Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Woman on a plane


Sitting next to a woman
on a plane
from Charlotte to Dublin

We’ve been in the air a few hours
and neither of us can sleep much
so we talk
to kill time

I tell her about where I’m from and what I do
and she shares the same
I gather a few extra details along the way
like that she’s almost a decade younger than I am
and a mother of 5
and eventually
we discover some common ground …

Faith

She grew up Mormon
and I grew up …

“Church of Christ?” she says,
“I’ve got some relatives in Mississippi who are Church of Christ!”
and we chat some more about church and families and our travel plans

She’s heading to England to visit her brother-in-law’s family

Her brother-in-law—she later tells me—is married to her brother
It embarrasses her to say this
I can tell
Then she adds, somewhat fiercely,
“I love my brother.”

And the conversation
continues
from there. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

World’s largest pizza

When I was a kid
our local Pizza Hut
decided to bake
THE WORLD’S LARGEST PIZZA
Yes
attempting to set a record
a Guinness Book of World Records record
And they were going to assemble this amazing pizza one block away from my home
in the “New Gym”
which is exactly what happened

So that one morning, we all trekked over to the gymnasium
like pilgrims
to see a pizza the size of a basketball court
all laid out on a plastic sheet
a pizza so big
they had to bake it in sections
because no oven on earth could even cook a quarter of it
And we slowly walked around the pizza
soaking in every detail
because this was historical

You don’t want to rush through something like that

There was no doubt this would make the Guinness Book
the same book we ordered every year
to study people who were the very best in every category
Longest fingernails
Largest twins
Most days spent in a treehouse
And much much more
Including—of course—the world’s largest pizza
a record we would now own
This was going to put Searcy, Ark on the map
Seriously exciting
I’m not even kidding about that

And after the humongous pizza was finally completed
we bought some of it
You could purchase it by the square foot
It was cheap … a lot cheaper than regular pizza
Can you believe it?
World record pizza at an affordable price?
We SAW and ATE the world’s largest pizza
No one could ever take that away from us

Except that someone did

Just a short time later
some other pizza joint in some other town made a larger pizza
and we never even made it into the Guinness Book
But even so
we knew
there was a space in time
when we had been a part of something big

There was a day when the record belonged to us.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Film Festival

Flickr photo by Larry Lamsa
One day

our 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Sears

told us a story

the kind of story that fills in the time between math and lunch

She told us about attending a film festival

with her husband

all the way down in Little Rock

50 miles there

and 50 miles back

to see a movie about coyotes or whales or some other kind of mammal

a wildlife film

I think that’s what she called it

And I believe she said they grabbed a bite to eat on the way

… and heard a little lecture

… and sat through a question and answer session

But even though most of the details elude me now

I remember this particular story

for a reason

because it wasn’t just a tale about my teacher going off to a film festival


It was a lesson in companionship


Boys and girls, when you grow up

this is the kind of person you want to be with

the kind of person

who will drive 100 miles

on a school night

not just to see a movie

but because they want to spend the entire evening

with you 

Mrs. Sears' 4th grade class, 1976

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bedtime prayer

Flickr photo by Dean Hochman
For a while now

ever since our firstborn went off to college

when our family began to have 2 or 3 under our roof

instead of 4

I’ve been saying a short bedtime prayer

which goes something like this

Father
please bless Kate and Cal
and Cheryl and me

almost the exact same words every night

monotonous really

but it made me feel like I was doing my part

to hold our family together

at the end of the day

to present us, as a group, before the Lord

to ask for a small blessing


This routine changed, slightly

back in January of last year

when Mom’s health began to decline

I decided to add her in

to make her a part of the group

and so my bedtime prayer became

Father
please bless Kate and Cal
and Cheryl and Mom and me

and it felt good to remember her as well

to present her in this small way

at day’s end


And now that Mom’s gone

among the things I miss

I miss having her in my prayers

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

See the women

Flickr photo by Lawrence OP
I met a fellow the other day
who told me a story
about growing up in a church
where the men were in charge of things
and the women were not

And then one weekend
many years later
after the fellow had grown up
and married
and become a father
he took his family off to visit a friend in the big city
where they all attended a church
where things were much different than the fellow was used to

At this church
there were men in charge of certain things
and women in charge of others
without any discernible rhyme or reason

And during the worship service
which was a solemn event
the fellow’s wife began doing the strangest thing

From time to time
without advance warning
the wife would reach over and grab their daughter
a little girl
and lift her up high over the pew

And when the fellow took notice of this
a thing he’d never seen his wife do before
he motioned
with his eyes
and with his hands
for his wife to stop
to cease and desist
from this particular activity
immediately

But the fellow’s wife did not stop
She just kept lifting up the girl
holding her high in the air
so many times
that after the service
the fellow could hardly wait to ask

What in the world were you doing in there?

And the wife looked at the fellow
and calmly replied
I wanted our daughter to see the women
I wanted her to see
all of the women.

Monday, February 15, 2016

100 days in Bosnia

Sarajevo - Bosnia Herzegovina
I spent a hundred days in Bosnia

But who’s counting?

A hundred days in the winter

in a rundown resort

with snowflakes falling

as big as half dollars

At least that’s the way I remember it

Cold and lonely and beautiful

with a few laughs along the way

Stark memories of my time there

One of which was that I often carried a gun into the city

Sarajevo

Now that was something I’d never done before

But our military bosses wanted us to “carry”

and so carry we did

I worked every single one of those 100 days

Mostly 12 hour shifts

except for Christmas

and maybe 1 or 2 other shorter stints

Getting up early and going to bed early

so that every single day felt like the last one

Waking up and eating and working and emailing home and sleeping

and that was about it

except for one other thing

This thing

In the mornings, I’d pray for a little bit

and then head outside

to ascend a set of rickety stairs

that led to our workspace

I’d climb each step, with more than a little dread in my heart

and then walk down a breezeway to the door

of my “office” without windows

And just before turning the knob

I’d look off in the distance to see mountains

Snow-capped mountains

and this verse would come to me

rising up like a mist in my brain

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

I didn’t summon it

It would just come

again and again

A breath of hope in a foreign land

helping me face the day

for a hundred straight days.


Monday, January 18, 2016

For All the Saints

Standing in the foyer

Just before the funeral

Waiting for my pallbearer instructions

When my friend, the daughter of the one who’s passed, comes over to chat

I nod to her and say, I hear we’ll be singing For All the Saints.  That’s one of my favorites

Really?  She says.  My dad picked it out, and we told him, ‘Dad, nobody knows that song!’

Then she says, Mike, come with me

So I go with her

Across the foyer to where her father is seated

And when we reach him, my friend says, Dad, Mike knows For All the Saints!

I smile and say, We sang it in my high school chorus

And he brightens … for just a second

And then we move back to the business of the day

After a moment of comfort

At the mention of an old hymn

***