Posted: February 24, 2008 in Ten Questions
My fellow HFHMGC board member, Cindy, and I, followed a peacock around the courtyard of the Magnolia Plantation Hotel in Gulfport after our board retreat in search of a good picture. This was the best I could get.

TEN QUESTIONS:1. Did I help make life better for anyone this week?
I hope so. The specific instance that sticks out in my mind was the second hospital visit I made to Ernie. Ernie is an old man with some amazing life experiences, but I think preachers are special to him. After I prayed for him on Tuesday afternoon, he seemed speechless, something neither he nor I are very often. I’m not sure what it was, but I think I touched something deep inside. Maybe he saw himself in me a long time ago, or maybe he heard something he needed to hear in the wintering of his life. Whatever it was, it seemed to make him happy. And if I could do that for an aging man lying alone in a hospital bed every week, then I’d be happy, too.2. Did I reach across lines that divide and meet someone new this week?
I met an impressive class full of eighth graders and an even more impressive teacher in Mr. Philippoff at St. Martin Middle School Thursday morning. For several years now, I’ve been giving Mississippi Scholars presentations to eighth graders around this time of year. Mississippi Scholars is a program that brings community leaders into the classroom to impress upon eighth graders the importance of taking challenging courses in high school and pursuing higher education. This was the first time I’ve made a presentation in St. Martin, and this class was the most fun I’ve ever had. I give all the credit for that to a most impressive young teacher, the kind I’d wish for my own kids. I’d not only like to meet a Mr. Philippoff every week; I’d like to be in his eighth grade class.

And I met Gary on Saturday. We are both members of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and we had a board retreat at the Magnolia Plantation Hotel in Gulfport. Gary has been on this particular board longer than me, but because of his teaching schedule at William Carey College he can’t make our monthly Thursday night board meetings. Gary is a former Baptist pastor, and as sad as it is to say, there is a definite line drawn historically between Church of Christ folks and Baptist folks. It was good to reach across that line once again this week. I’ve always been able to depend on Habitat for Humanity to help break down those particular barriers.

3. Did I learn anything worthwhile this week?
I learned an awful lot about the human body this week, mostly because I’ve felt like mine is falling apart. On Tuesday night, my left ear and jaw went numb, and once I added that to the chest pains I’d been having for several days, I became extra nervous. I called my friend/nurse practitioner, Gina, and she and I agreed that a trip to the emergency room was a smart move. (I also learned that Gina is awesome – that she is a minister of God, whether she realizes it or not.) At the emergency room, the EKG looked good (the doctor told me he wanted an EKG like mine), and the chest x-ray revealed nothing wrong. They gave me a horribly tasty green drink called a “GI cocktail,” which didn’t help my pain, and they sent me home about 1am. On Thursday, I went to the cardiologist in Biloxi. They helped me feel better in one way by confirming that my pain doesn’t seem to be heart-related. Still, we have lots of tests scheduled for Monday morning just to be sure. I think what I learned the most was that I am getting older, and my own body has been the teacher.

4. Did I spend time with close family and friends this week?
I did, but not as much as I would have liked. The only time I think the three folks who live at our house sat down together all week was watching “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann” on Monday night. We laughed together watching the Dancecenter clips with Kenny Maine, who is hilarious. And Erica came in on Thursday evening so she could go with Jody and the ladies from church to a ladies retreat in Florida, so it was good to see her for a little while. But we didn’t spend nearly enough time together as a family. I’m really hoping our move next year will allow us to refocus our family times.

I did have some good talks with friends this week:
* Jason Webb called Tuesday afternoon, and his “when the stars align, follow the stars” advice was well-timed. Jason is one of my soul friends, something I cannot describe in words. He is in my DeJon category, which is an awfully good category to me.
* I enjoyed a great debate with my friend, Dave Fain, and Steve & Alia Martin after Bible class Wednesday night. About “church” in general. My kinds of thinkers.
* After the ladies left for Florida on Friday, my friends Tom and Gene ended up in my office for an hour or so shooting the bull about all sorts of things. Tom and Gene are the sort of people I’d choose to sit around with to shoot the bull anytime. They are also the sort of people I’d want with me when the chips are down.

5. Did I take the time to notice nature this week?
I decided to watch it rain early Friday afternoon. It was a gloomy, gray sky sort of day, but I thought I would return to the last place I intentionally watched nature (the front awning of the church building during Katrina) and watch it rain. It was a gentle shower, silent but for the patter falling off the roof and the sloshing of the busy traffic on Washington Avenue. I sat and felt the cool, ocean breeze and watched the cars race back and forth, back and forth. I saw myself drive by repeatedly, especially in the accelerating cars. I have to hurry, hurry, hurry! But on Friday, I stopped and sat in a folding chair to watch it rain. The clock dragged. It was wondrous. I decided to walk out into the steady rain and feel it on my skin. I never do this, nor do many others I think. I mean, we lounge in the shower for an hour, and we splash around in swimming pools, but we race through the rain covering our heads like its poison. But it’s not. The cold rain felt good on my skin. I’m glad I took the time to notice since I never ever do.

6. Did I have fun this week?
I saw the hilarious YouTube video of Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Brett Myers pulling off an elaborate practical joke on teammate, Kyle Kendrick, making him believe he had been traded to Japan and had to leave the next morning. Go search for it if you haven’t seen it! Laughter is good for the soul.

7. Did I do my best at my job this week?
I have done my best, but it has been difficult in a couple of ways: (1) still worrying about Hillary’s health as well as my own has made focusing hard, and (2) the call of law school and my concern about submitting a housing contract at Pepperdine on Friday has been distracting. But I have done my work conscientiously. (My second problem will continue it seems: on Friday, it suddenly became clear that we will be moving to Malibu, California this August. Which opens up a whole can full of distractions. Good distractions in my book!)

I preached a somewhat controversial sermon this morning titled “A Place For Everyone” from Matthew 21: 12-17. It was mostly controversial because I was specific, and I had several people “thank me” afterwards for things I said. No one accosted me, but I doubt everyone was thankful for my message. If it needed to be said, however, I’m glad I said it.

8. Did I engage in a discussion of things that matter this week?
I had a lengthy discussion with my CASA director, Frances Allsup, about my case Wednesday morning. I have a permanency review hearing coming up very soon, and to think that what I have to say in court will help determine the trajectory of life for five children is humbling. Some things matter without bringing a smile, or even a lick of peace.

Our Habitat for Humanity board retreat was chock full of important things to discuss, mostly because our brilliant CEO engaged us in a “mission, vision, values” conversation. Excellent stuff.

9. Did I read or hear or see a good story this week?
I read unbelievable stories this week, all wrapped up in a book called Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. I am so sad that I am finished with the autobiographical trilogy (Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man). I wish there were more books to read, but Teacher Man would tell me it is time to write my own. I would highly recommend McCourt – an unbelievable writer and story-teller, and from his last book I can tell, an unforgettable teacher, too. Kind of like Mr. Philippoff.

10. Did I feed my soul with music this week?
Crank-it-up moment of the week: Where the Streets Have No Name by U2 (Wednesday morning on the drive to the Youth Court in Pascagoula)

I bought my 10-year-old the Daughtry CD for Valentine’s Day, and we listened to it together on the drive to and from ballet class Tuesday night. If I had a style of music, Daughtry would fit into it somewhere – the phrase “rock anthem” comes to mind for some reason. But the music that fed my soul this week came from the backseat as Hillary belted out the perfect lyrics to “Over You.” The music is quite a step up from Hannah Montana, and it reminded me that my little girl is growing up. I heard a man say the other day, “Kids are so cute, too bad they have to turn into teenagers.” I’m a few days late, but my response to that familiar line is Bullcrap. That’s my nice response. Turn into a teenager, my little girl. Show me the meaning of the word angst. Find music I can’t understand, think thoughts I cannot follow, and dream dreams I’ve never even imagined. You even have permission to hate me from time to time as you sort out the new and passionate feelings that are not far away. Find your song, and sing it loud. And I will be proud of your song. Not that you will need it, but you have my full permission to grow up.

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