Saturday, November 03, 2007

Disjointed bits of vitally important reality

Cleveland. Hmmm. Eastern time zone. The end of "daylight savings time." Tomorrow I begin as Sr. Pastor of a new church and I have no idea what time to get up ... much less show up.

Today I secured my spot on my trailer park. I think it is named "Twin Wells Mobile Homes" or something like that. It's pretty nice. Well, it's decent. OK, I don't think anybody has been murdered there in a few weeks. It is in Lorain, Ohio. "Lorain" sounds like a sad drinking song that Willie Nelson would sing. Or maybe a "free love" song by Eric Clapton. I'm going to be living on twin 30lb propane tanks during a Cleveland winter. This may not be one of my brighter ideas.

I am 516.84 miles from Elle Parker McGill (my perfect granddaughter.) I am maybe 30 miles from Canada if you do not mind going by way of water. I am 238.2 miles from Niagra Falls, 484.64 miles from Carnegie Hall (with or without practice,) 395.09 miles from George Bush's bedroom and 155.29 miles from Pittsburgh. Why is my favorite place also my farthest place?

As I was driving in to my hotel parking lot tonight a man walked out of the door and he was a horse from the waist down. I suspect it was a costume but I have no proof. I didn't know they accept pets here. He waved at me. I yelled "giddup."

People here seem to be proud of the fact that their river caught fire back in the 1970's. I think we should stop bringing it up and laughing. It just encourages them.

Tomorrow will be exciting because it will be my first day pastoring the people of this church. Monday will be interesting because it will be my first day in the office and we have staff meeting.. Tuesday will be sad because Debbie flies home. Wednesday will be fun because I am meeting an old friend (who happens to be in town) for lunch. Thursday will be spent in anticipation of finding a laundromat on Friday. Saturday ... that day might be a problem.

Birds have nests, foxes have holes, and the Sr. Pastor must now find a place to lay his head.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Notes from "A Wondering And Very Distracted Man Of God"

In brief ...

I showed up in this town on a Saturday evening 24 years ago. Some new friends unloaded my truck, dumped my belongings in the living room of a roach infested apartment and left to go play volleyball. My confused bride and I did our best to get our kids into makeshift beds and then get up and arrive at church on time the next morning. We pulled it off.

Since then we have loved on thousands of teenagers. About 20 of them are in ministry themselves tonight. I got to baptize hundreds of kids after leading them to faith in Jesus Christ. We raised 3 incredible kids of our own that I would not trade for any I have ever met. Tonight they teasingly gave me a "living funeral." It began as a joke by "Bella," my youngest son's precious girl friend and, hopefully, my final daughter-in-law someday, and morphed into a fun evening of pizza and puns at Bellacino's and Kelli's house. I held my amazing granddaughter and quietly gave thanks as I spent time staring at each and every person in the room, giving thanks for all they are in my life. My family helped me "count down" the moments to "a new day" in life and ministry. Bella read a two page long letter that left me with tears in my eyes and no words in my mouth. (Thank you, my dear Laura.) Did I mention that Scott caught a train from Chicago and took the time to come and enjoy this last evening in Bethalto with me? Tonight I sat up with he and Christopher until after 1AM watching TV and laughing. Joe, Jim and Alisha rounded out the perfect evening. Debbie and i are overwhelmed by the love of our immediate family. We miss our Amanda who could not get away from work but we know her love for us runs deep and we can't wait to see her at Thanksgiving.

And so it is over. There is a "For Sale" sign in my front yard. I will end this part of my life on a Friday. Tomorrow at this time my former home town will be far away in my rear view mirror. My future hometown will still be half a days drive from my windshield. There are no roaches in our home anymore. No babies. Everyting has a place and fits well in it.

To think that after tonight ... TONIGHT ... I will never again have one of my own kids as a permanent resident in the house I am living in just boggles my mind. I got up about 3AM last night and just walked through the house with no lights on. Obviously everybody was asleep. I walked the entire house (which isn't THAT big!) without a light and without having to do anything to orient myself. 14 years in one place will do that to you. In my mind there were birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, Thanksgiving dinners, quiet evening around a pizza ... going on in every room. Ghost memories. Then I walked to Christopher's door and put my hand on it and prayed for his wisdom, safety, protection from evil ... you know ... all of the things that we pray about for our kids. I prayed over Debbie.

Why does life have to be such a jumbled pile of good and bad. Fun and painful? Full and empty?

Well. Because God says so. And the end of the day ... that's all we've got. Because God says so. I've been "clocked in" on this planet for 52 years and I know that "because God says so" is enough. It's just that it does not remove the hurt. It only promises the pleasure. And the greater the obedience and faithfulness in the midst of the pain (the war) the greater the pleasure when we see His Face.

I'm typing this while sitting back in my huge-mega-chair in the living room. Cold orange juice by my side. And I know that after I hit "send" my next job is to sleep and then actually finish packing. Like ... clothes. Books. Office stuff. Computer stuff. Pack it and sit it in the middle of the garage floor so that I can throw it in the Explorer and drag it 560 miles and pull it out again. Then I'll go find a laundry mat, a grocery store, a cleaners, a "Hit 'N Run Vanilla Coke" replacement. And if there is enough daylight left I'm going to drive the 1 1/2 blocks to the lake, find a bench that faces water, and watch the sunset. I don't plan on asking God "why." I'm going to do my best to say "thank you." Not sure I can pull that off but it's my plan. Life is a blink. Yesterday my mom was handing me my pajama's and today I'm packing for Cleveland. Tomorrow? Cremate me and do whatever you want with the ashes. Makes no difference to me. I'm going to be Home. HOME. I figure in the game of life I'm about mid-way through the 3rd quarter. There are a lot of snaps left to take and a lot of yardage yet to be gained. I'm really, really tired of playing "defense." It's been about 5 years of "the big D" now. Tomorrow I get to go on offense again.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, "Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of hell." After these last years I smell sulfur on myself. That mission a yard from the gates of hell isn't really over ... not really ... until I am out from under the shadow of the building down the street and around the corner. It started at 2:58AM on November 19, 2003. It ends tomorrow around 4PM. Perhaps that was too blunt of a statement. It is the first and only time you will read it here. Forgive me if it offended you. That was not my purpose.

I gave it my all. I left everything I had on the playing field. I rested and healed for one year minus four days. I have neither sorrow nor regret for the decisons I made and the plays I ran. I did my best. "He" knows. "He" surely knows. "He" knows my thoughts and intent.

And as the old season ends and the new one begins ... that is more than enough.

Monday, October 29, 2007

When in Texas ...

Every now and then you just have to go with the flow. I spent three days in Texas and ran right out and bought a pair of boots. What are you going to do? When in Rome ...

It was not just a shopping mall pair of boots. Noooo. It was the Texas Boot Super Store kind of boots. Texas builds boot stores like Missouri builds fireworks stores. I found a nifty little pair (minus the rodeo, yee haw, giddup, stitching) of plain brown, thick leather, rubber soled 11" tall boots. In just a few minutes I am going to put them on and go to Home Depot. I suspect I will command more respect than usual but we will have to wait and see.

When I went in to buy my boots my wife found the exact pair I was looking for. I put them on. Mmmmmm. Nothing feels better than a fine pair of properly fitting leather boots. Well. Maybe a foot rub but that's an entirely different blog. A cowpoke strolled up with a Clint Black hat on and asked if he could help me. I told him that I think he can. I believe my foot needs measuring.

"We don't measure feet."


"It doesn't work."

"How do you know if they fit?"

"How does it feel?"


"It fits."

And just like that I bought my boots. The reason nobody is in a hurry in Texas is because they have not figured out that time is a finite thing. They think it goes on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. And I don't mean that in a heaven way. I mean that in a Texas way. And, regardless of what you may have heard, Texas is NOT heaven. (Calm down, Larry. It isn't.)

I got to the counter and produced my debit card. He told me that if I will be moving to Cleveland I need to buy "this" bottle. It will condition your leather, keep it from drying out, and make them whistle "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" everytime you put them on. I was about to politely decline when the delightful young woman in the cowgirl skirt and red bandana told me that she just LOVES that stuff. I asked her what leather items she put it on.

"My saddles."

"I'll take two bottles."

(Insert sucker punch from my favorite wife here.)

Well, Clint sold me my boots but neglected to remove the security tag. And it didn't set off any alarms when I left the building. This makes sense to me. This is why we are so worried about the Texas/Mexican border. If they can't protect their boot stores how in the world are they going to protect their desert border crossing? Forgive me, but I have this mental image of thousands of illegal aliens darting across the border wearing those plastic security tags and not a soul bothers to slow them down. It's probably just me.

So yesterday I had to go back to the boot store for the removal of my silent, non-exploding security tag. (Perhaps it was intended to irritate my leg so badly I would die of infection. Ahhhhh. That's it! Those sneaky Texans! Who would have guessed?!) Another cow poke mosied (mosyed?) up to help me. He roped me, pinned me to the floor, and removed the tag. I rather enjoyed it. And then I asked him to show me, please sir, the most expensive boot in the store. He produced a crocodile skin boot that cost a couple of thousand dollars. It was creepy. He told me he could order me a $6,700 boot (that is a SIX THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLAR BOOT FOR YOU MIDWESTERNERS) which is made from the skin of three seperate crocodiles that come from the Nile.

"Ahhh. Egyptian cowboy boots," I declared in my ignorance.

"No. They come from the Nile."

"Uh. Isn't the Nile in Egypt?"

"No. It's a river somewhere."

God bless Texas.

Here we are soaking our feet in our friends not-yet-finished-pool behind their not-yet-finished-house. (Hi Dave! Hi Lynda!)