The truth about heroes

Jill and I have been fantasy and sci fi buffs since Asimov, LeGuinn, Omni Mag and other ways to date yourself.  We are a minority.  We thought the Postman short stories and even the movie were pretty cool.

We have noticed two things about heroes, and I needed to remind myself, and possibly you, about true heroes.

We noticed that heroes are increasingly, routinely, regularly expected to come back from the dead, have superpowers, run for days without rest performing at astonishing levels of tenacity and genius, and can fire guns, kick butts, and kill villains in endlessly creative ways.  And they are all deeply flawed, marred souls with insurmountable things to overcome.

Real heroes are a little harder to spot.  They blend in with our worlds for a very simple reason: they are the substance, the substrate on which our world has been constructed.  Real heroes are consistent.  I trust that they are the same person with me as with crowds, as in private.  You see, we build our homes and our lives from consistent, lasting, sustainable materials and relationships.  They are overcomers, but do it with an ineffable grace and pinache so you don’t even see them sweat.

Heroes are all flashy as bricks and mortar, 2×6 studs, great shingles, and insulation.  They make a safe, reliable, consistent shelter from the storm, lee against the winds, warmth against the nuclear winters the world creates.

Mike was one of my heroes and he left us unexpectedly on Friday morning.  So, now I have to go tell a couple of other heroes thanks for being there, thanks for being a friend — constant — because I didn’t say that to him when I almost did on a Sunday morning week before last.  And now I will have to wait to say it to him personally.

Could be you need to tell one or two of yours thanks as well.  Even the constant ones get yanked into eternity when you least expect it.

I am doing Mike’s funeral

When Keith, one of the pastors at LifeChurch, called to tell me that Sharon had asked for me to help at Mike’s  funeral on Tuesday, I did not hesitate.

I said yes.  Without having to think about it. Mike and I never went hunting, fishing, movies or bowling together.  He loved all of those and did them often.  He cooked on a local TV show, and he cooked for me once, on a retreat for 60  university students.  He didn’t drop by the house or my office at the university.  He never intruded where he wasn’t asked.  He came to our open houses, and was funny.  He possessed that sarcastic-tinged, pithy humor I treasure in others.

I said yes because it will be an honor.  And I owed him.  When I first became a pastor, I had some men running sound in the service who loved that church, loved the worship, and might miss a switch or two in the service.  Feedback or silence when you are speaking or preaching is SO distracting.  I wanted to add visuals in the worship, and that made the job more dicey.

Mike told me that he “noticed” that problem.  Now, in church work, many people notice everything that goes wrong or goes against their grain according to color, sound, whatever.  Some smile.  Some not so much, and then they walk away having served notice that I could do something about that, now that I had been enlightened.

When Mike “noticed” the sound challenges, he was saying something radically different.

He was saying, “I noticed your sound challenges.  You need something more consistent, and — I can do something about that.”  And he did.  For years.  When we added a second service and needed sound there as well.

When some products became available and the church needed to buy them, or they might just show up in the sound booth.

Equally important, Mike served notice when he was taking his boys hunting and fishing.  Hunting/fishing/sons was one term, and mike prioritized for them.  As a father, I took notes.

He never volunteered to teach or do a host of other jobs, but what he “noticed” he followed up to make it work. That also showed up in his wife and daughter.  They are amazing and accomplished in what they set their hands to do.  That showed up in his sons, they do very different jobs, but they approach those jobs with excellence — with consistency.  What they notice, they do well.

And all of them, like Mike, think that living out the gospel, living out your faith, serving when you “notice” something needs to be done, IS being a Christian.

So, when someone helped me “notice” that someone else might speak at Mike’s funeral, I smiled to myself, told the pastor “Absolutely” and swung by the house to see the family, because I can do something about that.

Is. Not just ‘was’. Not ‘would have been’.

We betray our inmost thoughts, our truest beliefs sometimes to no one but ourselves, and we do so in the “trailers” those tiny tangents of thought trailing the Big thought(s).

I awoke in the night editing a thought from a few days ago.  I know, we all have things we wish we had said better, responded funnier, been more clever.

This was just a thought I thought while I walked our back fence, actually where a back fence will go when I finally put one in.  I thought about Nana’s funeral, and all the attention was focused on her.  She was in every slide in the slide show.  John Bugg and I talked about her first.  Doug and Karin’s reflection were tender and funny, but focused on Barbara K. Johnson unerringly.  The music was her music.  The packed out place was filled with people who were all there because she touched our lives.  The memory cards, every flower, every memorial was all because of her, and I laughed to think, “She would have been so embarrassed!”

“Would have been” because we were all feeling her absence.  She would have been mortified at people weeping because she was not there.  She would have cringed at every picture, and at her being the center of every story — she took most of the pictures and had to be dragged into any of them.  She told every story about those she cherished or worried over, most often the same thing.

I awoke in the night to edit, “Would have been” to “was”.  As believers in the resurrection of Christ, she had been promoted from worrier and intercessor to the cheering section in Heaven.  (The twelfth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews in the Bible opens with that verse).  Since I believe that, I should have laughed because she WAS EMBARRASSED, from her new seat in the cheering section.

And I laughed all over again in bed in the middle of the night.  Then I awoke to blog this, and my wife, Jill, Nana’s daughter awoke with an ache, missing her mom, and had received the DVD of her memorial service, and was playing the celebration of her passing as I had begun blogging.

Funny isn’t it?  How married people have the same thoughts without talking.  It has been four months, and she IS delighted to see us living out the truest things we know, while failing them, but failing forward.

Is, not was, or would have been.  She is embarrassed that this blog celebrates her life.

Only the Best

We just saw Chad and Tara Kucko in the coffeeshop.  He will help me put in the tile so we can hook up the fridge and roll it into its place in the kitchen!

Today marks their 24th anniversary.  They are choosing joy and to work on the relationship.  How courageous and cool.  They buried a son last year.  Gage had an incalculably difficult sojourn in this world.

The have remained positive and amazing.

We talked for a while after church to Sam and Jane.  They are retired and load up the horses and take adventures in the western Rockies when not at their farm, home base.

And I rembered something, and remembered something new.  I remembered that choosing to date, to court your spouse requires work; and that is under attack.  Two women on Fresh Air on NPR this weekend were labeling Burt Bacharach’s ode to a wife, adjuring her to put on make up and look nice for her husband coming home “was rampantly sexist.”

They are both feminists, and I think, single.  And if they don’t get the genius, the reality of Bacharach’s Hey Little Girl, they will probably die old, happy, and single.

Young couples date because it is new.  Older couples date because it is them, it has become “You” after ceasing to be “new”.  That I knew for a long time.  The new part is that I must choose to remember the great parts of my girlfriend.  My best girlfriend.  I must let that color my opinion, my impression. My first reference and response to her.

Otherwise, I forget who it is I want to date, to create new memories with, to celebrate to all who know us — how amazingly fortunate, blessed, or lucky I am.

Like I said, we are on one of our coffee shop dates.  The new girl and I are making memories, rather than wishing for old ones.  Continually new, she is, even when I am slow to remember!

Beauty in the Beholder

When they enter the coffee shop, she is just a shy, skinny little slip of a girl, eighteenish, brownish hair a little longer than a page boy haircut.  The flannel shirt is not provocative, and her skinny jeans are not jeggings.  Demure and quiet she sits and waits for him to order.

He sits down and they negotiate the space of the small table so that they face each other.

The barista calls out, and she rises and returns with their drinks, and their world shrinks.  She looks nowhere else but his face.  She checks no phone.  She is not scanning the room.  She is smiling for him — from somewhere deep within.  Her face adds a radiance.  Her eyes are a tad rounder, her mouth is holding in concentration, smiles, laughs when he is funny, and her whole face nods when she nods, and her quiet laughter enfolds their small space.

The eyes wrinkle when she smiles.  It is genuine.

She rolls from side to side and gyrates a little when she smiles, blushes, or walks through the charms on her bracelet and where each originated.

As their minutes together unfold, she gestures widely when talking.  Her laugher rings in the room.  She cannot lean forward any more or she would be in the table.  She is expressive, open, fascinated.

He will never have a better audience.  Never be funnier, never be followed this closely, this adoringly by anyone.

I hope he can see what is obvious to me from two tables away.

Leaving she has a lilt in her step, and somehow can walk while focusing sideways on him.

He is a little shy, a tad forced, and awkward.  When walking away and she cannot see, he jerks off his stocking cap and smooths his hair that we can’t see with the cap.

Good for him.  Good for them.  Now, be very careful with such a tiny flame.   Take it as sacred.  Treat it reverently.