Monday, November 11, 2013

A Rotary Prayer

Our Father in Heaven, we come before Thy throne of grace this Wednesday morning
Thanking You for life, thanking You for another day
We come thanking You for all the blessings that Thou has bestowed upon us
  From the greatest of our existence up until this present morning
Realizing as we come there are thousands on top of thousands who are as we are
Some are not as we are, but you know their condition
Just touch them we pray in your own special way as only you can
Strengthen them spiritually and physically we humbly ask Thee
Guide them and direct them in the way that Thou would have them go
Pray for those in need of Thee everywhere
The sick and the shut in, take care of them, we humbly ask Thee
Bless those who are behind the bars in prison
Bless those in the hospitals, day care homes and elsewhere
Have mercy upon us this morning, we humbly ask Thee
BLess our club, bless it's officers, endow them with the knowledge and wisdom from on high
Lead and direct them in such manner as You would be pleased
Please stand by us, we humbly ask Thee
Pray for our nation, our state and county in which we live
Ask your blessings on the leaders thereof and help them to look to Thee
  from whence cometh all Thy help
We pray in Thy name
We pray for our young men and women defending this great nation around the world
Bless their families and loved ones they left behind
Our Father, on this day, the opening day of the new school year, be with the teachers
 Protect them, we pray, from all seen and unseen dangers,
Bless the young people with whom they will be working
Help them to learn
Endow them with the knowledge and wisdom to do that which is right
We ask in Thy name
Be with us, Father, we pray. We need You this morning.
When we come to the end of the journey, we pray that You will take us by the hand
 and lead us to the other side so that we can spend eternity with Thee
Our Father, this is my prayer.  In the name of Thy son, we pray.


August 2013

Father's Day Luncheon 2013

Our gracious heavenly Father,
We thank You for this day
Thank You for our many blessings
Thank You for this food before us
Pray that You'll be with us in each and every way


A Young Boy's Prayer

A prayer spoken at the funeral luncheon.

Thank you, Jesus, Lord we come to You again.
Lord, we thank You for this family
We ask You to bless them,
Be with them for what they went through, Lord, for what they're going to be going through
We ask You to keep Thy hand up on them
Bless this gathering here today
Bless this food
We give You all the glory and praise.
In Thy name we pray, Amen. 

Easter Lunch Prayer, 2013

Our most gracious Heavenly Father,

We thank You for this day
We thank You for our many blessings
Thank You for this gathering, for this food before us
We pray that You continue to be with us, in each and every way


(And heard at the end, "Will you spoon me some black eyed peas and corn?"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Boys of Summer

He was one grade ahead of me.  Probably a bit more in calendar years as I was one of the youngest in my class. 

I pledged a high school fraternity in my 9th grade year, a topic which could generate dozens of it's own posts if I were able to recall those events.  But he was in the fraternity.

I had never met him before entering high school.  Our system had two separate schools for earlier grades and then merged everyone for 7th grade on, so we met when I was in the 9th and he in the 10th. As I recall, he was all the things I wasn't - but then most boys seemed that way to me.  He was blonde and handsome, a baseball player, popular with the girls, with a confident way about him.  

The pledge process included getting two "big brothers" and he was one of mine.  I took Greek rhetoric seriously in those years and pledged not just in action, but in thought, pledging my energy and thoughts to the friends and friendships in that organization.  I pledged to be a member in heart all my life, and sometimes I realize I still am one of them, deep inside my 9th grade heart.

But there he was, a friend to me.  We never really connected in a way that other guys do.  My lack of athletic prowess and probably my lack of confidence kept me from being at places he would be, doing things he would do.  But still, I considered him a friend through high school. 

In later years he would pop up from time to time.  For about 4 years I worked at a casino that was in his territory and he would call me, and I would buy lunch for him and his co-workers.  I always wished he would come occasionally without them, so that he and I could eat lunch and talk and visit.  But still I enjoyed those short visits with him.

One day, many many years ago, when his boys who should be grown now were still young, I ended up near his home and called and went by.  His wife was visiting a relative, and I recall he said that he thought a lot of the relative, and she loved his boys.  But he believed her to be lesbian. He said if he ever found it to be true, he wouldn't let her near his boys again.  But as long as he didn't know, he was fine. 

And I have occasionally wondered why I kept quiet.  Why I thought his friendship was worth more than my truth.  Why I still think his name and think of him as a friend. 

- - -

After the boys of summer have gone.

His text read, "Thanks for the card. It's been hard on me. We were really close.  Man I'm sorry for what happened between us.  I've always considered you a good friend.  Life is a blur.  Wife and I both 50 to 60 hours a week and raising 3 kids.  I'm sorry for not contacting you more than I did."

A close member of his family passed away.  I found out a few weeks later and sent a belated card.  I'm not sure, given my odd work schedule and living out of town, that I could have made it home.  But I would have tried.  I would have tried to be there for him.  By the time I found out, some weeks had passed and I sent the card.

The humorist in me wants to respond to the comment about children.  I thought his boys would be well grown by now.  So I'm not sure where he's acquired 3 kids. 

The serious man in me wants to ask about the comment "for what happened between us."

Oh, sure.  I recall a couple of things - tiny things really.  He called me to invite me to his second wedding.  As I recall, the wedding was just a day or two away.  I remember being on vacation and walking into a restaurant when he called, and was nowhere near where he would be married.  He downplayed the event, as I recall it.  Then later through the magic of social networking I saw pictures on line and his bride seemed to have as many maids as royalty. 

I also recall that in response to his statement, "I have something to tell you" I said, jokingly, "Are you gay?"

That came back to haunt me through friends in my hometown who said, "He said you came out to him."

No, I purposely did not.  But that's my bad for joking about being gay. 

So part of me is over reading that comment to be some imaginary slight between being gay and not invited to his wedding.  Part of me thinks he's just referring to the reality of life - that we grew up and grew apart. That we haven't seen each other or spoken to each other in years.  That he's got 3 children I don't know anything about.  And that when people close to him died, I didn't even know it.

And I could bullet point a list of things in my life he wouldn't know.  Life happens.

We're not the boys of summer once we were, in our small home town.

We're not the boys of summer.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Boy Scouts

While debates continue to rage in social media and across religious platforms about the correctness of allowing homosexual boys into the Boy Scouts, I find myself. . . .

Completely not understanding.  In several ways.

During my approximately 4 years in the Cub Scouts, I can’t recall a single time anyone asked me about my sexuality.  I can, however, recall times I was taunted and teased in school. I can, however, recall times I was bullied as a teenager out in public. 

But not once, not ever, can I recall a moment at the Cub Scouts where anyone said anything about sex or sexuality. 

So I’m thoroughly not understanding how or why anyone involved in leadership of a Boy Scout troop or den would be interested in the sexuality of a kid. 

And to take that one step further and look at it from the kid’s point of view – I see and understand in this day and age that teenagers are sometimes coming to terms with their own sexuality earlier. So maybe there are instances of high school age kids being open about their sexuality.  But that’s just life – teenagers evolve into sexual creatures. Ask any 17 year old.  But ask them how that could possibly impact their learning and participating in Boy Scouts?  I don’t understand how it can. 

To be a little bit humorous – to me the Scouting movement seems to have been an early front runner to surviving the zombie apocalypse.  They teach you how to build fires, how to tell where mold is growing on a tree, how to tie knots. 

Or in their own words, “For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”  Who would want to deny that opportunity to any youth? Why would someone want to deny that opportunity to any youth?

One of my fondest sets of memories from the Cub Scouts involves the yearly trip out to Uncle Lawrence’s house with a small block of wood. Mom would visit Mrs. Juanita in the kitchen of the home Uncle Lawrence had built, on the farm land he owned.  And in the back in his shop, he would tool away to turn that block into something that resembled whatever Hot Wheels car that I was currently clutching in my hands. 

Now let’s put aside the question of my dubious morals that, in hindsight, seem questionable, since Uncle Lawrence did all the work.  And let’s set aside the fact that the only car I can clearly recall is a perfect rendition of the Batmobile.   In fact, let’s not set this aside and let’s freely admit that to this day I love the fact that I wanted a Batmobile pinewood derby car.  And that I loved Uncle Lawrence and still Mrs. Juanita, though in one way or another time separated us from both of them.  That’s life, change happens.  But the point is, Uncle Lawrence was happy to help (OK, make) my car. And in even that small way, he was another adult man who had a role in mentoring me that was brought on by the Boy Scouts.

I have an elementary school year picture where I was quite proud to wear my blue shirt and my bright yellow bandana with the little gold slider on it. 

Honestly, in a somber tone, I can look back and tell you that I was already acutely aware of something ‘different’ inside me, though it would be years before I could have really put it into words.  And I can tell you that certain challenges I had with my self-confidence were already in place by then.  I can’t say that, in my case, the Boy Scouts helped me to build self-confidence.  But I can tell you it didn’t hurt.  I can tell you that when I look back on after-school afternoons at the home of my friend Mark, whose mother was our Den Mother, I don’t cringe.  Certainly not like when I think about school days in Junior High.

If I try to imagine his Mother asking about sexuality, I just can’t picture it in my mind.  And do I think there might have been a few stereotypical hints available to her? Maybe.  Maybe not, I probably can’t give an objective opinion on it.  But I can’t imagine her ever being mean or cold hearted or turning away any kid who wanted to be in her Den.

If I try to imagine the boy that I was, and I try to imagine him being told that he can’t be in the Scouts because he’s gay, I cringe and cry for him.  Who would do that to any boy, to any kid, to any young man? 

Spoil Them

Recently I met a lady named Mary in passing and had a very casual conversation with her for several minutes. Mary is finishing up a successful battle with cancer, is twice widowed, smelled lightly of perfume and hair spray, and would be, I would guess, near 70 years of age in a very healthy frame of mind and body that seems closer to 60. 

During our encounter, she shared with me some highlights from her life, which included her second husband. Speaking about this gentleman made Mrs. Mary smile continuously, and her words about him were very generous.  Her words about her first husband were few by comparison.

The second gentleman had told her at some point in their marriage that he knew he would leave her widowed again.  I think she said his phrase was, "I'll go before you."  I don't know if he was a smoker, or read the actuary tables at his insurance agent's office, or just figured with his luck, he'd be the first to go.  But she had sort of put aside his worries and enjoyed the marriage.

She told me that once while she was still working, she had gone to lunch at a place she frequented and one waitress had chided Mary to another, "There's that lady that's being spoiled by her husband." And Mary replied, "Yes.  But you know what I've learned?  If you don't spoil back, they quit." 

And to that point, Mary said that she had spent the years of her marriage playing far more golf than she ever cared to.  But when the five years was over and her husband's words came true, she didn't regret a single day spent on the golf course.

Who among us doesn't like a little spoiling now and then?  Who among us doesn't like it when our other half remembers something we like, or does something nice for us?  To Mary's words, it's important to recognize when you've found a keeper, and the important part is to make yourself worth keeping, to spoil them back. Go play golf, go fishing, go to a show or a convention or an outing that's all about the other's enjoyment, and enjoy being with them.  It's not the same to say, "I don't care if you go." It's important to say, "I'll go with you.  I'll take you."

Find someone who spoils you.  And spoil them back.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tea Glass in Smoky Brown

She made her tea with tea leaves.  Lipton maybe, or Louisanne.  I'm not sure which.  Not with bags, but with loose leaves seeped in hot water using a cloth.  Maybe on fancy days she'd use a cheese cloth, but it was tinted dark from using so much it wasn't recognizable as cheese cloth anymore.

The tea had a strong flavor, and was heavily sweetened.  Syrup would have been jealous of the dark water's flavor and sugar content.

I loved it.  I can taste it now, the way it settled on the back of my tongue.  There was usually a pitcher of it in the fridge on any given day, and for Sunday dinners and holidays the tea would flow like oil on Jed Clampitt's land.

On holidays, we used Solo cups.  And names were written on them, and cups were washed and reused.  So it was possible you were using a cup with a name on it, just not your name.  So you just simply remembered the name on your cup this time.  But on any normal day, the glasses were kept in the cabinet to the furthest right.  And the tea glasses had a brown tint to them.

Out of the whole house, if there had ever been any one item in it that would remind me of her, and her very best days, it would have been a tea glass. 

One afternoon I stopped by, and someone had bought for her new drinking glasses.  The old ones were on the counter top, and I took them before I left the house.  I didn't need new drinking glasses.  And to her, they were not something to keep, if she had been given new ones.  But not one to throw anything away, she offered them to someone else.  I took a set of four.  I didn't need them, and they don't hold any magical power.

But I just couldn't let them go.

. . . like Jesus does. . .

"All the crazy in my dreams, and both my broken wings, the devil man know, he don't stand a chance.  He loves me like Jesus does."

 The beautiful lady in the red dress that fades in and down during the refrain is as gorgeous in real life as on this video from the ACM awards.  I've been lucky enough to fall in love with her music and her sound, sitting on a patio on a summer day, somewhere in Memphis, Tennessee. 

In my heart, this song is Valerie June, with a guest spot by Eric Church. 

But more so, in my heart, this song reminds me of the man I love.  I think he may be a little more crazy than I am, and I love him for it.  And I know, no man has ever loved me like he does.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

I can remember it like it was yesterday. 
The boys that thought she and I should meet.
That took me in the crowd and sat me down beside her.
I have an impression of a large convention hall, filled with kids on this Good Friday church convention.
Those two boys changed my life by introducing me to her, and she changed my life too.
Good Friday.


. . . Jesus went up to the Temple and there he found the dealers in cattle, sheep, pigeons. He found the moneylenders at the tables. He made a whip out of cords; drove them out of the Temple, sheep, cattle and all. He upset the tables of the moneychangers, scattering their coins.
"Out!" Jesus said. He had little respect for the holiness codes; for traditions which excluded the poor, which created outcasts. ~ from A Litany of Maundy Thursday, First Congregational Church.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Black Sunday at Big Lots

I could write an entire blog about my experience this morning standing in line at a Big Lots waiting for a no-brand-name tablet that was going on sale.  And I wouldn't write one bad word about Big Lots - but plenty about people in general, people in line, and humanity. 

And most people were perfectly nice.  But the ugly ones, they were way too ugly for an $80 no-name tablet. 

Which I didn't get.

But by the time MyFella, Jamie & I had finished breakfast, we decided that what I really want is a Kindle anyway. 

MyFella, "No, that's not enough power for you.  You want to be able to run a spaceship."

Me, "No, no, that'll be my new laptop.  The Kindle is just to look up things on imdb while I'm watching t.v. And imagine how cool I'll look reading books on the couch with my legs pulled up under me, and my new Kindle in my hands."

So the Kindle is coming, and I'm kind of excited.  And no weird people at Big Lots.*

*which remains one of my all time favorite stores.  it's the other customers I don't like.

You have no idea how much I love you.

A 7 year old kid told me that the other night.  Just out of the blue.  I had decided to drive to my parent's house in my hometown on Valentine's Day after work.  The boss let me off just a bit early, and my nephews were staying the night with their grandparents. 

And at the dining room table, trying to help him with his homework, the youngest one said, "You have no idea how much I love you."

What a funny thing for a child to say.  But I tell you what, it can't possibly be more than I love him.

How he makes me feel.

"I drive your truck."

The song came out months later.  And the truck is long gone.  But I suppose since his is the most recent death in my life, the song would naturally remind me of him.

The white truck, the one in which he taught me to drive.  The late model Ford with 4 in the floor, and my scrawny arms too weak to pull it.  My grandmother laughing at the site of her descendent jumping over the bumps in the well tilled field.

And time passes, and keeps passing.  My brother calls.  And within a few hours, I'm taking my mother on a road trip.  We've arranged to exchange her like a package, he gets her to point B, I take her on to point A. 

He didn't recognize me.  I honestly had the impression he didn't recognize anyone in the room.  But his personality, his jovial spirit, shone through and he talked to people like he was genuinely glad to see them.  He was up occasionally when we arrived.  He couldn't walk far, but he walked. 

I knew they had married before she was out of high school, he having obtained my grandfather's permission.  He would always speak highly of my grandparents, in much the same way that people always speak highly of my uncle.  And they would live out their lives together.  But I hadn't considered the reality - they grew up in the same small town.  They had walked to school together 30 something years before I was even born.  There was never a time in their lives when they did not know each other.

He passed away on Monday before Thanksgiving.  My grief somewhat abated by the knowledge that, as an adult, I made conscious decisions to see them, to visit them, to drive to their house and spend the weekend with them.

He may not have recognized me the weekend he died.  But while he lived, he knew that I loved him.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013


An abandoned building in my home town.

Friday, January 4, 2013


I know it may seem silly.  I'm well into my. . ahem. . 40's, a grown man whose been living on my own for plenty long enough.

But some days, for whatever reason, I go to my home town and stay the night with my parents.  And I just love waking up in my parents house and knowing that my Mom will fix me breakfast. 

It's not much, I don't eat a lot of breakfast. So it's not the food.  It's the presence, the act, the morning in their home and knowing that my Mom cared enough to get up and make me something to eat.