Friday, September 25, 2009

Unplugged

I hoped that there would be a wireless network in our neighborhood we could . . . well pirate. No dice. You see, we recently canceled our Comcast bundle. No TV (which is absolutely fine with us). No internet. But we have a new IT headquarters--Dunkin' Donuts. It's only 10 minutes from the house, and the internet is free. It's a great set-up. There is a lounge area with comfortable, brown leather couches and chairs. Across the length of the back wall is a granite countertop with plenty of outlets to stay powered up. A television mounted close to the ceiling is broadcasting the Red Sox/Yankees game. No one seems very interested. Heads lifted for just a second when A-Rod hit a belt high fast ball out of the park. Next to me is a young couple, and they are loading programs into their new PC. They asked me to help them. Now that is funny--I can load a gun, load a hay wagon, load a wood stove, and I used to know how to load film into a camera (now they use memory sticks. Do you load memory sticks?), but beyond turning my computer on, and clicking a few icons, I am a clueless.

I told them I am a Mac user.

We can no longer access cyberspace as quickly, or as often, as we are accustomed. But I am not sure that is such a bad thing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Anchors Away

Etched into the dermis of my left shoulder is a tattoo—the tattoo is that of a Compass. Like the family crest of the old English, plaids of the Scots, or the signet ring of the Prodigal’s father, that Compass holds iconic significance for me. In my core, the desire for adventure never takes a break. Never. Those who are hard-wired in such a way, know there is a special set of curses--as well as blessings--that accompany such a disposition.

Adventurers are . . .

Blessed, because they do not live with a fear to explore, risk, or advance into the unknown.

Blessed, because their comfort with the unfamiliar, positions them to be unusually blessed to experience the unusual.

Blessed, because situations others would find frantic—they find the romantic.

Blessed, because, to loosely quote Saint Augustine, “Life is a book, and those who never travel read only one page.” Adventurers are on the move—even when they are sitting still! Wide horizons and broad perspectives fuel their imagination.

They are also . . .

Cursed, because their fearlessness often leads to recklessness—risk is not weighed against reward. They will charge into the unknown with little more than a generous supply of optimism and naïveté. Careless.

Cursed, because they thrive on the rush and challenge that comes with the unfamiliar. But they do not let—or get—familiar enough with any one place, or any one person. Despite having no desire to be a loner, they are often alone.

Cursed, because the fine line that separates frantic and romantic can get blurred—the romantic often morphs frantic.

Cursed, because they are page-turners—they move on from one adventure to another. Too quickly. Too easily.

The Compass reminds me of the tension and freedom—vision and confusion—exhilaration and exasperation—and the blessing and curse of belonging to the fraternity of the Predisposed Toward Exploits. Notional winds always find the sails of the explorer ready to billow, and skim toward uncharted horizons. Journeys can get messy, and it is not uncommon to see such adventurers damaged or dashed to splinters on the ragged reefs of life. Getting off course, and staying on course are constant and equal threats.

My iconic compass prompts me to monitor the confluence of blessings and curses that flow through my lifeblood. It points are fixed and help me right my ship or confirm my bearings. Even though the sojourn may be circuitous, I will get to the right port . . . and listen for the prompt, “Anchors away.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

32

Sandy was 19, and I was 21 when we were married in Dallas, Texas. Tomorrow, September 10, it will be 32 years. During that time we have raised 3 outstanding children, began 3 church plants, been the Sr. Pastor in 3 pastorates. For 2 years we represented an international ministry. Our successes have been many and our failures fewer. Unspeakable joy and seemingly unbearable heartaches have been ours. We have soared to great spiritual heights, and we have plumbed the depths of despair. Many of the mysteries of life and relationships remain unsolved. Questions? Many. Answers? Fewer. Both friends and adversaries are ours. To many, we have been a great source encouragement. Speaking for myself, to many, I have been a great disappointment. To advance the Kingdom, we have stayed in the homes of Gypsy, Bulgarian, and Greek families in Northern Europe. We have built a school for the deaf children in Mexico. Concluding the greatest adventure of my life, I celebrated Easter--in 2005--on the banks of the Mekong River. We have discipled Chinese on their home turf, and navigated the tensions and chaos of Venezuela in the city of Caracas. We have ministered in the warmth, opulence, and exotic beauty of the Bahamas, and we shoveled snow for 6 years at the top of Maine. I have seen the ravages of Katrina, and the rage of Mt. St. Helen after she blew her top. Together, we have watched a thousand sunrises and sunsets. Sandy's mom died in our home. Her dad and step dad died unexpectedly. Nearly all her aunts and uncles are with the Lord. Grief has been no stranger.

Our union has had all the elements of a great adventure. Excitement--discouragement. Fear--exhilaration. Rough waters--smooth sailing. We have gotten it right--we have gotten it wrong. We have known clarity--and wrestled with mystery. We have been strong--we have been weak. We have laughed--we have cried. We have run--we have fainted. We have stumbled--we struggled to our feet. We have had insight--we have had no sight. We have been in awe--we have been amused. We believe there is more--not less.

How do you sum up, or explain, 32 years of marriage? Is not a a single life immensely complex? Then are not two lives, becoming one life--an unexplainable paradox?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Big Brother

It had been at least 30 years since I had been to my brother's grave site. I almost didn't recognize the tiny little cemetery on my right as we drove through a wide spot in the road -- a town called Lowell -- in the state of Maine. I tapped the breaks, pointed, and told Sandy that is where my older brother, Glennie, (Glendon) is buried. We drove another minute, did a u-turn, and pulled up parallel to the black iron fence that separates the resting place from the restless world. I began looking at the cemetery in sections. First the oldest stones, and then from right to left to the newer stones. At the same time I was trying to turn back the clock to a time and place in my memory more than 3 decades gone by. I was trying to remember where my big brother was laid to rest.

Glendon was born in 1953, and he died of cancer, in my father's arms, just before Christmas in 1956. I was born December 16, 1955.

I have often wondered what Glendon would be like today. The pictures we have are those of a happy little guy--even those taken in his last months--pictures that reveal his sunken cheeks and tired eyes. Would he have loved the outdoors, writing, athletics, and adventure like I do? Would I have grown up in his shadow. Would there have been sibling rivalry, or would I have idolized my big brother? What vocation would he have chosen? What would his wife and kids be like? How would I be different, because he lived?

Within a few minutes I found his marker. The spray of artificial flowers mom and dad placed there on Memorial Day were centered at the foot of the headstone. The stone itself was dappled with lichen, and had a weathered, ancient appearance. Following the top, convex curve of the gravestone were the words, "Our darling." Along the base was the single word "Baby." In the middle, in prominent font was, "Glendon."

"Our darling baby, Glendon."

Without warning, I found myself convulsing in tears as I stared down through blurry eyes at my feet. I knelt down, and then lay down on his plot. I don't know why I am like that, why I do such things, or why I am touched so profoundly with melancholy at times.

Glendon's is one of three family markers clustered together. Next to him is Barbara, my father's sister. Influenza took her--she was only 8 months old. Next to Barbara was the single stone under which lay the remains of my grandmother, Myrtle, and my grandfather. Their stone looked brand new. I was named after my grandfather. I am William Vernon Shorey II. Papa Bill died of a heart attack in 1973. He was a kind, gentle, and loving man. On Saturdays, over four-and-a-half decades ago, Dad would walk us down Center Street hill for breakfast at my grandparent's home. My cousins would be there; they lived next door. When we entered Papa Bill's house, on the kitchen table would be a steaming pile of saucer-sized flap jacks he had cooked up for all us grandchildren. In minutes, we would be covering them with real butter and maple syrup, and fiercely competing to see who could eat the most! Papa Bill enjoyed it more than any of us.

Those are some of the most pleasant memories of my childhood. I know Glennie would have cherished them, too.