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Facebook Limbo

Just wondering – do you keep potential Facebook friends waiting in limbo like I do?

I currently have 6 people waiting there. Two of them will remain there as long as I have a Facebook account. I don’t want them as a “friend” – that sounds bad, doesn’t it? – but if I reject their request it just gives them an opportunity to ask me again. Leaving them in Facebook limbo lets me retain control. (Are you one of the two? Sorry.)

The other four people I don’t know well enough to decide on yet – though they’ve been there for awhile. Again, if you’re one of these people, I’m sorry. But my guilt won’t get you to be my Facebook friend.

How many people do you have in limbo?

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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner [Mc]

The last week has me thinking about vision, and not in the metaphorical sense that churches and ministers often talk about. You might have seen my Tweets or Facebook status about what has happened, but here’s the whole story.

Several weeks ago – and I won’t get the timing of events before this week exactly right – our friend, Annette, told Trudi about a contest in the newspaper from a local ophthalmologist with a prize of free Lasik surgery. Trudi has talked before about how much she would like to have that done, but it is quite expensive. As much as she would like to have it done, she also loves me [:)] and asked Shae to write a nomination letter to get me into the contest.

They didn’t tell me they were doing this. Here is Shae’s letter:

“My dad has worn corrective lenses since he was a kid. He’s never complained, except for muttering under his breath when he lost his contact on the bathroom floor or when we found a picture of him in his third grade “Harry Potter” look… which is not good, since he was rocking those owl-eyed specs decades before the little wizard ever existed. He’s been a good sport about getting short-changed in the eye department, but when my mom read the blurb in the News-Press about this prize, we both knew we wanted to win for Dad.
So we did a little digging. I’ve never seen my Dad budge without his contacts or his glasses. From the moment he wakes up, he’s wearing something to help him see. I knew his eyes were bad, I just didn’t know how bad until we called his eye doctor. As it turns out, my poor father has 20/400 vision, plus an astigmatism. According to the doctor, without corrective lenses, he can’t see a hand in front of his face. I may be eighteen, but I still haven’t lost the sense of seeing my dad as a superhero who can fix anything, so it was a shock to hear that without those clunky lenses, he would be considered legally blind.

I’m nominating my dad because I love him and because, frankly, he deserves it. He’s been a pastor since 1990. His job is to help others, whether they’re a long-time member of the church or just a visitor passing through. He’s wonderful at his job, but he’s even better as a dad. He gave us his sense of humor, his values on right and wrong, his love of chocolate, and his brown eyes. I love those eyes because they’re his eyes… and mine. He’s done so much for everyone else, so I would love to be able to do this one thing for him. Please pick my father, Reverend Tim McDaniel. Let him ditch those Clark Kent spectacles, so everyone else can see the Superman that we see.”

Okay, obviously she stretched it a bit. I’m not Clark Kent, Superman or even Jimmy Olsen. Although, I might be close to Jimmy. However, the part about my eyes is true. Without glasses or contacts, I can’t focus beyond about six inches. Other than that, it kind of sounds like I’m a doddering old guy. Which I might be.

Anyway, the Giving Eyes contest is offered by Collins Vision and Dr. Michael Collins. He is a rather young-looking doctor who specializes in Lasik surgery. Ann, a very nice lady from his office, called in late April to say that I was one of four finalists. She was very excited for us and seemed to be really impressed by Shae’s letter.

The next thing to be done was to be examined, to find out if my eyes were eligible for the Lasik procedure. My appointment was yesterday, May 28. To prepare for the appointment, I had to go for a week without my contacts, wearing only my glasses.

Wearing my glasses is annoying, because they aren’t up to my current prescription, and wearing them is just bothersome anyway, but I was happy to do it, because of the possibility of winning the contest.

At the same time, I went into this without much expectation, not because I didn’t want the prize, or because I doubted that I might win. Recently I was reading Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational (see the link on my sidebar), and he was talking about how we are prone to acting in certain ways, especially when we take “ownership” of things. There are good results to taking ownership, and there are not-so-good results, especially when we take ownership of things that don’t belong to us. The funny thing is, we can easily take ownership of things ahead of time. That’s the whole basis of advertising, getting the consumer to picture themselves in ownership of what they’re trying to sell.

I didn’t want to “own” a prize that wasn’t mine. As a result, I kept my expectations down. Paradoxically, I fully expected to win. I can’t explain why, other than I thought Shae’s letter was really good and I had been told that the other finalists had been self-nominated.

Yesterday I went to the Collins Vision office, where I was treated very nicely and got to meet Ann, Dr. Collins, and the rest of the office staff. Dr. Collins’ assistant ran several tests on my eyes, and he remarked that I seemed well-qualified for Lasik.

The last thing he did was dilate my eyes and sent me out to the waiting room. As I sat there, a tall man came in and announced himself to the receptionist as Gary Danielson. For those that don’t know, he was quarterback of the Detroit Lions back in 1976-1984, and currently is the lead analyst for CBS Sports’ Southeastern Conference football broadcasts. Both of those things are important to me, since I am a Lions fan since before he was quarterback (Greg Landry) and I really enjoy his commentating (along with Verne Lundquist) on the CBS broadcasts.

How cool, I thought. I wanted to say something, but didn’t really want to bother him, especially since I didn’t have anything particularly interesting to say. In the end, I left him alone, since no one else in the waiting room seemed to know who he was. I did Tweet that he was there, though.

Eventually I went in and met Dr. Collins, who was very nice, and he did further tests on my eyes. These were the most painful. He had to shine very bright lights in my eyes, which with my eyes dilated, was like poking the sun in my eye.

After he was finished, he confirmed that my eyes were suited to Lasik. However, my left eye, which seems to be my dominant eye, is weaker than my right eye. He said that he doesn’t think my left eye would be able to be fully corrected to 20/20. Because I am at the age where my close vision isn’t perfect, he would normally fully correct my dominant eye and leave the other eye less than fully corrected for distance so that I wouldn’t need reading glasses. But, because of the weakness of my dominant eye, he wouldn’t suggest that for me, choosing rather to fully correct both eyes.

This morning, bright and early, Ann called. I was chosen as the winner! She said the surgery date would be July 10 for what normally would be a $4900 procedure, but will be free to me. This is an advanced Lasik procedure that is $1000 more than their regular Lasik.

The problem is that I am scheduled to leave on July 11 for National Bible Quiz Finals in St. Louis. Ann said she would check with Dr. Collins, because a post-op check-up is necessary. She also mentioned that they had checked online and found my Twitter account. They saw my Tweet about Gary Danielson, which they thought was “cute”, and hoped to get an autograph for me.

Later, she contacted me and we’ve set the date. Unfortunately, my trip has messed up the July date, and surgery is now scheduled for Friday, September 4th. It’s disappointing to wait, but it’ll be great when it’s here.

That’s the story. I’m a winner. I’ll keep you up-to-date here. God is good to me.

Back in the Day

I’m finishing a video on the history of Faith Assembly for tomorrow’s celebration of 75 years of the church and 20 years of Pastor Goss. The video will mention all the lead pastors in the history of the church, but won’t mention any of the associate pastors (except for Pastor Art Shell). Unfortunately, that means you won’t be seeing this video of one of the music ministers of Faith. (Sorry, Mark)

Growing Up Pentecostal

Here’s a revealing video of Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Here’s a video of her at Wasilla Assembly of God, telling a little about her background, and growing up in that church.

What’s even more interesting is that this same video, and pieces of it, are being used by people who are scared of religious-right wing-fundamentalist-wacko-extremists.


Sarah Palin Speaking at a Church from Vimeo.

An alternate source is this one, sent to me by Jim Wells. Thanks, Jim.

McCain, Obama, or…?

You just never know who might run for political office!

Wiilationships on iTunes

After several attempts, we were finally able to begin recording in our Sunday school class last week. The audio still isn’t great, but at least if you are not able to be with us, you can listen in.
Our class is called “Wii” and the broadcast is called “Wiilationships”, not because we play the Wii in class, or even talk about it (much), but because the idea of playing well together is what we’re trying to accomplish.
You’re invited to listen, comment on our blog, and play along.

36 – Day One

By reading the previous post, you probably know two things:

1) I’m in North Carolina, again, for the annual Southeastern University tournament at the Pearl in Calabash, NC. A group from our church has come to this tournament every year for the past several years.

2) I’m posting on my blog again. At least, I am during this tournament. If I have pictures to share. Otherwise, I’ll be updating everyone via Twitter. The easiest way to use Twitter is by following.

This picture shows Mark Carr, Phil Goss, and Wendell Williams at a very picturesque hole. I don’t think my iPhone quite captures it.

18

The common – and too easy – line is that the joke was on the church…or us.

It was eighteen years ago today that Trudi and I came to Faith Assembly. We had no idea we would be here this long or that our children would grow up here. We had hoped to make it 5 or 6 years before God moved us on.

An interesting 18 years, full of memories and people and experiences.

Sugar & Spice

This will obviously be used again in a more public place. You’ll have to provide your own punchline.

Rainout

Over four hours round-trip to Tampa today…to see 1 1/2 innings of baseball. The Yankees made 2 errors and the Blue Jays batted around in the top of the 1st, scoring 6 runs. But with a 2-1 count on Jorge Posada in the bottom of the 2nd, the umpires had had enough rain. Me, too.

THE Tournament

I have four brackets. I kept them pretty consistent, with only a few minor variations between my picks. A few games are still going on tonight, but currently:

Picks of Faith bracket (church league)
Current score: 19 (tied for 8th out of 12)
Leader score: 21
Best pick: Davidson over Gonzaga
Worst pick: Cal State Fullerton over Wisconsin
4 of my sweet 16 have already been eliminated.

BQ Bracket Busters (Bible quiz league)
Current score: 20 (5th out of 11)
Leader score: 23
Best pick: Davidson
Worst pick: South Alabama over Butler
Again, 4 of my sweet 16 are gone.

Hoops Gurus (league with Gary Robles)
Current score: 100 (7th out of 7)
Leader score: 168
Best pick: Davidson
Worst pick: CSUF
Only 3 of sweet 16 gone, but I’ve lost interest in this bracket. Rules were changed after tourney began, with players allowed to change their picks before today’s games, though I didn’t know it. Weak.

Google (my bracket, no league, just to test the iBracket widget on the Google home page)
Current score: 42
Best pick: San Diego over Connecticut
Worst pick: Georgia over Xavier
3 sweet 16 picks gone, the worst being Drake, whom I had making it to the Final Four. Crazy, but what did I have to lose?

Bobby Kingsley

(See yesterday’s post for an explanation.)

Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley had always loved children. It was not the love of the idea of children. Theirs was not the case of a couple who wanted to have children, but were prevented from doing so. No, they loved children through experience. Two years after the wedding their first child, a daughter, was born. Two boys followed within the next three years.

While having children by natural birth was very fulfilling to the Kingsleys, they knew they were made for more. They eagerly pursued the avenue of adoption. A girl from South America was first, followed by another from the Pacific Rim. From the outset there was no distinction within the Kingsley household between “natural” and “adopted” children. All were loved, disciplined, nourished, appreciated, and respected. It was understood and unquestioned – they were a family.

A family that grew even larger when Mrs. Kingsley delivered yet another daughter and, shortly afterwards, the paperwork was finalized for the adoption of a boy from Eastern Europe.

Four girls, three boys, two very proud, and very satisfied parents. Of course, it takes more than love to pay the bills, but Mr. Kingsley had succeeded in business, so finances were never a concern. And even with all the demands of young and growing children, time had never been much of a factor either. Mr. Kingsley was fond of saying, “There’s always time to do what’s important,” and the strength and attitude that was evident in their home seemed to prove him right.

That strength and attitude would be tested most severely.

Of all the Kingsley children, Wally, the eleven-year-old, and third of the Kingsley clan, was the one who could brighten any mood. Perpetually sunny in disposition, quick in thought, compassionate in relationships, Wally was not only the peacemaker in sibling squabbles, his ability to bring a smile and his lack of self-preoccupation invited the admiration of his younger brothers and sisters, and the protection of his older ones.

Unfortunately, their watchful eyes didn’t see the car that crushed Wally’s bicycle as he rode to a friend’s house. The driver never stopped and the Kingsleys would never know precisely what happened. They only knew the result.

Even in their courtship, both Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley had decided that, when their time came, they would be life-givers. It was on each of their driver’s licenses. A real discussion , then, wasn’t even necessary in Wally’s case, only signatures on a form. As hard as losing a child was, the Kingsleys’ grief was lessened, if only slightly, by knowing that other children would live as a result. The strong and kind heart of their child would power the life of another.

Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley met Bobby several months before Wally’s accident. Orphaned at birth, left at the front door of the local firehouse without a note, Bobby was without any clue to his background or his lineage.

The system had cared for Bobby in the twelve years since. Cared is probably overstating what Bobby had experienced. “Tolerated” or “kept” might describe it better. Bobby had never caught the eye or the heart of any prospective parents. He had been carried along by the bureaucracy, existing, but not belonging.

Despite the lack of warmth and affection that nourishes and sustains any young child, Bobby was relatively well-adjusted, even hopeful. He had experienced more than his share of disappointment and rejection, pain and loneliness. He lacked any real knowledge of what a loving family could be like. Not knowing what he was missing, it was said, Bobby missed it less.

It was shortly after the Kingsleys met him for the first time that Bobby’s kidneys began to fail. The medical professionals disagreed on the cause, but were certain of the prognosis. Bobby needed new kidneys. He was put on the list.

Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley normally sought to adopt a child as an infant or toddler, but felt inexplicably drawn to the case of this pre-teen with daunting medical needs. They had a vision to meet the great need of children from other countries, but felt compelled to touch this child from their own community.

They hesitated. Then came Wally’s accident, and suddenly tragedy and opportunity intersected to make their decision for them.

Bobby could be taken off two lists at the same time, gaining two titles – organ recipient and son.

Only hours after losing one son, the Kingsleys would participate in the possible gain of another.

They never thought of Bobby as Wally’s replacement. Just as they had loved each of their children specifically and independently, they saw Bobby through an exclusive lens. This was simply making the very best out of the very worst.

The surgery went better than any of the medical team had hoped. The unusual step of replacing both of Bobby’s kidneys was an unqualified success. Rather than rejecting the transplanted organs, Bobby’s system responded vigorously. It seemed that he was almost instantly cured of whatever had caused his original condition. Recovery would be brief.

The grief of the Kingsley family was more prolonged. The loss of Wally was profound, piercing. Those feelings of emptiness were mixed with the hope of gaining Bobby. In time, the children were introduced to their potential sibling, and Bobby and the Kingsleys became acquainted.

In the next twelve months, the Kingsley clan gradually regained their footing, and the addition of Bobby to the group was another step to healing. Even the youngest Kingsley sensed a bigger purpose, as if it was all calculated in advance.

From Bobby’s perspective, it was nothing short of overwhelming. Having never known the benefits of belonging, he was given a wonderful taste of what it would be like to be a brother, a son. He liked it. He couldn’t wait to be known, not just as Bobby, but Bobby Kingsley. It was all miraculous, too good to be true. But if Bobby ever doubted the reality, he only had to touch the scar that signified the sacrifice and provision he had received.

It was exactly a year to the day of Wally’s accident – coincidentally – that papers were signed, and it was official – Bobby Kingsley, the newest , if not the youngest, Kingsley child. A bittersweet day, to be sure.

Mealtimes were always the best times at the Kingsleys, No better food could be served than what was prepared by Mrs. Kingsley, but it was more than food that made mealtimes special. Mealtimes were a time to laugh at the stories of the day, a time to look in each other’s eyes, a time when connection became the most real.

In the years following, as the family grew yet again, those family dinners bonded them ever closer. There was one more baby, a boy, to close out Mrs. Kingsley’s child-bearing years, followed by twin – yes, twin – girls, orphaned by a terrible east African civil war, now adopted into positive American civil bliss. Then the grandchildren began to arrive.

It was the empty place at the table that created the difficulty.

Of course, there was never any physically empty place at the Kingsley table. Space was too precious for that. The emptiness was felt, if not seen. No matter how many other Kingsley children and grandchildren made their place at the table, the emptiness was real and tangible. It was the place their brother should have occupied.

No one could explain why he rarely did.

In the days after his adoption, Bobby had quickly meshed into the fabric of Kingsley life. He enjoyed everything about it. Even discipline was administered with genuine compassion and charity. That’s what he loved most. They really cared.

That’s why it was only a little unusual when he started asking if he could spend the night back at the orphanage. Surely he just wanted to share the new attitude and sense of belonging he had discovered with some of the kids he left behind.

It wasn’t long before everyone realized that there must be more to it. Nights became weekends, that quickly became weeks. And each time he returned, Bobby acted less like a son, more like an orphan.

How could a twelve, now thirteen, then fourteen year old boy decide where he was going to live, who he would listen to? And why, having experienced the love, belonging and close-knit unity of a family, would he choose the cold loneliness of the orphanage?

The excuses were varied, if not predictable, until at last the excuses stopped being offered. Instead, there was silence. And the empty place at the table.

Every once in a while, their paths would cross, Bobby and one of the other Kingsleys, though the younger ones didn’t recognize him, and couldn’t know that the man with the prematurely graying hair and slight limp was one of their own. They might make the connection if they caught sight of him on the fringes of the annual family reunions, held – not by coincidence – on the anniversary of a very special day. Even Bobby wouldn’t miss that day.

But he would miss most everything else about being a Kingsley.

Married for over sixty years, sharing life, love, tragedy, loss, and great joy, it surprised few people who really knew them when Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley passed away within a few hours of each other.

At the reading of the will, the room was abounding with Kingsleys. Their family had grown quite large, and Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley had planned on generously blessing each family member at their passing.

Their testament mentioned each by name, from the youngest to the oldest. In most cases, there was included a favorite story about the family member, along with the qualities Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley had most admired. There were many tears, but many laughs as well. It was as if Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley were still there, with the rest of the family gathered at the old mealtime table.

It was almost incidental when the endowment of material possessions was finally mentioned. Almost. For nothing that they had known of the Kingsley patriarch’s generosity and financial acumen prepared them for what was to come.

They were rich. Each and every last one of them. From the youngest great-great-grandchild – for the record, Emma, born only three weeks before and, actually, the only great-great grandchild – to the oldest daughter, they had all become instant millionaires. Multi-millionaires, to be more precise, who, if they followed the advice handed down to them as well, would eventually approach billionaire status.

One name was conspicuously absent, a fact not lost on anyone that were present.
He stood near the back of the room, moving little, saying nothing. At the beginning of the evening he was hopeful, but not expectant. He hadn’t seen any family member, much less the parents, in the few months preceding their deaths, but the scar was still there, the one that reminded him of the first gift they had ever given him. He was hopeful for one more.

But as the night wore on, and the names were read, and everyone swam in the rich sea of family memories, it occurred to Bobby that perhaps he had already missed the real inheritance. When he finally heard his name, he couldn’t help but hold his breath.

“…and to Bobby. We still love you. You heard us say, there is always time to do what’s important. We were wrong, because now there is no time for us to know you as our son. We wish you had joined us for dinner. It was more than a meal.”

Illustration Post Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning I will be posting a short story. It was an illustration that I originally wrote for the sermon last night. I am doing a series on the book of Numbers and last night we were in Numbers 9:1-14.

The illustration turned out to be quite long, turning into a short story, which I’ve decided to post here.

The basic idea I was trying to illustrate was this: what is it like when someone says, I like God, I just don’t like the church? Or, I’m a Christian, but I don’t have to go to church for that.

In Numbers 9, God makes it clear to the Israelites, if you don’t partake in Passover, you have no place in the congregation, and if you have no place in the congregation, you have no part in me.

Check back tomorrow.

It’s a Family Event

At the risk of being accused of worshipping dumb idols, I’ll admit that we – as a family – are regular viewers of American Idol. (Some people just need to get over the name. Please.)

We have our favorites. Last night I thought Jason Castro was one of the best. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But I like his sound. And something about him reminds me of a friend of ours. (What do you think, Rachel?)

Just to clarify, our friend IS a sharp guy. Still, there’s something…

Getting Older is a Good Alternative

Happy 97th Birthday to my friend, Wayne Hagopian! All kidding aside, R. Wayne is one the smartest people I know and I’m happy to have him as a friend. He’s aging well, don’t you think?