On Sunday, February 20, my son-in-law Rhea left for his National Guard pre-deployment training for Afghanistan. Early Monday morning, February 21, our S3 Group traveled to Columbia Theological Seminary for our 3-day orientation retreat. We returned home from the S3 orientation late Thursday night, February 24, and I taught 3 classes on Friday. On Saturday, February 26, we spent much of my grandson Kendrick's first birthday at Children's Hospital in the Emergency Room for him to receive breathing treatments.
My next Saturday, March 5, I spent about 5 hours in a Board of Church Service (Credentials Committee) meeting and then took my wife, daughter, son, and grandson, to dinner to celebrate my wife's 50th birthday. On Tuesday, March 8, we were again at Children's Hospital ER with Kendrick. Early on Wednesday evening, March 9, Kendrick was admitted to the Shawnee Hospital with probable pneumonia and was not released until late Friday afternoon, March 11. I spent two nights in the hospital, and the second night Kendrick slept on my chest in the hospital bed for almost 8 hours straight. Kendrick had slept on his mom the first night.
On Sunday, March 13, we drove to Camp Gruber near Beggs, Oklahoma to visit Rhea and celebrate his 24th birthday, and returned home on Monday, March 14. Over Spring Break, March 14-18, I tried to get some rest, but also took on some contract legal work and conducted a premarital counseling session. On Saturday, March 19, I took my son and daughter, ages 20 and 23, respectively, fishing. On Sunday, March 20, I celebrated my 50th birthday with family.
On Monday evening, March 21, I conducted a premarital counseling session. On Tuesday evening, March 22, I attended and spoke briefly at a MACU Ministry Leadership Institute Pastor Appreciation Banquet. The next morning at 7:00 a.m., I attended a focus group for a Master of Ministry Degree Proposal and then taught back-to-back classes (with chapel between) from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. On Friday, March 25, Rhea returned home from training for about 4 days leave, and we went fishing that evening. We celebrated my daughter Shea's 24th birthday on Saturday, March 26.
In the midst of the last 6 weeks, I have been on two rounds of antibiotics for bronchitis and missed classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 29 and 30, due to some kind of intestinal flu. I have also been conducting premarital counseling for two different couples, one to two different evenings per week not to mention my regular teaching schedule, committee meetings, and meetings with students. I am quite confident that my S3 colleagues carry comparable if not heavier schedules. (Marty definitely carries a heavier schedule).
Though it was only for a couple of hours each time, I really enjoyed going fishing two times in the midst of my crazy, chaotic schedule. I realized how much I miss fishing. Yes, I caught some sand bass and crappie, but I mostly enjoyed getting out away from the busyness and loudness of my urban existence and - to be candid - the needs, wants, and demands of people. The sounds of silence. Solitude. Meaningful conversation with family members I care about deeply. Fellowship. Communion with creation and the Creator. The wonder of it all. Hiking through briers and thorns and undergrowth and finding a way down the steep banks to the flowing creek below. Looking at raccoon tracks. Watching my kids slipping and sliding down the steep slope and laughing so hard I lost my balance and fell off a muddy tree root I was standing on. I fell on my backside in the red, sticky mud! I watched my daughter catch a unique fish - a drum. I watched my son make his way out on a dead fallen tree that stretched out into the water. I watched my daughter set up camera shots as she is so gifted at taking pictures. I watched my son release the fish we caught back into the water.
Why don't I stop and take a fishing sabbath more often? Why do I stay so busy? Why am I so driven to be productive? Am I hiding from something? Am I running away from something? I have asked and answered such questions multiple times before, but sooner or later, I seem to fall into the same traps of busyness and overwork. Yet, I am thankful for the opportunity to be more intentional and to be more reflective. Time seemed to pass so slowly when I was holding my grandson in that hospital bed for 8 straight hours. But at that time he was more important than any other concern in my life. Why can I not receive the truth that I am that important to God? I can easily share that truth for others, just not me. It is much easier for me to be a giver than a receiver. I am haunted by the insight of a Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, who, in so many words, said that true repentance is making the right choice when you are faced with the same temptation or challenge in the future, that resulted in a failure in the past. There is no true repentance in making the same wrong choices as new opportunities arise. Or, as I often tell my students, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. As Ravi Zacharias says, Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to give dead people life. I need the quality of "life" that Jesus talked about in John 10:10. Lord, forgive me where I have fallen short and empower me to desire and to make amendments to my life where needed.
I am also discovering who the real heroes are and guess what - it is not me. The real heroes are people like my daughter Shea who are sacrificing around the clock so her husband Rhea can fulfill his desire to serve his country. She and he - and so many others like them - they are real heroes. People like single moms and dads doing the best they can on limited resources. The working poor. The widows, orphans, and aliens.