Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon Us

So here we sits in lovely Dallas, Texas. Actually, Arlington. Well, more specifically, Mansfield, Texas. Whatever. We are in Texas. The best I can tell it all looks alike. Flat. Scrubby. Lots of boots. Pick-em-up trucks with cow crud dripping down the side. You know the place.

It's been a week since I've done a wedding and so I thought I'd fly on down to Dallas and do one for the son of an old friend. The wedding is on a golf course. Last weeks was at a park. The park was fine but the golf course has already gotten me into trouble. It was the rehearsal. "Talk through it and walk through it" time. I got to the point where I asked, "Who gives this man to be married to this woman?" The bride interrupted. "Why do they always give away the bride? Why don't they ever give away the groom?" (Shaddup, Betsy.) Ok. My job is to marry them and, as much as possible, cooperate. "Fine. We'll give away the groom." The next nano-second played out in my mind in a way that leaves it re-traceable for the rest of my life. I remember thinking, "Stay within the theme of the wedding. Golf. Use a golf metaphor." For some reason that brought to mind a driving range which led me to a bucket of golf balls. Perfect. And then it was coming out of my mouth. "Who gives this bucket of balls to be married to this woman?"



The air was sucked out of the place.

This is an outdoor wedding. I turned away from the wedding party to face the first tee. I hung over the railing (we were on a balcony) and totally lost it. I was vaguely aware of the uproar going on behind me but there was nothing I could do about it. The words were out. I was just trying to find oxygen. Trying to get the tears out of my eyes. If you know the groom you know that this ill chosen phrase is PERFECT for him. And I mean that with all of the love in the world. Adam is a great guy. He just deserves this kind of slam.

About five minutes later we had all composed ourselves and the rehearsal continued. And now I have to go do the real wedding. And I know what might well happen. I am going to get to that point ... the place that blew up on me last night ... and I MUST GET IT RIGHT. NO laughing! NO tears! Certainly NO repeat! So much for protecting the solemn occasion from verbal terrorism.

On top of that, one week from right about now I will become a resident of Sheffield Lake, Ohio. You think that is not on my mind? Was Neal Armstrong thinking about the consistency of lunar dust when he took that first step onto the moon? You betcha. Were Wilbur and Orville considering the potential reality of "lift" when they cranked that first airplane down the beach in North Carolina? Darn right. To say that next weekend is on my mind about every other second is like saying "Hey, water is wet." It is a given.

Ohio? Get the pork rinds ready. Here comes the RV.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Tree of Blood ... A Great Christmas Tradition

Christmas. A time of white snow and green trees. Tasty cookies and parties with yummy snacks.

Unless you shop at Ace Hardware. That, my friend, is where you will be accosted by ... THE TREE OF BLOOD! ($519.00 ... get 'em while they last..)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Putting the "Hustle" back into Hustler

Flying to Dallas on Friday. Staying through Sunday. Doing a wedding. Nothing unusual about any of that. One of my "old" teenagers is marrying his heart throb. Still, quite common and ordinary ... which, in the case of a wedding, means extremely special and unique. Did that make sense? It only applies to weddings.

I talked to his bride to be tonight. Her name is Betsey and she is marrying Adam. They are an amazing couple. They look like this ...

There is a twist to nearly every wedding. This one does not just twist. It goes into a convoluted state that boggles the mind.

It seems that the brides mother hired a photographer. This is going to be a rather casual affair, held at a country club and attended by a mere 50 guests. The photographer should have it easy. I mean for a man of his great experience. It seems that he use to work for a magazine. Taking pictures. Lots of them. Some of them got "air brushed" and published with a staple in the middle. The bride did not know. Momma only told her that the photog was a pro. Worked for a long published and high volumn magazine. You have probably heard of it.

It is called ... "Hustler." Betsey's wedding pictures are going to be taken by a porn photographer.

This brings up a whole set of questions. Will he bring his portfolio with him? Will the wedding pictures be shot in soft lighting with nothing left to the imagination? I made the bride a promise. I told her that I would be standing right next to him when he began taking his photo's. I have watched hundreds of wedding photographers ply their trade over the years and I am quite familiar with the standard poses. If he suggests something that seems unreasonable ... I'm taking him out.

Correct me if I am wrong but Jesus turning the water into wine is not the first century equivilent to a photographer turning a bride into a porn star. I'll turn over his table and chase him out of the "temple" so fast his camera won't have time to flash.

And i'll do my best to confiscate his portfolio in the ensuing chaos. Hey. Don't say I didn't do my best to uphold the honor and integrity of the moment.

Thank me later...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

They Tell Me "Cleveland Rocks"

They tell me Cleveland rocks but I really wouldn't know. I've only seen the tops of a few sky scrapers from the windows of a jet plane on a late night flight. They tell me there is a museum where they chronicle the history of "rock 'n roll music." I understand that their beloved Indians blew a trip to the World Series tonight as they caved in to the Boston Red Sox. They have a football team named simply "The Browns." What does that mean? What is brown? They have a basketball team named "The Cavaliers." I checked and a "cavalier" is a "gentleman trained in horsemanship and war." Or simply "a soldier." Perhaps they play basketball on horses in Cleveland. I do not know. They do not have a hockey team and so I am automatically suspicious. Cleveland is situated on the shores of a big lake named "Erie" which gives me pause. Haunted houses I have heard of but a haunted lake? They have a river named the Cayahoga. It caught fire once back in the 1970's because it was so polluted. Somebody must have put the blaze out because the river is still there. The lake looks pretty clean and is home to many sailboats and yachts. So they tell me. Like I said, I've only seen the tops of some buildings.

But what I have seen is a town named "Sheffield Lake." There is no lake named "Sheffield" in Sheffield Lake. It too is on the Erie beach. This town has lots of homes and precious little industry or retail. They seem to have saved that for communities directly surrounding Sheffield Lake. One thing it does have is a body of Christian believers named "First Baptist Church."

As of today I am their pastor.

I could tell you a little more about this church and this town. But just a little. Actually I do not know any more about either of them than I do about my own thoughts and feelings. I am looking for words. Struggling to comprehend my own emotions. Grasping for a handle on the entire thing. Several friends that I talked to on the phone today said the same thing. "I can't wait to read the blog you write tonight." Actually, I probably would not have written a blog tonight had it not been for their comments. But they unknowingly made a good point. This little blog spot gets about 50 "hits" per day and about 300 "unique hits" per month. Many of those people have been praying about this with and for me. It is only fair say something. Just so long as you understand that there is a lot of emotional and mental fog between me and the keyboard tonight. I reserve the right to take any of it back at any time.

Here is what I am thinking ...

-How very gracious of God to allow me to live in one town for 24 years and completely raise my children here. I know many youth pastors and none of them can make the same claim. And it wasn't me. It was God. I ticked off enough people (and got ticked off myself enough times) to have realistically been gone long ago. I wrote my resignation on more Monday mornings than I care to remember. All but the last one wound up in the shredder. My kids knew stability. They knew consistancy. Most of the time they felt loved by their church. Ok, so it blew up in the last few years. They were big enough to deal with it by then. And they are all directly serving King Jesus so it must not have harmed them too badly.

-I am 14 days away from leaving every human being that I know. I will live alone in my father-in-law's awesome "5th wheel" trailer until our house sells and Debbie joins me. Christopher may come but it is doubtful.

-Every familair landmark in my life is about to become a part of my personal history. From the grocery stores that I frequent to Jessica, the lady that cuts my hair. From the names of the streets to the name of my mayor and friend. Just yesterday I was driving down a street in my community when I noticed a police car driving toward me. I mean driving TOWARD me. Like he was playing "chicken" with me. When he got close he veered off and waved as he went by. I know his name. We've worked together with some problamatic teens. If a policeman drives toward me in Sheffield Lake I will assume he is trying to take me out. The police chief stopped to talk to me at a local quick mart a few days ago. He is my friend. We have walked through dark buildings at 3AM together looking for people that were not supposed to be there. I do not even know if Sheffield Lake has a police chief. They must. But it is just a guess.

-I never really understood "The Arch." And now I am going to have to explain it to people who will wonder about St. Louis. I have to make up a story. It is big and shiny and half missing on foggy days. And no matter what you say ... it is wierd.

-Having been a youth pastor for 32 years I fully plan on doing "youth ministry for big kids" as a Sr. Pastor. They will never know it but that is exactly what I am going to do. Before you tell me it's a dumb idea please remember that Jesus said we had best become like little "children." I'm thinking it is the only way to go. They will never figure it out. They probably expect that a normal guy is moving to town. He is not. I know I am many things but "normal" is not one of them. I am going to teach this church how to pray and obey. They will learn or they will tolerate me or they will fire me. Check back in a year.

-If this sounds harsh I do not intend for it to. Had I resigned 5 years ago and moved away I would have had several hundred people to say "goodbye" too. But I resigned a year ago and spent the bulk of my time healing on emotional, physical, and spiritual levels. And today when the decision was made and the deal was done I only had a handful of phone calls to make. That is not something that gets blamed on anybody. It is just one of the facts which stem from taking a year and laying low. But still, it made me profoundly sad.

-What will I miss the most? People are exempt. The following things come to mind. Forgive me for butchering paragraph form and all of the rules of good grammer. I will miss fighting about the Cubs and Cardinals. (Cleveland is an American League town.) I will miss fighting about the Bears and the Rams. (Cleveland is an AFL town.) I will miss toasted ravoli, Imo's pizza, scores of teenagers, my house, Dierbergs, Becky "Queen of Carpet" commercials. I will miss the central time zone. I will miss the occasional Boeing test pilot trying out the latest F-18 hardware at St. Louis Regional Airport and a case of Fitz's rootbeer.

-I will not miss the refineries 5 miles to my south. I will not miss incredible heat and humidity, totally inaccurate winter snow predictions, oil and chipped roads, all of the closed Wendys restaurants, the mad dash to see who can build the biggest and coolest new facility on Moreland Road, pork steaks, Hartfords flammable dirt, the Mississippi River and her miserable shortage of bridges, the only lake in town being at the cemetary, highway 140's "suicide lane," and walking the hay of homecoming.

All I know for certain is that I am going to the Cleveland suburbs. That is in Ohio, the state that is so friendly it says "hi!" in the middle. There are people there that need Jesus and God told me to go tell 'em. I have not baptized anybody in nearly a year and my prune fingers are not pruney anymore. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. I have asked God for a church, how big or how little is immaterial to me, but a church that wants to fall in love with Jesus. I have prayed for a body of believers that were not going to be afraid to throw away the mold and even beat the heck out of the mold maker. I have asked Him for a group of men and women who are willing to learn AND teach. I believe that He has answered my prayers in the form of FBCSL. I am aware that I have every potential to walk in and screw it all up. But my plan is to hold on so tightly to His coat tails that I cannot possible miss a turn in the path of following The King.

How do I feel tonight? I'll close with some singular words. Maybe that is the most honest way to go.

I feel honored. Humbled. Trusted. Loved. Ready. Rested. Ambitious. Determined. Lonely. Excited. Frightened. Tenative. Prepared.

Of all of those words my favorite is "loved." Loved by my Father. My Abba. And I am ready to love Him back and to love my neighbor as myself. 14 days and counting. Let's do it.