Friday, August 22, 2008

Raymond, My Grandfather

On a Monday afternoon he insisted that his hospital bed be raised up so that it became more like a chair than a bed. I looked deep into his eyes and watched as my grandpa, now exhausted from a long life, relied on medical equipment to fold him into a sitting position. I reached out my hand for his and said, “Hello grandpa.” He replied, “Hello, Bill.” We exchanged several looks back and forth while others talked around us but never said another word to each other until it was time to go.

Eventually even the toughest farmers die. However, only then can their story be told for all to hear. My grandfather’s story begins in a chair. Yep a chair! Sometimes it was a kitchen chair at family reunions, other times it was a rocking chair on the sun porch but mostly it was his recliner chair in the living room.

As the Christmas wrapping paper flew through the air and grandchildren played with their new toys I remember pausing just long enough to see my grandfather peering out over the living room. His eyes were sparkling with a deep sense of happiness and satisfaction. He seemed to me more like king than a grandfather that day. I don’t know what its like to be a grandfather yet, nor do I know what its like to be a king but even when I was 10 I could feel my grandfathers sense of pride for what he had helped to create. It was a family—and based on the flying wrapping paper, it was a very large family.

In time, the family gatherings grew smaller as his family began to grow their own and move to other places in the world. Soon even the grandchildren started their own families and began to move to places and experience things that made it difficult to gather together as a complete family like we did when I was 10. Even I could not always return to that living room for the family gatherings but when I did, the act of seeing my grandfather sitting in his recliner listening to the latest story about a member of the family helped to hold, ever so delicately, the family together.

If only half the stories I have been told about my grandfather are true he would be a man of destiny and a hero to many. My grandfather was old from my first memories of him and that means that most of the stories I know about him were told to me by others before he began sitting in chairs.

He was a man who had survived a truck falling on top of him. His finger was once sliced off by a piece of farm equipment and he responded by grabbing it from the dirt, forcing it back on to his hand and wrapped it in a handkerchief. He still had that finger when I came to know him many years later. Before microsurgery my grandfather performed medical miracles. However, I think the most amazing and miraculous thing he did in his life was to marry my grandmother and become a father to my mother and her 5 siblings.

There are many more stories of my grandfather that I will write someday but they will only be an expansion of the story I saw begin in a chair that Christmas morning when I was 10. I only hope that when my own grandchildren see me sitting in a recliner watching them throw Christmas wrapping paper into the air they will see at least a small part of my grandfather in me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 Intern Team

The season is done and I am free once again to reflect a little on my propinquity with God during the summer. I know that you would assume that when I spend most of my hours in the summer at church camp I would most surely have propinquity with the God who actually called me in to this ministry I now live. However, I think that these kinds of assumptions have lead many, including myself astray or to believe that through basic mechanistic motions and repeated actions I can make propinquity with God just happen over and over again. It just does not happen like that at all and I have learned that sometimes the hard way…

However, that is why when it does happen; when I get even a glimpse of God I treasure it in my heart and in my soul like it was breath itself. This summer was in the most ordinary way so wonderful to behold. It was not because of new record numbers at camp as we were under last year’s number and above the year before—So just ordinary or average. It was not because my life changed in some radical way and now I am a new person—Nope in fact it seemed to me that my life in general just journeyed along neither bad nor radically good. BUT that is why this propinquity moment is not about me and my life so much…

This propinquity moment is focused on the 2008 intern team. They did so many ordinary things together. They set tables together, built campfires together, got vehicles stuck and unstuck together, they did dishes together, hung drywall together, played in the mud together and built a waterfall in the process, they created games together, they laughed together and cried together. In the end, they created in the ordinary moments of life together hope for the church in the future.
PS. They also created in me a whole lot of propinquity with God by letting me mentor them just a little in the same everyday, ordinary moments of life. Their names are Charlie, Sonya, Will S. and Will B., Justin and Megan but to me they shall be known as the team that brought just a little more light to the darkness of this world.