Sunday, April 22, 2012


“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.

That's a line from Robert Frost's "Death of the Hired Man" that I thought of while looking at something I started to write about the places I have lived.  Your dad and his brothers only ever lived in one house all the time they were growing up, an experience very different from my own.  By the time I finished high school, I had lived in at least (I have to stop and count on my fingers now) eight houses, two of which I have no memories of  because I was too young when we lived there.  When the building where "home" is located changes every few years, the definition of home has to be linked to something else.  "Home is where the heart is," probably sums it up as well as anything can.  While I was growing up, home was where your great-grandmother was.  I don't mean to exclude Dad, but he was my step-dad and didn't become part of my life until I was four years old.  Since 1974, home is wherever your grandma is.  I have to think that for your dad and his brothers, the house on 4th Street will always be home.  It is the only place your Uncle Ryan has ever lived.  Josh has lived there except for a few years when he was in his early twenties and your dad until he left for college.

    I'm sitting here wondering which was better, my childhood of many houses or theirs of one.  I suspect that most of the "experts" would opt for stability.  They are probably right.  On the other hand, I think moving every few years may have contributed to a flexibility and resilience that does not come from stability.  More likely, it really doesn't matter that much.  The number of houses, the kind of house, or its location are all a lot less important than what is going on inside them.  Hopefully home is a place you want to go and a place where, when you get there, they want to take you in.

 GRAND Social link party


     Here's a personal story, hopefully the kind your dad wants me to share with you.  When I was seventeen years old, I became convinced that I had had a "conversion experience."  I had been "saved."  As a result, I decided that I had a calling to become a minister and began college studies to reach this goal.  After I had been in school for a couple of years, when it was time for the minister of our church to take his annual vacation, it was suggested that I take over the pulpit for the three weeks he would be gone.  I was nineteen or twenty years old and too dumb to know better, so I accepted.  I don't remember the subjects of the three sermons that I preached, only that they were more notable for their brevity than their flair.  Thanks to "Speech 101" I did manage to get through it.
     The low point of the whole experience came on the second Sunday.  Part of the service was the recitation, in unison, by the entire congregation, of the Lord's Prayer.  Somehow, I failed to give, or the congregation failed to get, the signal that we had reached that part of the service.  I began saying, "Our Father..." and had said only a few words when I realized that no one was joining in.  Instead of doing the wise thing, stopping, and then instructing them to join in as I started over, I just blundered on ahead.  Then it happened.  I forgot the words!  My mind went blank and I couldn't remember the prayer I had been taught to recite as soon as I could talk.  After a few seconds that seemed like a week and a half, one of the congregants realized my plight and supplied the next phrase.  The rest of the people came in at this point and the service proceeded without further difficulties.  It's a story that I find funny today, but in that moment I learned the true definition of the word mortified.
     It was at the end of the third service that the high point of my experience as a preacher came.  I was standing at the door of the church shaking hands with the members of the congregation, accepting their thanks for filling in and feeling relieved that I had survived.  One of the last to leave was a little old lady who took my hand in both of hers, looked up at me and said with complete sincerity, "You done real good."  Other people that day also offered praise, and it is possibly her colloquial grammar that has made the moment stick with me, but I remember her words as the most heart felt compliment I have ever received.  To this day, when I want to offer the highest praise I can to someone, I use that fractured phrase, "You done real good."
     If there is a piece of wisdom to be derived from this anecdote (other than have the words to the Lord's Prayer written out if you're going to lead the prayer) it is this;  if you have the opportunity to offer praise to someone, do it.  Don't qualify it or limit it "that was good but..." or "not bad for a..." just do it.  You may give someone a moment they will treasure for the rest of their life.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012


"Green is the color of so many ordinary things," is a line from a song.  On this lovely April day, I am looking out the window at an explosion of green.  Spring has arrived early and enthusiastically this year and my favorite colors, green, are out in abundance.  There is a patch of woods across the field from our house, and as the trees leaf out they display a portion of the range of this color;  the grass in our yard and even the weeds in the field show this same talent for variation.  I love that there are so many shades of green.  It's as if every plant shouts, "I am alive!  I am unique."  My own enthusiasm for life is regenerated by the return of spring.  Each year I am impatient to get the flowers and veggies started and watch the first sprouts come through the ground.  When I was growing up on the farm, the year truly did begin in the spring.  Planting season was the start of everything we would do.  Hours spent on a tractor watching the black shining earth turn up behind the plow were satisfying in a way that few if any of the work activities that I pursued in later life could match.  I guess the point I'm trying to make here is one I have offered before:  Enjoy the world around you.  Things that are often ignored or dismissed as unimportant, like the variations in shades of green, can provide an ongoing pleasure and satisfaction equal to more exciting or dramatic experiences.  You don't have to be riding a roller coaster to be having a good time.  A quiet bicycle ride can be a pleasure too.