Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: friends (page 2 of 5)

Thanksgiving [Because I Belong.]

It occurs to me that without a few key gifts in this life, all others are rendered meaningless.

The eve of Thanksgiving. I flop into bed with Romans 8 on my heart, fresh from neighborhood youth Bible study.
And as I ponder, as I set to counting blessings once again, I suddenly see how this one gift makes all others worth counting…

You’ve read the stories– Joe Wheeler style.
You know, the ones where some little orphan waits for Christmas, wants nothing more than someone to belong to. Someone to want them.

I’ve always read them with somewhat of an “awwww!, poor kid.” reaction.

But you know, I’ve recently found out that that poor kid is me. 

– – –

I look up from my Bible and my friend’s lip trembles, and I catch it in an instant, because my heart does the same.
It’s this word– “Debtor.” 

I’m a debtor. Romans says so. (and my heart tells me the same.)
I’ve never seen more selfishness in the mirror in my life. Nor foolishness. Nor pettiness. Nor pride.
It’s awful.
A debtor I am.

But right on the heels of this word with such weight, on this eve of Thanksgiving, comes this other word–


I’m adopted.

I’m a debtor, not because I’ve sinned, but because I belong.

– – –

My head finds the pillow. My tears join my friend’s.
I shake my head in silence, and though orphaned I should rightly be, I fly again at open arms.
And my Thanksgiving prayer is simple:

Thank You for wanting me.

– – –

Thanksgiving tradition: All kids in the kitchen. At once.
feast for the eyes
pilgrim zone
best ever: sharing the all-American holiday with Australian friends and sweet neighbors
no indians this year…

Life is a Vapor

Merciful sleep.
Merciful blackness, the backdrop for a million galaxies.

“Stars. You see them best on the darkest night.” 

I turn over, sleep, to see in my dreams the strength of arms, and wills, and hearts… of friends that wouldn’t let go. That poured sweat, and poured out sobs with us on a cold night under open heavens.

There’s something familiar about this feeling.
We’ll dig another grave tomorrow.
For another one of our best friends.

We’ll say another round of goodbyes.
That’s three times by open graves, once by our open door, since June.

But as night turns into day, then turns to night again, one thing hits me harder even than the loss of another cherished treasure. It’s how I cherish the ones that are left.

Because life is a vapor.
I’ll always be glad I stopped mid-stride, retraced two steps to the kitchen trash and fished out my apple core after lunch. Just because I knew she’d like it.

It is the last thing she would ever eat.

But what of the rest?

While visions of a twisting, straining, struggling animal, and of brave friends fighting through hot tears for a chance at life pass before sleepless eyes, I wonder:

These treasures, I mean the ones I have left, do they know how much I love them?

Morning comes and it’s still black. I awaken slowly, pause to feel my heart beat its steady 45.
But I’m by no means the first. Someone else has been up, waiting for the morning to start.
He’s pretty polite. Doesn’t usually awaken me before my time. But neither does he wait long after my eyelids first flutter.

The cold nose finds its way to a tear-stained face, pushes a time or two, and retreats to take up racquetball, sock, or whatever else can pass for a toy at 4 am. And he stands there, and his beady eyes beam. He’s happy to see me. And every morning he tells me the same. He stands there, wags his tail until he can’t take it any more. Prances and dances, and makes a fuss, as if we’d been separated by months and miles, rather than short hours since last night.
Just because he loves…

But wouldn’t I wish I’d done the same, made a ruckus when I’d first seen my sister, brother, mother, father in the morning? Wouldn’t I wish I had, if one morning they were gone?

I have news for you. For me.

That could happen any morning.

Life is a vapor.

Fight for it. Cherish it.
And not just when it’s hanging by a thread…

Sleep, Diamond baby. Sleep.

Imprisoned at Liberty?

This feels awkward. I’m not going to lie. I’ve never done anything like it.

I slide my ID under bullet-proof glass, the guy with the badge takes it without even a hint of a smile. 
I take a seat and eyes wander over brushed aluminum characters on the wall. 
Sheriff’s name. Undersheriff. County supervisor. Date built.
I shift weight around. Watch people come, sign in, sit down.
He opens a heavily barricaded door. Motions for us to come. 
“No cell phones? No weapons, nothing in your pockets?”
I hold up empty hands.
The metal detector shrieks when I pass under. Maybe my belt buckle?
He points me down the long concrete corridor. 
“Right at the end. Then all the way down.”
Oh, the sound of the place. The sound of black dress shoes on a hard polished floor, bouncing off concrete walls and ceilings. So hollow. So empty.
The wind whips outside, but not even air can get into this place uninvited.
Warm though it may be, I pull my long coat closed tighter over purple shirt and tie. As if upturned collar of black cashmere can keep the foreign-ness out?
And I walk. And I wonder…
And I don’t have long to wait. 
He lights up when I come around the corner. And so do I. And suddenly, there’s nothing awkward about it… 
Nothing, except the glass. The cold glass between me and my friend. We press hands against it, close the gap between us except for the last 3/4 inch. And I pick up the black phone on my side, look him in the eyes–
        So good to see you, man.”*

And we talk like the old friends we are, only, this time I have to watch the clock. 
At 17 minutes we dive into Romans 8:35… Suddenly the words have new meaning.
“Who shall separate us from the love of God?!”

Once more we leave fingerprints on the glass. And I turn away and leave him sitting there… Turn away so others dear can see his face, hear his voice. And my eyes burn, and my heart burns. And I fiddle with the long row of buttons on my coat and my soles make that hollow mocking sound until I’ve reached that door… That door that opens to my touch. 
–  –  –  –  –
For days I see it. See the stripes he has to wear. See his sister’s face when she said thank you. See his mother, writing another letter even while sitting in the waiting room. I see the coldness of steel and glass and concrete everywhere. I see the same solemn guard smile and chat with them– they’ve been here lots of times. And under it all, through it all, I see this heartbeat of freedom. I see this peace. Behind thick glass I see in the eyes of my friend this liberty…
And I hear the echo, as if I were still sitting in that concrete vault:
“Who shall separate us from the love of God?!”
And then, I see myself.
And I see Jesus
He, dressed in His best, white all over, signing in, and sitting down. Because believe it or not, He doesn’t have keys to this place. 
He has to wait.
He passes under, through the fortifications, comes around the corner, and I light up. Because of course I’m glad to see Him… But there’s still this glass between us. And he raises a scarred hand to it, and I raise mine too. And of course I want out, but for some unjustifiable reason, I want to keep my pride intact even more.
And pride is a prison.
So He comes in, tells me how good it is to see me… and all at once, time is up, and He must go. 
And I let Him go. Watch Him walk out. 
And His eyes fill with tears. And His great, beautiful heart burns…
Mostly because, quite unlike the case of my old friend, the keys to this place are in my pocket.
My friend is free, in jail. 
And I’m imprisoned, at liberty.
Oh, the tragedy. To ever let pride be my prison. 
The prison that keeps Him out, more even than it does me in.
“Who [what?] shall separate us from the love of God?!”

Nothing but my own choices…

Gift of Bravery

But I’m afraid.

Oh, but why?!
It’s fear, you know, that gives these giants (my enemies) all their strength.

Destroy the fear, destroy the giant.
They’re made of paper anyway…

– – –

I cross rocky hillside to a favorite old spot. The boulder sits just where it did last time, warmed by the mountain sun.
Some things never change.

Years change though. And ages.
And I’m here both to ponder and to give thanks.

It’s strange how much birthday wishes can move a soul. (or is it?)
I give thanks for them. And for the friends that gave them, and for the promises they have claimed over this little life.

But even more, today I’m thankful for one thing:

For blue-green eyes more than a fist full of years my junior, brave enough to stand up to me and say they expected more, better, higher, from me their friend.

And I reel and wince, and then I melt. Because I know they speak the truth.

For a little voice, rarely heard, barely raised in the babble that broke my stressed-out reasoning into pieces.
That broke me into pieces–

“In brokenness we find blessings.”

And I stop and stare, and then smile. Because I know they speak the truth.

For another, strong and quiet, warning me of my own fearful power to destroy while I treck across western plains.
Half “I’m right here with you,” half “you have absolutely no excuse.”

And I realize, I need more of this. I crave more of this.
I might need it more than the rest of the world put together.
I need to be pushed, challenged, reminded.
And not just by my critics.

I need it from my friends.

I need more brave friends.

These three? they’re keepers.
And they’ve given me the best of the best this birthday.

thanks guys.

GYC Europe (From the i of my Phone)

Can’t be weary in this place. Nope.
Even when I am tired. 🙂

I pinch myself over and over. Is this Europe? Is that our logo?
And am I really here?

I am. And it is.

I tingle. We all do. I have seen —I am seeing something great.
Something history will remember always.

It’s a blur. But I’m doing my best to remember every waking detail.

coming home from outreach
friends from home 🙂


There are the schedules, the checklists, the trips, the itineraries, the suitcases, the sermons, the songs, and the symphonies of Heaven heard by exhausted servants…

And then there are the rest of the moments that make up life. 
Moments that are often skipped when cataloging mileposts…
The colloquial, the common. The spontaneous… 
The blink-twice-and-they’ll-be-gone opportunities. 
…to love people.
Here’s to those. 
Sabbath night with the neighbors. 

Only One

I’ve learned something about love.

It feels the pain of strangers.

Somewhat overwhelmingly so, at times.
Or maybe it is that it knows no strangers.

Under a tiny sliver of moon in the sultry south I sit on a red-brick retaining wall, and ponder:
This joy that’s mine, this peace, this hope

These become torture, when I recognize in the eyes of a stranger the fingerprints of pain, and I can’t do anything about it. Because as quickly as they come, they go…
And there are hundreds of them, and there’s one of me.

Only one.

And I can only be in one place at one time.
(ruthless limitation.)

But then I remember:
There’s just one of me, but then, there are the footprints.

They can’t go where I’ve not gone,
but they can stay after I leave.

Jesus, let me leave only prints You could claim as Your own…

– – –

I have only one life to live.

And that one, I intend to give away.

Light Up Your World

My phone rings and it’s my friend with the ever-cheerful chuckle.
(Even at 11:00 pm.)

The onions are all out drying on the lawn up at Grandma’s house… And the thunderstorm is at the county line.

The thousands of onions.

Might I lend a hand?

But of course. I peep through the blinds. The clouds west blink like they’re being hotly pursued by an army of strobes.

I jump in the waiting truck. And we race. Pallets, and crates, and two hay wagons full of onions. And just as we run the last of them into the shed, the wind slams into us in all its Oklahoman glory. And the showers of blessings begin to fall. And we jump into cars to keep our pajamas dry…

I’m suddenly seized by the urge to watch the light show.
So I duck into the house just long enough to grab 5D and tripod, and return to the hilltop alone…

It doesn’t take long. I’ve sat for 10 minute waiting to get the shot before. I only dare stay for 10 minutes this time.

But the light is so captivating…

I suddenly understand why Jesus said “Let your light so shine… that they may see… and glorify your Father.”

Because light in the darkness rarely goes unnoticed.

Just Like Your Father

Radio in my lap, yellow lines blink by out the driver’s side.
The feeling is familiar, but the road… not so much.
I’m not coming from home. And I’m not wearing my uniform.

I am, in fact, wearing light blue with french cuffs. And my tie is branded Kenneth Cole Reaction.

But just the same…

“Catron S.O., 2466 on Davenport”
“On Davenport, go ahead.”
“Yes ma’am, we’re on scene at the rodeo grounds.”

I loosen my collar a bit, single windsor slightly adrift.
And I push open the back door of the ambulance to smile down at a mother and two seriously good looking little boys.

“Hi there…”

“Hello, my son hur– [gasp]

You must be Dr. Nebblett’s boy!!”

And I wish you could have seen her smile.
I wish you could have seen mine.

“Yes ma’am, I am indeed Dr. Nebblett’s boy.”

I sit on the gurney, across from the brave little boy with big dark eyes. He with his cowboy hat, me with my cufflinks.
And I examine, and poke, and ask questions, and watch his eyes. And compare and consult… and tell his mother what she should do.

And we are instantly friends.
And someone pulls a pack of instant ice out of the cabinet, and I squeeze it until the bubble breaks, and it transforms in my hands.

And when he steps down from the ambulance, his mother tells me to tell my dad I’d seen them, and that they sent greetings.

And I did. And my father lit up the same way she had…
Because those boys were his friends, who’d moved away. The ones that would reach for him whenever they came to the office, starting at 4 months of age…

I watch them go for a quiet moment. And I turn to Jared, stethoscope around his neck–

I think I look like my dad.

He smiles; man of well-chosen words.
“You think?”

–  –  –  –  –

I ponder. I wonder

That reaction– Do people see in my face the likeness of my Father?
Is that likeness striking enough for them to catch His features at first glance?
Even when distracted by some other stress?

Even if they’ve never met Him?

The Gift of a Song

It was more than 25 years ago that my brave mother and father decided that their boisterous urchins would learn the art of song…

And we sang alright. Wailed, in fact.

Lots of times…

And the noises could hardly be called music at first.

But we’ve fallen in love now… And we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Maybe that’s why our house is full of boisterous urchins from across the county every Tuesday.
(If you telephone, don’t do it on that day.)

Not really.
We think they’re angels… 🙂

Spring Recital – on the lawn
neighbor girl
They don’t all fit in the living room any more…
teacher’s violin
unfortunately, photographer doubling as pianist, the performance photos are thin.
that’s the musical genius behind Sweetwater Musical Institute. 
love that hair!
neighbors and beyond…
more neighbors
Older posts Newer posts