Saturday, May 30, 2009

Church On Unfinished Road

Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them. - Henry David Thoreau

"Why here?"

That was the first of many questions tumbling through his mind after he chose to follow that apparently hand scrawled sign he had driven past all week, each time accelerating his curiosity.

At first blush, it certainly lived up to the name...except maybe the "Church" part.

There was no "church"...there was no 'Official Greeters' children's check-in and certainly no signs.

There were no musicians that he could see. Heck, there was probably no Pastor.

When he found himself looking around for an 'order of worship' he almost broke out laughing.

He was habitually early to everything, but even so there was already no parking, not only had plenty of people already gathered, but there was no organized parking and no attempt at it. There was no seating, or rather seats. People were sitting on rocks and dirt clumps or simply sprawled out in the middle of this tiny incomplete rocky lane cutting into what would eventually be a subdivision like thousands of others throughout the city.

No one had a blanket, or folding chair....not even a tarp. It was rocks and dirt and all that usually includes, like bugs and stuff of nature that you never seem to notice but which always makes you itchy later.

He noticed something else was lacking: one had on shoes.

Shoes were scattered at the entrance to the jagged pitiful pretense of a road, or sitting atop people's cars that were parked all akimbo either in nearby fields or on adjacent - civilized by cement - thoroughfares.

It wasn't like he was dressed for high church, but he wasn't relishing the idea of negotiating the bramble in his flip flops, the idea of tossing them and the meager protection they provided from thorns, sticks, sharp rocks, and all that other itchy nature stuff didn't heighten his enthusiasm. It did make him question his sanity though.

It was barely 7:00 a.m. and it was already warm enough to work up a sweat while simply ambling through the scrub brush from his car and trying to find a place to sit...or squat.

He was a little surprised to see all the children. They were all sitting with their families...apparently happily. None of them running about.

"Then again," he thought at about the same time he was wondering when he last had a Tetanus shot, "take away their shoes on this ground and that pretty much solves the 'pay attention in church lil' Johnny' issue."

He stumbled forward, and was fairly certain now the congregation had more than its fair share of gnats, and probably mosquitoes.

"Keep moving and get comfortable kid. We don't have all day and this service always starts on time."

The authoritative voice came from behind him.

He turned to see an older gent who would be considered distinguished were it not for the overalls and lack of shoes.

"Get comfortable?"

Was he joking?

Authors note: This idea has been keeping me awake at night, so I figured I would start writing it down. I'm making no "to be continued" promises. If you're uncomfortable with that...maybe that's how it should be.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where Giants Grow

Author's note:
Please see previous these posts: 1 & 2 in that order. Hopefully this may make some sense.
However I'm not making any promises.

Additional author's note: Obviously I did not write this as soon as I had hoped - life intervened - as happens far too often. I should have learned by now never to promise a "sequel" - However I did "start" writing this the day after Tim's funeral. It took me until now to realize how much I needed to finish what I's part of the process I'm going through mentioned in other recent ramblings.

I watched Tim Awbrey more than I spoke with him. Sure, we had conversations over church pot luck meals, or while he supervised some project on church property, which usually meant putting his two strapping sons to work. His boys were top members of the Boy Scouts, and much of Tim and Fran's lives centered on the many activities associated with making certain their sons got the very most out of scouting...not necessarily badges or awards...but the values a program like the Boy Scouts reinforces.

He was also very active in his sons' athletic competitions. They were big they are big men.

Their roots, like Tim's and his sister Teketha's, are firmly entrenched in a tiny place in east-central Texas.

The Freyburg United Methodist Church was dedicated in 1879, but the original land for the building was sold to church trustees a couple of years prior to that, by one of the many German immigrant farmers who came to the area following the Civil War. They came looking for a place to plant grow their families and their crops. This is where their family values were also nurtured and nourished...and the foundation of a new legacy to their lineage was born.

The six acres of land upon which the church sits today was purchased for $48 dollars with only one stipulation: that it "be kept, maintained and disposed of as a place of ministry and membership."

And so it has been for 130 years.

In those days there was a "circuit" preacher who would pass through on a semi-regular basis. There weren't enough preachers or parishioners in Freyburg, or any one town nearby, to support a full-time pastor. Men called into the Lord's service split their time between any number of houses of worship...worshippers made due with God alone when there was no Pastor present. It was a system that worked well.

It still does.

These days, the Freyburg United Methodist Church, has...a circuit preacher...delivering sermons twice, sometimes three times, per month.

There is little else in Freyburg that I could discern from our brief visit, and still not many towns nearby - albeit I-10 does make travel much easier and distance is measured in different ways now.

Next to the church is a small cemetery, this is where Tim was laid to rest. It is impeccibly maintained by the devoted members of the church, as it has been since the need for such a place of peace and passing first arrived, probably not long after the first settlers.

Despite the proximity to a coast to coast highway, you have to know that you are going to Freyburg to get there. There is one exit off the freeway, and it leads to a farm to market road...and that road leads to the church, and to a field neatly filled with gravestones and memories.

I was struck by how, in so many ways, our busy world has not intruded into the tranquility and tradition of Freyburg. Beyond some basic restoration work, like painting, the church is much the same as it was when first erected (they got rid of the outhouse a few years ago). You can envision people worshiping there today much as they did 100 years ago.

As we stood by her brother Tim's grave, Teketha pointed to the land on the other side of the church and said that area was once her family's dairy farm.

And it all made sense to me. Here I was standing in Freyburg, Texas...a town you could miss even if you had a map, but I was surrounded by men, women and children some of whom had driven through the night from Oklahoma to attend the funeral near San Antonio and then another hundred miles or so for this brief graveside service.

This was family in the strongest sense of the word.

A big family, perhaps technically not all "related," but family nonetheless. These were people united in the values which had been gently planted, caressed and had taken root more than a century earlier here in tiny Freyburg, Texas.

Like the crops planted by those original settlers, those values and traditions had been nurtured, and nourished. Only the the source of nourishment differed...the blood of Christ.

The work ethic, those traditions and values are still standing strong in the family to this day and I suspect they will continue to flourish for generations to come...all because of the intentional devotion and vision of men and women in tiny Freyburg, Texas more than a century ago.

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.- Psalm 80:8

Welcome Back...Sanity

I have been overwhelmed lately...that's putting it mildly. Amy's health, my health, my job, our spiritual lives, life in general...I don't seem to be in a place I want to be.

I've been in this place before, albeit many years ago and I learned there is only one way to dig myself out, and that's through some radical change.

Some changes I can't speak of here because I need to finalize them. Some changes I've already made. More are coming.

Some 20 years ago I looked in the mirror and thought to myself, "This is not the man I want to be." At that point, I embarked on a process to change. It worked. I put my faith in God and abandoned most everything I knew in my life.

Each morning (if you can call 1 a.m. morning) these days I find myself looking in the mirror and saying much the same thing.

So I'm getting out.

Out of the life patterns that I feel are disingenuous, time consuming, and most of all not fulfilling my purpose in God's eyes.

Some of these changes are easy. I deleted my Facebook account, where I was spending far too much time doing too little. Staying in contact with people who for the most part play no role in my life today.

The others who are important in my life, I will reach out to individually.

The "creative" me is being resurrected. I think that's a key. My job, quite frankly, has become much like factory work. There's no creativity involved, no inspiration, but there's a paycheck. In these days the latter is important although certainly not something I worship.

Amy and I have been in discussions for some time about what is best for me, and her, and us. We haven't come to a conclusion (although Amy might have) but I know this much, I need to find outlets for my God-inspired talents.

I'm going to spend the next week or two in fasting and prayer.

Hopefully God will show me how best to utilize my abilities and find a place, be it physical, mental or spiritual, where I can serve Him and not simply kill time.

The upside, I suspect I'll be writing more...admittedly to some of you that may not be an upside.

I'm culling the crap...focusing on the future...and praying for guidance.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Guide To Avoiding HDTV Hype

I promise I will get back to the story of Freyburg later this weekend. However I wanted to pass along this consumer tip which I've been meaning to mention for a while, so indulge me if you will.

Honestly this likely won't apply to you, but it might apply to your Mom or Grandma and can save you or them some serious money.

Presumably you're aware that all TV stations already have or will change to broadcasting only in High Definition on June 12th. There is a lot of advertising from cable and satellite companies urging folks to "sign up now" because otherwise you won't be able to watch any shows.
That's true...unless you or your Mom or Grannie...only watches LOCAL TV.

If that's the case, get a coupon for 40 bucks off an HD converter from the government at this website. Then, don't subscribe to ANY service ever again! In fact if you're subscribing to basic cable now just for local TV...cancel it now! Most stations are already broadcasting in HD and the converters will pick up old fashioned TV signals in the interim anyway.

HD signals are "over the air" and they're free. If you invest in a converter box (I bought one today at Best Buy using my $40 coupon and the total cost was 16 bucks)you can get ALL the local channels plus more for FREE on that same old crappy TV you've had for years.

I tested this on an old TV I bought 25 years ago. I hooked up the converter box and used the rabbit ears on the TV.

The process took about 5 minutes.

Now? Now it receives not only all the local channels, but some "side band" channels which aren't available via our satellite service or the local cable company...and the picture is good as cable if not better.

Again, this is only for folks who don't want 200 TV channels, it's for people who only watch the local channels. At most, you might have to invest in a powered rabbit ear antenna depending on where you position your TV and you might have to occasionally adjust the rabbit ears . If you have a rooftop or outdoor antenna, that you've been too lazy to take down...good for you! You're already golden!

I was stunned at how good the picture is, and how many channels that ancient little TV now receives.

If you or someone you know watches just the local channels, you can actually save money and get a better picture by NOT subscribing to cable or satellite. It's not HD...but it is a digital signal nonetheless and I'll bet you'll be surprised. You can still hook up a DVD player or VCR...but you can cut the cable and the associated costs. Maybe you can save that money to buy an HDTV...then you can hook the rabbit ears up to it and get all the local HDTV channels for free in HD...if that's what you want.

I don't know....maybe everyone already knows this and that's why I don't hear folks mentioning this option...but in these economic times, I thought I'd take a moment to pass it along.

Of course, if you want HDTV and the latest greatest picture and the earthworm channel plus the greatest reruns of bad movies pay channels...God bless you...the economy needs you to spend money. However if you think HDTV is something you have to have, and have to pay for even if you don't think you need it or want it...well, don't buy into the hype.

People who only want a TV for the local news and weather or major network TV shows can save significant cash right now. You'll never get a cable bill again...or have to skip past the Australian Rules Log Throwing channel.

If money is tight or if you're one of the folks who doesn't really want your MTV or more TV of any advice is this: Take the "avoid the HDTV hype exit"...bypass the Australian rules cricket channel. Coast to High Def along the low tech road.

This ends today's public service announcement...we now return you to regular programming.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tim Duncan- All Star Record

News Radio 1200 Tim Duncan
This is a post to prove a point...

This is a direct steal from News Radio 1200 WOAI.

A story posted by Jim Forsyth.

This is only the first paragraph.

Duncan's All-NBA Honors Set Record

12th All Star nomination
By Jim Forsyth
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tim Duncan made NBA history today, becoming the first player in the history of the league to be named to an All-NBA team in all of his first 12 seasons in the league, 1200 News Radio WOAI news reports.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Big Tim's Time...and Tradition's Truth

I initially wasn't going to write any more about the passing of the old friend mentioned casually in the previous post. Yet after attending his funeral and graveside service where Amy gave voice and melody to such a clear message from God, I feel compelled to write more...although I'm not sure exactly where it's going.

That means one thing to you: Be afraid, be very afraid.

I do know two things, the first of which is that I won't finish this tale tonight, it's been a long day. Secondly, this story starts with our friends Teketha and Gordon Wise.

Gordon and Teketha were for some time active members of the small church we attended and during those years we shared a lot.

Teketha loves hymns...Amy loves singing. Gordon, like many folks in small churches, was roped into overseeing various "volunteer" jobs only to find there weren't many, if any, other "volunteers" around - something I learned at that church as well.

We both had to come to grips and then learn to embrace a certain sense of disillusionment in that fact...something which actually probably helped us build a stronger relationship with God, while putting "church" in proper perspective.

Teketha and Gordon's daughter Kim had some prolonged and very frightening health concerns which at one point coincided with one of Amy's extended medical mysteries that required hospitalization. Kim and Amy were in fact in the same hospital for what seemed like an eternity. Soon all of us, including Kim's husband Brad and their young daughter, Lauren, were spending a lot of time together in a place none of us wanted to be (with the possible exception of Gordon whom I'm fairly sure you could toss into an arena full of lawyers, televangelists, life insurance and used car salesmen and he wouldn't complain,as long as Lauren was included in the mix).
As I recall, Lauren quite possibly had the 411 on "grandpa Gordon training" before Lauren herself was potty trained.

In any case, during that season in our lives we shared our fears, our prayers, and quite often our tears.

Such circumstances I wish upon no one, but - as is often the case with God - the net result was something we didn't anticipate or even realize until some time later...we had come to know one another on a different level than with our other friendships.

As usual, God had a plan. As always, at that time I was completely clueless about it.

It didn't stop there by any means, Teketha is a very strong willed woman and there were other times when Amy was having major health problems that Teketha took it upon herself to be concerned about me. I mean this in the nicest sense possible, but I would describe her approach as something akin to a "reverse Mama Corleone." Any answer I gave her that wasn't, "Yes, I'll come to dinner" or "Yes, I really do need some help" was an answer she would refuse.

Teketha and Gordon's care and feeding of me - their ability to see right through my best bogus blatherings of independence - was something I desperately needed and I firmly believe they were God's conduit for "getting it done." I'm honestly not sure that I would have made it through those times, had Teketha not been in her concern.

That is the background.

Hey, I warned you!

"Rambling ahead!" remember?

I'll write the more pertinent aspects of these thoughts on Sunday and this is how that chapter will begin...

Teketha's brother, Tim Awbrey was a big, big man. He could be wildly slightly intimidating.

But once you saw him flash that huge grin, you soon realized he had an even bigger heart. At that point, the "fear factor" quickly faded. He was a man who was surrounded by people who loved him...for good reason. He gave his all to everything he did, including loving others.

On Wednesday night, that giant heart within a giant of a man gave out...and today we said our goodbyes.

Tomorrow, I'll be honored to share more of what I knew about Tim Awbrey and what I learned today about his family and the foundations upon which God steadies such mighty men.

You see, solid souls often spring forth from the smallest seeds...and with a little reflection, I believe, we can find deep lessons about ourselves within such knowledge.

Tim Awbrey
1950 - 2009

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Handy Reprise

Author's note: This may sound familiar to some...with good reason.
Previously posted in 2003

I just got back from the church where a friend and I did some mowing and then "assisted" in the moving of a large metal storage shed onto the property. Describing my role as "assisting" is really a stretch. Several young men and the husky dad of two of them came with a trailer, tools, tie downs, and trucks. We caravaned over to the home of the couple donating the shed and then I pretty much got out of the way. Oh, I helped lift and move it a few feet, but really the work was done by the other guys. The guy guys. These are guys who can tune up a car engine, change their own oil, fix stuff. They have pickups, and toolboxes the size of my car. They grunt. They spit. They grumble and look scornfully if you use a piece of equipment improperly and they reminisce about how they shared near death experiences involving power tools. When they hear the term "field dress", the image that pops into their minds has nothing to do with a garment worn by a character on "Little House on the Prairie."

They are entrenched in good standing in the "all things male" club.

I would never get past the membership committee.

"Are you now or have you ever been handy?"


When I remarked that the shed looked pretty secure on the trailer long before it had been tied down with multiple crisscrossed two inch by 27 foot ratchet straps tested to 10,000 pound breaking strength, one of the guys looked at me warily and said, "I was hauling freight over the Rockies when I was 18, I learned a few things!"

With visions of Conestoga wagons and the Donner party swirling by, I waved the white flag.

"Are you now or have you ever been handy?"


I don't know when I strayed off the testosterone trail. Actually, I'm not really sure I was ever on it.

I truly wish I was adept at some of these things, but I've accepted the fact that I'm not...and I'm not ever going to be.

Our friends moved last week and Amy was helping them. During that process, I stopped by to drop something off and saw that Amy was taking the doors off their refrigerator so that it would fit through the doorway.

"Are you now or have you ever been handy?"

"No... but is there any chance I could join the club on my wife's membership?"

I wrote this piece almost six years ago. I'm repeating it now because yesterday an old friend stopped by tell me that the big burly guy I mentioned in this piece as having "hauled freight over the Rockies" had died. He was a big bear of a man...with a big heart. Tomorrow Amy will sing as we serenade him to Heaven, where I'll bet he's already doing God's heavy lifting.

Monday, May 04, 2009

In All The Hoopla

In all the media hoopla over the White House dog...and now swine flu...I some how missed this important addition to American culture...Jello sculptures.

The White House in Jello...marking the president's first 100 days.

No punchline needed.