Thursday, July 26, 2007


There was a time, not so many years ago, when the six of us gathered often. No place cards were necessary. Seated at the head of the table I reached out my left hand and touched Barbara. I had to reach quickly, though, since she popped up and down all dinner long, serving us. My right hand would fall upon Charles, generally at a modest velocity. Julia and Pamela, always good friends as well as sisters, sat across from one another. Sam enjoyed his perch at the far end of the table. Sometimes he had to repeat himself several times to be heard, but he learned great patience and persistence. We learned to listen to him for some of the funniest quips at any given meal.
It had taken more than a decade since Julia's birth for all the members of the family to arrive and lay claim to their special spot. Now, as each of the children has grown into adults, they are moving on to other tables in other places all over the world. Soon, however, we will gather all six of us plus Viggo and baby Daniel. I cannot help but wonder when the next such gathering might occur. The distances we must travel, the complexity of the calendars we must reconcile, and the number of us to be included, all continue to grow. Even so, I know that we will strive to gather from time to time. The wonderful knowledge of our membership in this family always seems greatest when we are gathered around the table. The store of memories we share will grow and grow. We will recount our new adventures as well. They grow ever more astounding. Educations and careers unfolding. Places visited. New friends and loved ones added to the circle.

Of course the day will come, when we can no longer gather together in this life. How sweet it will be then, when we gather in the next life with God in our midst.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Six Weeks Later

Forty two days ago I paid several people about $40,000 to drug me, cut my leg wide open, and saw the ends of my femur and tibia off. They installed some replacement bearing surfaces and sewed me shut. The medical establishment always makes it very clear that such a procedure will involve "some discomfort". It appears that the term "some discomfort" is specifically crafted to avoid giving one the slightest idea of just how bad the pain will really be. I suppose it is necessary to play down such things. I was already quite fearful going into the surgery. Imagine if the doctor had said: "You may writhe, cry, and wish for death while we try to find the right amount of narcotics that will ease your pain without causing your respiration to cease. However, don't think about it much, because fear will greatly amplify your suffering." I'm guessing we don't really want to know that. There are times when the truth is best left alone.

Now six weeks later, I am able to rise from a chair, I can step in and out of a bath tub, I can get in and out of a car. I can walk. I sometimes sleep for six or seven hours before the aching in my knee wakes me. It is true that it still requires about 350 milligrams of oxycodone each day to feed the drug habit that enabled me to endure the pain. 1 milligram of oxycodone is considered equivalent to one milligram of morphine. However, I would have to crush my sustained release capsules and snort them if I wanted to equal the rush from a strong dose of heroin.

The combination of the pain and the drugs addled my mind to the point where reading and writing became laborius. I now feel the haze slowly dissipating. I may be able to express myself well again before too long.

Meanwhile, it occurred to me that not all my posts can be as thoughtful as I would like. Sometimes I just need to record the basics.

Simultaneous with the ordeal of surgery and recovery has been my adjustment to retirement. My concious experience of retirement generally causes me to smile and feel a flush of pleasure when I realize that I seldom need to set my alarm. I suspect that there are greater struggles going on in the unconcious! One clue is my sudden fear that Barbara will find me so incredibly dull that she will dump me and search for Mr. Right. She assures me that she loves me and plans no such change. But the fear creeps in here and there. Another clue was a very vivid dream I had of returning to work. Great crowds of people I knew where very serious and hard at work. They smiled briefly and graciously at me, but clearly had no time to spend with a "non contributor". My hopes were lifted when it was announced that the new corporate dress code would require all employees to wear blue jeans. Surely I would fit in again! Alas, the corporate jeans were stiff and dark blue. They were tailored as a cross between carpenter's jeans and dockers. Sadly, I was still on the outside looking in.

Frankly, my struggle is one that is long overdue. There seldom was anything about my job performance that made me particularly lovable or admired. I have long known that the greatest thing I can do for others is to love them as they are. To listen to them. To serve them. To care about their struggles. Now I must leave the job performance factor out all together. I would have done well to abandon the quest to earn love with my work output long ago.

May God richly bless you all. May you know that you are indeed greatly loved, despite your best efforts to earn it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Make One Good Choice, Repeat as Necessary

You will choose. Hardly a moment goes by that does not require a choice. Perhaps you will choose passivity. Perhaps you will choose to wait. Nonetheless you will have made a choice. Very quickly you will make another. Because I have chosen to love you, I am eager to see you choose well. The more I care about you, the more I will hope for good choices.

As each of us makes choices, lives are impacted. The impact may be small. The impact may be vast. A good choice should create a good impact. I think that is the best we can hope for. We hope to make choices that bring about good.

We must turn to God for help in assessing our choices. We seldom see the whole impact of our choices. Besides, the impact comes after the choice. We are driving forward while looking in the rear view mirror if we base our next choice on the impact we think the last choice made. We can ask God for the help we need in looking forward to determine what the consequences of our next choice will be.

All too often, I try to make one big choice. However, I would rather make many good choices and keep doing so, rather than try to change the world with one big choice. When I ask God for guidance, the answer is often quite specific and seemingly very limited: forgive him, be patient with her, be generous with them. The choice may be to forgive a simple small slight. I may need to patiently overlook a tiny flaw. My generosity may consist of a small contribution. But the power of each choice has much more to do with how well I hear and obey God than it does with what a big show I make of supposedly wanting to serve him.

I must make one good choice, then repeat as necessary. May God give me the strength to hear and obey the very next bit of guidance that he gives me. May God give me the humility to care more about obeying him than I do about getting recognition for what I have done. May God forgive me for seeking to make a big splash that attracts the world's attention, when he is calling me to make a small ripple that pleases him. May God grant me the joy of growing more like him and caring less about my self.