The Following Is a True Story

Have you ever imagined winning the lottery? That one day all the magic numbers line up and you are an instant millionaire. Or even more!

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Not the lotto tickets my wife bought, but close, really very close.

Have you ever wondered if somewhere out there was a distant relative you didn’t know about? Then one day a lawyer calls requesting your presence for the reading of the will and you inherit millions of dollars!

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The reading of the will, a pile of cash! 

WELL, IT HAPPENED TO ME

Yep, it’s true. I was contacted by a law firm in Alberta, Canada informing me that a relative had passed away. The relative had a life insurance policy but the benefit hasn’t been paid because the deceased didn’t leave a will or stipulate a beneficiary. The firm has been searching for a living relative and they found one, me. 

HOW MUCH?

I know you’re wondering. Well, it’s a staggering amount: $9,820,000.

After reading the letter and then getting up off the floor I started thinking of what I would do with the money. How much would I give to my church? How much would I give to my kids? How much would I give to my government?  I would definitely get new tires for my wife’s car and probably buy a new fly rod. I’m such a visionary. 

I wondered if Sunday would be my last day on the job? 

AND THEN?

I should probably mention that the law firm didn’t contact me in person, nor by phone, email, registered mail or by telegram. It was by fax. I didn’t know people still used fax machines. We have one in the office, it’s a dinosaur, but it’s how I got the letter. They obviously tracked me down and discovered where I was employed.

HOWEVER

After further reflection, and some internet surfing, I’ve determined that it’s probably a scam aimed at getting my SS number, bank account numbers and so forth. Wouldn’t surprise me if they needed money to pay filing and processing fees and to compensate them for their time. 

Also, the fax had misspelled words, a rather awkward writing style and other clues indicating it was less than a professional document. 

Therefore, amidst great sadness, I’ve concluded that I’m not going to be a ten-millionaire and should forget all about it.

Sunday will not be my last day on the job. I hope.

TO CLOSE

Wow, now I wish I hadn’t gone ahead with the tires, talk about spending money before you have it! 

Oh well, live and learn. 

The High Five

WHAT’S A HIGH FIVE?

We have lots of ways to demonstrate our excitement. One of the most prominent is, “The High Five,” the act of raising up a hand, thus the five fingers, and slapping someone else’s raised hand.

Although it seems to have been around forever, dictionaries have only included the term as a noun since 1980 and as a verb, or the action of the high five, since 1981.

WHY DO WE DO IT?

  • it’s the joy of victory
  • it acknowledges someone doing something noteworthy
  • it’s a celebratory gesture for anything that makes us happy
  • it’s just fun

THE FIRST HIGH FIVE

It first happened at Dodger Stadium on October 2, 1977, in the last game of the season. Dusty Baker hit a homer that made the Dodgers the first team ever to have four players hit thirty home-runs. As Baker was rounding the bases, Glenn Burke, the next hitter, went to the plate to congratulate him.  He did so by raising his hand up high, and Baker returned the gesture.

From Dusty Baker:

“His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back. So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed liked the thing to do.”

And the High Five Was Born

WHO GIVES HIGH FIVES

  • professional athletes
  • athletes of all kinds
  • coaches of all teams
  • children, teens and college kids
  • adults of all ages for all kinds of reasons

WHAT HAPPENED?

It happened last Sunday morning during first service. It was time for the offering, and the children were cued to come and give their gifts that support Haitian kids for Christian education. They drop change and dollar bills into a basket. It’s a big deal in our church and the kids love it.

Afterwards, they walk back to their parents. On that Sunday, as they were walking back, a little girl sweetly smiled and put her hand up. So, I smiled back, put my hand up and she smacked it. I loved it. A few feet behind her was a mom with her very young son, I think he is almost two. He was adorable. She’s teaching him to be generous with those in need. He doesn’t understand yet, but he will, and it will become part of his character.

Then it happened. 

He had watched the girl give me the high five, so he headed my direction. He could barely walk and was holding one of his mom’s fingers. He looked at me excidedly and raised his little hand. We shared a high five. He was so happy. The whole thing made me emotional.

IN CLOSING

I like kids. I’ve learned that kids like to have adults pay attention to them. An adult who notices them and cares about the things they care about is very like Jesus, who always welcomed the children, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

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“And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” 

Mark 10:16

 

 

 

The Future Looks Bright!

FAMILY CAMP

Camp United is our annual retreat for young families. Young means parents with children of all ages. We use the Trinity Pines Christian Conference Center just a few miles outside of Trinity, Texas. It’s camp! But it’s a fun camp.

There’s paddle boating, fishing, swimming, kid’s games, a ropes course, a fabulous playground, hiking trails and so much more. We have a massively chaotic color war and a hilarious finger rocket battle. We worship and praise and we learn and we grow. We become a little better equipped as parents.

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Cups of colored corn starch, 140 people, you can do the math. That’s not me at this year’s Camp United, but it’s close, really very close. 

THINGS I NOTICED THIS YEAR

Parents holding hands with their kids while they walked around the camp. With one family the kids were fourteen and twelve.

Watching single moms with their children. Single moms are all in because they have to be. Everything is up to them. Some of the sweetest and most impressive kids at camp were one parent kids.

I watched young mothers caring for their babies and toddlers. They were loving, patient and nurturing. I got to hold a few of them. They still wiggle and squirm and want down!

I saw young fathers spending time with their young children. They played games and walked along the lake and hung out together. Nothing touches my heart like watching a young father be a good dad.

The campfire Saturday night was special. We were sitting in circles around the campfire, kids, teens, parents and adults, worshiping and singing praises. Then, it was Smores. It was so on.

At the pool I laughed and laughed watching some dads compete to make the biggest splash off the diving board. It was comedy gold.

In our Sunday worship we took time for each family to find some space on the floor or to circle their chairs. They were to share the Lord’s Supper as a family. They huddled close to read scripture, to talk and to learn about the bread and the cup. Parents were teaching their children. Fathers were leading their families. It was a beautiful thing.

IN CLOSING

Saturday was my birthday. I spent my birthday at camp; at my age you don’t really care where you celebrate your birthday. But being there, and turning sixty-three, reminded me that there are far more days behind than there are ahead. I will be long gone when those parents reach my age.

So, I have to tell you, I like how the future looks.

A Text Message

Here is the text I received from my daughter.

“Congratulate us Dad, we own a house!”

They do indeed. My daughter and Son-in-Law have been looking for some time. As it often happens, they fell in love with the first house they found but waited too long to make an offer. They lost it. Lesson learned.

Then they couldn’t find another house that measured up to the first one. I think they got discouraged. She texted me:

“We will never find another house we like as much as the first house.”

But they did.

In fact, they liked it better. They moved forward quickly, their agent made an offer and it was accepted. She texted me:

“Dad, I’m so excited but starting to feel a lot of anxiety, is that normal?”

She asked if we could have lunch. “Of course we can,” I replied. They live in Houston, as we do, at least we have a Houston address. They live in an area known as the Heights and their new home is in the Heights. She had questions about house inspectors, closing procedures, and so forth. I like it that my daughter still looks to her dad for such things.

They’ve been married for a few years and I got to officiate their wedding. They are happy but in no hurry to start a family. It’s surprising that she isn’t at all receptive to my comments regarding their child bearing rate of speed.

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That was a good day. It was an emotional day. You are never finished being a parent to your kids.

She is a therapist with a successful practice and he is in commercial construction management. Their house is newer and nicer than our house and costs twice as much. She has already declared that this year’s Christmas will be at their house. I texted her:

Maybe we will sell our house and move in with you.

I haven’t heard back.

IN CLOSING

Like all good fathers I love my kids beyond human communication. To see the depth of my love you would need to listen to my heart. I’m am so proud of my kids.

Today, I congratulate my daughter for reaching this milestone. Way to go kid, nice job.

“Congratulate us Dad, we own a house!”

 

 

Monday Morning Blessings

Good morning and welcome to a new week and a fresh Monday morning. There are things to do, places to go, and kids to get to school. It’s a new week but I’m not sure I’m finished with last week.

Here are some things that were going on:

  1. Chemical storage tanks were on fire in the Houston Ship Channel and air quality warnings were issued for several communities.

“Oil byproducts from a damaged storage facility contaminated the Houston Ship Channel and created a cloud of cancer-causing benzene over the waterway, the latest mutation of one the worst Gulf Coast chemical disasters in more than a decade.”

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2. Yesterday morning, Sunday, we all came in for church to find that the A/V system was down and was not going to be up. We used a portable sound system and sang from something called a song book. Wow, I’ve seen them in museums. 

3. I got to take a friend to lunch, a precious 10 year old who I’ve known since she was a baby. I have a picture of her sitting in my lap in church when she was a year old. She is one of my favorites. We went to Outback Steak House and shared ribs, fries and a brownie covered in fudge and ice cream. I love kids. 

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Such a sweet girl and such a good friend. 

4. I got to see a movie with one of my kids. He is 34 and we like going to movies together, always have. I’m never happier than when I’m doing something with one or both of my kids.

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He is a visionary. Also the leader of our annual Christmas family nerf war.

TO CLOSE

Last week was scary, dangerous, frustrating, sweet and fun. I’m guessing this week will have its own ups and downs, its own heart beat. There will be people to spend time with and the likelihood of something unforeseen, a surprise that may or may not be welcome.  

However, I love life. I love my family and I love my church family. On this fresh Monday morning of a brand new week I am feeling especially blessed. God be with you!

Shalom

 

Best Part of All: The People

I was at an awesome party last night. The food was delicious and there was plenty to go around. Everyone was excited and ready for a fun filled evening. Some really sweet kids were there too, kids I’ve watched grow up over the past eleven years. Yep, I was with friends. 

There was also a game on TV, the last one of the season, and the biggest. 

SOME OBSERVATIONS

  1. The women filled their plates and went to the dining room.
  2. The men filled their plates and went to the TV.
  3. The kids filled their plates and went to an undisclosed location.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE GAME

  1. It was a defensive battle, that’s code for low scoring and dull.
  2. Many of the commercials were well crafted but beyond my comprehension.  
  3. Twice I went to the dining room to ask them to please lower their voices.
  4. Twice those in the dining room laughed heartily and shooed me away. 
  5. Nobody cared that much about the Rams, only that the Patriots wouldn’t win.
  6. The jalapeño poppers were excellent. 

THE BEST PART

The food was excellent, the house was lovely, spacious and comfortable and the game was the largest event of the football season. But for me, the people were the best part!

I didn’t see the first half because I was in the kitchen engaged in conversations with others who, like me, were from our church. It was so enriching to connect and catch up. They were the best part of the game. But I did get to watch the second half and it was almost exciting there at the end.

TO CLOSE

I don’t know if the Lord was rooting for a team, I mean, the Cowboys weren’t even playing. Nevertheless, I congratulate the World Champion New England Patriots, again.

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World Champions, Again 

And I’m grateful for sweet people who are dear friends. I would have watched the game regardless of who was playing. But the fellowship, the sense of belonging, and the expressions of love and care were what was really super about the Super Bowl.

Thank you Super Bowl 53, until next year!

I Love Pets!

AN UPDATE

This is an important update, almost a retraction, but not quite.

Yesterday morning in 2nd service I was in the middle of my message, just droning on and on as is my way, when I commented about pet ownership. It wasn’t favorable.

Now I’m under siege from those who love their pets and are wondering how they ended in a church with a Minister who hates pets. They will probably call for my resignation or a show of no confidence. Pet owners are serious people. 

FOR THE RECORD

I don’t dislike pets, I’m not a hater. Over the years the following hairy little critters have shared our space:

  • a Golden Retriever named Mitzi 
  • a Dachshund named Spot
  • Shatera the cat
  • Peaches the cat
  • Newman the cat
  • Merlin the Cat 
  • Various unnamed fish in a bowl
  • Fritz the parakeet (that may not have been his name)
  • a hamster named Fluff Ball or something 

Our years of pet ownership spans 1979 to 2017 or 38 happy, wonderful, fun filled years.

Happy Wonderful and Fun

But now, we are pet free. My wife would like another dog, and maybe another cat. We had a cat named Merlin (see picture below) who we donated to our son when we were selling our home.

Merlin and I struggled. Ours was not a peaceful, happy relationship. He chose to urinate on every horizontal surface that I usually sit or sleep on, multiple times. 

 

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Merlin wearing a tie, it’s Office Merlin. He belongs to our son now. I don’t believe in dressing pets. 

LET ME BE CLEAR

In general, I have nothing against pets or anyone who has them. In fact, I love animals and enjoy watching Animal Planet. I like those shows about the cute, adorable puppies and the super-cute playful kitties. So sweet. 

But after 38 years I called it quits. Here are just a few of things I miss the most:

  1. every corner of the house being confused with a litter box
  2. puppies who required months to house train, if lucky
  3. the bird that tormented the cat (some epic battles between the species) 
  4. a cat bringing dead birds, lizards, mice and a few snakes into the house
  5. an 85 pound dog that ate more than I did
  6. a squeaky hamster wheel that no safe and harmless lubricants could silence
  7. visits to the vet, followed by follow up visits to the vet, and then more visits
  8. cats with snarky, snooty attitudes who got more attention than I did 
  9. cleaning up the back yard even though I was promised I would never have to. 

That’s probably enough of what I miss most. 

TO CLOSE

The Golden Retriever was my daughter’s dog and the two of them were best friends. Actually, I was really glad about that. My son likes cats, he finds them cool and interesting. His cat Newman terrorized animals and humans alike, but he sure was entertaining. Frankly, I’ve never found fish easy to connect with emotionally, or hamsters or parakeets. But we had them. 

I don’t hate animals or despise pets, I’ve simply retired. It was time.

What’s Cool?

Back to the summer camp in the New Mexico Mountains that I wrote about on Monday.

HIKING

One of the fun activities for campers was to go on hikes. Once or twice each week the counselors would take their campers hiking.

I would hurry, as the Pots & Pans Washer, to get the kitchen cleaned up so I could go on the afternoon hike. 

INCREDIBLE VIEWS

The hikes always took us to a places with amazing views. Once we arrived we rested, or explored a bit, until it was time to head back to camp.

On one beautiful mountain day at a magnificent vista were some hikers who were there when we arrived. There were four of them and they were sitting at the edge of a high cliff looking at whatever there was to be seen. One of the counselors and I walked over to say hello. They seemed surprised by our presence and were not in a chatty mood. They seemed familiar to the counselor, he smiled visited for just a moment and then we walked back to our group and back to camp. 

They were interesting to see. They were relatively young, I guessed maybe in their 20’s and had long hair and were wearing things that seemed odd to me. They wore old ratty jeans, hiking books, vests and had head bands. They wore bracelets of silver and leather and they sat there at the edge of the mountain, quiet and still. 

BACK TO CAMP

As we walked along I sidled up to the counselor and asked if he knew those guys. He said, “I don’t know them personally, but I know who they are.”

It turned out that they were a rock band, and a famous one at that. Being 14 I didn’t know much about rock bands, but Milton, the counselor was very excited that he got to talk with them.

THAT NIGHT

So that night, after washing the evening meal pots and pans, I got cleaned up and ready for the devotional. The guys in the band had long hair and wore leather head bands. So, I unlaced a leather lace from one of my hiking boots and wrapped it around my head and tied it in a bow at the back. UhHuh.

I thought I looked really cool. Mind you I had a buzz cut hair style, and there wasn’t a hair on my head that any chance of falling into my eyes. I walked up to Milton and he said, “What is that on your head?” I said, “Its my hair band.” He said, “Why are you wearing it.” And I said “To keep the hair out of my eyes.” Then he said, “You look ridiculous, take that dumb thing off.”

I did. 

TO  CLOSE

I didn’t really know what cool looked like and I really wasn’t the kind of kid who looked to rock bands to imitate their look. 

Eventually, I learned that my identity, values, and choices needed to be influenced by better sources, beginning with my relationship to God of holiness and righteousness. My life didn’t need to reflect whatever was popular at the moment. It wasn’t from the world that I needed to base my life, but on things eternal.

Besides, I needed to put the lace back in the boot for the next hike.

Shalom

You Never Know!

SAD, LONELY & DISCONNECTED

The first time I ever felt alone and disconnected happened the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I was fourteen. I had been “hired” to work at a camp in the New Mexico Mountains for eight weeks as part of the kitchen staff, not the cooking part, but the cleaning. I washed the pots and pans. I was, “The Pot Washer.” 

The lonely part happened when dad dropped me off. He stayed long enough to see me settled in my log cabin room, a space about 10′ x 10′ with no windows. There was a saggy bed, a rickety dresser that came over with Noah, and a wooden chair. Welcome home!

Dad gave me a hug, said to work hard and behave myself, then he drove off. I stood watching until I couldn’t see his car, then went into my room and started crying. It was an emotion I was unprepared to have.

The tears ran down my face for a few minutes when suddenly I heard a knock. I dried my eyes, opened the door and to my great surprise there were two girls, college girls. They were there to be counselors, and like me, for the whole summer. They were friendly, fun and super cute. There were more counselors too, for the boys and girls cabins.

I was the only high school kid on the staff. For eight glorious weeks I hung out with a dozen college students, it was the best summer ever. 

On the last day my brother arrived to take me home and the tears streamed again. Not because I felt sad, alone and disconnected but because I didn’t want to leave!

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A FEW THOUGHTS

  1. If I knew how sad I was going to be when dropped off I wouldn’t have gone. 
  2. If I knew how small, sparse, and lonely my room was I wouldn’t have gone. 
  3. If I knew how grimy and greasy those pots would be, I wouldn’t have gone.
  4. If I knew how much fun I was going have I would have hitched hiked to go.

IN CLOSING

We never know what’s around the corner, it’s because we can’t see it. From the worst situations can come the best experiences. From that which we suffer can come surprising blessings of happiness. Keep the faith because, you never know! 

Hey, I think I hear someone knocking on the door!