Posts Tagged ‘Seattle

05
Jan
23

The Gift of Candles

They say… you know, the all-knowing, all-seeing THEY… that timing is everything. 

As is usually the case, they have indulged in a wee bit of literary hyperbole to make a point. The point that TIMING is a really, really important thing.

Comedians, trapeze artists, and base stealers in baseball will each readily endorse the truth of their words. 

But as I have found out on more than one occasion, KNOWING a thing and ACTING on that knowledge are vastly different things.  I am that guy who, just the other day, ran out to our curb with a big armload of cardboard, only to find out that I had JUST MISSED the recycling truck. I am also the guy who remembers to text his spouse that we are out of eggs immediately AFTER she has left the grocery store. 

For a long time, I also clung to the story that God’s timing of my call to the ministry was WAAAY off target. It seemed to me that the Almighty really blew a chance to catch me at the peak of my powers. I wondered… why didn’t God tap me on the shoulder back when I was super-charged with health and vitality? Back when I would have eagerly worked like a draft horse to help spread the Good News?

And so today, in addition to these musings about TIMING, I am also thinking about my dad. Today would have been his 96th birthday. He died six years ago, just two days past his 90th birthday. I relate these two subjects in my mind because I have often wondered if I inherited my “timing challenges” from dad.  

With a birth year of 1928, dad wasn’t quite old enough to actively fight in World War II. So, while all my buddies were sitting around swapping stories about how their dads fought at this battle in France, or that skirmish in the Pacific, I had to just sit quietly and listen. Dad did serve in the Army in Okinawa in ’46 and ’47, but strictly as part of the post-war occupying American force.

I also thought his timing of hearing his own call to the ministry was pretty off-target, too. You see, he graduated from seminary one year prior to my graduation from high school. And because of that timing, our family ended up moving from Columbus, Ohio to his first church in the suburbs of Seattle the summer before my senior year. 

Oh, the TRAUMA! Oh, the INJUSTICE! Oh, the HEARTBREAK!

[Then again, as the father of five children, I have to admit that dad’s timing in some things wasn’t too bad!]

Today, however, I find I am able to sit here and thank God for the gift of perspective that comes with my multiple fistfuls of birthday candles. Because of those candles, I am able to see and give thanks that my father did NOT have to face live bullets in the war. 

Those candles also help me now be grateful for the new friends, new experiences, and new outlooks that came as a result of my family’s cross-country relocation.  

And as far as the timing of my own call to the ministry, I can now say that God’s timing turned out to be absolutely PERFECT! I realize now that God allowed me to simmer and percolate and accumulate a whole quiver full of life experience that – I hope – enriched my ministry in ways that wouldn’t have been possible with the younger Russell.  

Like 100% of the rest of us, dad was flawed. He struggled with his temper. He could be a little heavy-handed with his discipline sometimes. He was a bit sartorially challenged. In his later years, he was drawn in by far too many of those, “As Seen on TV” miracle products. 

But the gift of perspective has finally helped me see past all of that to the kind, generous, compassionate, wise, and God-fearing man dad truly was. After I entered the ministry, he became a priceless mentor to me during some of the low points and aggravations that often come with the job.  

I hope my timing is not TOO far off here, but please forgive me, dad, for failing to appreciate all the different ways you blessed and encouraged me while you were here. My grandest aspiration is to become even HALF the blessing to my family and to the world that you were to us.

I love you.

Abundant blessings;

15
May
21

Homecoming

Where is your place?

Come take a SPIN!

Whenever I discuss the important places in my life, I usually list four: 

  • Columbus, Ohio – the place where I was born.
  • Seattle, Washington – the place to which our family moved in 1969 (and still the region where my four siblings and stepmom live)
  • Kansas City, MO metro area – the place I lived for 44 years, and
  • Fort Collins, CO – the place I live right now.

The fact of the matter is, I sat down the other day and made a list of every house I have lived in since infancy and came up with the staggering total of 27. 

27!

That means I have only lived – on average – 2.55 years in each of those places. 

Doesn’t that make me sound like a restless vagabond, constantly in search of that elusive IDEAL PLACE? I certainly think so.

And it kind of begs the question: “Is there such a thing as The Ideal Place?” 

In my life I have known people who believe in the existence of The Ideal Place and are engaged in a restless, lifelong search for it. 

They want the Ideal Climate

They want the Ideal Topography and Geography

They want the Ideal Quantity (and Quality) of Cultural Amenities

They want the Ideal Cost of Living.

They want a place with the Ideal Reputation.

And of course, they want to make sure this Ideal Place is populated by the Ideal Type of Person. You know… the type that is friendly, but not too friendly. Diverse, but not too diverse. Educated, but not too educated. And so on…

The sad outcome of this quest is that each place they live in somehow falls short on one or more of these critical criteria. 

And so, convinced that the next stop will be the answer, they pack up and move there… and start the process all over again.

I have to say, with the notable exception of the seedy place in Tacoma where Jeff, Marcus, and I lived, and probably my one-bedroom apartment on McGee Street in Kansas City, I have really LOVED every one of the 27 different places I have lived. 

Some I chose willingly, while other places were forced on me by the circumstance. But in every case, I knew it was not going to be the WHERE that made the difference… it was going to be the WHAT, as in “What kind of person are you going to be here in this new environment?” 

Because, as Buckaroo Banzai said in the 1984 cult classic film, “No matter where you go, there you are!” 

The truth is, God sees us – and KNOWS us – wherever we are. God knows us inside and out, whether we’re wearing the plaid flannel of Colorado, the flip-flops of Miami Beach, or the grungy, torn blue jeans of Seattle. As the psalmist once said, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance…” (Psalm 139:15-16, NRSV).

The scene can change, but unless we change too, we will find ourselves facing the same problems all over again in the next place we go. 

Today I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is a nice, friendly, attractive, stimulating place with awesome vistas and lots of indoor and outdoor stuff to do. And yet, despite all its sterling qualities, I REALLY still miss the people and places of the Kansas City area. 

But you know what? I’ve made up my mind that here, with God and the love of my life by my side, is where I am going to call HOME

Abundant blessings;




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