Saturday, August 7, 2010

Serendipity Potpourri

Prelude. You approach the entrance to the Peace Offerings Blog. It appears to have been uninhabited for quite some time. All is dark, except for one light exposing a small window near the rear. The door is open, as it usually is (is there even a door?), and you step inside. Illuminated in the small radius of light from a naked bulb suspended from the ceiling on a wire is a large man, back to you, sweeping and throwing up clouds of dust from the floor which take on a ghostly luminescence in the light of the bulb as they swirl. You hear him either muttering or humming or talking to himself as he sweeps. You're not sure, but it sort of sounds like “Laaa-leee-la-la” repeated and punctuated at intervals by something that sounds like “nyuk nyuk” and “woop woop”.

You clear your throat, and the man turns, pausing in his arc of sweeping.

As the man turns, suddenly there is a burst of light so brilliant, you have to shield your eyes. The light encircles the man's head like a halo, and you wonder if you are seeing a light like that which shone on the Damascus Road so many years ago. Could this be a divine visitation?

The man notices your averted gaze and silent amazement, and quickly takes his baseball cap out of his pocket and covers his head, extinguishing the glorious light.

“Sorry about that,” he says. “The light catches my bald spot just right sometimes. I didn't know you were here, or I would've made sure my cap was on. You caught me cleaning, but if you want to have a seat, the next blog entry's about to start.”

It's been a while. Over two months. That's an eternity in terms of blogging and anything on the short-attention-span sound-byte-driven internet. As is usual, however, my silence here (and elsewhere) does not denote a lack of thought about writing. I have never been accused of being an apologist for brevity, and this will be especially so perhaps this entry when so many strands of thought and commentary are circulating around my awareness vying for some kind of expression here.

Most of the time when I sit at the keyboard to type a blog entry, I have some idea of where things will go, what I will include. Not so this time. This entry promises to surprise even me as the flow of thought dictates what comes next, and I don't know what will come until it's there. It will be a hodge-podge, potluck, potpourri, melange, patchwork of serendipity.

I hope that in this stream of thought you will find something that interests you, provokes thought, challenges you, causes you to pause and reflect.

Meeting Jon. Last time I wrote, I was in the middle of the process of being approved to be a Big Brother through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Topeka, part of the national mentoring organization of the same name.

I was familiar with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for years, but only vaguely. After going through the process involved in volunteering with them, I can say that I am thoroughly impressed with them and the efforts they take to make sure that the kids and families they serve are matched with the right volunteers. I am proud to be part of what they are doing in Topeka.

Not long after the last entry, I went down to the office to meet the little boy with whom I'd been matched. I knew his name was Jon and that he was eight years old. I had read a little about his family situation, and also the fact that he had been waiting on a Big Brother for almost two years.

The moment finally came when all of us (Darin, the case manager I'd been working with; Jon; Jon's grandmother; me) were all sitting in the office to be introduced to one another. Jon had taken a seat next to me on a couch in the office. I looked over at him and said, “You must be Jon. I've been so excited to meet you.”

“And I know who you are,” he said. “You're Allan.” His smile attached him to my heart that moment.

“And I know how old you are,” I assured him in my most confident voice. “Let's see now,” my brow furrowed in mock concentration, “you're 52 or 53. I forget which.”

He looked over at me grinning. “I'm eight!”

But in that moment, we were connected as though we had known each other always.

Moments later, as we were all talking, Jon referenced something he had gotten for his birthday. I asked him when his birthday was. I was totally unprepared for his response: “March 16th.”

“Wow, Jon! We have the same birthday! My birthday is March 16th, too!”

So we began. Since then, we have spent some time hanging out and doing things most weekends (the only time I'm normally off the road and in Topeka). There is real opportunity for ministry in this situation, and it's part of God continuing to reconnect me with his purpose and plan for me. As I have written before in this forum: pray for me in this. And thank you for your ministry in doing that – it encourages me no end when I know you are doing so.

So far, Jon and I have gone to see a couple of movies (Toy Story 3: excellent! The Last Airbender: okay for it's fantasy settings; otherwise, mostly a crash course in Eastern – and perhaps new age? – mysticism), gone swimming, skating; thanks to Terry, Jon got to take a horse riding lesson; and we've also done various things around the house (starting a memory book, doing some art work, playing part of a game of chess, and a complete game of Snakes and Ladders, which he won drat him!)

I've posted some pictures from our adventures so far here.

“Mama, here's Denver; Denver, here's Mama.” Sometime in February, when Terry and I had first started our weekly rotation of driving back and forth from Topeka to Denver five times a week, we were talking about how cool it would be to be able to shut down some weekends in Denver. At some point in that early conversation, Terry mentioned how great it would be if we could have both our moms fly up to Denver one weekend when it got warmer, and we could treat them to a weekend seeing Pike's Peak and other things in and around Denver.

We started talking about the idea, and the last weekend of June, it actually happened. We all had a wonderful time. Terry's sweet mom, Pat, and my most awesome Mama (Ann), who had never met before, hit it off and we all had a memorable time. It was so enjoyable, we are already talking about doing something similar next year.

You can see some pix from that weekend here.

“We rollin' now, baby!” When I first signed up for the job in Denver, one of the things they told me was that I would have to trade in my serviceable 2006 truck with 400,000 miles on it for a “newer truck” in Atlanta. Got to Atlanta, got the “new” truck assignment, and my mouth dropped: they gave me a 2003 dilapidated old husk with 930,000 miles on it.

“There must be some mistake!”

“Nope. That's it all right.”

Then, from offstage somewhere comes the most evil BWA-HA-HA laughter I'd ever heard.

Yeah. Ha ha.

Okay, so we get in the truck and do our job, when we weren't stuck somewhere because the truck had broken down. One day we broke down in the back of the Home Depot store we were delivering to, blocking traffic. Another team had to come finish the delivery and we got a ride in a tow truck and a night in a motel in Denver.

Right after we get to Topeka, rumors start floating around that all the teams were just on the cusp of getting new trucks. They would be ready in two weeks, then next month. Okay, and the earth is flat; the aliens are coming to get us; here comes the Easter Bunny!

O ye of little faith. June comes, and out of the blue, we get a message: a new truck is waiting on you in Dallas! Sending you down tomorrow to pick it up. Woo-hoo! Not only a new truck – but it's in the one place on earth I most want to be!! Br'er Rabbit in the briar patch!

When we got to Dallas, there it was: a brand new 2010 with less than a thousand miles on it and never assigned a driver before. It didn't even have a license plate on it yet. [Ed. Note: although there is a story associated with that last bit, we have decided not to relate it here. If you want to know, ask Terry.]

Best of all: my Daddy was working in Dallas that week, and I got to see some of the people I love as much as any in the world while we were there. The visits were very short, but it was something. Water in my desert.

As I write this, we have been in this new truck almost two months. We have about 30,000 miles on it now, but it still rides like a luxury liner and we feel like The Big Cheese goin' down the road.

Well, there was that regrettable incident after two weeks in the truck when we went to start it one morning and it wouldn't. It was in the shop for a week, and we were back in Loserville with a couple of loaner trucks that really made for a long week.

“But we back, now, baby, and we rollin' smooth and ridin' high!”

Um . . . I mean we are very blessed.

“The envelope, please.” There are some people and web sites I'd like to mention at this point.

Cindy. My sister began a journey to fulfill a dream a few years ago. She started school to get her teaching degree. Going to school at night, most of the time working full-time, managing a household with two girls and a marriage, she was a regular fixture on the Dean's List for her excellent academic performance.

She has finished her formal classroom work and is currently doing a student teaching rotation. She graduates formally in December. I can't wait to see it. I'm so very proud of her and she inspires me to not give up on my own dreams of the heart. I love you, Cindy! You've already begun to teach all of us who know you. You are amazing!

Terry. My great friend and co-worker, Terry, among many other things, is an excellent writer. He recently posted some poetry on Facebook and I wanted to share them with you, so I put them up here. Enjoy!

Terry is also starting a project to collect stories from folks who have met Henry Friedman, a good friend of Terry's from his Austin days. I've met Henry, and have my own story of that meeting. A fascinating man, professional photographer, and an inspiration to all who know him. Terry's story of meeting Henry is here. Henry's web site is here.

Elliott. Terry's son, Elliott, recently finished his term in the Navy. After six years serving his country, he did what any intelligent young man in his situation would do: he moved to Dallas. Thanks for your service, Elliott, and here's best wishes to being the Roark of Texas!

Everyday Images Photography. Keeping things in the family once more, I am happy to report that Terry's daughter, Allicia (who was two months shy of saying “Hello World” when I met Terry), has channeled her passion for and expertise in photography into a business, Everyday Images Photography. Check it out!

All the Biscuits in Georgia. My good friend Sam's blog is a never-failing source of entertaining, thought-provoking, excellent writing about whatever Sam is thinking about at the moment. I have enjoyed watching his writing craft evolve and always look forward to what he will write about next. Stretch your brain muscles and give a read.

Shatiya-LaD on Youtube. Earlier this year, I decided to get accounts (well, I had a MySpace account I never used much) on some of the social networks to see if I could stay connected with people I love and, frankly, see what all the fuss was about. Shortly after signing up with Twitter, I ran across a group of people who loved the Lord and following them was like being in the midst of a fellowship of encouragement for my faith. One of the people whose words of encouragement blessed me most was ShatiyaLaD. A while back, Shatiya began a channel on Youtube as part of a fulfillment of a dream God has given her for ministry. She records new messages regularly – they are short, full of fire, and always uplifting. I commend it to you.

Politics As Usual. We had our first primary election in Kansas for 2010 last Tuesday. Because I'm on the road all week long, I had arranged to get an absentee ballot mailed to me beforehand, and I completed it (in Colorado!) and mailed it back in.

I've been getting political mailings for several weeks. One of the things I received a few weeks ago was from the candidate trying to unseat the current representative from my district in Topeka. It was very nicely done, very professionally designed, and attention-getting (all it takes for some of us is bright colors). I opened it up hoping to learn about the man who was asking for my vote and what he believed, how I could expect him to represent me.

Instead, about ¾ of the available space was given over to slamming his opponent, telling me all the reasons he thought she was a horrible representative. There was then, almost as a footnote in comparison, a small section telling about his family. His main selling point, however, was “Vote for me! I'm not her!”

I glanced at it long enough to see what it was about, and made a silent note to myself that I would not be casting a vote for this man whose only appeal to my reason and my conscience was to slam his opponent. Okay. I know who my representative is, and I can figure out whether she represents me or not. I don't need you to tell me about her. I need you to tell me about you.

Like we don't have plenty of that kind of politics-by-smear already in Washington. I'm not going to vote to send another one. That's one reason so little of any substance gets done up there: Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives are too busy yelling about how bad the others are. In that respect, there is literally no difference worth any consideration between the two major parties or between the two ends of the liberal-conservative spectrum.

I am happy to report that that candidate can go back to his farm and his family who need him much more than Washington does.

More Politics. Aren't you glad I label my sections so you can skip the ones you don't like? You're welcome.

  • All my life that I can remember, I have been interested in politics. As a matter of fact, one of the first entries of the oldest journal that I still have, was written while I was watching the inauguration ceremony of Jimmy Carter, who hailed from my home state of Georgia, way back in January, 1977. I wrote about it as it happened, so it was perhaps my own early pre-cursor to live-blogging. I was eleven years old.

  • Every election year, I try to do research on the various candidates and issues so that I can make a more intelligent decision based on my own beliefs and convictions. With the advent of the internet, such research became immeasurably easier, and more fascinating. Just this year, I found one my favorite ever web sites for doing such research: Excellent resource no matter your political party or ideological persuasion.

  • If you are a political junkie, you might already know about Real Clear Politics. If you don't, it is a treasure of links to as much politics as you care for. You can easily spend hours there – or you can get back to playing Solitaire.

  • Top Secret America. The Washington Post recently did an excellent and extensive series of articles and related resources about the existence and troubling trends of the explosion of intelligence gathering resources following the attacks of September 11. Fascinating reading. There is also a related Frontline program about this same topic airing on PBS in October.

  • New York Times Wikileaks article. Coincidentally related, prior to the release of classified (on some level) documents on its web site, Wikileaks made the documents available to three newspapers, including the New York Times. Makes for interesting reading no matter what you think of the ethics of the leaks.

[Ed. Note: Those of you who object to the posting of articles from two main media arms of the New World Order should move cautiously – the Illuminati are watching. Whisper. They are everywhere.]

Most Shocking Recent Headline: “Lady Gaga Kidnaps Commissioner Gordon”

Stay tuned for more. That's about as much as I should write for this time, I think. There is much more on my mind. It will not be two months; hopefully it will be more like next week when I write again. Next time will continue the random bits of rambling we've run off the reel this trip.

I am very excited about going to Georgia in September (the 11th-17th). And, as always, I miss everyone in Texas and California.

Until next time . . . blessings and peace to you.