Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Dog Days Of Summer At Woods Cemetery

 Today, with a mere 3 vacation days left before Sunday's events, I decided to take a drive.  Desperate to get out of the house.  Gotta move.  I had an errand to run and after completing it I found myself drawn to a comfortable place from my past.  Near Bunker Hill there is a cemetery with a name that intrigues me.  "Woods Cemetery."

I use to ride my motorcycle out here and spend time reading century old headstones, wondering if any were my ancestors.  Not likely, but possible.  So I drove that way today and soon found myself sitting in the midst of the dead.  It is a warm day.  I'd call it hot.  Still, I sat on a marble slab that constituted two headstones.  It overlooks the headstones of a "Pastor and Mrs. Woods."  After all of these years they are still sharing God's Word.

May I be as faithful when it is my turn.  After thinking about the lives of these ministerial saints I roamed the property, wondering about those I share a name with who lie buried under weather-worn markers.

It was just beyond this time and place, past the stained marker that reaches toward the heavens, that I heard them.  They were not barking.  It's too hot to bark.  They were just running. Toward me.  Not in my general direction.  TOWARD me.  I'm grateful to the fence that they jumped for making a bit of noise or I might not have noticed them until ... well ... let's just say I'm grateful to the fence.  The dogs convinced me from a distance that I wanted to run too.  I wouldn't call it a bonding experience.  It just seemed like the thing to do.  I nearly did a head-first dive into Emma the Mustang but a glance over my shoulder brought me to a stop.  The German Shepherd is standing over the grave marker I was reading and he's ... he's "marking his spot."  Seriously.  The dog is peeing on the headstone I had been reading. The one next to the Davis family.  The flat one with "Woods" written on it.  And his buddy, the White Lab is staring me down.  No doubt wondering if I taste like chicken.

After his bladder was empty and I was locked away in my car Mr. G. Shepherd came over to "splain something to me.  About how I should stay off his property.  I showed him my drivers license where it clearly says "Woods."  He was not impressed.

It truly has been a slow vacation.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

20 Years Ago This Weekend

The following is an entry from my personal journal about an event that unfolded in the life of my family twenty years ago this weekend.  I think God is still chuckling...

Labor Day Weekend 1993
It was Thursday, September 2, 1993.  I had a problem.  I had promised my oldest son, Scott, that this would be the year that I would take him to Wrigley Field in Chicago to see the Cubs play in their home environment.  Scott was born in the suburbs of Chicago and even though we moved away when he was just 4 months old, he considered himself a true Chicagoan.  More importantly he was for now and forever more, a Cubs fan.  He had seen the Cubs plenty of times in our local ball park, Busch Stadium in St. Louis.  But there is just something about Wrigley Field.

Well, the problem was that there were precious few Cubs games left at Wrigley Field in the 1993 season.  The kids were back in school.  We were ready to celebrate Labor Day weekend by kicking back and vegetating.  I talked with God on Thursday and asked Him what to do.  There were plenty of reasons not to go to Chicago.  Most of them had to do with laziness on my part.  I could find a million excuses...all of them good.  But none of them were good enough when God reminded me that Fathers are suppose to keep their promises.  Not only that but Scott's view of his Heavenly Father would be shaped, in part, by his view of his earthly father.  If I proved myself untrustworthy wouldn't he have reason to believe that his Heavenly Father might let him down also?  I had to go to Chicago.

Friday morning dawned and we were in the old blue van early.  We didn't have tickets and we thought we would get to Chicago and buy cheap seats, maybe arrive early enough to watch batting practice and let the kids spend some souvenir money.  We arrived in Joliet at 11:00 a.m.  Game time was 2:20.  Plenty of time!  We didn't really need gas but I figured we might as well buy it here so we wouldn't have to stop in the city.  As usual, nothing went as planned.  When we got back into the van to head on to Wrigley Field it wouldn't start.  It just sat there.  A mechanic was summoned from a local Amoco station.  Closer inspection revealed that we needed a new alternator.  Not to worry, a quick tow across the street, $280.00 worth of repairs, and we would be on our way in an hour.  Right.

Three hours later the van was repaired.  It was 2:00 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day.  The game was set to begin in 20 minutes and we still had 40 miles to travel on one of traffics busiest Fridays in Chicago.  Debbie and I consulted briefly and decided that we had to go on.  The decision was made to get to the ball park as quickly as possible, buy the cheapest seats possible, and try to salvage a tough situation.

As I drove I had a talk with my Father.  You know the one.  The one that said fathers always keep their promises.  I wanted to know why He has sent us all this way, in obedience, only to allow the van to break down so close to our goal.  Did He get a kick out of seeing Scott's spirit crushed?  Did I misunderstand Him?  Was this a frivolous trip.  Would He rather we had spent our time back at home, sacked out in front of the tube?  I just didn't get it.  The more I asked the less I heard from the creator.

We arrived at Wrigley Field in the middle of the 2nd inning.  I was carrying Christopher by now because he had one of his famous stomach aches.  It was easier to carry him than to listen to him complain!  This was turning out to be a really swell day.

When I reached the ticket window I heard myself telling the man "Give me the 5 best seats you have left."  Debbie looked on in horror as the man asked, "Would you like box seats?" and I responded with a weak "Yes.".  She handed me $85.00 in stunned silence.  I paid the man.  (Today it would take more than $85.00 to buy a families lunch at Wrigley!)

We entered the gate without a clue concerning where we should go.  I just walked toward daylight in the closest tunnel I could find.  We emerged into the sunshine directly behind home plate.  As Scott stepped  out of the shadows a pitch was delivered to Sammy Sosa, the current Cub batter.  Scott’s first view of Wrigley Field was a blur.  A ferocious swing, the crack of the bat, and the ensuing flight of the ball over the left field fence.  His mouth hung open (so did mine) as one of his hero's trotted around the bases.  By now I had managed to find an usher and present our tickets to her, expecting to be pointed up and out to seats similar to those we usually occupied at Busch Stadium.  Instead she said, "Follow me, sir."  Shock turned to disbelief.  She was going closer to the field.  As a matter-of-fact she was walking toward the visiting Mets dugout.  She didn't stop until she reached the front row.  She pointed to our seats and walked away.  The five of us looked at each other not knowing what to do.  Eventually we made our way down the aisle, Scott and Kelli on the front row and Debbie, Chris and I directly behind them in the second.

I honestly didn't know what to do.  I thought somebody had made a mistake.  They had to have given us the wrong tickets.  I turned to the man next to me and asked him if tickets in this section were always available on game day.  He turned rather pale.  Making a quick recovery he asked if I would mind telling him what I had paid for my tickets.  I explained that I had just purchased them 5 minutes earlier at the ticket window.  Clutching his chest he told me that he had bought his two months earlier from a ticket broker ... at $85.00 per ticket.  I didn't know what to say!  Trying to make him feel better I told him that we had missed the first inning.  His response left me trembling.  "It's a good thing you were late," he said.  As he pointed to the seat Scott was sitting in he said, "Last inning Ryne Sandberg hit a rocket into that seat.  If he had been sitting there then he would, at best, be on his way to the hospital right now.  As a matter-of-fact, a photographer was sitting next to it.  He got so shook up he left."

I had to bite my lip for a second before I could relay this information to Debbie.  It seems that our Father had known best after all.  Not only did He save us some of the best seats in Wrigley Field, but He slowed us down just enough to insure our safety.  God is good.  All the time.

Oh yeah, the Cubs won.

(Father, thank you for loving my children.  I did not know that anyone could love them more than I do but somehow you manage it.  Scott knows where those tickets came from.  All of the children do.  When I have enough courage to obey you exciting things happen.  Usually it involves situations that make my pulse beat faster and my "fight or flight" impulses scream!  But always, just before the unexpected disaster, whether it is a baseball to the head or the unexpected repair bill, you show yourself strong and loving.  And you meet my needs.  Thanks.)