Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Spectacular Day in Flagstaff (Day 13)

We had another wonderful, great, and spectacular day in Flagstaff today. It began with a beautiful drive down scenic route 89A through Oak Creek Canyon and into Sedona.  We enjoyed a having  lunch at the Cowboy Club and wandering  in and out of a few tourist shops there and then drove back to our campground for an hour’s rest before picking up Ethan and Eleni at school. 

Today, instead of taking them home, we brought them back to the campground where they enjoyed their afternoon snacks watching TV in Odysseus. With or without snacks (though they always check out the frig and cupboards) they enjoy being in our little RV home.  After snacks we went to the playground right here at the campground and played until Luke and Kim arrived.

We then enjoyed “dinner out” in Flagstaff and afterward came that sad moment of having to say  our “goodbyes.”  Tomorrow we will be on the road again to California.  

After-school snack in Odysseus and just a litte "down-time."

A Great Day in Flagstaff (Day 12)

Today is Katherine Maria’s 25th birthday.  I remember so well the day she was born.  Katie weighed in at just a little over 4 pounds that day of her arrival.  She was and is the “apple of my eye!” We (myself, Ethan and Eleni) sang Happy Birthday to Katie and sent a recording of it to her (such a feat required Ethan’s technological skills).  Later, we talked with her via FaceTime!  My little “Katydid” has grown to be a beautiful young woman. 

We had a nice lunch at noontime with Luke and Kim at the Wildflower Bread Company.  It was opening day for the university (22,000 students) where Kim works, and opening day as well for the Cococino Community College where Luke works.  After lunch, Luke gave us a tour of CCC.  

Later, we picked up Ethan and Eleni at their school and drove them home.  We enjoyed being with them until their parents came home from work.  Luke provided a wonderful pasta dinner and a bit later we returned to our “home away from home” for the night.  A great “Day 12” in Flagstaff!
Elenie in her new dress,
made by Grandma

Father & Son carved for
Luke, a long time ago.

Ethan and his Lego Man Quilt

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Great Day in Flagstaff (Day 12)

Today is Katherine Maria’s 25th birthday.  I remember so well the day she was born.  Katie weighed in at just a little over 4 pounds that day of her arrival.  She was and is the “apple of my eye!” We (myself, Ethan and Eleni) sang Happy Birthday to Katie and sent a recording of it to her (such a feat required Ethan’s technological skills).  Later, we talked with her via FaceTime!  My little “Katydid” has grown to be a beautiful young woman. 

We had a nice lunch at noontime with Luke and Kim at the Wildflower Bread Company.  It was opening day for the university (22,000 students) where Kim works, and opening day as well for the Cococino Community College where Luke works.  After lunch, Luke gave us a tour of CCC.  

Carving made for
Luke a long time
Later, we picked up Ethan and Eleni at their school and drove them home.  We enjoyed being with them until their parents came home from work.  Luke provided a wonderful pasta dinner and a bit later we returned to our “home away from home” for the night.  A great “Day 12” in Flagstaff!
Ethan & Lego Man Quilt
Eleni's New Dress
made by Grandma

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Wonderful Day in Flagstaff (Day 11)

I was exhausted last night and did not jot down the events of yesterday (Day 11) here in Flagstaff.  It was a wonderful day, beginning with Ethan and Eleni (and parents) coming to the campsite and knocking on Odysseus’ door as they have done over the past six years whenever we have visited.  With great gusto, Grandad sang, “Who’s that knocking at my door, who’s that knocking at my door?  Is it Katie, is it Matt, no, it must be Austin?  Is it Nick?  No, it must be Ethan and Eleni,” and amidst the giggling and laughing the door was opened and hugs passed all around. A delightful moment and one to be cherished! 

Perhaps the best way to share the day is to simply post some photos—pictures, they say, are sometimes worth a thousand words.

Grandma's Quilt for Eleni
Grandma's Lego Quilt for Ethan

Eleni and Quilt
Ethan is now a

Grandad & Eleni "Swinging"


Day Eleven ended with a special dining out at “Mama Burgers” and then Grandad and Grandma going back to the campground and Ethan and Eleni going home for a good night’s sleep in preparation for school today.  We will pick them up at school this afternoon, much to their delight!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Destination—Flagstaff (Day 10)

We drove 407 miles yesterday from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, encountering a monsoon almost as soon as we crossed from New Mexico to Arizona.  This is the season for such storms here in northern Arizona and the weather forecast says we’ll enjoy a monsoon each day we are here.  We are settled in for the next four nights in an Air Force recreational area in the Cococino National Forest, just ten minutes away from Luke’s family home.  The temperature will drop to 45° tonight!  That is quite a transition after the sweltering heat in MD! 

Luke, Ethan and Eleni will come visit us first thing in the morning here at the campground.  That is going to be an exciting moment!  Then I’ll pick up a rental car which we will use during our visit here, giving Odysseus a little break.  

Being a grandparent, a Grandad, is a very special gift that has brought a special kind of “love” into my life.  It seems to me that grandchildren, especially when they are little, love their grandparents no matter what!  They just seem to see their grandad as someone special and that sure makes a grandad feel great in his so-called “golden years.”  

We have six grandchildren and one great granddaughter.  Katie, our oldest, is now in NJ, her brother Matt is in NC.  Austin and Nick have both moved into their respective college dormitories in the last few weeks.  The only two “little ones” left now are Ethan and Eleni—and I’m thinking that when I see them tomorrow I’ll find them several inches taller and more “grown-up” than when I saw them last in April.  One thing I do know, they will give their Grandad (and Grandma, too) their special kind of love and that will “make my day!”
Creative characters:  Ethan & Eleni

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Albuquerque NM (Day 9)

The steak dinner last night at the Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo was a nice treat.  I ordered a 7 oz. sirloin and could only eat half of it.  I’m glad I didn’t try for that free 72 oz steak!  I think I liked being chauffeured in the big limousine with the steer horns on the hood more than I did the dinner itself.  Grandson Matt recommended the Steak House to us last spring,  and I was surprised this morning to receive a text message from Matt telling us that he was in Ft. Worth.  Matt works for the Penske Racing Team and does a lot of traveling.  It is a small world!

It rained all last night in Amarillo.  We were fortunate to avoid some of the severe storms that took place in neighboring counties—4 inches of rainfall an hour, hail the size of golf balls, flash floods and winds at 60 mph.  In spite of the threat that Odysseus might be dimpled by hail, I slept like a log!

It was a short drive this morning from Amarillo to Albuquerque (288 miles) and made even shorter by the fact that we gained an hour (we are now on Mountain Time).  Along our way we watched the antelope play in the fields—a sure sign we are in the great American west (“Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play”).  We are staying tonight at Kirkland AFB FamCamp where we have stayed many times before.  At the moment I’m sitting under a lovely shade tree with my laptop on my knee (if only I knew how to play the banjo!) and watching the little lizards scampering about my feet.  The temp is 79° under a blue sky, with billowing cumulus clouds.  Life can’t get any better than this! No, that is not so—it will get even better on Sunday when we shall see our son, Luke, his wife, Kim, and our two grandchildren, Ethan and Eleni, in Flagstaff.  Can’t wait—but we’ll have to do so—Flagstaff is another 300-plus miles on Route 66 (I-40)!

If you should see any photos, videos, or hear any rumors about my health or my place of birth, you can consider it just another conspiracy theory!  I saw my physician just before I left home and he thought I was “normal.” I also have incontrovertible evidence of being born in New Jersey! These conspiracy theories are driving me nuts!  I read one the other day about some poor fellow being unable to buy a Confederate flag on Ebay.  The story is that this flag has been outlawed by president Obama or somebody in the government, but Isis flags were readily available!  Personally, I don’t need a Confederate flag, but I checked any way—they are available.  Have you heard the latest? The latest conspiracy theory is that the government is paying Lesbians to become farmers in the “red” midwestern States!  That one came from Mr. Limbaugh.  When will it ever end!
Grandson Matt--Team Penske

Friday, August 26, 2016

Why Amarillo? (Day 8)

We’ve had another nice day of travel from Oklahoma City to Amarillo, passing over the old Chisholm Trail and into the panhandle of Texas.  The campsite provides a free shuttle service to The Big Texan Steak House that our grandson, Matt, recommended to us last spring.  We tried it then and I want to do it again this evening.  There is no other good reason for us being here!  The fellow who owns the Steak House also owns the RV Park.  If you can eat a 72 oz. steak you can eat free!  I don’t think I’ll attempt that feat, but I will enjoy a nice steak dinner of appropriate size!

Driving through the western half of Oklahoma this morning I thought about the famous personalities this State has provided our world.  Will Rogers, Tony Hillerman, Louis L’Amour, Bill Moyers, Sam Walton (founder of Walmart) General Tommy Franks, Jeane Kirkpatrick (US Ambassador to the UN) and Elizabeth Warren (US Senator) Garth Brooks, Anita Bryant, Roy Clark, Vince Gill, and Woody Guthrie are just a few of the famous from Oklahoma.  I think of Will Rogers as soon as I cross the state-line.  What a gift he gave the world—the gift of humor!  Garth Brooks has a boulevard named after him in Oklahoma City.  Tony Hillerman moved to New Mexico and wrote wonderful stories about the Navajo people, and Louis L’Amour wrote  western novels.   Woody Guthrie wrote one of my favorite songs:  “This Land is Your Land.”  I listened to it several times during the drive this morning and sang along.  

This Land is ours!  It belongs to all of us!  It belongs to the native American, it belongs to us—the immigrants of years ago and the immigrants of today—it belongs to the refugees who have sought asylum here.  It is a land of a rainbow coalition and a land of religious tolerance.  It is the land of the dream!  A land where it is written that every person is endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.   To deny this worth of the human personality to any group on any grounds whatsoever is a betrayal of the dream.  This land is your land, this land is my land!  It is not fair to make it only “your’s” or “mine,” (it never was and never can be).  Nor should it be!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In Oklahoma City (Day 7

We are settled in this evening at the Tinker Air Force Base Family Camp.  We visited this campground six years ago on our maiden trip in Odysseus.  It is 95° at 7 p.m. There is some severe weather to the northwest of the city, but it is not expected to reach this area.  Our drive today was a beautiful one.  We drove through the Ozark portion of western Arkansas and through the various Native American nations in eastern Oklahoma:  the Cherokee, the Creek, the Shawnee, and several others.  

We Americans tend to ignore our past behavior (and quickly forget our current behavior).  Our pride needs some pruning occasionally.  My patriotism is pruned every time I pass through what we tend to call Native American “reservations.”  I hang my head in shame for the behavior of our forefathers toward these people (and the present). As we passed by a site commemorating the “Trail of Tears” today, I shed some tears of my own. Every nation and every person lives in a glass house and should know better than to throw stones!  Yet we continue to throw stones at other nations, at people who are “different,” and at each other.  We remember 9/11, but how many of us remember the Wounded Knee massacre?  

My patriotism is also pruned when I drive by the battlefields of the Civil War and remember that terrible conflict which divided our nation and pitted brother against brother.  The debate continues as to the cause of that war.  Some say it was the issue of slavery and others say it was a matter of states rights.  Whatever stance we take, we must confess that slavery was wrong, terribly wrong. We talk about American values and American greatness, but we must do this with realism.  Our nation has not—and is not—what we dream it to be.  There is still a lot of work to do apparently (given the advent of Mr. Trump and those who are grateful to him for speaking what they have been thinking) to gain those values and that greatness of which we dream.

God cannot mend our every flaw unless we confess that we have “flaws!”  And we do!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In Little Rock, Arkansas (Day 6)

We traveled 371 miles today from Nashville to Little Rock on I-40, the same route we followed in the spring when we made our cross-country trip.  I prefer to travel different roads, but I-40 is the easiest and the most direct route to Flagstaff, Arizona, where our grandchildren, Ethan and Eleni, are waiting for us.  

Tonight we are comfortably situated at the Family Camp at Little Rock Air Force Base.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of the benefits of military retirement is the privilege to use Navy, Marine, Army and Air Force campgrounds and recreational areas around the world.  We have stayed at a good many in the USA over the past six years.  This is our first visit to the FamCamp at Little Rock.  If all goes well tomorrow we’ll be at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma by mid-afternoon.

I received  a “dash cam” as a birthday gift and we can now video our travel down the highways and byways.  I’ve tried for the past two days to share a video or two on FB, but without success.  I’ll keep trying and perhaps you’ll soon be able to sit with me in Odysseus’ cockpit and travel through the Shenandoah Valley in VA and see the skylines of Nashville and Memphis.  These 3 minute videos also record sound—so you might even hear “my music” playing and perhaps even hear me singing along, or perhaps you might hear me saying other things!  I guess I better do a careful edit before posting them.

I-40 is a major truck route with thousands upon thousands of 18-wheelers hauling all the stuff we need and use everyday.  Typically, the truck driver is the most courteous of all other drivers on the road.  There are a few outlaws as there are in every “grouping” we know, whether clergy, physician, police or any other basket of apples.  During much of today’s drive, I felt like Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields must have felt in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.”  I was caught in a convoy the whole day long!  The experience made me aware of how much our society depends on the truckers—they are a lifeline for all of us!
The Batman Building in
Nashville (or AT&T)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Last Day in Nashville (Day 5)

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. 
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land” (Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass).

It has been a beautiful day here in Nashville, Tennessee, with cooler temperatures and plenty of sunshine.    The morning sunrise was magnificent.  Only one event was scheduled for today—an Elvis (impersonator) concert this evening.  The impersonator was impressive!

Unfortunately or fortunately, even with a tour of the city and dinner theater yesterday, even here in the Central Time Zone, and even going to bed later than my usual hour, I still awake early and on Eastern Standard Time!   

Tomorrow we are back on the road again, heading toward “Somewhere” Arkansas.  We hope that somewhere will be near Little Rock, but it doesn’t really matter.  

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The traveler sees what he sees.  The tourist sees what he has come to see.”  Here in Nashville, I’ve been the tourist for the most part, seeing what I came to see.  Yet, I have tried to be the traveler too, seeing what I see.  There is a vast difference between the traveler and the tourist.
My Deck "away from home" in Nashville TN

Monday, August 22, 2016

Music City Tour (Day 4)

The rain of yesterday persisted throughout the night and into this morning, but soon gave way to sunshine as we began our downtown tour of Nashville. What a tour and what a city! Our tour guide, Big Jerry (an appropriate name for his 300 pounds) spoke fluent “Southernese” requiring some translation on occasion.  He had a wealth of information and shared it with enthusiasm.  We were all quite impressed with Jerry.  We toured the “old” Ryman Auditorium (called “The Carnegie Hall of the South,” and the “Mother Church of Country Music”) which was originally built as a tabernacle for religious services.  In 1901 it became a venue for jazz recitals, operas, ballets, political debates and Broadway musicals, orchestrated by Lulu C. Naff, a brilliant  businesswoman in an era when there were but few like her.  Rudolph Valentino, Ethel Barrymore, Katherine Hepburn, Al Jolson, Marian Anderson, Bob Hope and other great stars performed at the Ryman.  In 1943 (the year I was born) the Grand Ole Opry started using the Ryman and continued to do so for the next 30 years, featuring great country music performers like Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams, Sr.  What a treat it was to “feel” the spirit of that historic place.

Big Jerry showed us the “honky-tonks” on Broadway where many a country music star began. He showed us where Elvis Presley use to buy his automobiles, the many recording studios, the Parthenon (a replica of the one in Athens) Vanderbilt University, and so much more.  The last stop of the tour was the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Yesterday I wrote that Hank Williams, Sr. and Ray Price were two of my favorites in country music, but today (after the tour) I could add many more to my “favorites” list:  Bill Monroe, Marty Robbins, Merle Travis, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson—and the list goes on and on.

The Ryman Auditorium
Not everyone makes it in the country music business.  Those few who do succeed struggle with their new affluence and fame and sometimes end up the worst for it.  Some manage it well. Thousands of others, often just as talented, do not find success and end up playing “second fiddle” in countless venues around the country.  I guess one could say, that making it in country music is like winning the Gold in the Olympics—one out of many—and out of the many only one gets the Bronze, and only one gets the Silver.  In Nashville there is a Winner’s Bar and Grill and a Loser’s Bar and Grill right next door to each other!  Big Jerry says the “Loser’s Bar” does a much greater business than the Winner’s.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nashville, Tennessee: The Music City (Day 3)

We are in Nashville tonight and will remain here until Tuesday morning.  We’ve traveled through Nashville many times, and I’ve even attended conferences here, but have never really “seen it.”  We will see some of it this time around, spending tomorrow morning doing a city tour, tomorrow evening enjoying live country music at a dinner theater, and on Monday night we’ll attend an Elvis Presley (impersonator, of course) concert.  These arrangements were made in a matter of minutes by one of the hostesses here at the campground.  Her name is “Sparkle!”  Isn’t that a beautiful name!  I told Sparkle that I wish I had thought of that name when my daughter Rachel was born.  In fact, I like the name so much that I might begin to call Rachel “Sparkle.”  It fits her just as it fits the “Sparkle” here in Nashville. 

Our short drive to Nashville this morning was uneventful except for an occasional deluge of rain on the highway.  That rain continued through the afternoon and early evening.  Now the sky has cleared and I think we’ll have a great day tomorrow.  We’ll have a great day—rain or shine!

My favorite country music singer and writer of songs was Hank Williams (Senior, not Junior).  Hiram King Williams was born in Mt. Olive, Alabama in 1937. He began his career in Montgomery, Alabama, and then came to Nashville, becoming a superstar by the age of 25.  I remember listening to Hank sing on the “Hometown Frolics,” a country music program on our family radio.  I heard of his death at the age of 29 (January 1, 1953) on that very same radio station.  I remember that moment even though I was only ten years old.  I remember my mother was at the ironing board when the news came.   In the four short years of his career in Nashville, Hank Williams, Sr set the stage for all future country music!  His rise to fame came quickly and Hank could not handle it very well, turning to alcohol and drugs. For a little while, Hank lived with my second favorite country music singer:  Ray Price.  

His songs were unique and filled with life’s realities.  He wrote, “I Saw the Light,” early in his career:
Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light

While in Nashville, I’ll be thinking of Hank Williams Sr, Ray Price, Hank Snow, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn and a host of others who have made Nashville the “Music City.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Somewhere” Tennessee (Day 2)

Last night we camped along the North Fork of the Holston River in Virginia.  We “dilly-dallied” around this morning (after the rush and excitement of leaving home yesterday morning).  We enjoyed the sound of the river flowing by and even the occasional raindrops making music on the roof.  Have you ever seen the mist clouds shrouding the mountains of a morning?    It is a glorious sight and always reminds me of the three years I lived in “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!”  

The occasional raindrops multiplied as we began our trek down the road—a wet day in Tennessee.   When we stopped to re-fuel, a fellow approached me at the pump and wondered if we would let him see the interior of our little RV.  We have encountered this many times and have always provided a tour.  I think we should receive a commission from the RV manufacturer, but we haven’t kept track over the years of how many RV’s we’ve actually sold!  This friendly fellow would have kept me at the pump all day if I hadn’t interrupted him and told him we had to be on our way!

Along the country road leading to the campground this afternoon I stopped at a Produce Stand.   Steve, with his long beard and overalls, came down the lane to help me.  He raises chickens and sells the eggs, along with watermelons, tomatoes, and peaches at his little stand.  Steve was a friendly fellow.  He immediately reached out to shake my hand.  (His reaching out with open hand reminded me of two of Henri J.M. Nouwen's  books: "With Open Hands" and "Reaching Out."  I highly recommend these books, especially as a means of healing the present malignant growth of hatred in America and elsewhere).  Steve knew immediately from my voice that I wasn’t from his part of the country.  He welcomed me graciously anyway, and told me of all the “must-see” sights in the area and wished us a safe journey.  I wonder sometimes with Bertrand Russell, “Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?”   Friendliness, as Aristotle told us long ago, tends to make our judgments about others quite different from those made when we are hostile, defensive, projecting, or finding fault.  

This friendliness was re-affirmed at the campground tonight.  The hostess was so gracious and accommodating.  She bent over backwards to make our one-night stay a pleasant one.  God’s dream for a world of “friendly folk beneath a friendly sky” has been glimpsed, I believe, by these friendly people in Tennessee and by America at its best.  Arnold Toynbee said, “America is a large friendly dog in a small room.  Every time it wags its tail it knocks over a chair.”  It is better to knock over chairs with a wagging tail than to knock over people with our barking snarls.


Friday, August 19, 2016

The Cross-Country Journey Begins (Day 1)

The checklists were all found (eventually) and every item was checked off (finally) by 8 a.m. and we were on the road again!  Since I am considered “hazardous material” (that is, Odysseus has a propane tank on board and is not permitted to travel through the harbor tunnel at Baltimore) we drove south on I-95, then south on the Baltimore beltway to cross over the Francis Scott Key Bridge, then back to I-95.  As we crossed the bridge we listened (appropriately) to Lief Greenwood singing his version of the national anthem.  Then, as we traveled the Washington beltway through Silver Springs I thought of the terrible apartment explosion there some days back.  Driving around the nation’s capital I thought of the history of this great democracy, how far we have come as a people, and how far we still must go.  My “Patriotic CD provided a musical background as we drove around the beltway, songs like: “This Land is Your Land” and “America.”  

From the beltway we turned west on I-66 and then south onto I-81 into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, passing by the Civil War battlefield of Bull Run, James Madison University, Luray Caverns, the Natural Bridge, on by Blacksburg and Virginia Tech (I thought of that terrible shooting event some years back—but also of one of my former parishioners who recently graduated and who father now teaches there).  Wherever I travel, I am aware of the events that happened in the places we pass by and of the people I know who have lived there, past and present.  This makes traveling the nation’s highways into a kind of special form of intercessory prayer.  What a beautiful drive!  Lunch at Kathy’s Home-Cooking Cafe in New Market provided a nice interlude.  

By 5  p.m. we were situated for the night at the Two Rivers Campground in Abingdon, VA just a few miles from Bristol, TN.  Tomorrow—we travel on to “Somewhere” in Tennessee.  The expected rain showers will not dampen my spirit one iota!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Getting Ready to Coddiwomple

The relentless Bermuda High continues to dominate our weather pattern today.  Even with the brief thunderstorm of last night, the air is still heavy with humidity creating what the meteorologists call the heat index when 95° on the thermometer feels like 104°.  I don’t know why the weather people have to tell us how the heat “feels” since we can “feel” it for ourselves, but they seem intent on making us feel even more miserable than we already are by repeating “how it feels” hour by hour!

In the past few weeks we have been preparing for “tomorrow” when once again we will board our Odysseus for yet another journey across country.  That preparation has included visiting our dentists, our optometrists, our family physicians, etc., to be sure our teeth don’t drop out along the way, that we can read the road signs and find our way, and that we are physically capable of traveling the highways and byways with our various age-related maladies.  Numerous checklists have been written down to insure that we take our pills, our glasses,  and the GPS along with us.  The Odysseus has been serviced and I guess one could say, we’ve been serviced too, according to our mileage.

The checklists scattered about our home over recent weeks are essential (if we can remember where we put them).  The lists are important because there is more to do than just pack up and go.  We have to be sure that the lawn will be mowed, that the mail will be taken care of and everything at home is in order.  My obsessive compulsive disorder kicks in and usually before “take off” I have to clean the shed, the garage, my study, etc.  (Because of the heat today—I have crossed off the garage and the shed and tucked my obsessive compulsion away for another day).  Then, of course, because of  our  “maturity issues” we have to list everything we need to pack, everything we need to do, every one we need to call, every task that needs to be accomplished (and be sure they are checked off) before we can be Coddiwomplers again.

This morning the items on the  lists (those lists that I have found so far) are almost all checked off.  Just a few more “things” remain and hopefully they will soon be checked off as well.  Is it worth all this to be on the road again?  You betcha!  

I’m sure you can understand now though, given all of the above, why it is, “I just can’t wait to get on the road again!”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Mysterious Mix of Life

A few years ago an old friend stopped by to visit.  It had been thirty years since we had last seen one another.  I hardly recognized him  The truth is that I did not.  Thirty years ago he had hair.  Thirty years ago he was in good physical shape, weighing in at about 170 pounds.  Oh, but you should see him now!  He weighs in at about 250 pounds and most of that is hanging over his belt!  Thirty years ago everyone thought he was on the road to a great career, but he didn't make it.  Some of this I suppose was his own fault, but what could he do about his loss of hair or the consequences of various decisions and chance happenings in his life, some of which he had no control over? 

In life there is a mysterious mix of many things, the conscious, the unconscious, the physical, and many of these are totally outside one's control.  Various myths are inculcated; genes inherited, psychological issues are present, cultural background plays a huge role, chance happenings occur, relationships are developed and lost, accidents happen, choices are made (some conscious, some unconscious) and opportunities are accepted or lost.  All these things play a part in the life of every person and very often these things control our lives much more than we know.

Have you ever wondered what happened to your high school or college classmates?  Where are they now forty or fifty years later?  How did they get there and why?   Have you ever wondered how life would have turned out if you had been born into wealth, or taken another road than the one you chose?   Did you really consciously choose that road or did it just happen out of luck?  Where would you be now?  Who could have predicted the many twists and turns of your life or mine?  Have you ever wondered why one person dies in a tragic accident or by fatal illness at a young age?  Have you ever wondered about how one person lives to be 95 and another 35, or how another takes his or her own life out of sickness and desperation?  Life is a mysterious mix--and despite our best efforts and fondest hopes and dreams, life doesn’t shape up the way we want or think it should for ourselves or others for whom we care. Is it all a matter of luck, fate, faith, genes or what?

"Twisted" -- The Mysterious Mix
Some will say that it is all in the will of God.  Does God operate on a whim, choosing this person above the other for success, for poverty, for fame or destiny, for death, for accident?  I find that ludicrous, irrational and unloving!  Yet, at the same time, I believe God has called me and that call has shaped my life in spite of all the stuff within and around me.  But shouldn’t God do that for everyone?  Does a person determine his or her own life journey?  Is the choice really all ours?  Are we really in charge?  No, that  answer doesn't work either, because of all those factors already stated, genes, disease, affluence or poverty, psychological make-up, etc.   How I wish I could explain the unexplainable, define the indefinable, ponder the imponderable, and unscrew the inscrutable!

Emerson wrote of Life:  “Fools and clowns and sots make the fringes of every one’s tapestry of life, and give a certain reality to the picture…tragedy and comedy always go hand in hand.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Our Insatiable Need for Love

“No man (person) is an island” wrote John Donne, and we could say, no nation is an island.  We are not isolated units, persons or nations, we are all bound together in a global community.  We are so bound together that what we think, or what we fail to think, profoundly affects other people and nations. 

We know that a child who has been deprived of love, affection, and understanding suffers serious, sometimes catastrophic consequences, simply because he or she did not have anyone to care or love him in the early years.  That deprived person spends much of his or her adulthood trying to fill the gaps left in his being by that deprivation.  In conversations with those who are in prison, it is quickly noted that the root of their difficulty can normally be traced to this kind of deprivation.  Nobody cared, nobody loved, nobody understood, nobody gave them a thought, nobody encouraged, nobody gave them the “time of day”—nobody, nobody at all! 

Every human being has an insatiable need for love.  Whatever amount of love, affection, and understanding we were given in our childhood is never enough.  When we come into adulthood we all have gaps to fill because we didn’t get enough back then.  You might say, we are all deprived because of our insatiable need.

What is true for an individual is true for a nation.  What we think, or fail to think, profoundly affects our neighbors both near and far.  Like the child who is deprived, so a nation deprived of love and understanding suffers and attempts to fill the gaps.  When did you last “think” of Somalia, Iraq, or Mexico?  Cannot these deprived nations say, as the inmate often says: nobody cared, nobody loved, nobody understood, nobody gave us a thought, nobody encouraged us, nobody gave us the “time of day”—nobody, nobody at all! 

All of us have family and friends who are alive today because of the medical innovations that have come from the research and thinking of the many who are unknown to us.  That kind of thinking, that kind of caring, that kind of determination, on the part of these unknown researchers have made it possible for those whom we love to live.  I would suggest that intercessory prayer has similar consequences.  Who are the persons and what nation do you hold in your bundle of love and care today?  To be loved and to love is an insatiable human need.
Kindergarten, 1948.  Can you find me?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Uncomfortable Gospel

What have we done to the Gospel?  We have shaped it to suit our own purpose and need.  So many are inclined to think that the gospel is all sweet and idyllic.  There is the notion that it was intended primarily to comfort our puny little souls in this terrible, ruthless, and chaotic world.  Jesus is seen as always gentle, meek, and mild—and we even dare to sing, “Jesus is mine!”  The real fire of his spirit has been extinguished.  God is viewed as little more than a magnification of our own human kindness.  

When life tumbles in and we get stirred up about things in general and the going gets rough, we suppose we ought to change our ways and return to religion.  (This return to religion happens to nearly every incarcerated person—we call it Jailhouse Religion).  No one is quite clear as to what religion we are returning to!  The scripture says that God is a “very present help in time of trouble,” but I have never found God to be an escape from it.  Simone Weil says it well, “If we want a love that will protect the soul from wounds, we must love something other than God.”

Paul Scherer writes, “If Christianity is not true, there is very little percentage to be had from playing about with it on the theory that it is comfortable.”  It is not comfortable and was never meant to be.  It is extremely disturbing!  One cannot delete Calvary!

Yet we do play around with it and have for centuries, seeking our own salvation without regard for neighbor or enemy, seeking our own healing without regard for the unhealthy conditions of our society and world, seeking our own security without concern for the insecurity of our brothers and sisters.  I am very uncomfortable with how we have played around with the Gospel  and even more uncomfortable as I read it this morning.

“When Jesus’ family heard of this, they set out to take charge of him; for people were saying that he was out of his mind” (Mark 3:21, NEB).  

Great Bend National Park, TX

Friday, August 12, 2016

Freedom from Hurry and Ambition

“Hurry” is defined as moving or acting with haste; to be busy and always rushed. “Ambition” is defined as a strong desire to do or to achieve something, an intention, an objective, a goal, success, etc., typically requiring determination and hard work.   Retirement liberates us from both!  

There is no longer a need to hurry, to fight the clock, or worry about being somewhere at a certain time. Most of my adult years were spent being a slave to “hurry,’ but now I am free to live at a slower pace.  My life now is far less hectic and I enjoy living without a schedule, especially those schedules set for me by others.  I am now free to determine my own schedule; an extremely liberating experience.  

There is now freedom from ambition—that driving urge that monopolized much of my time—to succeed in my profession or in whatever else—that pressure has been removed.  I’ve outgrown it.  I have nothing to prove to myself or to anyone else.  I do not have a need to impress anyone.

I am liberated from both hurry and ambition.  I don’t miss either one of them—and looking back, I often wish that I knew “then” what I know “now!”  All that hurry and ambition activity in those earlier years was often a shallow thing, sometimes empty of meaning, and even, on occasion,  a “waste of time.”  Life is so much more than hurry and ambition.

This does not mean I have given up, or that I dwell in the days gone by, or that I am always contemplating my demise as suggested by “My Get Up and Go—Has Got Up and Went.”
Since I have retired from life’s competition
I busy myself with complete repetition
I get up each morning, dust off my wits,
Pick up my paper and read the “Obits”—
If my name is missing I know I’m not dead,
…[And I think of all the grand places my get-up has been].

I prefer the words of Dr. Seuss:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Compassion and Prayer

For nearly five and a half centuries, The Imitation of Christ, written in 1418, has influenced many, many people, including me.  This little book has been translated into more than fifty languages, and next to the Bible, it is perhaps the most widely read book in Christendom (though I know many Christians who have never even heard of it, much less read it). The first line of the book is a quotation from Jesus, found in John 8:12:  “He who follows me will not walk in darkness.”  The book admonishes the reader “to imitate His life and example, if we would be truly enlightened and delivered from all blindness of heart.”

But how do we imitate Jesus, who lived in another time, without the benefits of our age?  We can imitate his compassion.  This compassion of Jesus, in my thinking, has always been one of the most important elements of his ministry.  “He was moved with compassion for the crowds…He was moved with compassion because they were distressed and dejected”…He was moved by compassion by the plight and the tears of the widow…he had compassion on a leper, on two blind men and on those who had nothing to eat. Jesus wept.  What made Jesus different in both his time and our own is his unrestrained compassion.  We could imitate and practice his compassion—letting our “hearts go out to them” who are poor, oppressed, downtrodden, and bound captives of an uncaring system.

We lack this kind of gut-wrenching compassion.  We are so focused on our needs and our wants that we have no time to feel anything for others.  But even if we did feel this compassion as Jesus felt it, what could we do about the situations that prompt it?  This is the question I’ve been wrestling with for years.  I can’t do much about many of those situations, but I can imitate another element of Jesus’ ministry that might have some redemptive influence.  I can pray as Jesus prayed.  I can pray out of my faith which I have “caught” from Jesus.  That faith suggests that prayer can open “the pores of the universe to something new,” that prayer has cosmic dimensions and redemptive power to bring about change, healing and peace.  For Jesus it seemed there were no hopeless situations.  There were only men and women who had grown hopeless about them.  I fear we have become those men and women who have grown hopeless, because we do not feel compassion and we do not know what to do about it when we do feel it.  

There is little belief in Jesus’ faith in the efficacy and significance of secret intercessory prayer these days.  Is it because we have not yet imitated his compassion?
"If we want a love that will protect
the soul from wounds, we must love
something other than God."
(Simone Weil)