Phone Talker

At sixty-three years of life, after approximately fifty-seven years of experience talking on one sort of phone or other, I only talk regularly with one person – my wife.

Our conversations are short and to the point; “I’m on my way home, do we need anything at the store?” and “Payroll didn’t go through the first time, I will be late.”

This is, I believe, is what phone cons are for.  quickly requesting or relating necessary information.

Everywhere I go, though, i see people with phones to their ears and jabbering.  What in the hell can these people be talking about?

I know only one subject well enough to expound on. Me. Maybe that’s why I’m not one who walks around with my phone to my ear.  Every person who has wanted to know about me has found all he wanted. Nobody wants more.

And I’m cool with that.

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Unity

Our Pastor (and all Baptist ministers, and many other evangelical Americans) can readily produce scripture that supports his claim that real, Biblical baptism requires water immersion. Others (Quakers and the Salvation Army, for example) don’t think baptism is necessary and do not perform the ritual. Still others (Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.) contend that immersion is not necessary and even allow for infant baptism. Sects of each of these Christian denominations treat the issue differently than others.

Yet each will defend it’s viewpoint and practice with a barrage of scripture.  And swear that its version of Truth trumps the others’.

Sects disagree on multiple areas in Christian life. Look at differing views on atonement, the doctrine of God, church government, divorce and remarriage, Hell, salvation, women in ministry, eternal security, divine foreknowledge, Revelation, The Lord’s Supper, Predestination and free will, and, well, the list goes on.

Each sect has it’s view point and backs it up with scripture. Each sect’s viewpoint was developed by scholarly, believing, Jesus followers.  For the past few hundred years at least, The Bible has been saying different things to different church leaders, and the leaders have used thier findings to create ever new and ever disagreeing sects.  

Each sect claims to have the correct, Biblical view.

So, does The Bible really tell us what’s right in baptism, women in ministry, predestination free will, and church government and all?

The old saw, “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity,” just doesn’t work here.  Some folks call of these items non-essentials, and claim they are minor disagreements, yet these supposedly minor disagreements have caused rifts, breakaway sects and disunity.  

Is this what we’re to use The Bible for?

What think you?

How’d we get here?

How did I get here?

What decisions did I make that brought me to this place?

What do I remember that can contribute to understanding?

I was a high school student – I knew more about how to run my life than my instructors – I made the highest SAT scores in my school yet managed to graduate with ‘C’ average.  I joined no clubs – so fearful of being rejected that I gave no one the chance – I rejected first.

Hmm.

I went to a souththern university.  While there I discovered alcohol and cannabis sativa.  I learned some stuff about biology and chemistry and getting along with people from other parts of the country.  I met some Viet Nam veterans and learned something about the war from their perspective.  One vet was Gordon.  He’d had pretty much the lower half of his face shot off in Cambodia, fighting a secret part of the war.  I met him after he’d spent a few years at Walter Reed getting his jaw and face rebuilt / grafted.  He told the story of how he’d gotten wounded matter-of-factly, but he never talked of the time at Walter Reed – the many surgeries, the physical therapy, teaching himself how to talk again with his mangled / refrabricated mouthparts.  At first glance he didn’t look as if he’d been hurt very badly; his new chin wasn’t so oddly shaped unless he showed you his before pictures.  He didn’t have lips anymore (he adequately disguised this with his full beard.)  His gash of a mouth couldn’t form a proper seal on the lip of a glass, so he used his tongue as proxy lower lip.

Gordon was a rifleman in his squad.  They were, like I said, in Cambodia, across the border from Viet Nam, doing some reconnaissance.  They were ambushed, and, as Gordon told it, he got “knocked out.”  When he came around, a medic was on the ground, on his knees, with Gordon’s head in his lap, working on him.  Gordon said, “I was looking up at the medic, and his head disappeared.  They blew his head off.  I got up and ran three clicks back to our base.”

Gordon was the only one of his squad to make it back alive.

Gordon put a knife to my throat once. Threatened to slit it and let me bleed out. We’d been drinking a little, and I’d said something that, I guess, touched him the wrong way. I’d always been quick with a quip but never was too sensitive towards my audience. I was enamored of my own cleverness. This moment caused me to look outward a little more than I had been used to. Especially around Gordon.

Gordon came back from the war focused. He pursued his studies relentlessly. He found a woman and married her. He got his degree and got on with his life. He wasn’t like me at all.

Jim was another vet. Friendly to a fault; just a real nice guy. He wouldn’t talk about what happened over there, but we all knew something had. Jim would, no matter where he was, hit the deck and cover his head at any sound even remotely resembling a gunshot. A sharp handclap would do the trick. Jim smoked pot just to calm his nerves. The guys in the dorm relished tormenting Jim by dropping textbooks, slamming doors, lighting firecrackers, you name it. We were idiots – or jerks – both, I guess. Jim stuck it out and got his degree. Nervous, but focused. I hope he found a nice quiet career.

Stuart was in Nam in the early years. He’d been out of the service for a couple of years hippie-ing around in Arizona before coming to our little university on the GI Bill. He just wanted to party and screw. The first real freak we’d met. He quickly located the folks who sold the best drugs and hooked us up with them. Very popular guy. He acted as our mentor (like I said, we were idiots).  He vanished sometime during Spring quarter.

Gary was my other vet friend. Gary had no fear and no sense. A born bullshitter. A schmoozer. He got along with everyone (well, there was the one felonious assault charge, but it was dropped). He’d smoke, swallow, or snort anything in front of him. He wanted nothing more than to get out of his own head. He’s either the CEO of some corporation or living in a trailer somewhere. No in-between for Gary.

… more later …

Review

 

December 1950:

  A twinkle in Dad’s eye.

December 1960:

  Eight years old. A third grader in Mrs. Jones’s class.  She had red/auburn hair and wore purple lipstick.  And she had legs.  I can still picture her today.  That I remember her so well may not be because of her unique look though.  It was in Mrs. Jones’s class when, while we were in a reading circle taking turns reading from our books, that I peed my pants.  I sat there and squirmed, trying to hold it in, for some reason not raising my hand to go to the restroom.  Instead, I peed. When the puddle started building in the floor under my chair, I cried.  The other kids broke into shrill laughter -as I would have had it been someone else – and Mrs. Jones packed me out of that classroom in a big hurry.  I’m not sure what happened after that.  Someone at the school probably called Mom or Dad, questioned them about my home life, and sent me home early.  These days, I guess I would have been pegged for some psychological testing and possibly been deemed special.  Hell, I guess I was special.  I was the only third grader who peed his pants that year to my knowledge.  I remain special, but I don’t piss my pants anymore.  Maybe in a few years I will take it up again. 

schooldaze 004

My best friend that year was Steve McAfee.  That’s him sitting on the floor, far left.  His family had a few acres right next to our subdivision and they always had a croquet court set up in their front yard.  He was pretty damned good.

That’s me in the picture standing next to Mrs. Jones, in the tweed jacket and polo shirt.  I guess she wanted to keep me close to avoid any accidents.  I had a huge crush on her.  Loved that purple lipstick.

December 1970:

  A Freshman at Tennessee Technological University.  I roomed in Austin Hall with a guy named Pat.  He was a sophomore math major who was also a chess master at 19.  He taught me to play chess, went with me to the gym and showed me how to work out on the Universal weight machine (he was a bodybuilder too), and just basically showed me the ropes as to how to get around and act on a college campus.  He introduced me to his his friends, one of which became a fast friend throughout my years a TTU.  Bobby Lineberry.  The best rag piano player I’ve ever heard.  We would go into the Music/Theater arts building and he’d find an empty piano room and start playing — people – women – would just start showing up.  I played wingman.  Bobby was good people.  A country boy from West Tennessee.  He was good at almost everything he tried.

December 1980:

  Nearly five years into my Navy stint, I was serving aboard the USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN 621), a Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine.  A boomer boat.  I still remember how deep and how fast she would go, but I’m not sure if I can tell you.  She was decommissioned in 1992 and scrapped in 1993, but secrets should, I suppose, stay secret.  You could probably find out all you want to know on Wikipedia, I guess.  While I rode her, she was equipped to carry up to 16 Poseidon Ballistic Missiles that we were to be prepared to fire within five minutes of receiving the order to launch.

Each of these missiles had a 2,500 nautical mile range.  Upon reaching the area of its target, the missile could release up to fourteen 40-60 kiloton thermonuclear warheads contained in MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) to multiple targets.  My boat, one of 41 in service at the time, could deliver 224 40 –60 kiloton nuclear devices to 224 independently plotted targets up to nearly 2,900 miles away.  That’s some bad mojo if you’re on the wrong side.

Today’s boats are like science fiction stories.

Anyway.  I worked in the radio room, and my best buddy was Bernie.  We did everything together in 1980.  Everything.  We drank when we weren’t at sea.  We drank and chased women.  I was the wingman again.  Bernie was married and had a kid, but that didn’t matter to either of us.  The next year, I found out that Bernie beat his wife.  That mattered to me.  I drank alone after that.  Bernie transferred to Bremerton a month or so after that.  His family went with him.  We don’t keep in touch.  I used to beat myself up over what I should have, could have, might have done back then.  I don’t anymore. I was just as broken as Bernie back then.  I pray his wife is OK, and that he’s reborn.  That’s all I can do now.  I don’t  think about those days much anymore.

 

December 1990:

  Technical Support Engineer, Dornier Medical Systems, Inc.  Married for a year and a half to Mary Lou, with a seven year old son, Josh, and a nearly one year old Bradley.  We were in our eleventh month in this house; we were new to it and new to each other.  I didn’t drink at all then.  I was still driving with a probationary work and groceries only driver’s license at the time.  I hadn’t recognized yet the healing I needed, and surely didn’t understand how much of that healing I would receive from Mary. I didn’t know then the God had placed her in front of me as a lifeline.  I thought I had come as hers.  What a doofus. 

Mary was teaching me how to live.

 

December 2000:

  Working at ServiceTrends as Quality Assurance Manager.  I was bringing home a good deal more money than I was earning.  I was frustrated with where my career was going.  I really missed the days when I was actually taking broken things and making them work again.  Instead, I was writing quality manuals and instructions that I knew no one wanted to follow, and that I didn’t really believe in myself.  I was frustrated, and felt that I was accomplishing nothing. 

I brought the frustration home.  I remember once, Josh and Brad had a little falling out,  I raised my voice in anger (anger was my first response in those days), and Josh left the room in a huff.  As he was leaving, he passed by me in the hall and gave me what I thought was an intentional ‘shoulder’ on the way.  I reacted quickly.  He was wearing an oxford style shirt, and I grabbed the shirt at the front just under the collar and lifted him about six inches off the ground.  I’m not sure exactly what I said to him while I held him up against the wall, but my tone was more animal than human. I snarled my reproach and held him up there a few more seconds before I let go. 

I am so sorry I ever did that.

I had looked for truth, ultimate truth, call it whatever, back in the mid eighties, and gotten some mileage. I was reading philosophers back then and some of them were making sense.  I read the Bible cover to cover during that same period, and found it to be gobbledygook.  Then I met Mary and life got better.  Mary, marriage, and heeding my marriage oath became my truth for the time being.  I had stopped searching. 

I realized though that what I had done to Josh was aberrant.  I needed fixing.  I began to try to find what the hell was wrong, and how to make it right.  I was good at fixing things.  It’s what I did best.

 

December 2010:

  I’m 58 years old going on 40.  I’m living in the freedom of Christ’s salvation.  I’m working a second shift job at temp wages and enjoying it more than any job I’ve had since I was working the electronic repair bench twenty-five years ago.  My relationship with Mary is better today than it has ever been, and I aim to keep it that way.  I am surrounded by friends who love me.

My eldest son is a graduate of the university down the road with a Bachelor of Science degree, and is to be inducted into the US Navy next July.  My younger son is gainfully employed and becoming an adult.  I love and am proud of my two boys.

The economy is worse than it’s been in my adult lifetime yet I am not worried.  My paycheck is lower today than anytime since I got out of the Navy in 1986 but I don’t lack for anything. 

I have everything.

A Damn Shame

This morning I had to run a few errands — take the trash left over from the yard sale to the local landfill, return some Redbox movies, and deliver a small case of C-fold towels to TCAW.

While I was loading the truck, Dad plodded out of the house and began to help. 

 

There were seven old gallon paint pails, and I knew that the local landfill only allows us to deliver five gallons per day, so as I picked up the first two, I said to Dad, “We only need to bring five paint cans; that’s all they’ll let us throw away at a time.”

I put the first two in the pickup bed, and dad put two in.  I got the fifth and put it in the truck, and turned to see Dad coming with numbers six and seven.  I said, “We don’t need those, Dad.  We can only throw away five today.”

Dad said, “Oh, OK,” and put the pails in the truck.

… OK.  Maybe I’ll just drop them off tomorrow after work.

We get to the landfill, and I put the bagged trash into the compactors.  When I came around to Dad’s side of the truck, I grabbed a couple of the broken-down boxes and said to Dad, “All the cardboard goes over there” as I motioned to and started walking toward the green container with the “Cardboard Only – Break Down Boxes” sign (incidentally, hardly anyone around here breaks down their cardboard boxes prior to putting them into this container.  Can’t figure why.  Sure can get a lot more of them on the truck that way.) 

When I deposit my cardboard load and start back toward the truck, I see Dad with cardboard under one arm and sheet vinyl under the other.  As I pass by, I say again, “Only cardboard goes over there,” as I take the vinyl from under his arm and head back to the truck for the last of the cardboard.  I get to the truck, throw the vinyl back in, grab the the last of the cardboard, turn around, and there’s Dad back at the truck with his cardboard still under his arm.  I start toward the container and motion for him to follow.  We get the cardboard into the proper container.

I have a discussion with one of the attendants about where to put the rest of my trash. He’s been watching us and has noticed Dad’s confusion.  He looks into the truck bed and asks, “Is that paint wet or dry?”

Honest Bob says, “Wet.” 

Understand.  Wet paint is a pollutant — an environmental hazard.  it will kill us all.  Therefore, we can only throw away five gallons per day. 

Dry paint is, well, trash.  We can fill a boxcar with dry paint pails without worrying the green police.

Shudda said, “Dry.”

Attendant – “You know, you can only leave five gallons of paint here …”

Then he took another look at me, then Dad, and said, “… but since there’s two of ya, I guess that’s less than five apiece.  The paint goes over under the shed, and the rest can go to Number four.”

All the roll-on / roll-offs have numbers on them.  Number four is way too full of tree limbs, and has a “CLOSED” sign on it.  Whatever.

We get back into the truck – this takes a minute or two (Dad take a few moments to situate himself when getting into and out of automobiles) and drive over to “Number four.”  I get out of the truck, check Dad to see what he’s doing (he’s getting out too), grab the two rolls of vinyl and head for the container.  I find a corner where our stuff will fit, dump the vinyl, and head back to the truck.

Here comes Dad with two pails of paint.

“Dad!” I have to shout because a driver is dropping off another container about thirty fee away.  “We can’t put the paint here!  Everything but the paint!”

“What?”

“No paint here! Anything but paint goes into this dumpster!”

“Oh, OK.” 

He says this every time whether he knows what you’re talking about or not.  He seemed to get it this time, though, because he headed back to the truck with his paint.  I picked up some more stuff and handed it to him to throw away, then grabbed the last of the non-paint.  As I turned around (this is getting familiar, isn’t it?) I saw Dad wandering toward “Number Three” (recyclable plastics only) with his armload of stuff.  I managed to run him down and head him to the proper destination with me.  We got our non-paint trash deposited.

We climbed back into the truck for the drive to the shed to get rid of our paint.  We could have easily walked the paint over there, and I would have if I had been alone, but I wanted to as close as possible to the shed to eliminate as many distractions as I could.

We parked, got the paint deposited without incident, got back into the truck, and headed off for the next errand.

As we were driving, Dad piped up and said:

 

“We don’t know what’s become of the boys …”

“Newt, well, I guess they have him working.”

“Bob —“(long pause)  “I don’t know what’s become of Bob.  He never had a lot of work in him.”

“It’s a damn shame.”

 

I said nothing. 

Newt’s my brother, Dad’s elder son.  I’m Bob the younger. 

To Dad, I’m Bob, the guy who lives upstairs.  He comments about how hard I work around the house regularly (although his truck assessment about his son Bob is somewhat accurate — I’ve got a good bit more ‘sit and think’ in me than ‘work’) and he likes me. But to him, I’m not his son Bob.  He’s just not sure where that Bob is right now.

Today — this morning — my life, in my Dad’s Alzheimer’s addled mind, was just “a damn shame.” 

There was a time when his assessment was true.   Thanks to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, it is true no more.

What I Would’ve Said …

 

Today was a wonderful day at TCAW (that’s The Church – Churches? – at Woodland for anyone who’s not from around here.)  Our pastor took over Kid’s Journey (is that what we call it?) and left Jayme to act as Mistress of Ceremonies for the day.  Our (the congregation’s) task was, as we felt the need/obligation, to go in front of the body and share (in 3 minutes or less – only one person went over, I think), “WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF THIS CHURCH, and HOW GOD USED THIS CHURCH TO CHANGE YOU.”

We were to share our thoughts after ruminating on Hebrews 10: 24-25:  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

A whole slew of people got up and talked. There were folks waiting in line to tell us how their time at Woodland had rearranged their priorities, changed their habits, improved their attitudes, and made over their lives.  I (as is my wont) listened.  I felt the urge to talk, but buried it as I usually do.  I listened. And cried. I cried when Greg Bradley spoke.  I cried when Richard Williamson spoke.  Hearing the others forced me back into my own past and to remember who I was then, who I am now, and the hand that my family at TCAW has had in helping to make me (for better or worse) who I am today. And I cried again. 

No, I didn’t speak.  But if I had, I would have said something like this:

Hi.  I’m Bob White.  I’m on the Elder Board (We call it the Council of Elders — gives it a Star Wars or Knights Templar sort of a ring, doesn’t it?) here at TCAW.  The fact that I’m an Elder indicates how low we’ve set the bar.

On the Elder board, I serve as Facilities Steward.  I recommend repairs that I’m not qualified to accomplish, and veto all other facility requests due to lack of funds.  It’s a heavy responsibility, but I’ve borne it sufficiently well to date. 

I’m also a hireling here at TCAW.  My job title is (just a minute — I’ve got to go to the web site and see what they call me …) “The Man.”  There’s no job description.  We intend to write one.  We’ve intended to since 2006.  Anyway, I mostly just cut the grass, replace light bulbs, and buy cleaning materials and toilet paper when we need it.  If I remember.

Brad (the pastor) and Jayme (the Creative Arts Director and Brad’s wife) let me be a part of this TCAW thing for valid reasons, I’m sure. 

Let me try to list a few:

1. Brad lets me hang around because I’m low maintenance.  I don’t wear my problems on my sleeve, and I don’t bug him for advice on how to live my life.  I don’t dump my crap on his back.  I think he appreciates that, so when I show up, he usually seems genuinely happy to see me. 

2.  I show up when I’m supposed to — mostly.

3. Jayme lets me stay on because — well, I’m not sure.  She’s called me a kindred spirit: someone who thinks and feels the way she does (yeah, I looked it up…)  If she truly thinks and feels the way I do, it’s a good thing she’s married to a pastor/shepherd/counselor.  I’m glad she likes me though, because her opinion of me matters.  I don’t say that about many people at all.

The elder board lets me stay around because …  because … well, just because, I suppose.

Anyway.  What I love about this church: Well, they let me hang around, for one thing.  They not only let me hang around, they’ve EMBRACED me.  Even after they got to know me (They’ve had six years now.) 

We all remember the old saw, “I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have someone like me as a member.”  That was my attitude until I got here.  Now that I’m in the club, I don’t ever want to leave.  And I’ll never have to.

I remember being a newbie at TCAW, and, totally by mistake and unintentionally, “volunteering” to lead a small group.  Thank God for K. C. and Lea Ann, Brian and Damaris, Ginella, Janice and Jay, and the others in that small group for being so forgiving of their ‘leader’ and helping me through the 40 daze ….  Everyone but Ginella and Janice have moved on, but I’ll treasure that group for a long time.

I remember working with Katherine on the Kitchen team; the team had other members, but they rarely showed up – it was usually just me and Katherine.  I learned “SERVICE” on that team like never before or since.

I remember the week in August, 2005 — Mary had been complaining of indigestion all week long and wasn’t eating well.  Finally on Saturday (August 27) morning, she couldn’t bear the pain any longer, and asked me to take her to a doctor.  After waiting for hours at a local Urgent Care facility, Mary doubled over with chest pains, they let her into an examination room and a professional had a look at her.  Things moved rather quickly after that, and within a couple of hours, she had had nine angioplasties and one stent to repair the damage done by multiple heart attacks during the week.  We now know the symptoms for cardiac infarction ….

Anyway, the outpouring of love and support from the family at TCAW during that time was such a comfort to Mary and me, and I’ll never forget it.  I thank Greg and K.C. especially for propping me up during that time. 

I remember trying to organize work parties to get the siding put up on the back of the church building, and having absolutely no success.  That’s when I learned that all I had to do was just start the work.  Once folks saw work underway, they made time to help and the project went fairly quickly.  Thanks to Russel, Kenny, Joe Groves, and the others I’m forgetting to mention.

I could go on.  And on.  There are so many people who’ve helped me in so many ways here at TCAW.   That’s what I love about the people at this church.

 

Now, on to, “how God used this church to change” me:  I used to trust and love me.  Just me. Only me.  See above.  Now I’m beginning to love you.  Trust you.  

 

That’s quite a change.