Friday, March 05, 2010


Today I went ballistic. Seriously. I did. I shot guns for the first time since I was like ... I dunno ... maybe ten years old? My dad had this .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle. It's got a cool scope and everything. So he took my brother and I to a dump in Arkansas and taught us to shoot cans. Might have nailed a rat or two, I really can't remember. Fast forward about 35 years. I was visiting him one day long after he retired and a year or so before he passed away. His rifle was sitting in his family room. When I asked why it was there he told me a lame story about how his dog woke him up a night or so earlier barking at two men standing in his yard near his garage. So he decided that he needed a 9mm hand gun rather than a rifle. In order to facilitate that purchase he was selling his rifle to a local police officer for the tidy sum of $100.

Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.

I gave him $100 and bought my own family heirloom. With it I received the remains of his original two boxes of .22 caliber ammunition. Dad never even shot two complete boxes of bullets with the gun. At the moment I don't have a "Firearms Owners I.D." card. So the gun is stored at a friends until I get around to getting my application turned in and approved.

But today I found myself at a shooting range with one of my sons and a friend. We took our pent-up rage out on paper targets. The net result?

I killed Barney. Don't feel badly for him. He provoked me.

It was a good day.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Mr. Ed Part Deux

Okay, well my last few blogs have been so serious that I decided to do something different today. Got to lighten up, don't ya know. So I decided to go looking for a horse who was good at tight-rope walking. It took most of the day but I found one.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

5 Guys

There are 5 guys in my life that hold extraordinary places of influence, honor, and importance. And I also just flat out like them. A sentence or two about each and a paragraph about one.

There is Christopher. But he goes by Topher. He's my youngest child and one of the greatest joys of my life. He's intelligent, strong, and impassioned by that which he believes in. I want to spend more time with him and intend on making that happen. He lives with his pregnant wife, Laura (and she will love that this is the way I have defined her. Love you, Bella!,) attends Missouri Baptist University, and works at his church. He's one of the funniest and most joy-filled people that I know. He's far more of a man than I was at his age.

There is Scott. He's my middle kid but doesn't act like a middle kid. He's confident, purposeful, ultra-dependable, responsible, and incredibly gifted. He's also a Cub fan which makes us joined at our misguided brains. He lives in Chicago so I spend a huge amount of time missing him. He shares his condo with his wife, Amanda, serves as the Director of Student Ministries at Willow Creek McHenry County, and to my great joy calls me as he drives home about 3 times per week. He redefines "wise and mature" at the ripe old age of 27. He also has an incredibly razor sharp sense of humor. You learn this at your own risk.

There is Jim. He is my brother-in-law who, after graduating from Marquette University in Milwaukee, came to live with our family for a year or so somewhere around 2001. Jim's one of my best friends. I'm more the age of a potential dad to him but he cuts me slack and treats me like a brother. When he lived in our home along with Chris and Scott (and my non-male daughter, Kelli) the place became like the center of the universe to me. I could sit for hours and just listen to the banter. They were some of the most fun days I've ever lived through. Jim lives in the Tower Grove neighborhood of St. Louis with his wife, Alisha. He just quit a long time job that had begun to suck his soul dry and now is beginning as a manager of a Starbucks. His dream is to be a meteorologist or a full fledged servant in his church. I think he'd make a great mid-way barker at a carnival.

And then there is Joe. Joe is my son-in-law, having married my only daughter, the aforementioned Kelli. And this is where I choose to write the longer paragraph. When I gave him my daughter I knew he was a special guy. No doubt about it. In the seven years that they have been married he has loved her, provided for her and done the things that all husbands should do. And then he kicked it into overdrive. He cherishes her. He adores her. Together they have created two daughters, "The Amazing Elle" and "The Spectacular Paisley." And he's the best dad they could ever dream of having. Elle totally lights up when he sits and plays with her. But that's just a part of the story. Joe is a man with great gifts. He has played in two bands since he came to grace my home with his presence. The first was my favorite if only for their name, "Fish Mouth Revenue." How can you not love a band with a name like that? He's a first rate song writer, a gifted guitar player, and a much better vocalist than I could ever dream of being (but then, so is Shaquille O'neal.) Joe's going through some interesting times right now. And here is more evidence that he is a truly amazing man. He took an entire evening to sit with his in-laws (that's Debbie and I) and explain to us the situation he's recently dealt with. Just because he wanted us to know. Just because he knows we care about him and will pray for him. Just because he understands the concept of "family." How many guys would do that? As a youth pastor and a Sr. Pastor I've worked with thousands of men and I can assure you that the answer to that question is VERY few. I am grateful for Joe. I am grateful for his integrity. His faithfulness to my daughter and especially to his God. His pure devotion to his children. And I am so proud to call him my son. (Okay, "in-law." But, as my daughters-in-law will tell you, I don't really use that "in-law" part much. Don't care for it. Never have.) In the last couple of weeks I have watched Joe teach a lesson on "Character In Action" through his life style. Will he make it big as a musician or a song writer? I have no idea. But he's already made it big as a man. And in this world, this culture, this century ... very few of us pull that off. (Hey Joe ... I'm your cheerleader. You've already hit it out of the park in my eyes. Keep swinging and let's see how far God lets you drill the next fastball that comes your way!)

Oh yeah. The 5th guy? My brother. I saved him for last because, well, that's another blog for another day...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Tears Validating Tears

God's grace is always enough. It is never in short supply and He never withholds it. Sometimes He seems to withhold His "felt presence" but grace is always just a request away. And so it was as we visited our friends in Dallas over these past few days.

It was good to be with our friend. More than good. It was therapeutic. I didn't realize how much Debbie and I still grieve the loss of Lynda until the trip to visit her husband and son approached. It turned palpable. But as we arrived at Love Field last Thursday night Dave met us and drug us to his home. He has a great place in the absolute middle of nowhere. As his daughter-in-law said the first time she visited there, "My goodness. They'd never find my body." You see, Texas is big. And at night it's dark. Once you leave the city proper it's all cows and natural gas facilities and an endless array of boot superstores.

And then there is Dave's. He has a beautiful home. He has a pool in his backyard and a lake in his front yard, thus bringing to naught the perception that Texas is a dusty, dry state. That isn't true, at least in his yard. His home is beautiful and his hospitality not only matches but exceeds it.

It was just good to see Dave. Good to know that he's going to make it. Good to know that he's moving toward being okay once again. As the Apostle Paul said, not that he has achieved it but he's doing his best to forget the past and strain toward the future. And thus, I am proud of him. He's handling his pain and loss much better than I think I would.

And so we spent our weekend watching the Olympics on one of his many large screen TV's, eating fine food from great restaurants (when I wasn't robbing his M&M bag,) and talking. We agreed on a myriad of things. Life is good. Death sucks. Dallas had more snow than usual this winter. Death sucks. Chocolate is always appropriate. Death sucks. A good church can be hard to find after you suffer a life changing event. Death sucks. Always insist on owning the mineral rights before purchasing property. Death sucks. There is nothing better than a hard fought hockey game even if your team loses. Death sucks.

Are you picking up a theme here? If not let me help you.

Death sucks.

Indeed it does. But 2nd Corinthians 5: 1 dispenses infinite wisdom when it proclaims "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." And while that might ease the pain it does not erase it. Jesus hated death. He felt it's searing sting as we see Him shedding tears at the entire debacle of death when his good friend Lazarus passed away. True, Jesus knew that He was about to bring him back from the dead. But I have to believe that, in part, his tears fell because He understood the agony that ever person was to feel when one they love dies

Jesus. Knew. The. Pain.

And He cried. And so I can cry. His tears validate my tears. I'm glad that I have a God who can relate to my pain.

Because ... death sucks.