Friday, August 16, 2013

You Will Know Them by Their Fruits

In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus said the following:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. "

I was blessed to know a man who was a mighty oak.  He was someone that I did not know for too long, and that is all the more pity.  But the blessing is that I did know him at all.  There are people who are, sadly, too few and far between in our lives that make it so much more rich because of the joy that they share with us that is overflowing from their hearts.  When you see a person like that you automatically smile because it is a reflection of the smile that is permanently painted on their face AND because you know that they will make you happy with their presence no matter what mood you are in when you see them.  

Wes Engelkes was that type of person.  He was a giant of a man, and to me, he seemed like a colossus.  I am not sure exactly how tall he was.  I am sure that it was in the six feet range.  However, he seemed so large to me because he was a man of faith in Christ and that faith radiated from him in all he did and from much of what he said.  

Wes was not one to go off and tell everyone about Jesus the way some do in a fashion where even the Pope would say, "Alright, enough already."  But Wes would tell you what God had done and was doing for him in his life.  I had one such discussion with Wes when I was at a very low point in my life.  I was recently divorced and jobless, homeless and really had no idea where my life was going or what I should do.  I was estranged from my own family and was very much like a rudderless ship going around in circles in a sea of despair.  I had lost all confidence in myself as a person and as father and was in many ways living my life in the fiery furnace.  Then along came Wes.

In his humble Midwestern style he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Mr. Steven, it's going to get better.  I believe that God has a purpose for you and that things will turn if you only trust Him.  I know.  He's done that for me.  And He loves us just the same.  I believe in you so start believing in yourself."  He gave me a sly, loving look and then gave me a hug.  It was something that I needed to hear and from someone who had my respect.

Wes and his wife Eileen gave me and my children so much love and support and that also came from their daughter Pam and her husband and my friend Mike.  I owe them all a debt that I'll be happy to pay off the rest of my life because I know that they gave me the love of Christ and did as Jesus told Peter when He said to him, "Feed my sheep."

Wes' life bore more fruit than any orchard or farm or market could hold and it was not done to serve his ego or pride.  If you knew the man you would know what humility really meant.  No, he did what he did, and lived his life the way he did for the glory of God and in thankfulness for all that God had blessed him with. And Wes would tell you that God had given him so much with a loving wife and wonderful children and grandchildren, and even a great grandchild.  I know that he would not have traded that for anything.

Wes has left this earthly life but I do take comfort that he is with our Savior in Glory.  And what Wes has left behind are deeds that are still bearing fruit for the Glory of God.  I am thankful that I was there to share in that and to know a man like Wes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chen Yanagita? Mike Quancheng?

Chen Quancheng?  CHEN QUANCHENG!  That ain't no Chen Quancheng!  That's MIKE YANAGITA and he's gone blind from dreaming about Marge Gunderson.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Boy Name Sue? Or a Man Named Erin.

While at work the other day I was looking at a list of work responsibilities and duties for all employees and noticed a name that I'd not seen before.  The first name was Erin and the last name doesn't really matter so I will not post it.  However, upon seeing the name Erin I thought to myself, "Who is this woman and why have I not seen her yet?"   New employees are always  coming and going and there always seems to be some new faces to learn and some new names to know.

So on a break that day, as I was sitting with a bunch of guys, some new but most of whom I've been working with for a while, I asked out loud,"Do any of you know who this new girl Erin X is?" And then, from the end of the table, I heard a deep male voice say, "That's me." It's a good thing that the Kinks song LOLA wasn't playing at the moment as it would've really freaked me out.  But I looked at the guy and laughed as I thought that he was joking.  He wasn't.

I said, "Really?  Your name is Erin, spelled that way instead of A-A-R-O-N?" And he said, "Yeah.  My mom really wanted a daughter and named me Erin even though she got a boy."  Several things raced through my mind as he offered this up.  The first was that I was amazed that he would tell us all that.  The second was what kind of sick mom names a boy Erin just because she wanted a girl and instead got a boy?  And thirdly, at what point in your life, if you are a man named Erin, do you go and legally have your name changed to AARON or whatever else you want it to be instead of Erin? And why hadn't this guy already done that?  He seems to be in his late 30s/early 40s, so he's had a boatload of time to mull this over.  And unlike the song A BOY NAMED SUE the name doesn't seem to have made this guy tougher because of all of the crap he would catch from it during his life.

I've met men with names that work for women as well regardless of the spelling.  I've known Robins and Adrians(yes I know a few women who spell it this way instead of Adrienne)and Kellys and obvious ones like Bobby, Joey, Ronnie and others.  But had never met someone with a name that, sounds the same, but  could be spelled two different ways with one being masculine and the other feminine.  So meeting this guy has shown me something different in life.

Regardless of how his name is spelled, he's a decent guy and a hard worker with a good sense of humor.  Other than that I don't know too much about him, but I will say this about him, he certainly has given me a lot to think about.

And I keep thinking.

Friday, February 10, 2012

But All I Got is a Photograph

I was at work today when a song came over the channel of piped in music. It was Photograph by Ringo Starr. And when I heard it the tears just started flowing from my eyes because every time that I hear that song I think of Mark Mellor. Now you may be saying, "Oh Lord is he going to talk about Mark again? Can't he just get over it?" The answers to those questions are Yes and No! No one ever "gets over" the death of a loved one. It rips a hole into your life and all that can happen is that the hole gets smaller over time but it never completely closes as there is always something missing where that person should be.

I have to admit that I don't think of Mark as much as I did in the years following his death, but he is in my thoughts weekly. And when I do think of him the thoughts are always happy ones. They center on us being kids and enjoying life and just being friends. However, every so often it hits me that he's gone. And that's when the tears flow. So Photograph comes on and it just gets to me and these waves of sadness and yearning wash over me. Then I realize that this year will be 30 years since Mark left us and that gets me crying even more. I was a wreck for a bit there and had to escort myself to the bathroom to get it together.

The verse that got me was this one:

Ev'ry time I see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all I got is a photograph
And I realize you're not coming back anymore.

Mark and I talked about our future when we were kids. We'd sit out in the warmth of a summer's evening on the steps across from Dean Anderson's house and we'd look at the stars and just talk about whatever would spring to mind. We talked about what we wanted to become in life or where we'd want to live. We came to the conclusion that we wanted to end up friends as adults and have our kids become friends and that we'd go to their ball games and cheer them on. My kids would call him uncle Mark and his would call me uncle Steven.

I am not sure if that would've been how it actually played out but they were the tender thoughts of naive young boys. I am sure that Mark would've become a major league/hall of fame pitcher. I have no doubt about that at all. And I would've been his biggest fan even if he had ended on the, gulp!, Boston Red Sox.

And so the song dredged up a lot of what-ifs and why-nots for me. And then I am reminded that he's not coming back. More tears. Then faith stepped in and lifted me up. As I realized that while he's not coming back, I am straining to get to where he is and that it matters not a whiff at how much I try or strain because the price has already been paid for me on that journey by the blood of Christ. And then I smiled and laughed at the thought of Mark there laughing at me for crying. And then I saw him there and heard him saying, "It's so great here! It's better than we ever dreamed for ourselves! I can't wait for you to get here! Now stop being a pussy and go out there and live your life!" And I laughed. And I went back to work.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gift Giving

I was watching TV the other day when this commercial for eBay caught my eye. Commercial What grabbed my attention was the way that they girl declares how unhappy she was with the gifts that she got from the previous year's Christmas. She wants people to know just what it is that she wants and really is not going to accept anything less than her heart's desire. She sounds like an echo of Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with her chorus of, "I WANT IT NOW!"

The thing that gets me is her perception on gifts. A gift is something from the giver without the receiver making demands on what the gift should be. For me to give a gift requires me to think about the person to whom this gift will be given. Things to consider are what they do in life, what their talents are, what their likes and dislikes are and so on. But when it comes down to it when we give a gift to someone else we are giving a part of ourselves to that other person, even if it is a throw pillow to compliment all of the other pilowa that were made in the past. And a gift that is handmade really is a gift that is of ourselves because we took the time to actually labor over it. We put our hard work, for the love of the other person, into that gift.

I think that we've let our views on gifts become so convoluted and manipulated by the media and especially big businesses that we've lost the meaning of what a gift really means. Something special has given way to "more is better". You see this a lot in the Christmas commercials that are on TV with the idea that if we can buy more, then we can give more and then, and only THEN, we will have a wonderful Christmas.

What if we all just gave one special gift to the ones who are dear to us? Would the fact that it was just one gift ruin the holiday for them, for us? What if you received a gift that was uniquely thought of, made, purchased, for you and you alone? Would you appreciate it more or less?

The promises of "Wonderful Christmases Now!" come with bills due in January where we find ourselves working overtime the rest of the year to pay for the Christmas behind us. Is that really worth it? Is that the true sentiment behind gift giving? Or have we become indentured servants to a false spirit of the season?

One of the most poignant Christmas stories that I've ever read, and sadly is never really retold this time of year, is O.Henry's The Gift of the Magi. And if you don't know this story then shame on you or at least shame on the school you went to when you were younger. In a nutshell the story centers on a young married couple who have very little money with which to buy a Christmas gift for each other. The wife wants to buy a chain for her husband's pocket watch and the only way that she can come up with the money is to sell her long beautiful hair, which she does and then buys the chain. The husband knows that his wife's hair is stunningly gorgeous with it's long flowing locks and so he decides to sell the only thing he has of worth; his watch, and buy some ornate combs to adorn his wife's beautiful coif.

The moment comes to give their gifts and then they see what the other has done to come up with the money to buy the gift which they are receiving. It's a poignant moment as the true gifts that were given were the gifts of themselves and the sacrifice that each one made for the other.

O. Henry ends the story with the following:
The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. In a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as donors they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.

My prayer for you this Christmas 2011 is that the gifts that you give are truly of yourselves and that the gifts you receive, no matter what they are, are received with joy and thanks. May God bless you all and may the gift of Jesus Christ be seen and received by all!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Really a Small World!

So my last post was about a woman that I noticed at WalMart after church this last Sunday. Well, we must run in similar circles because I literally bumped into her while I was running errands today. I had to get some things done early this morning and was out and about doing them and I was trying to get them done quickly. As I was rounding a corner I was looking in the opposite direction and I bumped into a person and we both found ourselves knocked flat on our keisters. At first I was in shock as to what happened and then it dawned on me as to what I had done and I felt so bad about it. Luckily she was laughing and actually apologizing as she was looking the opposite direction of where she was going too. Funny that!

Well, as I was clambering to my feet I noticed a Fish tattoo above her right ankle and then I shot a look at her feet (she was wearing flip flop type sandals) and I saw her flaky heels. But before I could flash back to the image of her beauty crumbling this past Sunday morning she said, "I am SO sorry about that. Are you alright?" And it snapped me out of my mental rewind and I told her that it was all my fault as I wasn't paying attention to where I was going. She started to laugh and confessed that she was doing the same thing. I really felt bad about my carelessness in my walking about and wanted to make it up to her and since it was 8:30 in the morning I offered to buy her a cup of coffee. She hesitated at first but then said that she was actually heading to a place for breakfast and asked me if I wanted to make it up to her by buying her the most important meal of the day. I said yes.

We headed to a diner that was two stores down and got a booth by a window. She ordered scrambled eggs and bacon and I got poached eggs and corned beef hash. Then we got to talking and about our "bumping" into each other and got a great chuckle over it. She said that I looked familiar to her and I said I don't believe that we'd ever met, however, I did let her know that I was at WalMart the other day and was behind her online. She asked how I remembered her and I said that I had noticed her Fish tattoo and then saw it this morning as we were getting to our feet. She blushed and gave a low moan when I mentioned the tattoo.

She said that she'd done that after her divorce 9 years ago as a sign that she was able to do as she pleased after being in a marriage to a very suffocating and controlling husband. She then went into what she had been through and how she was just getting her life back together and was looking to get back into dating but wasn't having any luck as "all of the good ones seemed to be already taken". And I told her that perhaps not all of them were, and then shot her a playful smile. She coyly smiled back at me and we proceeded to start a somewhat flirtatious dialog.

Perhaps it was because we were sitting at a table and I could not see her cracked flaky heels that had me giddy in playful banter with an attractive women. I mean every time I looked down all I saw were plates of eggs and breakfast meats, not heels crying out for pampering attention. I went with the flow and it seemed that we had some real chemistry and the next thing that I noticed was that we were holding hands across the table and it's been quite sometime since I've held the hand of a beautiful woman. I guess she was feeling a bit adventurous and able to express herself as she had never been able to do before. And it was this adventurousness that started the house of cards to come tumbling down because she decided to play footsie with me. I was wearing shorts and felt her toes start to run up my ankle as she had taken her foot out of her flip flops. It felt good and I have to admit that I really liked it. I liked it until her heel scraped my shin to which I flinched and sent my knee slamming up into the table knocking the carafe of coffee every which way.

The waitress came over quickly and cleaned the mess up and my breakfast companion asked me why I flinched. What could I say? I had to be honest and I swore that if I had ever met her before that my curiosity would get the better of me and it did now, throbbing knee and all. So I asked her what the deal was with her cracked, flaky heels. And when the words had left my mouth, hanging above our heads like a cartoon balloon, her face drained of all color and turned deathly pale. "How could you ask such a question?", she said. I was dumbfounded.

"I thought that you were different! I thought that you cared! You're just like all of the rest!" And then she reached down and grabbed a handful of scrambled eggs and flung them into my face and got up and stormed out, flaky heels and all. And me? Well I was left there with egg on my face.

Ah, none of this happened today. All I did today was get a haircut.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

From Soup to Nuts

I saw something today whilst at WalMart that made me stop and go, "Hm?". I was standing in line behind an attractive lady and since I am single and not dead yet I gave her a quick top-to-bottom once over with my eyes. She had a pretty face with a stylish hairdo, bright eyes and an inviting smile. Her clothes were chic in a way that said that she doesn't need to spend top dollar on her duds but knows how to make them look worth a lot. She wore them well. And I liked the fact that she was wearing a skirt, knee length, that was light an airy. I just love when a woman wears a skirt. Too many are married to pants and pants alone. Boring IMHO.

She had decent legs and was sporting a Fish tattoo in the style of the Greek letter Alpha that is symbolic of Christ. I thought, "Nice a Christian woman with a sassy edge to her." She finished her ensemble with some stylish sandals with a bit of a lift. Her toes were well pedicured, which I have to admit that I find attractive and her toenails matched her fingernails(added bonus). However, as I looked at her whole foot I noticed that her heels were dry, cracking and flaky. The whole image came crashing down right then and there as I heard the WalMart cashier ask her if she wanted to apply for a WalMart credit card. She declined by the way.

I couldn't understand why a woman would go through almost every effort to make every part of her appearance radiate beauty, fashion, and style but overlook something as gross as her heels. I equate that with brushing only the teeth that people see when you smile; your incisors and canines but letting your molars go untouched. Maybe she thought that no one would notice and she didn't have the time nor the moisturizing lotion to take care of business. I know that I've had the occasion where my fly was down without me knowing until it was pointed out to me. I felt embarrassed for a moment or two but then realize that these thing happen. However, it's not like I left the Mens room with the thought, "I am kind of tired right now. Too tired to zip up my fly. I am leaving it the way it is." No, I've never had a thought like that. It just happened.

Am I being unfair? Maybe. Yes, I know that that woman is more than her appearance but let's be honest, our appearances do matter and make a difference one way or another, at least first impressions do. I am sure that the women is a nice person and interesting and maybe I will get to know her someday. And if I ever do get that chance I am the type of person who would have to know what the deal is with her heels. Shallow on my part? Perhaps. But my curiosity would get the better of me.

Anyway, that was my interesting moment of the day. Wonder what tomorrow will bring.