Today I picked up the first food box I've received since 1992. I needed it then, and I needed it today. I'd forgotten what a mistake it is to go at the end of the week. The produce is mostly rotting and the volunteers are very tired. But we received some essentials including bread and canned goods. Technically we could have gone without that box. But with Kristin unemployed, my disability shrinking by $100 a month and all of our "benefits" up in the air, I wanted us to be registered and ready to go as we need help.
I keep trying to tell God that I've learned the lesson of humility. (I'll pause for a second so all of you can chuckle.) He keeps reminding me that I always have more to learn. Nothing humbles you like walking into Catholic Community Services with your wife to pick up dried goods and milk with a same day expiration. Actually, I say, "Nothing," but I'm sure God has many more a lesson for me. And I probably need each and every one of them.
You'd think a 400+ pound terminal cancer patient with no job and not long to live wouldn't have much pride but God seems to help me find it hidden in little pockets all the time. It's like putting on the jacket you haven't worn since last years Christmas parade and finding a $20 bill. Only, in this case, you've found a $20 I.O.U.
This weekend one of my former youth pastors, Joe Heidrick, "retires" this Sunday. After over 35 years of ministry alongside his wife Jan (they were always a team in my book) he's finally had enough of teens, tweens and everything in between. I would've thought his first two kids would've cured him of the need to have teens around. Heck his daughter alone would... well... that's a different story. (She's actually a very old and dear friend. I count myself very blessed to have had God place her into my life, now on more than one occasion.)
I wrote Jan, it seems Joe hasn't caught up with the whole computer fad yet, an email on facebook yesterday (it may have been today) apologizing for not making it to the party and expressing my appreciation for their patience with me during the first two of my high school years. It wasn't until years later that, not just the lessons he'd taught but, the way Joe lived his life really sunk in for me and I realized what I had learned from him. I really do wish I could be at this celebration of, not his retirement but, his ministry and the abounding fruit of his labors... most of which he'll never know or see.
It makes me think of my Mom and Dad. They've put years of service in to God. They will never know the true impact of their efforts. From the children of the couples and singles they ministered to, the people who watched the many plays and sketches my parents created and performed as part of a theater ministry, the souls who found their way to God because of words the Holy Spirit gave my Dad at the pulpit have all created a huge tide that will continue to have an effect for what they believe in, long after we are all gone.
Probably a large part of my wanting to attend the retirement party for Joe and Jan this weekend, aside from honoring their service and love, is that my parents will never receive this kind of celebration. It makes me a little sad. I know that my Dad often wonders what happened to that young lady who's oil he and my Mom changed when they were ministering at Calvary Baptist in Anaheim when I was only six. I'm sure he wonders about a lot of people. But one thing Joe and my Dad both have in common is that, eventually, their words got through to me. Admittedly much more my Dad, as he had a more direct access and had to put up with me for more than a couple days a week for two years. In fact, truth be told, my parents deserve some kind of Purple Heart of parenting for getting out of my teenage years alive.
I guess my real point is that so much of what we sew here... the work we put in to everything; Our children, friends, pets... even strangers we exchange five words with, is work we never get to see finished. We need to remember that seeing the final results can't always be why we do the work. Sometimes it has to be a matter of faith that your sweat and tears will fertilize the ground and allow things to grow. There's an old Greek proverb that says (OK. It doesn't "say" anything. But you know what I mean.), "A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit." For my fellow Christians out their it could, and perhaps should, be rephrased, "The Kingdom of God flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit."
"A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit." - Greek Proverb
I'm trying to remember all this right now. As I type and publish each word or page of my blog, answer each email or bump into that stranger who happens to recognize me from a goofy picture in the paper, I have to remember that I'm planting these trees for other people to sit under. No amount of kindness, or of sarcasm for that matter, is going to cure my cancer. No amount of extra Bible reading is going to ensure the bills are paid. I just have to remember, like all of us - Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Islamic, etc, that each step is a step of faith and our foot may not land where we thought we were placing it. It may take us down a strange road. Some trips will be rocky. Some smooth. But every step, whether you realize it or not, is a step of faith in something. Faith that the ground will be there and, eventually, so will the results of our path.
Don't forget to check out my beautiful wife
Also, please don't forget that I get to fulfill another bucket-list wish this week as I, along with some friends, open for The Lost Dogs this Thursday night, the 16th, at Cozmic Pizza in Eugene. Tickets available at http://LAMconcerts.com