If I were my neighbors I would have shot her (Bailey the Killer Beagle) by now.
5 - Weather and traffic reports. They both want to convince you that the end of civilization is near. Not only is the weather eventually going to kill you if you stay put but you can't run because somebody got depressed in "the depressed section" and committed "semi-icide" (aka: death by tractor trailer.)
6 - (A BONUS REASON) If you have ipod headphones in your ears you do not even have to have your ipod turned on. Heck, you do not even have to own an ipod. Just run the end of the headphones cord into your pocket and everyone will think you are tuned to tunes and they just might (emphasis on "might") leave you alone. If they do talk to you just go about your business as though you didn't hear a thing. I do this pretty much everyday. Actually, I am doing it right now. Sorry honey ... can't hear a thing ....

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Day In The Life Of An Unemployed Guy

8:30am - Wake up. Spend time wondering why you are awake. Remember that you stayed up until nearly 2am last night and you should sleep until 10am in order to get 8 hours. Get up anyway. Drink grape juice and use it to wash down the pills that the doctor insists that you take because you are older than you used to be and your body is kind of burned out. Manage to shower, brush your teeth, etc.

9:15am - Get dressed. Debate about whether to wear the seriously faded jeans, the semi-faded jeans or the regular blue jeans. Since you don't have a 3 sided coin to toss you just choose. Put on the seriously faded jeans. Add a black t-shirt that says "Job's are Over-rater." Cover it with a "Up North" sweat shirt purchased in the wilds of upper Wisconsin. Slide into the New Balance sneakers, grab the usual stuff that goes into the pockets and head out the door.

10:30am - Begin driving to west county where you have a haircut appointment at "The Hair Saloon For Men." First stop at "Hit 'n Run" for the obligatory morning pepsi laced with vanilla. Throw in a small bag of baked lays potato chips. Pay the lady and point the Mustang west. Debate about putting the top down and nix the idea in favor of a blaring stereo and an occasional phone call.

11:15 - Realizing that you are a "non-practicing pastor" debate the merits of swearing at the traffic jam you have gotten yourself into. You are going nowhere but making great time doing it. Find a louder cd and slip it in. Decide against swearing. Or at least decide against admitting it in your blog later today.

11:30 - Traffic is moving again. Look out the drivers side window just as a black saturn pulls up next to you. The driver, a Teenage Idiot, gooses his engine twice and points down the road. He wants to race a gray haired man driving a Mustang. In a freaken 4 cylinder Saturn for cryin out loud! The gray haired man gives the Teenage Idiot the nod and puts pressure on his own accelerator indicating that the race is ON. The Idiot Teenager flashes the thumbs up sign and floors his mighty Saturn just as you turn right and take the exit leading to your appointed haircut. You catch yourself praying that there will be a Missouri Highway Patrolman waiting for The Teenage Idiot about 1/4 mile down the road.

12:08 - After 78 minutes you arrive at your appointment. The drive should have taken 45 minutes. Traffic is cruel.

12:15 - The nice lady behind the counter tells you not to worry because everybody is late. She hands you a complimentary bottle of Aquafina and assigns you to a lady named Emily. Emily takes you into her cubicle and works her magic on your gray hair. She cuts it shorter than ever before but you like it. Then she leans you back, washes your hair, hands you a hot towel (I love this place) and a mint on a tray and says to take your time. she'll meet you out front. You wipe down your face and neck for all of those loose renegade hairs that are hacked off at being seperated from the mother ship. Then you go to the counter, thank Emily, pay her and leave her a decent tip. You ask for her card so that you can request her next time. She didn't screw up your head and didn't insist on trivial conversation while she did her job. That makes her my #1 hair jockey.

1:00pm - Meet an old friend at a local "Lions Choice" for lunch and a heart check. He's an old youth minister who cashed it in about a decade ago when his wife left him for another man. He works for Orkin now. He kills bugs for a living. And he has a nice new wife who is a nurse. He's not happy but he's not sad either. He's just ... there. You love on him and pray for him. You manage to avoid talking about your own recent history and immediate future. You are glad he doesn't ask because you don't really want to go through it again.

1:55 - You arrive home. The loud stereo is once again put to good use.

2:15 - After letting the dog out, getting the mail and just generally putzing around you settle down in front of the boob tube. You tune in the history channel and watch a very cool documentary about how the US built the Hell Cat fighter plane that neutralized the Japanese Zero thus helping to win the war in the pacific in the 1940's. You contemplate getting mad at Japan again and boycotting all Japanese food. Then you realize that you have never eaten Japanese food. You declare the boycott to have begun at birth and to have lasted 51 years so far. You raise your fist into the air and shout, "REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR!" Bailey The Killer Beagle" gets scared and runs into her cage. You make a mental note to check and see if Beagle's are of Japanese descent.

3:35 - The little Mrs. arrives home. It is now time to resume real life. You ask how her day was and she tells you. You issue her a coveted "Poor Sweet Baby." She ignores you and focuses on Dr. Phil. She has earned it and so you leave her alone.

And so the free part of the day is now gone. 10 minutes ago you were nobody. You could swear (not that I would) tease a Saturn into a bogus road race, cry with a friend, watch history. Heck, you could do anything you want! But now the best part of the day comes and you are no longer a nobody. You are a husband. Soon your youngest son will come home and as you watch him make a speedy exit to his room and his coved X-Box you also become an active dad.

And so as the clock presses toward midnight you review the day. You did not hurt anyone. You did not wreck anything. You cared about and loved the people you were with. You avoided getting angry about things that deserve your anger. You avoid telling people about things that have made you angry. You took the high road.

All in all ... not a bad day. And tomorrow ... I'm going to Office Max. Alone. Let the good times roll ....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Da Bears

So I'm sitting around on Monday afteroon and wind up logging on to ebay. My beloved Chicago Bears were in town to take on the Rams in the dome. It was about 6 hours until kick off. Tickets were running about $500 for a pair of truly lousy seats. I decided to go spend my money on It made more sense. Besides, television often affords the best seats in town.

And then he called. My friend Mike left me voice mail. I called him back. He happened to have scored two tickets on about the 40 yard line. Mike is only one person. That left a free ticket. Knowing that I'm a Chicago sports fanatic he wanted to know if I would like to meet him at the dome.

Would I? WOULD I! You bet your sweet super bowl ring I would! So at 6:30 I met up with Mike at Dooley's. This is a little dive about 3 blocks from the Edward Jones Dome. When there was a TWA their employees voted Dooley's as having the best cheeseburger on the planet. I figure TWA employees would know. I've eaten there more than once and am inclined to agree.

After stuffing our faces we walked to the dome where I stripped off my rain proof jacket (it was pouring outside) to reveal my fearsome Bears sweat shirt. To my shock nearly 50% of the people in the dome were dressed as I was. I swear the cheering for "da bears" was MUCH louder than the cheering for the Rams. But then, there was much more for Bears fans to cheer about. What a game! The Bears went crazy, ripping the Rams apart in every part of the contest. I spent most of the 3.5 hours on my feet screaming. I think Mike, (a Ram's fan) was sitting down reading the electronic bill boards or something.

Anyway, this is a "thank you blog" to Mike. You made my week. I've got a lot of free time on my hands lately and this is the most fun I've had since ... uh ... since the last time I was unemployed. I was 14 and my "fun" was using gorilla warfare against my older and bigger brother.

Final score? Bears 42, Rams 27. And it was not as close as it sounds ... not that it sounds close. Da Bears reminded me of why I love Chicago sports. It's not just a hobby ... it's an addiction. Once you have it you can never rid yourself of it.

And for the record. Let me be the first to predict a Cubs birth in the world series in 2007. It's our year! But first we have to lock up the super bowl. Ahhhh ... I love unemployment. It totally affects the brain ...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

FBC .... M?

I did something today that I have not done in nearly 24 years. I joined a church. It is a very good church. It is a fairly large church. The pastor is a friend of mine and he has an excellent staff. Their building is beautiful. The praise team and choir were top notch. The drama was great. The message timely and scriptural.

And then they gave an "invitation" and my wife, my son and I joined. This is what our new church looks like.

I was just looking over that picture and I realized that I do not know what is behind any of those windows. I do not know how many floors my church has. Do we have an elevator? How about those all important fire exits? How many pastor's do I have? If I call the church phone number who will answer? What time does the offfice close? What time does the office open? Where IS the office? Do we have a fellowship hall? Is it in the basement? Do we even have a basement? How many acres do we have? What is our budget? Is there a Sunday School class my wife and I will feel comfortable in?

I do not have an answer to any of those questions. I joined "FBC ... M" because "MCC" didn't seem to meet our needs. "BBC" was a little too far. "FBC ... M" kind of became the default church.

And you know what? I'm good with that.

I do not know how long I will be there. I do not know that I will attend every Sunday. Now is my chance to visit around. I may go on some Wednesday nights ... maybe not. There are a lot of things I do not know about my church.

But there is something that I do know.

I have always said that if God gives me a chance to be a member of a church that I am not on staff at I am going to do everything I can to show people how to love the pastor and the staff. I am going to go the extra mile to show them how to bless and not harm. NEVER harm. Harm within the church is not right. Ever. Attacking your pastor is not right. Ever. And now I have the chance to live out what I have told God I will live out. I am not sure exactly how I will do that but I plan on putting together a strategy. I may leave "FBC ... M" in 3 months. Maybe 6. I hope it will not be a year but I serve at the pleasure of King Jesus and He holds my calendar in His nail scarred hand. And so, for as long as I am there, one pastor and his staff are going to get loved. And blessed. And cared for.

You see, it does not matter to me if we have an elevator or a basement. Those things are ... things. But now I have a pastor to love. Watch closely. I want to teach you something. He'll never know what hit him.

My calling from God right now ... love. Serve. Encourage. I am tired of bleeding. Tired of the battle. Tired of relentless ugliness and cruel attacks. Tired .... sick and tired of mean. Now I am simply a guy in a pew. And I am going to do what a guy in a pew is suppose to do. I may not be there long ... but I will make sure my shepherds are sorry to see me leave.

Let the fun begin ...

Friday, December 08, 2006

An Alternate Ending...

Ok, the mommy of Baby Elle did not particularly care for the ending of my last blog entry. She thought it was sweet right up until the point where the little tyke decided to mind-meld me. Mom's. Go figure. So out of respect to her I have decided to write a new ending to the last blog. Not that I can improve upon it. But if it gives her a sense of sanity (mine, not hers) then it will be worth the effort. So, here goes. Taken it from the top...
I can scarcely believe that I fell for it. Yet I did. As I entered "Babies R Us" in Chesterfield Valley tonight I saw her right away. She was in her baby seat which rested in a shopping cart and was being pushed by her mother, aka: my daughter. My wife beat me to them. It takes a lot of planning and dexterity to beat this woman to the side of Baby Elle. But after I arrived my daughter and my wife began looking at clothes, leaving Elle and I alone.

I leaned on the hande of the cart and stared down at her. She stared up at me. I smiled at her. She smiled at me. My smile lasted longer than hers because hers morphed into a feet kicking, hand slapping celebration. I began pushing her cart away from the mom's so that I could spend some time with my granddaughter.

We turned the first corner we came to. I had been watching where we were going. After I negotiated the turn I looked back at Baby Elle. She was looking at me again. She was more than looking. She was absorbing. She was communicating. And she was doing it with her eyes. I stopped pushing the cart. I stood still. She sat still. Our stare continued.

I was actually falling. Falling into her eyes. It was a very long, very deep fall. I loved every minute of it.

The stare went on for at the very least a full minute. I felt like I was being pulled into her soul. Like I was being questioned, inspected, evaluated. "Grandpa, can I trust you? Are you going to be as much fun as you act like you are going to be? Grandpa ... do you love me?" She never spoke a word and yet she said volumes. I hope that she read the answer in my eyes. "Yes." "Yes." "Yes."

I broke our stare and looked at the nearest rack of babies clothing. The first thing my eyes fell upon was a University of Illinois warm-up suit. The whole thing. Nylon top and nylon pants but with a nice soft lining. Perfect. It might have been styled for the Illini but I happen to know that they are also Chicago Bears colors. I picked it up from the rack and showed it to her. She smiled again and stomped her feet. She loved it.

I put it in the cart. I didn't even look at the price tag.

When I found my daughter, Elle's mother, I showed her what Elle and I had picked out. She laughed, asking me when she would wear it. "ALL OF THE TIME" was the only reply I could think of.

"Maybe you should wait until she's a little older."

Harumph. Kill joy.

Elle and I put the warm-up suit back on the rack. I was much sadder than she was. We went back into our staring mode. I felt like I was becoming intimately aquainted with my granddaughter without a word being shared. I started looking for something else to buy her. We walked through aisles of clothing, toys, furniture and the occasional weird thing that I could not identify. Child rearing has changed profoundly since I engaged in it. Nothing caught Elle's eye. Nothing caught mine either.

Except for Elle.

I thought about pulling her out of her seat and carrying her around the store like my own personal trophy attesting to my triumph over the assault time and tribulation. As if hoisting her on my shoulders would proclaim to all who heard, "IN YOUR FACE, WORLD! LIFE CAN BE HARD BUT LOOK WHAT GOD DOES! BEAUTY IS ETERNAL!" I nixed the idea when I realized just how securely she was strapped in. I would never in a cazillion years get her back in that thing. So we pulled off into a corner and resumed our staring. Only this time I sang to her. Some little ditty about the wheels on the bus going round and round. She didn't care what the song was, only that it was being sung to her. Sometimes she smiled that killer smile. Some times she kicked and swung her arms. Mainly she just stared deeply into my eyes. I liked those moments the best.

There are already presents under my tree for Baby Elle. Not that she needs anything. What I plan on really giving her cannot be wrapped. Love. Attention. Affection. Touch. Hugs. Smiles. Laughter. Time. Myself. I want to know what her voice sounds like. I want to hear her laughter. I want to see her scowl at her parents (oh yes, she will scowl at her parents!) and come to me to seek understanding. And I will pour upon her the wisdom of my years. It probably will not help solve her problem but if we can walk away from it with a grin on our faces and maybe a milk shake in our hands I do believe we will be ahead of the game.

Merry Christmas, Baby Elle. I love you.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Melded By A 6 Month Old

I can scarcely believe that I fell for it. Yet I did. As I entered "Babies R Us" in Chesterfield Valley tonight I saw her right away. She was in her baby seat which rested in a shopping cart and was being pushed by her mother, aka: my daughter. My wife beat me to them. It takes a lot of planning and dexterity to beat this woman to the side of Baby Elle. But after I arrived my daughter and my wife began looking at clothes, leaving Elle and I alone.

I leaned on the hande of the cart and stared down at her. She stared up at me. I smiled at her. She smiled at me. My smile lasted longer than hers because hers morphed into a feet kicking, hand slapping celebration. I began pushing her cart away from the mom's so that I could spend some time with my granddaughter.

We turned the first corner we came to. I had been watching where we were going. After I negotiated the turn I looked back at Baby Elle. She was looking at me again. She was more than looking. She was absorbing. She was communicating. And she was doing it with her eyes. I stopped pushing the cart. I stood still. She sat still. Our stare continued.

I was actually falling. Falling into her eyes. It was a very long, very deep fall. I loved every minute of it.

The stare went on for at the very least a full minute. I felt like I was being pulled into her soul. Like I was being questioned, inspected, evaluated. "Grandpa, can I trust you? Are you going to be as much fun as you act like you are going to be? Grandpa ... do you love me?" She never spoke a word and yet she said volumes. I hope that she read the answer in my eyes. "Yes." "Yes." "Yes."

I broke our stare and looked at the nearest rack of babies clothing. The first thing my eyes fell upon was a University of Illinois warm-up suit. The whole thing. Nylon top and nylon pants but with a nice soft lining. Perfect. It might have been styled for the Illini but I happen to know that they are also Chicago Bears colors. I picked it up from the rack and showed it to her. She smiled again and stomped her feet. She loved it.

I put it in the cart. I didn't even look at the price tag.

When I found my daughter, Elle's mother, I showed her what Elle and I had picked out. She laughed, asking me when she would wear it. "ALL OF THE TIME" was the only reply I could think of.

"Maybe you should wait until she's a little older."

Harumph. Kill joy.

Elle and I put the warm-up suit back on the rack. I was much sadder than she was. We went back into our staring mode. I felt like I was becoming intimately aquainted with my granddaughter without a word being shared. I started looking for something else to buy her.

That's when I remembered. 1969. Star Trek. The original star trek. It was Dr.Spock, the emotionless Vulcan vs. some nameless poor schmuck that didn't stand a chance. That was because Spock ... Spock was using the "Vulcan Mind Meld" on him. Now the guy would do anything ... ANYTHING ... Spock wanted. And even worse, Spock could read his mind! I don't want ANYBODY reading my mind! It is not appropriate reading for small children under the age of ... oh ... say ninety?!

It became suddenly clear. Baby Elle was performing the "Baby Elle Mind Meld" on me! What else could possibly explain my reckless desire to spoil and ogle this perfect child? It was the meld. It had to be the meld.

My suspicions were confirmed minutes later when she escaped from her cart. I tore frantically through the store looking for her. I do NOT want to go down in family lore as the one who lost Baby Elle! At last I found her. She was in the movie aisle. She had cornered a guy named "Bones." He looked strangely famialar to me. Elle had her little hand on his face. He looked terrified. I had gotten there just in time to save this pour soul.

But not before I took a picture.

Baby Elle, we are going to have an awesome time. Between you "mind melding" and my singing "The Wheels On The Bus..." I think we'll get along famously.

Grandpa love's you.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Status Report ...

It is dark. The moon is full. My trees are out of branches. The ice refuses to melt. I hear a howling in the distance.

I'm hiding under the bed tonight...

Saturday, December 02, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it is enough.

Friday, December 01, 2006

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

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

But I lose.

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

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

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

Tonight I sleep the sleep of the victor.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

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

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


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

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

We dodged a bullet.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


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

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

yada, yada, yada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Permission Granted

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

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

My bad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

T minus Zero ... we have lift-off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2006

One More Day

I was sitting around tonight listening to my new "Lost Dogs" cd and happened across this song. I like it. After 23 years of serving King Jesus at a church I dearly love I have been instructed by God to lay it down tomorrow. I have one more day. I will speak in the morning. I know what I am supposed to say. It is written on paper. More importantly it is written on my heart. (note: if you can't be there and care to listen in you can do so at Click the "sermons series" link.)

Being at FBCB has been an incredible ride. Some days have been so near to heaven that I swear I could hear the angels sing. Some days have been so far ... so far from God's plan that my heart breaks. I have made some life long friends there. I have met some people there that I have yet to figure out. This song reminds me of the whole package. You may understand. You may not. Following Jesus is a call to live a life of great paradox. The longer you serve, the longer you live, the more confusing it gets. You finally reach a point where you throw up your hands to The Father and say, "Whatever!" You do not mean it in anger or frustration. You mean it in surrender. "Whatever, Jesus. Whatever you want ...let's do that. Wherever you lead ... let's go there. You take the point and I'll follow."

This song reminds me of what that kind of life is like. It feels so good. It hurts so bad. You will never figure it out. You just wait for The Father's smile and say ... "Whatever." For me "whatever" means ... one more day.


from the album "The Lost Cabin and the Mystery Trees"

(2006 Mike Roe)

One more sad and silly love affair gone bad
One more best friend that I thought I had
But didn't have
One more dream long gone forgotten
And yet still I carry on
It's a wonder I can sing you
One more song

One more song for you
To live your life beside me as I cry me
One more tear I shed aloud
For crying out loud
One more sacred song to bless you
While I curse the life I lead
Plodding down the path of sorrow
Bringing you the joy you need

One more sun to wake my weary
Eyes wide open
One more day
That surely will give way
To one more night I'm gonna
Find a way to get all the way through
To one more day
I made it, yay, horray

To climb instead of walk around
But even so I know that I
Should be so grateful for yet one more

Life that I could touch in some small simple way
Or one more light that I could shine
To show someone the way
Or one more sure word of encouragement
To say to one more soul
Oh Lord please won't you save me one
One more day
Lord won't you save me one
One more day

Thursday, November 23, 2006

An Open Letter To God...

Dear Abba,

I just want to take a few moments in the midst of this day to say thank you. Yes, it is Thanks Giving Day. I deeply hope that I do not confine my thanking you to this Thursday in November. But anyway, here is what I want to say to You...

*Thank you, Abba, for the gift of Your Son. Jesus, you mean everything to me. You alone cause life and this world to make sense.

*I am so grateful for my bride. My wife. You made her just for me! She amazes me every day that she gets up and kisses me good morning. I don't know why she puts up with this ADHD type person but she does. And I am forever in her debt. (Honey, I loved you long before you ever tackled me!)

*My three kids are among your greatest gifts that I have ever received. Kelli, Scott and Chris. Abba, I could not have designed better kids if I had tried. And now they are all adults. Very good adults at that. Tonight I just sat and watched them with the wonder that only a father can feel as he sees the children that began as little rug rats turn into God lovers.

*And then there is Joe, Amanda and Laura. Laura and Topher have been together for almost one year now, Abba. She seems like a part of our family. When she walks in the door I just automatically smile! And she actually laughs at my jokes! Traveling with her to South Carolina last summer was one of the highlights of my year! Oh, and Abba ... she didn't really mean what she did in front of the Lifeway store in Knoxville. Ok, ok, she did mean it. You are God and you already knew that. But I have to think you understand! And if not ... please just forgive her! (You owe me, Bella...) And then there is my Amanda. You know, Abba, she is about to become my actual honest-to-gosh daughter-in-law. That is so incredible! She and Scott have walked together over the long haul already. They are so made for each other! I had so much fun with her yesterday when we just sat and talked for well over an hour. And then our late night White Castle topped off a perfect day. She's right ... we had quality time! Abba, I love her like my own daughter. And, as you know, I really, really love my own daughter. Oh man. God, I will always cherish the moment that I placed my daughter's arm into Joe's. That was a very good day. He has loved and adored her as I knew he would. To watch them serve you, build a home together, minister to and love kids and their church, well it's almost too much to believe. Wow. And together they bring me to the next reason I thank you today...

*Elle Parker McGill. Oh Abba, how I have fallen head over heels in love with my granddaughter. All I have to do is to smile at her and she almost always smiles back! What a delight to hold her and feel her grab one of my fingers with her fist. She is amazing! So trusting. So happy. Ok, most of the time. There are moments. But she gets over them! I love this little lady, Abba. Thank you so very much for creating her and putting her in our family. We will do all we can to point her toward you ... her truest Daddy.

*Thank you, Abba, for twenty three and two thirds years to serve you by loving teenagers at FBCB. I cannot believe that I only have one Sunday morning left and then I will be finished there. There are so many memories. Centrifuges. Mission trips. JPL's. Willow Creek Retreats. Time alone with individual kids as they sought out opportunities to grow closer to you. Kids that you allowed me to watch go into the ministry themselves. Oh God, it is all just too much! My cup is over flowing! Thank you for this gift! When my body is dead to this world ministry and service will still go on through these (roughly) twenty young men and women you have allowed me to love, disciple and send into ministry. I am humbled, Abba.

*And how I thank you for the future. It is true that if my life on planet earth were to end right now I would call it a raging success. Not because I am so good. No, it is because You are so faithful! I do not know what is next on Your agenda for my life. A kind church has allowed me to have three months to rest, heal, seek you and find the doorway you would direct me through. Thank you, Abba. Such a kindness!

Well I could do this all night. There are so many friends. So many special people in my life that are there because you brought us together. Some live here. Some live on the left side of the country, some on the right. But I am rich in friendships. My brother and his lovely family are chief among them. Thank you, Abba, for Jim, Edwina and Jackie! Thank you for Jason, Tanya, and their families. Thank you for Dave, Lynda, Bob, Cindy, Dave, Barb, Reda,Tammy, Brad, Sheri, Judy, Jim (my other "bro",) Alisha (my newest sister!) Diane, Steve, Theresa, Katie, Jeff, Jeannie, Jeffy, Jim, Sandy, Ruth, Ronn B., Ron W., "Big Steve" and "Big 'Nita," Matt, Tim, Danny, Cheryl, Larry, Frank, Ed, Mindy, Patti, Rick, Steve, Shannon, Kristi, Lisa, Scott, Bill, Eric, Stephanie, Gary, Cathy, Beth, and even Bailey. And of course, every kid in a very special youth group that will probably be my last one. I love each of them as You have told me to. And every one that came before them. I could go on and on and on and on. There is neither time nor space. But Abba ... I am rich. You have made me rich through the blessings I have received from You.

And I can never, never say it loud enough, long enough or frequently enough. Thank you, Abba. For everything. The crowns that are waiting and the scars that are healing. The pleasure and the pain. The Word that keeps me pointed in the right direction. The blood that flowed. The thorns. The nails. The spear. The empty tomb. The fish you cooked for the disciples breakfast. The acension. And thank you for loving this man. Me. Really, tangibly, audibly, visually, shockingly.

I will praise you as long as their is breath in my lungs. And when the breath is at last gone I will arrive in Your presence and praise you all the louder as I lay at your feet.

Abba ... Jesus ... Holy Spirit ... Thank You. I love you.

Your child....