Saturday, January 13, 2007

One Degree

When I was in high school I loved baseball. It did not always love me. I played it with passion and it gave me a demotion from left field to first base in return. In college I loved tennis. It liked me. I played on an inner - school league. I did ok. No trophy but no shame. Sometime life is a wash. For some reason I excelled in archery. You know. Bow's and arrows. I had never touched one until my freshman year at Lincoln-Way High School. We had a couple of weeks of archery every year. Something really odd happened my junior year. When it came time for the big yearly show down ... the round robin tournament to see who the best archer was ... I took 3rd place. Ok, actually I took 4th and the coach took 3rd but he didn't count. I have no idea how this happened. I just kept pulling back on the arrow, looking at the target and letting it fly. And the arrow kept hitting its mark. Nobody was more surprised than I was. I was actually getting some bulls eyes. The coach thought I was cheating. Heck, even I thought I was cheating. But there isn't any way to cheat with a bow, an arrow and a target. They had to admit it. I took 3rd. And I never picked up a bow and arrow again.

Then came golf. I never played it when I lived in Chicago. It was kind of forced on me by friends after our move to the St. Louis area. I came up with some used clubs somewhere. Eventually, after I had served my church for 15 years they actually gave me a set of new clubs. Let me be brutally honest here. I was hoping for skis. You know. Like to slide down mountains on the snow. But I got golf clubs and that was ok. Except that I really stunk at golf. One of the first things I learned was that golf balls are not cheap. This is especially true when you lose every one that you hit. Finally somebody taught me to watch where your ball goes and, as best you can, line it up with an object on the horizon. When it is time to go take your next swing simply walk toward that spot you have been staring at in the distance. More often than not this plan worked. I did learn one thing for sure. You have to really walk directly toward that object on the horizon. If you vary from it just one degree, well, over the course of maybe 200 yards (on days when the wind was at my back and I had eaten breakfast) you will wind up far, far from your goal. Your golf ball will be a distant memory, found by some lucky golfer behind you.

As I write this we are having our 2nd major winter storm of the still young season. Like our first storm this one is all about ice. I miss snow. Snow falls gently, lays quietly and generally does no harm. You can push it around, stack it up into the shape of a man, turn it into a ball and hit someone in the head with it or just leave it alone and eventually it will go away. But ice? Ice is a force to be reckoned with. You can barely stand on it, drive on it, or even bear to look at it after a couple of days. (Yesterday I climbed up on my roof to clean out my fireplace chimney and found a branch about as big around as a quarter sticking all of the way through my roof. It blasted through the shingles and through the wood! And I didn't even find it for nearly a month.) Last night we had a big old batch of freezing rain. I stepped outside this morning to find my driveway wet but my trees covered in ice. Hmmmm. It seems the ground temperature was above 32 degrees while the air temperature was below 32 degrees. So everything that was not resting on the ground was frozen while the ground itself was not. Right now a new batch of water is falling from the sky. I just stepped outside to check and guess what? It is rain. Just rain. You can hear the trees crackling in the darkness under the weight of the ice that fell last night. But at least for now no new ice is accumulating. You know why? I just checked on the web site that lists the temperature of the air at St. Louis Regional Airport, which is about one mile from my home, and I learned that the temperature is 33 degrees. See. I told you so. It only takes that one degree. Golf and winter weather have a lot in common. One degree makes all of the difference in the world.

And then there is God. (Do you realize how common that last sentence should be? There is ALWAYS God.) God has a purpose. He has a plan. He gives directions. Sometimes they come in the bible and sometimes they come through the influence of His Holy Spirit, the wisdom of another believer, or possibly an interesting set of circumstances. But God always has a purpose and a plan. My job ... your job ... is to trust Him and follow that plan. And the hard part is to do it accurately. It is so very easy to cut corners or try to take shortcuts. And then God's plan for you becomes like an errant golf ball. You will totally miss your assignment and somebody else will come along behind you and accomplish what should have been yours to accomplish. You only have to be off a little bit. One degree will do. Over the span of your entire life missing the will of God by one degree will have you totally OUT of the center of His will.

I do not find that acceptable. No way. No how. I want to walk straight toward God's assignment for me. I want to be propelled there like an archers arrow that is dead on its mark. I want to track it as if it were a golf ball made of gold. Nothing short of reaching the goal set out for me by my King will do. Right now I am in a bit of a wilderness state. I am having trouble finding and keeping my bearings. Many of my metaphorical objects on the horizon are no longer there. Some were people that are no longer active in my life. Some were plans and programs that have changed. Some were other unmentionable things best left between my Creator and me.

I will reach my goal. I will pursue it with ruthless love and ruthless trust. I will not back away from what I have learned because He paid the price to teach it to me. And when I finish the race, when I reach the target, I will find my bulls eye ... the face of the one who died for me. I will not be one degree off.

It is just not acceptable.


R = Renew
E = Energize
S = Submit
T = Trust

Help me please, in this time of REST that you have provided for me, to have my mind renewed, my body energized, my will submitted, and my future trusted to You.

I love you,
Your kid

Friday, January 12, 2007

ZIP ...

No squirrel's were harmed in the writing of tonight's blog. My wife was home sick and my anti-squirrel activities were curtailed. She is feeling better. Tomorrow the hunt is on.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Squirrel War's ... Let the battle begin

Today I received a grand total of two e-mails. That is an unusual day for me. Twenty is more like it. I didn't even get any interesting spam. Not only that but the nifty cool google thingy that keeps track of my "hits" on this blog said that my total today was zero. ZERO. I am feeling a little neglected. A little lonely. Slightly unappreciated.

Ok, I'm over it. (I have a remarkable propensity for "speed healing." It's a gift.)

And here's absolute proof positive that the good people down at the Google HQ are asleep at the wheel. One of my two (sniff) e-mails today was about yesterday's blog. How can that be, you ask? If nobody read the e-stinken blog then how could anybody e-mail me about it? Correct. Google Schmoogle. That's all I have to say about that.

But here is the thing. The e-mail about my blog? It was complaining about my vain attempt to smash a squirrel. GIMMEABREAKPEOPLE. Squirrels are everywhere in my neighborhood. They easily out number people. One of my neighbor's used to blow them out of trees with a .22 caliber rifle. This is not a legal thing to do. I happen to have a .22 caliber rifle. (It has a nifty cross-hair scope but that's an entirely different blog.) Do you know why .22 caliber rifles are so loud when you shoot them? Because they fire a very high velocity projectile (aka: bullet.) It goes so fast that it exceeds the speed of sound. Thus the "BANG!" Do you know how far a .22 caliber bullet will travel if you shoot at, oh, say a tree branch and miss the squirrel? I don't either but I'll bet it's a honken long way.

Ok, I've killed a few squirrels in my day but always with my Goodyears and never with my rifle. And yes, it was usually a total accident. Honest. Really. I swear. I did kill a few rats with my rifle but I was only about 10 years old then and was probably aiming at something else. Like, ohhhh ... a Cardinal fan. (Slow down, would ya? It's a joke.)

But lately squirrels have been declaring war on me. Yes, that's right. Squirrels have been attacking my homestead. Specifically they have been prying their little bodies under my ugly green garage door. Once through there they hot foot it to a big fifty-gallon rubber maid trash can that is filled with Bailey the Killer Beagle's dog chow. This can is two feet from the door to my inner sanctum! They are almost in my home!!!! Next they'll be using the toaster or making themselves grilled cheese sandwiches! These vicious vermin have fangs the size of a samurai sword. They have eaten through the top of the rubber maid container where they have been holding regular parties for their families and friends. At MY expense. This has been going on for sometime.

You ever open a big old tub expecting to find dog food only to find squirrels instead? I was offended. I was hurt. These are the same squirrels that I often throw stale bread out onto the lawn in the winter for. Last month I actually dumped about 3/4ths of a crock pot full of meat balls ... yummy meat balls ... into the curb of our street because they were getting slightly rank for human consumption which I figure is just about right for squirrel consumption. And all of a sudden they think this is an invitation to party at my place?

I think not.

So I struck back. Sure I missed the one on the road yesterday. I'll get my chance again. I'll stamp "maximum psi 40 lb" on his little forehead. And for his buddies that make it under my garage door again I have left a little surprise. Steel. Pure galvanized steel. I can hardly wait ...

Not even Rocky J. Squirrel could get into this puppy. I figure the current score is SQUIRREL'S 1/HUMAN'S 1.

The battle has just begun. They have now eaten through my (garbage company provided) garbage can. I can't replace that one with steel. But I can leave them a little ... "treat" ... in the can for their next visit. I may not be able to stop them from getting IN the can ... but maybe I can stop them from getting OUT.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Milk Duds ... My Personal Manna

Absolutely nothing happened today worth writing about. Actually, I started to write that as a lead sentence last night and realized how hopelessly dumb it was so I just un-booted (which I am assuming is the opposite of booting) Tess the Laptop and went to sleep. I was confident that today would bear something of interest to someone. Anyone, for cryin out loud.


So why are you here? Why are you reading this? Go away!

Ok, if you insist. You must be terribly bored. I’ll do my best so as not to let friends and family down. Have you all considered buying a TV or something?

Being jobless …. Unemployed … is really a freaky thing to be. Try it sometime. But only if you are really sure it is what God wants you to do. I’m a pastor/preacher guy and, as such, I am supposed to know what God is saying to me. Sometimes I am pretty good at “hearing” and sometimes I really suc…. Uh … stink at it. But this was a good call. I really think I got it right.

Those of you who know me in the real world (as opposed to the blog world) know that my doctor/counselor/wise guy that I pay big bucks to told me a couple of months ago to lose the stress or it was going to lose me. This got my attention. My wife was with me and it got her attention too. And when her attention has been gotten mine is about to be kidnapped, duck taped, and force-fed the doctor’s orders. So I quit. My job. Bingo-bango, just like that I’m sitting around trying to do what the good doctor ordered. It is called resting, recuperating, getting mindless for a bit.

So yesterday I go back to his office for my first appointment since he suggested I commit career suicide. And yes, Debbie went with me. I don’t think she quite trusts me to be totally honest with her about what he tells me. This is very smart of her because I would lie like a rug to get my way. Any who, we walk into his office and take seats on his cushy furniture, which I have paid for several times over. He trots in a few seconds behind us (I am so not paying for those missing seconds) and his first question is, “So how is the job hunting going?”

That’s the first thing he says. Not, “how are ya feeling?” Not, “nice weather we are having, huh?” He goes straight for the juggler. Before I could respond my bride jumps in and says, “How did you know he quit?” His response? “I can tell by the way he looks.” (I felt like a lamp ... talk about it but never, never TO it.)


How transparent can I be? I have to be the King Dork of the planet if he can read me that easily! Sure he’s a doctor with cool creds all over his wall but I’m a youth pastor and that means I know how to fake people out simply to survive. I swear I could tell a kid that I stitched my dog’s head to the carpet and have him believing it. But this doctor WITH A PONY TAIL nails me in one sentence. I so hate doctors.

Basically he patted me on my little head and told me to keep doing what I’m doing and someday soon I can go out and play again. I told him that as much as I appreciate the wonder pills he gave me and they really are making me better I do tend to take rather extended naps with little notice. (The drool factor is huge.) He told me the equivalent of “tough noogies” and to keep it up for another month. Maybe if I am really good he will let me have my life back then.

So I have no reason to get up in the morning, a doctor’s permission to sleep all day, and nobody wants to stay up late and play with me at night when I’m finally all slept out. They all have places to be during the day. Well, WOO HOO for them! (You cannot find it anywhere in the bible where it says pouting is not allowed.)

Life is not fair.

To make matters worse I have developed a Milk Duds addiction. Can meth be far behind?

Come to think of it I believe that my life can be summed up in a box of Milk Duds. No, really. Hear me out. I just opened a new box and the sucker was sealed so tightly half of them flew across the room when I finally broke through. That’s like me. I’m wound pretty tightly these days. I was driving down my street this morning when a squirrel ran out in front of me. I almost drove onto some guy’s lawn trying to hit … not miss … HIT this little rat wannabe. I would have had him if the guy’s garbage can hadn’t been out. Anyway, then I get inside the box and … isn’t there supposed to be some kind of wrapper in the box? Nope. They just float around in there for months. Maybe years. They are totally free to roam around as long as they stay in the box. Me too. This tightly wound body of mine gets to sit around a lot, staring at the fire place or watching one of the 200 cable channels I pay for that broadcast absolutely nothing fit for human mental consumption. I roam around the house or even the city with no clue as to where I’m going. That way I am never late. Bouncing around. Just like the Milk Duds. And then inside the box you find all of these brown little turd like things. I swear they look exactly like what Bailey the Killer Beagle leaves in the back yard. And what do I do with them? (The Milk Duds, not the Bailey droppings.) I EAT THEM. By threes. Why threes? I have no idea. Not only am I adrenaline exhausted I’m OCD’d out the wazoo.

So there it is. My life. Reduced to Milk Duds. Why couldn’t it have been Godiva? It least there was a horse to play with. (You have no idea how hard it is to leave the Godiva analogy right there.)

Tomorrow something exciting may happen. Check back. I just have this feeling …

Sunday, January 07, 2007

What If I'm A Bobble Head?

They stand guard over my office. Night and day. Summer, fall, winter, spring. No matter to them. They have a job to do. They are a highly committed team of fearsome warriors. Their presence makes me feel somehow ... safer.

From left to right you can view them.

Wally. He is a pirate. I know, Wally is not a very good pirate name. It is just that he is often undercover and who would suspect a guy named Wally to be carrying a sword? Well, ok. It looks like a beer mug but it's all part of the covert operation thing. Make Wally mad and that mug will turn into a flashing blade. Wally is on my side. He doesn't say much these days. His mouth does not work. He's just a bobble head.

Then there is Norman. Norman does not have a spring loaded neck. He is an old country preacher carved out of wood especially for me by an old friend. Norman (don't call him "Norm." He does not like that.) sports a brimmed hat and a pair of over-alls. With his bible spread open in his left hand and his index finger pointing skyward on his right hand there is not doubt he is preaching the truth in rural America. Still, you will have to just trust his posture and his wardrobe because blocks of wood do not speak either.

Moving on we come to NunZilla. I guess her hame is Sister. I've never called a nun by her first name before even though I have occasionally known what their first name is. Sister NunZilla is angry. With a capital "A." Her head does not bobble either but she has this little key sticking out of her side. If you wind her up and let her go she walks with an angry step and sparks fly out of her mouth. It's all kind of scary. I suspect that is why she is looking at the next guy on the shelf. He tore up her little play house because his name is ...

Martin Luther. Martin is my favorite bobble head. He is clutching the bible that he translated into German, setting fire to what we fondly call "The Reformation." I suspect their is a 95 point thesis in the folds of his robe somewhere. What a guy. What a hero. Martin is my favorite biblical character that is not actually in the bible. I feel certain that if the bible had a "Part 2" there would be a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Martin in there somewhere. My Martin is pretty cool but, alas, he too is quiet. He's been in my collection for years and he has yet to utter a word. He is a bobble head.

John Calvin is just stage left (that's your right) to Martin. As far as I know John never kept much of a garden but he is responsible for more T.U.L.I.P. than any one else I have ever known. Ever heard of Calvinism or Calvinists? He's your guy. Most people do not realize that Calvinism's 5 main points were not original to Calvin. They were a product of "The Synod of Dort." (Don't ask.) I know all of this stuff because many of the people I studied with were Calvinists. He influences my thinking but we don't agree on everything. I like Martin better. Still, Calvin is way up there on my list of silent people. I mean, being a bobble head and all.

The next guy you are going to know. He's a giant of a man. His name is Billy Graham. They say that Billy has preached to more people than any other person in history. I believe that is probably true. But even if it is true, and even though he holds his bible in his hand, in my office he pretty much stands there. Quietly. His little bobble head bounces everytime I kick the wall under my desk.

Last and definately least we come to Alfred E. Neuman. You may remember him from the cover of Mad Magazine. When I was a kid Alfred and his magazine were much cooler than they are now. It was satire at its best. I would spend hours pouring over it's pages seeking the often hidden and multiple meaning behind every sentence. And then there was the tri-fold back cover. Man, those were the days. Alfred may be the least of my collection but he holds a special place in my heart. No, he does not speak either but his pedestal does recite his favorite line. "What? Me worry?"

I have a list of people I am searching for in the wonderful world of bobbleism. I frequently search e-bay to see who is new and available. I google people at random. My current quests involve both Charles Spurgeon and Dwight Moody. I know they are out there somewhere. I can hear them calling my name. I have found Sigmund Freud but out of respect for my mother I did not buy him.

As much as I love my bobble headed friends they all have a fatal flaw. They are silent. Not a peep slips from their cold plastic lips. Sometimes, especially late at night when the house is quiet, I sit and stare at them and I wonder ... what would they say if they could talk? Of course, I will never know. These are the mass produced versions of the real deal.

Which leads me to my next point of pondering.

What if I am a bobble head? What if I am nothing more than a spring loaded pile of hardened plastic, painted into blue jeans and a sweat shirt? What if God does not have anything more for me to say? What if I am all talked out? What if I am on the shelf? What if there is a fire breathing nun, or far worse, a spark spitting WMU'er sneaking up behind me? What if I have carried out my last assignment? What if ...

What if I lay off the late night slice of pepperoni and onion and maybe got a little more sleep instead...