Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not That Old

This is from an e-mail that was sent by a friend (I think). I'm nothing like the guy in the story. I don't go to Taco Bell. I don't own a truck. And I will take any kind of discount that's offered. That said, enjoy the story--maybe you know somebody that can relate to it:

$5.37. That's what the kid behind the counter at Taco Bell said to me.

I dug into my pocket and pulled out some lint and two dimes and something that used to be a Jolly Rancher. Having already handed the kid a five-spot, I started to head back out to the truck to grab some change when the kid with the Elmo hairdo said the harshest thing anyone has ever said to me.

He said, "It's OK. I'll just give you the senior citizen discount."

I turned to see who he was talking to and then heard the sound of change hitting the counter in front of me. "Only $4.68" he said cheerfully.

I stood there stupefied. I am 48, not even 50 yet? A mere child! Senior citizen?

I took my burrito and walked out to the truck wondering what was wrong with Elmo. Was he blind? As I sat in the truck, my blood began to boil. Old? Me?

I'll show him, I thought. I opened the door and headed back inside. I strode to the counter, and there he was waiting with a smile.

Before I could say a word, he held up something and jingled it in front of me, like I could be that easily distracted!

What am I now?

A toddler?

"Dude! Can't get too far without your car keys, eh?"

I stared with utter disdain at the keys.

I began to rationalize in my mind.

"Leaving keys behind hardly makes a man elderly!

It could happen to anyone!"

I turned and headed back to the truck.

I slipped the key into the ignition, but it wouldn't turn.

What now?

I checked my keys and tried another.

Still nothing.

That's when I noticed the purple beads hanging from my rearview mirror.

I had no purple beads hanging from my rearview mirror.

Then, a few other objects came into focus. The car seat in the back seat. Happy Meal toys spread all over the floorboard. A partially eaten doughnut on the dashboard.

Faster than you can say ginkgo biloba, I flew out of the alien vehicle.

Moments later I was speeding out of the parking lot, relieved to finally be leaving this nightmarish stop in my life. That is when I felt it, deep in the bowels of my stomach: hunger! My stomach growled and churned, and I reached to grab my burrito, only it was nowhere to be found.

I swung the truck around, gathered my courage, and strode back into the restaurant one final time.

There Elmo stood, draped in youth and black nail polish. All I could think was, "What is the world coming to?" All I could say was, "Did I leave my food and drink in here?" At this point I was ready to ask a Boy Scout to help me back to my vehicle, and then go straight home and apply for Social Security benefits.

Elmo had no clue. I walked back out to the truck, and suddenly a young lad came up and tugged on my jeans to get my attention. He was holding up a drink and a bag. His mother explained, "I think you left this in my truck by mistake."

I took the food and drink from the little boy and sheepishly apologized.

She offered these kind words: "It's OK. My grandfather does stuff like this all the time."

All of this is to explain how I got a ticket doing 85 in a 40. Yes, I was racing some punk kid in a Toyota Prius. And no, I told the officer, I'm not too old to be driving this fast.

As I walked in the front door, my wife met me halfway down the hall. I handed her a bag of cold food and a $300 speeding ticket. I promptly sat in my rocking chair and covered up my legs with a blankey.

The good news was I had successfully found my way home.


The larger print is for you old guys!

John <><

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Notes from Dad

Maybe it was the monthly meeting of the Ozarks Chapter of the American Christian Writers. Maybe it is that I'm bored and don't have anything else that I feel like doing right now. Maybe it's that there are a bunch of thoughts floating around in my head and the only way to make them go away is to finally write them down. Whatever the case, here I am finally blogging after almost two weeks of ... nothing.

So that this doesn't come out as a completely random ramble, I'll post a couple of related stories and how they have come together in own little mind.

I'll start with a conversation that I had with a friend about his young son that had "a melt-down" when at a sports practice. My friend didn't have much luck in getting the boy to open up about what was going on or what cause the unacceptable behavior, and the normal taking away of privileges wasn't working. I shared one of the things that I remember from my own experience as a father of a young boy.

I don't remember the events that brought about the conversation (or lack of conversation) between me and Aaron or just how old he was at the time. What I do remember is that he told me that I was hard to talk to because sometimes I'm so fixed on what I want to say that I don't listen to him and that I just get mad when he wants to talk. Wow! My son was afraid to talk to me because I wouldn't hear what he had to say and I would just get mad. I still think of that from time to time and it has made me slow down when listening to others. I think that I've become a better listener over the years but I still struggle with it--after all, I still have a teen-aged daughter at home.

Right after that, I had a conversation with another dad. He is recently divorced and has a much younger son that occasionally wants to talk about things that my friend still finds painful to talk about. The little guy doesn't really understand why his dad doesn't want to talk about these things but knows that it upsets his dad and he doesn't want to do that. I suggested that it might be a good time to let his son know that from now on, no subject would be off limits. That, no matter what, he could always talk to his dad about anything that he wanted to talk about. The time will come when dad is going to wish that his son will want to talk about some things that may be upsetting.

I didn't want either one of my friends to fall into that same situation of having sons that are afraid to talk to their dads.

All of this has spilled over into my relationship with God. I'm starting to think that referring to God as "our Father" may not be a good thing--at least, not for me. The problem comes when we start to confine God to the image of a father. Too often, we see God as a parent that will get mad. Too often, we think that we can avoid talking to God about things because He won't understand, He won't really listen and He'll just get mad.

I know that Jesus called him Father, but Jesus had a good reason. I know that the God that I believe in is a Being that desires to have a personal relationship with us. A father/child relationship works--for the most part. Where it fails to work for me is that I forget that God isn't my dad. He is my GOD. I am realizing that I've managed to shrink my God to a size small enough to fit into the imaginations of my small, finite mind. And He is so much more than that!

Although we may want to avoid a confrontation with this all-knowing God, it's not like He doesn't already know about that thing that's causing us to avoid Him. Although we may have to suffer the consequences of our disobedience, His mercy and grace is still there for us. Although we may think that we are a huge disappointment to Him, we are His handiwork; created for a purpose.

I don't want any of you to get the idea that I have a poor relationship with my dad. That's not true. But even the very best dad is a poor comparison to God. While referring to God as Father may bring us into a close relationship with Him, it also has a way of diminishing His Greatness and Glory. It is that Great God that I am desiring to know. It is that Great God that mankind should come before with fear and trembling. It is that Great God that I want ... to love, and to be loved by. I want to demonstrate my love for Him by following the teaching of His Son. I want to be obedient. I want to honor His greatness by fulfilling His plan and purpose in creating me.

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:3-4

John <><

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Encouraged by Family and Friends

So I haven't written much lately and the last couple of posts have been kind of downers. So I wanted to write something that is more uplifting and encouraging today. Let's begin with last weekend:

Last Friday and Saturday was spent in the northern part of Missouri, just south of St. Joseph. I was at a place called God's Mountain Camp with about 50 college students and their BSU (Baptist Student Union) leaders. It was a real honor to be asked to speak to this group of young men and women. I'm interested in getting feedback from the leaders on just how the weekend met with their expectations. I had a good time...I hope that they did, too. As a bonus, there was no snow in the north and Ozark was pretty much covered up. While Chris was shoveling the 9 inches of snow from the driveway, I was relaxing and enjoying the snowless view from camp.

Sunday morning I was at Edinburg Baptist Church and Sunday evening at First Baptist Gallatin. I had a really great time at both places. Edinburg is a country church and the pastor speaks very proudly about his people and the work that is happening through the little country church. I could tell that Pastor Stan really loves what he does and where he does it. They blessed me with their hospitality and warmth.

The folks at FBC Gallatin turned out in great numbers for a Sunday night. After the evening program they had a soup and sandwich fellowship. I managed to avoid the desserts with the exception of one small chocolate covered rice krispy treat and really enjoyed just talking with Pastor Marty and the people of the church.

In between the two Sunday events, I had some free time to catch up on a little reading and to make a couple of phone calls. I owed a couple of apologies and have been trying to get squared away with some of the things I've failed at in the recent past. All-in-all, I had a pretty good weekend and was ready for the four and half hour drive that would put me home at about 1 o'clock Monday morning. But then came the Sunday night bonus...

I always enjoy an unexpected phone call from one of my siblings. Turns out that my older sister had been catching up on her internet reading and read my two previous posts. She determined that I could use a little pep talk from Big Sis and called for that purpose--pretty cool, I'd say. So we talked and it helped to pass the time. We lost connection a couple of times in the spotty coverage of AT&T in rural Missouri and I felt pretty good about having a sister that would call because she felt like I needed an encouraging word.

I also received an encouraging e-mail from one of my reader/friends/fellow minister after she read the previous downer posts. (Thanks, Claudia) Then I heard some good words from a friend about how a mutual friend perceives me (very positive) and received a message on Facebook from a fellow blogger/FB friend with some questions about the Bible, Jesus, good, evil, etc.

All of these things have lifted my spirit and are bringing me back to the easy going lovable guy that you all know and love...okay, maybe that's going a little too far but you get the idea. I don't want to completely leave the thoughts of those previous posts behind me; I want to remember them and grow through them. I do want to be more purposeful and more perceptive. I want to see with the compassion of Jesus and act accordingly. I want to love with the love of a God that can love the unlovable human, John. I want to be a person that others feel that they can turn to in crisis rather than hide from. I want to be a little bit more like Jesus today than I was yesterday. And I want to be an those that have encouraged me.