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

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

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

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


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


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Surgery day

Cheryl in sweatpants and a comfortable top

Me in comfy clothes also

And a baseball cap … this is definitely a day for a baseball cap

The doctor comes in to talk about the thing that will be removed.  He describes it in great detail

And, in the hours leading up to surgery, a bunch of nurses file in and out as well

One of them—a practitioner who’s been shoved out of the way by someone who’s working on the IV—looks over at Cheryl and says, “How are you doing?”

“Pretty good,” Cheryl replies.  And she is doing pretty good, especially for someone who’s about to go under the knife

Then the practitioner looks at me and says, “How about you?  You doing okay?”

Me?  Well, I’m not doing so good

The color has drained from my face.  I know this, because the practitioner tells me so

And it can be blamed on the warmth of the room and the in-depth medical descriptions, but mostly it’s due to anxiety—plain and simple.  I’m worried about my wife

We’re not spring chickens anymore

You never know how these things are going to turn out

The negative tapes in my head are running wild

Even so, a couple of hours later, Cheryl emerges from surgery unscathed (except for a 2-inch incision on her leg)

And this mix of doctors and nurses and God and prayers … well, it carries us through the day

It lifts us up and over another hurdle in the journey


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let’s go see the baby

Image from
One night long ago, some shepherds were in a field, keeping an eye on their flock.

And, in an instant, an angel appeared to them—with a bright light shining all around him—and the shepherds were terrified.

And the angel said, “Don’t be scared.  I’ve got good news for you.  Today, this very day, the one who’ll bring joy and salvation to the world has been born in Bethlehem.  And this will be a sign for you:  You’ll find the baby bundled up and resting in a cattle trough.  Yes, a cattle trough.”

And then, suddenly, the angel was surrounded by a bunch of other angels, all of them saying—shouting really—“Glory be to God in heaven, and on earth, let there be peace and goodwill toward mankind.”

And when the angels had finally departed, the shepherds looked at one another and said, “Let’s go see the baby.”