Friday, March 31, 2006

It is finished

I buried my father today. The funeral was terrific - if you can say that. I said my final good-bye while seeing his body. I wept over the open casket. It was very, very good.

Although there were many tears, there was also much laughter. My dad wanted there tyo be laughter at his funeral. He also wanted rock music played - none of that organ crap or hymns. So, rather then Fanny J. Crosby, there was Steppenwolf, Rolling Stones, and Three Dog Night. He was rolled out to the coach to "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog." I'll make the "soundtrack" list available to you soon.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A poem to my father

Click here for funeral details
In 1994 I was flat broke living in Houston, Texas trying to find my butt with both hands (one of my dad's favorite sayings). I made the trek back to Minnesota for Christmas, but had only enough money for gas and maybe a Wendy's #1 combo meal. In short, I had nothing for Christmas gifts. So, I wrote everyone in my family a poem.

This poem is certainly no piece of literary excellence and will not be gathered into even weak vanity anthologies. What it does have going for it is some terrific hope and love. It was my heart back then and is my heart now. There are also some hidden meanings that I will flesh out some in italics between the verses.

Here goes:

Father, My Father
Father, my father,
To whom could I go
To learn the things
Your son ought to know?

To combat his sense of guilt and failure as a father, I wanted to give him a sense of exclusiveness in our relationship. If it isn't him, then it's no one. He is my one and only irreplaceable father.

No, you're not perfect,
No man can be,
But you're the perfect father,
For God sent you to me,

This second verse continues the first thought and justifies it with Divine authority. It was God's will that he be my father. This makes my claims in the first stanza irrefuteable. My rhetoric makes it such that he would have to take objections up with God, not me.

To teach me specific truths
Through failures and success,
You've been ordained by God,
My life to bless.

This verse serves to give value, not condemnation to his failures. Good came out of what he did, no matter what he did. The word"ordained" is crucial here. Before I was born, he was baptized as a young and newly married adult and wanted to become a preacher. This is actually a little known secret, even to me until I was an adult. He did not become a preacher because the elders of his church at the time said that he was not ready and would need to wait probably two years to mature. Though they were probalby right, he was deeply wounded by this. So, the word "ordained" here touches on the fact that he ministered to me. It didn't matter if her was not ordained by the church, God went ahead and did it anyway.

Father, I love you,
Though I am far away;
A thousand miles is nothing;
You're here when I pray.

This verse closes the immense geographical gap from Houston, Texas where I was living to Eagan, Minnesota, where he was living. It serves to connect us. It also leads into the next verse.

Father, don't stop teaching,
For I'm not done learning;
I'll always be your son,
Though the years keep turning.

Though I was a grown adult, that fact did not mean I had arrived with wisdom, knowledge and was no longer in need of him. He needed to know that his job was not done and that he is always going to be of value to me.

You're a great man, dad,
It's easy for me to see;
I saw it most clearly,
When you bowed and prayed with me;

The use of the words "great man" is deep here, though it sounds shallow. I had been to a retreat earlier in that year where I came to grips with how I had hate and contempt in my heart for my father. I had acknowledged it and came to complete forgiveness. He and I reconciled after that retreat when I shared with him my heart. I apologized for how I had treated him and vowed to love him without condition from that point forward. We wept and hugged and it was beautiful.

Anyway, at the retreat I went through an exercise whereby the end result is an affirming statement about your own identity, generally in the context of God's view of yourself. Most people came up with these beautiful and detailed statements that captured an deep inner truth. Mine was this: "I am a great man." Seriously, I couldn't think of anything else. So, when I called him a "great man" it was more than just a tritte thing you say, it was a deep statement of our collective identification together. There is so much we between us.

Perhaps here on Earth
I'll see you now and then,
But more than in this life,
I want to see you in Heaven.

This is the line that got me crying again when I read it today. Living so far from him, I knew that I might see him once per year - maybe twice. I felt the weight of that distance so often. But the one comfort I had was a desire to see him in Heaven. I knew that was my ace in the hole. Well, that ace is my final play. I will do just that - I will see him in Heaven.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Funeral, Flowers & Memorials

1. The Funeral:
The funeral for Jame E. Gonzalez will take place at the Henry W. Anderson Mortuary at 11:00 am Friday, March 31st in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Click here for location.

2. Flowers:
Flowers are an acceptable expression of sympathy. Click here for address.

3. Memorial Gifts:
Feel free to donate gifts to your charity of choice in the name of James E. Gonzalez. Should you want to be directed to a specific organization, then feel free to donate gifts to The Better Life Counseling Center's Samaritan Fund - Click here for donation form.

Flaming Pine Youth Camp is also a charity that will receive a gift.

Thank you for the many prayers, kind words, and concern.

Without My Father

I thought I might be sleeping a little better than I am, but at around 2:00 AM, I am awake. I am posting from the kitchen table in my mother's house. To my left is a Jenga game toppled over. The past three days have been a Jenga game. The thing about Jenga is that eventually, the thing collapses.

I have had a bizarre dream, which is not out of the ordinary for me. Usually my dreams relate to what is going on in my life. This one is no different. ***Begin dream***In my dream I was with my son and we were trying to visit my father's apartment located at a retirement/assisted living facility. They were making renovations. We tried and tried to get to his place, but each effort was blocked by construction. So, my son and I climbed the scaffolds that looked like a jungle gym. It was very dangerous and my son took risks that a 6 year old doesn't realize are risks. We never made it to his room, so we decided to ask the doctor what was going on. The doctor kept avoiding us. Finally we cornered him and he gave some lame excuses why we couldn't get there. It was very frustrating. Then I saw some old familiar faces from back in my college days who were expecting a really good speech, a funny one. Well, I was too upset to say anything of value, let alone anything humorous - and I told them so. They were surprised at my directness and I didn't care. ***End Dream***

How is it that I can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is gone, but at the same time still wonder if it is really true? Right now there is no way to tally the facts that will quickly convince my heart that I will never hear my father laugh again?

We've had our last pizza from the Ole Piper Inn. We've had our last conversation about creating "a money mahcine," with sage financial advice from someone who couldn't control his spending. I've heard his last word of unconditional support on even the most ridiculous of my ideas. I'll never see him beam again in the presence of his grandchildren. I'll never get to hear him create or butcher any more cliches.

There are only so many people who are allowed into a person's inner circle and I just lost one of them. That irreplaceable slot will simply remain vacant for the rest of my life. I'll just have to deal with less. Now I am crying again. Yes, I am very sad.

There are a million little places that he has occupied in my being that are now empty. Yes, it's like that. One huge empty spot and a million little ones. It's going to take me a long long time to search and own all of those little places. I'm sure that I have no idea just how into me he is. That's how grief plays out. It is dealing with the gaping hole and finding every little spot that has been vacated. It is overwhelming for all of its hugeness and all of its smallness. It is micro and macro. It's like the bridge has collapsed and the road is riddled with potholes on all of the alternative routes. It's not like I'm lost, but that doesn't make this road easy to drive on.

When there was nothing else the doctors could do, we stood around him and he faded away. The heart got slower, the blood pressure dropped, his breathing quit completely - and he faded away. We all spoke our words and we ushered him out of this life in a prayer.

I wonder what he is doing right now. What are the first conversations a person has with the creator of the universe once arriving on that side of eternity? What does God reveal? I wonder if it feels like he's always been there. Is he getting some time with his mother? His sister? Are they giving him the tour? Do you get a little adventure time checking out the universe? I wonder if it is strangely familiar, like he finally realizes he has been seeing this place all along. Does he miss me? Can someone unbound by time miss someone bound by time? Just what is his perspective now?

Lord of Heaven, can you tell my father that I am so glad he is with you now? But will you also let him know how badly I miss him? My heart is glad for him, but so very sad for me. Will you gather my tears and give them to him as my love? Tell him I will be OK even though this world is a little smaller without him.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Fight Is Over

Just after noon on Tuesday, March 28th, my father passed on from this life to the next. Thank you all for the prayers and words. They matter.

It went like this: About 11:00 he began to have signficant respiratory problems on top of the problems he already had. There must have bee 10 doctors, nurses, and other medical people in the room working on him. The entire staff at The Ridges Medical Center in Burnsville, Minnesota are fabulous. They worked with skill and compassion.

They tried to get a new breathing tube into his chest, but it did nothing. He just couldn't get enough air into his lungs. His vitals were shrinking slowly. The pulmonologist and the "main" doctor said that there was little chance of anything good happening at this point. So, we decided to stop treatment and allow him to pass.

We had about 15 minutes with him, holding his hand, talking to him, and weeping. It meant a lot to stand with my family over my father and pray for his transition from this life to the next. I managed to ask God to keeop him entertained until I get there. Geez, is that what you say? Well, I guess it's what I say, anyway.

Of course I am deeply saddened and have cried so much. At the same time I am relieved for my father. His fighting is over. His is free from his turmoil, tumult, and pain. No more striving and fighting.

And frankly, I am relieved for myself. I won't see my father for a long time - when I go to see him - and that is the place where my hope lies. I don't think I could have lifted my hopes for his physical life much more. I'm tired and drained.

Now we make all the funeral decisions. I know that some readers of this blog are close personal friends who will want to show their sympathy through flowers or cards or gifts. I will make this kind of information available on this blog. I also know that some readers of this blog are people I have never met. So, making this information available is in no way some kind of solicitation for anything. This blog is merely a conveneitn way for me to communicate informaiton that will be relevant to whom it is relevant. I feel a little saying saybing such, but I'd feel much sillier being mistaken in my intentions.

I am at peace. I am sad. I am OK. Again, thanks for your prayers.

Fighting Like Hell

At noon the interventional radiologist comes in to determine if he can get a dialysis line put in. If he can, then we might be able to get rid of the sepsis and the fluid that is building at the rate of 10 pounds per day. Yes, he is gaining 10 pounds pr day because his is in kidney failure.

If the interventional radiologist cannot put in the line, then the question is how to die.

His blood pressure is good and he is off all pressers and BP meds. This is an unexpected positive turn. His breating is still completely on the vent.

He's not going to go without a fight and we will fight for him.

On another note, I am thankful for a hospital room that has such good air ventiliation that the room does not have the "sick" smell in it - much anyway.

I'm going with khaki and black

No news overnight. I'll be to the hospital soon. I will have something more to report then.

When we got word about my father's situation, we left Arkansas from my in-law's house with the clothes on our backs. No coats or toothbrushes. Since we didn't feel like we could afford the 3 hours to get back to home and pack and make it MN the same day, I'm wearing what I wore Friday and everyday since. We've taken a trip to Target to pick up some essentials and my mother's washing machine is getting daily use.

Wearing the same clothes daily is kind of weird, except for the fact that I don't care. Priorities change in the presence of the truly important and truly meaningful. I've though a time or two about the fact that some people wear their same clothes everyday - because they don't have anything else. These people don't have the luxury of ICU medical care. Their ill loved ones would just die without any intervention.

I guess where I am going with this is that I am so grateful for what I have.

Monday, March 27, 2006

High Risk Measure

The 2 kidney doctors have said that putting in a line for dialysis is not possible . They will not even try it. If he does not get dialysis, the sepsis will kill him. If they try to put in a line, the risk is so high that any mistake will kill him. It is a catch-22.

One of the kidney doctors mentioned that an intervention radiologist might be able to get a line in. If they can't do it, no one can.

So, if they tihnk they can get it in, we will ask them to try it, even though it is extremely risky and likely to fail. If we don't try it, he will certainly die.

We face this potential decision Tuesday morning.

"Is your dad saved?"

Is your dad saved? or Has he been baptized?

I've got this question only once - verbally. Many others have thought it, but didn't ask. You might be thinking it as well. It's a good question and it is OK to ask. If you are a Christian, then it might be THE question.

I don't know how to answer the question. Yes, he was baptized. No he has not been to church in decades. Yes, he believes in God. No he doesn't read his bible - ever. Yes, he is a "good person." No, he has some terrible habits. Yes, he prays. No, he does not live the "Christian" life.

What makes someone "saved?" If the question really means, will he spend eternity in Heaven with God? Then I believe that he will. He will because Jesus died for his sin. Jesus saves - brings to eternal Heaven - those whom He died for. Those wishing to bypass Heaven will probably be granted a pass and not be required to go. However, I have the feeling that my father is willing.

Now, think of the saved question as something like this:

Will he be relieved of the consequences of his bad habits?
Will he be free from his frail and ailing body?
Will he never fear again?
Will he know the fullest extent of forgiveness?
Will he finally know love?
Will he be freed to see the wonders of God?
Will he know his worth?
Will he be freed from depressive moods?
Will he be free to speak his heart?
Will he finally exit the dark shadow of his father?

So, is he saved? Well, in many ways he has always been saved. In others, he is on the verge of being saved.

Death Interrupted

Life is unpredicatable, as you all know. So is death. Last night it appeared that we would make a decision today. Today, we are in limbo. Although the improvements are minor, they are enough to make us take pause and not rush into a decision to end life support. Once life support is removed, there is no going back.

Also, as my father is able to respond with head shakes, we are deferring to his wishes as best as we can. He wants to live.

To pick up where the past post left off, he's afraid to die. It may be that his fear of death is what keeps him alive right now. His "I want to live" might not be as strong as his "I don't want to die." Although those might sound like the same thing, believe me, they are not.

On an emotional level, there is intermittent sadness interrupted by longer periods of "get-r-dun," sprinkled with "I wish I could do something that actually does something." My father has lots of siblings. Naturally they are welcome, but at the same time, my emotional bank is low on funds and I just need to get away now and again. Burger King was a good time out. It had a playland for the kids.

Fear and Death

First of all, thanks for all the prayers and concern. This is a hard time and to know that there are people praying is a comfort.

This morning, my father became more awake than at any other point since this began. His heart rate and blood pressure have stablized, though they are seriously helped by two pressers - meds that regulate blood pressure. He is still on hte highest oxygen at the highest pressure. His kindeys are still not functioning. Although there are a couple minor improvements, nothing about the biggest picture gives any hope.

But he can communicate and that makes a difference. He can shake his heart. So, we can ask him questions.

This morning he was trying to speak. No one can speak with a breathing tube, so we begin this game of 20 questions. In short, he's afraid. He is a afraid of death. Most people are.

Doctor's in , gotta go.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Impossible Choice

I sat in a room with doctors, my family, my siblings, mother and friends. The doctors made it clear: the chances of my father living were minute. Every single option, which were few, were riddled with complications, problems, and massive challenges. When you have to line up 5 "ifs" in a row in order to have a chance to live for a month, and that month will be filled with breathing tubes, dialysis, and constant risk - you have to wonder what the person who is suffering wants.

My next meeting was with my brother and sister. We are the three who make the decision on what to do. We talked, we wept, we prayed. We decided that more efforts would be prolonging his pain, not his life. When we wake up Monday morning, we'll talk again to see if we still think like we are tonight.

So, tonight I try to sleep.

Unless there is a miracle, we will end life support soon


Mobile Email from a Cingular Wireless Customer

The value of a good nurse

When your loved one is in ICU and things are not looking good, having a good nurse brings peace. Kelli is bringing us some peace. She is constantly busy doing something, but she is never too busy to talk and explain in clear terms what she is doing and how my dad is doing. She is pleasant and smiles. I get the feeling that she really cares.

This is important. Have you ever had a health care worker who is just doing their job? Punching the clock? Getting a paycheck? No good. You want one who cares. Either Kelli cares or she is really good at making us believe so. I think she cares.

Right now, we wait. Waiting is difficult. You can't do anything, but you don't feel like you can do anything else.

Posting From The ICU

The news is worse today.

"I don't think things could get worse," said the pulmonologist.

In addition to heart and lung failure, he has kidney failure. He has sepsis and they suspect something going wrong with his brain as one of his eyes is unusually swolen. They would do a CAT scan, but cannot because he is so large. They ahve a bed that flips over and would effectively have him facing the floor in order to assist his breathing. Again, too dangerous because of his size.

I finally cried this morning. It's been coming. The thing is, when the sedative dosage is low, he is responsive, moving his hands and opening one eye. He can answer questions with hand movements. It was a little easier when I believed he didn't know what was going on, that he was on life support. If he is aware as he seems to be, then he knows.

I am watching my father die. He's 59. I feel sad, helpless, and I don't know how to talk to him. I've said, "I love you," and the kinds of things you say, but then I am a little speechless - a lot speechless.

Pray For My Father

I am posting from the ICU room where my father lies hooked up to about 6 different machines. He is in a Minnesota hospital. He has respritory failure, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and various infections. He is not conscious. He has a breathing tube, feeding tube, and loads of antibiotics rushing into his veins.

Please pray.

A little history: My father's health has been poor for a long time. This current situation is not a major surprise. We all (me, my bro & my sis) have known it was only a matter of time before he would hit a major health crisis. However, that fact does not make it any easier now that the day is here.

Right now, we wait. Will he regain the ability to breathe on his own? Will his blood pressure bounce back? Will his irregular heart beat regulate? Was there any brain damage while his oxygen saturation was low for nearly an hour? So many unknowns.

Having to pull out the Health Care Directive he created four years ago was sobering, but necessary.

I'll post more later if I can.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Slain Minister's Wife Confesses

Amry Winkler says she did it. She killed her husband, a Church of Christ Minister in Selmer TN. Bloggers have the story here, here, and here.

This is a tragic event - frightening. From all accounts as of yet, there were no signs that this should have happened. No domestic violence reports, no drug abuse or affairs. No one seems to know what lead to this murder. Mary Winkler has yet to make any public statement.

Pray for Mary and the Winkler children as their life has just changed forever.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How Do You Age?

Why do birthdays become less and less exciting the older you get? It seems like the older a person gets, the less joy there is in the celebration of the birthday. When people are young, birthdays are exciting, but when they get to be parents the excitement diminishes. When a person nears retirement, you can’t even mention their age.

For example, my son just rushed into his sixth year with all the gusto he could muster. Everything was the greatest thing. The presents, the pizza, the movie – everything was simply the best. He basked in the birthday limelight like an academy award winner. The smile on his face so genuinely captured the joy and excitement that flooded his heart that there was no mistaking just who the birthday boy was. He’s loved and special and he knows it – in the innocent and unassuming six year old way of knowing it.

By contrast, my brother turns 40 next week. He has declared that there will be no parties, no presents, no scheduling of special events, no singing of “Happy Birthday” by the wait staff at the local restaurant (who sing it to the wrong tune, by the way - he wants nothing. He wanted us all to know, as he has for the past several years, that his birthday is just like any other day and that people need to quit getting all excited about that day – it’s just a day. He did concede a little and allowed the rest of the family to acknowledge that he is indeed a year older – and I think there might be a cake thrown in there somewhere, but not because he wants it.

Going further still, my mother’s birthday will be in September. Although she does expect a card or flower or something sweet, that does not mean she is celebrating her birthday. Rather than saying thanks for a card or small gift, she is just as likely to say: “Who cares about an F.O.B (Fat Old Bag) like me anyway?” (She has recently resorted to creative acronyms for her emotional expressions. I don’t even want to tell you what P.O.E means). Rather than a birthday party, she is more likely to throw herself a pity party, invite no one, and then be silently upset that you weren’t there. Oh, and for goodness sake, don’t mention her age, please.

So, for the sake of my mother, I will keep her age a secret. But I can tell you this: when I turn 59 I’m not going to hide it.

Well, now that you’ve accidentally wandered into the world of my family dysfunction, a dysfunction to which I generously contribute, how do you do birthdays? Do you suffer from B.E.D.S (Birthday Excitement Deterioration Syndrome) like my family does? Has our youth-obsessed culture got you dreading your next birthday, especially the birthdays ending in zero? Seriously, how many times can you be 29 or 39?

I want to propose a new way of thinking. Rather than obsessing about ways to remain young (and therefore important), how about considering the beauty of aging?

Huh? Don’t people get wrinkled and ugly when they get old? Well, for the sake of conversation, let’s pretend for just a minute that beauty is more than what the magazine covers have indoctrinated us into believing. For a moment, let’s think about beauty as something more than perfect skin, slender bodies, firm muscles, and huge…you get the point. Let’s go just a little deeper.

There is a certain beauty hidden only in the wisdom that comes (usually) with age. Oh sure, there are a few old cranks out there looking to make everyone as miserable as they are, but you just got to know that started long before they got old.

There is a deep beauty in a smile gracing the face of a person who has “seen it all.” I mean really, if you can live seven or eight decades on this planet and are still capable of smiling, then there is certainly something right with you – and beautiful, too. It is the smile of priorities finally coming into focus, finding hope in the legacy about to be born, and in the mysterious, almost adventurous, thoughts about what lies beyond this life here on earth.

I really think we have it backwards. Every next birthday should bring more joy, more excitement, at least more satisfaction. There is hope in aging. What a privilege: on my next birthday I get to be 37, and I can’t wait.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tell Your Stepfamily Story

If you are in a stepfamily, then:
Send Your Stories to Chicken Soup for the Stepfamily Soul

The author of Chicken Soup for the Stepfamily Soul is looking for inspirational, true stories, 1500 words or less, that will make readers laugh, cry, or be inspired. Stories should be positive, universal, and non-controversial. The “point” or “message” should be evident without preaching. No essays, commentaries, tributes, philosophical or biographical pieces will be accepted.

You may submit more than one story, whether original or a favorite from magazines, newspapers, or other sources. For each story selected in the book, a 50-word biography will be included about the author and a permission fee of $200 will be paid for stories and $50 for poems. The submission deadline is April 29, 2006.

Send stories with your name, address, phone number and email address on the manuscript to Jann Blackstone-Ford at Please put Chicken Soup in the subject line. If unable to email, please send a hard copy (and on disk if possible) c/o Chicken Soup for the Stepfamily’s Soul to P.O. Box 1700, Discovery Bay, CA 94514. Due to the volume of stories we receive, we are unable to respond to each contribution. Finalist, only, will be notified prior to publication.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Brag about your blog

OK, here is what I am looking for. I want you to boast about your blog or website. So, here is how to do it. Provide the follwing information:


City of residence:


Name of blog or website (with url if you want):

One sentence on why your blog is worth reading:

Monday, March 20, 2006

King of the Hill (part 3)

King of the Hill part 1

King of the Hill part 2


...until a voice came screaming, "Stop it! Get your hands off of him!" The voice was fierce and feminine and not going to be silenced. Mod looked up and saw Pomo rushing toward him. She moved close enough to grab his hand. She pulled and pulled, but couldn't budge Mod. The mud has completely cemented him in from the waist down. Pomo gave it all she had, but she didn't have the strength to pull him out. The rain began to fall hard. Mod's opponents and enemies remained nearby, but only to mock and see if they would be able to seize an opprtunity to be the next king.

Mod was fighting for his life in desperation, but also found that he was not actually being helped by Pomo. So he screamed above the noise, "Woman, I don't want you to pull, I want you to dig." When she heard this, Pomo realized that she was not using her strength to help, but her weakness. So she began to dig. Slowly and not without much trouble, she did begin to loosen Mod's position from the cement-like mud. The crowd of enemies began to disperse when they realized Mod was going to be freed once again

When Mod was finally free, he grabbed Pomo's hand firmly saying, "Come on, let's get out of here!" They ran swiftly away from the hill. After they left the hill, the legion of enemies Mod had accumulated converged back on the hill only to have the hill completely swallow them all. Mod and Pomo looked back to see the horror of it all.

Pomo said, "We've got to go back."

"No," said Mod, "it's too late."

Pomo knew he was right, but her heart broke at their demise She wept. Mod looked at her, and for the first time in a long time, wept as well. He wept for their death, but also wept because he was one of them. He felt he deserved their fate.

When they had found a field full of flowers, the sun came out and they stopped for a break, both exhausted from the journey. Mod looked at Pomo and asked he why she came for him. She told him that it was not that she didn't like him, but rather that she didn't believe in the way he used his power.

She then invited him to come to the valley. Mod had been anti-valley for so long that he was quite uncomfortabel with it all, but agreed. They traveled to the valley, but when they arrived where the valley should have been, they found what looked like war zone. The hills surrounding the valley collapsed into the valley as the result of a devastating earthquake. There were still screams of suffering people who needed to be saved. Mod and Pomo rushed to their rescue - Pomo digging and Mod pulling them out. They couldn't save everyone; there were just too many of them, but they did save as many of they could. They saved hill people, valley people, field people, sky people and even some animals that were stuck in the debris.

Finally, they collapsed onto their knees under the weight of their work - half crying, half laughing. They had sought every last voice calling for help and heard no more. Completely covered in mud, smelling like sweat and blood, Pomo looked at Mod and said, "You know what?"

"What?" Mod answered.

"You're kind of cute."

"Geez! I didn't think you'd say that."

"Well, it's true," she flirted.

"Well Pomo," Mod flirted back," I have to be honest - you look hideous." Mod smiled to reveal his lie.

Pomo sat back with her hands on her knees and looked down at the ground and said, "The only problem is that it would never between us."

"What are you talking about?"

"You know it's true, Mod," Pomo insisted, "we don't really agree on anything."

"Agreement?" Mod retorted strongly, "You saved my life. I agree with that."

Mod and Pomo lived their lives hand in hand looking for people crying out to be saved. On the quieter days, Mod looked to the hills and Pomo looked to the valleys, but they were too busy saving people who were covered up in the mud to bother with hills and valleys much. They both had times when they secretly wondered if they were missing out on something, but the joy they felt while pulling people out of the mud was what they had been missing out on all along.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Contextual Antecedents of Spiritual Mutism

Since I will be entering grad school in a few months, I need to practice creating academic sounding titles. This is my first effort.

The meaning of the title has to do with exploring those things which contribute to an individual's or community's inability to create and initiate emotional expressions.

Spiritul Mutism - A spiritual mute is someone who is a spiritual person, has spiritual depth, and contains within them spiritual meaning. This person, however, is extremely or perhaps even completely limited in their repertoire of expressing that spiritual depth and meaning.

I contend that much of American Christianity is spiritually mute. This may come as a surprise with all the exposire faith gets inthe media these days. However, much of what I see is agenda-driven, denominational exaltation, or politcal pandering. Many American Christans limit their spiritual expression to two things:

1. Chruch attendance
2. Parroted statements proting their denomination or their political party.

If that is all there is, then that person is spiritually mute.

Contextual Antecedents - These are the forces at work which move to silence the spiritual voice in a person or communtiy. I will briefly explor two of these: media culture and church culture.

Media Culture - American have so much media available to them for so cheap that becoming a passive consumer is nearly irresistible. Media and technology are terrific, but the seduction is powerful. Technology is good whe it makes our lives easier, but it is bad when it does our thinking for us. It is wrose when ot does our thinking for us and we continue to hold to the belief that we are doing our own thinking. Media and technology is never more powerful than when its influence is invisible.

Christians are finally finding ways to master technology and media rather than becoming a slave to it. This is good news, but not nearly as pervasive as it needs to be. Rather than people of faith being absobred by media and therfore becoming spiritually mute, they need to use the very same media in relevant ways to express their spirituality.

Another problem with media is that is it actually used to prmotoe spiritual mutism. The media culture has also empowered political and denomnation propaganda. Through various media, political and denominational Christians have found been able toset up strawmen and broadcasting incompatible dualisms with terific rhetorical power. When media is used this way it gives the illusion of spiritual communication, but it si the kind of communication that mutes true faith expression.

Church Culture - The Reformation brought the Bible into the hands of people. That was a good move. It has always been God's desire for Himself and his visions and dreams to be nearere and nearer to his people.

The problem is that what people have done in response to the church structure is to outcource what implications the Bible makes on their lives. Below is a list what is being outsourced by some:

Biblical interpretation
Spiritual formation for children
Spiritual formation for teens
Leadership in the faith context
Family Ministry
Distribution of help to the poor

You know that the list could go on and on. America is all about outsourcing - getting someone else to do what I could, but I still get to take credit for the finished product. OK, that's a real cynical perspective, but we have been trained to find a better way to do things, maximize productivity, and get the most bang for our buck. That naturally bleeds into spirituality.

So, if we outsource most of the space in our lives and the opportunities for spiritual expression, then why would we ever speak? All the expression is being done for us. We are much better at spiritual delegation than spiritual expression.

OK, it is for this reason, the epidemic of spiriutal mutism, that I like so much of what the church that is emerging is doing. Their worship fosters the freedom for multiple forms worship expression. Their emphasis on social justice provides context for expressions of faith to the poor and broken that goes deeper than colonizing and converting to modenrity. Their emphasis on holistic community life that goes outside of the Sunday morning chuirch attendance model. Their emphasis on faith in the home is crucial and maybe their best feature.

No wonder seminaries are fuilling up while pulpits ares being abandoned. People are resisting their spiritual mutism they are being instiuttionalized into. No wonder why the nuber of unchurched, but fully committed Christians spiking. They aren't going to be silenced by the sublted and nuanced silencing of their institutions any longer.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

King of the Hill (part 2)

Read King of the Hill Part 1 here.

Postmodernity grew weary of keeping Modernity in her periopheral vision. It was too painful for her to watch what looked like a perpetual exercise in futility. She changed her name to Pomo and walked on.

Modernity was mad, fuming mad, but deep down he was mad because he was hurt, though he would never admit that it hurt. He felt abandoned in his most difficult struggle and hated how others kept referrning to him as, "Mod," a name he would never have taken for himself. He knew how to handle others trying to take away "his" hill, but he never pondered the hill itself would become his adversary

Pomo found lots of hills and valleys on her journey. She felt like she was walking through a story book. Some of the hills had their own kings ruling their own little fiefdoms, but there were some hills with no king. And then she realized with a self-congratulating feeling of enlightenment - "no one rules the valleys, only the hills."

Pomo had a plan. She would find a valley and rule it - humbly of course, with no tyraany like those terrible kings. No, she would be a delicate Queen of the Valley. The valley itself would be a symbol of how power flows - the most important people on the bottom, supporting all the others rather than on the top keeping everyone else in their places.

She found the perfect valley, beautiful and lush, thick with every living thing. She named it Paradise for that is what it seemed to to. On the distant hills to either side, she saw those poor and hapless kings fighting for their lives, for their hills, trying desperately to keep things as they had always been. Sometimes she felt sad for these kings, but sometimes she laughed. Other times she felt bitter as she had many friends who had been knocked down and hurt by such kings.

Meanwhile, Mod was in trouble. He'd gotten stuck hip deep in a mudslide that stripped away about a third of his hill. From the waist up he could move, but from the waist down, the mud packed in so tightly that he couldn't budge. His hill had finally turned on him completely.

"Help! Help! Somebody! Anybody!" Yelled Mod. But no one came. In fact, some of those he had beaten began to beat on him. There wasn't much life left in Mod until...

Monday, March 13, 2006

King of the Hill

Modernity is a guy with huge muscles knocking down everyone else who want to take "his hill." Postmodernity is a girl digging a tunnel under the hill, trying to find something she's never seen before. Modernity is mad at her because she isn't trying to beat him up. She never gives him a chance to "win" on his terms.

She really doesn't want to win. Instead, she is trying to figure out if the hill is something worth standing on. He keeps wanting to fight and she keeps wanting to dig.

In a strange paradox, the very act of digging has made the once strong hill now compromised. However, it was not merely the digging, but the discoveries found in the digging. What is discovered is that the hill is eroding from an underground river with an actual current. Although it won't happen instantly, eventually, the hill was going to collapse on its own - the digging just sped up the process.

Modenrity learns that the hill is sinking and does whatever he can do to prop it up. Modernity's energies are now divided in three ways - protecting the hill, propping up the hill, marketing the hill as something worth having. Modernity needs competitors to justify his existence. Postmodernity is saddened, but also a bit relieved that the hill is not all that is what said to be.

Modernity, now frantic, frustrated, and tired, throws a mean and contemptuous look at Postmodernity - knowing that his problems are all her fault. She responds by inviting him to leave the hill. That really ticks him off. He's not leaving no matter what.

Postmodernity has a choice: Either try to save the sinking hill, build a better hill, or find a way to live where hills and owning those hills are not the point of living. Postmodernity struggles because if she lives a hill life, she knows what she is getting. But sadly, she knows what she is ultimately getting hopelessness. However, if she lives a not hill life, she struggles to explain this new life. All she can do is explain this new life in terms of what it is not because she has yet to figure out what it is.

Postmodernity makes one more effort to invite Modernity to leave the hill life and come explore into the unknown. Modernity yells some profanity at her and keeps propping up the hill.

Postmodernity walks away, but not too far away, for she knows that she needs Modernity to join her. She keeps Modernity in sight, but out of influence.

No one knows how long she'll keep him in sight. No one know where she's going. She is confiodent, however, that Unknown will not be nameless forever.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Marital Wilt

All you have to do to kill a marriage is leave it alone. No scandals or betrayals are necessary. Just put it on the back burner and let it sit. Just get too invovled with the kids, allow your hobby to fill up your free time, watch a lot of TV - you know, nothing wrong or sinful. That's all you gotta do. No one needs to be the bad guy (girl) here, just don't water it and that sucker will die.

A farmer told me once that all it takes to ruin a crop to the point of total loss is 6 dry weeks.

How's your marriage?

You Don't See This Every Day

Check out the story Willzhead is onto concerning the recent Alabama church fires.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Seed to Plants

Kairos is a church planting ministry located in Portland, Oregon. It is new; it is relevant; it is visionary.

A couple with whom my wife and I have grown to love are seeking God's will on the possibility of planting a church.

So, this couple is not just slapping up a "Church of Christ Meets Here" sign at the local elementary school on Sunday morning waiting for people to show up. No, that is the old way. They are entering into a process to determine wether or not they are called to church planting. Assuming they are, they will enter into a traning process through Kairos (which is modeled after and works closely with Stadia's very successful church planting system in the Christan Churches). This training process helps with team development and dynamics, church planting strategies, spiritual nurture, and financial support - everything that can be done to support a successful church plant.

This couple, who is going to the Discovery Lab to assess their readiness for church planting, needs some financial support in order to fund the costs of the lab and the travel to and from Portland.

I believe in church planting. I believe in this couple. I believe in Kairos. I believe in God. So, I am putting my money where my mouth is. You are invited to join in this mission.

So, go ahead and think about it. Within a week I will post about how you can support real live church planting with your seed money.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Secret Message of Jesus: A Review

Is there any interest in a "Secret Message of Jesus" blog bookclub?
The Secret Message of Jesus is Brian McLaren's new book. Here is my review:

First of all, this is McLaren's best book. It is more accessible than "A Generous Orthodoxy," but more straight forward than the "A New Kind of Christian" trilogy. It is filled with his best thinking as of yet. And whereas McLaren deconstructs Hell in "The Last Word...," here he is deconstructing the Kingdom of God. But here he does not leave us hanging in some kind of limbo about the Kingdom of God, he presses the message Jesus was trying to send all along - a message that people (Americans perhaps more so) so easily miss with our layer upon layer of culture, philosophy, addictions, and bias.

When you think about the Kingdom of God, some ideas probably come to your head. Many of them are probably good ideas that mesh with Jesus' meaning and some of them are probably a little whacked. The problem is that you don't know they are whacked.

In The Secret Message of Jesus, McLaren is at his very best doing what he does best - decontaminating. Here is what I mean: This book is about The Kingdom of God. Seems simple, right? Well, the further you get into it the more you realize that Jesus was set in a political context that brings vivid color to what "Kingdom" meant to him and the people who listened to him - friendly and hostile.

It is impossible to walk away from this book reading the gospels the same - or the letters of Paul for that matter. McLaren shows how Jesus selected his Kingdom language intentionally to provoke the powers and systems that were in place. Jesus did not accidentally disrupt and disturb the powers that be, he went after those in power with his language. Throughout the book, McLaren anticipates your questions, assumptions, and objections and addresses them gently, but convincingly.

What is most important about this book is that he takes the Kingdom of God from the ever after and places it into the here and now. He directly and forcefully confronts the notion that it's all about going to Heaven and reframes it with a more appropriate frame, it is all about what God is doing right here and now and how we can participate in that reality. The Kingdom of God is not waiting for the end of the world.

What was most frightening about this book is that Jesus calls us to lay down our defenses. Jesus was not using metaphor when talking about loving our enemies. With the current level of violence in the world, who is willing to take Jesus at his word? Can America love radical Islamists? That would be the end of America, wouldn't it? But then you have to go back and ask, does the Kingdom of God need America? It's very difficult to comfortable with Jesus.

Finally, with so many references to Roman power and empire and how Jesus responded to it, you know without a doubt that he begs the reader to look at the power structures of today and not to get to comfy with them. More pointedly - American power. He never names names, but he does not have to.

As is his custom, McLaren draws from C. S. Lewis and other theologians to advance his point about Jesus' Secret Message. McLaren is great at taking what brilliant theologians think and bring it to a level that is understandable, but not insulting. Somehow, I can see that the audience for this book is not only Christians, but people wanting to know about Jesus without all the religious and denominational baggage that seems to be attached all too often in talk of Jesus.

This book is a clean look at Jesus.

My favorite line in the whole book was this:

The Kingdom of God doesn't have to wait for anything else to happen.

If there is hope in this world it is found in that sentence.

So is there any interest in anbook club blog discussing The Sercret Message of Jesus?

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Monday, March 06, 2006

The Secret Message of Jesus (Teaser)

Soon and very soon I will post a review of Brian McLaren's new book called, "The Secret Message of Jesus." It is his best. Yes, I know his other stuff is excellent, but I think that this one gets right to the heart of Jesus. It is more accessible than "A Generous Orthodoxy," and more straight forward than "A New Kind of Christian."

So, who is interested in a book club blog on this book? If there is enough interest, I will set up a blog for this purpose. I would love to get some dialog going about this one.

Trying out Ecto

Tall Skinny Kiwi recommends Ecto. I am trying it out here.

[composed and posted with ecto]

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Crash wins

Crash, my favorite movie in this year's awards, won best picture. If you have not seen it, see it now. It deals with how people touch each other, mainly through the lens of race. It does what "White Man's Burden" desperately wanted to do, but failed badly at doing.

Just a Little Idolatry

Lent is here. Today marks day five without a carbonated beverage. No big deal, really. My wife has been telling me of the negative health effects of soda, but I already know them. No more information needed. But I decided to give Lent a try and give up one of the things I do not need, yet access daily - Diet Dr. Pepper (and all other carbonated beverages).

I don't know much about Lent as it has always been a weird Catholic thing. So, what I know is that I am giving up something as a symbol of reflection and repentance. I didn't think it would be all that big a deal.

At the same time I am reading the new Brian McLaren book, The Secret Message of Jesus. I will have a full review later this week when I am finished with it, but it has been challenging my assumptions. I thought that McLaren had already challenged me all he could, but I was wrong.

Third, at my church we are working on series on the book of James. Good preaching.

The confluence of events seems to be challenging me greatly. I feel like I am getting into a rut, a bad rut, that is powerful, yet almost undetected. It's not that anything bad is happening, but the lack of badness does not necessarily mean goodness. I find myself being humbled by the fact that I cannot just grab a bubbly caffeine fix whenever, and now I have to figure out what to do instead. I find myself eating more - and now that I realize this fact, I must confront that little idol as well.

What is it inside me that wants that fix? Strange as it may sound, for me it has almost become a brazen expression of power, like a boiterous oil tycoon buying a Hummer with cash. What's worse is that I find that when I exert my force, it is for my perpetual comfort. I can get off appearing humble because of the apparent small scope of my selfishness - so apparently small that I never get called on it.

And yet what's the difference? Certainly we are to enjoy every good thing God provides, but we are not merely to enjoy these things. If enjoyment is the end of the story, then the story sucks. No one is capable of being perpetually self-indulged and happy. The effect wears off eventually. I should learn that this is true every single time, but I keep getting back into that same old rut. I tend to think that since this or that was exciting or thrilling or fun that it will be forever, and it never is. So rather than learn a lesson of the short-lived nature of pleasure, I seek out another pleasure and run that one into the ground, only at higher velocity.

So this Lent season I am learning about the impact the absense of one little idol has on my life. The fact that I don't know that to do with myself, even if it's for even one minute or two, because of not drinking carbonated beverages is reason to believe that the accumulated effect of all of my little idolatries defines too much of my life. What if I identified all of them and gave them all up? Then what? How many minutes a day would I not know what to do with myself?

The Kingdom of God is about freedom. I am not free. I choose to submit to the littlest of idols, just a little bit, just enough not to be busted - "at least I'm not..." You know what I mean. Just enough to kill me slow enough that I think that feeling is normal. Just enough to neuter me - there is activity, but where is that which brings life?

With my upbringing, struggles such as these would bring up doubt of salvation. Thankfully I have no such doubts. Hell does not loom over my head. But what I need to learn is that it is more than about just getting in. In fact, the Kingdom of God is not about getting in, it is about sharing the goodness of God right now! The reward, if that is how you need to think about it, is not the point. Success is in the doing right now. Very few people who run marathons run to win - they run to run.

Since I am guaranteed a prize, I should live like one who has no worries, no fears, no obsessions. I should be confident to walk right into someone else's pain knowing that pain might get on me, but also knowing that person is better off that I was in their life. Sadly, I am more confident in my ability to get comfy cozy in my life that no one dares confront.

My prayer today: God of spring daffoldils and tornadoes, God of Northen Lights and lightning, God of patience and passion, Father, Friend, Hope of all nations, I've got something to say. I live in a place and time where there is a powerful systemic gravity at work which flows in such a strong current such to lead me toward taking everything you give and constructing into something for my comfort. I've known the current was there for a long time, but I am only now beginning to see how deep it runs.

I don't know how to get out of it. Everytime I think I've reached the surface, I find I'm still 20 feet down. I'm drowning in it. Everyone I know is drowning with me.

I am learning more and more about the life of Jesus and see more and more that he is relevant right now. I see how he opposed oppressive power and used his power to lift people. Teach me that way. Give me opportunity to try. Give me sense enough to know when you are giving me those opportunities. Forgive me for being so dulled and numbed by the very gifts you meant for me to give away and not consume.

I want my children to speak of me as giving and sacrifical, but not in the indulgent way of so many parents today. Help me find a way before my children are too old to learn it from me.

So, what do you think? Can you help me?

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Marriage has been taking a beating for four straight decades. High divorce rates, lower marriage rates, and more couples co-habiting are only some of the factors wearing on the American marriage. These factors gain a lot of attention in the media because they are easily quantified and useful for whatever agenda the reporting agency has.

However, there is another way in which marriage is taking a beating that does not get all that much attention. It comes in the form of expectations. Each person enters the marital union laden with expectations – usually high expectations – fueled by a romantic perception of the fairy tale of marriage, access to lots of guilt-free sex, or the hope that the loneliness will finally cease. When the marriage gets beyond the honeymoon, many of these expectations get unraveled and the marriage settles into a pattern that slowly wears the couple down.

Let’s explore some of these patterns and see what we can do about them.

Pattern #1: The “It’s All Business” Marriage – This is the marriage in which both members of the marital unit work full time jobs and have no kids. They are bringing in more money than they really need. They had a terrific honeymoon that cost five digits and have a professional looking scrapbook to prove it. They are climbing the ladder of success at work, and yet are having this vague awareness that perhaps something is not quite right.

That professional smooth that gets them so far at work never gets checked at the door when they arrive home at six or seven in the evening. No, that smooth continues, a kind of faux peace that glosses over mounting conflict and makes nice, even if all hell needs to break loose. There is no fighting, just diplomatic negotiations. They are above conflict and take pride in that fact, but also cannot deny that they just don’t feel close.

Pattern #2: The “Isolated” Marriage – This is the marriage that is overrun in responsibilities with work and children and probably one more thing than can be dealt with. They are too busy for anything but that which functions to make the next day or moment possible. They want to be connected to other people, but they just cannot fit it into their lives. They probably do not go to church although they feel, like they should, and if they do, it is functional and not communal. If asked, they would not be able to name one person who really knows what is going on their marriage.

They feel alone, but are too busy to deal with that loneliness. Their lives are stressed and they feel always behind on something. Priorities to them means having to decide what good thing not to do. Usually that thing is social engagement on a personal level – friendships. This is the couple that when they finally get a moment to rest realize that not only do they have no friends, but that they hardly recognize each other.

Pattern #3: The “Disillusioned” Marriage – This is the marriage where one, if not both, in the couple complain that they never thought marriage should be so hard. They go ahead and enter into the hard decisions and the conflict, but they don’t feel like they should have to. Marriage was supposed to be the best thing to ever happen, living daily with their best friend and lover, enjoying every minute of everyday. What they feel like, however, is that the marriage is sometimes humdrum, boring, and without spark.

Sometimes efforts to spark up the marriage either fail or wander to dangerous areas that actually threaten the marriage. This adds to the belief that something is critically flawed – beyond repair. The bar is raised so high that every effort, no matter how good, falls short of the exaggerated expectation.

Quick solutions. First, be aware of the meaning of your dissatisfaction in your marriage. If you are not aware of it, you’ll probably just blame your spouse. Second, work to resolve the problem slowly, not all in one shot. You didn’t get dissatisfied overnight, so expect recovery to be slow. Third, understand that marriage is not only beautiful because of how enjoyable it is, but its beauty also flows from the depth of patience, wisdom, self-control, self-sacrifice, and character you gain from being so intimate with another free will being.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


A man lived on his central Texas patch of land just outside Midland. He enjoyed his few acres of land as best he could and a had a few head of cattle grazing on the sparse vegetation struggling to grow in the hot Texas sun. He'd retired, for the most part, to this piece of land that had been in his family for generations. The Great Depression had hit him hard. He was dirt poor, but mahaged just enough to survive. Even though the nation was seeing signs of life, the Depression still left his heart in the grave.

A young man approached this older fellow one day on his Texas land and asked him a few questions.

"Howdy, my name is Lew, and this is your lucky day."

"My name is Gerald - get off my land."

"Nice to meet you sir, I am here to help," said the young man.

"Don't need no help," retorted the old man.

"Sir, I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I have an offer you can't refuse."

"Get off my land. There, I just refused it." He left to retrieve his shotgun.

"Sir, if you would just hear me out I am sure that what I have to offer is a great value to you."

Gerald came back with his shotgun and said, "If you value your life you'll get off my land." He cocked the gun and pointed it at Lew. Lew realized that Gerald was serious and promptly left the land.

Lew wasn't finished with him yet. He sent mail and made calls and even sent a couple of telegrams. All with no response. Gerald became so frsutrated with Lew that he finally wrote a letter back to him.

Dear Lew,

You annoy me. I am sick and tired of your constant attempts to communicate with me. I will make a deal with you. You come out to my place and I will give you 30 minutes to say whatever it is you want to say. In return, you will commit never to contact me again in any way.

Sincerely and annoyed,


Lew received the letter with great joy. He made his way out to the little ranch the next day and knocked on the door. Gerald answered the door and said, "OK, you got 30 minutes, go." Lew did expect to at least be invited into the house, but he wasn't. He thought he might sit down with some tea or lemonade, but that was never offered. All he got to do wa to stand at the less than half open door and talk. No problem for Lew, Really, all he wanted to do was to talk. He was sure 30 minutes wouldget more time once he made his offer.

So, lew explained that this couple of acres where Gerald's ranch set was prime mineral land. In short, Lew told Gerald that he was sitting on a gold mine, a black gold mine.

This did peak Gerald's interest a bit. Gerald had always envied those rich oil people, even resented them some for their lives being so fat and easy.

"So, you got a plan, Lew?" Asked Gerald.

"I thought that you would never ask - here it is," said Gerald as he laid out some papers.

"I can't read all that mess. Just tell me what it says."

"Uh, yes sir. In short, if you sell all of your possessions and place your house under mortgage, then you will have enough money to buy and have install a couple of oil wells, a storage facility, and all the necessary pipes and fittings with a one year parts and service contract in case something goes wrong. And then..."

"Did you just say that I need to sell my poseessions?"

"Well sir, that is merely a temporary thing. With what the oil will bring in..."

"Are you crazy?"

"Sir, I assure you that I am not crazy, if you will just listen..."

"Son, you come in here and bother me until I give you 30 minutes just to tell me to get rid of everything I have for some cock and bull story about contracts and storage facilities? I could have spent this time feeding my cows."

"Sir please, I want to suggest that perhaps you are the crazy one."

"Get off my land."

"You did promise to give me 30 minutes and I believes I still have about 8 minutes left.

"Well sonny, you can talk, but I ain't listening.

"Thank you sir. The land you are sitting on is so oil rich that you could leave a legacy of security and fortune to generations to come."

"Son, I don't have no family, so I don't care about generations to come. Everyone I ever loved left me for dead - and they should have. What I did to them was unforgiveable. Even if they treid to forgive me I wouldn't' believe them."

"With all do respect, sir, the treasue that you sit on does not hold grudges. All you need to do is take a little temporary risk in order to secure the tools in order to dig deep and access the fortune, that sir, you already own."

This got Gerald to thinking. "Boy, if you are right, then what's in it for you?"

"Pardon me?" Lew answered surprised.

"Yeah, what's your angle? You want half? Do you represent the drilling company? Are trying to swindle me?"

"Sir, none of those things are true. I am merely a man trying to make life better for more people. I truly believe that the more people who access to the treaures they own
the better off everyone else will be."

"Are you running for office?" Gerald asked with a skeptical tone.

"No sir, I am not running for office."

"Then why are you telling me this?"

"Sir, I don't know how else to say it. You are sitting on a fortune. All you need to do is make a little sacrifice and then you will never have to worry about financial security again - and neither will your offspring. Who knows, maybe if you have something to offer them, they might soften and forgive you?"

This got Gerald thinking more and more. There was a glimmer of hope. The 30 minutes had been up for a few minutes, but no one was coutning at this point. Another question popped into Gerald's mind.

"How is it that you have the time to spend with me? How are you paying your bills?"

"Sir, I have what I have and it is enough, but that is no concern to you. It is what you have that matters to you."

Gerald asked Lew to come back tomorrow and Lew agreed. Gerald was confounded by the message of the young man. He couldn't deny that it was possible Lew was telling the truth, but on the other hand, his apparent lack of greed was suspect. Everyone is out for something thought Gerald, how could he not be in it for himself?

Gerald was dogged by skepticism. Why hadn't Lew charged him anything? Why not try to get him to sign a contract? Why not... and then it hit him. Lew was shrewd and patient. He knew the man had no offspring that mattered. Then it all made sense to Gerald.

Lew was excited for his meeting with Gerald. He arrived prompltly at 8:00 AM and knocked on the Gerald's door.

"Come in," he heard Gerald say from behind the door.

Lew opened the door and stepped inside the house, morning sun shining in the window, back lightintg Gerald. All Lew could see was Gerald's shadow with smoke rising from what looked to be a cigar and a long thin stick or something.

"Gerald? Are you ready to talk some more?"

As Lew spoke, Gerald's foot slipped a little bit from underneath him and kicked an empty whiskey bottle, which rolled over and stoped at Lew's shoe. Lew looked up with a slight bit of panic. Gerald was drunk and that stick he held was a shotgun.

"Boy, how dare you?" Gerald slurred.

"Sir, I'm sorry I don't know what you mean."

"Shut-up boy!" Gerald yelled, "you come in here to take advantage of an old man. I'll show you, you little son of a bitch." At that Gerald pulled the trigger and shot Lew in the chest. Lew's body slammed back against the half open front door and slammed it shut. Blood splattered on the walls and on Lew's face as life rushed quickly from his body.

Gerald stumbled to Lew's dying body.

"That'll teach you to steal from an old man." Gerald said with indignation.

Lew fought for a every breath, but each breath was more labored and soupy with blood than the one before. He looked up at Gerald and made eye contact. He had strength to say one nmore thing.

"Grampa," Lew said, "I forgive you - even for this. Please, take my offer." Lew's neck went limp and he died.