Thursday, June 18, 2009

Father's Day

Dear Dad,
It's been ten years since you died. The memorial date is right around Father's Day this year. I still think of you a lot, especially on Father's Day. Now I get calls or cards from my grown children and small grandchildren. I am the Father, the Grandfather, but I know that a big part of who I am as a Father/Grandfather is due to your influence. So that's why I think of you, especially on Father's Day. I know I didn't always heed your advice when I was younger but you were my main role model. I appreciate most I guess the way you treated Mom with respect and love. I don't think I ever heard you raise your voice to her. I am sure you had disagreements and I knew when things got silent between the two of you something was not quite right but our world was rock solid because of your faithfulness to her and our family.

I know there were a lot of things you could have been doing. You worked hard with many long nights in the office or on the phone. But, you were there to coach our teams and take us on camping trips every summer. You modeled putting family first. I have tried to do the same.

I remember getting up early most mornings and finding you up already reading your Bible or praying in big chair in the living room. I know we gave you lots to pray about as you drove during the day or pulled off the road so you could concentrate more on your prayers. I knew God was real to you. I didn't always care for the churches we went to and I don't remember much about what was said or done there but what sticks with me is that you and God had a relationship. I wanted that, too.

I wish you had been a little more patient with me. I marveled at the way you were able to fix almost anything at home. It seemed like we never bought anything new because with a little tinkering you could fix it. I guess it was easier to do it yourself than teach me. To be fair, I probably didn't seem too interested either. I often wish I had more of your practical skills.

Back in the day you grew up men didn't show a lot of affection. Your affection for Mom was mostly private and we didn't do a lot of hugging as a family. I was glad when the ice broke finally when I was grown up. I could tell when you realized it was ok to hug it meant a lot for you to give me a hug when we met somewhere for breakfast or visited in each other's homes. It sure meant a lot to me.

I enjoyed listening to the good times you had when the couples you were friends with came over for a night of games or conversation. The laughter that filled the home was intoxicating. I loved those times. I wish there had been more of them. I guess life was pretty serious then, too. Church was serious, I remember. Maybe it was the threats to our faith and way of life we felt that made us more wary than joyful. I appreciated your smile and easy laughter with people. You enjoyed being with people and no matter where you were you could get a conversation going with someone. I think I may have inherited that from you. I enjoy getting to know people, too. I am still trying to laugh more though and I think you wanted to, as well.

Your job took you away a lot and you didn't have too much "leisure" time. Those Saturdays when you took me along to visit the farm equipment dealers you called on were special times. Of course, what I liked the most was when we stopped at the diner for a fried cake and coffee - milk for me. But I dunked my fried cake just like I saw you doing. It must be noted, however, that we did not like it when you interrupted our vacation trips to stop at one of your dealers. Those stops seemed to take forever!

I wish your thriftiness had been passed on but I have to say I am a bit more loose with money than you were. Maybe it is a reaction to your thrifty ways. Marcia is the thrifty one. She is always chiding me about buying a daily paper or a cup of coffee when we could make it at home and take a thermos with us. Like you did. With the way the economy is going, the lessons of thrift you tried to teach me may come in handy. It may come to buying day old donuts and finding a place where they sell senior citizen coffee for a nickel!

Thanks for the memories this Father's Day, Dad!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Alaskan Road Trip

In a couple days, we, Marcia and I, will board the ferry, the Alaskan Marine Highway, as it is known in tourist brochures, and head over to the mainland for a week - long road trip. It is one of those unique Alaskan vacations. From Kodiak, there are not many long road trips you can take that last very long. So, you have to get off the island. We are going to do a loop from Homer to Anchorage to Denali, to Fairbanks to Tok and back to Anchorage and Homer. That loop is about a thousand miles. Which qualifies as a long road trip. We have some favorite places to revisit. We don't have a schedule or an itinerary. Just wandering. We have not driven the Tok to Anchorage leg since we moved here ten years ago and that was in the winter. We stopped in the Troopers office in Tok for a road condition report and they cautioned us about a big storm heading our way. Fortunately, we never ran into it and it was sunny all the way. As we approached Anchorage I was looking for the exit ramp that would lead us into Anchorage. What a surprise to discover the freeway just ended at the city limits. We were there! It was only the first of many interesting surprises in the days ahead as we learned about our new home state. Alaska is like one big town. You run into people you know from all over the state whenever you are traveling. You can shop at Safeway and bank at Alaska USA just like you do in Kodiak. You are a long way from home but everything seems familiar somehow. We will pick up some Kaladi Brothers coffee, sample the bread at Great Harvest, stay at the cabins overlooking Denali, watch some Alaskan baseball at Growden Field in Fairbanks and walk the Homer spit before we board the Kennicott for home. Oh yes, and there might be a stop at a bookstore or two or ..... and, of course, oatmeal at Snow City.

Summer Reading

Summer is the time for reading on the beach. Well, anyway, in other parts of the country it is. Here, in Kodiak, we don't see too many people reading on the beach. Tidepooling, hiking, volleyball, fishing - yes to all these Kodiak beach activities but lounging in the sun with a good book, not so much! Still, summer is a good time to catch up on some reading. This summer with our ample sunshine, so far, has been a good time to sit on the deck and read. And since Kodiakans can read in the outside light til almost midnight! One can catch up on a good deal of reading.

So what to read. There are many lists to choose from. The New York Times and most major newspapers offer summer suggestions. Books and Culture, an arm of Christianity Today, has had some good suggestions. Some people (full disclosure: two) have asked me for some ideas, as well. I have chosen to catch up on some fiction over the summer. So far, I have read The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall which is a wonderful story that reminded me of another of my favorites, A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is a story of tragedy and forgiveness. A must read, I think.

I have read two books by Elizabeth Berg who I had not read before. Her focus is mother and daughter relationships, at least in these books. I enjoyed them and I think a mother and daughter would benefit from reading them together ( Home Safe and We Are Welcome Here). Marcia is reading them now but, alas, she has no daughter to read them with. Maybe a daughter in law.... I am thinking of just the one.

The Known World by E.P. Jones was a Pulitzer Prize winner a few years back. It is a story about life in one small corner of Virginia pre-civil war. But it is about life everywhere, anytime, too. Highly recommended.

Of course, I have to be reading some theology, too. I hope to get through Dallas Willard's new book, Knowing Christ Today and finish N.T Wright's Justification while I am away next week. N.T. Wright makes whatever subject he is writing about clearer to me. In Justification, he has opened up some passages in Romans and Galatians that have puzzled me for a long time. Dallas Willard is Dallas Willard and everything I have read by him has been worth my time.

Here are some other recommendations from previous summer reading lists: The Long Walk by Slovomir Ravicz, Original Sin by Alan Jacobs which is kind of a theological history of this doctrine, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, Fieldwork by M. Berlinski ( a clash of missionary and anthropology cultures in southeast Asia), Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild which is a history of the British antislavery movement with special focus on the evangelical impetus to it, and The Way is Made By Walking by Arthur Paul Boers which is about pilgrimages especially the one Boers made and the insights into practical Christian living derived from it.

That's probably a good start. Happy summer reading whether on the beach or the deck or inside during the rain, fog and drizzle. Let me know your recommendations!