Friday, November 09, 2007

11 Things I learned today ...

-Eddie Bauer rain/wind proof jackets ... really are.
-A thunder storm rolling in off of the Great Lakes at night when you are sitting in a darkened apartment 9 floors up and watching through a double paned sliding glass door is EXTREMELY impressive.
-Wind is loud.
-Watching "Scrubs" on-line is as good as watching it on regular television but singing the theme song by yourself ... not so much.
-Every time I look out my window I feel like I am on a cruise ship.
-Cell phones, e-mail, and video chats are priceless.
-Living alone is boring.
-The attraction of "fast food" is not that it is fast. It is that it is easy.
-Furniture is optional. Family is not.
-Dropping trash down a garbage chute is oddly addictive.
-The eastern time zone is a rip-off.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I can't think of a good title for this post

So here I sits ... propped up in my obscenely luxurious apartment. Reclining on an air mattress (I really must buy an air pump someday soon) and leaning against my not-painted-within-the-last-five-years wall. Don't get me wrong, the view is awe inspiring. Well, it will be if the sun ever shines again. I woke up this morning and peeked out the blinds to realize that I literally could not tell where the lake ended and the sky began. It was as though some fledgling artist had painted my entire window GRAY. Lovely. I'm solar powered and I'm living in a gray world.

After work today I came home and sacked out for a few minutes. OK, maybe a couple of hours. It occurs to me now that perhaps my life has been measured by what program is on television. No, I don't watch it much but if I'm home ... wherever that it ... it's usually on as background noise. And so now I have no way of regimenting my time. This is a pathetic confession. I should be able to do better. Perhaps tomorrow.

After I rose from my slumber I felt a rumble in my tummy, grabbed a jacket and headed out the door to forage for food. I turned left out of the parking lot onto Lake Road and instantly felt compelled to turn around and go to church. Why? Dunno. It was just this clear desire. So I turned around and drove the (exactly) one mile to FBCSL. Lights were on. Uh oh. I'm the pastor. Am I supposed to be somewhere? Am I missing ....A MEETING? I parked and went inside to find thirteen teenagers and one adult in the auditorium practicing a drama. They smiled and waved. I smiled and waved. They don't know me. I don't know them. They asked if they could do a drama for me. So I took a seat and waited. Music began to play through the sound system. Seven kids on the stage began doing motions to a song by "Casting Crowns" called "I'll Praise You In This Storm."


That song has probably had more air time on my ipod in the last year than any other song. And there are a LOT of songs on that little bugger. And then I realized ... one year ago tonight ... no ... one year ago at that very moment ... I was reading my resignation to another youth group. The youth group at FBCB. And now I was the pastor of these kids. These wonderful kids who had no way of knowing what my last year had been like. No way of knowing that they were the hands, feet, and voice of God to me on this evening. What is it with me and youth groups. I made a lousy teenager when I was one. Now that I am an adult (so they tell me) I just can't get them out of my system. I think God programmed me backward.

So you have to admit that is a bit amazing. But then this God that I serve is a bit amazing. This has been a hard week. I am coming to love the people in this new church but I don't really know them. They have washed me in blessings and grace. Still, I must admit an intense feeling of emptiness as I deeply miss my family. I don't doubt that God has called me here. I simply am going through the process of separation. (You have no idea what I would pay right now for a Hit 'N Run "Hum Dinger" with just the right amount of vanilla.) I am away from my family and all of the familiar items that have represented "home" for twenty-four years. And it all has caused me to give some funny looks God's way. There are hundreds of churches within easy reach of my family and He calls me to one 556 miles away. Why? Why would He do that? Because He chooses to. That's good enough for me. But it doesn't take the sting away. By the way, He can handle my funny looks. They probably crack him up.

I spent an hour today back at the hotel where I had been staying before moving into the apartment. They had called my church to tell me I had left a suit in a closet. They had been wearing the coat and pretending to perform exorcisms. No joke. At least that's what they told me. Sounds legit to me. So anyway I stopped in to get it and got into a conversation with the hotel manager, Kitty. (Actually, it's Kathryn but somehow she thinks "Kitty" is a better name. Must be a Cleveland thing.) Kitty grew up in the church, became a nun as a young woman, and then twenty years ago got burned by someone in leadership. And so now she's not in a church at all. She has dabbled in "the mystical" side of life. She has learned the danger of believing in God but not having a "community" of Christ followers to help keep you on the sane side of the line. Religion will make you weird or mean if you don't have checks and balances. I told Kitty that I would define her as "a seeker." She said, "Yes, that is exactly what I am. I am a seeker." The desk began getting busy and I excused myself with a promise to return and continue our discussion.

It's people like Kitty that make me certain that this call is from God. It's moments like tonight with the youth group that bring me encouragement and confidence that God does indeed know what He is doing.

So as an extra added bonus tonight here's a picture of my office as it looked when I left this evening. Lot of things to be moved, hung, shelved and thrown out. The chair is cushy and the desk is big. And the walls? The walls are very, very blue. There is a story there but we'll save it for another day...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Moving. Again.

The view from the balcony on a cloudy, cold, snow flurry filled day...

For 5 days I've been living out of the back of my Explorer. No, I have not been sleeping there. Nothing like that. But when you move you pack your "stuff." You don't pack a suit case. So every night I had been walking down to the parking lot and dragging some clothes for the next day out of a box or a duffle bag. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not fun. Today I moved again. This time into the apartment. I made 6 trips up to the 9th floor carrying "stuff." (4 elevators. No waiting.) Then I went to Debbie's favorite store. Yes, the infamous Dollar General Store. Ugh. But she told me to go there and I miss her so much that I would indeed jump off the roof if she told me to. I've never filled a household from the bottom up before. I pushed my little cart up and down every aisle like a 90 year old woman on social security. i grabbed this. I grabbed that. I spent the Dollar Stores name times 62. When I got back to the apartment I started carrying up the last huge arm load of "stuff." That's when one of the rental agents asked me if I wanted to use the cart.

The cart.

I was on my 7th load ... the 7th time I walked RIGHT BY THEIR GLASS WALLED OFFICE ... and now they want to know if I want to use "the cart."

Yes, please.

I had no idea a studio apartment could take so long to organize. And I'm a "type a" personality but I'm certainly not "ocd." Anyway, it's not done yet. I'm camping out in my living room (I own 2 these days. Want to buy one in Illinois?) on an air mattress. No tv. I do have my trusty ipod and a speaker system. And fortunately one of my neighbors neglected to password their wireless internet. Tsk, tsk. Lucky for them I'm just tired and a bit lonely. Another neighbor might be criminal.

Tomorrow is "day 7" of The Great Cleveland Adventure. It might last 7 months, 7 years, or the rest of my life. Who am I to say? I'm here on orders. Video chatting with my wife and family has kept me sane thus far. But I'm off work on Friday and Saturday and have no idea what to do to kill off those days.

Maybe I'll buy a dog.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Snowing, sloshing, and soon to be sleeping

Snow? Isn't it November 6th? Today was crazy. Debbie flew home. Got there safely and we had a video chat complete with Kelli, Joe, and Elle in attendance with her. Then we added Scott, Amanda, and Matt in Crystal Lake, Il. It was the coolest thing. A family reunion without starting a car.

And then there was the weather. It thunder snowed, rained, hailed, and ... winded. Like a constant 40mph wind with these gusts that made my Explorer shudder. At home storms knock my trees apart. Here? There was this thunder storm with snow in place of rain. But that is not the strange part. I was just watching the weather and Lake Erie sloshed today. That's what the nice weather guy in the PURPLE SUIT said. The wind was just roaring all day long and Lake Erie, being an average of 62 feet deep and maxing out at 210 feet sloshes. I mean, that's deep enough for me. But as the Great Lakes go it's pretty shallow. And so when the wind goes nuts like this it pushed a bunch of the water to the east and it piles up there. I'm freaken serious. They showed a photo of where the lake usually hits the shore in our area and then one of where it was today. It looked to be a 3 or 5 foot difference in a shallower way. When the wind stops ... it will slosh back. They called this "the bath tub effect."

I live by the worlds largest bathtub.

Oh, and we gave up on the trailer. I'm not going to be an RV guy after all. My incredible father-in-law did his dead level best to make it work out but it just kept getting harder and harder. We finally had a talk and agreed that this was just not the way to go. So last night Debbie and I rented a nice studio apartment. Nothing fancy. It's just a little place ON THE 9TH FLOOR OVER LOOKING LAKE ERIE WITH A BALCONY FOR MY STILL-TO-BE-PICKED-OUT-LAWN-CHAIR. The entire north wall is glass. My glass apartment over looks the worlds largest bathtub. I'm telling you I've moved to the land of Oz. I would not be at all surprised tomorrow if a scare crow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion are waiting for me in my office.

At 52 years old I finally have a swinging bachelor's pad. ( No, there isn't any shag carpeting. But the three painted walls are creme colored ... with about a 3 foot wide (tall) horizontal brown stripe mid-way up the wall. Why? I dunno. Some girl lived in it last. The apartment people were going to paint it. I told them I'd rather they just leave it alone and cut my rent. So they took $75 bucks a month off. Deal! I'll find a way to maximize that brown strip. If you have suggestions leave them in the "comments" link below. Right now I'm considering painting grass on top of it. Maybe some earth worms in the middle of it. We'll see. Did I mention the work-out room? The free tanning salon? The great room with a fire place and surrounding windows on the lake? It has a huge laundry mat. You don't put coins in the machines. There is a machine on the wall. You put money in it and it gives you a debit card that you swipe in the washers and driers. I MAY NOT BUY A HOUSE AFTER ALL. Ok, Ok. I could have cut $100 a month off the rent by taking a apartment facing away from the lake and having an outside entrance. Nope. I live alone in Cleveland and if you live in Cleveland you gotta have SOMETHING to look at. My furniture will be easy enough to arrange. Mainly because I don't have any. ANY. A-N-Y. Not one piece. So tomorrow I procure an air mattress and maybe a trash can. Might throw in a toilet brush if the price is right. I'm going to throw my shirts in one corner, my pants in another, underwear by the bathroom (of course) and suits in the closet. Which, by the way, is big enough for a microwave oven if you have a small one. I'll bring some real honest to goodness furniture when I come back from Thanksgiving in B-town.

Yes, I actually have showed up at the church every day this week. but my office is still bare walled and totally disorganized. I've been busy dealing with setting up life. Everybody has been great about allowing me the space and time to accomplish that. What I haven't been doing much of is sleeping. And that starts .... NOW!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thank you...

I need to step aside from regular blogging for a minute to say "THANK YOU" to all of the people who have either left comments or sent emails and text messages over the last week. I can't begin to tell you how much it has meant to me. The Cleveland 'burbs is where I am called by God to be, need to be, and therefore want to be. But right now I admit that it feels like the far side of the moon. It has nothing to do with any lack of kindness on the part of the people or the church here. On the contrary, they have been so wonderful to us that it has totally taken us by storm. Even the hotel we are spending our first 3 days in has been unreal. I spent about an hour talking to "Kitty" the last time I was here. She is the hotel's general manager and quickly became a friend. And when I made the reservation this time she upgraded us to this fantastic suite AND cut the rate. It's been unreal.

But you guys, whether I know you in real life or you are someone who has just become a friend in the wonderful world of blogging ... wow. Your kind words, encouragement, and expressed hopes that I will continue blogging have been so humbling. I write for fun and for personal fulfillment. I write to keep my soul alive and to fight off the stagnation that comes when I don't. Quit blogging? It's never even occurred to me. (Though my son-in-law tells me I'm supposed to keep it to 150 words. HEY, JOE. YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO ONLY READ THE FIRST 150 WORDS! AND YES, I'M TEASING! NO I'M NOT! CHOOSE ONE!)

Today I asked my GPS to find local banks for me. I listed a few dozen within 30 miles and suddenly one appeared that was 43.2 miles away. I don't remember the name but the word "Montreal" was in it. Odd. I punched "map it." You know what? It is a bank across Lake Erie in Canada. Yes, it's only 43.2 miles away ... as the crow flies. To drive there was something over 180 miles because of the water. Ain't no bridge across the Great Lakes! See what I mean about the far side of the moon?

You know what's a truly great thing that isn't mentioned nearly often enough? The proliferation of the cell phone. I miss my kids really badly today. I called each of them right after church this morning. All it takes is punching one single button on my phone and ... bingo-bango ... there they are! That is a very cool thing that is way over looked. I wish Elle could talk on the phone.

And then there is Staci who made me this huge batch of brownies that I ate all of the way to Sheffield Lake. Staci was in my youth group like ... 60 years ago. Well, roughly 60 years. Give or take. When we arrived in my office this morning there was this big box waiting for me on my desk. The return address was that of my friend Stephanie. It seems that this world class friend spent $24.50 to overnight express a huge box of home made vanilla fudge to me. I love me some vanilla fudge! Staci and Stephanie, you are two of my favorite people E-V-E-R! And seriously ... you both brought smiles to Debbie and I when we needed them. You and your husbands, Kevin and Eric are priceless friends. (Hi Eric!!!!)

Well anyway, thanks. You have lifted my spirits and been a great encouragement. I am humbled and thankful for the network of real and cyber friends in my life. Pray for me and I'll pray for you ....