Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Reflections

How fitting.  L. G. Lacy’s funeral service was held in Ft. Worth last Friday. Mr. Lacy, a veteran of World War II, was buried with full military honors Friday afternoon following a very moving service honoring his life. I make no excuses. I am more than just a little partial to the veterans of World War II. Mr. Lacy’s military service mirrored the integrity and dedication that is so characteristic of members of the Greatest Generation.

He served as Chief Executive Officer on the USS Starling in the Pacific. The ship began its service when it sailed from San Francisco on January 22nd, 1943. It was intended to function as a minesweeper. Sweeping mines was extremely dangerous work. The ship was awarded World War II battle stars during its service.

This young man from Fort Worth, Texas named L.G. Lacy helped the crew of the Starling to accomplish its mission. On one occasion, a Kamikaze Japanese pilot attempted to attack the ship. The ship’s crew in turn shot him down. After recovering his body, Mr. Lacy found his wallet with pictures of the pilot’s wife and children. He felt compelled to provide the enemy pilot with a proper military burial at sea. Such actions were most likely not according to Navy protocol, but they revealed a lot about Mr. Lacy’s character.

The war ended. L.G. joined thousands of other veterans in returning home to start their professions and families. Starting a family was going to happen much sooner than he knew… Little did he know when he showed up at church one Sunday morning in uniform that there was a young lady sitting in a pew not far away telling her friend after seeing L.G. for the first time: “I am going to marry that man!” She was right. They fell in love and married. Their life together ending up spanning some 63 years.

As I listened to several people eulogize this fine man Friday morning at the very church where his bride to be saw him for the first time, I was moved by his lifelong concern for the vulnerable among us. He served on the board for Foster’s Home for Children. There is no doubt in my mind that he was exceedingly generous with the home financially, but he did not want any of that revealed after his death. In recent years, he joined a small group at his church that is intended to reach out to people struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. People wondered how Mr. Lacy would fit in a group of that nature. He soon connected with members of the group and was a blessing in their lives.

The World War II veterans among us are pretty special. Yesterday at church I asked them to stand as a group before recognizing all of our veterans. They are not that many of them still with us. I am more than just a little partial to the World War II veterans among us. My father served as a pilot during WWII in the US Army Air Corps. May we be ever appreciative of all of our veterans on this Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

In Memory of Alyssa Dix

 My confidence in the basic decency of people was renewed at Granbury High School’s Commencement Friday night. I was of course the proud father of a son graduating. But my mind has been on another family for weeks now, as graduation and other senior year events have unfolded. My heart has been with the Dix family.

Alyssa Dix would have graduated with the rest of the class of 2010 from Granbury High School Friday night. She was killed in a car accident in March of 2008 only days after her 16th birthday. My officers with the Granbury Police Dept. were profoundly affected by that particular crash. One of my troopers with the Texas Highway Patrol assisted that afternoon. His heart was touched as well.  As I ministered to my officers in the days following that event, I had no idea how the Dix’s would impact my life.

As major events like prom, baccalaureate, and graduation started looming on the horizon in recent weeks, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness and empathy for the Dix’s. How could I send Daniel off to prom all decked out without thinking of them? How could I prepare to deliver a speech to the graduating class without wondering how these events are affecting Alyssa’s precious sisters? Why I am so privileged to watch my child graduate? My empathy bordered on anger. I asked the “why” question more than once.

Last week the Hood County News did a feature story on Alyssa and her family. It was an extremely well done story. It was a story faith. It was a story of a young lady who genuinely loved God. And it was a story of a family who has chosen to embrace a life of faith and trust in God no matter what happens.

The article gave me some needed perspective. I never dreamed the Hood County News would be a source of spiritual enrichment, but then again you never know! Their faith in God and love for people inspires me. The narrative in the newspaper helped me see things in a different light. I was able to process “senior events” in a more faithful manner.

Friday night at the graduation ceremony the senior members of the Granbury High School Choir gathered on risers for one final time as high school students to sing a song in memory of Alyssa. On the printed program, a blank spot was left where Alyssa’s name would have been placed with an asterisk mark. A fitting comment in her memory was duly footnoted at the bottom of the page.

My officers are just that. They belong to me. God has entrusted me to be their chaplain. It is my responsibility to serve them, pray for them, and occasionally harass them. Sometime this week I have a commencement ceremony program to show a couple of those officers who have come to Love the Dix family just like I have. I probably better do that in the privacy of a patrol car. It will just be one of those moments you know….But when the conversation is over; their confidence in the decency of people will be renewed as well. I am thankful for the leaders at Granbury High School who chose to be respectful and kind to a wonderful family.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reflections on Graduation

 I know they have it before, but I am going to say it again tomorrow morning. Young parents hear all of the time: Enjoy your children now, because they are going to grow up so fast! After you have heard it a few hundred times, you just don’t give it much thought. But it is true.

Daniel was born very early in the morning on May 22nd, 1992. In fact he was born at shift change for the nursing staff. I overheard two nurses arguing over who was going to be forced to care for him, because the night shift was not quite over. I don’t recall being more angry than I was at that moment. I walked away from the situation, because if I ever opened my mouth what was going to come out would have been the worse tongue lashing those women had experienced in their life on this earth.

Daniel’s birth came only months after my mother’s death in October of 1991. His entry into this world brought great healing. He was welcomed by a young boy at home who would soon turn 3. They became the dynamic duo almost instantaneously. We purchased our first home a few months after Daniel’s birth. That house still holds such great memories of those two boys playing and growing together. I remember Daniel insisting on riding with me to take his brother to Kindergarten each morning, so I would drop Randall off and then run Daniel back to the house before going to work every morning. Those were the days when they still thought that my impersonations were funny, so I got do “Scar” from the Lion King and “The Beast” from Beauty and the Beast for them every morning on the way to school.

Randall will enter his senior year of college in August. Daniel will be a freshman. Mitchell will be a freshman in high school. .As I stood outside the convention center with the parents of the debate team kids after graduation last night, I realized an era was truly ending. I have become very attached to that group of wonderful people. We have gone on debate tournaments together out of town, hosted tournaments in Granbury, and tried to serve our kids well. And now each of us is sending a child off to a different university.

A word to young parents: Spend time with your kids. Invest in them. Go as a sponsor on school trips. Volunteer at church camp. Find areas of common interest. I can tell you from firsthand experience that graduation will roll around before you can blink.

Ironically Daniel has grown up to be a very compassionate young man. When someone needs to be cared for, he will take the initiative to do it. It won’t matter of not if it is shift change. I am proud of all three of my boys. My message to young parents: Better enjoy them now!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ser crítico! (Being Judgmental!)

 Driving to town to eat breakfast at 6:30 every Tuesday morning is a stretch for me. Tuesday is technically my “Monday”, so it is always a very full day. I joined the Optimist Club of Granbury almost 6 years ago, so most Tuesdays I try to get in gear a little earlier than usual. I was a Rotarian prior to moving to Granbury, but was drawn to The Optimist Club here because of the emphasis placed on serving children in Hood County.

The club raises some major funds every year to fund all kinds of worthwhile projects benefiting children. Each year over $16,000.00 is given to seniors graduating from Granbury, Lipan, and Tolar High Schools. Randall was fortunate enough to be a scholarship recipient in 2007. Daniel in turn received a $1,000.00 scholarship this year. This morning the students along with their parents joined us for breakfast. Each student addressed the club for a few moments.

While our club president was speaking this morning, I could overhear one of the students talking to her mother, who was sitting next to her. My first thought was: Where are your manners? Why did our scholarship committee choose this girl? She is obviously inept socially. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks….I was immediately remorseful.

I quickly determined that the girl’s mother did not speak English. I have been in settings numerous times when translation was necessary. It is very hard work.  And there is no way that the poor girl was translating everything. The proceedings were going too fast, and there was a lot being said in a short period of time. She was no doubt giving her mother the gist of the meeting.

When the young lady stood up to address the club, she shared her college plans with us. She is very ambitious! And she could not have been any more gracious. And of course she had to tell us that her mother did not speak English! I wanted to stand up and say: Most of these club members are really nice folks, but there is a judgmental fool among us this morning!

I was proud of Daniel this morning. And I was proud of Randall all over again! When the girl who grew up in a home where English was the second language shared her career goals, I nearly shed a tear. I was so proud of my fellow Optimist Club members for helping that girl realize her dreams. I wondered what her mother was thinking. She has overcome obstacles that the rest of the recipients did not face. The good news is that her bilingual skills will be a blessing to whatever career she chooses.

This morning’s experience was a turning point for me. I think I may move a little faster on Tuesday mornings from this point forward. I know I could be a more dependable club member. I have had to miss several meetings in recent weeks, because of my school work. Ironically I was using my Tuesday mornings to study for Conversational Spanish class. Oh well…I know one scholarship recipient who won’t have to worry about going back to school to learn Spanish!  Maybe in a few more years I can do the translating instead of the judging!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dads with Teenage Daughters Don't Like Teenage Boys...

 Jordan Spieth is my hero of the week. The 16 year old Dallas high school student made professional golf headlines this week when he made the cut at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Only last week he was playing in the state high school golf championship. Spieth came within a few strokes of the lead Sunday afternoon before finishing his final round at two over par for a #16 spot.

He charmed the galleries and seasoned pro golfers alike over the course of this past week in Irving. It seems that his playing partners in each round were very patient and respectful to the young buck out getting his first taste of PGA golf as a player. Saturday Jordan played with Tom Pernice Jr. Apparently he was very encouraging toward the young man, as they completed their round together. Interestingly enough Pernice has two teenage daughters. Columnist John Maginnes states: Dads with teenage daughters generally don't like teenage boys. And professional golfers with teenage daughters like three-putts, fat wedges and double bogeys far more than they like teenage boys. I love it! Spieth was quoted as saying that he did not know whether to call his playing partner “Tom” or “Mr. Pernice.”

Those of us who are veterans in our respective professions would be wise to pay attention to Spieth and Pernice. There are young Jordan Spieth’s in every single profession coming up faster than most of us can imagine. They may not be 16, but nevertheless they are young, sharp, and very capable. In my field, the young professionals on the horizon are well educated, well read, and articulate too. We can welcome members of the Millennial Generation with open arms, or we can snub them like a group of middle school kids trying hold on to their popularity status. I think I will choose the former.

I realize that the Millennial’s can teach me a lot during this time period in my life. They have a way with technology that I will never be able to fully replicate, but surely I will learn something! It seems that this generation is a wealth of information on a variety of topics. They have grown up after all in this Age of Information. The list goes could go on and on. I must realize that my attitude toward them will shape their careers and mine as well.

It is a little painful to admit that we are no longer the young kids on the block. It is tempting occasionally to assume a stance that communicates: We did not do it like this in 1984. And most of us will have days when we feel threatened by the Jordan Spieth’s of this world. Such attitudes are indeed foolish. I say that we step aside and welcome such talented young people with open arms. I am looking forward to seeing more of Spieth on the PGA Tour in the very near future.  I am quite confident that Tom Pernice does not care for teenage boys, but I suspect he made a slight exception this past week during the HP Bryon Nelson Championship. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Don't Be Intimidated!

I was playing a round of golf by myself the other day when I caught up to a threesome playing just ahead of me. I noticed as I approached the hole that they were off in the trees searching for their balls. The course where I play is very tight. There is little room for forgiveness, when it comes to errant tee shots. The frustrated players motioned for me to go on and hit. I really don’t like to do that.

I hate teeing off with a group watching me. (I would have never made it as a professional golfer with an entire gallery looking on.) Images started filling my head of my ball dribbling down the fairway just a few yards short of the ladies tee box. And in Texas, we play by the “Ft. Worth Rule.” If your tee shot does not exceed the ladies tee box, you have to drop your britches and prove you are a man. I was clearly shaken by the time I teed up my ball.

And then it hit me…Golf is a mental game. I know this to be true. There is no good reason to let the presence of those guys on a ball searching mission intimidate me. Confidence must carry the day.  I just need to swing the club nice and easy.  Miracles don’t cease. I drilled the ball right down the center of the fairway a few yards shy of the creek situated about 100 yards in front of the green. On the way to hit my second shot, I stopped to talk to the group ahead of me for a moment as a matter of courtesy and golf etiquette. I really should have mentioned to them that I was on a first name basis with every squirrel that lives in the clump of trees adjacent to the fairway on hole #8. But I was enjoying the moment way too much. And I also knew that I had a second shot that would have to be executed in front of that same threesome.

Once again confidence carried the day. I sent that ball to the fringe of the green directly in front of the pin. I smiled and waved at my fellow golfers, as I drove off to play the next hole. I hope those poor guys are not of a mind that first impressions should be lasting ones. If they joined me for the rest of the round, they would find that I too make regular expeditions into the trees.

Golf teaches you a lot about yourself. You quickly find out if you possess patience or not. It is game that tests the male ego. Do I hit the ball on this side of the water or go for it? It is also game that requires a tremendous amount of concentration. Distracted golfers don’t play well. But most importantly golf reveals a lot about our level of confidence.

A book I read about the mental aspects of the game stresses the importance of hitting each shot as if the ball was going in the hole. In other words, don’t be satisfied with just getting the ball on the green. Don’t putt a 30 foot putt with the intent of just getting close to the hole. Plan on sinking that putt! Actually that author’s counsel actually led me to sink two chip shots over the past two seasons; one for an eagle and another one for a birdie.

Last year I could see that my golf game was reflective of the lack of confidence I felt in certain areas of my life. That was a healthy experience. I have really tried hard to address such concerns both on and off the golf course. It has made a huge difference. Consequently the visions of having to play by the Ft. Worth rule when aremore fleeting now. Why let such thinking rob us of our confidence? Why allow anyone or anything take our confidence away from us? /Why do we choose to allow ourselves to be intimidated?  It does make sense.  Excessive egotism will land a golf ball in the water trap, but heathy confidence makes for a fun game.
I do believe that has some life application!

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Does a Father Think?

 Ready or not life moves on. Last night we went to the choir concert at Acton Middle School. Our youngest son sang a solo of the Beatle’s classic, “Let it Be.” I marveled at his obvious musical ability. He and his brothers are no doubt thankful that they inherited their mother’s musical abilities. Sometime during that concert it hit me. That event was the last middle school activity that I will attend. Mitchell moves on to high school status next year at Granbury’s 9th Grade Center. It reminded me of the day I dropped him off for his first day in elementary school. I knew then that would be the third and final go around of such a milestone.

A few hours before the concert last night Daniel received some correspondence in the mail that sealed his decision regarding college plans for next fall. We will send a second child off for university studies. We can go on and fix the glass on the bedroom that has been broken repeatedly by stray basketballs. Our weekly grocery bill will be reduced somewhat. But I am really not looking forward to seeing an empty place where his car is normally parked when August rolls around in a few months. I still remember coming home one night after Randall had been gone for about 10 days the year he started to college. It occurred to me that night that he was not at camp. He had left the nest. I was a grouch for several days after coming to that stunning realization.

A few moments before Daniel got home to read the letter that sealed his college decision I received a phone call from Randall. He is staying in Abilene this summer taking two summer sessions of Spanish and working on campus. Randall is a senior in college now. As he approaches the last stretch of his undergraduate studies, I am aware of a greater sense of depth and maturity in his demeanor. If he ends up going to law school and becoming an attorney, I might actually feel sorry for the criminal if Randall is doing the prosecuting. Randall can plow over someone with his remarkable analytical abilities and be so nice about it in the process.

What does a father think as life marches on? There is a twofold answer to that question actually. I am more grateful today than I have ever been before to the people who have been good to my kids along the way. I will always be indebted to a handful of public school teachers who loved them and challenged them. A few key friends at church have really been good to the boys at every juncture of their lives. In particular, I appreciate the people who have helped the boys when they were at a crossroads in life.

Kids need adults in their lives who will believe in them and are instillers of confidence. My boys have encountered such individuals repeatedly. Kids need adults who are willing to see beyond their immature behavior and tap into to the potential that exists. Again my boys have been blessed with such people. Teenagers and young adults in particular are need of people who can assist them in finding some life direction. Still again my crew has been most fortunate.

What does a father think as life marches on? A father feels indebted to those who helped his own children. He knows there are kids coming up who need the kind of guidance that I just listed above. I will continue to teach middle school kids in a Sunday school context. I will continue to attend a couple of weeks of church camp every Summer. And I will search for those lost puppy kiddos, because I don’t want them to miss out. Being a father is a state of being that never ends.

Yesterday was eventful aroud the Knox Manor. New chapters are about to be written. I will get calls from two universities from two boys instead of just one. The third one will be getting a driving permit before I can blink. And I can only hope that someday they will show up with a really nice girl some weekend in Granbury. I have to remind myself that it really will happen someday, because ready or not life marches on.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just Minding My Own Business...

 Andrew is my new hero. While visiting a neighbor, five-year-old Andrew pulled out his kindergarten class picture and immediately began describing each classmate. "This is Robert; he hits everyone. This is Stephen. He never listens to the teacher. This is Mark. He chases us and is very noisy." Pointing to his picture, Andrew commented, "And this is me. I'm just sitting here minding my own business." I like this kid. He represents the all too human tendency we posses to think more of ourselves than we should.

Sunday morning I will preach on the leanings all of us can have of being habitual fault finders. Jesus uses the analogy of picking a speck out of a person’s eye all the while there is a plank in our own eye. It is a funny image today and I am fully convinced that he intended it be humorous when he said it. Sunday morning I will delve into the importance of ongoing and genuine self examination. I am of the opinion that we spend little time really examining our motives and attitudes. I also intend to stress that there is a major difference between useful self-examination and berating ourselves in foolish and unhelpful ways. I have never seen self-berating behavior lead to meaningful change.

In the process of this preparation, I have been pondering our propensity to be very opinionated people. I know I am guilty. I am pretty eager to tell those around me what I think about everything and everybody. I am opinionated for sure. If a person appears to be clearly wrong in their conduct or analysis of an issue, I have been known call them less than favorable names. “Idiot” and “chump” unfortunately are staples in my vocabulary. And of course I justify my judgments by the preponderance of solid evidence that I have tucked away in the opinion hemisphere of my brain. If the truth be known, I am worse than 5 year old Andrew. I am old enough to have a greater sense of honest self awareness. I wonder how many times I am clearly wrong in my analysis of a situation?

Perhaps it is time for me to recall the admonition of my Southern mother to keep my opinions to myself if they are not nice. She continually exhorted all three of us not to talk “u’gliii” about people. (That is Southern for “ugly” by the way.) It has to be pronounced correctly for the proper effect.

Opinions can be good. Positive change in society is often launched by one outspoken person expressing their belief about some form of injustice. As I finish my preparation for Sunday, I am simply convicted that I need to do some self-examination before I launch any verbal grenades. I am very aware today that 5 year old Andrew and I are cut out of the same pattern. Both of us have a lot to learn about self-awareness. Self-examination is a good thing. And preach it I will Sunday morning.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Accidents DO Happen...

 Accidents do happen. And we have had two in a row here at the Knox Manor. Of course the drivers in my house were at fault. I can’t say anything, because I was one of the drivers this particular go around. Thankfully no one was injured in either mishap.

I received a letter today from the underwriting department at my insurance company. It seems they are none too happy with me. I am a big boy and I take bad news pretty well. In fact, I even accept it fairly well when I know for a fact that I am in wrong in a given situation. I have learned to accept such things well, because that sweet bride of mine is the master of confronting so gently that you can’t help but melt when she is finished. But the insurance company did not confront my recent indiscretions directly.

The letter from the underwriting department addressed to “Policyholder Knox” implied that I was not aware of the fact that I had made two recent claims. Last time I checked my name is John or if you prefer the more formal Mr. Knox or Dr. Knox that is ok too. “Policyholder Knox” is not what my insurance agent calls me at his office. The letter indicated that is not uncommon for policyholders to be unaware of their number of claims are moving violations. Thankfully I have had a nice clean driving record for well over a decade. I found that revelation to be amusing. People commonly forget car accidents and expensive speeding tickets? I find that hard to believe. In essence the letter in a very round about way scolded me for making two claims in a short period of time.

I am not trained in public relations. I know very little about the insurance industry, but I am a decent student of human nature. If they are interested, I have a few suggestions for employees in the underwriting department. It is important to be polite, but straightforward. Get to the point and state it succinctly. I believe people appreciate honesty. If they are troubled by the number of claims a policyholder is making, then express that very clearly in as few words as possible. Secondly I think people appreciate being addressed in a respectful manner. “Policyholder Knox” does not communicate a spirit of respect in my estimation.

I realize that I could learn some helpful lessons from the good folks working in some office building in Dallas. I need to be reminded that everyone deserves to be addressed in a respectful manner no matter what the situation happens to be. Every person I deal with professionally or personally deserve to be addressed appropriately. I have to be reminded of this periodically, because I am fully capable of being a jerk. I too have a lot to learn about communicating as clearly and honestly as possible. Our culture encourages us to water things down in the name of being tactful. Direct and honest efforts at communication are always a good thing. In the long run, good relationships become better and stronger.

I will discuss my letter with my friends at the insurance office. It is nice to have friends down there. I am sure they will say: “Now Policyholder Knox just calm down and all will be good once again….” I may roll my eyes, but I have to be nice to them. They are my friends! I am grateful to have friends and not “Underwriters” because after all accidents do happen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Making it Look Like An Accident...

One of the more recent quotes floating around on facebook these days is: If you hurt my daughter, I will make your death look like an accident. I am fully aware of the fact that my humor is warped, but I love that quote! It reflects the degree of loyalty that we feel toward our children.

We can’t help but love people who love our kids. That is an important principle of life! And the opposite is true as well. I had a girlfriend in high school whose dad did not think too much of me. I realize I was not the best influence in her life, but he should not have been so difficult. (At least that is the way I felt at the time.) If that girl had been hurt by me, my death would have been imminent. And I think he felt no concern about making it look like an accident either. Dads of daughters… They are just irrational!

Loyalty is a good thing. Looking out for those whom we love is an important part of life. Sometimes such a task necessitates a little creativity. Today I read an article about a young soldier who deployed to Iraq. Like many soldiers going overseas he left a girlfriend behind. I have a very emotional departure envisioned in my mind. She of course gave him a picture of herself before the final goodbye was said.

As fate would have it, the young man received a “Dear John” letter from his sweetheart back at home. She even had the audacity to conclude the letter with the following request:

Please return the photograph I gave you just before you shipped out. It is the favorite picture I have of myself, and I want to use it with my engagement announcement in the newspaper.

Can you imagine how that soldier felt, after receiving that news and the accompanying request? He was devastated. He had a hard time hiding it. His Army buddies had to do some serious prying before they discovered what as troubling their friend, but they finally got it out of him. At this point in the story, their loyalty becomes creative…They decided to come to his rescue.

They pooled all of their photos of their girlfriends and their wives. They then took the collection of 175 pictures and dumped them in a shoebox. The photographs were then sent to their friend’s former girlfriend a note enclosed which said:

Dear Chelsea,

Please find your picture and return the rest. For the life of me I can’t remember which one you are…

As I have already stated, my humor is pretty warped. I find that story very amusing. Sometimes it is just appropriate to allow your friends to display their loyalty in creative and ingenious ways. It makes we wonder what kind of imaginative way that I can show my loyalty to those closest to me

Monday, May 17, 2010

Distorted Images of a 30 Year High School Reunion

 As I prepare my thoughts for baccalaureate this week, I can’t help but think of my own senior year in high school. And that of course triggers thoughts of our upcoming reunion in July. Thirty years have gone under the bridge. It does not seem possible. I am going to sign up to attend the festivities, but not without reservation.

Several images continue to flash across the screen of my conscious thoughts. I just know that I will be the only male there with hair that appears to becoming gray overnight. In fact, I envision my classmates as looking like they are still 17. I will be the only one there who looks every bit of 48. And of course in my head, every member of the class of 1980 has skated through life experiencing tremendous financial success, marital bliss, and 2.5 perfect children. They will all arrive at the reunion eager to share the exploits of their storybook life. They will probably bring stacks of pictures that chronicle their idyllic life.

It is time for me to eliminate that screen permanently. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All of us have either turned 48 or will soon. Some of us look our age. A few have partaken of the Fountain of Youth. But the reality is: we are all rapidly approaching the half century mark. We have now lived long enough to experience a few wrinkles and a heartbreaks too.

Some of my classmates have been married to the same person for nearly 3 decades. Others have been through divorces. Some have never married. But I am confident that each of us has experienced significant relational challenges. It has not been a walk through the rose garden for any of us.

I am sure that many of my classmates have experienced good health, but some have not. Others have taken care of spouses during times of life threatening illness. I would suspect that there are those in our group who have lost children or perhaps even grandchildren. Some of have been extremely successful. And I am sure others have struggled financially.

When I step down from speaking in the high school auditorium during baccalaureate Sunday afternoon, I plan to begin the process of thinking more about my own classmates. The images that will flash across the screen will be much different. Going to the reunion is not all about me. A reunion is about experiencing unity with a group of people in a fresh and new way.

I am going to begin viewing established friendships in a different way. What do those friends need from me at this stage in our life? There are people I was barely acquainted with who could potentially become new friends. How can I be prepared to solidify new relationships? The reunion is not about me. It is not about my feelings or ridiculous perceptions. It is about the group. It is about the collective concerns of the group. It is about people who need a friend. It is about reconnecting. And in some cases, it is about making new connections. It is sort of scary in a way. But I think we are all at a time in life when we recognize the importance of every person. I am ready for some new images to start flashing across that screen… I am ready to reunite. If you are on the fence about attending the 30 year reunion this summer, I hope you will jump off of it and change the images running across the screen of your conscious thoughts if necessary. The process of reuniting cannot be completed without your presence.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Growing Up Unchurched

  My friend and ministry colleague Dan Bouchelle recently wrote an essay on his blogspot reflecting on his sentiments of being a minister who grew up in a preacher’s home. It was very enlightening to me, because not only did I not grow up as a preacher’s kid, but I can count on one hand the number of times we went to church during my childhood. His background has made his professional experience much different than mine.

What has ministry been like for a person who did not grow up in church at all? I am not sure that I have ever asked myself that question, but Dan’s personal reflections prompted some thinking along those lines. I finished graduate school and went to work in an associate ministry role in a large church in 1987. I assumed that the church would treat me in an honest and fair manner. And I was well aware of the fact that I had an awful lot to learn. I hoped they would be willing to work me as I gained experience. The congregation in Wichita Falls, TX far surpassed my two basic expectations. They were most certainly honest and fair in every possible way. Our older boys were born during our time there. I recall receiving generous salary increases when both of the boys were born. They went out of their way to accommodate me when my mother was being cared for by Hospice in Lubbock. But I what I remember most is that they forgave me when I made mistakes. They were a very patient group of people. The church far exceeded my expectations.

As I grew in my professional life, I had the opportunity to assume more responsibility by being in a preaching role for a church in West Texas. Our family left the security of our fist church in 1995. I had to learn to some difficult lessons during this time period. At age 33, I was not nearly as wise as I thought I was at the time. The church there had struggled with turnover in ministers prior to our arrival. It was a three year learning experience for certain! But even in the midst of some difficult times, that little congregation was so generous in so many ways. I cannot possibly recount all of the kind things they did for us. The teens there spoiled our boys rotten. And most of all they encouraged me so much as I learned to prepare sermons every Sunday. Three years later it was time for another move.

We spent the next 6 years in Woodward, OK. I decided to go back to school and pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree. The church there was amazing. They treated us like royalty. They encouraged me in every possible way as I worked on the degree work. They allowed me to teach as an adjunct instructor at the university, so I could pay my tuition in graduate school. They were supportive of our family in every way imaginable. When I graduated with my final degree, they threw a party in my honor that I will never forget. After graduation, I stayed another year, but I longed to get back closer to family and close friends.

We moved to Granbury in 2004. The work here has been challenging and interesting. I have been able to make good use of my all of my training and education in so many different ways. I have had the privilege of working with very bright co-workers. My law enforcement chaplaincy efforts have been the most fruitful here of all the places I have lived.

What do I expect from the church today? I want to be treated fairly and honestly. I hope they will be forgiving as I continue to grow and learn. That has been my experience here in Granbury since I have been here. As I continue to think about Dan’s comments, I need to ask myself if 23 years of church related ministry has changed me as a person. Have I become someone I did not intend to become? Am I still the same John that my friends I grew up with knew? Have I fallen into the pit of what I call “professional righteousness?” Those are all important questions. I think I will reflect on them more in tomorrow’s post.
Tonight I am very grateful to the churches I have served.  They have been pretty patient with someone who could count on one hand how many times he went to church growing up.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Speaking at Baccalaureate: No Pressure!

 Last week I received an invitation to be the speaker at the annual baccalaureate service that Granbury’s Ministerial Alliance hosts at the high school each year the Sunday prior to graduation. I was touched to be asked. It was a nice gesture for my colleagues to consider me, since I have a son graduating this year. Reality soon hit all too hard.

It soon occurred to that I have about 10 days to come up with something that will resonate with the seniors. I will be speaking to my speech and debate kids! They fondly refer to me as: Doc Knox. Of course no pressure at all… And what will I do about my own son? I started having visions of Daniel returning for his 10 year reunion to hear his classmates say: Do you remember when your dad made a total fool out of himself at baccalaureate? I felt my face turning red right there in the relative safety of my office.

I got my wits about me soon and started immediately ruling out potential topics for the afternoon of May 23rd. I am not going to give them a syrupy speech on success. In fact, I plan to purposely avoid any sweet stories of people overcoming unimaginable odds. Those are indeed good stories, but too predictable in this setting. Equally tempting are narratives revolving around my own childhood that include references to walking to school during record setting snowfall uphill both ways. Such tales are strictly forbidden. I could tell them what it was like to be a National Merit Scholar and potential PGA golf player in the years immediately following my own high school graduation, but blatant lying is not option either.

Truthfully my life has not turned out like I was thinking it would the stormy night in May of 1980 when I received my diploma in Lubbock, Texas. Actually that very thought has put me on the right track. I think I now know what I will say to a group of kids whom I have grown to love. Interestingly enough the same day last week that I was invited to speak at baccalaureate I received a document via email for my 30 year high school reunion. In that form, we are supposed to provide some kind of synopsis of where life has taken us over the past three decades. Life has been an ongoing series of unexpected twists and turns since May of 1980. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I have been blessed in ways that I could not have fathomed back in the day. And I have experienced sorrow and hurt in way that I would not have wanted to know back then! But I have never been alone. The presence of God through it all has been very real to me. I don’t mean that in a trite way at all. God’s providential care can be spoken of in ways that are not fitting or reverent. What will I say to my son’s classmates? I can tell you one thing for sure…It will not be what they expect…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Rare Moment for a Mom...

 My sweet bride of almost 26 years has displayed unimaginable patience with the four men she has lived with for a good portion of our married life.  One husband and three boys... I have asked for years now what she did as a child that was so awful to deserve us.  Her response is always the same:  The Lord knew that we could not possibly function without her.  She could be onto something there... Today I will tape a video for the annual church senior banquet honoring our #2 son, Daniel.   None of our boys will be surprised. She carefuly scripted her comments that are to be videoed well in advance.  I wish now that I had a copy of the trascript she did for Randall when he graduated in 2007. 

Every once in a great moon a mother can feel and express pride in her offspring.   Moms deserve that privilege.  They have certainly earned it.  So today I share Jan's thoughts about one of our three wonderful son's.

Daniel Thomas Knox made his debut around 6:00 in the morning on May 22, 1992 and has been an early riser ever since (well, at least until he became a teenager). As a toddler in his crib, he would wake up at the crack of dawn, calling for his daddy to come and get him so they could play “cars and trucks” on the brick ledge in front of the fireplace while everyone else was still asleep.

As a toddler, Daniel developed a strong sense of right and wrong. He had a habit of hiding in the “blanket closet” when he knew he had done something wrong. So anytime Daniel was missing, that was the first place I looked.

Daniel has always been quite an actor. As a boy, he loved to dress up in all kinds of interesting apparel. Hats, capes, sashes, and swords were staples in the Knox household toy box. Even to this day, he can be known to sport a costume, like this last year when he helped his International Congress team win the Best Costume award by dressing up as Batman to represent the nation of Gotham City.

Daniel has always been adept at multi-tasking, which at times would really frustrate his teachers. Over the years, several teachers have relayed stories of how Daniel appeared to be off in a daydream world, paying no attention at all to what was being said, only to immediately give the correct answer to any question asked of him. Even now, he can study for a test, watch a basketball game, recite player statistics from memory, and text on his phone – all at the same time!

Because of his reserved nature, not everyone is aware of his quick wit and public speaking abilities. He can be a formidable opponent in a debate and entertain a group of friends with his own unique brand of comedy.

Daniel has always loved music, from the time I would sing to him while rocking him to sleep, until now. He learned to read music while playing the French horn in band and taught himself to play guitar. He even composed songs for the informal band he was a part of during his teen years.

He has excelled in academics – winning honors in speech and debate and Academic Decathlon, becoming a National Merit Commended Scholar, and graduating 8th in his class.

As you can see, Daniel is a well-rounded, talented young man with great potential, and as his mother, I am very proud of him in all his accomplishments. But the most important thing he has ever done was his decision to give his life to the Lord and become a Christian when he was 12. My prayer for him is that no matter what profession he chooses or what great things he accomplishes in life, he will always live for the Lord, first and foremost.

Daniel, I love you and I’m very proud that you are my son. Go with God.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do You REALLY Enjoy Kicking Someone When They Are Down?

I find no pleasure in kicking people when they are down. In fact, I perceive such inclinations as sadistic, self-righteous, and downright mean spirited. If we stumbled upon an injured person, would we give them a good shove instead of rendering aid? We would be horrified if we read something like that in the news. I am so thankful that I am above such hostile and uncaring attitudes. Perhaps I should think again…

Let me begin by confessing that I was rather pleased that Phil Mickelson was fitted for a green jacket at Augusta instead of Tiger Woods. I have to be honest.  I was just glad that Tiger did not win the Masters this year. And then a few weeks later Tiger failed to make the cut at Quail Hollow. Now I don’t want to be honest. But I must. I found some sort of sick pleasure when I heard the news that Tiger would not be back for the final round of that tournament. I entertained those serves him right kind of thoughts. But such notions are not sadistic or mean, because I am above those kinds of attitudes.

Tiger’s troubles have only escalated the past few days. Tiger suddenly withdrew from the Players Championship this past weekend before completing the front nine off Sunday’s round. He cited a mysterious neck injury as the reason. There has been all kinds of speculation regarding the condition of Tiger’s neck since. Must I be honest again? I automatically assumed that Tiger was viewing his poor game as a pain in the neck. I questioned his motives for withdrawing so suddenly. Golf commentators around the world appeared to concur. But I still viewed myself as a really nice guy.

It was announced today that Tiger’s coach resigned. I had an immediate response once again, but it is much easier to be honest this time. The first thought I had? How much stress can one man handle? His life has seemly fallen apart since the post Thanksgiving weekend revelation of numerous marital indiscretions. His wife has left him. Some of his golf sponsors have withdrawn support. His game is in trouble. And the media has not been kind.

Once again I must be honest. I learned today that it is important to reach out to people who are truly down. What if they have brought all of their troubles on themselves? Last time I checked most of us bring troubles on ourselves. There is no room for self righteousness. Sadistic gloating is always out of bounds in the game of life.

Tiger is going to need some real friends. If they are good friends, they will challenge his behavior both on and off the golf course. They will express tough love. It wont’ be fun nor will it be pleasant. Sitting back and gloating is wrong.  It is wrong when we express it toward someone we know quite well and it is equally wrong when done to a celebrity golfer. Tiger’s troubles may be only beginning. But to be honest I plan to pray for the man from this point forward.  How about you? Do you find pleasure in kicking people when they are down? I know now that I possess such inclinations…

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Genetic Mutation?

 For years I thought I was the product of some odd genetic mutation. I am so different from my mother and father. How did I come from their gene pool? Both of my parents were very organized and detail oriented people. That is not me! My dad was a mathematical genius. That is not me either! The list could go on…What happened?

Several years ago I started doing extensive research on my paternal grandparents. The experience was spooky in a way. My interests mirrored my grandfather’s in so many ways. My specific inclinations in ministry are almost identical to those of my grandmother. Is it possible that genes skip a generation?

When my father passed away in 1978, I lost contact with that side of the family. Several years ago I decided to continue my family research by visiting my father’s oldest sister, my Aunt Frances. I also had the privilege of being with her three wonderful children as well. I scheduled an entire day to go visit places of importance to my family in Jacksonsville, FL with my aunt during that trip in 2003. I was quite concerned about making sure my potentially feeble aunt would be ok.  Little did I know that I was in for the surprise of my life.

Aunt Frances was well into her 80’s at that time, but she was anything but feeble. We had the time of our lives that day! She made me laugh so hard. It took me just a short time to realize where my genes came from! I figured out quickly that we were so much alike. Our humor was similar. She was obviously a natural caretaker of people. I will never forget the day I spent with her. We even stood together in the sanctuary of the church where my parents exchanged wedding vows in 1950. I came home from that trip very aware of my roots and proud of the fact that I was not a genetic mutation.

Aunt Frances passed away last night. She lived a long and rich life. She was a wonderful Christian lady. She was the last one living of my father’s siblings. She made an impact in my adult life that she probably never realized. It has been such a secure feeling to know that not only did I really have family out there, but our connection was so obvious. There is no doubt that we are related!

Now it is my turn. It is my turn to carry on the family tradition of being educators. Aunt Frances was an educator like her parents. We have teaching genes in our blood. It is my turn to be the caretaker of people. I have always been drawn to pastoral care. That should be no great surprise. That too is in the genes. It is my turn touch people’s lives in the same way that she did. I loved my Aunt Frances and I will miss her.

If you are estranged from your family today, I would encourage you to do whatever is necessary to repair damaged bridges. If you have not been in contact with your family, it would be good to call them today. Life is too short and uncertain to put such things off.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Real Story Behind Mother's Day

 It has been an interesting Mother’s Day. In 15 years, I have never had to miss a Sunday of preaching because I became sick at the last minute. Today was a first… The stomach virus hit late yesterday evening. I am just now thinking I might be able to join the living again. My sudden illness did not hinder my boys in honoring their mother. They went to early service this morning and arrived home an hour ahead of their mother to prepare an extremely nice candlelight meal. While I lay in bed, they put everything together flawlessly. What a blessing to have three great kids.

Mother’s Day used to make me sad every year. I do miss my mother everyday, but recently I learned about the origin of Mother’s Day. That totally changed my outlook. The holiday was born out of one woman's desire to honor her mother's life of sacrifice and grace.

Born in 1864 in Grafton, West Virginia, Anna Jarvis witnessed the aftermath of the Civil War through a child's eyes. Her mother, Anna Maria Reeves-Jarvis, had spent the war organizing women to nurse wounded soldiers from both the North and South, and generally attempting to hold her border-state community together. After the war, Anna Maria started "Mothers' Friendship Days" to reconcile families that had been divided by the conflict.

She gave up her dreams of college in order to tend to an older husband and four children. She bore the loss of seven other children with grace. She taught Sunday school for 20 years and stayed active in benevolent work.

Anna Maria's death in 1905 devastated her daughter. Two years later, Anna got the idea to found a holiday remembering her mother, and all mothers, whom she felt could never be thanked enough.

Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908 in Grafton (where Anna grew up) and Philadelphia (where she lived as an adult). Later, in a resolution passed May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day…

And now you know the rest of the story…

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It is Nurses Week: Who Cares?

 I suspect very few of us noticed that this week is National Nurses Week. It is always celebrated in conjunction with Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12th. Some would say: Who cares? You might care when you find yourself in a hospital bed at the mercy of someone who has RN plastered on their name badge.

I am a little partial to nurses. I spend my share of time visiting people in ICU, on the floor at the hospital, or in various kinds of waiting rooms. I have watched nurses take care of very sick children at Cook Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth. I have even had a couple of hospital stays myself. I have learned a few things over the years about those in the nursing profession.

I work with families who have experienced the death of a loved one in the Emergency Room in the hospital on a very regular basis. I have been called to serve three families in such circumstances very recently. A good nurse makes all of the difference. There are so many things that must be done. Difficult decisions have to be made regarding autopsies, organ donation, and even initial funeral arrangements. Crucial choices must be made in fairly rapid succession.

A nurse must approach a shocked family dealing with acute grief with a gentle spirit. But the decisions must be made. Documents have to be signed. And there are always other patients waiting to be seen. I am grateful for the working partnership I have formed with my friends in the nursing profession in such circumstances. We have learned to work quite well together.

I also spend a fair amount of time in the Intensive Care Units with families. Visiting hours are usually limited in that setting. Nurses are working with all kinds of technology as they care for the patient. They have a mound of documentation to complete on each patient under their care. I particularly appreciate nurses who are willing to fudge a little bit on the visiting rules with families who are standing beside a loved one who is critically ill. These God given professionals go about their business and allow loved ones to touch and speak with their patient at such a crucial time. It is a gift of mercy and families appreciate it.

I have written about Hospice Nurses before. They are truly angels in my estimation. The Hospice Nurses who cared for my mother almost 19 years ago were beyond amazing. They enter a person’s home and become a part of the family for a period of time. And then the ordeal is over, and they in turn enter someone else’s home and impact the life of another family. But they leave their mark forever in the hearts of those they served.

It is Nurses Week. Who cares? I do for one…They are my partners in service. I am grateful for them this week and I plan to be equally thankful next week. May God bless their important efforts to serve others.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Are YOUR Heart Skills Functioning at Grade Level?

 I have a lot of irons in the fire. In fact, I have too many commitments at the present time. Some of them will end soon. I do see some light at the end of the tunnel. And it is just a busy time of year. Next school year I plan to cut a few things out of my schedule out of necessity. But there is one effort that will actually become a more significant priority.

I have volunteered as a reading mentor for about 5 years now in the BEAM Program (Baccus Elementary Academic Mentors). The website promoting the program states: The highly successful program involves helping at-risk students, one-on-one during the school year. Adult volunteers are asked to give one hour per week (30 minutes if you can't spare an hour) to one student. The volunteer would help a student bring their reading skills to grade level or beyond.

My work schedule is extremely unpredictable. Over the past several years I have had to change my scheduled mentoring day and time countless times. There are weeks that I miss my time slot due to funerals or other crisis events. But I keep coming back. And thankfully BEAM coordinator Dana Reinke is extremely patient.

I volunteer my time in this program, because I want to instill confidence in these children in some small way. As I noted in a previous blog, my amazing 2nd grade teacher, Miss Erick, instilled such confidence in me. If that can happen in the caves that we met in back in the day for classrooms, then surely I can do the same as a mentor in today’s postmodern society. Yesterday was my final day for this academic year to read with my little second grader. I had no clue what that final day with my student was going to do to me.

The student I have had the second half of this year is a precious and sweet child. The first day we read together she lined me out on the rules and structure of the program. She made sure that I did everything in proper order each week. How could that child know that her mentor is a walking disaster area? She is obviously far too perceptive! I did my best to stay on my toes.

Many of the students that are involved in this program come from far less than ideal situations at home. I know for a fact that there are illegal drugs being manufactured, sold and abused at some of the homes where these children are being raised. Some of the kids lack basic life necessities. Others are living in situations where domestic violence and other forms of abuse are all too commonplace. However the little girl I have mentored most recently is bright, well groomed, and extremely well mannered. I thought she was an exception to the rule. I assumed that her home life is better than most of the kids that we host in this program. That assumption was only partially correct.
I must protect her privacy, so I will only give scant details. I can say that her mother is not involved in her life. Her father has at least some contact. Her grandparents are raising her. And I might add that they are doing an excellent job.

This sweet child reduced me to butter the first day I read with her. My heart melted quickly. She is a beautiful girl with such great potential. On our final day yesterday, she presented me with two gifts. One of the gifs is a golf package complete with a golf ball, tees, and marker. The other gift is a bookmark with her picture and signature.

I can’t really explain how I felt yesterday. I felt like I had just received two genuine treasures for starters. Kidnapping crossed my mind for a few brief seconds. I realized that old age is softening me. I also realized that I received far more benefit from being a mentor than she could have possibly gotten from this walking disaster area listening to her read. Most importantly a sweet little girl in the second grade helped me to be a better person this year. My student brought my heart skills to grade level or beyond… And for that I am thankful today.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mr. Green: My Imaginary Friend

 It is not uncommon for a four year old to have an imaginary friend. In fact, children have been known to have quite an array for imaginary comrades. I even think development specialists would say that an active imagination is a sign of superior intelligence. At least that sounds awful good...

Several years ago my youngest son said: My dad is 45 years old and he still has imaginary friends. How disturbing is that? I am sure it must have been disturbing indeed for an 11 year old to receive the revelation that his dad is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. In all likelihood he probably figured that out before he learned to walk.

Mr. Green is my newest imaginary friend. He rides shotgun in the cart and joins me on all of my after work evening golf rounds. We have the most pleasant conversations on the way to the course on these beautiful spring evenings. He never laughs at me when I make a bad shot and always gives me an atta-boy when I execute a shot that would make Tiger Woods envious these days. It is so nice having an imaginary friend.

In all seriousness, it is good to get away periodically. It is particularly good to do things outside. Both of my next door neighbors could have their yards featured in Better Homes and Gardens. They spend a lot of time outside working in the yard. I imagine that it is pretty therapeutic. (When Better Homes and Garden’s shows up, they are going to put up a large black tarp, so my yard won’t accidentally make it into their photo spread.)

There is nothing quite like outdoor solitude. The golf course is so peaceful in the moments just before sunset. It is a very tranquil experience. I love to be among the trees, as the breeze blows the leaves gently onto the manicured fairways. I do my best thinking when I am out there. It seems like my head clears and I make my best decisions in that setting. I would strongly urge all of us to search for some outdoor solitude. And if you are so inclined, ask your imaginary friend to join you. No doubt your imaginary friend will be just as loyal and kind as Mr. Green…

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guess What Moms? Your Kids Really ARE Listening

 The fall of 1981 still ranks as one of the most difficult and perplexing times in my life. I dropped out of Texas Tech as a sophomore that semester for a variety of reasons. I hated being a business major and accounting in particular. I had a good job that paid well, so why stay in school? And of course there was a girl involved. A very unhealthy relationship ended early on during the course of that semester. It was a painful time.

I went to work fulltime in the auto parts business. It was a good job and there was definitely room for advancement. But as Christmas decorations began going up around Lubbock that year, I found myself yearning for more. I felt like I was supposed to do something else with my life. I knew that I needed to go back to school. I still lacked some basic direction in terms of academic and career goals.

I ended up doing what 19 year old men generally choose not to do. I sought out my mother’s advice. At that point, my father had been deceased for almost 4 years. I was still blessed with one very dependable parent to lean on for counsel. I told her that I could not fathom majoring in business or anything related to it. I confessed that I loathed accounting. I asked her what I should do. My traditional Southern mother was not known for being shy or for beating around the bush. She was very direct in her counsel, but I will never forget the advice she dispensed that day.

She began by asking me one question: “What do you like? What kind of coursework is appealing?” There was an easy answer to that question. I like speech and debate. Communications courses of all kinds appeal to me. Then she said: “Major in speech communications.” I immediately replied: “What kind of job can I get with a degree in speech communications?” And then she said: “Worry about that later, but major in something you like.” That turned out to be some of the best advice my mother ever gave me. I went back to school the next semester. In fact, I finished a degree in speech communications.

Ten years later my mother was gone. I was 29 years old when she died. But I am still living with the benefits of her sound advice that she dispensed when I was 19. If her words had been the least bit discouraging, I would not have gone back to school. The direction of my life would have been very different.

I found myself this afternoon dreading Mother’s Day this weekend. It is not my favorite day of the year. I feel great sadness on Mother’s Day. But I made a conscious choice not do dread it this year. I decided instead to spend the time reflecting on all of the wonderful ways that my mother has impacted my life. Her advice that she eagerly dispensed in her charming Southern drawl in 1981 certainly ranks at the top of that list. Now I have to figure out how to emulate her wisdom in my relationship with my own children and their peers. I may need to write on that soon…

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Year was 1962: My Mother Hollered May Day!

I feel like I should have celebrated my 28th birthday today, but it is not true. I turned 48 today. I can’t believe I am rapidly approaching the 50 mark! When May 1st  rolls around every year, I always think of Sudie. Sudie Dean was born on May 1st, 1900. She lived to be 100 years old. I met Sudie as a very young minister in Wichita Falls almost 23 years ago. We soon started celebrating our birthdays together. I started a tradition of sending her flowers every year when our birthdays rolled around. She has been gone for almost 10 years now, but I still cherish the friendship we enjoyed.

I discovered this week that I now celebrate my birthday with three friends from church. One of those friends turned 3 today. Another one turned 11. And still another one turned 25. Sudie turned 62 the day I was born! Who would have thought that we would one day become friends! Now the tables are turned and I can befriend those much younger than me.

I find generational differences to be downright overwhelming at times. There is one more than one generational gulf out there. I was already in graduate school the day that my 25 year old friend was born. Our life experiences growing up were no doubt very different!  When I was in high school, lisening to More than A Feeling by Boston, she was not even born! When I look at a large group of 20 something’s or even 30 something’s for that matter I wonder how I can possibly relate? I feel old and hopelessly out of touch. .   But that is not an accurate perception of reality.

I am probably not going to run in a social circle of 20 something’s. They are beginning their careers, marriages, and lives as parents. I will be an empty nester in 4 more years. But I can benefit from very meaningful friendships with the younger crowd on a one on one basis. What a mutual blessing that can and should be for both of us!

Those intergenerational friendships will keep me thinking young. If I am going to learn anything, I will have to use exceptional listening skills. In fact, if I am going to be able to offer any encouragement to my younger comrades, careful listening will be imperative. I must be careful not to dwell on the good old days when members of my generation were perfect parents, great money managers, spiritual giants, and on and on…That of course is pure nonsense!

I hope I can continue to play golf with some younger friends. And I better keep teaching the Middle School Sunday Class, because my 11 year old birthday partner will soon be moving up to that level. I will continue to make use of technology in order to communicate as effectively as possible with technically adept friends.

As I remember Sudie Dean tonight, I recall that she was a very cool 80 something lady. And then she was a very cool 90 something lady. She led a very full and extremely interesting life with many distinct chapters. She shared her story with me, but she did not dwell on the past. She was interested in what was going in the life of a 20 something... We learned from each other. I think I will imitate Sudie and have lots of young friends!
Maybe turning 48 instead of 28 is not so bad after all.... The year was 1962 and my mother hollered: MAY DAY!