Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On The Brink

It impresses me how many of the Psalms deal with individuals on the brink.  Whether the issue be sickness or war or humiliation, the Psalmists find themselves on the edge.  If they slip but a few inches more, they will fall over into the deep pits of life.  So, whether a lament psalm spoken from the edge, or a thanksgiving psalm spoken after being pulled back from the edge, the theme of "brink" is a constant companion through the Psalms.

I had a conversation with an individual in a very similar situation last week.  This person was overwhelmed by all of life's issues that had piled up.  This individual was looking down, and only saw a pit ahead.  Among the many things we talked about that day, one of them was the idea of stress thresholds, and that when people reach a certain point, they legitimately may not be able to physically or emotionally or spiritually handle any more.  That conversation got me thinking.  It got me thinking about my own life over the last five years.  When Kalyn and I got married she had one year of college left.  So, to make financial ends meet, I worked five jobs that year, although the most I think I worked at once was three.  After she graduated, I accepted a teaching position at a Christian K-12 school.  One of my student's parents accused me of teaching heresy, (yes, I have officially been called a heretic).  A panel was formed to sift through my lesson plans and teaching material to find out if I was, in fact, what I had been accused of being.  In the end, I was cleared of heresy charges, but did not have my contract renewed.  I must admit.  That experience made a deep impression as far as how I feel about conservative evangelicals, and it wasn't a pretty one.  The last three years at my present congregation have not all been peaches and cream either.

I say all this to say, we all have a stress threshold.  In Roy Oswald's book "New Beginnings," Oswald provides two stress inventories.  The first he simply calls the Clergy Stress Inventory.  This inventory is a list of multiple situations that can cause ministers stress, and each is given a numerical value.  Here are some, but not all, of the stresses I have had over the last year that made the list.

Death of close family member
Segment of the congregation meeting privately to discuss your resignation
Change in the health of a family member
Alienation from one's leadership
Gain of new family member
Change in financial state
Living with rumors about self/family
Church-member's anger over something you did
Spouse begins or ends work
Revision of personal habits
Mortgage or loan less than $80,000

That's just some of the fun I've had this past year.  The actual list is a bit longer.  According to Oswald, a stress level of 200 or over can cause some people to exceed their stress tolerance, which will have direct spiritual, physical, and emotional ramifications. That's not true of everyone, but if a person's stress level is 200+, that person needs to pay special attention to how he or she is doing.  After adding up the scores for all the things Kalyn and I have had to deal with this last year, my stress level is 465.  I think that makes it safe to say that I have had a "bad year."  The other stress inventory is called The Strain Response.  In that inventory, a total score of 30 and over implies you are regularly living over your stress threshold.  I scored a 33, which all things considered, isn't as high as it could be.  40 and over is heart attack territory, so at least I'm not there.

I don't say all that to say, "Ooh, look at me.  Throw me a pity party!"  I say all that to say, I'm resonating with a part of the Psalms I haven't really resonated with before.  The last time I took the Clergy Stress Inventory was probably about two years ago.  At that time I scored a 204, which isn't great, but it does show that I was in a very different place.  Two years ago, the last time I read through all the Psalms, I resonated with individual Psalms, sometimes lament, sometimes thanksgiving, but I didn't resonate with how both revolve around the experience of having stood on the brink.  I get that now.

I also now get why the Psalmists are always giving credit to God for their survival.  I have no idea why I haven't had a full mental break down this year.  I've certainly not been 100%.  My creativity has dried up.  I exhibit common signs of burnout, but I haven't completely broken down.  I had a breakdown my second year of graduate school, and I never want to go back to that, but I can't in any way credit myself for not breaking down this year.  I've stood at the abyss.  Sheol was nearby.  My enemies mocked me and shook their heads, but God has kept me from slipping over the edge, and, as the Psalmists say, I will praise his name to the peoples.

Stopping point: Psalms 45, Proverbs 15

Friday, June 24, 2011

Epic Fail

So, as I feared, I have yet to read the Psalms three times a day like I intended.  It's not that I'm lazy; it's just that I don't think about it.  I wake up every morning and say, "Crap, I forgot to read last night."  So, I read two in the morning, but then I get home from work and say, "Crap, I forgot to read one at lunch."  I have a deep respect for people who have a daily discipline of taking three moments out of their day to pray or read the Psalms.  It s not an easy discipline.  There are way too many distractions during the day, which is precisely why we should probably all do it, to recenter ourselves.  However, in the mean time, I'll keep plugging along and see if I can do better.

Oh, and as far as chapters in Proverbs that deal with adultery, now we're at five out of nine.

Stopping place: Psalms 39, Proverbs 9

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Adultery in Proverbs

So, I'm six chapters into Proverbs; three of them warn against adultery.  When I first began my graduate studies at Abilene Christian University, I worked as a graduate assistant for the Pruett Gerontology Center.  The focus of my research was intergenerational ministry, but necessarily, a great deal of that research revolved around Generation X.  Now, I'm pretty sure the statistics I'm about to give you aren't exact; I haven't looked at them in eight years and I don't even remember the title of the book I got them out of.  Having said that, I think I remember reading that as of the 90's 4/10 married individuals would have an affair.  2/10 would be the "other" man or woman.  Think about that.  That's a staggeringly high number.  For every ten people you pass on the street in their thirties and forties, at least four of them have had sexual relationships with married people they aren't married to...and don't think for a second that the numbers are any less inside the Church.

Those are old statistics, so I did a quick google search on adultery and Gen X, and this is what I found.  As of the early 2000's, 50-65% of men had had an affair.  40-55% of women had had an affair.  Men under 30 and women under 30 are equally likely to have an affair, and 53% of the population will cheat on their spouse during their lifetime.  Those are staggering numbers.  Those are sad numbers.  So what do we do?

Well, first we have to bring things out of darkness and into the light.  But that having been said, we have to think about our response before we start asking people to own up to their mistakes.  To be more specific, we have to follow Jesus's example and drop our stones.  For far too long the Church has been so concerned with condemning sin that we've had our giant, red A's to hang around people's necks, making them social pariahs.  But was that Jesus's response to adultery?  Did he throw the first stone?  Those of us who wear our Christianity with pride need a healthy dose of humble pie.  The 53% of us who will commit adultery in our life are no more broken or faulty then the 47% of us who wont.  We need to learn to be a community of healing and support.  Of courage and unflinching ethical standards, yes, and a community with the strength to try to carry through on our commitments...we are not a people called to live out the lowest common denominator.  However, some of our highest ethical standards are the expectation to forgive, show mercy, and love.  Even adulterers.  Even those among us who become adulterers.  Drop your stones.  Otherwise we'll end up killing off half our population.  Considering how fast congregations are shrinking and dying all around this country, maybe we already have.

Second of all, but along similar lines, the Church needs to let go of its generational prejudices.  The statistics I gave above might be associated with Generation X, but adultery is not their invention.  The book of Proverbs is a few thousand years old, apparently adultery was no small issue then either.  As a member of Gen X myself, I've had a stomach full of complaint and prejudice thrown at me.  So, let me be a bit harsh to the older generation for a moment.  My generation may have a high adultery statistic, but let us remember that my generation struggles with the sanctity of marriage because the generation before us had the highest divorce rate as of yet.  We weren't exactly set a good example.  And let it be said that even though adultery statistics have increased, divorce rates among Generation X have decreased in comparison to the Boomers.  Again, let he who has no sin cast the first stone...our prejudices aren't serving anybody.

So, adultery in Proverbs...in some regards humanity hasn't changed much.  The consequences for adultery haven't changed either.  Adultery breaks people, let alone families.  If God is going to heal those people, the Church needs to learn to be a place of healing also, and frankly, that hasn't been our forte.

Stopping point: Proverbs 6/Psalms 34

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Beginning Of Knowledge

One of the most often quoted proverbs is Proverbs 1:7a

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge...."

What stood out to me today as I began the book of Proverbs is how the phrase "beginning of knowledge" really sums up the whole purpose of Proverbs.  Proverbs is one of three Wisdom Literature books in the Old Testament.  The other two are Ecclesiastes and Job.  Now, I have enjoyed Ecclesiastes for a long time.  Job is no less challenging now then it was a decade ago, but the book of Proverbs lost its appeal for me early on in college.  When I was in high school I had an NIV Bible that I read through, cover to cover, for the first time.  Back then I was big on highlighting texts that stood out to me, and I remember highlighting a number of the sayings in Proverbs.  But during college, the book of Proverbs spoke less and less to me.  It was too black and white.  It made statements that just didn't seem to hold weight in my experience.  It was overly simple.  I couldn't help but read some of the sayings and think, "Yeah, but it doesn't always go that way."

It is helpful when reading the book of Proverbs to know that most scholars think Proverbs was a book used to train princes.  In other words, it was a book used to teach children, and as such, its teaching is intentionally simple.  It is intentionally black and white.  It isn't nuanced with the lens of suffering like Job or put in the context of a whole life's experience like Ecclesiastes.  Proverbs is much more along the lines of folk wisdom, applicable wisdom, "a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush" wisdom, or maybe, "It takes one to know one."

When one is beginning to gain knowledge it is important to know that greed never pays off.  Proverbs has a saying for that.  For a young man who will one day have power, and therefore the attention of women who are attracted to power, it is important to know that adultery never ends well.  Proverbs has a saying for that.  For a young man who will one day inherit a great deal of wealth, it is important to know that money isn't everything.  Proverbs has a saying for that.  You get my point.  Yes, the wisdom Proverbs has to offer is simple, but simplicity has its place.  Proverbs, as far as Old Testament Wisdom Literature goes, is the starting place for wisdom; it is the beginning  of knowledge.  Don't expect more from Proverbs than it has to offer.

Proverbs is not a rule book for life.  It doesn't offer guidance for every challenge we'll face.  It is an introduction to wisdom.  It offers guidelines, bookends, those rumble strips on the side of highways that let you know if you're getting dangerously close to the edge.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It has its place, and if we let Proverbs teach us, it will help us move on to deeper and more complex waters.  There is a reason Ecclesiastes comes after Proverbs.  Ironically, Job should come after Proverbs too.  I think I need to talk with the monk who put our Bible in its order and iron a few things out.

Stopping point: Proverbs 3, Psalms 27

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Slowing Down The Psalms

So, I have to read 25 psalms to get caught up.  As I've said before, the psalms aren't something that you want to rush through if you want to get anything out of them.  So, I'm going to change things up a bit.  I'm going to skip ahead to Proverbs for my daily blog reading.  Alongside that I'm going to commit to reading the Psalms three times a day, one in the morning, one just before lunch, and one before going to bed.  For those of you who already do something very similar to this with the Book of Common Prayer, you're probably wondering why I never did it before.  To be honest, it intimidates me.  I've never been one to structure my prayer time, so I'm not sure if I can stay committed to doing it.  However, I don't see any other way to actually read the psalms, rather than just skim through them.  So, tomorrow I'll start with my daily discipline, as well as begin Proverbs.

Stopping point: Psalms 25

Back Again

Well, I'm back from a second trip to Indiana.  This was a much harder trip.  Grandpa's funeral went well, although that was when the fact that he's gone really set in, so it was a hard day.  Honestly, it's still setting in.  That's one thing Kalyn finds odd about me.  Leading up to a major life change, I'm fine.  I'm pretty practical, so I don't get real emotional about things.  But after the event, well, then things hit me.  This has been no different.  The last two weeks when Grandpa's health continued to decline, I was okay.  We knew he was dying and there was nothing anyone could do about it, but now after the fact, after the funeral really, I find myself tearing up for no good reason.  Oh well, to each their own.

I did get to see family that I hadn't seen since my childhood, and that was a lot of fun.  My cousin once removed, Mark Gensic, was there.  He played Amazing Grace on the harmonica at the grave site.  No one even knew he played harmonica.  He said he only knew three songs, but none of us would have guessed.  He's also from the "tall" side of the family.  The jerk is over six feet tall.  I'm jealous, but I make up for my 5'9" in girth.

I heard more stories about my family's history in the last few days then I had heard my whole life, and our family shares more about out history than most, so that's saying something.  Who knew my great-grandfather, Ignatius, was a traveling minstrel in Yugoslavia?  All I knew was that he was a railroad worker in the U.S.  I learned that it was not my great-grandfather that spent time in South America, but in fact, my great-grandmother, Francis, who was involved in slave labor before making her way back to Yugoslavia before coming to Chicago, where she met Iggy (as he was called here).  I learned that on both sides of my family, my grandparents eloped.  I learned my dad's mom's family moved to Markle because my grandmother was dating an Italian named Joe, and well...you just don't date foreigners, only to have her meet and begin dating a Croatian named Joe.  My grandfather's parents weren't any more happy because they were Catholic, and grandma was protestant, and you just didn't do that sort of thing back then.  In order to get married, my grandpa lied about his age so he could do it without his parents' permission.  Apparently you had to be 19 to get married without your parents' permission back then, and he and grandma were only 18.  So, 21 for the day he became.

We looked at old pictures.  I'd never seen my great-grandmother Ruth, or my grandmother's dad on my dad's side (I can't remember his name).  Before this weekend, I'd only ever seen one picture of great-grandmother Francis (she went by her middle name, Barbara) and my great-grandfather Iggy.  My Aunt Marcy took my grandpa's old 8mm film strips and put them on DVD, so we spent Saturday night watching old home videos of my dad as a kid and the extended family.  It was a lot of fun.  It was also very sad.  I wish so much that Grandpa could have watched those with us and shared in the laughs and the tears.  It was a good weekend with family, but now things feel sort of empty and lonely back down in KY by myself.  It probably doesn't help that Kalyn and Shep are down in TX visiting family there.

Well, I'll be getting back in the saddle again with my reading and posting.  I have some catching up to do.  Please continue praying for my family as they adjust to the loss of a very constant and good man.  For our family at least, it feels like an era has passed, the Era of Grandpa.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Old Testament Versus New Testament Prayer

Last night during our mid-week Bible study, the auditorium adult class discussed the nature of prayer in the Old and New Testament.  I've been teaching the teens on Wednesday nights, so it was sort of a treat to be able to sit in on the adult class.  Some of the class discussion revolved around whether God answers prayers the same way now as he did in the Old Testament.  We discussed the purpose behind prayer.  After all, if God knows everything you need, why pray for it?  We also discussed the nature of the prayers themselves.  In other words, did people pray about different things in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.  The general consensus of the class was that yes, there is a difference.  The class decided that in the New Testament, Jesus taught his disciples to pray for their enemies, to pray for God's kingdom to come to earth.  In comparison, in the Old Testament people asked God to smite their enemies.  People were only worried about their own kingdoms.  Something disturbed me about this last night.  I disagreed, but I couldn't quite figure out how to voice why.  So, this post is my attempt to express my disagreement.

First, I sometimes wonder if by ignoring differences in genre we assume differences in message.  For example, in the Gospels, Jesus tells people to love their neighbor as themselves.  In the Torah, God tells his people not to covet their neighbors property.  Jesus's words come down to us through the genre of gospel, whereas God's words to Moses come to us through law.  Of course, they sound different.  Jesus sounds much less legalistic, but is the New Testament (here Jesus) actually telling us anything new from the Old Testament (here Moses)?  Well, no.  In fact, what we think of as Jesus's golden rule, "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love you neighbor as yourself," is, in fact, just a mass-up of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  Because of the genre, those verses tend to get overlooked in the Torah, they're just other "rules," whereas they stand out in the Gospels, but Jesus wasn't telling the Jews something they didn't already know.  He was, however, re-framing it in another genre so they could hear it with fresh ears.

This leads me to the second thing that bothered me about last night's discussion.  Many Christians tend to be anti-Old Testaments.  Isn't the Old Testament old, after all?  We Christians don't live under that covenant, so why do we need to read it?  It's outdated.  There are a number of parts that are troubling, and the New Testament is kinder.  God in the New Testament is a loving God, whereas God in the Old Testament is an angry God.

There are a whole host of issues with this attitude.  First, that's pretty much the attitude of Marcion, a Christian Bishop from the 2nd century.  He believed the Old Testament was inferior to the New Testament, or at least parts of the New Testament.  He also thought the God of the Old Testament was angry and vengeful.  He came up with an easy solution: rewrite the Bible.  When he put his own Bible together, he simply did away with the Old Testament.  However, much of the New Testament sounded too Jewish to him also.  By the time he was done editing, his Bible consisted of eleven books: two-thirds of the Gospel of Luke, a short version of Galatians and Romans, I and II Corinthians, I and II Thessalonians, Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon and Colossians.  What frightens me about this is that many Christians I've known, and know, have done the same thing, but there's a reason the early Church called Marcion a heretic.  The problem with Marcion's view of God and Jesus wasn't in the Bible, it was in him.  How Marcion treated the Bible only showed his own flaws.

Another issue I have with the attitude that there is no place for the Old Testament in Christian life is that, let's be honest, most Christians aren't familiar with the Old Testament.  They don't actually know what it says.  Their judgment call is based off of rumor, speculation, and hearsay.  Yes, without a doubt the ban is troubling.  Yes, the Old Testament can be violent.  Welcome to life, past, present, and future.  It just might be that the violence of the Old Testament has more to do with the violence of the people writing the books than the God they worship.  Christians have committed atrocities in the name of Jesus.  Does that automatically mean Jesus is a blood thirsty Lord?  Of course not.  A person can't read the prophets without acknowledging that God is a god of love and forgiveness, a God who shows mercy when he doesn't have to, a God concerned for the needs of the poor and oppressed.  The Old Testament God is a God who rescues and protects and saves.  If you don't believe me, go read the Old Testament.  Familiarize yourself with it, then tell me what it does or does not say.

So in the end, confusion over the nature of prayer in Old Testament is actually confusion over the nature of God in the Old Testament.  Yes, there are differences in how things are said between the Old and New Testaments, but does that really show a difference in what things are said?  I don't think so.  Jesus's prayer that "God's kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" is not a new prayer.  Granted, there were people in the Old Testament who wanted that to just be a physical blessing for themselves and Israel, but there were a whole host of people in the Old Testament who longed for that the same way as Jesus did.  Abraham, Moses, the Prophets...if we really wanted to take the time to go through the Old Testament and find people who wanted to see a day of righteousness and peace come to earth, I bet it would be a surprisingly long list.

The difference between the Old and New Testament, and therefore the prayers of the Old and New Testament, is not in what is said.  The difference is that in the Old Testament the hope was future oriented.  God's kingdom had not come to earth.  In the New Testament the timeline of the hope changed.  In Jesus, the Kingdom of God was seen, moving and functioning among humanity.  One of the significant facts the resurrection shows us is that the Kingdom of heaven on earth still has a king, Jesus, and that king is still at work defeating all the powers that rage against him.  Yes, Christian hope, New Testament hope, is still future oriented in part.  We live in the "here but not yet" times of God's kingdom here on earth.  But at the same time, the hope has been realized in the empty grave Jesus left behind.  For a brief moment, the Kingdom of God burst into this realm, and humanity caught a glimpse of what is to come.  Christian hope is past, present, and future.  That is the difference between Old and New Testament.  New Testament hope has been realized.

So what does all this have to do with prayer?  Well, first it means that the longings of the Old Testament and the longings of the New Testament, and therefore what their prayers are about, are not as different as we might think.  Second, there is no God of the Old Testament and God of the New Testament.  His saving, sacrificial work for humanity and creation is the same.  And finally (and this just popped in my head), we modern Christians aren't superior to our Old Testament, Jewish counterparts.  God loves us all the same.

Sorry if this all seems disconnected and rambling.  Like I said, this was just my attempt to get my thoughts out.  I'll be out for the rest of this week for my grandfather's funeral, but I'll be back next week.

Stopping point: Psalms 20

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Psalms

Two things stand out to me as I begin reading through the Psalms.  The first is that the Psalms are not meant to be read through quickly, which is ironic, because when you read through the Bible in a year you read everything quickly.  Maybe that's why the Psalms have never been one of my favorite parts of the Bible; I read them too fast.  I know...I can hear the gasps and see the nodding heads of disapproval.  If it makes you feel better, I don't get it when people say they don't like the book of Judges.

The second thing that stands out to me as I begin reading through the Psalms is how fearless the psalmists are when holding God accountable to his apparent absence.  I like the way N. T. Wright puts this.

But, for the Psalmist, the sense of a void, an emptiness where there ought to be a Presence, isn't something to accept calmly as the way things simply are.  It is something to complain at, to jump up and down about.  "Wake up, YHWH!" shouts the Psalmist, like someone standing at the foot of the bed, hands on hips, looking crossly at a sleeping form.  (That is of course how the disciples addressed Jesus, asleep in the boat during the storm.)  "It's time to get up and do something about this mess!" -Simply Christian, 163.

That, to me, is many of the Psalms in a nut shell, which is why the Psalms are a prayer book for so many.  Much of life is spent trusting in God while also shouting, "Wake up!"  The Psalms live and breath in the midst of that tension.  They give permission for us to do the same.

Stopping point: Psalm 8

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Frustration Of The Young

First of all, let me apologize again to those of you who read my blog.  Everything going on with grandpa has sort of knocked me off the deep end as far as posting goes.  I'm caught up now, so I should be able to do better, barring a funeral.

By Job chapter thirty-two, twenty-nine chapters of dialogue and argument have passed.  In chapter thirty-two, a new character enters the fray, Elihu.  Now Elihu says he has kept silent until now because he was intimidated by everyone else present.  They are, after all, much older than him, so who was he to speak up, but now he has reached his breaking point.  He says that he is like a wineskin ready to burst, and so Elihu gets a six chapter speech of his own, the longest single speech in the book of Job.

If we were looking at the book of Job as a literary piece, Elihu is sort of odd.  Is he for Job or against Job?  He certainly doesn't side with Job's three friends, but he doesn't support Job either.  Some scholars think that Elihu's speech acts as a bridge connecting the argument over wisdom with God's statement to Job.  In this case, Elihu's speech would be sort of a prologue to God.  That might be, but it's a strange prologue if that is the case.  In many ways, Elihu doesn't seem to fit well with anything.  He's just sort of thrown in there.

I'm not going to try to explain why Elihu makes an appearance in the book of Job, but one thing that did stand out to me during this read through was Elihu's frustration at his elders.  Elihu was apparently taught to respect his elders and assume that with years comes wisdom, but after listening to Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar argue for twenty-nine chapters, Elihu has come to a startling conclusion.  None of these men know anything more than he does.  They've all turned into boilers venting steam at each other.  Their supposed wisdom is nothing but hot air.

I think Elihu, in this sense, speaks for many of the younger generation.  The younger generation is largely ignored, much like Elihu until chapter thirty-two, but that doesn't mean they aren't watching.  It also doesn't mean they aren't very concerned with what is being said.  After all, they are just as affected by the crises of life as anyone else.  So, they stand back, waiting to gain wisdom from those who should know more than they.  The sad thing is that more and more of the younger generation is starting to speak up, and when they do their message tends to have a unified tone: you don't know any more than we do.

As a younger minister myself, it is frightening how few people their are my age in church, not just in my congregation, but in almost every congregation I know.  Most people my age are tired of hearing arguments in churches that don't actually lead any where.  To put it harshly, they see most church arguments as the arguments of old men wanting to prove themselves right.  So, not surprisingly, they have thrown in the towel and gone home to be with friends who are also tired of the same old arguments.

By the time the book of Job ends everyone has been put in their place.  Job has had his court hearing with God, and his response was to say, "I had no idea what I was talking about.  I repent in dust and ashes."  Job's three friends were also humbled.  God was very clear that they had not spoken right of him, and they needed to repent.  I don't want to make too much out of this, but is it ironic or prophetic that the only one who wasn't put in his place was Elihu.  Elihu is the only one who wasn't forced to repent.

Maybe there is a lesson our churches need to learn in that.

Stopping point: Job 42

Friday, June 10, 2011

I'll Miss My Grandpa

So, up unto today I've been doing pretty good with the fact that my grandpa is dying, but tonight I'm having a rough time.  As a minister, I've been around death and dying.  I've been with families as they've mourned.  I've done the same as a friend and as a husband, but it's different when it's your own family.  Kalyn has posted a number of pictures of Shep on her blog.  You can see them here.  The family showed those pictures of Shep to grandpa.  His sight has gotten bad the last few days, so he couldn't make out the first few, but when he saw this picture of Shep and Kalyn, he said, "That's his mom right?"  And it made him happy.


But what broke my heart is that when he saw this picture


he reached up, touched Shepherd's face and said, "Pretty boy.  Pretty boy."  He is a pretty boy, and grandpa's heritage will live on through him.  I absolutely hate that Shep won't be able to know his great-grandfather.  My grandpa was a quiet man, but he loved his family and he was a hard worker.  He's set a tone that has lasted three generations now.  Shepherd could do much worse than have a role model like my grandpa.

My parents told me that being able to see Shepherd last week meant a great deal to grandpa.  So, there is one more reason to be grateful we were able to get up to see him last week.  Along those lines, here's a few images I don't want to forget.

This is a picture of Shepherd with grandpa at Christmas.


And this is the four Gensic men as of last week.


My parents told me that if there is anything I wanted to say, I could put it on my blog and they'd read it to him.  So here's what I want them to read:

Grandpa, your dad came across the ocean to look for a different life.  I inherited that yearning for new experiences and adventure.  It's taken me all across this country, and I have seen many amazing things.  Through my travels, God has given me a wonderful wife and a beautiful son, and I have been blessed.  My childhood in Indiana seems like a world away most days, but I have never regretted the places my life has taken me...until now.  I am so very sorry that my sense of adventure has taken me so far away from you.  I miss you.  I love you, and I hate that for the rest of this life, at least, when I come back to Indiana there will be an empty chair in the living room.  May God bless you and keep you.  May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.  May he smile upon you and give you peace.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'll Be Back...I Promise

Just a quick note to say I'm sorry for falling so far behind in my posts.  I spent last week on the road and fell behind on both my reading and my posting.  My grandfather has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he is expected to pass very soon.  All the family, except my brother-in-law, has been able to spend time with my grandfather over this last week.  I was able to tell him I love him and help take him to the doctor while I was there.  My grandfather was never the loud, boisterous type, at least as long as I knew him, but he has been a strong, silent, steady presence for me and my family.  As those of you who have lost family members already know, it will feel very strange not having him with us.  It's hard not to think about things you could have said or maybe should have said at times like this, but I was able to tell him I loved him, and that is the most important thing to say.

I'll begin posting more regularly as I catch up on my reading.