Here’s Johnny

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Last night Andrea and Kevin wanted to orchestrate a belated birthday dinner for the General. Of course, as part of the entourage, I was also invited. In all truthfulness, I can say it proved to be an exceptional evening.

 

For starters, Andrea and Kevin chose a restaurant where the General and I have never been. Truthfully speaking, I am mostly a stranger to the kind of fine dining that includes something more than a white tablecloth and dinnerware. I am not accustomed to having a myriad of choices for the first course, second course, main course and the grand finale (aka – desert).

 

It was a touching moment when Andrea looked at the menu and said to her mom, “Why don’t we take this and this and this for starters?” She offered several suggestions to include for the second course and pretty much left the third course for our own choosing.

 

Seriously, for the most part, I had looked at the menu and had no idea what was being served. When it comes to culinary choices that include something outside my regular fare or frame of reference, my first reaction is to look for something else on the menu that seems more familiar. I kind of discount the possibility that I will like it if I haven’t already tried it.

 

Andrea has a culinary charm about her where she can get by with promoting a menu selection for consideration. She does a good job of convincing you that you have a treat in store. I had a flashback to the General coaxing Andrea throughout her childhood to try different foods.

 

It was both interesting to observe and experience the role reversal-taking place before my eyes. Andrea was taking on the role of teacher and mentor. Though she’d never suggest that we were her inept students, we were on unfamiliar territory. She was pretty convincing that we would enjoy the taste. Never once did she use the line: “It is good for you”.

 

The waiter was a young man named Johnny. Actually, when he first came to our table, I missed his providing us his name. At least, I didn’t recall his name when he came back around. Consequently, when he came back around I said: “Help me with my memory. I don’t remember your name.” He smiled and said: “It is Johnny. Just like Johnny Cash, except that I don’t have any cash. Okay, so now I had a frame of reference. I would remember his name.

 

As our two-hour-plus dinner took place, I watched Johnny interacting with a host of other folks dining in the restaurant. He was attentive, personable, and had a genuine gregarious nature about him that added to the ambience of the evening.

 

He mentioned early in waiting on our table that he had just returned to work. He had been on vacation. I asked about his vacation and he provided a thumb-nailed sketch. He had gone to Arizona. While he was there, he attended his brother’s wedding. He added: “I also had a great time visiting with my mom. I sprung her from the hospital for a while. She has just finished chemo and radiation treatments”. He mentioned that in four months she has aged about fifteen years.

 

Immediately, I had the thought associated to the complexity of his family’s circumstances. His mother’s health status had to weigh heavily on the family as they rallied around and celebrated a family wedding. I’m sure there were lots of emotions surrounding the celebration.

 

I mentioned that I was sorry he was dealing with that kind of stress. He said, “It comes with life”. Who could argue with that? He went on to say: “It is interesting, but my mother has developed the most magnificent sense of humor. She had never been so funny. I guess she figures, ‘What do I have to lose’?”   He added: “I really enjoyed the time with her. In addition, my brother’s wedding provided an opportunity for me to visit with a lot of old friends I’ve not seen in awhile. It was really nice. I enjoyed my time at home, but it is also good to be back at work.”

 

Through the course of the evening, bits and pieces about his life surfaced in conversation. He mentioned George Straight’s song: “Ocean Front Property In Arizona”. He said he had recorded the song and given it to several friends. His friends had responded with positive reviews.

 

I asked: “So did you come to Austin to get in the music business?” He said he had graduated from high school at the age of seventeen and was ready to advance his career. He had started skateboarding at the age of four and thought he could make it as a professional skateboarder. California was calling his name. He had to go and give that career track a chance”.

 

I doubt that is just the kind of thing every parent wants to hear from his or her seventeen-year-old son? Actually, he told his dad he was going to request court emancipation. The dad countered that he would allow him to go, but that he wasn’t going to be emancipated. The dad wanted to keep him on as an income tax deduction. Did I mention that his dad is a CPA and his mother is an art professor?

 

He had support from his family as he pursued his dreams. In the course of the two hours we shared, he shared several more tidbits about his life. He got a degree in nursing and things began to fall apart with his girlfriend at exactly the same time that he was beginning to see a line of white picket fences.

 

I had the thought: “What a clever way to express where he was in his human pilgrimage.” Romance didn’t work out in California and he made his way to Austin. His story associated to getting into the restaurant business really caught me by surprise. He said, “It was all about the Balloon Animals”. “The what”, I asked?” He said when he was still in high school a friend had showed him a stash of cash in his wallet. He said: “He had twenties and hundred dollar bills.” His friend explained: “I’ve been working at a restaurant making animals out of balloons for children.” He said, “The parents love it and they pay me. Some pay me very well”.

 

“You’ve got to show me how to do that,” was his response to his friend. In short order, he received permission to do the same thing in another restaurant. He said, “I guess it was my gregarious nature, but folks really liked me. When the restaurant decided to stop allowing me to do that, they said I was too valuable to loose. They employed me as a part-time server while I was in high school”.

 

When asked about his passion going forward he said: “I am a writer. I was made to write. I can’t stop writing. I haven’t gotten anything published yet, but I will. I write. I can’t stop writing”.

 

Something tells me, he’s got the stuff to reach his dreams. I liked his line: “I was beginning to envision a line of white picket fences”. What an incredible way to say much in a very different way of expressing it!

 

Johnny gave me permission to share his story and reluctantly provided the same regarding his picture. It would serve you well to find him. He is an exceptionally knowledgeable server who works for an incredible restaurant. You’ll enjoy a fantastic meal and an exceptional waiter.

 

All My Best!

Don

Relaxation of the River

For the last hour or more, I’ve been content to sit on the deck overlooking the Guadalupe River. The complex where we are staying has a large deck overlooking the river. It is strategically located where water backed up by the dam flows toward its passageway down river through a water slide to a much lower level.  The sound of the flowing water adds an audible ambience to the setting. 

It was dark when I arrived this morning and at that time of day, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  Actually, when I made my way back to the condominium to awaken sleeping beauty (aka – the Genera), the sun had risen, but I still had the place to myself. I didn’t see anyone else in the hour or more that I sat on the deck.

However, at some point, I discovered that I had company.  Mosquitos were enjoying an early morning breakfast at my expense. I guess you could say their meal was on me.

For the record, I don’t have to be in the water to enjoy the water. Our friend, the owner of the condominium, made her river retreat available to us several years ago and I spent a lot of time in the water. The “kid in me” really enjoyed the water slide.

This year, as I made my first run on the water slide, I somehow found myself in a horizontal position, rather than being in a sitting position.  I guess you could say I was fully enjoying the slide. However, I had the sense that I narrowly missed hitting my head on concrete where the slide turns to the left and subsequently dumps you out in the river.

So how much fun would that have been?  My younger brother will vouch for the fact that I have been hardheaded all of my life. I suspect he heard my mother describing me that way.  

Hard headed could be a character trait. It can be strength as well as a weakness. I figure that confidence and determination has to be a driving factor in knowing what you want and resolving to accept no substitutes.  Many years ago, during lunch with a couple of colleagues, I offered my “manage your manager plan” to one of them. I actually wrote the three points down on a napkin at Whataburger. Why I remember it twenty years later, I can’t say.  As I carefully explained it, there are three points that must be carefully followed. First of all, you have to know what you want. Secondly, you have to be extremely competent at what you do, and thirdly you have to be unwilling to accept a substitute.

Getting back to the waterslide, I was propelled from the slide some distance from the bank of the river. It was no big deal. The water was shallow. I stood up to walk to the bank and found myself back in the water. The surface was as slick as ice.  I subsequently discovered, there was a rope-like line you could use to pull yourself up to the bank.

So you may be wondering why I opted not to slide on the water slide again? It really didn’t totally relate to the near miss with my head. It had more to do with the fall I took when I stood up.  I’m really not comfortable falling unless it is on a snow covered mountain and I’m snow skiing.  And even then, you can be certain that I will be wearing a helmet. 

Signage makes it clear that there is no lifeguard on duty and to stay off the dam. By the way, there are two sides to the dam. Yesterday, I watched as a four year old (my guess of his age) climbed up the dam from the low water side. What parent in their right mind permits their child to do that?  I started to take the dad’s picture, but he was so far away from his son you’d never believe that he was the responsible parent providing supervision.  

The same was true of the four-year old when he subsequently opted to get in the water on the upper side of the dam. Okay, so the father was about 100 feet away and paying little attention.  The four year old did have on a life jacket, but who’s to say they are always fail-safe?

The little boy swam out to the floating dock and climbed on top.  That also postured him to subsequently be on the roped-off side where swimming was permitted and the side where it wasn’t.

Okay, so when it comes to kids, I’m probably in the over-protective category.  I guess the life-vest was enough to provide a comfort level to the kid’s father.  I was horrified for him, but I was probably over-reacting.

I will say, that I was once subpoenaed as an expert witness in a case where four- year-old drown when he accidentally fell off of a fishing pier. The four-year-old foster child was not wearing a life jacket.  

As it turned out, the case was settled out of court, but in preparing for the trial, I reviewed all of the depositions, as well as the autopsy pictures of the boy’s body once it was recovered.

I will own the fact that I’m overprotective, but I figure it is better to err with caution than be remiss with supervision. Never ever is supervision more needed than when a body of water is involved?

Well, the day is moving on and it is time for breakfast. Thanks for sharing a portion of your day with me.

All My Best!

Don

Little Things Can Cause Stress

Have you ever noticed how often little things garner our attention and we can’t eradicate them from our mind?  Take for example, my right heel.  A couple of days ago, I walked out into our garage barefooted and stepped on something. I felt a sharp prick in my right heel and quickly lifted my foot.  Had I stepped on a small rock?  I didn’t see anything where I had stepped. I also brushed the bottom of my foot with my hand and didn’t feel anything.  I looked at the bottom of my foot and I didn’t see anything.

Okay, so two days later, it still occasionally hurts.  In the scheme of things that could be bothersome, it is no big deal. However, my thoughts associated to my right heel continue. Okay, so did I step on a shard of glass?  If that had happened, wouldn’t there be a puncture wound and at least a tinge of blood? 

I know what your thinking. You’re wondering why there would be a shard of glass on my garage floor? I don’t have an immediate answer to the question, but the possibility does exist. I know that because I recently swept the garage and there was a small piece of glass in the residue of dirt I swept up.  Where did it come from? I don’t know the answer to that question either, but I do know that I saw it with my own eyes.

I’ll eventually get it sorted out. It is a little thing, but it keeps surfacing on the horizon of my consciousness.  Just this morning when I got out of bed and my heel touched the floor – Ouch!

Another little thing that I allowed to shatter my sense of calm for the past two or three days is only at most, half an inch wide. It is the gap where the newly installed kitchen tile above the kitchen cabinets stop short of reaching the ceiling. It isn’t supposed to be that way.  The tile was supposed to reach the ceiling. It doesn’t. 

Had the distance of the gap been only an eighth of an inch wide, grout or calking could have covered it. But a half an inch looks like half the wall to me. It is the only thing I see when I walk into the room. 

It is a little thing, but it has been a source of stress.  Obviously, the easiest solution is to paint the half -inch taupe border that now seem dramatically out of place just below the ceiling, the color of the ceiling. In my head, I can envision it.  It even falls into my skill set. What a dramatic difference I could make with a brush stroke or two of paint.

So, why let the half-inch strip bother me? I could paint over it and it would all disappear. Normally, when it comes to inside painting, I’m the guy. I know how to paint.  This is the only home in which we’ve ever lived that I have outsourced painting.  

Of course, the General will tell you that I now outsource every single solitary thing I used to do, if I no longer want to perform the task. Trust me on this. I’ve heard the lineup she presents as though she is making a summation in a court proceeding just before the case is handed over to a jury for deliberation. I used to iron my shirts.  I used to mow my lawn. I used to paint the house. I am living on easy street and now I don’t do anything. 

Of course, the aforementioned information is the General’s perception. It may or may not relate to reality. Of course, if it doesn’t, the General will tell you that I’m the one who is delusional. Okay, so she makes a compelling argument.

Okay, so I went to Sherwin Williams and ordered a quart of ceiling white paint on Saturday afternoon. I then took the ten-foot ladder out of the garage and brought it into the house.  I was going to eradicate the taupe line and my stress would disappear. Right?  

Not so fast. Had the ceiling white paint from Sherwin Williams actually matched the color of the ceiling in our home, my sense of calm would have been restored. Since the color wasn’t even close, it just created one more level of stress.

Okay, so back to the paint store. I was a man on a mission.  Do you have any idea how many colors of white are mixed at Sherwin Williams? I took a strip of every white paint color that Sherwin Williams makes from their display samples. I had this project sewn up. I had not previously painted the ceiling in our home, but had requested the painter use Sherwin Williams paint. 

I can’t say it happened in short order, but every white sample of paint I brought home and placed next to the color of the ceiling stood out like a sore thumb.  It was an aha moment for me. The fellow who painted the house had not used Sherwin William paint.

So, I made my way to Home Depot to pick out samples of Behr paint. They had more shades of white paint to choose from than Sherwin Williams. The kind lady suggested I cut out a chunk (at least the size of a dime) from the ceiling and they could match the paint. Do you have any idea how stressful cutting a chuck out of my ceiling seems to me? What if I did that and the paint still didn’t match?

I took the paint samples home and started looking carefully for a match. The General then made me aware that she mentioned to Andrea what I had in mind and Andrea said authoritatively, “Absolutely not!” To quote my daughter, “I had no business hanging off of a ten foot ladder! People my age wind up in nursing homes and funeral parlors from falling off of ladders.” Okay, so maybe the quote isn’t quite accurate, but she had a clear message.

Like I said, it is the little things that we let steal our sense of peace and shift our focus from the broader picture.  This morning, I’m setting on a deck overlooking Guadalupe River and listening to the sound of rushing water as it goes over a dam or   is diverted to a water slide made of concrete.

The sight and sound is amazing.  I’m not even bothered by thoughts of the half-inch off-colored gap just below the ceiling at my house.  It will all be okay. I’m going to let it go and enjoy the day.

All My Best!

Don

Morning Has Broken

The light filtering through the closed shutters in our bedroom this morning didn’t escape my notice. At first, the light was only faintly perceptible. Within a space of minutes, the light was brighter. I didn’t pull the bed linens over my head to block out the light. Obviously, it was later in the day than I desired, but I can’t really say that I overslept.  I didn’t oversleep because it was after midnight before I went to bed.

Perhaps it was too late for me to start last night, but I was energized by the challenge. Besides that, there had been no time earlier in the day for me to give it a moment’s thought. It fell into the category of constructive criticism, but it was couched gently with the concept “that it really doesn’t matter, but…”.

I may even be overstating the gentle suggested redirection, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get it right. I heard it first from my mother: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”. It probably wasn’t an original concept with her. I suspect the proverb has been around for a long time. She may have learned it from her mother, but the proverb carries the message that your finest effort is the one that matters most.

Of course, my mother had a way of cutting to the chase. She was always clear when she  cautioned: “If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing right.” Those words normally carried with them the sting that whatever I had done, wasn’t done right.  Fortunately, I didn’t hear it often, but I occasionally was the recipient of that kind of messaging. 

For that matter, how many times has the General told me the same thing?  Don’t ask me the answer, because I don’t know. I am challenged by numbers and I can’t count that high.  I figured she heard the same expression from her mother and now she’s passing her wisdom on to me. I’m a lucky – lucky guy.

My grandson Jake can rearrange the scrambled puzzle of the “Gig’em sign” faster than I can say abracadabra.  When he’s finished it always falls neatly into the right places.  Given the same assignment to rearrange the symbols and come up with the “Gig’em sign” would prove to be an exercise in futility for me. I’m a little reluctant to say that I can be beaten by a puzzle, but the reality does exist.

I’m sometimes puzzled when people ask a question and then add, “There is no right or wrong answer.” I figure it that’s true, why ask the question?  Suggest to me that what I’ve written somehow misses the mark and I will willfully try to re-word what I’ve written differently.  Seriously, the sky is the limit to the number of ways that words can be linked together to tell a story.  

Henly Today, is our monthly newsletter at church. Yours truly is mostly responsible for the content. I realize that it is late in the month, but hopefully the newsletter will make it to your mailbox before the page of the calendar turns to September. If that doesn’t happen, yours truly will probably be replaced by someone else. I’d really hate to see that happen.

Last night was my fourth attempt at expressing what I wanted to share in this month’s newsletter on the first page.  I’ve now taken four entirely different approaches. One of them even began with the words, “Once upon a time…”  

How many childhood stories were read to you that began with those words?  I’d say the messaging was inherent in many of them. However, don’t be disappointed if my article for this month doesn’t provide you a flashback to your childhood. My “once upon a time” messaging didn’t make it past the graphic designer.  

Okay, I’m not even going to say  that I’m done.  After all, mother was right. “If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing right.”

All my Best!

Don

The light filtering through the closed shutters in our bedroom this morning didn’t escape my notice. At first, the light was only faintly perceptible. Within a space of minutes, the light was brighter. I didn’t pull the bed linens over my head to block out the light. Obviously, it was later in the day than I desired, but I can’t really say that I overslept.  I didn’t oversleep because it was after midnight before I went to bed.

Perhaps it was too late for me to start last night, but I was energized by the challenge. Besides that, there had been no time earlier in the day for me to give it a moment’s thought. It fell into the category of constructive criticism, but it was couched gently with the concept “that it really doesn’t matter, but…”.

I may even be overstating the gentle suggested redirection, but at the end of the day, I wanted to get it right. I heard it first from my mother: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”. It probably wasn’t an original concept with her. I suspect the proverb has been around for a long time. She may have learned it from her mother, but the proverb carries the message that your finest effort is the one that matters most.

Of course, my mother had a way of cutting to the chase. She was always clear when she  cautioned: “If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing right.” Those words normally carried with them the sting that whatever I had done, wasn’t done right.  Fortunately, I didn’t hear it often, but I occasionally was the recipient of that kind of messaging. 

For that matter, how many times has the General told me the same thing?  Don’t ask me the answer, because I don’t know. I am challenged by numbers and I can’t count that high.  I figured she heard the same expression from her mother and now she’s passing her wisdom on to me. I’m a lucky – lucky guy.

My grandson Jake can rearrange the scrambled puzzle of the “Gig’em sign” faster than I can say abracadabra.  When he’s finished it always falls neatly into the right places.  Given the same assignment to rearrange the symbols and come up with the “Gig’em sign” would prove to be an exercise in futility for me. I’m a little reluctant to say that I can be beaten by a puzzle, but the reality does exist.

I’m sometimes puzzled when people ask a question and then add, “There is no right or wrong answer.” I figure it that’s true, why ask the question?  Suggest to me that what I’ve written somehow misses the mark and I will willfully try to re-word what I’ve written differently.  Seriously, the sky is the limit to the number of ways that words can be linked together to tell a story.  

Henly Today, is our monthly newsletter at church. Yours truly is mostly responsible for the content. I realize that it is late in the month, but hopefully the newsletter will make it to your mailbox before the page of the calendar turns to September. If that doesn’t happen, yours truly will probably be replaced by someone else. I’d really hate to see that happen.

Last night was my fourth attempt at expressing what I wanted to share in this month’s newsletter on the first page.  I’ve now taken four entirely different approaches. One of them even began with the words, “Once upon a time…”  

How many childhood stories were read to you that began with those words?  I’d say the messaging was inherent in many of them. However, don’t be disappointed if my article for this month doesn’t provide you a flashback to your childhood. My “once upon a time” messaging didn’t make it past the graphic designer.  

Okay, I’m not even going to say  that I’m done.  After all, mother was right. “If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing right.”

All my Best!

Don

Running Out Of Time

As yesterday came to an end, many things associated to the day were the catalyst for gratitude. On Thursday of last week, a friend reached out to me affirming that he wanted to be baptized.  He asked, “How is that done now?”

Coincidentally, another person who joined our church some time ago and has been awaiting baptism, telephoned me earlier in the week. She, too, asked if arrangements could be made for baptism. 

Our church does not have a baptistry. Consequently, weather permitting, we find a suitable outdoor venue.  Until we came to Henly in 1979, my only frame of reference to baptism was inside a church building. If your family was Baptist and you grew up in my generation, you probably have the same frame of reference.  

There was a mural painted on the walls of the baptistry in the church where I grew up.  The mural made the scene look like an outdoor setting. Across the years, I’ve  found that true in many churches. Sometimes the baptistry is covered by a panel of drapes and can only be viewed when open. 

At Henly, the creek was the natural setting of choice.  I vividly remember my first time to baptize someone in the creek. The section of creek we used also doubled as a swimming hole in the summer.  The natural ambience of the setting made it seem more like the Jordon River in which Jesus was baptized.  

I said earlier that my only frame of reference to baptism was inside a church building. Obviously, I didn’t think it through before I made that statement. Matthew chronicles the baptism of Jesus in the book that bears his name. I always reference that passage of Scripture when I baptize anyone.

Getting back to the creek, a change of ownership of the property where the swimming hole was located, along with the invitation from a church member offering even a more a picturesque setting, prompted a change in locations.  The new creek location included large oak trees and a huge flagstone patio flanking the creek.  

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that we incorporated a church picnic with baptism going forward. What better venue to simply enjoy a Sunday afternoon? 

Like I said, baptism has always been seasonal at Henly.  That is not to say I haven’t been in some very cold water across the years, but for the most part, February is mostly out when it comes to  immersion.

Other than the weather, another major consideration is always tied to rainfall. There has to be water in the creek to make the concept work.  On an August Sunday in 2020, water seemed in short supply. Consequently, we went to Plan B and opted to use a neighbor’s swimming pool. In terms of outdoor natural surroundings with a view of the hills, it is pretty picturesque.

It just occurred to me that mentioning baptism could be fairly controversial. That is not my intent. Different churches and denominations don’t all agree.  For what it’s worth, I liken baptism to wearing a wedding ring. Wearing the  wedding ring, doesn’t make you married.  Being baptized doesn’t make you a Christian. Baptism is simply symbolic of the inward change that has taken place in a person’s life through faith.

I know a divorced guy that wore a wedding ring because he didn’t want to be the target for any lady window-shopping for a husband. Yesterday, I didn’t wear my wedding ring because my fingers were swollen and the ring was too tight. The absence of my wedding ring didn’t make me unmarried. Baptism is simply out outward sign of an inward change that has taken place in a person’s life.  

Both of the adults who chose to be baptized yesterday have been on a faith walk for a very long time.  I wondered if the presence of a life-threatening pandemic was the catalyst to choose now as the time? When you stop to think about it, running out of time is the common experience of many.

Franz Schubert composed what is referred to as the Unfinished Symphony. The year was 1822. He was just 25 years-of-age. Interestingly, he subsequently entrusted a couple of more movements of his symphony to a close friend. For whatever reason, the friend chose to hang on to them for the next 42 years without disclosing to anyone else that he had them in his possession. 

Schubert died at the age of 31(six years after writing what historically has been thought of as the Unfinished Symphony). His cause of death reportedly was typhoid fever from drinking tainted water. If there is a moral to the story, it could be, “Be careful what you drink” – or it could be – “Don’t drink the water”. Perhaps a better moral to the story is, Time waits for no man. Take care that you don’t run out of time”.

Running out of time – Let me provide you another example: It is said of Queen Elizabeth I – that on her deathbed, she lamented: “Time – Time – Give me one more moment of time. I would give my kingdom and all that I possess for one more moment of time.”

We say it can’t happen to us, but it can. And this year it may. And not one of us knows.  

I am grateful that I shared time with a couple of people yesterday that will forever remember their baptism.  It was a honor to be included in the experience. I am grateful.

All My Best!

Don

A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

How do we best foster relationships and a sense of connection in an environment where people are cautioned to social distance and limit contact with others?  Does lack of physical contact minimize the emotional and spiritual bound that people of faith share?  I noticed this morning that my Facebook account reflects that I have 1120 Facebook friends.

I can confirm across the years that I’ve come to highly value a number friendships with individuals I’ve never met in person through Facebook. However, not everyone one reaching out with a request for Facebook friendship has the potential to represent the level of camaraderie I’m hoping to find.

Sometimes a “friend of a friend” inclusion can carry the potential for trouble.  The General often says that I live in a fog and I don’t pay attention.  Maybe she’s right? I once included a young woman as a Facebook friend simply because she was a friend of someone I respect and have known for years.  

How I missed the fact that the paisley blouse she was wearing really wasn’t fabric, but tattoos I can’t say. Subsequently, discovering that she was in the adult entertainment business in Abilene was a startling revelation. I hastily made the decision to eliminate her from my roster of Facebook friends, but it wasn’t without regret.  

I thought about the woman at the well that Jesus befriended. Where would she be today had it not been for the friendship of Jesus?  At the same time, I could almost hear the General suggesting to me that I was not Jesus.  Consequently, I breathed a sigh of relieve when she wasn’t one of the people commenting on my Facebook posts. Every comments included the paisley profile picture.

I want to be a friend who truly values relationships. I want to be a friend that demonstrates kindness. I want to be the kind of friend who is willing to put my life on hold when an opportunity presents itself to be kind to someone else.

Several years ago, a friend moved from “Big D” (aka – Dallas) to a ranch in a much less populated area of the state.  In providing an overview of the new place, she even added in a reference to the pastor. Her words support the notion that people respond positively to kindness. When people sense they are loved and supported, the connection that is forged is meaningful and fulfilling.

She wrote: “I like all my neighbors including the pastor of our church.  Truthfully, he is really no kind of preacher – couldn’t preach his way out of a paper bag; however, he is a real pastor.  He would help you get your truck out of a ditch, set up your deer feeder, take your grandma to the doctor, sit up with a sick relative, or help you fix your roof. He really cares about people around here and he is so funny.

“He has a great sense of humor. Last Sunday he talked about his visit to the ‘Bass Pro Shop’ sport extravaganza in Grapevine, and you could tell it was a true religious experience for him…all that hunting and fishing equipment in one place.  Anyway, I actually enjoy going to church, can you believe it?”

Kindness can make a long-term difference when shared to meet others at the point of need. How many people do you know who would help you get your truck out of a ditch, set up your deer feeder, take your grandma to the doctor, sit up with a sick relative, or help you fix your roof? I want to be that kind of friend. Perhaps I should offer the disclaimer, that my skillset isn’t proficient in all of these areas.

There is absolutely no way to calculate or evaluate the difference our involvement (His involvement through us) can make in the lives of others who need our help. I’d like to be the kind of person who is always available to help others at the point of need.  

That brings me back to the question we started with: “How do we best foster relationships and a sense of connection in an environment where people are cautioned to social distance and limit contact with others?”

By the way, the unexpected benefit of that kind of lifestyle holds long-term benefits for us. Do you remember the way Christ expressed it in Matthew 25?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and your gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and  you clothed me, I was sick and your looked after me, I was in prison and you visited me.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell  you, whatever you did for one of the least of these others and sisters of mine, you did for me’”.

I wish I had better answers for the question I posed, but it would serve me well to figure it out. I suspect the same might be true for you as well.  

All My Best!

Don 

Unfinished Business

Almost but not quite! I’m beginning to think it is the new normal for the look in our kitchen. That is on the heels of getting off to a great start with the new countertops.  So the new look in the kitchen is almost complete. Yesterday, I went to pick up new lights for under the cabinets and over the cabinets. The electrician was scheduled to be onsite today. Unfortunately the lighting we need is not in stock.

So, time marches on and we have bare electric wires dangling under our cabinets and over our cabinets. Okay, so that’s not quite true. The ends of the wiring are encased in a yellow something that covers the wires when they are joined together. They are obviously meant to cover two wires because the yellow whatchamacallit keeps falling off.  Two wires would make the fit more snug.

A few moments ago, the General shared another bright idea (pun intended due to the lights) with me and my reaction was “No way Jose”. I could have expressed it differently, but had I said “Not no, but never”, she wouldn’t  have rested until she proved me wrong.  It never serves me well to orchestrate a duel with the General. She is so competitive the she will prove me dead wrong every time.

Like I said, “Almost but not quite, is the status quo, but I’m almost done. The General will rise up in arms when she reads this.  She will wonder how I got done when I haven’t done anything to start? I hate it when she’s right. It seems so condescending!

I’m purposefully choosing not to mention the General’s bright idea for fear of an avalanche of support to follow the General’s lead.  Trust me on this, enough is enough!  So do I like the new look?  I have to admit that it looks fantastic. Well, almost fantastic is a better answer.  The dangling wires are troublesome to me.

There is one other issue that I didn’t anticipate. It has to do with the subway tile that was installed over the top of kitchen cabinets. The tile was supposed to go to the ceiling. Like I said, almost but not quite has me a little out of sorts.  I’m still not sure I understand why the tile couldn’t be flush with where the vaulted ceiling begins?  

Truthfully, I was impressed with the skillset of the guy that installed the tile.  He explained about the angle and getting things square and level, but it was a little over my head. What is in my scope of understanding is that I have at least half an inch of painted wall above the tile to where it connects with the vaulted ceiling. It is NOT a good look!

The word “unacceptable” comes to mind.  I’m a “turn key” kind of guy and I’ve discovered that any sweat equity I invest is likely to reduce the value of my home rather than improve it. Now it is obvious that I am not quite done. The simply solution is to paint the exposed paint above the wall the color of the ceiling. That way, no one is likely notice we are a half inch shy of where we need be and I’m a dollar short.

One of my most anxious moments related to the project had to do with the General’s bright idea to have the electrical switches removed from the back spash area and just rely on pressing the off-on button for each light. That was another, “No way Jose” response from me. Fortunately, I prevailed on that one.

I didn’t ask because I was afraid to ask.  I suspect the lighting in a friend or family member’s home is voice activated. That would eliminate the need for a visible switch altogether.  You’d never have to do anything but remember to speak clearly. In addition, you’d never have greasy finger prints on anything. Actually, since I don’t turn a hand to do anything around the house to help, my handprints probably would not leave a smudge.

I figure if electronics are involved, so is the risk of it eventually not working. Did I mention that “almost but not quite” is not what I anticipated?    

All My Best!

Don

Church Safety

Well intentioned people don’t always get it right. Is there a difference between faith and simply wanting things done our own way?  Does choosing to follow Jesus involve throwing caution to the wind and purposefully defying public health sanctions and governmental decrees reportedly imposed for our own good?

Let me say up front, one of the first things I consider is the uniformity and inclusiveness of what is being required in public health interests. Back in March when Judge Becerra’s order for Hays County specifically limited meetings of no more than ten people at a funeral, wedding or religious gathering, but didn’t place similar restrictions on the neighborhood bar, I was incensed.

Apparently, many other judges across Texas made similar requirements in their jurisdictions including fines of between $500 to $1,000 for each occurrence.  Yet, there were no similar limitations on the number of people who could gather at the “Dew Drop In” that served spirits from a bottle.

The Governor of Texas insightfully imposed a state mandate, upgrading churches as an “essential business”, putting them on a level playing field with the “Dew Drop In” and in so doing lowered my blood pressure.

Earlier in the week in “The Daily Article”, Dr. Jim Denison contrasted two churches in California who are choosing to worship in different ways. Denison writes:

“Pastor John MacArthur led his congregation in worship inside Grace Community Church’s 3,500-seat sanctuary in Sun Valley, California, last Sunday. They met in violation of state restrictions stating: ‘Places of worship must therefore discontinue indoor singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25 percent of building capacity or a maximum of one hundred attendees, whichever is lower’ (their emphasis).

“Videos and pictures of the service showed the sanctuary filled to capacity with worshippers sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. I did not see anyone wearing a mask. 

“MacArthur said in a video statement, ‘We will obey God rather than men. We’re going to be faithful to the Lord and we’re going to leave the results to him.’ He added, ‘We will not bow to Caesar. The Lord Jesus Christ is our king.’ 

“…Commenting on churches that have chosen to defer in-person worship until January, MacArthur said, ‘I don’t have any way to understand that other than they don’t know what a church is and they don’t shepherd their people, but that’s sad. And you have a lot of people in Christianity, who seem to be significant leaders, who aren’t giving any strength and courage to the church. They’re not standing up and rising up and calling on Christians to be the church in the world as I said on Sunday.’ 

“…An hour away, in Riverside, California, worshipers at Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship met in a white tent half the size of a football field to comply with state orders restricting indoor worship.

“Volunteers scanned attendees’ foreheads with infrared thermometers before they entered the tent, where they found rows of six chairs spaced about six feet apart. Masks were required and signs directed worshipers to wave at rather than touch one another. 

“An official with MacArthur’s Grace to You ministry said that moving gatherings outdoors to comply with state regulations was not an option for Grace because of the size of the congregation and the California heat. He also said, ‘You don’t have to shut down the whole church’ just because people might catch an illness. 

Laurie, by contrast, sees the outdoor setting as ‘our newest response to keeping people safe in California. We don’t have to be in the sun, and we were easily able to sit in distanced seating groups and still feel like one big happy family.’” 

By the way, a few people where I worship have  suggested to me that I not reference the tough days in which we find ourselves. If I never reference the “pandemic” from the pulpit again, it would be a Win/Win for them. After all, isn’t it time that we move on?

I suspect they might be more comfortable going to church with Pastor John McArthur. However, I figure the commute would wear them down and they would be back. Personally, in light of what I consider reality, I’d opt to worship with the folks in Riverside, CA who are meeting outdoors, and complying with health-related protocols. 

I noticed elsewhere in church news this morning, a beloved pastor of a Methodist Church in Itasca, TX died from COVID-19.  He, too, was following precautions and leading his church through video sermons rather than in-person worship.

With God’s help, we’ll all get through the rough spot we’re going through. Different congregations will choose what works best for them. I visited by telephone with a friend yesterday. He is a member of the First Baptist Church in the very large town where he lives. They have discontinued all in-person worship. In contrast, another church that  he named are continuing to meet in person, but follow CDC related guidelines.

There is no suitable replacement for Worship in our lives. With God’s leadership, we’ll figure out what works best for us.  Where I attend church, our options including meeting in person and following CDC guidelines or watching the video of the church service from home.  In one, you can wear pajamas and drink coffee, in the other more suitable dress is preferred.

All My Best! 
Don

Time

I don’t remember the ladies name.  We met her shortly after moving to Fort Worth in 1974. Her husband, a pilot in the United States Air Force, had been missing in action in Vietnam for several years. It was a couple of years after my twin brother was inaugurated into that same category of loved ones long  remembered whose fate was unknown.  She had kindly invited us to her home to talk about the National League of Families for POW/MIA Families.

I thought of her this morning and of one of the impacts that I gleaned from visiting with her in her home. She basically lived in the same neighborhood where we lived in Southwest Fort Worth. She lived in the upper end of the neighborhood where the homes were larger and more expensive.  That is not to say that our home wasn’t nice, but it paled in comparison to the home where the Lt. Colonel’s wife lived.

I  truthfully couldn’t tell you the décor of the home, but the thing that forever captured my attention was the beautiful clocks that graced her living area. Some were hanging on the walls, other set on shelves and one was the nicest grandfather clock I’d ever seen. She was the lady with the clock collection and they had been purchased in Germany and other far away places where her husband had been stationed in the military.

I remember thinking of Corrie ten Boom. I had read the book, “The Hiding Place” several years before and somehow the clocks in the lady’s home reminded me of how I envisioned the ten Boom family might have lived in their residence above the clock and watch store her father started in 1837.

Reportedly, during 1943 and into 1944, there were usually as many as seven people illegally living in the ten Boom home – Jews and members of the Dutch underground. Additional refugees would stay with the ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another “safe house” could be located for them.

On February 28 1944, the ten Boom family was betrayed and the Gestapo raided their home. The Gestapo set a trap and waited throughout the day, seizing everyone who came to the home. They were all taken to prison.    

Corrie was the only family member that survived the death camp. She realized her life was a gift from God, and she needed to share what she and Betsie (her sister) had learned at Ravensbruck: “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still,” and “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.” 

Okay, so Corrie’s story is a little extra thrown in, but I associate her with clocks and kindness. Those were the same two characteristics of the Lt. Colonel’s wife in Fort Worth.  She reached out to us knowing that we were relatively new to the world of ambiguous grief. I remember her kindness to this day, even though we only met her one time. I also remember her clocks.

I’ve never been to Germany and I’ve never purchased clocks in faraway places to be a memento representing the time we called that country home. However, I do have clocks.

Strange, how a visit to a stranger’s home in 1974 planted the seed that one day, I would collect clocks. It was actually ten years later that we purchased our first grandfather clock. Would you believe it was purchased to commemorate our fourteenth wedding anniversary?  It is my favorite clock. We’ve had it for thirty-eight years.

This morning when I walked through our darkened home, the thing mostly missing was the sound of the clocks. I have eight wind-up clocks that chime. I have several that do not.  Over the past several months, I have been remiss in keeping the clocks wound.  Actually, we mostly remember to keep the three grandfather clocks wound and chiming on the quarter, half, three/fourth and hour, but there are a host of other clocks in our home that have that same capacity. Back in the day, I was resolute in keeping every clock in our home wound.  The past couple of years, not so much. 

So, what would cause a person to be less than attentive to keeping a clock wound?  I’m not asking this question in jest.  Historically, I’ve always been attentive to ensuring the clocks were all wound. Of course, I purposefully set the time on each a little differently. I want to hear the cascading sounds of them chiming and striking on the hour.

I’ve known any number of people who are wound up tighter than a clock. I don’t think I’ve ever been one of them.  So why have I been lax in keeping everything but the grandfather’s clocks wound?  Does my failure to do so, carry with it the subtle message that I want to slow down or stop time?

Do I live with the sense that I am running out of time?  In his poem entitled “Time Is”, Henry Jackson van Dyke Jr, writes: “Time is Too slow for those who wait, Too swift for those who Fear,”.

Of course, Solomon, the man of wisdom had much to say about time:

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens

a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,                                                                                     

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,                                                                                        

    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace”.

Perhaps as a first order of business, I’ll wind clocks today.

All My Best!

Don 

Something Seemed Different

I remember being fascinated by “wheels” when I was a kid. For as long as I can remember, I have been car crazy. At about the age of seven or eight, I fashioned a wooden go-cart that had the potential for making it across the carport before the axle collapsed and it fell apart. It certainly didn’t come equipped with a gasoline engine. I probably robbed the axle from a wagon, but I don’t remember for certain. I’m sure the wheels came from the same source.

Of course, I knew at some level my home-made go-cart wasn’t road worthy and didn’t have the potential to actually move without being pushed. Yet, it still had a purpose in my world of make-believe. It would be my ticket to far-away places even if they were only next door. 

Having a set of wheels carried the potential for adventure and excitement. I never entertained the limitation of reality in the equation of my make-believe imagination. It is called the world of childhood and apart from one’s level of imagination it holds no boundaries.

Monday morning when I arrived at Craig and Becky’s home around noon, Jake immediately came downstairs to greet me.  He and Snickers (the General’s rescue dog) are always elated when I walk into their space. I watched him as he quickly made his way down the stairs.  He looked different and at the same time, he looked the same.

So, what was there about him that made me notice a difference? Was it his hair?  It was a little longer on the top than he normally wears it. It may even have been slightly bleached out from the summer’s sun.  No, I ruled that  out. It wasn’t the hair. Is it possible that he had just gone through a growth spurt and was a little taller? That may have been it, but I wasn’t quite sure.

I suggested to Jake that I put my backpack in his room. I seldom go anywhere without my computer and I anticipated I’d have some work-related emails that I’d need my computer to handle.  As it turned out, I was right.

When we got to the top of the stairs and went into Jake’s room, he showed me his latest Lego creation.  I have always been amazed at how quickly he can envision something out of nothing and in short order put something together that I’d be hesitant to disassemble simply because it looks so good.  His latest Lego creation had secret compartments and he challenged me to find the lever or device that would unlock his treasure chest.  

He even gave me a clue. There were eight keys to the treasure chest. Once he showed me where they were located, it all made sense. Could I find them again? I doubt it. I had the thought that his abilities and creativity excel mine by a long shot. Did he have a future in engineering? 

I sat that question aside with the thought that Jake has lots of choices and he excels at all of them.  His ability to express himself in words rivals mine and I’ve been engaged in public speaking and writing for a very long time.  He is also a really funny kid!  The things that come out of his mouth are hilarious.  Most people with an aptitude for engineering are generally…

I started to write “straight laced and play-it-by-the book” kinds of people. I don’t necessarily think of them as being the life of the party, excessively people oriented or adapt for stand-up comedy. I’m thinking more smart and quiet, but I could be wrong. 

Actually, the stereotype I just associated to engineers is simply that. It may be true of some, but it is not true of all. I figure smart, analytical, curious, detail oriented and skilled in math and science is a good start.  Of course, I drew all of those traits from thinking about my twin that processed information very differently than I did.  While he was carrying a slide rule in high school, I was embracing things that were a contrast to all of that. Unless I needed to draw a straight line, I didn’t have a need for a slide rule. I could use a common ruler and do the same thing.

Ronnie was selected by the senior class as one of the top ten in the class to succeed. I didn’t get honorable mention. I’m still wondering how people knew?  I guess you could say, I’m still a work in progress. Actually, I’m hoping I’m still a work in progress.

Jake asked if I’d like to see his go-cart?  I had a flashback to the one I had made in childhood.  Jake added that the go-cart needed a lot of restoration, but he wanted to do it. His mother had found the go-cart on Craig’s List and bought it for him. So what was Jake talking about?  

Truthfully, I was a little shocked. For starters, Jake was right. The go-cart needs a lot of work before it works. I probably shouldn’t say it, but I was relieved that none of the wheels were on the go-cart. That makes the machine safer for now.  The motor does work. Brakes – who’s to say? 

Actually, I listened in amazement as Jake shared with me that he had just taken apart the carburetor and put it back together. He had done a couple of other things. He could not be more excited and I am excited for him.  

As he explained to me the process of what he has planned to restore the go-cart, I wondered, “Where did this kid come from?” The little boy is no longer a little boy. Maybe that’s what changed? Obviously, the change in Jake that I noticed is tied to some kind of rite of passage.

Jake is moving from Legos to real-life stuff and seems equipped and knowledgeable. I guess you could say, I was developmentally delayed. I went through the same kind of experience at about age thirty-five. With the help of a friend, I rebuilt the carburetor on a truck I had purchased from a neighbor. Did I mention the rebuilt carburetor didn’t resolve the problem? I took the truck to a real mechanic and it turned out I needed a new gas-cap on the truck.  

I suspect Jake’s outcome with the go-cart will open lots of doors for him.  Go –  Jake – go. (The fine print reads – wear a helmet, seat belt and don’t go fast. More importantly, stay inside the fence that surrounds your home.)

All My Best!

Don