Friday, May 29, 2009

The Tender Bar

"Why do those men act so silly?" I asked my mother.
"They're just --- happy."
"About what?"
She looked at the men, thinking.
"Beer, sweetheart. They're happy about the beer."


I became a prodigy at selective listening, which I thought was a gift, until it proved to be a curse. Life is all a matter of choosing which voices to tune in and which to tune out, a lesson I learned long before most people, but one that took me longer than most to put to good use.


Though I kept my feelings bottled tight, eventually those feelings fermented, then fizzed to the surface in the form of odd behavior. I turned overnight into a compulsive and neurotic child. I set about trying to fix Grandpa's house -- straightening rugs, restacking magazines, retaping furniture. My cousins laughed and called me Felix, but I wasn't being neat, I was going crazy. Besides doing what I could to make the house less offensive to my mother, I was trying to put order to chaos, a quest that led me ultimately to seek a more dramatic rearrangement of reality.

I began dividing life into absolutes...Life was governed by polar opposites...Things were either perfectly bad, or perfectly good, and when life didn't obey this black-and-white rule, when things or people were complex or contradictory, I pretended otherwise. I turned every defeat into a disaster, every success into epic triumph, and separated all people into heroes or villains. Unable to bear ambiguity, I built a barricade of delusions against it.

And baby makes three....

These are three of my newer buddies. Jake, Maddie in the middle, and Ben on the right. Maddie just got here, thanks to Amy and Dave, (mostly Amy!) Ben, he's an old soul. We've talked a few times. He and Jake love their little sister, and Ben thinks I rock. Whatever the reasons, he does. And he's starting to convince me I do. I like it when he's around. And I love this picture; they are just as precious in real life.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Ted...

This isn't about a man named Ted. I was just thinking of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and it made me think of the theme song's opening line, and I thought of all that because I got a new tooth yesterday to replace an old tooth. Very Hillbilly-like. Was chewing gum and the 1996 tooth came out and my gum bubbles had little pieces of tooth in it and it was bad. So there you go.

But the day, the new tooth day, it was good. And I didn't realize it all the way until I was walking late and reviewing the day like I do now and I saw how good it was. And a friend told me the same thing, how God was kind of right where He (or She) needed to be all day, which was right there in every moment. She wrote to say she was thankful for "the opportunity to be in the moment most all day today, which is just what 'the next thing' is. And that’s where I find God, because then I get to see God in everything under my nose."

I've found that if you ask God in the morning to make you aware, He will. And awareness is a key for us all, especially for me, unaware for so long. Unaware is like walking in the fog and you hear voices and see blurred lights and you know where you were but you missed what happened. You can't truly recreate what happened because you don't honestly know. I've really come to believe that most of us go through life unaware. I hate when I do that now. For me, it takes practice.

So I get up at 5:15 in Ruston to head toward my new tooth in Shreveport. The guys at U-Pac-It were nice when I stopped for a turbo cup of decaf, and you wonder "What's the point?' but I like me some decaf, and I love the people at U-Pac-It. They smile and we talk and it's entirely good.

(This thing about the point of drinking decaf reminds me that the other day some friends saw a woman raking loads of free peanuts into her big purse; they were at a restaurant that offers you free peanuts as an appetizer and they put the buckets of peanuts on the table and the lady just raked them into her purse. AND THEY ASKED FOR MORE ROLLS!, which of course were probably shoved into a coat pocket and taken home. But the point is, you don't steal peanuts. They are, by definition, not worth stealing and next to free. "I paid 'peanuts' for that." This is like stealing pennies and just one step up from stealing air. I love a peanut but they define 'cheap.' I can see stealing a fork or a salt shaker. But peanuts?...That's just stealing to be stealing...)

Traffic was backed up in Haughton but I still got to the dentist just three minutes late, at 7:13. I like to get there early. I always request to bat leadoff, 7:10 a.m., before they start breathing the laughing gas and getting all loopy. I love my dentists peeps! So nice and nurturing. And expensive. Though that's not their fault. They even gave me two cookies.

And I got out just in time to meet my pal at Starbucks, where I did not have to buy a cup of coffee for $73 because my dentist peeps had given me a cup free (at least sort of free, not counting the new chomper). "You're like family," they said, which made me panic at first because I thought they were fixing to fire me, no questions asked, but instead they meant it as family in a grand and feel-good way, as in "You've got a false tooth, but you still belong to us!"

Beautiful, beautiful visit at Starbucks. I like to talk about things these days but even better is the listening. I have been listening for what I want to hear for years, even making a good living at it, but when you start to listen for everything, or just listen openly, you start to HEAR everything and it's hard to beat. All these people, these images of God, trying so hard to tell you something, to teach you, to share bits of themselves. This is what makes you feel entirely honored and even -- here's a new word -- humble, that people would share. I look back at the times I was absolutely shut down, didn't share, couldn't, and couldn't be of any help, even to ones I loved, because I couldn't receive or give. Wanted to; could not pull the trigger. I was good for 85 yards in a 100 yard race. And that's what makes you lonely and that's what makes, as Anne Lamott says, "...Jesus want to go drink gin out of the cat dish." Life's about relationships. Do you ever pray this?: "Please God, let me remember that every day, and don't let me ever be the person I was, isolated with a false tooth and a false spirit and a false just-about everything. Help me listen and help me be aware." I do. Not just like that, but close. And I'll tell you: if you pray that and mean it and have faith He'll keep His promise, He'll do exactly that. He'll cover you. And yes, I agree: it's a miracle.

So then, break of breaks, I go to Barnes and Noble to kill a few minutes before seeing another friend and yet ANOTHER friend calls. And he's wondering where I'm at. I'm supposed to be in Ruston. But I'm in Shreveport. At Barnes and Noble, which is JUST where he's heading! So I get 20 minutes with him.


Then I go see my other buddy, and he's recovering from nearly freakishly dying, but he's at work and healing up and he loves me and that's all good. When I tell you he has prayed for me for 28 years, I am not joking. I love him, and my man 30-WT too, for keeping the faith. And there were two ladies in his office and three guys and he introduced me to all of them and THEY were kind. Sort of beamy even, and they took the time to stop working and say hey to me. And the first guy I saw when I walked in, he hugged me; haven't seen him in eight years, I bet. Who knew?

Got a Whataburger, the third one in my life, for the trip back. And the nice lady who sold me the burger, when it was ready she walked around the counter and handed me my sack and smiled like I was her favorite uncle. Why are all these people being nice to me?

I worked the last half of the day in the office and got a good report from one of my favorites; a bit of a cancer scare has been head-faked and that's all good, and her husband is no longer wearing out the carpet, walking and worrying. And my friends at work were all cheery, like it was Christmas Day, but it was only a Wednesday.

I'm leaving and the phone rings and it's a couple and they're going to eat and want me to meet them so I can meet the husband's mom. OK. So I do that and of course she is wonderful and small and talks low and smiles big. I might never see her again. But I'm glad I saw her last night. I thanked her for sharing her family with me. She nodded like she was used to doing it, like it was her job, to spread the love around, quietly but efficiently.

And that took me home to lift weights (can't you tell!!!; well, they are very little weights) and of all people, Smart Jimmy calls! He comes through town on Wednesdays. He had to get on home but he was checking in, like I check in on him. He needs me to check in on him, which is something I would never have imagined. But he does. And I need him to do the same for me. So we do.

And then I go walking and I walked four miles and talked to God, out loud, and mostly listened, and that's when I heard most everything I just wrote.

Today Dr. Speed wanted me to eat with him and I did. And he wants me to help him chop some wood after work, so I will. And a buddy wants me to meet him for some decaf before he and his wife go out of town, so that's all good.

Wait a minute. "Is it really ALL good?" One of my favorite T-shirts. And no, it's not. That's why we loved that T-shirt. But it's not all bad. It will never be all good, not down here. Those are the rules. Which is why I pray and pray to be made aware, to not miss the good, and to be part of the peace and the joy and the faithfullness and the hope and the goodness, and not the sneaky and squeaky part of our human nature, the part that has to make Jesus thirsty for just a split second, thirsty enough to cut his eyes toward the cat dish...

(This post turned out ridiculously, embarrassingly long! Started and just kept going. Remember, sometimes what I write could be either misunderstood or flat wrong, so head's up. Posts might even be typo-filled. But we're not reinventing the wheel here. Or trying to win the pennant in one game. Just sharing is all. Hey, check out Philippians 1:3. Seeya!)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Day to Sissy!

I would like to tell you about getting my new tooth today and I'm sure you would like to hear about it but instead the day belongs to my big sister. I hope she has a fun day. She went to the pony races this weekend and watched the little horsies run and when I called her she sounded like she used to sound when we'd go to the arcade at the beach.

"This is soooo FUUUUUUNNNN!"

She's neat...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rats...this is going to take some willingness...

I hadn't read Anne Lamott in 10 years. Until last week.

Thank you God; I needed her. She writes stuff like this:

"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us."

She is a recovered alkie, and it's good to have people like her in the lifeboat. She often reminds me in a witty, vulnerable and human way what's expected of us down here, what's the best route to go. Mostly I think I just needed to hear her "voice" right now ...

Out of the blue I got to hear a lot of Tom the jesuit priest in the winter, Lamott now, all sorts of godsends inbetween. I need a word on grace and I get it and another on faith and I get that and then forgiveness or patience or compassion, some of these things once fairly foreign to me, and I get that too.

And then sometimes there is just silence, a lot of that, and that's when you've really got to buckle your chinstrap. When you're used to controlling and you don't ever want to be that way again, you've got to be really aware of what you can't change, what you can, and how to know the difference. Or at least how to feel the difference. Staying out of the way seems to take up most of my time, and thank goodness for that. Seriously: those of us here in the Bureau of Spiritual Kindergarten must make God look at Himself in the mirror some mornings, shake his head and say, out loud while he decides whether or not to trim the beard, "So much for a day at the spa. I've got to go help THAT guy out again."

I really don't know a lot anymore, except that I'm loved as I am, and that makes me want to return it. Had to learn though. God is patient. He's not safe, but He's good.

More later but I should give you this graph from Lamott in her story, "A Man Who Was Mean to His Dog."

"I knew on the beach that Jesus would have stepped in to save the dog, and he would have been loving the dog beater as he did so. He would have been seeing the dog beater's need and fear. Well, I am certainly not there yet. I myself am a bit more into blame and revenge; also, I've found that self-righteousness is very comforting. But Jesus is quite clear on this point. He does not mince words. He says you even have to love the whiners, the bullies, and the poeple who think they're better than you."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day: Bought with a Price

"Greater love has no man, than to lay down his life for a friend."


More than 53,000 Americans died on World War I battlefields. Nearly 300,000 in World War II. More than 33,000 in Korea. More than 47,000 in Vietnam.


On this Memorial Day, there is a chance of more American deaths in the Middle East.


The numbers are seldom accurate for battlefield deaths. That itself speaks to the horror and inhuman quality of what happens when countries collide, when warrior after warrior falls and becomes a number, maybe one uncounted.


But no matter the final total, each was one. And that one counted to friends and family. Counted more than just about anything else. Someone was handed a folded flag. Teary eyes heard Taps. Real brothers and fathers and sons died.


“Greater love hath no man…”


It’s a good day to remember that someone died for us. Some of those men and women, we will never know. Heroic strangers. Wartime death, the ultimate sacrifice to freedom, should inspire us all, through love, to help and heal each other with goodness and understanding.


And today and every day’s a good day to remember that through one good man’s death, through His blood, an otherwise fatal and eternal debt was paid, one that would lead to the end of war and death. Every day’s a good day to remember we were all bought with a price. Someone felt each of us was worth dying for. Until I could grasp, at least a little, the meaning of and reality of Christ’s death, I couldn’t grasp the gospel, which is not about what I can do, but about what’s already been done for me.



Saturday, May 23, 2009

Happy Graduation Day

Proud, and with much love...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Last Day of School...!

Congrats! Sweet!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sonnet-fest '09

Today is the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's sonnets, of which he has 150 or so. I can imagine the weekend 400 years ago, all the Londoners sitting on the banks of the Thames, reading and reading and reading, and occasionally one maybe shouting after running up on something that really hit the the Old World nail on the English head.

"Hey, have you read CXI yet?"

"No, but it can't be better than XVIV!"

"Bill rocks!"

I like my Bill. I can't remember the number of the sonnet and I should, but a few lines down it goes something like...

"Love is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
(And then something else,
and something else, and
I can't remember, but I think something else, and...)
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come...
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

That's a piece of a sonnet, at least. The point is, Bill really got in there and tried.

I'd ask you to send me your favorite sonnet but, on such a beautiful day, that would be an inane request. And I've got to write some other stuff right now anyway, some non-rhyming stuff. Meanwhile, happy anniversary to Shakespeare's sonnets. Which is easy for me to say; I dont' have to take a Lit final this week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Henry, honey, are you upset about something?..."

Beautiful day today, but few students on the Louisiana Tech campus are aware of it. It's finals week, so everyone is walking toward class while starting at notebooks. You can always tell when someone has a test; they never look up, just keep walking and studying, right up 'til the last second.

It could be worse. It could be May 19, 1536, and you could be Anne Bolyne, pictured here, pre-beheading. She was the second wife of Henry VIII, made famous by being King of England and made even more famous later by Herman's Hermits, which is another story. Anne never knew that part about Herman's Hermits because she was somewhat executed on this date in 1536, and it was a bum rap, I'm here to tell you. She gave birth to Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth I, but she couldn't hit the jackpot on birthing a male child. Royalty was a mighty risky business back in the day. Once they put that "B" necklace on you, it was all over but the shouting.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wayman Tisdale. I like the name 'Wayman'...

The ball kept bouncing on the rim.

Dallas. Reunion Arena. March, 1985. NCAA Midwest Regional Semi-Finals.

Oklahoma All-American Wayman Tisdale shot a little floater in the lane with about five seconds left, maybe seven. Game tied against Louisiana Tech, led by Karl Malone and Wayne Smith, Willie Bland and Robert Godbolt and Willie Simmons...The Bulldogs had wiped out Pittsburgh and Ohio State in the first and second rounds. They'd lost twice in the season, once to Oklahoma and Tisdale.

And they'd lose again on this afternoon. Final, 86-84. Had they won, Tech felt it matched up good against Memphis in the finals. Instead, Memphis beat Oklahoma and went to the Final Four, a Final Four Villanova won with the gigantic upset of Georgetown.

Few realize how close Tech came to "being" Villanova that year. But Tisdale...

The ball kept bouncing on the rim. I was courtside writing and the play was to our left. The ball kept bouncing on the rim, and guys would jump to tip or rebound but it would bounce again...It was like the play was in slow motion and the arena grew quiet with each bounce...

Six seconds...Bounce....Five seconds...bounce .... Four seconds ... bounce....

I remember writing that the ball had completely fallen out of the cylinder, it seemed, but grew tiny leather basketball hands and pulled itself back -- and into the net.

Oklahoma up by 2, one second left.

A timeout gave Tech the ball just over halfcort and an inbounds from Smith toward Malone under the goal -- Malone jumped and two guys were on him and the ball bounced away and the game was over.

If Tisdale's shot had just swished, Tech would have had five or six seconds for a play.

Tisdale's death last week from cancer brought back this memory and many others of that game and of Tisdale, who everyone says was a wonderful person, besides being a NBA veteran of a dozen years and an accomplished musician. His smile was big and "The Shot" was big against Tech.

I've always blamed Robert Godbolt for that Tech loss. A workmanlike and underrated player on that Tech team, Godbolt could have won the game in regulation for Tech -- but he missed a jumper at the buzzer...From 65 feet.


Friday night went to a party at Cypress Inn where my sister's family was celebrating Bishop's graduation -- from kindergarten! Glad I went. Got to see momma and Don and the whole gang, everyone but Cody. Stopped back by my little sister's where they were frying fish for Aunt Willie's birthday, a celebration that had to be rescheduled from a couple of weeks before, not because Aunt Willie's birthday had moved, but because Jeeves, our fish fryer, had taken sick that day. Got home and walked a lot and read and couldn't go to sleep until 5. Just one of those deals; couldn't stop writing and when I could I couldn't sleep so I kept reading and writing. (This piece of a devotional will help with my sleep woes, which are getting less and less. It's a prayer: "Help me to rest. Guard my time and help me manage my responsibilities so that I can renew myself emotionally, spiritually, and psychically each day. In Jesus' Name, Amen." That's helped, and this too: "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." Psalms 62:1. ... I keep getting reminded of stuff while I'm trying to get out of this paragraph! -- You ever heard "You Are My Hiding Place" by Selah? Good stuff. Listen again if you haven't in a while...OK, closing the parentheses and moving on...)

Up a little after 7 and read and studied and wrote a lot Saturday. Washed clothes, went to the cleaners, went to the store, cleaned house, worked out, met my friends for decaf at Starbucks -- Thumbs had earned his black belt in Bossier City that afternoon! -- and went back home in Saturday evening's big big rain. Going to sleep Saturday night wasn't as hard.

Church and Sunday school Sunday and chicken at Tick's and reading and working out and the children's musical Sunday night. I don't know how they get those musicals put together with children but it was spectacular; those things are always better than you think they're going to be. So I did that and walked and read. And I'm into Total cereal now. Who knew?

Finished a couple of books and got halfway through with Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson. Good stuff. I'm learning.

Hope you have a wonderful week.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another stupid POME?!

I like a pome/poem!

I dodged poetry for a while but am back in the game. Poetry involves some feeling, some emotion. Bring it on!

(And explain to me why I keep using exclamation points! I'm not usually an exclamation point person. Can't be because it's the weekend. Must be the poetry!)

Here's one of my favorite Robert Frost deals. (I like him because at least half his stuff rhymes and the ones that don't, I can still understand them.) The irreplaceable Dr. G, or The Flash as I sometimes call him -- (He used to be VERY fast!) -- turned me on to this one...

"Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things
To yield with a grace to reason
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?"

Sweet lord, that's pretty! (There I go, exclamating again.) Thank you, Bobby Frost. That's good stuff.

Hope everybody has a fun weekend. Sure is a pretty day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good 'pome'...

One of my favorite old poems...

The Touch of the Master's Hand

It was battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"

"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"
But, No,...
From the room far back
A gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,

Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its' bow.

"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone," said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed it's'worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and scarred with sin
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going...and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.

-- Myra Brooks Welch

I heard this poem recited in church a few times when I was a little boy. Some people would cry. I didn't know why. But that was back then.

There are two versions, really, and I don't know which one is the one Mrs. Welch wrote. But some versions replace "All battered and scarred with sin" with "All battered with bourbon and gin." Either way works...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Chronicles of Barneya...

"A man spends good money having his suit spotted and pressed, takes two hours polishing his hat, and for what? HEARTACHES!"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We wouldn't be here without 'em...

Happy Mother's Day, most especially to Linnea ('World's Greatest Mo'), Rhonda, Tina, momma and Karen. That's today's starting five.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hope insurance covers that ...

Up Thursday morning at 4:45 to be at the dentist and then the doctor in Shreveport from Ruston by 7. Read a while, prayed a while ... and should have prayed a while longer, but at the time I didn't know I'd get my first prostate exam ever in about three hours.

My bad. Wish they'd have told me that earlier. So I could have stayed home.

All was well at the dentist. All was not as well at the doctor (see above -- or in this case "below") -- but I was healthy, so far. Lost a couple of pounds since last time but I'll get that back. Blood pressure good. My blood stuff will be back soon. The lady who draws blood said I had good veins; those zany flattering phlebotomists! She's nice; she talks about her grandsons and shows me pictures of them and I listen.

Someone was looking out for me because the timing was right all day. I'm getting more of that.

Ate lunch with my old friend Cap; he and his wife have prayed for me for four years now, and it's mattered.

Then met a good and gentle friend at Barnes & Noble for coffee -- decaf, actually. He used to drink a lot -- alcohol, AND coffee -- and it tore up his life but he's sober several years now. He said his first real moment of peace came several months into sobriety when he was anxious about some things that first sober Christmas season and then as he was hanging lights on his tree he realized that he was exactly where he was supposed to be, doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing, exactly when he said he'd do it, not hurting anyone or himself, instead actually helping, pushing in the right direction, and that he'd been doing that for a while. And has since. Good feeling.

I hit the Arcadia exit and it was Sarge calling to see if I could drink coffee in Ruston in 20 minutes. Perfect. Good to see him. Except I got some kind of fruit soy drink that was a little chalky. Maybe that was the flavor: "Chalky Pineapple Banana." But what should I expect?: it's soy. Anyway, the latest report from Houston is good; he and Rocky go back July 1 for another checkup. A two-year sentence was thrown at him -- but that was five years ago. Miracles keep happening.

We need another one. This dear retired lady I've met in Ruston got a bad diagnosis last weekend in Houston. She's so quiet and kind and her husband adores her and dotes and he should, and this sickness deal is just a bear. But her notes to me have been the same as her short sentences to me whenever she's seen me ... sincere and to the point and just what I need. "Remember, you're no longer the transgressor," she'll whisper. "You're a child of God." Or, "We'll both make it." Or "Marvel at God's compassion." That's it, and then she's gone. She bleeds gentleness and peace. She passes it on. Pray for her, please.

So I get home and am about to walk or work out and the phone beeps and it's a couple out eating so I told them to get me water and I got to hang with them while they ate. And with their nephew. I needed that.

My sisters and me will plant some azaleas at momma's this evening. It will be good to eat and see them. Then I'll walk and write and read. The people I love most love a weekend; I so hope they have a fun one.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The world's lucky day...

On this day in 1968, the Detroit Tigers had already let the American League know that they'd be the team to beat in the long summer ahead.

In South Carolina, I was duking it out in the final rounds of third grade with Mrs. Irene Rogers. It seemed never-ending.

Maybe on this day, somebody became a billionaire and maybe somebody wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and maybe a kingdom rose and another fell.

Small stuff.

Because in Louisiana, something much bigger was happening. On this day in 1968, the most beautiful, the most special, the most precious and wonderful girl in the world was being born. On this very date. No foolin'...What a break...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From the Harp and Lyre Department...

"There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer; no disease that enough love will not heal; no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down; no sin that enough love will not redeem.
"It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake; a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all."

'He sent his word, and healed them...' -- A Psalm of David

Monday, May 4, 2009

My fellow graduates...

“I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.”

I laugh every time I read that. So true of me. What an impressive bundle of ego and selfishness.

I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.

A good rule for this spring’s high school graduating class – and for any of us enrolled in this School of Life – would be the opposite of such an attitude. And a good graduation gift would be Golden…

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Sounds trite, right? But so do reminders like “Say ‘please!’” and “Wash your hands before supper” and “Don’t forget your prayers.” (When all else fails, always call on the classics.)

I've had to retire from advice-giving. I couldn't run my own life, much less anyone else's. But I can offer experience, and from mine, if I were giving the commencement address today, I could do worse than offer those four pieces of encouragement.

Be polite. Get clean. Spend time with your Father. And treat others as you wish to be treated.

Maybe it's time to pick up the rhythm guitar for a change. Let someone else have the mic. God can work a spotlight. He knows when to put it on us. In the meantime, maybe we can begin to enjoy his applause for us and his delight in us when we come to him and say, “God, how can I serve you today?”

Christ really does want to make us a little more like Himself each day, to educate us in the School of Him. Why? Because he loves us. Because he wants to save us from ourselves. He wants us to know the joy in Him available when we move away from me-centered hearts and closer to one that lives for “the least of these.”

Philippians 2:3 “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

The eyes of a mentor and friend...

Me and my friend Dr. G, 70, went to the retirement home yesterday to visit one of the dearest people we know. It was his 90th birthday. My favorite English teacher.

We sat in cushioned chairs in the wide hall. He wore dress pants and a nice shirt and a sport jacket with brown socks and nice houseshoes, and we listened to him for an hour and it was vintage. I'll tell you more about him sometime.

This morning Dr. G mailed me some thoughts that came to him while he waited outside the retirement home for me...

"My wait out front afforded sights and sounds I can write about. Especially the old white woman helping the old black woman get out the front door and into her car. It took many minutes and priceless dialogue. And then the couple I knew asking me if I was "out here now?" Or the question, "Are you here to see your mother?" I said, "Wish I were." then the old man who came out and just sat down and looked west. Tried him a time or two with weather remarks, but he never responded. Hello in there. The ladies in the TV lounge looking toward the TV but really beyond it to see who was coming in or out. The activity director Mr. S. patted hands with. Mr. E. walking "this way." Ms. Carver and the Aleve bottle. "DON'T put the top back on! I won't be able to get it off!"

Real life out there at the retirement village. A side you don't want to dwell on much though. We should all go out there more.

A couple of priceless anniversaries today. My grandparents, Teddy and Ruth, were married 72 years ago today. I wish they were still here and I could visit them.

The other anniversary is too special and just for me; I'll keep that one inside for now.