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Burgers and fries and cherry pies, it was simple and good back then.

Walking in the sand hand in hand never thinking that it could end…*

I’m reflecting on those words as I ponder the lives of five guys: Joe, Howard, Dean, Jeff, and Alec. If you look closely, you can see images of all five in the picture above, one but a reflective image inset with his generational contemporary in the upper right, but reflections of them all are imaged in my thoughts this early morning hour.

But one of the five was intimately associated with the other four of us, and as time goes by, he will soon leave the younger two and join the two preceding us on this journey.

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I don’t know if there are burgers and fries and cherry pies in Heaven, but I believe it will be simply good. One day, I believe these five will get to share, all together, in a much greater feast.

Until that day, it was burgers and fries and cherry pies in a world we used to know…*

*Lyrics by Charley Pride

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To quote a tune, “I’m finding myself at a loss for words...”

As this Mercy Me song played over the airwaves earlier today, the funny thing was, it didn’t feel OK.

You see, around bedtime last night, the last thing I needed to be heard, and to hear, was the surround sound system coming from a neighbor’s house. It was surreal. I felt it first. Was it an earthquake? Was it thunder? It almost sounded like music. But, how could that be? The house was dark, and all of my (homebound) kids were going to sleep.

Shortly thereafter, one of those kids came into the room. “Do you hear that?”, they asked. “What is it?”. As it continued past the 10:00 PM hour, the same kid headed out into the front yard “to go ask them to turn it down”. That certainly wouldn’t do.

You see, there is protocol for these type of things, I suppose. Memory of decades gone by took me back to the 70’s, and hearing our neighbor in Texas bang on the door and tell my dad to “shut that dog up or he was going to shoot it”. We never really forged a relationship with those people over the 4 years we lived there. Go figure.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been in this house for over 5 years. We know most of my neighbors, and have a mild but modest first name basis relationship with almost all, save one. That one and I have waved a time or two, and engaged in a one sentence conversation a year or so back regarding a sprinkler system question. He probably thinks I should better tend to my yard. I might think he waters too much. Living downhill, I might have half a really green yard to prove out both assumed presumptions.

But, we don’t talk. We don’t have a relationship. And yet, we are right here together. That made the necessitated late night phone conversation all the more awkward. I didn’t want to spoil his fun. I like a good stereo experience almost as much as the next guy, or at least I thought so. But as we lay in our beds, we could feel the earth move under our feet…and our knees, and our elbows, and our pillows…

So, I made the call. Things got quiet. But, will we ever be truly “neighborly”? What can I do to be a better “neighbor”? What does that mean, anyway. And it got me to thinking. We both know, that is not always fun:

Luke 10:25-37:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

…even if it means a little more work in the yard, and a lot more tolerance for the surround sound, among other more significant things…like learning how to be a more engaged neighbor.

I’m finding myself at a loss for words. Maybe it will all turn out OK.

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It’s been an interesting week….
It’s been a good week…
It’s been an unexpected week…

I am not a country music fan, per se, and yet I awoke this morning with a 10 year old John Michael Montgomery tune rattling around in my head, and that only scratches the surface….

…..Sink or swim you gotta give it a whirl

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go

The longer I live the more I believe
You do have to give if you wanna recieve
There’s a time to listen, a time to talk
And you might have to crawl even after you walk
Had sure things blow up in my face
Seen the longshot, win the race
Been knocked down by the slamming door
Picked myself up and came back for more

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go

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The Basin Improvement Committee of 1890: it sounds like an exciting group to be a part of, don’t you think? Nestled on the heart of Main Street in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, this marker commemorates the intentional efforts of a small group to make things better and to improve life within the community.

If asked, I would likely say that a basin is a small container of water. According to Dictionary.com, it is that, and more…

noun
1. a circular container with a greater width than depth, becoming smaller toward the bottom, used chiefly to hold water or other liquid, especially for washing.
2. any container of similar shape, as the pan of a balance.
3. the quantity held by such a container: We need another basin of water to dilute the mixture.
4. a natural or artificial hollow place containing water.
5. a partially enclosed, sheltered area along a shore, often partly man-made or dredged to a greater depth, where boats may be moored: a yacht basin.

I must admit, definition number 5 is my favorite. You see, I have a basin of my own, and the improvement committee has been meeting the past two days to make it even stronger. “A partially enclosed, sheltered area along a shore, often partly man-made or dredged to a greater depth…“: it’s called marriage, and yes, it is only partly man made.

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To coin a phrase, I might say “those who go away together stay close”. Little Frau and I first visited Eureka Springs in the Summer of 1991. Yes, for those of you young ‘ens keeping score at home, it was indeed last century. The Frau and I had been married all of about two years, maybe a little less. We were young. We were in love. We were broke. Truth be told, we weren’t really broke, we just didn’t have much money to spend, so everything was carefully allocated to make sure we could do the trip and make it home.

The pinnacle of the trip was supposed to be a day at Silver Dollar City in Branson. Like I said, we were young, and traipsing around an amusement park in the heat seemed like the be all and end all of a good time. As we almost ran toward the ticket booth together, hand in hand, a man called out to me. It seems that he and his bride of 20+ years had gone to Silver Dollar City on their honeymoon, and returned each year as season pass holders. With the purchase of their season passes came one pair of single day tickets each year, and each year on their anniversary day visit, they would seek out a young couple to take in with them for free.

Almost in shock (remember, I was the ripe old age of 24), I asked the man if we could repay them, buy them lunch, or something else. His answer? “Do something nice for your wife with the money, and that will be just what I wanted“. We thought about that couple and their request all day. We looked at kitschy souvenirs. We thought about going to a show. Ultimately, we decided to use the money to spend a night in a Bed and Breakfast here in Eureka.

It’s not that spending a week sleeping on the ground in a $19.99 pup tent from Wal Mart isn’t romantic, but we were beginning to feel the trip growing on us. An indoor shower, air conditioner, and a bed turned out to be a pretty nice break in the trip.

A few years have come and gone since that trip. Life and kids have placed a few demands on the days and the dollars. Little Frau and I don’t get away as much anymore, at least for just the two of us. But, courtesy of kids at camp and a mid week July 4th calendar, the stars aligned for a brief 2 day excursion back to Eureka. We were not so adventurous as to desire a day in the amusement park this go round. It seems this Basin Improvement Committee of two finds catching up with old friends, casual dining, a small bit of kitschy souvenir shopping, reading, and napping more the order of the day. And it has all happened at a little Bed and Breakfast just a few doors down and 21 years removed from the last Eureka meeting of our little group.

I think we may not wait so long to reconvene the next time…

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Actually, I do. Maybe I go to extremes to avoid going to extremes. Once upon a time, in a land not so far far away, I might have said that in reverse. Comprende?

So, as I thought on this earlier today, the words of a Billy Joel tune rattled in my head:

Call me a joker, call me a fool
Right at this moment I’m totally cool
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife
I feel like I’m in the prime of my life
Sometimes it feels like I’m going too fast
I don’t know how long this feeling will last
Maybe it’s only tonight

Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m shot
Sometimes I don’t know how much more I’ve got
Maybe I’m headed over the hill
Maybe I’ve set myself up for the kill
Tell me how much do you think you can take
Until the heart in you is starting to break?
Sometimes it feels like it will

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low there ain’t no in-betweens
You can be sure when I’m gone
I won’t be out there too long
Darling I don’t know why I got to extremes

Out of the darkness, into the light
Leaving the scene of the crime
Either I’m wrong or I’m perfectly right every time
Sometimes I lie awake, night after night
Coming apart at the seams
Eager to please, ready to fight
Why do I go to extremes?

And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all

Darling I don’t know why I go to extremes

I can relate, and not. I think I will keep going, especially for today. As the words to a Mandesa song related to me as I turned the key to the Jeep a few moments ago this morning Why am I waiting for tomorrow…?”“. I don’t think I am.

Darling, I think you know why.

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The final horn sounded, the streamers fell from the ceiling, and the crowd spilled out of the arena and onto the street. As my son and I surveyed the situation and saw the wind, rain, and lightening, he said exactly what I was thinking: “Dad, we’d better run”. As we sprinted down the middle of a closed to traffic Reno Avenue, the thought suddenly hit me: “Didn’t we run down this exact same path only yesterday?”. Such was the end of Day 2 in the arena.

Day 3 ended with the afore posted about concert in another arena, this one holding a different crowd and a different product than the basketball we witnessed on Day 2. I guess an overpaid superstar is an overpaid superstar, whether they hold a basketball or a guitar, but I digress. There is probably a future topic of Idols, Icons, and Role Models in there somewhere, but that will wait for another day, maybe.

Day 1 “in the arena” was totally different, and that’s my intended point to all this. As pictured above, my three kids and I gathered with 560 of our closest friends to take part in a race. Part challenge, part social norm, and part memorial, this annual event brings out fellowship, fun, and fear for yours truly all at the same time. It is a sort of metaphor for life, maybe?

I didn’t intend for things to shake out the way they did last week. Therein lies another metaphor for life. We planned on running the race, and eventually planned on the concert, but attending the basketball game just fell our way at the last minute. As Little Frau bemusedly stated to me the morning of Day 4 that week, “you guys have gotten to do a lot of cool, fun stuff in just a very few days. I’m jealous!”. We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened, and my fatigue factor showed it. What began Sunday morning at 4:00 AM concluded Wednesday morning at 1:00 AM, and it was an exhausting run.

While this week has to date been much less scripted up front, it too has had its share of “event moments”. Announcements. Decisions. Comments. Revelations. Regrets. Retreats.. Such have been a part of the last 3 days in our bigger arena called life. And so it goes. To quote Billy Joel, both with that last phrase and with the next: “We didn’t start the fire. Its been always burning since the world’s been turning”.

As I ponder all of this before the dawn of another day, I’m reminded of another three days inside analogy, this one by Jesus comparing himself and what was coming to Jonah and what was past.

For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Matthew 12:40

The difference here is that He did plan it that way. It didn’t just happen, even though He had a temporary fatigue factor to show for it. What all began likely on a Thursday morning concluded before the dawn on the following Sunday morning, and it started an exhilarating and rewarding run for us all, greater than 560 strong. Part challenge, part social norm, and part memorial. My son was right: we’d better run. The race is growing shorter by the minute.

One day, the final horn will sound, the streamers will fall from the sky, and the crowd will spill out of the arena. I’m ready.

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Have you ever heard of the Japanese production management term “Just In Time”. It seems appropriately fitting, ironic even, on this Sunday afternoon. The Bing family just spent most of last week with Miyu, our new Japanese exchange student friend/”adopted daughter”, and saw her leave to return home on Friday. That evening, we gathered around the Tele to watch “In Time“, the suspense/action/treatise on society movie starring Justin BSB Timberlake. In the storyline, ordinary people only have finite amounts of time to live, and must make choices each day as if there was no more time to be had. People “with all of the time in the world”, in contrast, seemed to walk around in a trance, afraid to live for fear of dying and “wasting all of that time”.

As discussed earlier, yours truly turned 46 last week. One of the small gifts from family was an iTunes gift card, and thanks to memories of a weekend concert spent with two buddies last summer, I was inspired to purchase Styx Greatest Hits. Due to a little home improvement project Saturday, I spent several hours listening to the album while gripping a paint roller. In so doing, I was reminded of the ballad written by them over two decades ago that had a surprisingly spiritual message to share:

Every night I say a prayer in the hope that there’s a heaven
And every day I’m more confused as the saints turn into sinners
All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
And I feel this empty place inside so afraid that I’ve lost my faith

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way

And as I slowly drift to sleep, for a moment dreams are sacred
I close my eyes and know there’s peace in a world so filled with hatred
That I wake up each morning and turn on the news to find we’ve so far to go
And I keep on hoping for a sign, so afraid that I just won’t know

Show me the way, Show me the way
Take me tonight to the mountain
And wash my confusion away

And if I feel light, should I believe
Tell me how will I know

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way

Every night I say a prayer
In the hope that there’s a heaven…

Reportedly (according to Wikipedia) “Lead vocalist/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung, a devout Roman Catholic, originally wrote the song for his son, Matthew, as a pseudo-hymn about the struggle to keep the faith in a “world so filled with hatred”.”

So, why is it that we seem to wander around, questioning “why” and living as if we are afraid “to enjoy life“?

Then, this morning’s lesson at church came around. The first of a series of messages over the next few weeks, ” How To Enjoy Your Life” resonated with me today in a good way. Speaker Jeff McMillon did a great job of reminding us of two key things:

1) We need to choose to live each hour in the Spirit, and
2) We should live each day confident that God made a masterpiece when he made us, and each has a place and a role to fill.

Amen.

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way.


Just In Time, indeed.

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