IN LIVING COLOR

The neighborhood looks different, older, a little tired. Like me. Of course everything looks different if you add over forty-five years to the equation.

As I drove north on the street my mom still lives on, a memory hit me. I don’t have a lot of choice as to when I stroll down memory lane, especially when I’m driving on the lanes of my childhood. I looked for the house on the east side of Eastwind.

Back in the day it sat all by its lonesome. All those vacant lots are history. I searched for the short and steep driveway. The once offensive bright orange front door was long gone or painted.

I was hanging out with my buddy Dave D. All kids in junior high are looking for fun… Even if the fun is at the expense of someone else. Using the telephone to ask the local store owners if they had Prince Albert in the can doesn’t last all night… especially in a small town with only a couple of stores.

Occasionally we’d knock on a door or ring a doorbell and run like the wind. I admit that night it was my idea. It was my neighborhood after all.

I slowed my truck to a crawl. Yep. The steep driveway and the wide front window between the driveway and the front door brought that night in nineteen seventy five back to me in living color.

There aren’t but a handful of streetlights in Lake Havasu City and there are still none within five miles of that street. The night was pitch black. It was hard to see the top of our tennis shoes walking.

There were people inside the house. It was winter and the front window was open. We could hear them talking inside.

I was half way under the wide window when I glanced back. Dave had stalled a couple of feet from the window. I waved him toward me silently, fighting back a snicker.

Dave was having serious second thoughts. Then again, he and JC were the smartest ones in the class. He shuffled backwards and headed back down the driveway.

I never did make the trek under the window to the front door. Still crouched in the middle of the window, hidden by the stucco area underneath it, without a coherent thought, I acted.

I jumped with my arms up like a gorilla, “AHHHHHHHH!!!!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

All four of them jumped, but none higher than the middle aged man with the glasses, hands locked behind his head, reclining on a green sofa, right next to the window.

I didn’t give much thought to that steep driveway. Not until I was sprinting full speed toward the road that I couldn’t see.

I can’t recall if I tore my jeans or shirt that night, but I remember vividly all the skin I tore off my palms skidding on the pavement. That’s close to instant justice.

A few days later, back at home, there was a group text going around the family. It was a video of my grandson, Mr. B, at his aunt Ali’s front door. Her Ring picked up a video of him ringing her doorbell and running… He’s three…

I think God has a sense of humor…

WHEN LOSING WINS

REPOST FROM JUNE 2013

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She sang quietly along with the music. I didn’t dare offer a glance as we drove home. I was singing along with the good ole’ tune too, but significantly louder than her. I wanted to study her and listen to her sing, but that’s not what she wanted – she didn’t say it, but I knew it instinctively… A dad thing.

We had just dropped her teammate off on the way home when she reached over to my stereo and hit the reverse arrow to take us back to track three; her favorite song on my new/old CD I’d picked up a few weeks before while I was waiting for her at her favorite place on earth; the bookstore.

“You wanna harmonize?” she asked quietly and out of character, “I memorized the whole song.”

“Sure,” I answered, turning it up to drown myself out and make her more comfortable. We sang along with the old song all the way home. Even started it over a couple times. It was the first time she asked me to sing along with her, not that we’d never sung an impromptu duet, we do sometimes, but usually don’t plan or organize it like my youngest did that night.

I knew it wasn’t about the music… It was therapy. It was her way of dealing with the reality of life. She’s learned that we don’t always get what we want in this life…

It was a night filled with hope. A day that had been in the back of her head for a long time. It was a night of trials. It was testing herself. My youngest had watched her sisters navigate the same waters, but this night would be her turn under the bright lights… It was a night of loss…

Our youngest daughter’s lacrosse team made it into the second round of the playoffs via a first round bye due to their record. Records and reputation can only take you so far in this life, then there is a time of testing. There were tears, her head parked in the nook between my chest and shoulder for a little while followed by a return visit later. They were tears of sorrow, but they were also tears of joy… a hard concept for any of us to grasp, even this many years removed from those days that we remember in vivid detail our entire lives.

My daughter knows me too… she knew I was somber and she knows it has little to do with winning or losing. She knows I believe and have coached enough kids to understand that winning is really about giving every ounce of mental and physical dedication with perseverance and honor that defines winning… and the winning takes care of itself.

Our little one knows that the reality of another year gone makes me feel the same emotion as she does. I have sorrows, but I also have joy. My love for our little one has nothing to do if she wins or not… If she conducts herself with honor and has fun in the process it’s all good. I can’t help but believe it’s more similar to our Father’s relationship with all of His children.

“Another lacrosse season, huh Babe?” I asked the obvious question rubbing her back before turning in.

“Yeah,” she answered.

“I’m proud of you, Babe.”

“Thanks, dad – goodnight –  love you,” she smiled timidly.

“I love you too, Babe, sleep tight.”

Regardless of the number, it’s hard to imagine that night as anything other than a win…

That’s when losing wins…

MALCONTENT

David Geffen, of Asylum Records fame, in an interview, called Don Henley, of The Eagles fame, a “malcontent”. Their close relationship was long gone and had ended in ugly lawsuits over music rights.

I don’t know either of them to say who was right or wrong, but it dawned on me that all of us, probably at one time or another, have not been content with our lot in life… even after receiving more than our fair share of blessings.

I was accused of this very same trespass this week. She didn’t use the word, but that’s exactly what she was driving at. She thinks that sometimes, I too, am a malcontent.

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She was the “go between”, caught between another person and myself, in a business negotiation. The other party referred to me as a “tough negotiator”. That’s business talk for “cheapskate”.

The other party and myself have known one another for a long time, around thirty years. I’ve known him long enough and have had enough dealings, or what they business world calls, “run -ins”, to know that he’s a tough “negotiator”…

Last week I wrote about the power of words. I was reminded how true that was again since then. T, (short for the poor lady caught between the cheapska… make that tough negotiators), told me that M, (short for the other valiant negotiator), had passed on some kind and complimentary words about me.

Of all the words she said, there was one line that caught me. And it caught me by the soul. All the kind words meant nothing because all that I could dwell on was the line that brought out the malcontent in me.

“M said you came from nothing,” T said.

I’ve lived long enough to let most of the ugly, and sometimes downright nasty, comments about me roll of my ego like water off of a duck’s back. But that one stuck in my craw.

I might have had nothing, but to say that I came from nothing insinuates that my roots aren’t worthy.

I drilled T about the comment. So much so that she concluded that M and myself were crazy and she only wanted out of being trapped in the middle between the two of us.

To say I come from nothing is to suggest that my parents are nothing.

I took the comment personally. Not for me, but for my mom and dad. You can curse and mock me, but my parents are off limits. The comment brought out the fire in me that once marked most of my days as a younger man.

Anyone that knew my dad knew he was a man of integrity. They would also know that he was a man who would stand, by himself if he had to, to protect those that couldn’t protect themselves. He was a man of God. A humble man.

It’s not a remotely exaggerated statement to say that I would be considered closer to nothing than my mom or dad. What we know is that all of us deserve nothing, but we have been shown and accepted the free gift of grace that means we’re somebody to the One whose opinion is the only One that matters.

After the third degree T explained that she’d been paraphrasing. M told her that I “started with nothing.” To those of us that pay attention to words, know that’s a far cry from “he came from nothing”.

The hard truth is that if this were a test… I failed. Even if it was out of love and respect for my folks.

I’m pondering the idea that those of us that have been given more blessings might tend to be more apt to fall into the “malcontent” category.

THE PEN AND THE SWORD

When I first heard the old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword”, I scoffed. After all, I have siblings. Older ones. Two of the three are brothers. They could punch holes through doors… and I could write fairly well. While math wasn’t my specialty, I could solve the equation regarding my brothers with ease; their brawn verses my pen, or yellow pencil, as it were, and I’d come out on the short end of the stick every time. And twice on Sunday.

With time I’d come to grasp what it was the person that wrote that pen and sword adage meant, but, being slow on the uptake, it didn’t find the heart of what that author was aiming at. Some things take the better part of a lifetime to learn.

By now it’s been a while since I’ve begun to grasp the power of words. The Word changed the history of this world. Words can change, motivate, inspire, and bring perseverance to those who believe in the words.

I was reminded how powerful words are this week. I have some fairly long time friends that I met for the first time Thursday. I realized that I’ve known my friends for around eight years.

Ace and Betty Draper are servants of God. Missionaries. And I knew them, or have been in touch with them, Betty in particular, since they were fresh off of the plane from serving in Papua New Guinea with New Tribes Mission that is now Ethnos360.

For pushing up against a decade we’ve been trading comments on each other’s blogs as we’ve shared our life stories. We’ve poured out truths; fun ones. Hard ones. Real ones… and sad ones. We’ve prayed for one another, and more importantly one another’s children. But in that time, through merely words, we’ve come to know each other just by long distant words. That changed this week.

The change happened at Red Robin in the Tempe Town Square outdoor mall, just east and north of the ASU campus, not far from my youngest’s school and apartment, in Tempe AZ.

These dear folks drove from Sun Lakes, which feels like half way to Tucson, to meet with me. I was running late so Ace and Betty were inside waiting for me.

I pulled off my shades as I flung the red door wide open. Before I could see her, I could feel her. There, to my right, in the empty waiting section was my dear friend Betty… waiting to greet me.

It’s an odd thing to grasp; you don’t have to look into another person’s eyes to know them. Betty and I hugged like a family member you haven’t seen since the reunion of ’88. When I shook Ace’s hand, it struck me, and reminded me, of my dad’s firm handshake. The clutch of a strong man, not for show, but in respect.

I don’t know how long we were at Red Robin, but it wasn’t long enough. I had a million business reasons to leave, but none of them were good enough to make me want to leave the presence of my old friends.

It was a treasure of time to be in the presence of humble servants of God. Ace and Betty are the epitome of just that.

I pondered our meeting and, what is usually foreign to me, the fact that I didn’t want to leave. As near as I can tell, people love being around real people that speak truth in love and humility. We shared stories of our children and grandchildren, life, hopes and dreams. We laughed. I fought back tears.

Ace and Betty had to meet other missionary related people the next few days after the day we met. They were going to Buckeye, which seems like it’s half way to the Colorado River. And they were going up to a place close to Camp Verde, which IS half way to Flagstaff.

After all these years these fine folks are still sacrificing, seeking and serving…

Ace and Betty, and all the people like them, are my heroes. Those called to serve, and are obedient, are the heart, hands, feet, and face of God to a lost world… and even to those of us that watch from the safety of afar. The safety afforded us by God and the ones that He chose to serve.

You can catch up with Betty here. I think she’d agree with me; “The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.”

CUP OF COFFEE

It might be considered the Sabbath to some, but regardless of the day, the newly repaired coffee maker doesn’t get the day off. The only time it’s gotten a day off in the last ten plus years is when it breaks down.

As the coffeemaker ground the beans for another cup I was feeling relieved. It’s not too many mornings that I get to have coffee at home, or in an open top ceramic cup. It’s usually in a metal screw top cup with the flap on top the slides open to allow you to sip coffee while driving the beat up Phoenix streets and not end up with half the cup of hot coffee in your lap.

I’m sipping that coffee with the perfect dose of half and half mixed in while I type. It’s been awhile since I’ve written, much less read, anything. When I get busy, which happens a lot, I recall some other times in my life that I’ve been busy. I think about “Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy” phrases from childhood.

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I also have the “ox in the ditch” words from Jesus in Luke floating around my head. It’s amazing how most of us are prone first to justify or blame someone else for our circumstances. We come by it honestly. Adam blamed the “woman” and then God Himself. After the massive fail he was trying to blame everyone involved… except himself.

There was one particular summer, an extra hot one, I worked over a hundred and twenty days in a row. I took advantage of the long days of summer to work fifteen hours a day in the punishing sunlight framing houses, lots of them. I’ve never been a “40 hour a week” guy.

I have another appointment with the skin doctor in a couple of weeks. This time the spot flaring up that will have to be burned, actually frozen to the point of blistering, is on the back of my left tricep. Beats having it on my nose again.

Whatever I may have gained back then is gone like the dinosaurs. I’m still struggling with the whole “work smarter not harder” thing. And if I was younger, I might try to blame someone else. It was my parents that moved us to the “devil’s bedroom” after all.

But it’s on me. The skin issues, the “wearing yourself out trying to get rich” issues. The workaholic issues, they’re all mine.

Maybe the coffee maker breaking down is a sign? We’re appointed to take time for rest, to recharge. It’s good to get God given rest… instead of going without a day off, like that coffee maker, and breaking down. We all get down time… one way or the other.

I appreciate a day of rest. It’s a gift from God, literally. I’ll talk to Him today, read His Word… and have another cup of coffee. This one’s gone now.