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.

l_-super-bowl-liii-new-england-patriots-vs-l-4
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. 

 

fullsizer
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!

images

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!

 

 

 

Just A Small Treat

Here’s what happened.

A couple of months ago I bought a new car. It was pre-owned, but it was new to me. Then a couple of Sunday’s ago, one of my little friends came up after church and asked me for a ride in my new car. I felt so cool and I said, “Sure.” 

 I checked with the parents, who I’ve known forever, and arranged to pick up their child from school. We went to dinner and had Fettuccine Alfredo. We talked and laughed and had a great time. 

We didn’t like any of the restaurant’s desserts so I asked what a good dessert would be and the answer was,

“Sugar” 

I thought, “Sugar” was a reference to anything with sugar as I know Mom is health conscious and doles out the sugar sparingly. But no, it was the name of a candy store at the mall. 

We went to the mall and found the store. Sugar was an understatement. It had more kinds of candy, chocolates, and treats then I could count. So, I wisely said,

“Get anything you like.”

And that’s pretty much what happened. 

Sugar_Factory___Retail_7-800x445
Not the store we went to, but close, really very close.

I need to say that it’s been a while since I’ve been in a candy store so I was thinking it would be around $15.00. Nope, it was $47.95. I stood slack jawed as each item was scanned and the total kept climbing. It was a Mt Everest kind of climb. Frankly, I didn’t care how much it cost, it was the sticker shock!

I left the store with a big bag of sugary delights and a very happy kid. As we walked to the car I had two immediate thoughts: 

  1. Really Rick, $47 worth of candy?
  2. Her mother is going to kill me. 

Then it was time to take my friend home. My new car is a convertible and I think that was the idea to begin with, so, with the top down we headed home and I dropped off a smiling child with a 27 pound bag of candy.  (Not really, but that’s how it felt.)

It was epic and I had so much fun.

To Close

The older I get the more I understand why Jesus enjoyed children. If children decide they like you then they’ve also decided to love you. The love of a child is a pure thing, freely given, without guile and without measure.

jesus-and-the-little-children

I learned a song when I was a kid, “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World.” Its true. I think it’s the parents that give him fits. 

Thank you Jesus for your example and for teaching us how and why the Kingdom of God belongs to the little children of the world.

Shalom

“The Ubiquitous Backpack”

When did backpacks become necessary?

I’m not a backpack guy but clearly they are essential to thousands of hikers and to millions of children.

They seem an indispensable element within the culture of children’s academia. A kid without a backpack is like a milk shake without a straw.

Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. Some have solid colors and some have stripes, patterns, and prints. There are packs with superheroes, sports stars and movie themes. Some are designed for girls or boys.

kids with packs 2

 

My Favorite?

I don’t use them so I don’t have a favorite, but the ones that make me smile are those on the backs of younger kids, the packs that are as big as the child and so heavy that a soft breeze could blow them over. 

kids with big packs 2

 

Modernization?

I’m not sure how sophisticated a backpack can get. It’s basically a bag with shoulder straps, but somehow the smart people at the pack places manage to find a way.

schoolbag for black kid

 

The Old Days

In the old days when kids walked to school, took the buss, or rode their bikes, they did so without a backpack. We didn’t have book bags, lockers, or even a plastic grocery sack. We didn’t carry anything. Perhaps it explains why none of us grew up to be the hope of our generation.

My Church

We do an annual back pack drive to help families in need. We buy the packs, fill them with supplies, and then bring them to, “Back Pack Sunday.” By the end of 2nd service the stage is covered in packs. We have a blessing for them and for the kids. Its pretty cool. 

In Closing

Across America children have started school, or are about to. According to the National Center For Public Education there will be 50 million kids in public schools and 6 million in private schools. 

kids with packs 1

So God bless you kids. Have a great year. Study hard, learn much, and prepare well. We are counting on you. And with a brand new back pack filled with every needed item you are all set. Wear them proudly. And just in case you don’t like your pack, don’t worry, you’ll get a new one next year.

Shalom

Three’s a Crowd?

I was thinking about the number 3.

Biblically…

Gideon’s army was whittled down to 300.

Moses had those who worshipped the golden calf killed, 3,000 died.

golden calf
Not the calf the Hebrew people worshipped, but close, really very close.

King Saul took 3,000 men to hunt for David. 

Job had 3,000 camels.

King Solomon wrote 3,000 proverbs.

Samson pulled the pillars down and killed 3000 Philistines. 

Peter and the apostles baptized 3000 on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus had 3 disciples who were especially close: Peter, James and John.

Elijah prayed 3 times for rain.

Jesus prayed 3 times for the cup to pass.

There were 3 on the Mount of Transfiguration: Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

In the parable of the good Samaritan, 3 passed by, one stopped to help.

Jesus was 30 when he launched his ministry.

He was 33 when he died.

Jesus showed the 3 holes to his apostles, his hands and his side.

Peter denied Jesus 3 times. 

There were 3 crosses on Golgotha that day.

Jesus was in the tomb 3 days.

God is 1 but 3: Father, Son, and Spirit. 

Personally…

My parents had 3 sons.

My first date had her mother tag along. 

It took me 3 tries to pass my driver’s test. 

I’ve backed out of the garaged 3 times with the car door open.

I’ve been in 3 automobile accidents, two were bumper bumps, one wasn’t. 

I’ve been to Israel 3 times. 

I’ve done mission trip to 3 countries: Mexico, China, and Haiti.

I’ve climbed Mount Everest 3 times.

 I asked a girl for a date 3 times, she said no 3 times, then she married me.

All of the above 3’s are true except for 3 of them. 

In Conclusion

After careful consideration I’ve determined that I don’t have anything significant to say about the number 3. 

But thanks for reading this blog to the end.

 

 

 

 

A Battle: Colored Corn Starch

It’s not so much the heat, but the humidity. It’s more of a moist heat. 

Where?

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended our church’s Family Camp. It’s nice there, with a beautiful lake and all kinds of fun things to do. We had 30 families with a total of a 140 grandparents, parents, and kids. It was great.

What?

We had our annual “color war.” Teams are organized and given a Dixie cup used to fill and refill with colored powder. The whistle blows and we throw the powder on the other teams. It quickly descended into a free-for-all melee. That means all of them got a free shot at all of me. I left the field covered in blue, orange, yellow, and red. 

It was an epic beatdown. 

IMG_9486
Last year’s epic beatdown. This year was worse!

Result?

It was 90+ degrees with humidity around 114%. I was weak, dizzy, and confused. Then after the color war I was even worse! I ran and chased little kids because I could keep up with them. They chased me back and we laughed. When it was over I limped off in ignominious defeat. 

It was hot and sticky. I was a mess and I was done. 

Dignified?

Forget about it. There is no dignity in being a walking tie-dye shirt. But dignity wasn’t required. It was a time for silliness, for fun, and for interacting with kids and their parents in ways that never happen anywhere else. 

And Jesus?

Well, please don’t be bothered for I mean no disrespect. But I imagine Jesus being out there tossing the powder. I imagine the children running after him with wide eyes and big smiles. I can easily see him having fun, being silly, and making the children laugh. 

To Close

Perhaps I care too much about dignity and what others people think. Decorum and appropriateness are foundational to good character. It’s true. 

But don’t forget to laugh, to play, and be silly. There is an inner child in all of us, there is in me, and every now and then it’s a good thing to let him out to play.

Ours is more of a moist heat.

Shalom