Saturday, July 14, 2007


I miss him. He occupies the southeast corner of our home and a ton of his stuff is still in there. I go in and walk around every now and then. It is really odd but ... I feel him there. He's got this huge queen sized water bed, a desk, and a dresser covered with things that are his. His poster's are on the wall. (Not to mention a picture that used to belong to his grandfather. You have to see it and know the family story to understand. But it was a major coup for Topher to score it.) Actually, to walk into the room is to pretty much know that it is owned and operated by an early twenty-something young man. It's just got the feel.

Christopher is simply called "Topher" these days. It's a name he grabbed at Centrifuge (the summer camp for teens he works at... some guys drink their summer away... Topher teaches teens about the amazing love of God for eight weeks at camp) last year and it's stuck. Some simply call him "Toph." But whatever you call him he is my son and I miss him. He passed through here a week ago after an absence of thirty-nine days. (Yes, I count them.) Now he's been gone for six days and will be back in seventeen. When you are a dad you know these things. I didn't get to spend enough time with him when he was here. I was gone for part of the week with Scott on our previously blogged "Great Baseball Extravaganza." The only bad thing about that trip was that it kept me from being here when Topher got back. And then he had friends to see and a very, very special young lady to hang-out with. So we kind of crossed paths a few times, I got a few of those manly hugs in, and then he was back on the road again. I feel like I kind of missed him. And now I do. Miss him.

There are a lot of amazing things about Topher but my favorite one is that he is what he is. There is not an ounce of pretense in him. He is an extremely good looking young man ... that consistently wears one of the oddest hats that I've seen. I mean, it's not got horns or pig tails or anything. It's just this knit hat with a baseball style bill on it. But it's knit. And it's summer. And he's been wearing it for well over a year (though I think he takes it off to sleep.) And you know what? I LIKE IT ON HIM.
I heard the funniest story about that hat tonight. There were about ten of us eating fast food Mexican style and looking at pictures from Scott and Amanda's wedding. Topher came out looking great. I mean like ... really good. Like he cleaned-up in an amazing way. And then somebody mentioned that he had worn the hat all day ... the day of his brothers wedding ... and pulled it off when it was tux time, ran his fingers through his hair and said, "Well, I guess it will have to do." And in the pictures he looks like he spent fifty bucks for a haircut!

That's the way it is with Topher. He is real. And I love that. I do not think he reads my blogs and that's ok. But if he did he would learn something. I hope he already knows it. He is one of my favorite people walking the planet. I love him. He is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.

And I miss him.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Stupid Pictures Chronicles #1

I noticed that I have accidently compiled a collection of stupid pictures that I have taken over recent years. I have been wasting them by allowing them to remain hidden from the world. Well, no longer. For tonight we begin a new bi-occasional series ... "THE STUPID PICTURE CHRONICLES!"

And now our first entry ...

Tonight's entry is a photo of probably the dumbest sign I have ever seen. I took it in a parking garage at Pike Place Market in Seattle. I rate it at "5 flashes" on my own personal "flash-O-Meter." (Out of a 1 - not so dumb to 5 - totally stupid - scale.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Waiting For Mornings Light

When I was a very small child the dark nights sometimes scared me. One of my most vivid memories of early childhood years in Detroit was lying in bed wide-awake, having been roused from the innocent sleep of a child in the middle of the night. The shadow's cast by the moonlight did not bother me. I was comforted if there was a light on down the hall indicating the presence of my parents. No, I was only afraid on the very dark nights when all I could see was darkness compounded by silence. Had my parents left? Were they asleep in their bed or was I alone in the house? There was only one way to know for sure. I clearly remember calling out into the void for my mother ... hoping to hear her comforting voice calling from the far side of my fear. I have no memory of a night when she did not respond. There was no need for her to come to my room. The simple sound of her voice was enough. She would assure me that all was well, that she and my father were there. This alone was enough to relax a little body and allow it to drift back into the dreams of baseballs soaring over walls and footballs being thrown downfield.

I have not changed all that much.

Live long enough and you will learn that a walk with God produces seasons of great conversation with The Holy Spirit as well as times of dreadful silence. As a child the darkness of night deepened the silence. I have found the reverse to be true in my relationship to my Heavenly Father. It is the silence of His Voice that deepens the darkness of an evil world.

I spoke to God about that today. I was driving through the suburbs of Chicago delivering a load of "life stuff" to my son and daughter-in-law. They are still off honeymooning and so I had to make a brief stop at Willow Creek to get a key to his condo from a friend. As I drove I complained. I told God that I was tired of His silence. I admitted that I had wanted to tell Him that for a long time but I was hiding the truth behind pseudo respect and trust.

Always tell God the truth. Always. He already knows. Why waste time pretending that He does not? If it is true that demon's die in the light ... and it is ... then go ahead and shed light on the ugly truth and let God kill it off. That lesson learned has not come as easily as it might sound when reduced to five sentences. Spiritual warfare is brutal.

So I was finally getting up the courage to tell God the truth. I am mad at Him. This is a unique and awkward time in my life and I would really appreciate it if He would pay closer attention and maybe throw a "bone" of advice my way every now and then. That may be a flippant way to speak to the great "I Am" but it is pretty much how the conversation went. I dumped on Him for the better part of an hour before arriving at Willow.

My heart hurts. I want to serve. I want to obey God. I want the trenches that I spill blood in to matter. I want to win more people to Christ and baptize more people into the family. That is what my life is about. In the last months I have turned down the opportunity to serve at four churches. I did not find God calling me to any of them. It has been a long decade so far and have needed the rest but it seems that (get this...) "rest" is making me "restless." Go figure. As I entered the church the first thing I saw was a booth set up for "Pastoral Care and Counseling." It was empty. "Why are places like this always empty when I need them not to be, God?" No answer.

I found my friend and got the key. Next I made my way upstairs to "Seeds Bookstore." I quickly came across a book about spiritual and emotional healing. $14.99 will buy you the formula. I was about to put it back when a sales person asked me if I was ready to check out. I had only been in the store for less than five minutes. Still, I really needed to get to Scott's and with a little effort I just might beat the worst of rush hour. I bought it and complained to God as I did. If He would just speak I would not need a book.

I turned the corner to walk through a reading area filled with shelves of books, tables and cushy chairs. As I did I breathed a prayer of desperation. "God, I really need to dump this stuff and if you want me to talk to somebody you are going to have to put them in front of me because I just cannot see them." I walked across the mini-library. A person sat on the far end with an open laptop and notebooks. I did not pay much attention. The person looked up as I rounded that corner uttering that prayer in my ice cold heart. Oddly, I had turned down the offer of a bag to put my book in and I carried it in my right hand. That is the hand on the side about to pass by the person ahead of me. As I neared the table the person looked up again.

"A new book?" The stranger spoke.

I lifted it up showing the cover. We began a conversation about books on spiritual and emotional healing. The person began to tell the story of the past years. It seems that my new friend had left Willow Creek not too long ago at the direction of God to serve in a church in Nashville. In this one person I was talking to the former head of greeters at Willow Creek, an author, a public speaker, a parent, a person suffering from a destroyed marriage, a two-time cancer survivor and the product of a horribly dysfunctional family. I stood and listened as the story poured out. After half an hour or so I took a seat on a nearby sofa, realizing that something unique was happening here. I was not relaxed. I was not all together comfortable. Yet I sensed a holiness on the horizon.

I do not remember the conversation word for word but my new friend asked me how I had been wounded. I told my story. It hurt to speak it. It felt wonderful to speak it. I felt weak. I felt energized. I know, I know, it makes no sense. I am just telling you what happened to me today. I wanted to cry. I could not. I never do.

I really do not know but I think we talked for nearly two hours. This person read me as though I was a children's book. I would present a dilemma and would receive an immediate smile and help in knowing how to handle the issues. Please understand that I have spent hundreds of dollars in the last years seeking the wisdom of Christian Counselors. They have all been great. They have all helped. But this person told me more than what was right or wrong. This person told me how to change.

After a long while an old friend of my conversation partner came and they greeted each other with hugs and back pats. My friend had come to Willow today to meet with another person, a friend who had gotten sick and had not been able to make their meeting. That is why the laptop and notebooks were open. Time was being killed until another meeting later in the evening.

I interrupted long enough to say, "Thank you so very, very much." Then the strangest thing happened. My friend said, "when I saw you come around the corner from the bookstore God told me to speak to you. I went back to my work and when you came near God told me again to speak to you. When I saw the book you were going to read, (the one I had just refused the bag for,) I just had to obey. I know about hurting, anger, and healing." I then told of how I had rounded that same corner asking God to please put someone in front of me if He wants me to talk. I don't cry. I didn't cry. But my eyes got very moist and my voice cracked as I told my side of the experience. My friend did cry.

The same corner. The same moment. The same God.

For a couple of hours today I was a child again. I called out into a dark night in hopes of hearing a parent’s voice. And my Father answered. I still have questions. I am still in the middle of a battle that I thought would be over long ago. But tonight I have what I needed the most. Father is home. He loves me. He remembers me. He is here ... no matter where "here" is.

And that will be enough until morning’s light.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Isaiah Knew The Truth

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41: 10

I like it when God makes me promises. Because He never breaks them. He never calls a "time out" or a rain delay. If God says it is so then write it in ink. Chisel it in stone. It is going to happen. I wish I were that dependable. That faithful. I fear that I am a bit more wishy-washy than that.

Shaddup. So are you.

God says, "Fear not, for I am with you..." I cannot think of a better reason than that to drop my fear right where I stand. Who's the biggest guy on the universal block? I'm thinking that is my God. So let the sweat stop here.

God says, "... be not dismayed, for I am your God..." Say what? You ever had a bully pick on you? I have. The guy two doors down from me when I was a kid thought he was a one man gang. Eventually you either fought him or he owned you. I fought him. I left with a bloody nose but he never bothered me again. It would have been MUCH better had a bigger guy stuck up for me. When you are the little guy in a fight you get creative and you scrap like a tiger or you get creamed. I don't like getting creamed. But if I had a bigger friend than the bully, well, he never would have picked on me. God says I have a bigger friend than the bully. He is my God and He gives me permission to not be dismayed. In other words, no distress. And you know what I say to that? SWEET! No more bullies.

God says, ..."I will strengthen you, I will help you ..." So not only will God protect me but He will become my personal trainer. The closest thing I have ever had to a personal trainer was a sadistic gym coach in high school. God is not sadistic. He knows how to give us strength that will take us home safely. I like the thought of that.

God says, "...I will uphold you with My rightous right hand." Friend, you don't have to fall over any more. When God says He will hold you up He means all the way up. He means that if you take His training advice you will not fall to the bully anymore.

Lot's of bullys in the hood. My hood. Your hood. You want to bow to them, you go right ahead. As for me, I am with Isaiah. I'm holding His Hand.

Ron ... OUT!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Burning Bridges ...

What good is a 6th of July wedding without walking through an arch of sparklers on a stone bridge as you leave for your honeymoon?