Graduated with honors

I was recently privileged to attend the High School Graduation ceremony for one of my neighbors. It was unique in my experience for two reasons:

1)It is the first time I’ve witnessed a homeschooling graduation ceremony
2)It is the only graduation ceremony I have attended in which no one suffered from heat exhaustion.


Mind you, I’m not an expert in these matters. I nearly missed my own High School graduation over the trivial matter of a bounced check. I’m ashamed to admit that I skipped my favorite brother’s graduation from the College of Knowledge so I could pack up my dorm room, less than a quarter-mile from the stadium. My own subsequent graduation from that same College was marred by the lack of a single P.E. credit … they mailed me my diploma in the Fall, after I corrected that deficiency — who knew that 3 years in the Army didn’t count as physical exercise!

The young Lady who was honored last Sunday is a woman of considerable faith and purpose; she is widely admired throughout the area (I can safely use that particular phraseology because she is far from wide). Arriving late, as is our inimitable style, we were forced to stand (although ultimately we took refuge in the ‘crying room’ where we could view the ceremony through a large window and occasionally overhear it on an internal speaker). Many others had to stand, which proved to me once again that there is no great advantage in arriving on-time to such affairs. One of my friends from the Duckabush remarked to me later, “I knew I was late when I saw you going in ahead of me.” This is just one of the many benchmarking services our family provides, along with thresholds for behavior in Church, amount of food consumed at potluck dinners, and other important social boundaries. As my uncle Steve (no stranger to circular logic) always says at buffet-style meals, “We’d better get some food before the greedy people do!”

There were perhaps 130 people attending the event, which is a very good turnout considering that it was in celebration of a single graduate, not to mention our remote rural setting. Having watched the graduate grow into a young woman over the past 5 years, I was very pleased to see our community heaping honors on her family and joining with her in commemorating this first important transition to adulthood.

There being no lack of speakers at the event, I didn’t feel called to stand up and say a few words (especially inside the crying room); but here on this blog I enjoy the heady opportunity to freely declaim with no regard for the sensitivities (or interest) of my reader(s).

Although I intended to keep this blog entry anonymous, I am finding it awkward to refer to my subject as “my neighbor”, “the graduate”, “this young Lady”, etc. So (to preserve her from undue scrutiny) we will make up a pseudonym for her … let’s call her “Kara”.


Once in a long while you meet someone who is truly exceptional, not in a single skill or characteristic, but across the board. Kara, due in no small part to the godliness and care of her parents, abounds in graciousness, kindness, integrity, joyfulness, patience, self-control, and above all, a servant heart. Her willingness to help and serve others is in some ways the defining mark of her character … she seems to really view herself as a “servant of God”.

Many teenagers are consumed with the desire to win the approval of their peers or flirt with sin … but Kara has been steadfast in her desire to win the approval of her God. She has consistently chosen to be pure in spite of considerable pressure to conform to the pattern of the world.

People like Kara are sometimes hard to understand for the rest of us, so I’ve compiled a list of ways to relate to them:

  • If you want to spend time with her, be needy. She can’t even begin to resist someone who requires help, and you can happily bask in her presence as long as you can maintain at least the appearance of your need. Be warned, however: people like Kara are in high demand, and others will greedily seek to poach her away.
  • If you need to talk about yourself, seek her out. She has time, interest and compassion for other people; indeed, getting her to talk about herself can be a major challenge.
  • If you want to hold her interest, talk about God. Kara is passionate about her Lord and will talk with you for hours about Him.
  • If you want to know the right thing to do, watch Kara. She has tremendous insight about the best way to please God and consistently makes good choices and models godly conduct.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m sure Kara has many of the same struggles with sin that plague the rest of us. She can probably be cranky and maybe even mean (although it is hard to imagine). But she seems to have reached a level of spiritual maturity far beyond her years, and she deserves to be honored if for no other reason that she freely acknowledges everything as a gift from God and gives glory to Him at every opportunity.

I’m really excited about what the future holds for Kara. As she herself said, “Many 18-year-olds have little idea what they will do next week, let alone next year.” (Some paraphrasing may have occurred.) But it is not hard to imagine her choosing a path to medical missions and becoming a loving wife and mother to some fortunate young man. As we drove home, I had a sudden vision of another ceremony, perhaps 70 or 80 years in the future, where crowds of people touched by her life gather to honor the home-going of a godly woman. I doubt I’ll still be around, but maybe one of my children can take pictures and write a blog entry or two commemorating a long life of service to our Lord.

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Figure the Odds


A strange thing happened when I first started my new job in Seattle. I keep meaning to write about it, and it has finally bubbled to the top of my consciousness, so here it is.

Earlier in the Spring I agreed to serve as assistant director for a local one-act play, focusing on a meeting between a Confederate and a Union soldier during the Civil War. Although I was away in Michigan for much of the time immediately before the play, I took my duties as assistant director somewhat seriously and tried hard to direct and encourage the two young actors in the short time that I had just before the play was performed.

For some reason I was not asked to handle the lighting this season.

Last season I was in charge of the lights for a Christmas play, and we had a lot of trouble getting the wiring set up in advance. On the fateful day of the dress rehearsal, everything was plugged in and ready. I flipped the switch on the control box and three of the four stage lights blew out. Apparently the box had been mis-wired, and I had not thought to make sure the lights were off before turning on the controls … perhaps we could have blown only one of the lights if I had been more careful. In any case, they did not ask me to “help out” in that way again.

The first day of my new job was also the last performance of this season’s play. Due to my commuting schedule, I couldn’t be at the theater in time. Later that evening, the real director brought by my gifts … both he and the two young actors had remembered to give me a gift, in stark contrast to my own failure to remember gifts for them. I felt pretty lame, and yet have done nothing about it in the intervening weeks, although yesterday I did manage to at least say “Thank you.”

Due to my habitual use of caffeine to prop up my flagging energies, I am rarely seen at a rehearsal without a Diet Coke in my hand. The young actors noted this, and gave me a six-pack of the new Lime-flavored Diet Cokes (a choice I favor) as well as a generous supply of Pop-Tarts for my daily commute.

The director who had graciously covered for me during those last weeks before the play gave me a 1-liter Diet Coke bottle … just the thing to get me through the morning. I noticed that the bottle cap advertised a “1 in 4 Wins!” game that Coca-Cola was offering. “Figure the odds,” I thought grumpily.

Let me tell you right now that I do not win games like that. While I routinely win board games and computer games (and even, occasionally, card games), as soon as there is any stake involved, I lose. Perhaps this is God’s way of protecting me from a predilection for gambling … but it gets a little discouraging at times. Odds of 1 in 4 for most people average out to, well, 1 in 4. But for me, I can pretty much count on 1 in 16 or perhaps 1 in 32.

As I drove along on my second day of work, rubbing the sand out of my eyes and considering the day from the bleak perspective of a man without much sleep, I opened up that 1-liter Diet Coke and glanced at the bottle cap indifferently. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had won a free 1-liter Diet Coke! For some reason this really warmed my spirit … I felt somehow that God had not forgotten me and was watching over me, even to the extent of providing free caffeine.

(My mom, who for many years drank 5 cups of coffee before most people wake up, disapproves of this ‘beastly habit’. Now that she has reformed herself, she seeks to proseletyze others, and I’m sure that she would have difficulty seeing the hand of God in this matter. Nevertheless, I persist stubbornly in feeling that God was taking care of me.)

This went on for a week. Each day I would open the 1-liter bottle and glance with increasing hope at the bottle-cap … five times in a row I ‘won’ the free 1-liter pop before that fateful day when I was relegated back into the ranks of ‘not a winner’. I began to feel rather sheepish as I redeemed the prize at local stores along my route … but the sense of being in the eye of God continued. Those of you with a mathematical background can calculate the likelihood of this occurring … 1 in 4 odds extrapolated over five times. Roughly, assuming that Coca-Cola replaces each bottle I win, that is 1/4 * 1/4 * 1/4 * 1/4 * 1/4, or 1 in 1024! (Those of you who were not asleep in Probabilities and Statistics 101 can correct me on this.)

I know a lady who used to pray for parking spots … and her prayers were frequently answered! We serve a God who is Lord of the little things, as well as the sweeping events of history.

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Morning Grumpiness

When I was in the Army, my barracks roommate for more than 2 years was a Christian man from Dallas, Texas, named Jimmy-T Goodson. We were very well-matched, as roommates, not least because of our common dislike for life as enlisted men in the Army. He is a remarkable person in many ways, and I remember him very fondly as a dear brother.

Each morning, as he swung his legs out of bed and his feet would slap the tile of the floor, he would say: “I hate the Army.” Each evening, as he pulled the covers up to his chin, he would conclude, “I hate the Army.” It was a daily ritual that brought, in a strange way, a considerable satisfaction to both of our lives. Some days he said it casually, in an offhand manner; other times (especially Monday mornings) he spoke with deep conviction. But in the 700-odd days we shared a room, I don’t remember him ever failing to say those words.

I hate getting up early in the morning. I strongly prefer to wake between 8 and 9, whenever possible (not so easy with 5 children). In order to catch the appropriate bus, ferry & shuttle and be in my office by 9:00, I rise and get in the shower according to the 5:42 and 5:47 am alarms set on my bedside clock. Yesterday, as my feet hit the floor at 5:46, I thought to myself, “I hate my life.”

May 2004 Pictures 082.jpg

Some time later, as I drove along route 101 in the bright morning sunshine, I listened to the morning radio show, featuring an appeal for support of the Union Gospel Mission, an outreach to homeless people in Seattle. Every ten minutes or so they played a short vignette about one of the people who had been down and out, and was reached by the Mission program. I started thinking (again) about all the blessings that I enjoy, and I felt a little ashamed of my ungrateful thoughts.

I started thinking about other times I have worked early-morning jobs, not only in the Army, and about how life was for me then. I suddenly remembered what it was like to be single and how much of my time and focus was spent looking for someone I could love, who would love me. I remember times (especially when I was in the Army) when I seriously wondered if I would ever find such a person. I talked to my geraniums and wrote bad poetry and listened to gloomy music … it was a little pathetic, in retrospect.

As a man, I tend to be achievement-oriented … it is easy to fall into the error of viewing a wife and a family as ‘possessions’ or ‘milestones met’. I was reminded of the rare and beautiful preciousness of my Kathy and her deep and abiding love for me. I remembered the times we have (even now, with my grueling work & commuting schedule) to talk, be silly and enjoy each other. I am proud of the continuing godliness of my five children, who depend on my work for food and shelter (clothing they mostly get from Mamie). I revel in the time I have to enjoy my home and the valley where I live, if only on weekends.

I guess I don’t hate my life, after all. It is hard for night-owls to see the good in the world at 5:46 in the morning. Perhaps the lesson in all of this is to avoid philosophy until I’ve had my first Diet Coke of the day.

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