Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Hi There Boys and Girls"

This post probably won't mean much to those of you who didn't grow up in Wichita, Kansas our the surrounding area, and I guess it's a result of us being back there for the high school reunion several weeks ago.

Since we don't get to Wichita much any more, and since Jane and I both were born and raised there it's probably natural for us to drive around the city and try to find the old hangouts and to revive memories of those days when we were kids. I mean the days before we even knew each other. Days when we were in elementary school. (Jane and I met in high school).

Well, as we drove around I had the radio on. I ALWAYS have the radio on. And instead  listening to XM I tuned to some local stations and started to reminisce about the days when I rode standing up in the front seat of a 55 Ford (seat belts? who had seat belts?) that my mom was driving to pick up my father from work. She always had the radio tuned to KWBB or KFH. I started remembering names that I should have long since forgotten. Characters from those radio stations. Names like Lee Nichols and Herkimer P. Pushbroom.

And as we drove, more names of radio and then television personalities that were part of my childhood kept popping into my mind

I used to rush home after elementary school to watch Deputy Dusty as he introduced the old black and white western that would be screened each evening.

And a guy named John Froome, a local guy with big city talent, would be The Old Cobbler and introduce cartoons. John was also the evening weather man and hosted a mid-day show with  live audience.

Bill McClain used to do a show where he was called Captain Bill. He had Popeye as a sidekick and they (what else) showed cartoons. He also did a show for a while called "Just For Laughs" that was really pretty good a quite a bit ahead of it's time. Bill was another who also served as the weather man. Remember him saying "It's a BEAUUUTIFUL day in KAKEland?"

Ah, but who could forget Freddy Fudd. He was supposed to be Elmer Fudd's cousin. He sat in a tree house and introduced cartoons as he sought to capture Bugs Bunny. What's really sad is that I remember the song he used to sing.

"I'm Freddy Fudd the forest ranger
Come on in and say 'Howdy Stranger."
I look for fires, and that ain't funny,
But my biggest job is to catch Bugs Bunny."

Freddy was played by a local guy named Henry Harvey. Henry was another jack of all trades when it came to broadcasting. He was a graduate of Friends University and lived just a few blocks from the campus. He had a great singing voice and was often used in community productions.  But in my young heart his greatest roll started every year on Thanksgiving Day. Late on that afternoon, on channel 10, KAKE, he would become Santa and kids across the city would park in front of the TV to watch Santa (along with a really lame puppet called KAKEman) as they counted down the days until Christmas Eve. Then we would watch him load the sleigh and blast off to deliver toys to boys and girls all over the world....and we knew it wouldn't be long before he hit our place. ("are you serious about that Clark?")

And who could forget Major Astro. He was played by a Tom Leahy and was another multi-talented local guy who donned the uniform of an astronaut and made us believe that he was actually one of the guys with The Right Stuff. He introduced cartoons and we watched.

My favorite character that Tom portrayed was The Host. The show aired after Johnny Carson on Friday nights. This was on when I was in college and was for a more "mature" audience. His task was to introduce one of those old black and white horror movies. The Host was a Frankenstein sort of character who couldn't do anything right. He thought he was much smarter than his co-host Rodney. Rodney didn't speak and The Host had a bit of a Boris Karloff accent. You can actually find clips of this show on YouTube. It's a hoot.

And does anyone remember Mack Sanders? He was a country-western guy with a band who hosted a show once a week in the evening. I can't remember much about it except that it was on his show that I first saw Roy Clark.  Mack Sanders bought up a bunch of radio stations, moved from Wichita and  did quite well. I know....I remember the most useless stuff.

And Cecil Carrier? Does that name ring a bell? Cecil was one of the weather men who reminded us that we lived in Kansas and tornado's really were an option.

Most of these guys have gone on to that great broadcast studio in the sky but they had an impact on a generation of kids growing up in Wichita. The product that they created was good clean fun. The kind that parents didn't worry about when we were sitting so close to the TV screen that our noses almost touched it.

I had an idyllic childhood and discover the older I get, the more I enjoy reflecting on the fabulous 50"s

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We Are The Pioneers

I walked into the indoor courtyard at the Wichita Airport Best Western hotel looking for my High School Reunion.  I initially thought I had the wrong room because the courtyard was full of old people. I was sure this group had just left the "Early Bird Special" at the local Country Buffet. I was wrong. This WAS my high school class and they didn't look a day older than me. OUCH!

We were the class of 1966. We graduated from Wichita High School West. We were known as the Pioneers.

"Our team has no fears. We are the Pioneers."

And so we were. We were on the cutting edge of a group of kids known as Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964).

We entered West High in the fall of 1963. Brought together from several Junior High schools we started the process of creating a new group identity.....


We discovered the joy of  Friday night football games and the thrill of victory. The football team lost two games that first year but won every other game during our high school career. We didn't know what it felt like to lose.....


"We're from West High, couldn't be prouder,
And if you can't hear us, we'll YELL A LITTLE LOUDER."

We had only walked the halls of West for about three months when a Friday afternoon was interrupted by the static of the intercom as someone from the school office announced that our president had been shot in Dallas. That weekend before Thanksgiving seemed overcast as we joined our nation in mourning and wondering what this tragedy wold mean for our country, our world, and our own futures.....


Because we were the second generation of teenagers accustomed to Rock and Roll, we were quite comfortable listening to Doo Wop or the Four Seasons or The Beach Boys...even Elvis...on KWBB and KLEO as we drove whatever vehicle we could commandeer. But early in 1964 our musical lives were changed by what came to be known as The British Invasion. We started dancing to a new beat. Music (as well as hair length) would never be the same.....


In our junior year, class rings were purchased and by the end of that school year we anticipated having an "upper classman" (or woman) turn our ring with a kiss.

We went to prom and dated and worked part time jobs. We even attended class most of the time. We would drag Douglas Avenue on a Friday night, turning around at Sandy's on the east. We hung out at Griffs on West Street and discovered the delight of pizza at the Pizza Hut.

Jane and me with David Converse, who I attended school with grades 1 through 12.

In May of 1966 we gathered at the Wichita State Fieldhouse for graduation ceremonies. We were going to go out into "the real world," and so we did.....


And on that night we separated and scattered in 500 different directions. Some went to college, some started jobs that would become careers, others joined the service and found themselves in far away places. A classmate, Arnie Tinkum, died inVietnam. And with his death, the Pioneers discovered the cruelty of that "real world."

Over half of our class left Wichita. We married, graduated again, started new jobs, bought houses, had kids and discovered that somehow we had crossed that dreaded threshold of being 30. But life was good, the war was over and America was a wonderful place to live.....


We, who had grown up during "Gas Wars" paying under 25 cents a gallon for gasoline, were shocked to see it push over 50 cents a gallon. We thought the world would end when it crested a dollar. It didn't. We adjusted....


We witnessed the birth of the Superbowl, Watergate, the resignation of President Nixon, the K car, the microwave oven, the video recorder, the Fonz, Charlie's Angels, the A Team, Oprah, the impeachment of President Clinton over the definition of "is." We were there at the dawn of the computer, the Walkman, the cell phone, the digital revolution, GPS, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. We were even there for Disco....


Sitting in the sill on D Hall.

Ten years after graduation we were crisscrossing the country talking on CB radios. My handle was Streakin Deacon. We wore bell bottom pants, leisure suits and platform shoes....


We were even there when country music (oh lord) made a resurgence. It was a new kind of country. No more Loretta Lynn and George Jones, it was Garth and Clint and Tim and Faith and Shania. Oh dear God, please let me meet Faith and Shania.

Driving around Wichita now, it's hard to find my childhood. The house I grew up in is gone, replaced by a Penney's parking lot in Town West Shopping Center. My elementary school is gone, replaced by a restaurant. Even the place where my father worked (Santa Fe Shops) is gone. Just a deserted, abandoned field.

Old entrance to Santa Fe shops.

These days we communicate as a class with a website (thank you, Cindy). We join Facebook and send texts over our "smart phones." And though we WERE the Pioneers, some of us are asking grandchildren to show us how to program our DVR.

Now....we gather in a hotel for our 45th reunion, but instead of cars and girls, we're thinking about bulges and bumps and bunions and bifocals and Bell Tones and bay windows and bridges and baldness....and Ben Gay. I realize that I've kept my hair but I've lost my waistline.

A thoughtful touch at our reunion was a balloon release. Two large helium filled balloons containing the names of deceased classmates were sent skyward. As I watched them climb into the sky I couldn't help but hope that I can keep my name out of one of those balloons at the 50th reunion.

And so we lived through America's golden age, her greatest days. We started life in a "Leave It To Beaver" atmosphere. Looking back from our vantage point now life then seemed so simple...and safe...and it was.

And now we focus on our adult children....and grandchildren. And we hope they will know the blessings we've enjoyed. 

With retirement looming it's easy to start wondering as we look back. Did we make a difference? Did we accomplish anything? Did we matter?

Well...sure we did. We lived and loved and led productive lives....


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thunder Road

(To be read as though you're reading a cheap detective paperback novel. Think of Joe Friday.)

Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning I found myself "riding dirty." 

While in Wichita for my high school reunion I checked Craigslist and found a Chevrolet SSR at a good price so I called my friend Randy. He's an auto broker and had been interested in an SSR. He called the seller and made a deal and I agreed to finish the transaction and drive the car back to Denver.

Problem? No tag. No temporary tag. I'd have to drive over 500 miles without benefit of legal cover.  I'd be riding dirty.

Now I've driven a car before without a tag. You know, something that I bought and drove a few blocks or even across town, but this...this was big. This was 500 miles with no cover.

I worked on my alibi. I had it all down pat. They could throw me in the hole. They could use the rubber hose on me but I would not change my story.

Here was my response: "Whaaaat? You mean it's wrong? I wish someone would have told me. I had no idea it was against the law to drive a car without a license tag."

Yeah, that's what I planned to say.

I was reminded of an old black and white movie starring Robert Mitchum. It was called Thunder Road and it detailed guys in the 50's who ran bootleg whiskey in hopped up cars.

I envisioned myself as one of them as I drove that purple hot rod across I-70 on a cloudless autumn day.

The strains of the movie soundtrack ran through my mind. I tinkered with the words...

"Let me tell the story. I can tell it all
About the mountain boy who ran illegal in the fall

Randy did the dealin. Tim, he drove the load
And when his engine roared they called the highway Thunder Road."

This run would be the holy grail of driving without a tag.

Leaving Wichita late on Tuesday afternoon I found myself on sensory overload. I was inspecting every car for signs of the Law. I knew if they were coming toward me I'd be okay but I couldn't let some cagey patrolman approach on my rear flank.

I had some cover. Jane was driving our car and I positioned her behind me with specific instructions. "Don't let anyone get between you and me." She didn't. One other thing I did was to put a dealer's advertisement on the rear bumper where the tag should go. I hoped the Law would think it indicated a car out on a test drive. I also counted on the tinted windows being dark enough to make the Law assume there was a temporary paper tag stuck in the back window.

We pulled in to Hays, Kansas, and decided to spend the night. Hiding the car out of sight I slept fitfully, wondering if the SWAT team had been sent to find us yet. If so, they failed.

Wednesday morning we loaded into the two vehicles, filled up with fuel and hit the highway. Early.  While the cops were still in the donut shops.

For the next 300 miles cops were everywhere. My palms grew sweaty as I gripped the wheel tighter every time I saw another patrol car. I spotted nine. that's right. NINE. And I dodged everyone.

And then, just when I thought I was home free I spotted a patrol car coming up behind Jane. I got on the phone and called her, "Keep as close to me as you can." And he stayed on her bumper. We were on a two lane and for 20 miles he rode her bumper. I kept praying that he'd turn off. He didn't. Then we came to one of those passing areas. I moved far to the right. Jane stayed on my bumper. The patrolman pulled out to pass. I'd be vulnerable, uncovered, naked. No tag. Would the jig be up?

No!!! He pulled around Jane and with my heart pounding he passed me. Whew! That was close. Adrenaline surged through my body. I never felt so alive! Just 20 more miles and I delivered the car.

"And there was thunder, thunder, over Thunder Road
Thunder was his engine and a hot rod was his load.

And there was moonshine, moonshine to quench the devil's thirst
The law they swore they'd get him but McDonalds got him first."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boys Of Summer

If you've read this blog at all you know that for the past year Jane and I have been serving at the Aurora Church of the Nazarene in Seattle as Interim Pastor. Well, that wonderful assignement ended this past Sunday. It was one of those "parting is such sweet sorrow" moments for us. The people had just totally accepted us as though we were their permanent pastor. Following the service Sunday morning they presented us with wonderful gifts and the Board said many nice things before they received a INCREDIBLE love offering for us as a parting gift. A luncheon followed. We could hardly eat for talking to people and saying our goodbyes. What totally awesome memories we will cherish from our days there.

On our way to the airport I drove over to West Seattle with Jane and Staci and baby Marian. We had a little time before our plane was to take off and we wanted to just drive around and enjoy the beauty that is Seattle and the Great Northwest.

This is where the story gets complicated. You see, Staci's sister-in-law is getting married this coming weekend. So, she and Josh and all the kids are coming to Denver for the celebration. Well, knowing that I decided to bring the two boys home with me on the plane a week ago and let them spend time with Jane and me at the cabin. What an adventure that turned out to be....all good I might add.

At the Seattle airport a week ago Sunday I got out of the car and the two boys started getting out of their car seats. And then there was the first hint of tears. Daniel started to sniffle, then whimper, then cry. Little John could have cared less. He was going to ride on the big airplane. Daniel...not so much. However, by the time the goodbyes were said and I got them to the security line he was fine. We got on the plane, row 3, and the thing took off. Soon the flight attendants were passing soft drinks down the aisle and I chose that moment to get out the surprise I had for each boy. (Did I mention they are 4 and 2?) I had a baggie for each with M&M's and a couple of Matchbox cars. Well, things were getting interesting now. It was like, "Grandpa, why didn't you tell us you had surprises?" Daniel turned to me and said, "Grandpa, I don't miss my mommy anymore." I'm sure that thrilled her.  Another 30 minutes and Frontier Airlines was passing out the warm chocolate chip cookies and life couldn't get any better.

We landed at DIA about 6:30 p.m. with Aunt Jamie and grandma there to meet us and the fun was ready to begin.

On Monday we loaded the boys into our car and drove to the cabin. They were barely out of the car before shoes were being kicked off and they were headed for the stream. Try to remember what it felt like to be young and energetic and to have a yard with a stream flowing through it. Not a raging river, just a little brook that was shallow enough for you to play in all day long without a lot of supervision. They were in heaven. The tire swing was moving gently in the breeze and grandma was soon in the house preparing some lunch.

Government workers
The next day we discovered that the county was repaving the road in front of our house. How exciting! Is there anything more wonderful for small boys than big trucks? We had to stop everything and head to the road to watch.
"Hold the lunch, there's a big truck up there."

Each night they headed up to the loft to sleep in the king sized bed and they went to sleep immediately after grandma finished reading the story. No crying, no whimpering. They were EXHAUSTED. They had run barefoot through the grass and the stream all day long. They had "washed" their car and driven it up and down the drive. They had ridden tricycles and built forts and carried sand from the creek into the house.

Well, on Saturday, with them safely in the care of the other grandma (Kathy Zaker) Jane and I left for Seattle for our final Sunday there. That's when all the kindness was expressed to us.

Then we drove to West Seattle and to the airport, but this time with Staci and with baby Marian Jane. Again we sat on row 3 and our only granddaughter (four grandsons) slept like....well, like a baby, all the way to Denver.

Now all of our family is back in Colorado except for one. Josh, a Major in the Air Force, flies in Thursday. And to make things even more exciting my brother and his wife are riding their Harley in on Friday morning for the long weekend.

So, Sunday night (the wedding that I mentioned is on Saturday afternoon) we plan to have both daughters, both sons-in-law, all five grandchildren plus my brother and his wife PLUS my cousin Scott and his wife sitting on our patio for a casual dinner.

What fun!

Nothing better than being a grandpa. "Papa, can I have pop?"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Earl Pike

Had a great visit with my friend Reverend Earl Pike recently. Some of you know that Earl is the pastor out on the eastern plains of Colorado in Punkin Center. He's a great guy who seems to have his act together, at least in his own mind he does. He just seems to see things a bit differently than most folks.  As we visited I made mental note of some of the things he said. Only Earl...

"I put my pants on one day at a time just like the next man."

"These days, half the things in my shopping cart say, "For Fast Relief."

"So little to say, so much time to say it."

"Where there's a will, there's a greedy relative."

"When I was a kid we were so poor that my parents took us to KFC to lick other people's fingers."

"I noticed my gums were shrinking and then I realized that I had been brushing my teeth with Preparation H."

"My mind is going a mile an hour."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Walking In My Dad's Shadow

Several years ago I sent my mom some money for her birthday. She poked it down in a corner of her purse and let it age for a while. Then one day while out with my dad she spotted the remains of an old buggy. Almost a buckboard yet a bit larger. Probably something like a doctor's buggy but without the canvas top. It was in sad condition but she knew that my dad could put it back together. And he did. He saved as much of the original wood as he could and then made patterns off the pieces he couldn't save and before long they had a nice little black buggy sitting in the front yard at their little farm. The wheels on it were not original. None came with mom's purchase, but dad found some metal wheels that he took off some farm impliments and so it looked pretty cute.

Well, in August of 2009 my dad passed away. It was tramatic for all of us because my dad, in his quiet way, had been the head of our family. He was the leader. He was the one we called when we faced a problem because he seemed to have the answer even if it was just to listen to us.  When we went back for the auction at the old home place I asked if I could have the buggy. Mom said yes, since she was moving into a senior adult duplex where she couldn't have yard art.

I loaded it on my motorcycle trailer and towed it to Colorado where we parked it in the yard and Jane immediately loaded it down with geraniums. For two years it sat there through rain, snow, sleet, hail and hot mountain sun. The grandkids climbed on it and pictures were taken with people sitting in it.

When we came home from Seattle one of the first things I noticed was the old buggy in the yard. It had seen better days. The seat had collapsed and the box was ready for someone to step right through. I decided that it had to be one of my summer projects.

Two weeks ago I drove to Home Depot with measurements in hand, purchased wood and screws and paint and hurried back up the mountain to begin the process.

But as I started dismanteling the buggy I realized that I was handling the wood that my dad had last repaired. I was trying to rebuild something that he had rebuilt years before.  I carefully took it apart and just as my father had, I saved the pieces for patterns. I drew them with care because I wanted it to be like my dad's. It's funny how, in moments like that, I find myself talking to my dad and wondering what he would think. "Am I doing this right?"

In a matter of about 4 hours I had the thing put back together and ready for paint. By the next afternoon it was back in the yard and Jane was out looking for flowers to put in it. This weekend two of our grandsons will be here and I can guarantee that they will be climbing into that buggy and sometime during the hours that they are here, pictures will be taken.

But I realize that, not only did I take patterns off my dad's buggy, but I've used him as a pattern all of my life. He was such a good man and his values were so clear. He wasn't a baron of industry or an executive in some Fortune 500 company. He was a simple man who repaired boxcars for the Santa Fe Railroad for 43 years. But his life was worthy of emulating. He was my dad and working on the buggy reminded me again of my rich heritage through he and my mom.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Colorado Summer

Jane and I have been back in Colorado since May 4th. After 9 months in Seattle it was nice to find our way back to our own home. You know, there's just something about being around your own "stuff." We totally enjoyed out time living in Seattle and we love the people at the Aurora church but coming home is a wonderful feeling. I still fly to Seattle on Saturdays to preach on Sunday and then I fly home Sunday afternoon. It's a nice way to spend the weekend.

After coming home I started scheduling my little projects. I've got one specific project each week plus the little things that have to be done just to keep the home place up.

Two weeks ago I was mowing the yards (mine, the next door place and the place next to it, plus the lot across the stream). As I started to ride the little John Deere back across the bridge I hit it a bit hard and the crazy thing flipped right over backwards on top of me. Luckily, I'm bigger than the mower but it still left some bruises. I had shut off the blade and naturally the thing stopped running when it flipped. After it landed on me I pushed of off to the side, got up and set the mower up on it's wheels and then hit the switch. It started and I finished mowing. That was on Tuesday. On Thursday we looked out the back windows to see a large bear strolling down toward the stream. He stepped in, took a drink and then just layed down in the water. I stepped out to grap a picture and the minute he saw me he got up and took off.

And then while looking at the internet I discovered a little Model A Pickup for sale. I contacted the owner and went to see the vehicle. He told me he was wanting to build a Rat Rod and didn't want to cut up the Model A. I had a great idea. "Would you like to take a 35 Ford truck in on trade? It would be a great candidate for a Rat Rod." I went home that night and sent him pictures. He accepted my offer.

Now I had to get a trailer, load the 35 and drive it almost 100 miles, unload the truck with his help and then load the Model A.

On Wednesday we loaded the 35 on the trailer. How, you ask? With the use of a Come-a-long. That's a cable that's attached to a rachet and for a fat guy to keep pumping that rachet until the truck was on the trailer was quite a feat. Oh, and before I even started that I was pulling the 35 with the John Deere while Jane sat in the cab on a paint bucket to steer. here's the thing. The 35 had no brakes. Once I got it to rolling she couldn't stop it. I looked over my shoulder just as she hit the back of the mower and started pushing me sideways. I thought I was going to go over once again, but I knew that if I did it now I'd get run over. The truck finally stopped rolling after she pinned me between her truck and the trailer.

Thursday we got up early and headed to north east Denver to pick up the Model A. It was a great expereince. You see, the first car I ever had was a 1931 Model A Coupe. I started building it when I was 15. It was a father/son project. My dad knew all about Model A's. I found the frame on a flat bed trailer that my uncle Wayne owned. I went and asked him if I could buy it from him and he was kind enough to give it to me. We found the coupe body and fenders for $35 dollars and a rebuilt Model A engine for $20 bucks. (Remember, this was 1963). Dad and I spent hours working together on that little coupe. My last few days as a sophomore in High School, I drove that car to school.

This little truck reminds me of my dad and the time he spent with me all those years ago. As I was pulling the batter out of it today I was wishing my dad could be here with me. I wish I had paid more attention when we were building the first one.

Well, the Model A is  a project, but not the same as the other specific projects I have for the summer. It's a project that will take some time. I may never get it finished. My Son-In-Law Josh, says that my car projects are just vehicles that I pull or drag home in order to watch the air escape from the tires. I guess we'll see. Anyway, I have a summer full of jobs and a mind full of dreams.

I love summer in Colorado.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Marian Jane

Oh....have I mentioned that Jane and I have a GRANDDAUGHTER? Yep. She was born on January 3rd and her name is Marian Jane Zaker. What a sweet heart. After four grandsons it's pretty sweet to have a little girl in the mix.

She turned four months old on Tuesday and she's a keeper. All four of our grandsons are live wires and I'm sure she will be too, but right now she's just the sweetest little girl. She's easy to take care of. She doesn't cry very much (and her two brothers sure give her reason). She loves to lie in her grandpa's big fat arm where she cuddles in and sleeps when she's not smiling at me and making sure that I'm aware that she's the only girl and that her brothers are hellions. 

It's also fun to watch the boys as they relate to her. They like to get as close to her face as they can with their faces. They like to kiss her and touch her. They seem to be a bit unsure of what this all means.  And daddy Josh....well, he's already wrapped. There will be no spankings for this little angel, though her brothers spend an inordinate amount of time in the "time out" spot on the bottom stair.

Do you know how good God is? Well, let me tell you about a serendipity in our lives. Staci and Josh live in Lacey, Washington and have for two years. This past September a wonderful church in Shoreline, Washington (65 miles from Lacey) asked Jane and me to come and serve as their Interim Pastor. We were able to be with Staci's family the last four months of her pregnancy. We were able to be there for the birth of little Marian Jane. We've had the wonderful joy of being with her as she grew these past four months. I got to dedicate her at the Aurora church. They were with us for Easter Sunday.

What fun.

As the father of two girls I must admit that I've had a ball entertaining four grandsons and teaching them things that mom and dad won't. Showing them how to throw water balloon, introducing them to fireworks and how to ride a wagon down the hill in front of our cabin and build a dam in the stream.

But I was missing the little girl in our lives. The pink. The frilly clothing. The curly hair. The little dolls and the tea sets.

But I'm also looking forward to teaching her some things that I taught her mom, like how to walk on stilts and how to set up a lemonade stand and pay tithe on the profits.

Marian Jane Zaker. My youngest grandchild and my little girlfriend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Randy Edwards

This past Saturday a memorial service was held for one of the most unusual men I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Randy Edwards.

Randy entered my life after I had been serving as pastor at Denver First Church for about 6 months. The youth pastor had resigned shortly after I arrived and we had spent several months searching for his replacement. Randy was one of the candidates, but Randy didn't fit the mold. You know what I'm talking about, I'm sure. A youth pastor is supposed to be fresh out of seminary....or at least college. A youth pastor should be "cool" and "hip." He's supposed to be up on the latest rap music and reading the latest youth magazines. Randy, it would appear, was none of the above. Like me, he was overweight. His hair was thinning before shaved heads were in vogue. He was "old." I mean, he was close to my age. There was no way I was going to hire Randy.

But time passed and other candidates didn't seem to fit and Randy was there. He had been a member of Denver First Church all his life. He had grown up in the youth group there under the leadership of Roger Clay. Roger was promoting Randy for the job. Gregg Moran was promoting Randy. Derrell and Buzz and Colleen and Lester all seemed to be on his side as well and they were the youth sponsors.

At the next meeting of the Board I presented Randy's name for the position. I was shocked when  George Turner said, "Pastor, you don't bring staff hires to us for permission. Hiring and firing is your responsibility." Well, alright then. I guess Randy is the guy. I called him after the meeting to set up breakfast the next morning.

We met at La Peep's. I told Randy about the meeting the night before and that he would want to give his current employer (he was manager at a Wal-Mart) notice. I almost choked on my French toast when he said, "I did that two weeks ago. God told me to. I'm ready to go to work as soon as breakfast is over." Wow! That was to be only the first time that I would see him make decisions based on his relationship with God.

Randy lived in a different place spiritually than most people I've met. A different place than I've lived most of my life. There was an intimacy between he and God. I'm INCREDIBLY skeptical when someone says "God told me." I call that phrase the trump card. It's too often meant to silence discussion. That was not true with Randy.

Now don't misunderstand. Don't get the wrong idea. Don't assume that Randy was some old guy who lived in some ivory tower. A guy so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good. In fact, the opposite is true. Randy was so down to earth, so caring, so giving and filled with humor. He loved to laugh and did so often. His laugh would ring through the halls of the offices. He loved a good time....and the kids LOVED him. They adored him. They would have followed him off a cliff. When he assumed the role of Senior High Youth Pastor we were running about 40 kids in that department. Within months we were seeing 125. A fabulous youth choir was started that toured the country. While on those trips they witnessed miracles that they would never have seen apart from Randy and his faith. He taught them that nothing is impossible with God. And they believed him. His catch phrase was "Remember who you belong to." And they did. They still do.

Our youngest daugher, Jamie, was 15 when Randy became her youth pastor. We had been in Denver only months and she was struggling with the move. That first summer she accompanied the youth group on their mission trip to Tacate, Mexico and she grew homesick. Randy reminded her of her least physically. It was to Randy that she went when homesick on that trip. She cried. He held her like a father and comforted my little girl. He taught her well. He imparted the truth of the gospel to her.

My mind runs deep with memories of a guy who lived life to the fullest. Enjoyed life, family, his church and especially his family. He knew joy and heartache and he died the way he lived. With incredible courage and DEEP faith.

Godspeed Randy. I owe you, brother.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Symphonys and Sea Side Dining

I can't even remember how long it's been since Jane and I last attended a symphony concert. For whatever reason it's just not been high on our "to do" list. Though I played the cornet for six years (6th through 12th grades) and I have a deep appreciation for all styles of music, a symphony concert wasn't on my radar screen.

That all changed on Monday night, January 24th. Dave and Bev Goebels had tickets and they have invited us several times to go with them in the past. We've always had a conflict, but on that Monday night we were unencumbered. They made arrangements for us to have an early dinner at Arnie's ( a wonderful eatery right on the Sound in Edmonds) before the concert. One thing you need to know about Bev. She's the queen of coupons. She had a $20.00 off coupon for dinner and a "buy one get one free" coupon for the concert. It was a cheap date and a wonderful way to ease us back in to the world of the refined concert goer.

So, on that evening I gave up my usual TV fare of American Chopper and Pawn Stars in order to enjoy a bit of sophistication and class.

When I heard the orchestra was a regional orchestra rather than the Seattle Symphony I was a bit skeptical. Not that I'm a snob about my orchestra music, it's just that my expectations were not too high.  The event was held in a beautiful concert hall in Edmonds and the room was filled. The orchestra made their way to the platform and the concert master helped the members tune their instruments. When all was quiet, the maestro came to center stage. He was of Russian background and he was terrific. The orchestra was terrific. So much for my snobbery about local orchestras.

The special feature of the evening was a guest musician named Ko-Ichiro Yamamoto. He played the trombone. Yes, the trombone. When I heard the guest was a trombone player I couldn't imagine it. I thought trombone was like someone who played the tympani. You know, sort of a behind the melody sort of player. But no. This guy was and is the number one trombone player in the world. He came out to play Concerto For Trombone. Think of it. When he got wound up it was breath taking. I'd never heard a trombone played like that. From high to low he hit notes that I didn't know were possible on the 'bone. And fast. He moved that slide back and forth like a lumberjack on a two man saw. I kid you not. It was like he was playing "Flight of the Bumblebee." He was terrific.

So...perhaps I'll move beyond The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney and the Beach Boys and plug in to some more REAL music. Could I give up rock concerts for the better stuff? Well, maybe at least I can move to country music

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Baby and Big Trucks

I've been keeping track lately of the "firsts" that I've experienced while here in Seattle.

1. It's our first "full time" Interim Pastoral assignment. And it's been an awesome experience. The District Superintendent is scheduled to meet with the Church Board this week to begin the process of calling their next Pastor. It looks like we'll be here at least through May. The people have been over the top in regards to the way they've treated Jane and me. What a wonderful church. Some fortunate person is going to find a terrific place to serve here in Shoreline, Washington.

With Josh and Staci as we dedicated youngest grandson John at the Aurora Church.

2. I experienced my first "ride" in the C-17 simulator. I wrote about that in an earlier blog.

No, that's not me. They wouldn't let me take a camera in.

3. I attended my first Seattle Seahawks game. Tickets were provided by team member Earl Thomas and fellow pastor Steve Vaughn from Topeka, Kansas. It was a great game and the Seahawks won. No doubt because of my presence in the stands.

4. I drove the Escalade on to a ferry and rode across to Whidbey Island. A great trip with two young grandsons in tow. First ferry boat ride.

5. I became a grandfather to a lovely little girl on January 3rd. First granddaughter. And (naturally) she's beautiful and extremely bright. She was born in the late afternoon on the Lewis-McCord base in the Seattle area. Staci almost waited too long to get to the hospital. When she did arrive, they asked her, "Why did you wait so long?" It was the result of her experience at Travis Air Force base hospital when the two boys were born. They had told her not to even call until the contractions were so bad that she couldn't speak.

After she and Josh were situated at the hospital and the epidural had been administered, they called us and we took the boys to the hospital. Only problem? The hospital is on a military base and there is no admission to the base without a pass. Guess what. I got on without a pass. It's the skill of a highly trained pastor. I talked my way on to a military base. Scary, I know. But it was a treat to be there with the two big brothers when they got to see their new little sister for the first time. She's so precious and grandpa loves to hold her. Her name is Marian Jane Zaker

6. I attended my first Monster Truck Jam this past Saturday. That was an experience. I call it the automotive industries answer to professional wrestling. I'm not saying that the races were staged but the freestyle sure seemed to be. One exception was the Grave Digger truck. That thing was almost totally on it's side when the driver hit the gas and spun the tires and it popped right back up on all fours.

Perhaps the highlight was the Megasauras. It's somewhat of a Rube Goldberg machine. It lumbers out under it's own power, breathing fire and being encouraged in it's journey by appropriately menacing music. When it reached the appointed spot with only the spot light shining on it he proceeded to rip a small car apart with his bare claws and teeth. Two young grandsons sat with eyes as big as half dollars as they watched the spectacle. Hoses and wires hung from the car like blood veins and arteries. Fluid spilled from the radiator and glass shattered. I don't know about my grandsons, but I was afraid that I'D be having nightmares.

All in all, our trip to the Great Pacific Northwest has been a delightful adventure. When you add in our trip to the Ballard Locks and the Fish Ladder, the great restaurants that we've enjoyed, the outstanding people that we've met who will be lifelong friends, it's been quite a year.  During our time here, Derrell Schreiner has been busy working on our cabin and creating a beautiful Master Suite so that Jane will no longer have to climb stairs.  Oh yes, one more 'first" for us. We've been audited in 2010. Lord, I'll take a colonoscopy any day over an IRS audit.