Thursday, January 26, 2006

Please Please Me

I think all music recorded after PLEASE PLEASE ME is just icing on the cake.

The other day I was listening to KRTH 101.1 FM and "Please Please Me" by The Beatles came on. I cranked that song up so loud. It was like I had never heard rock 'n' roll before. It was that good, for the 9,862 time. The next day I was perusing the collection for a disc to take in the car and I pulled PLEASE PLEASE ME out of the rack. Listening to that disc, I was once again blown away. What a great album.

There's track 7, the title track, but there's also "I Saw Her Standing There," "Love Me Do," and many other great Lennon/McCartney compositions. Not an original, but last track, "Twist And Shout" is perhaps the best rock vocal ever recorded. Most of this stuff was recorded at the end of 1962, and I don't really think there's been any music after it that is any better. Yea, I know U2 and all. I get that. People flip over Coldplay. I don't really get that. Granted, I've never listened to a Kanye West album all the way through, but I am going on record as saying music hasn't gotten much better since 1963. Every record recorded after PLEASE PLEASE ME is just icing on the cake for me.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Year Before Me

Sixty-eight written on the back in pen
and on the front a girl at the beach.
You were only twenty then
with a life of freedom within your reach.
A future of possibilities
for that woman in the sand.
An ocean of responsibility
came with that wedding band.
Out there by the sea
the vast waters mirrored your beauty.
You wondered who I would be
as you rose to motherly duty.
Dancing in the seashore dew
was me safe inside you.

--Shenandoah Lynd

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ann Marie

Opened that gate a thousand times
Near the fig tree on your corner lot
Strawberries growing near the alley
The comfort you gave couldn't be bought

Grapevines on your fence
Playing pool in your den
Late nights with Carson
It was simpler back then

Watching babies at church
You served there year after year
You gave birth to my mother
I miss you grandma my dear

Rocky Road candy bars
Peppermint ice cream
Lawrence Welk on the tube
It seems like a dream

Pigeons, crows, sparrows, doves
Fix 'em, tame 'em, take them all in
Fresh eggs from the coop
Seed from Kruse Feed filled up the bin

Watching babies at church
You served there year after year
You gave birth to my mother
I miss you grandma my dear

Little things I remember
Two decks for canasta
A trip to the track
You won that exacta

Men placing bets
Cigar smoke would cloud
Boy with his grandma
We'd both feel so proud

Watching babies at church
You served there year after year
You gave birth to my mother
I miss you grandma my dear

Alzheimers robbed you
I watched you fade
Three daughters and grandkids
A legacy you made

Like the infield so green
That day at the grave
This antique piano
Your memory plays

Watching babies at church
You served there year after year
You gave birth to my mother
I miss you grandma my dear

--Shenandoah Lynd

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fathers, part 2

Did you ever stop to think about how much of an impact our fathers have upon us? I'm convinced that so much of our character is shaped, for better or worse, by our interactions with our fathers. What's really scary is I've heard that many people get their impression or their notion of their Heavenly Father from their earthly father. Do you see God as an overbearing jerk? Perhaps, maybe, that's how your father was? Do you see God as mainly someone who "runs a tight ship" or just gives us a set of rules? Then, maybe your dad was the military type, barking orders, and wanted things just so? Maybe God seems distant and uninterested in you? You get the picture.

Hopefully, you see God as someone who couldn't possibly love you any less or any more than he does right now. Maybe, then, your father constantly expressed how his love for you could never change.

I'm not saying that we cannot fix our view of God. Right now I think I have a very healthy view of our Lord. I believe that He's very pleased with me. However, it took me years to get here.

This stuff really struck me when I was watching WALK THE LINE back in 2005. The impact of Johnny Cash's father on his life was profound, tragic, and unmistakable. If you haven't seen the movie, Johnny's older brother, Jack, was considered the "good" kid. He memorized his scriptures, he did the right things, he looked after his little brother, he was full of wisdom, and he was favored by Johnny's dad, Ray Cash. In a horrific sawmill accident, the older brother, Jack, is killed. It wouldn't have mattered, but Johnny was supposed to be with him. When Ray finds Johnny he hits him with three words that would haunt him forever: "Where were you?" Then, when Jack actually dies in bed, the father screams about God, "He took the wrong son!" Young Johnny heard those words and they were an albatross around his neck his entire life.

Later in the movie, Johnny's an adult and has a big house and he has a bunch of family and friends over for dinner. His father Jack is there and the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Finally, Jack lets his son have it. He holds his divorce against him saying that he may have a big house, but he's got nobody to share it with and then he hits him with the all-time zinger: "You're nothing!" Man, those words cut to the core. They cut to my core just sitting there in the audience. I really got to thinking about fathers after that.

If you don't get affirmation from your earthly father in life, you'd better get it from your Heavenly Father really fast or you're going to sink pretty quickly. It happened to John R. Cash, it happeneed to me, and it's happened to a lot of other people I know.

One of the most unmistakable encounters I ever had with God happened at a men's retreat back in October, 2003. A great leader, Rob Yackley, had been talking about what it means to be a man and then he sent us out to have time alone with God. Actually, before he sent us out he had simultaneously empowered us and called us to action as well as exposed our soft underbellies. I was a quivering wreck. I'll never forget being in the woods and reading Isaiah 61 wherein Isaiah says God has sent him to give comfort to the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed . . . . For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory. Today, reading that, I'm tempted to put it back into the context of Isaiah's time, but make no mistake about it, on that day, God had his hand on my shoulder and was talking to me. He said, "Doah, I don't care about your old wounds, you've nursed them long enough, they're healed now. You are not weak, you are strong, and I'm going to use you for my purposes. You're valuable. You're free! And, you've got what it takes." I literally felt something physical lifted from me.

After that, I walked over to this pond, found a handful of smooth medium-sized stones, and I took out a Sharpie. (Yes, I keep a Sharpie in my Bible in case George Lucas is taking a hike). I wrote down everything that I resented my father for and I wrote down everything I kept beating myself up for as it related to my father, everything I had done wrong. These were on individual stones. I then proceeded to throw them into the pond, one-by-one, as I did so, I was verbally taking my dad and myself off the hook for all of it. It worked.

One of the best books I've read is called "The Blessing." Written by Gary Smalley and John Trent, it's about how parents' approval affects everyone and how we can give acceptance to our children. I'll give you a bit of it. "For almost all children who miss out on their parents' blessing, at some level this lack of acceptance sets off a lifelong search." Moreover, "The best defense against a child's longing for imaginary acceptance is to provide him or her with genuine acceptance. By providing a child with genuine acceptance and affirmation at home, you can greatly reduce the likelihood" that they will seek acceptance in more destructive ways. They go into great detail on the five elements of the blessing.

The spoken aspect of the blessing is something that I longed for. My mom gave it to me, but I'm convinced that a son in particular has to hear it from his father. My birth father did some great things. For example, he taught me the value of education. He taught me to love music, I mean really love it. He took me camping and off-roading in Mexico (dig that photo from 1982, Bahia De Los Angles, Sea of Cortez). However, whether or not he realized it, what I heard in terms of me being valued was, "If you make good grades, you're valued." What I heard in terms of me being accepted was, "If you make it with enough women, you're accepted. You're a worthy man then." What I heard in terms of being loved was, "If you jump through my hoops, you're loved." Despite the fact that they were divorced when I was an infant, my mom, God love her, never uttered a bad word against my father. In fact, I recall her always saying, "Your dad loves you in his own way." I remember thinking, "What way is that?" My way is that I need to hear "I love you" and "You're important, you're somebody," and I didn't "hear" anything else.

Back to "The Blessing," the authors point out a misconception that parents have, "that simply being present communicates the blessing." And they stress, "Nothing could be further from the truth. A blessing becomes so only when it is spoken . . . . Without the spoken word of the blessing [your children] are left unsure of their personal worth and acceptance." Finally, "words of blessing should carry with them the recognition that this person is valuable and has redeeming qualities." Pretty simple, huh? In short, I sum it up this way: LET YOUR KID KNOW THAT THEY HAVE WHAT IT TAKES! As Smalley, and Trent say, "If you are a parent, your children desperately need to hear a spoken blessing from you" (italics theirs). Fathers, I'm so convinced that it is important that your sons hear verbal affirmation from you on a regular basis.

More toward the end of WALK THE LINE there is a great scene after Johnny's detox. June is sitting on his bed as he is coming-to. He says, "It should have been me on that saw." She won't hear it. She lets him know that he is somebody and he has what it takes. She says, "You've been given a second chance." He takes that second chance. That got me thinking, "I worship the God of second chances." That's what he gave me and I took it. Really all we want to hear is what June told John: You're somebody. You're valued. The past doesn't matter. God tells us all that in that while we were still sinners he sent his son to die for us. Did you catch that "while we were still sinners" part (Romans 5:8)? No hoops to jump through, no grade to make, no brother to save, just straight and complete love and acceptance. That's the kind of dad my Heavenly Father is.

"You're somebody important Doah," he said to me that day by the pond. Indeed I am. Thanks father.

I so wanted that last short paragraph to be the end of this post. Great ending. Alas, it cannot be. You see, my earthly father did better for me than his dad did for him. His dad was that broken. I know my dad, Grant, loves me very much. He showed me that in his way. The only way he knew how. My dad and I haven't talked in awhile, but I would love for him to know that I've got no hoops for him to jump through. He's somebody. He's valued. The past doesn't matter. That, in fact, was my regret, that's on the stone at the bottom of the pond: my own lack of grace and acceptance. When I think about that verse from Romans, it hits me that Christ died on the cross for Grant too. He's fully loved by God. I guess this blog post is my way of saying, "Dad, you're fully loved by me too."

Labels: , , , , ,

A Very Good Day

I once knew this old sober alcoholic. When I'd see him I'd ask, "How you doin' Bob?" Every single time he would reply, "It's a good day. I'm still breathing in and breathing out." He taught me a lot. I thought about him today.

A rare day at work, I got to go to another school to watch another teacher in action. Sitting in the back of the room like a student made me realize how hyper I was, but that is not the point. At this school, they have many developmentally disabled and severly handicapped students. The whole population is not like that, but they have special facilities and a large portion have serious physical disabilities.

One kid in the class I was observing just looked "off" as far as his legs go. He couldn't touch the ground with his feet while sitting in the chair. When he walked he couldn't help but tiptoe and he had to grab onto things, like pushing his chair across the room, and, at recess, he had a special walker thing. He was the sweetest kid though. When the timer went off on a math facts quiz and the girl next to him said, "Oh, man, I didn't finish!" He looked and said, "You only had three left. That's great."

On the wall there were these writing projects and one part said, "What I want to be when I grow up." All the kids had careers. This little guy simply wrote: "a dad."

When we talked to the teacher about her teaching and had an opportunity to "download" about our day, we asked about that boy. Turns out he has a degenerative and very severe condition and he is dying. She told us how he is just becoming more lethargic. In short, "It's so sad because he won't become a dad." The only one who put dad and he won't be one.

Then, I started looking around and the halls were filled with similiar children. Students strapped to mechanisms, a boy stuck going through a door because his wheel was lodged on the jam, kids that needed help going to the bathroom and they were in third grade. All of them smiling. Then it hit me: "What the hell is wrong with you Doah?" You're breathing in and breathing out today. Why do you ever get negative or selfish? I thought about my four children at home and how they can walk normal. Well, it was a very good day.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Best Movie of 2005

"Sadness is easier because it's surrender. I say make time to dance alone with one hand waving free."
--Claire Colburn

It's award season in Hollywood. As such, I've been thinking about movies from 2005. Recently, I got an e-mail from my cousin asking for my top ten list. I've decided to forego "top ten best of the year" lists. Instead, I decided I will simply announce my favorite film of the year. I don't care about critics or box office either. The best film of 2005 is ELIZABETHTOWN.

For me a great movie has to have an emotional impact. I'm not looking to be "entertained" anymore, I don't need great action, and I almost require that there be no CGI invloved. As I look back on the entire year, only ELIZABETHTOWN resonated with me so deeply as to stick with me months later. Another loose criterion I use is having the strong desire to see the movie again. Viewing a movie twice in a theater complex nowadays is a very rare occurrence for me. After watching ELIZABETHTOWN with Chrisy, about a month later, I so wanted to revisit the feeling that I went back for a second viewing. As it stands now, I'm really looking forward to the DVD release on February 7.

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, ELIZABETHTOWN is a little oasis in an island of remakes, sequels, and extended television shows from Hollywood this year. It's got an amazing soundtack and score to boot! On its face, ELIZABETHTOWN is a love story between Drew Baylor played by Orlando Bloom and Claire Colburn played by Kirsten Dunst. And, although I adore every interaction between these two characters, for me this film is really about three things: fathers, family, and failure.

When we meet Drew Baylor he's a successful shoe designer, the golden boy, a man at the top of his game. However, we quickly learn that he's caused an Oregon shoe company to lose an amount of money so big that you could round it off to one billion dollars. In short, he's the architect of a fiasco. With hysterical lines like, "I cry a lot lately," Alec Baldwin is so funny as Drew's boss that I was hooked on the film in the opening 15 minutes. Devastated, Drew realizes that "Success, not greatness, was the only god the world served." That's not a world he wants to live in. Unable to face his failure, Drew decides suicide is the only way out, but he is interrupted by the startling news that his father has died. He has to go to Elizabethtown, Kentucky to bring the body back home. It's on the flight that he meets Claire.

For those of you that really need something big to happen in a movie, you may never get the payoff. That's exactly what I think I like about this film: it just seems real to me. More and more I am realizing that I like small films that seem honest, like glimpses into someone's real life. Indeed, I think this movie fits very nicely with my number one film from 2004, GARDEN STATE as well as LOST IN TRANSLATION, my favorite from 2003. All three of these movies include authentic conversations that I felt I could have had, honest, at times even uncomfortable, but always true, and always bringing a smile to my face. For example, in ELIZABETHTOWN, after a wonderful phone conversation, you'd expect sparks to fly between Drew and Claire, but they have the transparency to admit, "We peaked on the phone" and go home. I love that moment because you don't expect it in a love story. Things you'd find in a cookie-cutter romantic comedy, you won't find here.

I feel that no moment captures the feeling of new love better than Drew and Claire's scene in an empty banquet room. Playing around, Claire goes to the microphone, you get the feeling she wants to announce, "I love you!" But, what comes out is the awkward, "Welcome to the annual meeting of people who annually meet, and we'll see you next year." It's courageous writing, it's bold to be so understated, it's the opposite of the spoon-fed, dumbed-down dish that Hollywood has been serving us. It's too wonderful for words.

There are many other moments between Claire and Drew that actually feel profound to me. In shotgun fashion these include Claire's observation that "Everyone is less mysterious than they think they are." Also, her question, "Do you ever just think, 'I'm fooling everybody?'" and Drew's response, "You have no idea." I love it when she says, "I think I've been asleep most of my life." Most importantly is the conversation in which Claire offers Drew her take on failure, "Do you think I care about that? You want to impress me, have the courage to fail big and stick around anyway."

As much as I love the romance, it's the family and father themed lessons that gave me the sucker punch to the gut. I love the discussion with his cousin Jessie wherein Drew tries to convince him that he and his deceased father were close, "I knew him very, very well." Jessie (brilliantly played by Paul Schneider) sees right through it, and, although he lives walking distance from his own living father, he confesses: "Yea, I don't know my father very well either." There are flashbacks to Drew and Mitch, a young boy and his dad having fun, these serve to magnify the tragedy of a dad and son growing so far apart. It's what makes Drew's realization that he should have spent more time with his dad, taken "that" trip, while he was alive so touching. At its heart, this movie is about accepting family as they are, spending time with people you love before it's too late, loving people despite their differences, and trying to extract joy from life while those you love are still around to feel the joy, have it rub off on them, and enjoy your laughter. It's really the same message as found in a song that is shrewdly used in the movie. I'm talking about Patty Griffin's "Long Ride Home" in which the main character figures things out too late. "40 years go by with someone laying in your bed, 40 years of things you say you wish you never said, how hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead?"

Without giving too much of the movie's nuances away--afterall, it's this film's nuances, not plot, that make it great--there are a handful of little concepts that I adore. Among them are the ideas: "If it wasn't this, it'd be something else," "substitute people," "last looks," and stopping to take snapshots in your mind of really beautiful moments in life. There are also the delightful tidbits that only Cameron Crowe could offer. These include an urn in a funeral parlor that says "KISS forever," a road trip set to music that one of my best friends could have compiled, a suitcase topped-off with Ryan Adams and Heart CDs, and a rousing live, almost fantasy-like, rendition of "Free Bird" by the now classic band "Ruckus." My suggestion: choose to buy-in, don't criticize, enjoy your role as the quiet observer, and just let your heart take over.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Driving Lessons

You taught me everything I know
don't own up
Important life lessons
keep track of all wrongs
Commitments are easy
showing up's hard
Make lots of plans
don't follow through
What it means to be a man
tally your scores
Apples don't fall far from the tree
use a subtle putdown
Family's invaluable
hide them when necessary
Love and money are important
keep them both in a safe
Start many projects
leave things undone
When looking for love
it's the outside that counts
Chip off the old block
win at all costs
In construction and life
build really strong walls
Give advice, favors, and gifts
bind with strings, contracts, and law
How to drive a car
don't spill the open container
Grace, mercy, and forgiveness are free
no, that was someone else

--Shenandoah Lynd



You've lost yourself
A type of mental suicide
She's outside now
You're all alone
Left with the demons
Pressed for an answer
Longing for an option
A solo impasse
Indifferent to values
A spiteful standoff
You against You
Either way it goes
You're the real loser

--Shenandoah Lynd


Life Flight

Sitting next to you
you're sound asleep
thinking how your beauty
turned this boastful man meek
I wonder if I'm in your dreams
if we're all alone
lovers in flight
a love in bloom
I could join you in dreamland
meet you there
yet sleep is not needed for me to dream
for I am living one
so it seems
my dreams came true
when you said, "I do"
our flesh became one
I drew my first breath
discovered my rainbow
ended my quest
so here I sit
floating on air
watching you sleep
my only care

--Shenandoah Lynd


Sunday, January 08, 2006


Wes Stewart Lynd. We didn't set out looking for a name to compliment his brother's; rather, we just ended up with another one syllable, three letter name. Actually, we were still going through lists of names in the hospital. Saw "Wes" in a book and liked it. I wanted "Stewart" after the actor Jimmy Stewart (see my previous post, "heroes"). Chrisy wasn't too hot on that middle name, but fate was on my side. When her doctor came into the room he said, "Okay, you've got to have this baby by 6:00 p.m. or I'll be late to my concert." Of course, I inquired, "Who're gonna see?" His answer: "Rod Stewart." Chrisy just looked at me and said, "Okay, you win, Wes Stewart it is."

Like his dad, Wes appears to get a second wind in the evening, but he never beats his brother out of bed in the morning. Every night when I tuck him into bed and pray for him, Wes likes to use this time for something he excells at: talking! Literally every night he extends his awake time by having a question and answer session. The subject? Well, the sky's the limit! For instance, most recently, out of the blue when I finished praying he asked, "Dad, what's your favorite kind of lemur?" I checked, "Lemur?" "Yes, lemur." "Well, I didn't know there was more than one kind." "Oh, yes," he says! Then he proceeds to tell me all the varieties: "There are day lemurs, night lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs . . . " and so on. When I said I didn't know the difference, he explained their appearances and eating habits to me. Another one of my favorites is when he asked me, "Do you know what chromatology is?"

Wes has a contagious laugh. Sometimes he gets laughing about something that's not even that funny, but the whole family will end up in hysterics because he laughs so hard. He likes music more than television or movies. Many times he'll leave a movie that big brother has on in the middle of it to go draw or do something else. Whereas his brother wants to watch one of dad's movies, Wes is often heard saying, "Can you burn me that CD? Can you burn me that song?" He really listens to the music I am playing in the car too. He does love all the "Star Wars" films though. He watches them over and over. His favorite books all have to do with "Star Wars" too. Like his brother, he's got a couple "Star Wars" posters hanging in his room as well. Most recently, he got a guitar poster too. Wes will spend lots of time making things. He likes to write a lot, even copy things out of books, cut things, glue things, and he routinely leaves notes for me on my desk, just wishing me a good day or saying he loves me. He's very thoughtful that way. Wes really has heart of gold, but he has a strong rebel spirit in him too. Fascinating boy. Lots of fun.


Saturday, January 07, 2006


Max Harrison Lynd. Got "Max" because it was one syllable, short, couldn't be more different than his father's long first name. Thought it was cool because Chrisy's great-grandfather's name was Maximilliano. Harrison because I've enjoyed Harrison Ford movies all my life. Also, goes to dad's love of history, I thought "Harrison" was so presidential since there's been two president's with that name, our 9th, William Henry Harrison, and our 23rd Benjamin Harrison.

Like his mother, Max is a morning person; he's grumpier at night. First thing in the morning to a drowsy dad, he was recently heard asking, "Why can't we get a dog?" He's got a 2006 dog calendar, featuring different breeds, hanging in his room. Favorite book right now is the massive, "Dogs: An Owner's Guide," by Helen Stillwell. Harry, a bearded-dragon lizard, is Max's pet. He keeps him in his room and feeds him crickets. Favorite subject: math. Loves to watch movies. he prefers live action to animation. Digs going through dad's DVD collection and wants to watch anything he's allowed to. Most recently watched "Murphy's War" (1971) staring Peter O'Toole with dad. Although he's got tons, his favorite films are the "Star Wars" flicks. He's got a couple "Star Wars" posters from the newer episodes, hanging in his room. A Darth Vader helmet graces his desk. He definately prefers television and film to music. Loves chocolate, never vanilla, doesn't like to try new foods so much, and he drinks only water. Like his mother, Max gets really car sick. Doesn't enjoy long car rides. Max has been taking piano lessons for about a year now. He's doing well. This past Christmastime, it was so nice to hear him playing "Angels We Have Heard On High." He loves to play board games and is often the catalyst for a "family night" wherein we play a game. Max loves Sunday school at church and his mid-week "Breakout," a Bible-study group that he's been a part of for the past three years. My first born, he won't let an evening go by without letting dad pray for him just before bed. Amazing boy.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Top Ten Television Shows

As many of you know, I am a compulsive list-maker. That is I love "top ten" lists of all kinds. I love reading them. I love making them. I love ranking things. When my family is driving in the car, often we'll play a game we call "Either, Or" which means you just roate asking questions and everybody answers. For example, "If you had to choose to give up either ice cream or steak for a year, which would you choose?" You get the idea.

Driving back from Arizona over Christmas break, somebody asked: "If you had to choose to give up television or music for the rest of your life, which would you give up?" As often happens, our family split down the middle: Wes and Dad would give up TV whereas Max and Mom would give up music. (The girls don't really play yet). Although I would never change that answer, and, like I read on a bumper sticker once, "Life without music would be a mistake," I did get to thinking about television shows since then. Thus, here is my top ten television shows of all-time list. Keep in mind, these lists are always fluid and they can change on any given day. Also, I am excluding variety shows such as "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" which would make my list or "Saturday Night Live" because I'd have to specify a time period like 1975-1979 only; so, I'm talking "episodic television" here. You know the "Academy Awards" may be my Superbowl, but I can't say watching the Oscars being handed out is a favorite show. And, I may be totally hooked on "Survivor" but I'm not ready to put reality TV on a list like this yet. Best comment you could give me is your own top ten list, that is if you like this sort of thing.


7. L.A. LAW

Labels: ,

Monday, January 02, 2006

one prized possession

As referenced below in my "heroes" post, it reads as follows . . .

Dear Shenandoah Lynd --

I want you to know that
I am very grateful to you for
your wonderful letter. The things
you said about my work mean
a great deal to me and with
all my heart I thank you.
I send you all my best wishes.
Jimmy Stewart

Labels: , ,


"Rember all the movies, Terry, we'd go see,
trying to learn how to walk like the heroes
we thought we had to be, and after all this
time to find we're just like all the rest,
stranded in the park and forced to confess."
--Bruce Springsteen, "Backstreets" (1975)

I had been thinking about the word "hero" lately. Then, my good friend Tony just lent me season one of "The Office," a show I had not seen. Watching the first episode, I was rollin' as Steve Carell shared that his heroes were Bob Hope, Abraham Lincoln, Bono, "and probably God."

When I was younger I threw the word "hero" around a lot more than I would now. When I was 15, I had no problem saying that Bruce Springsteen, Harrison Ford, or Jackson Browne were heroes of mine. No more. Those guys and many more are off the hero list.

I've got some everyday heroes, "regular guys" that I look up to. There's my pastor, John Reed. Flawed to be sure, but the guy is in the business of changing lives. Back in 1996, when we started our church, during some particularly difficult phase wherein our church seemed, to say the least, intangible, I remember telling him: "If one marriage is saved because of this church, if one guy comes to Christ, this will all be worth it." Marriages have been saved. I've seen the unlikeliest humans give their lives over to God. There at the helm, day in, day out, year after year, service after service, is John. That's a hero. There are other men like that in my life. Guys who call me on my crap. These are guys that just love their wives, give of themselves, and make the world a better place. Servant-leaders. Everyday heroes.

Last year I filled out an application for the television reality program, "Survivor" and one of their questions caught me off guard: "Who's your hero and why?" I racked my brain. Jesus was too trite an answer and I would have come off like regional manager, Michael Scott. I almost went with A.A. founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, but decided against them. All they did was save my life. Steven Spielberg came to mind. Not because of his films, but because he's adopted children and I think that is one of the single most beautiful acts in the world. He's colorblind too and his efforts to preserve the truth of the Holocaust are admirable. No, Spielberg, can't have the tile of "hero" from me either.

The answer I gave "Survivor" was the Apostle Paul. Formerly Saul of Tarsus, I chose him because he had a changed life, a clear purpose, he persevered against difficult trials, and he knew the source of true happiness. As I wrote on my application: "Paul had learned to be content in any circumstance." If you think about it, being content in any circumstance certainly would have to apply to "Survivor" as well. Consider what Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us--they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character." That's a perspective I yearn to own. A hero indeed. Who knows, maybe putting down a religious answer is the reason I never got called for the interview? Maybe I should have listed Jeff Probst? But, the "why?" part would have confounded me.

The only non-acquaintance, secular person who has maintained hero status in my life is the actor James Stewart. I had the great fortune of meeting Jimmy Stewart serveral times. I don't mean "meet" in the sense of he took eight seconds to sign a photograph and then, in true Al Pacino fashion, threw the Sharpie over his shoulder. No, I really met Jimmy Stewart. He was a true gentleman and a genuinely kind human being. He used to do these annual relay marathons to benefit a children's hospital in Los Angeles. He was quite accessible too. One of the years, he and his wife Gloria invited my uncle and I to step into their motor home and we heard stories of their travels. He cared about people. Quite the experience.

The first DVD I ever bought was the movie for which he won an Oscar: "The Philadelphia Story" (1940). Stewart's Macaulay Connor, to me is one of the most endearing and enduring film characters in the history of film. Like Stewart, Macaulay was a poet. Stewart's favorite film was "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). Having just watched that movie over Christmas break, I am reminded as to why. George Bailey taught us that no man is a failure who has friends. I could go on. And, heck, I'm shallow, even if it was just the movies, he's a guy that found himself in a "very interesting situation" with Donna Reed and Kate Hepburn told him, "Put me in your pocket." For a 15 year old boy, that's enough to make you a hero. There's also "Harvey," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Rear Window," and 80 others.

I'll never forget when Chrisy and I were dating. It came to my attention that she hadn't seen any Jimmy Stewart films, not even "It's A Wonderful Life." Like my Uncle John did for me, I showed her some of my favorites. Watching her view them for the first time was like a maiden voyage for me as well. Knowing his home address, I decided to write Stewart a letter. I told him how it felt to share his movies with the woman I would spend the rest of my life with, I told him I thought he had the best drunk scene of all time, I told him I treasured meeting him years ago, and I told him he was a good man. It actually turned out to be like a five page letter! His personal handwritten response is one of my favorite possessions.

Jimmy Stewart isn't just my favorite actor. Rather, he was an exceptional man. Why a hero? I guess that's subjective, but for me, it's numerous things. First and foremost, he was married to Gloria for 44 years. In all those years he was never the center of a scandal, and, by every account, he was a faithful husband. With his popularity and his dashing good looks, conquests would have come easy; yet, he knew the moral cost such events took on your soul. He loved God. Although Jimmy was only married once, he was Gloria's second husband. She brought children into their marriage. To me, being a step-dad is a special calling. I have a step-dad. In hindsight, I know that he didn't just marry a woman. He took on a son. Jimmy took on two. That's admirable. Stewart was a veteran of World War II. His stint in the Army Air Corps did well for this great country. I value education and Stewart had a college degree from Princeton. As noted by the Jimmy Stewart Museum, "Today visitors come to Indiana from around the world to learn more about his life and career and to see where he grew up and acquired the values he embraced throughout his life: hard work, love of country, love of family, love of community, love of God." He was a good man. Hero.

I'll end with a quote from Clarence the angel: "Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Black Eyed Peas

No, I'm not singin' "My Humps." Rather, it's New Years Day and I'm about to eat black-eyed peas. Surrounded by ham, they're getting all soft in my Crock Pot as I type. You see, Chrisy's grandmother, Geraldine Parker, always said, "You gotta have your black-eyed peas on New Years Day and then, you'll have enough money for the upcoming year." It's a southern thing. Geraldine was from Arkansas. What a remarkable woman she was too. She left us on June 9, 2003, a sad day, but the way I see it is that two of my kids actually got to know their great-grandmother: Max for 7 years; Wes for 5 years! How cool is that? Chrisy loved Geraldine dearly and I was very fond of her too. Black-eyed peas were not the only thing. She had a bunch of great sayings and I still hear her voice when I think of them. My all-time favorite is what she would say if you actually had the audacity to say you wanted something that you were not likely too get. For example, let's say I was sitting there at Thanksgiving and I said, "I really wish I had an iPod." Geraldine would say, "Well, shit in one hand and wish in the other and see which hand gets filled faster!" Classic! If you think about it, what that really means is: Be happy with what you have. Why sit wishing? Geraldine also made the single best pecan pie I've ever eaten too. That's saying a lot because I've been a coinsurer of pecan pie since I was in high school. I mean I used to frequently ditch class and head over to Marie Calendar's for a slice of pecan pie with a buddy (okay, we had the munchies a lot). But, wow, that pecan pie Geraldine made is the stuff of legends. As for the black-eyed peas . . . No, I'm not superstitious at all. I think God is in control, not some bean (Black-eyed peas aren't peas at all. Did you know that?); however, it's about tradition now, that and remembering the late great Geraldine.

I've got this thought. Tonight maybe one of my kids might say, "Dad, I don't like black-eyed peas. I wish we could have something else for dinner." My response, of course: "Well, shit in one hand and wish in the other . . . ." Naw, I wouldn't really say that.

Serving suggestion: douse with Tabasco and soak up with warm corn bread.

Labels: , ,