Tuesday, May 4, 2021

My Neverending Story: A Road Trip with Sterling & Star the Unicorn

We set out at precisely 10:07 AM, Saturday April fourth, Sterling's bag meticulously packed and mine recently tossed on the way out the door. Life had pursued me literally to the wire, but I had escaped. Responsibility and expectation can pound sand for a week. Me and my youngest our on our way to the beach. Oh, and a last second addition... Star the Unicorn has joined us. Taylor Swift's full catalogue is on shuffle, Ducan Donuts is included in my navigation plan, and we're looking for a hot sports car to draft so that we can make some time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

When God Breaks Wind

Suddenly my son, Caleb and his friend Ethan burst out with uncontrollable laughter. It was exponential, like Mentos in a 2-liter of Coca-Cola (before they white-shamed). It was the kind of laughter that prohibited breathing and I found myself joining into the fray like a ten year old that didn't understand the joke! It was like a wave of pure hilarity, Cracker Barrell seemed to stop still in it's tracks as all the diners turned to focus in on our table.

Between gasps of air, I raised my eyebrows and gasped, "What?" This is the tale that began it all, as told by my son as he relived that winter, December night that he and two friends winter camped across the mountains of Colorado and further West to the Pacific coast.

"We had a large can of beans and a small can of beans. We made a fire and we heated and shared them. At some point while we slept, Jeb thought he had to poop. He must have weighed the decision heavily as the temperature outside of the tent was a mere 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Convinced that he was about to fill his sleeping bag, he made his way into the woods. He dropped his pants and committed to the pose that is necessary to drop mud in the woods. 

To his shock, there was nothing for gravity to claim. There was only the singular tone that emanated from his backside, shattering the silence of the wilderness, breaking the very ice loose from the pine needles above, scaring squirrels and bears and even eagles back into their burrows and nests... the product of those cans of beans... a massive and prolonged fart.

The retelling of this story shook our table. The laughter stopped the inhalation of eggs, sausage, French toast, pancakes, biscuits, and fried chicken. The evening had hit it's pinnacle... all the social constraints had fallen.

After the laughter abated to snickering, we found again our breath and resumed our meal. Without warning a gentleman approached our table and stood looking directly at the three of us with a scrutinizing stare. His wife walked on towards the eit.

"I want to know what was so funny a few minutes ago," he stated. I looked at Caleb and said, "You might was well tell the man, it was pretty funny." And so Caleb relayed the story of the beans and the midnight fart that shattered the countryside. The man laughed and said, "Beans, yep, that'll do it."

He then engaged us in conversation. We learned that we were all from the same hometown. He was the contracted who had built a local church and Christian school that overlooked the city in which we used to live. He'd attended the same church camp in Oregonia, Ohio.

He asked us if we were Christians, and we replied, "Yes, we are." He then snatched up the check out of my hand and said, "I hope you'll allow me the pleasure of paying your bill." He said something I can't quite recall about how he was encouraged that we were followers of Christ."

I was dumbfounded. I muttered, "Yes, of course. Thank you so very much, you have no idea what a blessing that is to me."

He walked away and I didn't even get his name.

I turned back to the table to see Caleb and Ethan looking at me. I took a breath and made a determination.

"Ok guys, I need to confess something to you." They both looked at me as though I was about to confess that I was a serial killer. I had to chuckle. "Here's the deal guys... this week I mismanaged my money. I overspent my account I don't have the money to pay for his meal. I was going to cancel, but I didn't want to go back on my word and not come.

Last evening I found myself on my knees at the bedside, as has been my custom since childhood. I poured out my heart to God and heard myself say with exasperation, "God, you know I'm a moron and I don't have any money. If there is ANY way that you could pay for tomorrow's dinner, I'd sure appreciate it, Amen."

"Guys, God reminds me every now and then that He still sees me. He still knows me. He still has a plan for me. I suppose it probably has never really changed. He just keeps revealing it to me."

It's kind of funny how God works. You may choose to see Him in the story or not. I have no idea your concept of God. All I have to offer you is my own perception.

He is the God who used a fart to cause a laugh that sparked an interest that paid for a dinner. He is the God who reassures my heart that He still loves me.

I am sure that His hand is still upon me, I am thankful to feel His presence, when God breaks wind.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Some things Get Better with Age... Others Get Bigger

I snapped this picture on my way to the fourth floor. A few years ago I posted pictures of Central American landscapes with sweeping narratives of "partnerships with indigenous peoples." Today, all I've got is a selfie of... well, me.

My nose is getting bigger.

That's my thought of the day. I've no scriptures to tie to it (although it would be easy to literally tie something to it, due to its copious size), and no Thoreau quotes to make me sound smarter. Even so, it is not so insignificant an observation. 

My Pappy, my Papaw, and my Poppa. The three generations of Shepherd men before me: James, Harry, and Tom. My dear son, Caleb, I must let you know that as you age your nose will grow. That picture of my Poppa is one of my favorites. I've been letting my hair grow since leaving my role as pastor. Just this week I learned the story behind this picture. He let his hair grow after serving his tour of duty in Viet Nam.

Oh the stories to be told of these four generations of Shepherd men. Five really, Caleb has already scaled mountains (quite literally) of his own. And so yes... my nose is growing. I've damn well earned it.


Not Until We Are Lost...

 ... do we begin to understand ourselves.
 -Henry David Thoreau

There was a dirt pile to the east of our above ground, twenty-four foot  round, Coleco above-ground swimming pool. I'd carved Lombard Street style Hot-Wheel paths from the top to the bottom and I'd sit at the top with my canine brother, Duke the German Shepherd mix as we'd survey our universe and feel that the world was very much managed.

I had the love of my parents, the sun rose and fell, and the dust would swirl while Hot-Wheel cars were powered by forever moving hands. Baloney sandwiches and Coca-Cola bisected the day and the evening would present pork chops on the grill. 

I remember fifth grade and the election of Ronald Reagan. I remember that was the first time that I questioned the safety of my world. His speeches captivated me even at a young age. I remember hearing his "shining city on a hill," and his concept that peace is available at any time, all you have to do is lay down your arms and surrender to your enemy. 

I remember the fall of the Berlin wall after he proclaimed, "Gorbechev... tear down this wall," that was realized under George H.W. Bush. I remember the challenger explosion before that. I remember the "slip the surly bonds of earth a kiss the face of God" quote that brought tears to a nation.

I remember parachute pants and Cabbage Patch Dolls and Max Headroom. Coca-Cola beat Pepsi and Pepsi set Michael Jackson on fire. Penny Racers and pencil toppers, paper frogs and thirty-five cents ice-creams. The future was unknown, but it didn't matter. I lived in the moment and the moment was good.

Recently I have rediscovered the moment. My hands now power a full size car and Coca-Cola has given way to a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, but the canine friend is still a constant, I'd not have made it through the past year without her. Things I love now are simple, like the sound of bathwater or the heat kicking on. 

And the truth is, these days are better. Still looking onward, but more intentionally living in the now.