The virus, closing schools, and the possible consequences, unintended or otherwise…

As the Virus continues to “control” our future… I think about what might be if the schools remain closed.  I understand there are major health risks being talked about if school open.  These are topics I think about when I think the schools will stay closed.  I am NOT a big Public Education guy… but I am a huge proponent for the “health of a young Nation”  Schools are critical to the health of a nation.  Covid-19 infection fear may not be a reason to close schools.  There could be worse results..

Life includes risks.  And I have taken many risks during my 7 decades.  This year I attended my 50 year high school reunion.  I was NOT a great student, but I was incredibly faithful to going to school.  If memory serves me… I missed almost no days of class over my 13 year history of Public education.  I am not sure what I learned, I am certain that whatever it was, living in the community of students and teachers was critical for who and what I am today.

People much smarter than me are tackling the issue of whether to open the schools in the fall of 2020.  I hope these following topics are discussed and debated at the same time the Virus discussion is being discussed and debated.  OPENING the schools is a risk, but the nation’s health must be weighted… at least for me it seems as though it should be.

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What are the risks we take if we open the schools vs. closing.  I have no data at this moment… only “questions” and the desire to know that folks who make the open or closed decisions have weighed the issue against what will certainly create other short and long term problems.  If I were on the investigative committee I would make certain these topics were a part of the dialogue.  Regardless of the economic impact.. there could be greater health issues.  Make certain your decision makers investigate similar topics.  If I were on the committee, I would have the data available before I voted to close.

Teen Suicide…     United Health Foundation writes “Youth suicidal ideation, attempt and completion are on the rise. Far more adolescents have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide and survive than those who die by suicide. Results from the 2017 Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that in the past year 17.2 percent of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide and 7.4 percent attempted suicide.”

Childhood Malnutrition…      From “Focus on Health”, November, 2019.  “Today, approximately 40 million Americans and 12 million children are food insecure, meaning they are often forced to skip meals and buy cheap non-nutritious food. Many families suffering from hunger and poverty live in areas where fresh, unprocessed healthy food is not available or is expensive.”

Child abuse and sexual abuse….  From a story on NPR,  “Child Sexual Abuse Reports Are On The Rise Amid Lockdown Orders, Of those young people who contacted the Abuse hotline in March, 67% identified their perpetrator as a family member and 79% said they were currently living with that perpetrator. In 1 out of 5 cases where the minor was living with their abuser,”

Overall Mental Health… from the CDC website…  “Take care of your mental health
You may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions….depression.”

The Socialization of student…..   From APA Psycnet  “how to define competence within the context of school settings…. the processes of socialization is reviewed, including those associated with structural characteristics of schools, as well as more proximal social and interpersonal processes that might support competence development. Children’s experiences in preschool and in K-12 schools are essential….”

Access to internet and online classrooms in poorer communities….     Pew Research Reported in May, 2019,  “Roughly three-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (29%) don’t own a smartphone. More than four-in-ten don’t have home broadband services (44%) or a traditional computer (46%). And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. By comparison, each of these technologies is nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year.”  The completion of studies online has its own set of issues..

From USA Today,  “After coronavirus, expect high school dropout wave…Educational disruptions especially threaten African American and Latino students, as their families suffer disproportionate unemployment and COVID-19 complications and death. Nearly half of Latinos report job loss or a pay cut compared with about a third of all U.S. adults, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.”

I would guess you have your own questions to ask…

And within hours of publishing a new question was posed in relationship to school closings.

Special Needs Children and the pandemic… From the Lansing State Journal.  “The pandemic disrupted the lives of all children, but it has caused additional stress for those with disabilities. And parents and child experts alike are not only worried about their emotional state, but also how the lack of in-person instruction will affect children with special needs in the long run….If  our special needs son doesn’t go back to school until August, he’ll have lost six months. It’s going to be really tough.”

 

Three “Bobs” — Brothers by Adoption—

It is Father’s Day, June 21, 2020.  And Today my Heavenly Father gave me a story.  It is a true story, as I remember it.  It is about Bob, and Bob, and Bob.  Brothers in Christ.  But without a doubt they are different parts of the Body of Christ…

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
One Body but Many Parts
12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

This is the story of some Body Parts… they all lived and were birthed in the same “hood.”

Bob graduated from Center High School in 1967, and Bob graduated from Center High School in 1968, and Bob graduated from Center High School in 1969.  They all met on the same school wrestling mat.  They all became children of God through the ministry of Ted Nissen and Colonial Presbyterian Church.  They traveled differently, and yet from my perspective the definitely are headed in the same direction.  There are millions of stories in the Body of Christ, here are three I am familiar with two, and intimate with one.

Bob Lehleitner and I met in the early 60’s..  He did not believe in Jesus when I met him, though our first interaction was in the youth group at Colonial Presbyterian Church.  I am not here to speak his testimony.  Suffice it to say that Bob gave his life to Jesus decades ago.  Bob and I shared a house, a semester in seminary, numerous stories and ice cream cones.  Bob is now a pastor of Colonial Presbyterian Church and has been for over 40 years.  He is among the most generous, caring, and loving men I know.  He performed the memorial service for my mother upon her passing.  The Body of Christ is better because of Bob Lehleitner.   Few who meet Bob would deny that in the Body of Christ, he is the heart.

Bob Beltz and I met somewhere on a football field.  In High School, he was one of those guys.  Tough, handsome, brilliant, and loved by women.  He was never a close friend, and frankly he was an intimidating figure.  We never socialized, until St. Patrick’s day, 1970, At Shakey’s Pizza Parlor on Metcalf Road in Overland Park.  Green beer at age 18 and 19.  All legal on the Kansas side.  Bob came up to my table.  He came to complain about losing his girlfriend to the youth pastor at Colonial Presbyterian Church.  We engaged in some conversation.  I let him know I also believed in Jesus.  I am not here to speak his testimony.  Suffice it to say that Bob gave his life to Jesus Decades ago.  Bob and I shared some fellowship, a trip in his little MGB sports car, on a trip from KC to Denver, and a belief in Jesus as Savior.  Bob is Seminary grad, a Doctor of Theology, and an Author, a brilliant teacher and minister in Denver.  The Body of Christ is better because of Bob Beltz.   Few who meet Bob would deny that in the Body of Christ, he is the brain.

Bob Fulton is the third Bob… that is me.  I am the “other” Bob.  I actually have been on a journey with Jesus for over 60 years.  I have no doubt of His presence in my life.  I know all of the intimate details of my travels in the Kingdom of God.  I am the emotional one.  I am the one who “finds myself doing those things I don’t want to do, and not doing those things I should.” Romans 7:15.  It is a constant battle.  But that which I want to do most is to extend the Kingdom of God.  I am not afraid to pursue the chief end of man… which according to the shorter catechism of the Westminster Confession.. is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.  I am committed to my heavenly Father…  I feel it in my Belly…  That is my place in the Body of Christ.

Citizenship in Heaven
…18For as I have often told you before, and now say again even with tears: Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  Phil 3:18-20

As you celebrate Father’s Day.  Know your Heavenly Father has a mansion in the Kingdom for you ….. And a place in His Body while on this earth.  May you find peace in the Body of Christ…

Shedding Light, On a quest to save something..

I first wrote about this topic in 2013.  It was never “published” in this blog.  A shorter version was published in a Facebook private group post.   Now, In light of the George Floyd murder, et. al. discussions, I am more certain than ever that people just don’t know where to look for real answers.  People are more rabid than ever about things they want to save… More than ever, the private fiefdoms of world savers appear more divisive and increasingly derisive.  Protests are one method to make a point.  Louder, and far more ineffective,  violence and rioting appear to be another.  At least that is my observation in my view from afar.  Let there be light.

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And Facebook asks at the start of every post “What’s on your mind?”Usually it is my feeble attempt at humor. I hope that things I post will cause you to smile for a moment. I am not always successful, but I will continue to try.

Sometimes what I post is serious.  Hopefully it is thought provoking, and I am equally hopeful that it is not divisive.  I am not always successful, but I will continue to try. And occasionally, at the rarest of moments what is on my mind is life changing. Easter’s passing always gives me cause to remember 2 words. I think of them almost daily, certainly weekly, but now for this moment I think about them differently.

Salvation and Redemption.

I believe in the God who provided a Salvation experience. I believe that “we”—yes all of us– were created in the Image of God.  Everyone in that image is drawn to saving something.  Saving stuff is in the image of God.  Salvation is such a profound experience and is absolutely a prerequisite to experiencing a life with purpose.  Everyone participates in salvation in some way. Progressives want to save the world. Conservatives want to save the world. People of all shapes and sizes want to save whales, babies, forests, dogs, old buildings, oceans, the white race, the black culture, guns, freedom, Afghanistan, and on and on and on…. Most recently the chant is BLACK LIVES MATTER, or ALL LIVES MATTER.  The salvation experience surrounds us. I am not sure I have ever met anyone who does not want to save something. It is in our genetic code which is God’s image, so I think.  Many of us look for a savior for our cause(s).  And I hear the cries of the masses…. “Who will rescue us….how shall be saved”.

Many will say that great numbers of good people do not believe in God, and those folks are committed to saving people and things.  What about those people.  And I say to you thank you for fortifying my point.  Folks don’t have to believe in God to demonstrate the image of God.  People save things because they are predisposed to do so.

And so God sent His Son to pay the price.  Jesus was sent whether you believe it or not.  Jesus is the Redeemer.

Redemption is also a part of the Salvation process.  Redemption is a price paid.  Redemption is often overlooked in the salvation process.  The cost of saving things is so often ignored when people chant and protest to save their planet.  Like taking a ring to a pawn shop to get a loan, it will cost something to get the pawned item back.  The ring can only be redeemed when the price is paid to get it back.  After the price is paid, then and only then is the ring actually “saved and redeemed.”  Often a pawned ring will go unclaimed, it is never redeemed.  People scream to save their ______________!  You fill in the blank.  SAVING stuff has a price.  Can I pay the Redemption price?

It is here that I think humankind looks for an easy answer.  The search for cheap redemption is ongoing.   So few want to pay the price.   And the cost is often out of reach.  At least if we are going to save “everything.”

Some of you will remember the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”  Tom Hanks led a squad of soldiers given the task to save the only surviving brother of four, the others  brothers had perished on the battlefields in WWII.  The process of saving Private Ryan came with a high price.. many lives were lost to redeem the private.  This is the redemption story.

What price will you pay to save your target?  Have you considered the redemption price?

I believe in a God who provided a Redemption experience. I believe in Jesus Christ, The REDEEMER.  I am saddened if you don’t.  And I am sorry because I have done a really crappy job of expressing or displaying or relaying or portraying or inspiring or displaying His love.  I have done a really poor job of demonstrating God’s Salvation story.  “By this will all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  God’s love and redemption. His message of salvation. Jesus really does do a very good job of sharing His message. I on the other hand, and many of my fellow believers…..not always so much…

Most of you are practicing saviors at something. So knowing a Savior is not a new concept. I hope that you might get to know my Savior, and that I do a better “job” of representing the truly redemptive nature of God.

What the Virus could teach the Church

COVID-19 AND WHAT THE I THINK THE CHURCH MIGHT LEARN OR SHOULD LEARN…. AN ISOLATION PRIMER

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During my days of Isolation I think about stuff.  This is MY stuff.. write your own blog if you want to.

The Virus has lessons to teach the Christian Church.

The virus is INVISIBLE…  No one can See the Virus (not with the naked eye)  If you could see it there would be no need for Social Distancing .. People see symptoms.  And so it is with the Power of God.  You can’t see God.. but the evidence is there for those who see the power.  John 13:35 New International Version (NIV) “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It is INFECTIOUS… When you get it… The Virus can be spread by you to others.  Sometimes it is just like that in the world of a Christian.  Sometimes Christ is spread to those around you.  Make sure that the Gospel is Good News..  2 Timothy 2 Common English Bible,  “So, my child, draw your strength from the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Take the things you heard me say in front of many other witnesses and pass them on to faithful people who are also capable of teaching others.”

It is INVASIVE… The Virus could get you… If you stand in it’s path.  It is like playing Dodge Ball… I desperately want to avoid contact.  So it is with Invasive Christians.  I hate to stand in the path of Christians who think they KNOW what I need.  Even though I am a believer, I find myself avoiding many of those who claim to call on His Name.  Christ is NOT Invasive or Intrusive.  Matthew 7:21-23 English Standard Version “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

It is INCONSISTENT.. The results appear to be anyway.  If you get it, you might die, or you might not know you had it at all.  If you get the virus it might consume you… or you might just keep doing life the way you always have.  A life with Christ is often Inconsistent.  Or there are differences in the same Body.  There a many different iterations of Christians and how they live.  Unlike the Scientist who can test for the virus… before, during, or after.  The test for Christ in me is far less able to determine whether I have been saved and impossible for me do determine if someone else is, has, was experiencing a Relationship and Salvation.   Philippians 2:12 New International Version  “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,”

It is ETERNAL… As I understand it. here are NO cures for a virus.. There are only controls.  A virus requires an Antibody.  It needs a Vaccine.  It needs to go dormant.   I think it will reside in the host forever.  And so it is when I found Christ… or he found me..  Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV  “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”.  Matthew 28:20 ESV  “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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Lessons from the Toilet Tissue aisle…

We live in dangerous times… We have fallen into the “great TP abyss.”

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What historic name will ultimately be given to the the COVID19 Pandemic of 2020?  I have witnessed and lived through some “dark” times, Vietnam, the hostage crisis, The Challenger, Katrina, 9/11.  Frankly nothing is like this.  It is cliche.  Nothing is like this.

I do not think these are the end of times.  Let me say again, this is most likely NOT the end of days.  However, I am a Christian, and I care about those who surround me.  You are going to hear preachers preach on the end times…Some just can’t help themselves from doing it.  Some will spread fear instead of love and wisdom.  Many have preached the same fear language every few years, with each Pandemic.   They always do, when the world is introduced to Aids, Swine Flu, SARS, and the like. I am certain that The Spanish Flu of 1918 stimulated similar discussions and sermons 100 years ago.  Or the Black Death in the 14th Century.   But the Bible does speak of End Times.  There are signs, there is a warning, there is a cautionary tale written in the Scriptures.  And because of that, I had an expectation of this new COVID19 paradigm.

Please note… I did not prepare for it…

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I am not a scientist, I am not a prophet, I am not a futurist.  I AM NOT surprised by what I see around me.  When I was in college in the early 70’s, I read two things that planted seeds for what I see today.  One was a study called “Limits to Growth.”  Published in 1972, there was an inevitable collision which would occur around the year 2020.  This discussed a collision of  5 variables  “population, food production, industrialization, pollution, and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources” which could cause the world as we know it to collapse.  The other book I read, and continue to read, which prepared me for this day, is the Bible.  The Bible is both narrative and prophetic.

COVID19, I have been expecting you.   In less than 90 days, there is a genuine glimpse of  “one world order,” a “cashless/check less society,”  In the Book of Revelation chapter 6, the four horseman of the apocalypse are prophetically spoken of…Some will also know these words shared by Jesus… In Jesus’ parallel prophecy in Matthew 24, He explained that in the wake of religious deception, war and famine would come “pestilences” or disease epidemics (Matthew 24:7).  But even after these events, the world will go on, people will adapt.

Maybe I should get a PURPLE hat… MOWGA.  “Make our world great again.”  Maybe I will do a Kickstarter event to start my new hat business.  But I digress..

There are many who have so little understanding of Christianity.  I am responsible in part, the Church is certainly responsible in part.   I apologize for not being clear enough.  For those of you who want to squeeze God into the Scientific Method of discovery…. I am sorry…This is a Faith, Hope, and Love event… there is NO laboratory test for God.

A relationship with God is an exercise in Faith… not Proof…  I CAN’T  prove the existence of God…. if I could, there would be no faith, only sight… only science…  And therefore NO spiritual journey.

Laugh all you want at my folly… I will continue to pursue a relationship with God, I will continue to walk in Faith…this relationship is nearly 60 years in the making, I am certain that God is real.

Following are observations in the shadow of the Corona virus.  My Toilet Paper Chronicles if you will.  A compendium of signs the I have recently seen.  And with the signs, Bible verses which cause me to remain sane and calm.  They are in NO particular order of importance.  And I am not making this a doctrinal statement.  I am just sharing stuff I have seen and continue to see.

  1.  This virus is the great equalizer.  COVID19 does not care who you are.  The virus will not discriminate. Actor Tom Hanks, Senator Rand Paul, NBA stars, homeless John Doe…. “Tag, you’re it.”  Matt 5:45, “That you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”
  2.  It is hard to understand what is happening in the world, because no one has all of the answers.  Until we get an answer, all we will have is information.  The virus has its own language… it takes time to learn a new language.  1 Cor 12:8 (NIV) “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit.”  People hear different things from and about the same event.  Different folks have different messages about the same thing.
  3.   Someone wants to blame someone.  Who would you like to blame?  Trump?  The Chinese?  The Liberals?  Often people want to blame God.  “In the beginning….”  the first to blame God started in the beginning… Most have heard of the Adam and Eve story.  Keep in mind “After the fall of man,” Adam blamed God for his problem.. God was “responsible.”  It is written that Adam said, “It was the woman YOU (God) gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
  4.   Invisible is hard to see.  And Invisible is hard to defeat.  And invisible is what this virus is….. until it isn’t.  Testing for the virus is encouraged if you have symptoms, BUT you might not show any symptoms in the early viral stages.  Invisible is had to live with.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Eph. 6:12
  5.   It is not forever.  The only thing that is forever… is forever.  The Virus is NOT forever.  There will be a point of control or victory.  2 Cor 4:8-9 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”
  6. Distance is good, but Covid19 knows no borders or boundaries.  There is NO wall tall enough or long enough to fight THIS battle.  Isaiah 30:13, “calamity will come upon you suddenly— like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down.”
  7.  Flatten the Curve, Success means nothing happens.. I am surrounded by people who measure results, and show off their children’s participation awards.  We are a people who require to see the fruit of the labor.  Trophies and grades, paychecks and Toys.  All require action and results I can see.  To beat COVID19, I have to see nothing happen.  But we live a life of competition.  Even Christians!!!!   2 Timothy 4:6-8 …”For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.”  The reward for victory against this virus is to see and receive nothing, NOTHING.
  8.  “the virus is unforgiving” Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious diseases expert at University of Chicago.  Unforgiving is a brutal way to live.  Movies have been made about this.   I grew up learning that forgiveness is critical for sanity.  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Eph. 4:32
  9.  We won’t ALL die, but some of us will.  Lives will certainly be lost during this viral infestation.  If you don’t know the Byrds and their song “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  you should YouTube it.  It is actually a 1962, Pete Seeger song… I was entering high school when a Bible verse broke into the Top 40 music charts.. I loved this song… but I love the Bible verses more.  Ecclesiastes 3…”1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,  …”
  10. Everything can feel like a symptom..  It is hard to recognize if I am sick when I experience a different “symptom” every day.  It is hard to live alone and not let my mind wander.  But the fact is, I don’t let it wander, I don’t let it wonder, I just live like I live.  Because in the real Bob Fulton spiritual picture, I believe in the sovereignty of God in my live.  I believe God is the author and the finisher.  I believe in His glory.   Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

And so that in my Corona-virus manifesto.

I pray for you, peace.  I pray for you comfort.  I have found mine.  May you discover yours.

It does seem like yesterday.

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“It” came today.  The reunion picture arrived by mail.  A wonderful reminder from a very unique and special event.  “It” will only happen once.  There are many who I wish would have shown up for this event, but alas, I can’t fret about the missing, I can rejoice about the many who were present.  Two nights of group activities, and then it was over.  I am armed with incredible memories and some great pictures, and frankly, even greater stories relived and reminded.

And of course, the reprise of a moment in time I have never forgotten… I think of it as a seminal Senior Class moment.. I am not alone, based on those who joined in song.  This song, performed by a group of our classmates was ultimately sung in chorus at the Senior Assembly, June 1969, sung by many, perhaps sung by all became an anthem.

“Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better”

And so I have a word of encouragement for those of you who wonder and waffle when you time comes.  If you have the chance to go to your 50th High School reunion… I have only one word for you……”GO!”

I suppose there are many reasons to miss gathering with a group of friends from your younger days. After all is said in done, this gathering is a celebration with people I only see on the rarest of occasions.  So many who have come to celebrate something that was 50 years ago probably can find more reasons to avoid the event then to take the time to be a part of it. “I did not like high school,” could be one.  “I won’t remember anyone,” might be another.  And of course the time and cost involved.  Pick your reason, choose your poison, I will tell you, from my experience, your reason to miss the gathering will fade from your consciousness when the party begins.  At least that it what I have observed.

I continue to marvel at the caring and respect shared with friends who have so little in common in the present, but who’s younger days left an indelible mark on my heart.  Blessings to you all.

Two days of glory.  And though the party and meeting rooms were filled with people who outside of this group have active and fruitful and opinionated lives, The reunion value was obvious.  No Politics, no anger, no arguments.  It was So NOT Facebook.  It was a group of individuals with a multitude of opinions and experiences across varying social and economic strata.   And yet the fellowship of the moment with this unique group of people seemed to shine with more light and gravitas.  They were nights to remember, for oh, so many reasons.

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I am called by some… or at least by one..  “an unabashed sentimentalist!”  and I cry out…Guilty as charged.  But more than sentimental, I would just like to think I am observant.  I would like to think I just have a different take on some things that I see.  I like to think that occasionally I see something that no one else might notice.  And then I try to give it some form or substance.   Many will remember this exclamation!…  “I See Dead People” is a memorable quote from the 1999 supernatural film The Sixth Sense.  Well I don’t see dead people, but I do see living ones.

The French call it “joie de vivre,” the joy of living.  I am not always the best at “it” but I am really  great at observing “it.”  I love to watch “it”, perhaps I am an unabashed voyeur.  I am not a visitor to the mall or Walmart or airport look at strangers kind of guy however.  I love to watch folks with whom I have a history.  And so it was with Bob and Curtis and Tim and Carol and Doris and Ric and Sydna and Mary and Don and Ron and Mark and so very many others.  My enjoyment of watching reunion joy is always so much fun. The attendees, myself included, check out name tags which include the youthful Center High School Senior pictures, and smiles begin to emerge.  The exclamation of “I remember you” spoken or not, always seems to bring a smile to both parties.  But in the midst of the remembrance, there are also those with whom I have NO recollection or recognition… Who are you?  Actually, it really did not matter to me if you forgot me, or I forgot you… I believe you were there, I remember we were there, together for numerous years, until we all left 50 years ago.

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Is it just me?

What triggers the joy and excitement?  Why is this such a special time?  After all, most of these folks in attendance are just story lines from my long ago younger days.   Granted, sprinkled in among this mass of relative strangers are a few very close friends I keep within arms length, and still see with some regularity.  But in this mass, in this crowd, there is a unique energy created that surrounds me and envelopes me.  It is unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  I can’t believe it is just me, because I see this spirit of joy surround the crowd.  It is intoxicating.  It is attractive.  It is desirable.  It is real.  And although it has taken 50 years to generate this very special energy, for me it is like yesterday.

Did you notice it?

I have had this premonition twice before in a large group of familiar strangers.  Both have also been reunion formats, joining friends from decades past.

I really don’t know what others believe, but I know what I believe.  I know why these reunion events are so very special to me.  I don’t think it is a coincidence or an accident that as the group returns to their reminders of younger days that there is this genuine sense that the 50 gap seems as though it was just a part of yesterday.  Allen’s drive in, Friday night lights, notes passed, the classroom stories and the gym class uniforms, drama, choir, and the hallways,  all seem like they were only yesterday.

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“Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her”

Why are these times so unique, so special, so cherished?  I believe this is a glimpse of heaven.  This is an energy and spirit unlike anything else I have ever felt or experienced.  It has not been captured in any other venue.  I believe in heaven.  I believe occasionally, that we get to have a glimpse of what it might be like to exalt for a moment in the life on the other side of the veil.  It is a very special glimpse of something eternal.

I don’t know what you believe will happen to you once your picture appears on  the “In Remembrance” board.  No one really knows.  I have my hopes.

I believe that it will get better.  Welcome to my glimpse of heaven..   It seems like only yesterday.

“Remember to let her into your heart (hey Jude)
Then you can start to make it better”

 

People watching–Strangers in a familiar land.

It’s something I see and it’s something I hear you talk about. Facebook and other social media platforms are loaded with people watching sites.. I can’t remember the first time I saw the first version online of the “people of Walmart.” Social media has so enhanced the people watching experience, that I often take for granted how important it is to actually watch real people… not just digital input.

But the fact is people watching it’s now a lost art because of social media. What I watch on social media is usually a low life or highlight reel. We are surrounded with sound bites and site bites. Cute puppies, funny kittens, and people we laugh at and want to make fun of. We are inundated with loud politicians and even louder critics of those politician\ns. The non-connected social media news feed where nothing is safe and certainly nothing is sacred. People watching used to be so much fun the truth be told it involved watching living people in live situations. Now we watch on handheld devices peering at digital images. And the poster cries out… “look at me.” “Make this go viral” is the new battle cry. I often forget that those images are actually analog and involve people who feel and have the ability to touch one another.

Then something happens to remind me that people watching is so special. Oh, that is when it is so special. And the opening event of the Center High School 50 year reunion was something very special. A conclave of strangers in a familiar land. Nothing I randomly watch provides more enjoyment than watching my friends from a half century past stirs my heart more.

I found myself in the midst of a large group of familiar strangers… I don’t see many of these folks often… I argue with a few of the on Facebook frequently, for what seems to serve absolutely no purpose. I don’t live in the “why don’t you come over and have a beer with me” proximity with any if these folks. And yet, there I was, looking once again at my history. I absolutely fell in love with just watching people. I see these folks less often than I see people at my local Walmart.

And so the night went. Nothing spectacular, everything memorable. And then in the midst of what is my people watching extravaganza, I get a moment. Nothing is sweeter that being surprised by joy. Nothing surpasses people watching for me, except when it becomes a people involved moment. Sometimes they are moments I hope will actually be. And they indeed did came to fruition.

And then, from out of nowhere, someone appears out of nowhere. It can’t be anticipated, To be Surprised by Joy, it must come out of nowhere. Like a salvation experience. It is something I will never forget. Well maybe at the 100th reunion, I might forget. But this can’t happen at the Walmart. I will never meet a “stranger” at the Walmart when I practice my people watching who will come up to me and say… “I wasn’t going to shop today, but I knew I would see you…. so I came to buy a bag of potatoes.” I will forever be grateful that my “stranger friends” have the courage and boldness to change my life.

So here’s to what is left… Here is to what still lies ahead. Here’s to your moment of boldness. Surprise someone with joy.

May you smile with a Stranger before you just are a memory on a board.

To the sons of Perry, a Father’s Day letter, 2013

I want to share.
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(file photo)
I start with sharing my sorrow.  I am so deeply saddened by the loss of Father, Husband, Son, Brother, as a result of the premature and horrible death of Perry Inhofe.  I last saw Perry in June or July of 1980.  Decades ago, I moved from Tulsa, August, 1980, He left for Duke.  The summer of 1980, Perry use to come to my home on a regular nearly weekly basis.  He was a soph/jr/sr at Edison High school in 1977-1980.  During those years I was Perry’s Young Life leader.  You heard the name Young Life 4 times during his Memorial Service.  The mention of his Young Life leader.  And I was the Young Life guy.  Perry Inhofe was my friend.  I was also involved with Uncle Jim, Aunt Molly, and Aunt Katy.  But my young friend Perry and I were together in friendship and fellowship for 3 years I lived in Tulsa.  I was there when he met Keith Green, and made a commitment to his Lord.
So by default, I get to be your Young Life leader, if for only a moment.  I will take some liberties,  my door is always open, and my ear available.  And I would like to share with you as I would have shared with Perry had he suffered the loss you now know.\par
Three things I will share.
Grief
Hope and Redemption
A Private story that only Perry and I knew.  At least I have never shared until now.
GRIEF:  First and foremost.  Grieve as loudly as you want.  Grieve as often as you need. Grieve to heal, Grieve because you need to.  Grieve in tears and anger as need be.  Grief is so much a part of your process now.  Don’t try to rush it, avoid it, or listen to people who tell you to get over it.   You will be sad, and lonely, and angry, and bitter.  You will experience a depth of feeling like NO other.  I can’t imagine it.  But  my wife died 4 years ago, at age 44 in an unexpected accident…. so I have an idea.   Grieve in the quiet of your heart, wail openly if you need.  Get Mad.  Ask Why.  Do not be surprised if you do not get answers immediately.  But I promise, you will get answers.  I promise even more, that those answers will take time.  If you despair, do NOT be alone.  Grieving is absolutely critical for your healing process.
I encourage you to express your grief in any way you must, as long as it does not bring harm to you or another.  People will come up to you I am sure, because they did when my wife died, and tell you that something good will come of this.  Well do not be confused…. the death of your Father was not good, is not good, and you don’t have to listen.  Horrible accidents are just that… HORRIBLE accidents. Some day you might see the pattern for good that will appear in your lives… but make NO mistake.  Nothing was ever good when my wife drowned in our bathtub.  Nothing will ever be good about your Father dying in a plane crash.  I will tell you I know that there will be a pattern for good, because God promises there will be a pattern for good.  But this is the promise of a sovereign God to His Children.  From the Hebrew Scriptures, Numbers 23:19 King James Version (KJV)
19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?.
And from the New Testament.  Romans 8:28
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
28 And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
And this leads me to share about HOPE AND REDEMPTION.
There is hope to be found with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  For God is a Glorious God.  And as was shared at the service for your Father, there will be times of comfort, and green pastures.  As well as the wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Do not travel this life alone.  Get to know God.  He seeks to know you
You know the biggest difference between the old and new Testaments, is the reaction and relationship the man named Jesus.   I need not run a philosophy and religion course here.  But for thousands of years the nation of Israel awaited a Messiah.  For some of us in the world we believe the Messiah arrived and his name was and is Jesus.  This is a story I shared with Perry Inhofe in the late 1970’s.
I will not use this as a platform for a lesson in theology.  I will tell you the God is a God of Hope and Redemption.  I can guarantee that.  I know that.  I believe that.  I shared that with your father.  We shared that together on many occasions.  And though separated by 3 decades, in the scope of eternity I was with Perry Inhofe only yesterday.  In the scope of eternity, 10,000 years is but a day.
You may spend this time asking God why?  Why did your father have to die.  And my experience will tell you that NO answer will suffice.  You will have to become men of faith to find anything that approaches an answer.  Faith that God is a sovereign, loving, caring God.  God loved and loves still your father.  God loves you.  I pray that as your father sought, you will seek also.
This life is a life of Hope and Redemption.  My prayer is that you will discover that while you are still young.  Like your Father.
And Finally a PERSONAL STORY…I met your Grandfather Jim Inhofe during the same 1977-80 time period.  He was a newly elected mayor of Tulsa during those years.  When your Grandfather shared at the Memorial service what people might some things that folk may or may not know about his son Perry.  Jim used the word Private.  Perry and I shared many Private moments while in Young Life.  And I am happy to share with you a sweet and funny private story that I believe ONLY your father and I knew… well and the policeman who stopped us..  It is a story I remember fondly, and regularly.
I had every intention when I moved back to Tulsa one year ago, to reacquaint with Perry Inhofe and share this story with him again, and laugh.   Don’t let anyone tell you thay have NO regrets in life.  I should NOT have waited 54 weeks.   I so regret having waited to look up my friend Perry Inhofe..  I will see him again on the other side of eternity… but I too will miss laughing with him in a moment of now fellowship.
And now the story.  It was the Fall of ’79, after an Edison Football Game, and a stop at some after game hangout, Perry decided he wanted to show me his father’s new airplane.  It could well be the plane that Perry learned to fly in, and as I read perhaps Cole also learned in this plane.  It was late.  Perhaps approaching 11 pm.  But Southward we headed, to 81st Street and a hanger at Jones airport.
We entered the property and drove toward a hanger.  It was pitch black except for some safety lights on the property.. and the suddenly appearing red and blue rooftop police lights.
We we stopped and questioned.  Late night trespassing.  Unless of course you pull out your license, Pronounce and spell I-N-H-O-F-E.    Well I thought as I chuckled, “the mayor’s kid card”  sweet.   After a few minutes we went to see the plane.  Perry was like a kid in a candy store… and for a moment, the mayor’s kid in the candy store.  Like the Cat that ate the Canary.  I promised I would not share that story and well, I am glad now that I can break that promise.  I sure it would have been Perry approved had I sought him out.
I sorrow in your sorrow.  I grieve in your grief.  And when the time is appropriate I will laugh with you in his memory.  I loved Perry Inhofe, and in the shadow of eternity, it was like yesterday.
I miss your Father.
Shalom. Mizpah.
“The eternal God is our dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Duet. 33:37) For God’s presence and control we can be thankful and rejoice.

98.6 & 65.8 & 71.6 and the 50 year reunion

So sometime in May I will drive up to Kansas City and spend some time with the Center High School 50 year reunion committee.  I am not an official “member”, but I am and interested observer and part time participant.  So I barged in a few months ago… and I am thankful I did, and grateful to be welcomed aboard the Good Ship Yellowjacket 69.

Obviously it is filled with my CHS classmates.  people that I have known since I moved to the Boone School district in 5th grade, and some of these folks are nearly friends with each other from the womb.  For me it is a round table of folks I have been far more absent from than present.  I have moved so many times in my life.  I have kept in touch with a handful of my old cohorts, but for the most part, I spend very little social time with anyone from CHS.

That being said, It is a special time to share a table, talk briefly about the past and ponder the schedule for the upcoming event.  It is NEVER a time to talk religion or politics, though it is filled with people who would happily discuss, argue and question both.  It is just a time to celebrate.  Mostly, as I have observed, it is just a group of people who want to celebrate life.  And the celebrants have more in common with each other than can be found with almost any other folks that I might encounter in any random gathering at any time in any place, from now until the moment of my last breath.  Or so I would guess.

The purpose of the committee is really singular.  What can be done to celebrate life, provide venues for smiles and good times.  What will attract the most folks to a couple of events so that both the seeker and those being sought can have a really good time with a not some random group of devotees gathering to rejoice as a result of a common experience.

So here is my experience regarding reunions…   I have been to a few… Some I really enjoyed… from start to finish…. some I enjoyed for only moments.  I am glad I went to all of them… However, rarely did I come away with any meaningful moments.  In my earlier days I got to be reunited with Paula, and would visit her when I visited my Mother in Austin.  Paula passed several years ago of Cancer.  For the most part, I would just spend time with the guys I spent time with decades ago.  A poker game at Cal’s house, with Bob, Ric, Curtis, Marco, Don, Joe, a few others… So reunions were just moments in time.  Happy moments, but brief and then over.

That was true until the last reunion.  My life changed.  Two people who were merely moments in my CHS life became two of my besties…  It is not easy to make new friends at my age.  At OUR age.  People from Center have their own lives.  I am thankful they do.  I am more thankful that Ann and Lynn let me into theirs.

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I knew Ann Asel and I knew Lynn Joseph whey I went to Center.  I probably spoke to them for nearly and hour.  I mean an hour total during our entire 3 years during our shared high school experience.  We did not date, we did not have the same circle of friends, Ann and I had Journalism class together I think.

Because of the Last Center Reunion… my life has changed.  I have stories to tell, but the relationship started because I had been selling stuff on Ebay for nearly 20 years.  I sold some stuff for both of them..  I don’t list anything for them on Ebay any longer, but I drive to Kansas City from Tulsa with some regularity to see these two friends.  I love Annie and Lynn.  I am shocked.

Maybe you should come to the reunion and get shocked.

By the way, 98.6 degrees,  as you know is our average body temperature, while alive.  In 1951 the projected life span for men was 65.8 years, for women 71.6 years.

I will be 68.3 at the next reunion.  I hope to laugh with you there.

Gold and Blue lives matter

I’m really a bit surprised. I’m surprised because I really didn’t know Carol or Shirley very well. They had become Facebook friends over the last few years.  It’s been nearly 50 years since I was in the same room with both of them. So, how long do I need to wait before I get over this kind of departure.? Is there a point in time when this kind of goodbye won’t matter? Seriously I’ve only seen one of these people in the last 50 years at a CHS reunion, and one of them I haven’t seen at all.  For the most part all we really had in common “to the colors high above us Gold and Blue.”  And yet I am profoundly affected by the recent news of their departures from this plane of existence. I mean how in Heaven’s name can I miss them now when I haven’t missed them for decades  But I do miss them now.

I feel like Center High School was my Goldilocks Journey. I’ve talked to people who have had many thoughts and memories regarding their High School experience. I’ve talked to people who have been obsessed with the high school journey, Similar to Al Bundy from Polk High.  I know folks who hated their CHS journey.  I’ve talked to people who studied really really hard, and I’ve talked to people who didn’t study a lick. I’ve talked to people who went to huge high schools and graduated with thousands of classmates. I talked to people who went to small schools and they attended School with a handful of mates. But Center High School (CHS) was the Goldilocks adventure for me. Not too big. not too small, it was just right. And as I get older it gets just “righter”. But my Band Of living classmates is shrinking in size.  How terribly strange.

High School is a unique American Adventure. It is one that people of my age all experienced. Very few private schools in the 60s, Most kids went to a public high school. Therefor, High school is often common ground… So many of us just took the yellow bus. Looking back on my life, it is special because CHS provided a unique band of friends that I knew and explored life with, for nearly a decade. In some cases, I have High School friends who married their High School sweethearts, and remain together to this very day. It is in many ways uniquely American. And for children of the 60’s, for children who are the last of the Baby Boomers, I think High School can be even more special and more unique. But I can only compare it to my own experience. And because of that I hold my years at Center High School in Kansas City Missouri as some of the most precious years of my life.

One of the things that is part, a large part of the shared CHS experience during the 60s is GREAT music. Rock, pop, folk, Motown, soul, R&B. Music to sing to, and dance to, and cry to, and to make-out to, and live life to. I went to the first live music concert when I was in junior high I guess. I mean I saw the Beatles live in September 1964. I Saw The Who in the Shawnee Mission South gymnasium… and Iron Butterfly and the freaking Cowsills on back to back days at Municipal Auditorium in June of 1969. My friends and I treasured our vinyl and Turntables. We knew the WHB top 40 list.

And we “all” sang “Hey Jude” together at OUR assembly…

My musical favorite however, was Simon and Garfunkel. And Paul Simon could write words that were sheer poetry for me. His words touched my heart. I would play his records for hours..Paul Simon affected me profoundly. Simon & Garfunkel we’re best known for songs like the Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Water. They had some great music. And some great lyrics. I became the Boxer…

“In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”, but the fighter still remains”

But in the midst of all of the music, and all of the words one quiet little tune became my favorite. It still is my favorite.

Nothing and no other song and has ever touched me it continues to touch me like “Old Friends”. It’s amazing, I tear up even now as I talk about it. It is so much a part of who I am. And the depth of its meaning continues to grow every time I hear it or sing it or recite it There is a a picture of my dog gazing at a park bench. My dear friend Beth commissioned this picture for me, when my best dog friend left me in September, 2017. I posted this song in my blog once before…

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My friend Tank,  the Georgetown, Texas, Dog Park, 2010..

Old friends, sat on a park bench like bookends…… old friends how terribly strange to be 70. Those phrases have been a part of my heart since 1968.  And now more than ever I am moved when I hear about the passing of my Center High School classmates.

When I was still at Center High School it truly was a song line that I listened to often. I don’t know why. How terribly strange to be 70. A few years back my classmates would do a Beatles reprise “When I’m 64.” And when I heard that song I was reminded that it was less than a decade until my life would be terribly strange. And I have to tell you my life is getting stranger.

How terribly strange to be 70. I had No idea what that line would mean… when I first heard this, I was only 17.  I have a better understanding now. 

And now, how terribly strange not to make it to 70.

Farewell to some very special Yellowjackets.

I hope I see many Gold and Blue lives at the Center Reunion, Fall, 1969.  I would love to see some of my terribly strange friends…