Friday, June 22, 2007

He was born in a small log cabin in ... Korea?

Today I honored a dead guy. He died long before I was born. He started off slowly. You know the drill. A little log cabin in Kentucky. Seriously. He grew up and decided to run for public office and he lost. He married a lady a full foot shorter than he was. Then he ran for office again and this time he won. He went from being a nobody to being the President of the United States in a very short time.

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum are in Springfield. That is only about 75 miles away. The weather was nice today so I dropped Emma's top (get your mind out of the gutter. Emma is my emerald green Mustang.) and Debbie and I drove up to see what it was all about.

Abe was a pretty cool guy. I mean, for being really ugly. And really tall. And wearing funny looking hats. Sometimes things went his way. Like having 3 kids. Sometimes things did not go his way. Like having 2 of them die. Good things like getting elected president. Crummy things like having to lead in the fighting of a war. A homegrown war at that. Rewarding things like winning the war. Awful things like getting murdered just a week after the war ended. Post-humus good things like having a most excellent funeral that spanned half of the continent by way of train. Post-funeral ugly things like having hoodlums try to steal your body.

All in all it was a very interesting day. It ended sitting across a table from a beautiful woman while eating steak and all of the trimmings. Then we wound our way home on the old two-lanes rather than the interstate.

The best part of the day was the person I shared it with. We played mind games all day. You know what I mean. All of the way home we took turns asking each other questions that HAD to be answered honestly. It started silly and ended seriously. After 29.5 years of marriage we learned some things about each other that we did not know.

I wore two rings today. One was my wedding ring. It is actually my second wedding ring. (Don't worry. I've only had one marriage. I just had to have my first ring cut off after I let it get trapped behind a knuckle practicing for mid-life arthritis.) The other ring is on my right "pinky" finger. That is the only place it will fit. It is my father's wedding ring. I wore it today along with his WWII "dog tags." The last time I spoke to my dad was 7 years ago today. After our final conversation he lapsed into a semi-coma and semi-incoherent state. He never recovered from either and the next day cancer took him away from me. I still miss him more than I can say. He never ran for public office but he was born in what probably amounted to a log cabin. Only it was in Arkansas and not Kentucky. He was not a wartime president. He was a wartime soldier. He spent the better part of 4 years behind the steering wheel and the 50 caliber Browning machine gun of a "half track." I suppose dad caused some real carnage in North Africa and Europe. I think he understood what was at stake just like Lincoln did and so I doubt that he regretted that carnage for a minute. After he got home he landed a job on an oilrig in Ventura, California. Then he sent for and married the cutest girl that he knew. She took the train out from "The Land of Opportunity" and married him in the home of a Baptist minister.

Parts of me are glad that dad did not live long enough to see things like the terrorist attacks of 9-11. He might actually have cheered for a Republican president to go kick butt. And dad had never, NEVER cheered for a Republican before. I am glad he didn't have to watch the son's of our country go of to war one more time. But he would have stood behind every one of them. Actually, knowing how angry he would have been after the events of that day he just might have tried to enlist in the army himself. God help the recruiter that turned him down. I do wish dad had lasted long enough to see my daughter take a husband, meet my first granddaughter, see all 3 of my kids go into ministry positions and the White Sox win the World Series. Dad did love the Cubs but he would only go to Sox Park. I can't think of that place without thinking of him.

So I honor heroes today. Men bigger and better than I will ever hope to become. I am grateful for them and those like them. You know, it just occurred to me that if dad and Abe had ever met they would have probably gotten along famously. One fought to free the slaves and one worked like a slave.

Only one thing went wrong today. While purchasing the tickets for the Lincoln Museum the lady at the desk figured me for the safe middle-aged type. She gave me a card with the time Debbie and I entered the museum on it. She told me that if we would return it to the same desk when we left she would give us a cool laminated Abraham Lincoln bookmark. Hey ... free bookmark. Who am I to look a gift president in the mouth? At the end of our visit I dutifully turned in my card. They made a note of our time of departure (they were trying to figure out the average length of stay by their visitors) and handed me my freebee. Pretty cool. I'm ahead a whole bookmarker for the day and it's only 3PM. Then I read the bookmark. Under the picture of Abe and the facts and statistics of his life I read in reduced lettering "Made In Korea." I have absolutely nothing against Korea but come on. This is Abraham Lincoln, for cryin out loud. Is nothing sacred?

Oh wait. I forgot about yesterday's blog. No ... no, nothing is sacred. Not anymore. Not even Abe memorabilia.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Do not read this blog.

No, really. I mean it. You need to stop here. Turn back. If you read any further ... this is my disclaimer. You will be sorry. Run away.

Galatians 5: 19 - 21 ticks me off. I mean it really makes me angry. And that is the problem. The more I read it the angrier I get and thus the guiltier I am. And because you are too lazy to look it up yourself here is what it says. "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, FITS OF ANGER, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these." (Capitalizations are mine.)

There are a lot of things listed there that can cause a man problems but right now I've identified the enemy and his name is anger. You know what is making me angry? No? Me neither. Well, that is not entirely true. I can identify a few things. But here is the biggie.

Why are you still here? I've warned you twice now! It does not get any better if you keep reading!

I am tired of being nice.

Isn't that stupid? Isn't that un-Christ-like? Isn't that sad? Sure it is. But that does not keep it from being true. GUILTY AS CHARGED, YOUR HONOR. I have spent a lot of years trying to help people. Sometimes I have been successful. Sometimes ... not so much. But even when I've failed I seldom got angry. I have been an expert at shrugging my shoulders and telling myself that the world already has one Savior and I am not Him. It also occurs to me that Jesus did not die to make us "nice." He died to make us "His." (Thanks for reminding me of that, Steve.)

I have been sitting around watching the world spin lately. Every time I think I have figured out what God wants me to do I quickly discover that I am wrong. I do not like being wrong about important things. And it is not like God is mad at me. He is so very patient. He will tell me what to do and when to do it ... in His time. He seldom (never) consults my schedule. He is large and in charge. I am very glad about that. You do not want me to be in charge. Trust me on this. That would be bad for all of us. Not even I want me in charge.

You are not too smart, are you. I would have left by now.

I have two "Sweet Gum Trees" in my front yard. You may know what that means. They produce these miserable little balls that are about one inch in diameter and prickly and horrible to step on with bare feet. I have owned this house and those trees for fourteen years. For the first thirteen years I loved the trees yet hated the gumballs. I tried and tried and tried and yet not once did I manage to rid my yard of these mini-monsters. And then last July 19th we had The Mother Of All Storms pass through our neighborhood. The winds exceeded ninety miles per hour. Tree branches were everywhere. I took down what I could and let a professional do the rest. I had damage to every tree I own, damage to my house, damage to my roof, and survived without power for about a week. Fun times. My beautiful Sweet Gum Trees were cut back to stubs. Very, very tall stubs. I was quite certain they were dead. And then two more winter storms seemed to seal my diagnosis. Then spring came and the suckers started blooming. Now I have two extremely tall and yet stubby trees with "limb wannabees" protruding out in all directions. But you know what I don't have? Gum balls. Not one. They will probably return when the trees have had a few years to heal but for now I can walk barefoot in my front yard without fear.

I have named those trees. The slightly shorter one is on the south side of my yard and it is named after my wife. The taller one is on the north side and is named after her husband. You see, the trees got the stuffing kicked out of them. They paid a nasty price and they stopped producing their fruit. But give them time. My bet is that it will be back.

My wife feels like those trees. So does her husband. No details. Not needed. The things that are making the two of them angry and fruitless are pretty much legion. Sometimes it seems like one squall line after another after another. A woman and her husband can start to feel a little haggard and wind blown after a bit. We have not produced much in the way of "fruit" for quiet a while. But we will. Just like the trees, we will be back.

Ok, I give up. Read on ...

Do you think trees get mad? I doubt it. That is where my analogy breaks down. The trees took the shot and just went on about the business of healing. They do not know what it is like to feel as though you have a hand grenade going off in your chest constantly. I tried to complete a writing assignment today and I could not do it. The assignment requires that I write nice things and I was not feeling nice. There is this guy who writes books. He's been on the New York Times "Best Seller's List" more than once. He read one of my blogs and left me a note asking me to consider writing a contribution for his next book. That's a pretty cool thing to be asked. But today was not the day. The hand grenades were too loud and too violent. I was only successful at pacing and doing mindless busy work. And so I climbed on Ron-duh the motorcycle and pointed her out of town. Together we burned a full tank of gas ... and she gets really good gas mileage. I'm talking serious miles here down old route 66. I needed the wind because when you are doing seventy and there is no windshield in front of you it feels very violent against your chest. I enjoyed that. A lot. The harder the wind pushed against me the more I felt the tension break inside.

You probably will not like this quote but it has been credited to a famous former pastor of the very large First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. He said, "Sometimes I want to go out and sit on the back steps of the church, light up a stinky cigar and say 'damn.'" I never met that guy. He's dead now and so I won't get to. That's a shame really. I think we would have gotten along.

I warned you not to read this blog. But you just wouldn't listen. Next time maybe you will believe me.

111 And Counting

The worlds oldest man apologized for living so long today. Checking in a 111 years old he is from Japan and his name is Tomoji Tanabe. He believes that the secret to his longevity resides in his diet. No booze. No fried foods. Lot's of healthy stuff.

Would you rather live to 111 and only eat fish or die at 80 with a Twinkie in your mouth? Why do you figure that God did not do us a favor and make Twinkie flavored fish? It would have solved the whole problem.

Personally, I do not care to live to see 111. I certainly do not want a name that would take most people 111 years simply to pronounce.

Tomoji was only 60 when I was born. If he had warned me about life on the outside I might have just stayed in the womb. True, there was no cable or wireless internet. But there all I had to do was sleep and eat.

Come to think of it ... not all that much has changed ...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Open Letter To My Kids...

I wrote my three kids tonight. They are scattered all over the country right now. So I e-mailed them some father's day thoughts. I hope they don't mind, and I really don't know why I'm doing it, but I decided to make it an "open letter." That means I am sharing it with you ... the world. It's just that I'm so proud of them that I want everybody to know what amazing people they are.

So forgive me kids, if this should have been kept private. But I'm shouting it from the roof tops (blog tops...)

Dear Kids,

Ok, you are not really kids anymore. But compared to me ... you are kids. So I reserve the right to call you that. :)

I just wanted to thank you guys for making me probably the happiest dad on the planet. You all know it's been a crazy couple of years around our house. Usually not in a good way. But when it comes to my kids my heart is full of thanksgiving and praise. God somehow intervened in our little family and did the extraordinary.

Kelli, you are an excellent mother, wife, and "minister" to those who leave children in your care at church. You constantly amaze me. I often find myself watching you when every one else is watching Elle. Your maturity and wisdom stretch far beyond the norm. On top of all of that you always have time to love on your dad when he needs it. Being at your home today was pure joy ... not to mention fun. Thank you for being the daughter I would have designed had God asked me for blue prints! Sometimes I find us in the midst of a conversation and I suddenly realize that you are far wiser than anything you could possibly have learned from me. How did that happen? Only God.

Scott, when I look at you I often feel joy and sadness at the same time. The joy is because of the man you are, the way you are spending your life, the bride you are about to take, and because for some strange reason you still like just hanging out with me. That's pretty unusual and I am very honored. The sadness is simply because the guy that used to sleep 30 feet away now sleeps 300 miles away. But this is as it should be. I deeply believe it is God ordained. I miss you every day but I also know that all I have to do is hit #4 on speed dial and you are right there. (I'm sure I over use it but you never get mad at me for it.) Thank you for "getting it" when it comes to the exceptional circumstances of the last few years and for walking through so much of it with me. And I have to tell you, I simply cannot WAIT for our "Great Baseball Extravaganza" the week before your wedding! I feel like we should be taking our ball gloves and playing catch in the hotel parking lot. (Why not?!)

Chris, just hearing your voice on the phone from Centrifuge causes me to feel this amazing glow deep inside. I can remember watching you last year as you totally DOMINATED mega-relay. You are living out one of my dreams ... being a 'Fuge staffer. I have such a deep respect for the way that you teach, encourage and love those kids. I know that it is not easy when you are tired of everything from cafeteria food to the heat to an over dose of teen weirdness. I know that God has huge plans for you. You and I share something else in common. I hated school just as much as you do. But just as I got through it, you will to. You have to because God is calling you to something and He needs you to be educated in order to do it. I'm behind you, praying, caring and looking for ways to help you kick academic butt. By the way, I find myself sitting in your room sometimes missing the "COME ON!" that we've heard so many times. We are keeping your place ready for your return.

Ok, well that's all I wanted to say. Except for one thing. I love you guys more than I love life. More than I love my next breath. My life did not really begin until the three of you came along.

I am praying for you tonight and every night.