Spring 2007

March 9, 2007

    I’ve started to follow his form more closely as he strolls through the living room – heading, perhaps, to the refrigerator for a Coke or to the family room to watch a ballgame.  I answer his calls more quickly when I see his number flash on my phone.  I reach more willingly into my wallet for the occasional ten or twenty. I’ve begun springing up from my chair when I hear him open the front door.  Our wrestling and shadow boxing turn to hugs sooner than they used to.  I buy steaks more than I should and those hot Italian sausages he likes.  As I sit and listen to the tones of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ wailing with precision from his fingertips and Fender amp, I catch myself wishing he would turn it up louder. I’m not fussing so much anymore about a dirty room or not knowing where he is at every minute on the weekends. I ask him more frequently about his friends, his school’s teams, the music he’s listening to and his plans for the summer. 

    Friday evening I stood and stared out the window as he and Matt packed some things in a car and drove off to Bethany Hills for their last church retreat.  Last night I gathered some photos for a senior class video, paging through innocent smiles, unrehearsed laughter and silly poses, marveling all the while at the peculiar rush of time.  Memories tumble spontaneously into my conscience demanding my attention, calling forth a response of both celebration and sadness. I’ve started to follow his form more closely as he strolls through the living room – heading, perhaps, to a closet into which he will finally reach his hand - past basketballs, backpacks, sleeping bags, textbooks, ski gloves, t-shirts, footballs, fishing poles - and pull out the inevitable suitcase that will be on his shoulder when he says goodbye. 

    I can say with assurance that I am not suddenly attempting to cram 18 years of neglect into four months of concerned parenthood.  My actions are much more selfish than that - I’m trying to grab as much of this joy as my soul can handle – stuffing it deeply and safely into a protected and reliable place - as one would pack provisions for a long journey.  This is the good and sustaining stuff of life – one can never have enough. 

    As the spring of ’07 approaches and God’s green earth once again prepares to blossom forth, Sarah and I are preparing for another transition. Our little one has become young man and one part of his journey will soon give way to another. And so shall it be for his parents, as well.  So friends, if you see some misty eyes, prolonged hugs and other acts of holding on, please have patience with us.  We’re taking our first steps…  

 

Why We Shot Down That Satellite: One Citizen’s Conjecture

February 27, 2008

    I am most impressed with the successful action taken by our U. S. Navy in shooting down the recent renegade spy satellite.  There has been an appropriate amount of international intrigue and consternation regarding the reasons our government has been so adamant about destroying this spacecraft.  Our official policy seems to have been the potential danger of its re-entry into our atmosphere and the possibility of this school bus-sized machine landing in some habited place, exploding and spewing its bizarre and toxic fuel into the ether.  On the other hand, those nations that hold America in constant and bitter contempt contend that there was data collected in that capsule critical to the balance of power on this planet.  Now that this satellite has been obliterated and this mission is accomplished there are few who really know the answer.  

    I have been reflecting upon the information that may have been collected on the hard drives of that extremely high-tech machine.  This, of course, is simply conjecture and most of it likely untrue.  However, I offer herein a reasonable estimation of its contents:

    Lyrics to ‘Louie, Louie’

    Map to final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa

    Photo of sock that matches the one you saw in a gutter this morning

    Speech from an honest politician

    Osama bin Laden’s address  

    Vatican bank statements

    Ingredients in Spam

    Identity of item Billy Joe MacAllister threw off Tallahatchie Bridge

    Reasons Jim Bakker still has television show

    Secret of Wayne Newton’s appeal 

    Proof of Paul McCartney’s untimely death in 1966, identity of The Walrus, and disturbing translation of ‘goo-goo-ga-joo’

    Directions to cave in which country music is hidden

    Pamphlet describing why Larry King is so beloved

    Jack Ruby’s mail

    Mystery of 666 unveiled

    Final resolution of pi

    Location of half-pack of Marlboros you know is in your house or car that you couldn’t find the last time you tried to quit smoking

    Unabridged explanation of ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ 

    Military records of U. S. Congress

    Good film starring Kevin Costner other than ‘No Way Out’

    Positive 8x10 color prints of The Shroud of Turin

    Blueprint for human kindness

    Dick Cheney’s deposit slips

    Analysis of relationship between Loch Ness Monster and scotch

    Absolute interpretation of The Revelation of St. John

    List of names, addresses and home phone numbers of everyone who has ever worked for a telemarketer 

    What happened to Enoch

    List of Best Places to Get a Great Martini on Atlantis

    Identity of person who let the dogs out

 

The First Coming of Christ

April 16, 2008

    The Baptist church in which I was raised and reared had a very pronounced interest in The Second Coming of Christ.  I recall hearing about it as far back as I can remember.  There seemed to be a preoccupation with books, sermons, articles and studies focused on the imminent return of Jesus.  This sweet and very working-class congregation seemed to be cheering on this event and, I admit, I was both fascinated and afraid of this end-of-the-age spectacular.

    As early as 1962 I was being introduced to the very intricate grids and timelines that seemed to show a pattern of dates and circumstances that had been predicted by the Old Testament Prophets – circumstances, I was taught, that had to be in place prior to the Second Coming of Christ.  They seemed to revolve around lengthy, peculiar and cross-referenced passages in Daniel, Joel and The Revelation of John.  There were lots of angels, strange beasts, pronouncements, an anti-Christ, a Whore of Babylon and a host of armies, demons and bizarre happenings.  My mind embraced these fantastic images and new interpretations of these ancient, prophetic writings seemed to keep tumbling forth into the landscape of the 1960’s. 

    An early zenith for this apocalyptic fascination seems to have been the 1970 publication of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth – the biggest-selling book of the 1970’s having sold, at this writing, over 25 million copies.  Lindsey presented one of the first overviews of the pre-millennial return of Christ for the ordinary reader.  It is a wild and plodding projection of the complicated conclusions Lindsey (and others) reached while poring over the aforementioned sacred texts.  These projections span roughly from the time of Daniel’s prophetic writing (about 600 B.C) making a few historic stops along the way until they reach the prime and pivotal moment of the modern day formation of the State of Israel in 1948.  From that point forward LGPL details many events in our current era that Lindsey links to specific, Biblical passages, not the least of which is the creation of a European Union of governments.  Significant events still yet to occur are the rising up of this Antichrist (predicted to be a political figure who will serve as the leader of the European Union,) the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple on its original site, the rapture of believers (wherein the righteous are mysteriously transported into the heavens,) an international war on the Plain of Megiddo (Armageddon) and the triumphant return of Jesus to the earth.

    As a young person – a child, really – all of this made me shiver to the bone.  For instance, what if my Mom and I got raptured while my Dad was out playing golf?  What about my best friend, Rick and his Mom, who were Catholics and pretty much considered to be on the side of the Antichrist?  What about the dreams I had about going to college, teaching school and having a family?  Why does Jesus have to come back now right as my life is beginning?  Selfish? Yes.  Real thoughts?  Absolutely.

    As I’ve matured I’ve kept a more than curious eye on the development of this worldview.  In some corners of Christendom the preoccupation with the topic has increased; bookstore shelves are full of reinterpretations but they all basically rehash what Lindsey laid out in his 1970 watershed volume.  (Lindsey, himself, continues to write books and has appeared on countless radio and television shows further defining and updating his views.)  But mercifully, I have come to a certain peace about the last things.  I suppose that I have perceived in my spirit that it is the message of Christ’s first coming that needs to be honored.  And, when His feet once again touch the Mt. of Olives may we not be found reading a copy of Left Behind but giving a cup of water in His Name.

 

Cost of Alternative Fuels

August 17, 2008

    Certainly we are all concerned about the cost of gasoline.  This has happened before – several times.  If you were alive and aware since 1970 you will recall at least 3 major price surges that resulted in wide spread panic, long lines at the stations and very testy consumers.  Frankly, compared to the lunacy, violence and vandalism during the scare of the late 1970’s, this current landscape is quite tame.

    I don’t like this any more than anyone else.  Part of me engages in rage whenever I read that Exxon has earned another 12 billion dollars in the last quarter when we are busy fixing flat tires and greasing chains on bicycles that haven’t been used in 15 years.  On the other hand, I continue to see a nation of people who complain very loudly about a handful of issues and then goes on about their business without questioning outrages in other areas. 

    With this in mind, I would simply point out what it would cost if our automobiles ran on other oft-consumed, liquid commodities most present in our society.  Following is a short list premised upon filling a 15-gallon gas tank with the following consumer products:

    Milk – $56.25 (about the same as regular gasoline at $3.75/gallon)

    Coke-a-Cola – $61.80

    Tropicana Orange Juice – $112.50

    Bottled Water – $189.00

    Starbucks Coffee – $240.00

    Budweiser Beer – $266.85

    Dewar’s Scotch – $1,168.05

    Reminder: don’t drink and drive.

 

Hell, Part I

April 3, 2009

    Most of the young people I work with in youth ministry reject the existence of hell.  They have neither the room nor the stomach for a God that would act out in such a punishing and eternal manner.  I have often pointed out Biblical passages that refute their postures – not so much to change their minds as to make them aware that hell is indeed graphically and repeatedly depicted in scripture.  

    It would be good to point out that I, too, have grave concerns about hell but my concerns are not about its existence - I’ve seen enough evidence of hell on earth to accept its reality.  Rather, I’ve worried about what hell would be like for me if I had the terrible misfortune of being dispatched there forever.  For me it could be eternity in a tight space, a room filling up with water, living in a snake pit or listening to an eternally looping recording of “The Pina Colada Song.”  All those notions make me tremble.  I would also point out that I believe in grace and forgiveness but have enough collective anger in me to live comfortably with the notion that there have been those among us that have carved their own path into that endless dark valley.  But these are not my decisions to make.

    Recently I’ve been pondering a ‘softer hell;’ one that makes its point but does not linger; one that sets the record straight but then turns the hard-hearted into loving and sensible creatures.  I, myself, would certainly have to pass through these portals as I assume most who breathed an earthly breath would have to do, also.  In front of all humanity, all heavenly beings, the prophets, the saints, the apostles, my mom and The Lord Himself, Jesus would question me.  He would uncover my darkest thoughts, my recurring madness, my weird fantasies, my hidden hopelessness and say, ‘Thom, is this really you?’  And I would have to say, ‘Yes Lord, that’s really me.’  I would be fully ashamed but would finally get it off my chest and I doubt that there would be many on the jury who would send me down to the snake pit with “The Pina Colada Song” playing endlessly.  Once my trial was over I could then watch the rest of the sinners take a seat in the dock like a Roman citizen at The Coliseum.  I imagine the following:

    Jesus tells Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens: “You see my sons, you were both wrong.  Now, look at all the people and tell them you’re sorry.”

    Jesus tells Bill Clinton: “By heaven’s definition you did have sex with that woman and stop biting your lower lip as if you were sensitive.”

    Jesus asks Lee Harvey Oswald: “Did you act alone?  Tell me the truth because I know the truth – actually, I Am The Truth.”  Lee says, “No.”

    Jesus gathers a small group on the witness stand and says: “Keith, Bill, Rachel, Rush, Chris, Sean – Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

    Jesus questions Bill Moyers: “Are you a Christian?”  Moyers responds, “Yes Lord, I am.”  Jesus says, “But I never knew you.  You were off trying to become your own version of me on public television and by writing those lame books.  I am The Way, The Truth and The Life, not you.”

    Jesus to Al Gore: “Is it cold in here or is it you?”

    Jesus to Reverend Barry W. Lynn: “First of all, lose the reverend – that’s inappropriate.  Secondly, I’ve separated you from your loved ones as you have separated me from everything in the world other than a church.  Hurts, doesn’t it?”

    Jesus asks Ted Haggard: “Ted, did you think we didn’t see you in that cheap motel with muscle man?  Did you suppose we were only watching when you were lambasting the poor souls in your pews – my pews, actually?  How’s it going with your wife and kids?  Tough, huh?  Well, you have been a most terrible example of life in the spirit.  You have set my purposes back at least 100 years.  Hope you enjoyed your years as an insurance man.”

    Jesus questions Dubya: “I thought I was your biggest philosophical influence?  That’s what you said on television, anyway.  So, what’s with all the warring?  You really never connected Iraq with 9/11, did you?”  Dubya says. “Well, we had some very solid evidence that led us to the conclusion that they were very involved.” Jesus retorts, “Tell me Dubya, what’s the one thing you think about when you think of me or God or heaven?”  Dubya says, “Peace.”

 

A Few Thoughts on Parenting, Part I

April 6, 2009 

    My three children currently range in age from 20 – 29.  Sarah - my wife and their mother - and I have been married for 31 years and we are both 56.  When I reached the age of 50, I began thinking in terms of ‘years I had left’ based on the average longevity of males in my family, a general assessment of lifestyles in America and a hideous conversation I once had with an insurance man while looking over actuary charts and my life insurance policy.  All of this made me cease my mental projections and get back to living.

    In my adult life two responsibilities, trying to be a loving spouse and an involved father, have appropriately consumed most of my time, energy and resources.  Although I have not failed I could have done much better – and I still have a shot.  After all, the average lifespan of a man in my family is 63.  (We are related to Sir Walter Raleigh – not by blood, by tobacco.)

    So I wish to cull some wisdom from my good moments and share some knowledge about being a dad.

    When your children are at the age of ballet lessons, recitals, Little League and recreational soccer do not plan golf games on Saturday mornings.

    If you name a child Thelonius do not be surprised if they choose to become a jazz musician.

    Your child will be left out of a sleep over.  Contrary to how it may seem, this is not the end-of-the-world.

    Your child will forget something important.  So will you.

    Parent-teacher conferences should happen every day.

    Parent-teacher conferences always include something astonishing.

    The most important papers you have to send back to school with your signature will contain stains from your kitchen – most likely French dressing or olive oil.

    Do not chastise or spank another family’s child even if they brought a pack of Winston’s to the 5th grade cookout at your house.

    Your child may not be an athlete.  Contrary to how it may seem, this is not the end-of-the-world.

    Your child may not be a musician.  Contrary to how it may seem, this may be a blessing.

    Help your precious ones find their calling.

    Sleeping until 1:00 PM on Saturday is not necessarily laziness.  It may be exhaustion.  They will wake up and love you.

    Yes, we would love them to be our friends.  But we are their parents – we are not their friends.  You need to figure out what that means – it’s terribly important.

    The exhaustion of running your young children from this activity to the next pales in comparison to the needs of young adult children.

    Buy cheap used cars when your children turn 16.  And insurance.

    Point them to God.  Let them see you praying or reading a Bible.

    Hug and kiss them to Kingdom Come.  Love them into Life.

 

Coupon Book

May 29, 2009

    Surely you have purchased a coupon book from a niece, a cousin’s son, a neighbor or your own child as part of a fundraising effort for the Brownies, the Little League or the high school band. These catalogs are filled with bargains and special offers on certain goods and services in the local community. Coupons typically include a free dessert at a restaurant that has since gone out of business; a 6th tire free with the purchase of 5 others at full retail price; a free entrée’ of equal or lesser value at a chain of eateries you hate; a free oil change every 650,000 miles (oil and labor not included) and 20% off your next dry cleaning bill (expires yesterday).  

    Whether or not the deals offered in these coupon books are of any value, I still believe the concept is valid and I have chosen to adopt it for another purpose.  The balance of this post is a text-only, first draft version of something I am developing called ‘Transcendental Coupon Book for Middle-Aged Children of Aging Parents.’  Each coupon in this book will contain the following statement: ‘In matters related to his/her Elderly Parents, The Bearer of this Coupon possesses the Unquestioned Authority to:

    Coupon 1: Turn down the volume on all electronic devices

    Coupon 2: Demand the purchase of hearing aids

    Coupon 3: Turn up the volume on all hearing aids

    Coupon 4: Refuse to ride in a car a parent is driving

    Coupon 5: Garnish car keys

    Coupon 6: Sell car/s

    Coupon 7: Disregard all inflexible political positions

    Coupon 8: Pretend Dad didn’t just say that

    Coupon 9: Hide remote during Lawrence Welk reruns

    Coupon 10: Turn on some lights

    Coupon 11: Set thermostat at a level conducive to human survival

    Coupon 12: Clean out freezer and refrigerator

    Coupon 13: Make you use your walker

    Coupon 14: Wipe off your lips and cheeks at the dinner table

    Coupon 15: Tap you on the shoulder and transport you and your sweet one to a dance hall in Atlantic City or Savannah where you will dance, unabashedly, to a 20-minite version of ‘Sing. Sing, Sing’ performed by The Benny Goodman Orchestra with Gene Krupa on drums. 

    Coupon 16: Exchange the irritation, frustration, anger, anxiety and sadness caused by being in your presence for the memories of your amazing love, tenderness, kindness, patience, generosity and grace.

    Coupon 17: Give me whatever you had as parents and as human beings that caused you to love me, hold me, punish me and teach me at just the right moments and in such tender ways… 

    Feel free to add to the list.      

 

The Seven Habits of Terribly Ineffective People

April 30, 2010

    Following is a handful of personality traits, character flaws and other qualities I have observed in others and practiced myself throughout my adult life.  This is in contrast to the list published in a hideously boring, best-selling book that everyone in corporate America was forced to read at some dark moment in the recent past by an inept manager in preparation for an unnecessary and shallow event called a staff retreat.  The truth is that all of the effective people I’ve met or worked with in my life were very defective in some or several significant ways. They may have been irrationally motivated, insecure, distrustful, driven by demons from the past, weirdly brilliant, humorless or incapable of human interaction. Most of us are commoners content with reaching not-so-lofty goals as we remain unimpressed with our own talents and expend little energy climbing another rung on the great ladder of success.  Rather, we turn our attention and energy toward other things.  Here then are The Seven Habits of Terribly Ineffective People (you know who you are).

    Sleeping late.  Benjamin Franklin – a highly effective person – is credited with the ‘Early to bed, early to rise’ rhyme.  Indeed, he may have scribbled this wisdom down somewhere along the line; however, if one does a modest bit of research we find that Mr. Franklin was a rascal and a carouser: party animal, talk-of-the-town, witty, life of the party, etc.  Methinks Old Ben rolled in pretty late most nights of the week and very possibly rolled over a few times the next morning.  Although I have always loved the idea of being awake to watch the sunrise (following a good night’s sleep) I have never been able to make it a habit.  I sleep long and late.

    Watching television.  Ineffective people prefer being stimulated by forces outside themselves providing those forces are not challenging (like reading).  Cable television is an irreplaceable source of non-threatening stimulation.  Not only can they sit in front of the tube for 6 hours every night of the week, they can also discuss their theories and projections about the next episode of 24 or LOST with other ineffective people during the day at work. 

    Procrastinating.  One of the most revered qualities of ineffective people is the art of ‘putting off until tomorrow what you could do today.’  This may serve as the mantra for all things inefficient.  Yet in some ways it makes sense.  Details to follow… 

    Whining.  Every environment has its share of slackers – those who don’t do their share.  An effective person, I suppose, may take that person aside and have a stern talk about working harder, chipping in and joining the team.  An ineffective person prefers to talk badly about the slackers behind their backs in the lunchroom, on breaks, down the hall or even at the dreaded staff retreat.  Ineffective people wallow in their own crap and like it there.

    Quitting.  Pretty much everyone gets excited about something from time to time.  Perhaps you’ll build a deck, plant a garden, put together a business plan, paint the bedrooms or read all of Shakespeare’s works.  And so you begin but you never finish – you quit, don’t you?  Everything in your life is about 75% complete and shall…

    Drinking.  This is not unique to ineffective people but I must include it here.  Effective people also drink to dampen the unconscious reality of their self-loathing.  But ineffective individuals take drinking to another level all together.  They tend to consume more and more often than the balance of the population.  Drinking fills the deep and hollow caverns burned into their psyches by the afore-mentioned habits.

    Blogging.  I have no idea how many individual blog sites exist in the universe.  I know I have one and a few of my ineffective friends have them and some pretty famous, effective people have them.  For the most part they are each self-serving, boring, political, inaccurate and unnecessary.  For instance, no breathing human entity will be edified by these few paragraphs I am about to complete.  However, rather than doing my taxes, reading a newspaper, finishing my deck renovation, preparing dinner or praying I have spent the last 20 or so minutes spewing this nonsense onto this page.  

    That’s it.  I am going to fix a drink, turn on the TV, fall asleep and finish this tomorrow.    

 

The Terribly Sad Case of Tyler Clementi

September 30, 2010

    It is very difficult to speak about the suicidal death of a young man, a child, really.  Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge several days ago.  He was 18 and a freshman at Rutgers University.  He was, apparently, talented, friendly, kind-hearted, uncertain, confused and at the doorstep of his life.  You were once at this point in your life.  If you were not, you are not human.

    From everything I can ascertain, this young man was drawn toward a homosexual lifestyle.  So be it.  (Label this in any manner you choose and then throw the first stone).  But the events and aftermath of this sad and sordid story are beyond the pale.  

    His roommate filmed his gay fling and immediately posted it on the Internet.  Tyler, his family and the rest of the world were now privy to his conduct.  Tyler’s response: he kills himself.

    Oh how tragic; oh how ugly; oh how malicious; oh how this could have been so much better.

    I didn’t know Tyler; I wish I had.  Perhaps he would have called me in his despair and asked me for some advice.  I would have been on his side.  He could have slept in our home.  He could have called his parents from our phone.  He could be living and adding his gifts to the glorious river of humanity.  Instead, he jumped off a bridge in shame and humiliation.

    My heart aches for his family.  A beautiful life cut so short by the harsh antics of a couple of vacuous and humorless creeps.  Prison will be nothing compared to a long life filled with the deep reality of guilt.  At this moment I find it very hard to forgive the two individuals incriminated in this act of darkness.  Lord, give me strength.

    In the meantime, for what it’s worth, I trust that Tyler is resting in the arms of the One and Only God I love; the One Who sees and knows our utter despair; the One Who understands our frailties, desires and longings.  

 

Cornering the Market on Bullies

October 5, 2010

    A few days ago on this blog I expressed my heartache and outrage regarding the events surrounding the death of Tyler Clementi – the young Rutgers student tortured by the uncertainty of his own sexuality and the despicable antics of his roommate that resulted in Tyler’s decision to take his own life.  A sadder and more horrific story I have not heard in many years. 

    In the aftermath of that incident the media and other individuals have seen fit to focus on the act of ‘bullying’ specifically as it relates to the gay community – as if this were the only group of citizens ever impacted by the harsh acts of bullies.  This may be understandable on the heels of this nightmare, but it is also very narrow reporting.  An adolescent child perceived to be gay (for whatever twisted reasons) by the self-appointed truth squad in any school or neighborhood is a prime target for bullying – no doubt.  But it is shortsighted and misguided to suggest that a young person in such a circumstance – isolated and fearful as he or she may be – should serve as the poster child for an effort to thwart bullying.

    Bullying did not begin with a young man’s sad and desperate leap from The George Washington Bridge.  Bullying is old as Time. Cain and Abel come to mind.  (Did you note that little rhyme?)  In my lifetime – especially as I recall my own childhood and, years later, the lives of my own children – I have witnessed bullies wreaking merciless havoc on a wide array of innocent targets and few, if any of those targets, were gay.  During my formative and adolescent years – from roughly 1957-1967 – I saw some of my classmates and playground chums bullied because they were fat, slow, didn’t or couldn’t play sports, had braces, wore hand-me-down clothes, donned thick glasses, played violin, peed in their pants once-a-week in class, picked their nose, dad was a loud drunk, family couldn’t afford lunch money, held back in school, Jewish, first generation immigrants, lived in the projects, carried a Bible to school, couldn’t ride a bike, had bad acne, just moved to town, really smart, had polio, etc.  A few times during those years I jumped in the middle of these dark episodes of isolation and tried to make the bullies stop.  But more often than not, my friends and I would stare in amazement at the brutality and pain perpetrated upon the innocents.  We would watch as the victims ran home, tears streaming down terrified faces, blood trickling from a cut lip, books scattered on a sidewalk, cries of ‘Mommy help’ rising in the air and sinister laughs emanating like Satan’s cackle from a group of little shits who had just filled the roles of judge, jury and executioner.

    As an adult I have witnessed that bullying is more refined and private.  Much of it happens behind closed doors in office settings and boardrooms.  The power hungry abuse their authority by belittling underling employees, berating the weaker co-worker and manipulating situations to cover their own sorry asses while placing blame on the innocent.  The cut lips and scattered books may not be present but the tears, the silent cries for help and the humiliation remain. 

    We are hollow men – and women.  There is something very crooked in our collective soul that manifests itself in the act of bullying.  No, we cannot stand by and allow it to continue; no, we can no longer be fearful of the threat.  We must disarm the bullies whether their target is a chubby little girl, a limping immigrant or a young man desperately trying to figure himself out in a college dorm room somewhere.  ‘Mommy help!’  

 

Eclipse

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  Isaiah 9:2

     Although our moon often appears very bright in the night sky it projects no light of its own.  The brightness we observe is the reflection of our sun’s brilliance onto a surface that is gray, rocky and harsh.  The moon’s surface is so unreflective that our eyes only perceive about 11% of the sun’s light that shines upon it.

    It is likely that many of you had the awe-inspiring experience of standing in your yards or on your decks last week to witness a unique event – a full lunar eclipse.  This occurs when the orbit of our little planet passes on a line directly between our neighbors – the sun and the moon.  What we observed was our own shadow.  We came between the sun’s light and the moon’s surface.

    In this modern age, with so many discoveries catalogued in recent centuries, we are simply educated observers of this remarkable, heavenly event.  However, even though we understood what was happening we were still amazed at the magnificent drama playing out before our eyes.  Having watched this 90-minute display it is easy to appreciate the dread that a total lunar eclipse caused in the hearts of millions of our ancestors before Copernicus, Kepler and Newton presented rational, scientific explanations for these occurrences.  History records infinite myths from all cultures that attempt to bring acceptable meaning to this momentary loss of the moon.  They include wolves, wives, frogs, blood, dragons, spirits of the dead and an assortment of angry and jealous gods and goddesses.  It’s amazing how gullible our forebears were!  We are so culturally advanced that once the eclipse reached its zenith we were able to go into our bedrooms, turn on our high def televisions and watch ‘Survivor 12,’ ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘America’s Most Smartest Model.’

    I have observed that the orbit of my life tends to follow a path that obscures The Light of the World.  My sarcasm, distrust, anger, frustration, ego, selfishness, envy, greed, need to be recognized and drive to succeed are poor conductors and reflectors of God’s Love.  Rather than being a transparent window opened to the brilliance of God’s redemption I am often a gray, rocky and harsh being casting shadows on those around me.  It is easy to appreciate the dread of being a Christian my witness has caused in others.  

    Oh, that we would learn to allow the Light of the Son to pass through us; that we would set ourselves aside and be willing to become light.

 

Things I Wish I Had Back

November 27, 2010

1. My Dad – He died at the age of 48 when I was 16.  I don’t care what anybody says, boys need fathers.

2. My Sister – She died a few summers ago at the age of 67 after hiking through the Rockies with her beloved husband and some other friends.  I don’t care what anybody says, she was the heart of our family.

3. My Niece – She died by her own hand a few years back.  It continues to be sad and mysterious because she was so lovely and so loved.

4. My Friend Rick – He died from a brain tumor at the age of 52 after teaching 2nd-graders for 30 years.  If we are lucky, one or two guileless, humble and decent people will cross our paths in a lifetime.  Rick was several of those.

5. The Moments I First Held My Children – They are mental snapshots now.  For those minutes nothing else mattered and all made sense.

6. The Moment I Met the Girl I Married (and the ensuing years) – Falling in love is easy and wonderful.  Staying in love is more of a challenge.  With Sarah I have accomplished both – thanks to her.

7.  Private School Tuition – Since 1981 I figure we have spent about $200,000 sending our 3 kids to private schools – from pre-school through 12th grade.  During those same years we’ve paid about $90,000 in school taxes for institutions our children never attended.  

8. The Faith of a Child – I have become an adult with doubts, questions and arguments.  Doubts, questions and arguments stand directly in the path of childlike faith and never find answers.

9. Most of the Many Hours I Spent Playing Golf – Some of the best times I’ve ever had were on golf courses with my friends.  Most of them were wasted and frustrated hours – and money.

10. Harsh Words I’ve Said to Pretty Much Everyone – The tongue is often ugly and damaging.  So many regrets…

 

Life Without My Sister

When events both sad and unexpected occur many of us are good at tapping the necessary human resources to help others through the dark valleys.  We perceive their immediate needs to be more profound than our own and busy ourselves with all manner of activities to ease their pain and anguish.  Although this selflessness is to be commended it has been my experience that this good-deed-doing often serves to mask our own need to grieve and really is not as ‘selfless’ as it may appear; in fact, at times it enters into the realm of selfishness.  Once the needs of others are met - when the meals are served and the kitchen cleaned, the notes written and the casseroles returned, when the hands are held and the tears wiped away - we return to our once-familiar surroundings and wander helplessly about in the surreal wilderness of our own, unreleased anguish.  This is not a happy destination and if you have landed there I urge you to retreat from it immediately.  If we do not allow ourselves adequate time to grieve we corrupt a natural human system as necessary and perfect as breathing.  Where does the selfishness come in?  We protect ourselves from the pain and it has a peculiar way of manifesting itself in unhealthy ways somewhere down the line.  We must ache and ache deeply.  

    In my 56 years I have never met a person as pure, innocent and loving as my sister.  Her middle name was Joy and it was perfectly chosen.  I was not around in the early years as I was a very late arrival – ten years after the birth of my closest sibling.  But I know some things.  She’s the one that insisted that we have a stereo in our home in 1956.  Dad obliged.  She’s the one who bought the recordings of Peter, Paul and Mary, Burl Ives, Tchaikovsky and Little Richard.  She’s the one who paid for the upright piano that arrived in our home one night in my childhood.  She’s the one who paid for my piano lessons.  She’s the one who opened a savings account to pay for my education.  She’s the one who lifted our family from oblivion.  She’s the one.

    Last summer my darling sister was vacationing with her beloved husband of 45 years with friends they’d known and loved for an equal amount of time.  She died in the middle of the night from a freakish heart attack.  We had been planning a special reunion for the following month with our Mom and her 4 children. I have never heard heartache like I did when I spoke to my Mother on the phone that day.  Three good sons cannot replace the importance of one great daughter.  Oh my – the heartache, the heartache.

    Do things ever get better?  Well, I talked to my brothers last week about getting together this summer and Dick said, ‘Things just aren’t the same without Beverly.’  And then a little bitty tear let me down.  

    With as much love as I can put on this page – Oh, how I miss you.