Monday, March 31, 2014

Only a minor Quake

     Last Friday night at a few minutes after nine I was walking toward the glass door to the foyer of my church, ready to lock up, when the door rattled like someone was banging on it from the inside. But I could see through the door and there was nobody there. The rattling was brief, but furious, and I heard neighborhood dogs start barking. I knew what was happening. I froze in place, but felt nothing. But 50 miles away a 5.1 earthquake had shaken Orange County and surrounding Southern California. I went into the building with the plethora of glass all around and checked all the doors, a little nervous now because this building creaks and shudders even when the earth doesn’t move. But nothing else happened, so I went home to Facebook and Twitter.
     I know earthquakes are part of living in Southern California. I enjoy the media’s depiction of typical Californians casually sitting through the minor temblors while sipping their half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon. But I haven’t turned native yet and quakes still make me nervous. I don’t really care for them.
     I was fascinated with natural disasters as a kid. Tornadoes terrified and intruded me. I kept magazines with articles about earthquakes. One cover showed the Golden Gate Bridge buckling and cars spilling off into the bay.
I watched a kid’s TV show that had adventuring teens dealing with emergencies and natural disasters. One time, when they experienced a quake, a few of the kids tried to run for shelter. Another one called to them to stay out in the open. The shelter the kids had been going for collapsed and they stayed safe in the clear space. I took this as an important lesson. If and when an earthquake hits, don’t run for cover, get out from under anything.
Then one evening when was living in Hawaii, I was about 8 or 9 years old and lying on the living room floor. Something started. I noticed that it felt like there was a vibrating machine underneath me. The floor was trembling. My mom saw hanging plants swinging and declared that we were having an earthquake.
Panic slammed into me. I jumped to my feet and ran for the door to get outside before the house came down on me. It was for only a flash, but I had never been more scared in my life. My mom called to me and I stopped and looked back, suddenly aware that I was almost crying, but the house was intact and there was no more shaking.
Up until that evening, I had never known that there was such a thing as a minor earthquake.
Who would have thought that the same thing that tossed cars of a bridge and turned buildings to rubble could also do no harm? I don’t blame my parents for never telling me this. I learned the fact that night, even though I could barely sleep. But before that, my young mind never grasped that there might not be a worst case scenario in everything. Quakes happening with no damage. Someone escaping injury hurt in a car accident. Tornados ripping through empty land without ever sucking kids into oblivion.
Someone might have told me that the world is not that inhospitable. Maybe I would have believed them. But the barrage of disasters in the media might have made me doubt.
At least last Friday I didn’t panic, I’m grateful for that. And I’m glad that today my kids know that minor things happen and no-one gets hurt. Real life taught them that. Maybe it’s too bad the media never reports a perfect day where nature is nice and everyone ends the day unscathed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What thrilling heroics

     No time for incredulity, the seconds are ticking away and the space pirates are closing in. My converted freighter has broken out of the atmosphere, but must achieve light speed in 60 seconds, that’s how long before the enemy ship will intercept. The passengers are counting on me. Escape is their only hope. Already, a shot from the pirate's directed energy weapon has damaged my ship, and that’s why I’m crawling along the outside of it wearing magnetic grips on my hands and feet.
     The ship’s hull shudders, a result of the damage and I hold my breath inside the space helmet, but the grips hold and I keep moving. The pirate ship, closer now, fires another energy bolt that lights everything around me. Even though it misses, the proximity of the flash darkens my visor momentarily. I hate not seeing where I’m going, but creep along anyway, the seconds are ticking.
     Finally, I reach the primary buffer panel, rattling loose from the enemy fire. Only a quick fix for now, I begin to bolt it back down. The visor goes dark again as a directed energy bolt hits the ship. The deflector shields absorb the blast, but for just a moment, my magnetic grips lose touch. I grab at the loose panel and feel my body tossed up and then slam back into the ship. Pain stings up my left leg, but I keep up the repair until the panel is fixed.
          It takes four rivets to secure it, but I feel the ship stop shuddering. I make my way back. As soon as I’m in, I throw the lever that closes the airlock. When the door clicks and the air begins to fill the chamber, I feel the ship accelerate to light speed. I’ve done it, the orphans are safe. I feel something else too, my foot is injured from being tossed around out there. Well, at least it was for the greater good.
     At least that’s what I’d like to say when people ask me what I did to my foot.
     Waiting at the Grand Canyon for the train to take us back to Williams, a little boy looked at me with amazement and concern as I walked by on my crutches. “What happened?” he asked.
     I did not want to tell him that I had been hanging my foot out of a golf cart, like I did every day, when I drove up against a fence post, unnaturally pointing my foot down, spraining it. So I just told the boy, “I wasn’t being careful.”
His mom seemed to like that answer, she looked at her son, the dad too, with a look of “you see what can happen?”
     So I did the vacation on crutches and I managed. At meals, my family would help me with my food. Most places we went had ramps and the steps weren’t too difficult. There were limitations. Doors were sometimes a challenge, heavy restroom doors especially. And on the train ride, I didn’t try to get up and move around. I still enjoyed it all.
     And I enjoyed the vacation too. It was everything I hoped it would be. And I was really just hoping for one thing, that it would be a good time with the family.
     I used to abhor the idea of settling down with a family. I thought I was destined to be a free spirit, out on the road in a retrofitted muscle car like Mad Max, or better still, out in space executing some thrilling heroics. I dreaded the thought of domestication and a mini-van.
     But all of that changed when I actually became a husband and father. And last week, we as a family took a righteous road trip, saw The Grand Canyon, Route 66, Meteor Crater and The Petrified Forrest. We drove through Winslow, Arizona where I stood on the corner. We took a scenic drive down through Sedona and went through the town where I lived as a young kid.
     Friday night I drove from Phoenix to Yucaipa with only one stop. It was about a 5 hour drive and I loved it. There were no space pirates in pursuit. My passengers were my family and it was interstate 10, not hyperspace. But it was better.
     Even though I wish that I had sprained my foot in a less embarrassing way, or better still, not sprained it at all, I can live with the injury knowing that the thrilling space heroics are nothing compared to what last week really was. Like I said, it was what I hoped it would be, a time that will create memories that last a lifetime. The family together in a van, a hotel suite, a lookout point, or gathered together for a photo. All of that was better than any fiction I could ever compose. Reality, sprained foot and all, at its best.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hurt, Humbled and Healed.

     I love driving the golf cart, one hand on the wheel, once foot hanging out the side, the breeze blowing, and I feel like I’m the king of all I see. I hung my foot out of the golf cart Friday the 7th and passed too close to a fence pillar. It pressed my foot down, spraining it. I was home on my lunch break. Well I had to get back to work, so I elevated it and iced it and then tried to stand on it. There was a knife-like shooting pain. Prajna had to drive me to urgent care. The whole way, I just didn’t want to believe that I had injured myself. I had a busy weekend and an even busier next one. I couldn’t take off from work, I had just come back to work that Tuesday after a week off.
     I was ordered to wear an orthopedic boot and stay off of my foot until a follow up on Tuesday. I went ahead and checked with the doctor, it would be okay though, if I went to work where I do some walking and lifting? He shook his head. There are times when even denial can’t save me.
I didn’t want to accept that I would be unable to go to work for maybe a week. I kept wishing I hadn’t been such an imbecile putting my foot out of the golf cart. Finally, all I could do was believe that God never wastes a hurt. Something good would come of this and I just wanted to actively look for it.  
I stayed in bed for three days with my foot elevated. I couldn’t sit at my laptop to write or blog. I used my iPod touch and kept up with Facebook and Twitter. I listened to a lot of music and I finished a very good book that the author signed for me at the Storyline conference. Love Does by Bob Goff convicted me.   
What was I holding on to as my identity? What did I value so very much? It was kind of easy to see, because I had lost it that week. It’s what I have valued in myself more than almost anything. It’s this: Being irreplaceable.
I have made great efforts to make myself impossible to replace. Maybe it’s easy to understand why I thought that was a good idea. Last decade I lost two jobs. I must have thought that I needed to become inimitable and that would make me bulletproof. Well, it did an awful disservice to the folks who relied on me when I went away to San Diego and they didn’t know how to do things.
Then a week later I was put on bedrest where I had to come to grips with the fact that other people can do what I do. And they did. Two of my kids, Benjamin and Sarah went to my work and took care of things. When the big weekend event came, they handled it. And the reason for that was because they had worked with me before and knew how to do my job.
So I learned a couple of things. First, have an exit strategy. Train replacements, apprentices, substitutes, whatever it takes. Have faith in those I work for that they won’t dismiss me just because other people can do my job.
Most of all, I learned that my value will never come from being irreplaceable at anything. I need to exchange that for humble submission to God. I need to not value such a prideful attitude, lest I end up humbled like King Nebuchadnezzar again, put out of commission for a time to rethink who’s really in charge.     

Sunday, March 9, 2014

No Roadwalker Post This Week

No Roadwalker Post This Week

I have to spend most of my time in bed with my broken foot elevated. In that position it's not possible even to type. So am not able to compose a post for this week.
Here are some posts from the past that I'm fond of:

And, if you want some really good reading, check out some other blogs I love to read:

Have a great week everyone.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Star Struck

     I saw a local radio personality at the grocery store last week. I smiled and waved and he looked at me with a look like he was wondering if he knew me or maybe I was just a fan. I’d met him a few times because we have a mutual friend but I didn’t expect him to know me and I wasn’t going to shout out his name. I try not to go nuts when I see someone famous. I’ve met a few celebrities in the past. One time I was introduced to Ivan Dixon at the radio station he managed. I didn’t tell him how much I enjoyed Hogan’s Heroes or even that I admired his work in A Raisin in the Sun (which I never saw). Instead I got all star struck and blurted out how much I loved him in the movie Car Wash. He laughed and shook his head. I made a hasty exit from the radio station’s offices and hoped nothing would come of it. But later that afternoon, KONI radio played the Rose Royce song: Car Wash. It was not in their format. I was responsible. Somebody at the station was still laughing.
     So after that I really tried to be better when I met someone famous. Don’t talk too much, just be cool. And this past weekend it wasn’t easy to remain calm. I went to the Storyline Conference in San Diego. I met published authors. I bought their books and waited to get them signed. Every single author was friendly and gracious to me. There was no line with Tricia Lott Williford and I shared a little of my story with her, it being similar to hers. She thanked me for sharing and I thanked her for writing her story, she encouraged me to tell mine. I bought four books and was able to get three of them signed. The one writer I had not met was leader of the conference, Donald Miller. His book, Blue Like Jazz is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. It’s encouraging and convicting at the same time and he is one of my favorite authors.
     Saturday evening, the conference was over. My last line was to say hi to Bob Goff. He was smiling and hugging everyone. He gave me a hug and signed my book. Then I looked over to the line around Donald Miller. He was being swamped. I really wished I could get him to sign his book I’d bought. But the line was so long, and the book was in my truck anyway. Plus I was tired. It was time to go home.
      As I waited out some of the traffic leaving Point Loma Nazarene University I called home to say I was on my way. Standing with my passenger door open I talked first to Prajna and then to Jamie. I asked him if he’d done any writing and he said a little. Jamie loves to write too and what little I’ve seen astounds me.
     I was about to say goodbye and someone walked by me. I recognized the plaid flannel. I began to stutter on the phone.
     “Um, Donald Miller just walked by me,” I said to Jamie.
     We made eye contact and I waved to one of my favorite authors. He smiled and waved back with no glance first to see if he knew me.
     “I enjoyed the conference,” I called to him.
     He got to his rented Chevy Malibu and said “See you later.”
     He said he’d see me later. I don’t remember what I said after that. I may have thanked him, or just agreed with him. I think I said something.
     I got off the phone with Jamie. Donald Miller was in his car with the motor running. I looked on the front seat of my truck and there was his book, Searching for God Knows What. I wanted to snatch it up and run to him.
     I could say: “Oh, hey I’m sorry to be just one more person who does this but could you sign this for me?”
     I’m sure he would have. But I wanted to say more than that.
     “Oh, hey Mister Donald Miller. You know, I’m an aspiring writer and, you see my truck? That’s my truck. I drove out to the desert late last summer and listened to the audiobook of Through Painted Deserts and I read Blue Like Jazz by the light of a Coleman lantern. Hey, do want to drive to get coffee or something? I mean, could we maybe be buddies?”
     But the seconds ran by and I got in my truck. I lost sight of his car in the traffic. I was tired and I had just been attending the conference. How must he feel? So as much as I wanted to, I also understood that folks need their privacy. And I sure don’t like random people starting conversations with me. The poor guy may have just needed to get away.
     I sat in traffic and thought. Maybe I could have just gone over with my book and asked him to sign it and then thanked him. Was I afraid I would make a fool of myself like I did with Ivan Dixon?
     I drove off the campus and into the wet San Diego night, still thinking. Donald Miller, Ivan Dixon, the local radio personality, and me, all just people. I don’t need to go to a guy who wrote an awesome book and ask him to be my friend. He has enough friends.
     Maybe I’ll attend more conferences and keep reading his books and never get to shake his hand. Instead of letting that thought disappoint me, maybe I should try to inspire a few people myself. There are lots of regular folks who might enjoy a cup of coffee. Maybe we could even wash a car together.