“Are You Ready for some Football?”

The first time I touched a football, I was in second grade, living in Huntington, West Virginia. My family was living with my maternal grandfather for a little while, in a neighborhood rife with small bungalows on a hilly street which climbed upwards, through the neighborhood, to the elementary school I attended for my second grade year, and then wound further up the hill to a park on the summit. Our family weren’t really sports folks, although Dad ran track in high school and played basketball with the guys living in a small town near which he lived. Before my second grade year, my family traveled…..a lot! We were part Christian gypsies, part travelling minstrel show, but mostly itinerant evangelists, inviting people across the nation to know Jesus.  I attended a school for kindergarten, and then my first grade year was spent on the road, taught by my mother, so change was routine. Grandpa Young’s house was a one-bedroom, one bath house packed full with Grandpa, Mom and Dad, my brother, Bill, and me. My sister, Connie, was married earlier in the summer, and  moved with her husband to Mogadore, Ohio, just outside Akron.

If there was one sport that was part of the daily routine in the house, it was baseball. Bill was a Dodger fan, but Grandpa was a die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan. Mom and Dad slept in the home’s only bedroom, and Grandpa slept in an added bed placed in the dining room, which had no doors for privacy. At the foot of his bed, next to the door leading to the kitchen, he placed one of those old-school lawn chairs, with reclining back, a frame of aluminum tubes, and woven plastic straps for sitting. Each night, or afternoon, Grandpa would get his small transistor radio, plug in the ear phone, and listen to the players his son-in-law, Jimmy, helped to scout and sign for the Reds. This was the historic Big Red Machine, with Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Davey Concepcion, Tony Perez, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, and Joe Morgan. Grandpa would stretch out in that chair, with the ear phone in, don sunglasses in a darkened room (yeah…..um….the sunglasses…..uh…. Ok, I got nothin’), and utter a soft grunt every so often when the Reds did something good.

I don’t really remember Grandpa and Bill talking about baseball very often, which is understandable, because the Dodgers and Reds became huge rivals during that era, and Grandpa could be a little cantankerous. The only other “sport” I remember him to watch was “wrastlin'” on TV every Saturday. Grandpa was a certifiable hillbilly, and he would watch wrastlin’ with great vigor. It was one of the few times I remember him smiling and laughing. Every so often, he would say to me, “Let’s go watch wrastlin’ on TV.” As he said it, I would notice a twinkle in his eye, and slight smile on his face. So we would go into the living room, turn on the TV, wait for it to warm up, adjust the rabbit ears antenna which sat on top of it, and watch the melodrama.

My love with football began on the front porch of Grandpa’s house sitting in his porch swing. Across the street from his house was a white house which was mostly obscured by a line of large pine trees. Most of the houses on the street were elevated above street level, with a concrete retaining wall running along all the properties behind the sidewalk that bordered the street, and broken only by consecutive concrete steps which allowed access to the yard, and front door of each property. The only thing visible of this particular house was the front door. I don’t remember much activity around the house. I often looked at that house which was surrounded by the tree-wall while sitting on the swing, and wondered about the many stories behind the wall and within that door. In my imagination, it was an abandoned fortress, or a castle on a hill.

One day, I saw a boy emerge from the door and make his way along the sidewalk away from the house, and down the steps to the sidewalk along the street. The boy was much older and larger than me, and was dressed in pseudo-armor. His shoulders seemed unnaturally large under a large jersey which had a large number on the front tucked into large pants which sagged a little with thick pads on his thighs and knees. He held a white helmet in one hand, and a football in the other, and his shoes made a funny clacking sound as he walked on the concrete, and also when he impatiently shuffled his feet while waiting for his mother to get the car out of the garage and back down the driveway. As soon as she positioned the car on the street, headed up the hill, he flung open the passenger-side door, jumped in, and slammed the door. She then accelerated up the hill to a destination unknown to me.

My curiosity grew as I watched the scene, and I knew that I wanted to talk to that kid…

As I remember, one day I shouted at the kid when he returned from practice and asked to talk to him about what he was doing. I walked across the street, and I entered into a new world. His name was Mike Johnson, and he seemed worldly and wise to me….

he was in seventh grade…..

Mike taught me how to throw a football. He showed me how to position my fingers on the laces so I could throw a spiral. I learned how to catch it, too. He showed me how to get into a three-point stance, and fire out of it into a pass pattern….whatever that was… He let me try on his helmet, and chuckled by how it jangled around on my head when I ran, which made seeing the thrown ball difficult, let alone catch. His chuckle grew to a full-blown laugh when the ball struck me in the head and spun the helmet half-way around my head, so I was looking out the ear-hole rather than through the face mask. Mike seemed to enjoy teaching me football, and also other things a guy in West Virginia should know…like how to box.

I remember going into a sparse room in the basement, which had a door into the back yard. In the room, there were all kinds of sports equipment scattered around the room. Mike walked to a corner and picked up four boxing gloves, and helped me put two on. We then began a sparring lesson, which ended with him hitting me in the stomach, and me doubled over, unable to catch my breath. I kind of panicked for a second. He told me to lie down on the floor.

“You’re ok,” he said, “you just got the breath knocked out of you.”

Easy enough for HIM to say, I thought. HE can BREATHE!

He then reached to my waist and grabbed my belt, pulling my hips up.

“This is what the coaches do when you get the breath knocked out of you. It happens all the time. Just breathe normally.”

Eventually, I caught my breath, and we began to talk about other manly things…..like how the cheerleaders would hang around the practice field until after practice was over, so they could talk to the players. My eyebrows shot up!


The football seed was planted……


The next year meant another move, another school along with my first job:

delivering papers in the apartment complex in which we lived….

I also began to grow….mostly in weight. By the end of the third grade, I graduated into a new weight class: Chunky.

Then another move in the summer to Elkhart, Kansas; a small town in Southwest Kansas with a population of around 2000 people. It was there that I played organized sports for the first time. I played baseball, and while I enjoyed it and was pretty good, I found a greater talent. The seed of football began to take sprout and grow in fourth grade. During recess, my new classmates taught me a new game: “Kill the guy with the ball!” The game began when someone would throw the football straight up in the air, and everyone tried to catch the ball. Whoever caught it, would immediately begin running while the rest of the crew tried to tackle him…and I do mean TACKLE….no two-hands touch….this was elementary survival of the fittest. Since I weighed more than all the kids in my grade, save one, had a pretty low center of gravity, and ran aggressively; I was terribly difficult to bring down. Actually, that was a foretaste of my football career, and maybe in the rest of my life, come to think of it: I didn’t go down easily. Further, I found that I LOVED the physical contact of that game, and while I came to also love basketball and baseball, neither came close to my love for football. The game energized me!

In fifth grade, we got our first opportunity to play competitive football in full pads. The experience of football season each fall begins with checking out equipment. Even now I remember walking into a musty gym, locker room, or equipment room in the late summer, and making my way to each area designated for shoulder pads, helmets, jerseys, etc. Coaches are close, to make sure each piece of equipment fits properly.

My first year was hilarious. I had no clue how all this….stuff…. went together to make a suit of armor like Mike Johnson wore. There were helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, knee pads, and…..girdle pads? All fifth grade boys snickered at the name “girdle pads”…. which consisted of a garment similar to briefs made of stretchy material with pockets covering the hips and tail bone. The first difficulty was learning how to put the pads in the girdle, and to make sure you put it on right so the pad meant for your tailbone was in back and not the front….

The second thing to know was how to put in the thigh pads correctly. At the top, thigh pads are taller on one edge, so it covers the outside of the thigh. The main point to remember when putting them in the pocket in the pants, is to make sure the taller side is pointed towards the outside rather than the inside. To point them inward, is to incur possible damage to future fatherhood plans. Some coaches would point this out when you first put the uniform on, but as you got older, the coaches allowed evolution to take its course….

We only played one game in fifth grade, and it was against the sixth graders, if I remember correctly. I don’t remember much about the game, what position I played, or who won; but I remembered practice, and that I felt invincible with that uniform on. I fell in love with the game.

In sixth grade, we moved again just outside of town. But Elkhart sits right on the Oklahoma border, so since we were suddenly Okies, I had to change schools again. Now while Elkhart is small, the school I moved to, Yarbrough, was tiny. Yabrough was a little country school surrounded by a smattering of houses, in which most of the teachers lived. My class was the largest in the school, K-12, and we had 13 in our class. The size didn’t change the cultural priority for football, though. It just changed the scope. We played 8-man football, on an 80-yard field, instead of  100-yards in 11-man. Because there were 3 fewer players per team, the game was much more wide open, and there were more big plays, and higher scores. It was a fun brand of football. We also played other schools in sixth and seventh grades, which meant travel on a bus to other small communities. While the talent level didn’t match larger schools, the work ethic of the players did. Those kids were farm kids, used to working long hours in the summer and hoisting bales of hay, and wrestling calves. The downside for me, however, was I would eventually move back into Elkhart, and need to learn the 11-man game again.

Eighth grade was a pivotal year for me in football, not because of the season that fall, but for an incident at the end of the school year, in the spring. I guess it was some brilliant administrator’s idea to put eighth grade boys’ PE class at the BEGINNING of each school day, so the coach that taught the class had to end class early so we could take a shower, or…what usually happened… kept class the same length, so we had to get dressed in our school clothes while we were hot and sweaty, and the rest of our classmates and subsequent teachers had to put up with the body odor of adolescent boys for the rest of the day….  Since the junior high was on the same campus as the high school in Elkhart, we had PE in the high school gym, first thing in the morning. Our group of guys would go over and hang out just outside the gym, while we waited for the gym doors to be unlocked. As we waited, we would kibitz around, shooting the breeze about everything eighth grade boys talk about, and on this particular day, we started talking about football the next year. For some reason, and I have never quite figured out why, I mentioned that my goal for the next year as a freshman, playing on the high school team, was to start. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I suddenly realized what a bold statement that was. My friends erupted in derision at my assumed faux pas. Looking back, I understand that my statement was true: my goal was to start on varsity. Did I believe I was capable? I honestly didn’t know enough about high school football to know if I was capable or not, but my goal….what I would strive for…was to start on varsity.

Sometimes bold statements are an attempt to cover over our deep insecurity. Other times they are strategically spoken to motivate us and the others around us….our teammates…to accomplishment, and the work necessary to make them come true. Still other times, they are innocent proclamations of a desired outcome for which we are willing to work. My intention, I believe, was the last one. So there it was….for my buddies….and the rest of the city….to see. My goal was to start on varsity as a freshman.


We had a new head coach my freshman year, which meant that everything would be new. We would run a new offense, a new defense, new special teams, and everybody would be on a level footing, for the most part. A new practice routine was also at play. Gone were the days when depriving water from players was a tool to create mental toughness. We would have one water break in the middle of practice….one. Coach Claxton was a quiet, good looking guy. He was a former Marine, and supposedly had experience coaching in larger high schools. But the most influential quality to my freshman buddies and me was the long zipper on one of his knees. This was in the days before arthroscopic knee surgery, and old-school repairs left their own road map on the skin. A knee surgery meant he had been a PLAYER!

For the most part, freshmen are too stupid to know how much of a bitch 2-a-days are. You are walking in, as a lamb to the slaughter. High school training camps were used to get guys in shape, and we had to go through 10 practices in shorts, shirts, and helmets before we could put on the pads. Older guys knew what those 10 practices meant: lots of running. However, with a new head coach, a new offense and defense had to be installed. Since most players in small high schools play both offense and defense, more practice time must be spent on learning each system, and teaching techniques specific to each. We were going to run the Wishbone offense, and the Okie 5-2 defense, and each was different than what they had run the year before. Since the program hadn’t been very successful for several years, the expectations in the community and league weren’t very high, and we had a fairly small group of senior players, so camp would be competitive.

I don’t remember anything significant during our first practice that year, but it felt really good stepping up into “real football”! The second practice in the afternoon, however, was disastrous for me. John Lujan, who later became my best friend for the next two years, decided he would try out for quarterback. While John was highly intelligent, and a good natural athlete, he had the arm of an offensive lineman. So much so, that he eventually split the difference between QB and OL and moved to tight end. On this particular day, John’s lousy arm affected me greatly. We were running a passing drill, and John and I were the next two in line. Me as receiver, John as QB. When he called the signal, I exploded off the line, went into my cut and he threw the ball….short and off-line. I  cut towards the ball and instinctively dove, without pads, landing on my shoulder and side of the head. The landing knocked me out and broke my clavicle, I was later to find out.

I missed the next 8 weeks. I missed all of 2-a-days, and the first 3 games of the season. I didn’t really remember it at the time, but I made a bold statement in the spring, and got hurt the first day of practice. Not a good start. But injuries happen in football, and after I returned to practice that year, one of our senior defensive ends dislocated his shoulder and was out for the year. They were looking for someone to step in.

My first game back was a junior varsity game, and although they allowed me to suit up, I didn’t get to play. I was pissed, too. I wanted to play ball! The next week, they put me in at defensive end in the junior varsity game, and basically told me to find the ball and hit somebody. No real coaching about technique…just find the ball and hit somebody. So, I did. I must have done a good job, because the beginning of the next week, one of the assistant coaches came to me and said, “Don’t be surprised if Coach Claxton talks to you about starting on varsity this week.”  Later in the day, in PE, Coach Claxton came up to me and said:

“Larry…..what would you think about going up against a 200 pound lineman?”

“It wouldn’t bother me any…” I said without thinking about it.

“Good. You are starting this week for Danny, at D-End. The position coach will bring you up to speed on your technique.”

At the time, I was 5’10” tall and weighed 169 pounds and ran about a 4.9-5.0  40. While those numbers aren’t impressive for a defensive end (which is really an outside linebacker, in the way the Okie 5-2 was structured) in a large high school, in a four year high school of 350, it was pretty good. While the opportunity I was receiving was a good one, their options were limited, and we were undefeated, tied for the league lead, and had not yet been scored on. To make matters more significant, the team we were to face that week was the other undefeated team in the league, and outweighed us on the line by 30 pounds per man. It would be a really good test for us as a team, but also for me.


We were listening to music on the bus as we drove into Lakin, KS. The Lakin Broncos were 3-0 and we were 3-0. The team that won would take the lead in the High Plains League, and as it turned out, make it into the playoffs. I was sitting in a seat by myself, looking out the window at the small town of Lakin, and a favorite song of mine at the time came on the radio: “Why Can’t We be Friends” by War. I began smiling at the symbolism of the song. Here I was, a freshman, starting my first game in high school on an undefeated team which had not been scored on, playing against the other top team in the league….I’m nervous….and the radio is taunting me!

(More to come…)


The Parable of the Road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s House….

One morning a young man sprung from the comfort of his bed to begin a new day. Entering the shower, he turned the faucet to cold, and allowed the water to pelt his scalp and trickle down his body in icy rivulets of adrenaline. He stood beneath the water and inwardly traced the fragments of an idea as they twirled in his mind, slowly drawn, as if by a magnet, towards the center of his consciousness. Once they clicked into place, forming a clear thought, he gave warbled voice to the thought; speaking through the torrent of icy water plunging down his face:

“Today I will go to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house!”

As the words tumbled from his mouth, he felt a surge of energy, fueled by youthful confidence and idealism. Stepping back from the water, he finished the shower and turned off the flow, and then quickly reached for the towel laying on the nearby sink. As he dried his body, he began to allow his mind to consider the task to which he had committed himself. Slowly, in the back of his mind, a question began to calmly creep forward:

“How will I know the way?”

Shrugging his shoulders, he finished his morning bathroom routine, strode purposefully into his bedroom and rummaged through his closet until he found his backpack. After putting a change of clothes in, he shouldered the pack, and walked into the kitchen for breakfast. The table was set, and his mother was just turning from the stove with a bowl full of hot biscuits, when the young man shrugged out of his backpack, hung it on the back of his chair, and sat down.

“Where are you headed today?” His mother asked with slight suspicion in her voice.

“I have decided to go to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house.” He said confidently.

His mother stopped so suddenly that a biscuit tumbled off the stack in the bowl onto the floor. “Why do you need to do that?” She asked, her voice quivering.

“What do you mean ‘why?'” he responded with irritation, “I want to know what they have to teach me. It is something I must do.”

“But the road is dangerous, and there are bad people along the way. They will hurt you, and you won’t be able to make it all the way there.” She was becoming quite animated at this point. “Besides, I know what Grandfather and Grandmother have to say. Men much smarter than me or you have told me their words, and I can tell you. There is no need for you to go.”

The young man felt anger rise within, and his words became short and loud. “This is my journey to make, and I am going to make it!”

Her shoulders slumped, and she stooped down to pick up the biscuit from where it fell on the floor. “Well….I guess this is my fault. If I hadn’t been so stubborn and sinful, you wouldn’t be leaving me alone….”

Before the young man could respond, his father walked into the room and quietly took his seat at the table. His mother set the biscuits on the table, retrieved the bacon, eggs, and gravy from the stove, started to sit down, then said, “Oh…I forgot the jelly….”, looking at the young man she asked a question for which she already knew the answer, “You like jelly don’t you?” Before he could answer, she turned in her chair, got up, and went to the refrigerator to get the jelly. While hidden behind the refrigerator door, she said, “Tell your father what you are doing.” She then took her place at the table with the jelly jar in hand.

Before he could say anything, his mother and father silently bowed their heads in prayer. After awkwardly waiting for his parents to finish praying, the young man said, “I am going to Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s house, Dad. Can you tell me how to get there?”

His father reached for the plate of eggs, served himself, and passed them to the young man. As he did so, he said, “It’s great that you want to go to their house. Everybody should travel to their house. It takes courage to go there, and I am not surprised you want to go.” As the young man served himself eggs, and his mother passed the bacon to his father, the young man said, “Ok….so….what road do I take?”

“Well…” his dad said, while taking some bacon and a couple of biscuits. “I can’t really tell you which road to take.”

“But you’ve been there, right?” The young man said between bites of bacon.

“Yes, I’ve been there… but you must find your own road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house…”

The family then settled in to eat their food, and the young man didn’t say anything more. In fact, he decided as he ate, that he would just begin the trip, and figure out which way to go while he traveled.

After the meal was over, the young man removed his backpack from the chair upon which he’d been sitting, and shrugged it onto his back. After doing so, he stood awkwardly next to the table as his mother cleared away the dishes and his father stepped outside to do….something….he was never sure what his dad did during the day, he just knew he was away a lot. The young man stood waiting for his mother to take notice of his leaving, but she seemed in a rush to clean her kitchen. Finally, the young man said, “Well…I will see you later…” and began to walk slowly from the room and towards the front door. His mother turned, dropped the rag she was holding onto the counter, and said in a tired voice, “Ok…give me a hug before you leave.” The two of them continued walking to the front door, and upon reaching it, he turned and gave her a hug. She held him tightly for a long time…quite too long for him…and said, “Please be careful…and call us along the way.”

As the young man stepped out of the door and into open world, he found his father sitting in the driver’s seat of a small school bus he had recently purchased. His father was intently reading the owner’s manual, and only realized his son’s presence when the young man stepped onto the first step. The young man sensed that his father seemed faintly sad. The young man couldn’t determine whether the melancholy was connected to his own leaving, or the issues surrounding the bus which lead his dad to retrieve the owner’s manual. Life had often been this way between the father and son, with each hiding behind a wall of quietness, built for reasons which were misunderstood and unexplored by them both. They loved one another, but weren’t quite sure how to show it, and each were too absorbed with their respective lives to learn how to communicate that love in a way the other would understand. So they lived in the quietness, content in the fact of the other’s love, but seldom fully cognizant of the depth.

“I am heading out….” The young man quietly said.

After realizing his presence, his father looked up from the manual, got up from the driver’s seat, and laid the manual down. Before his father could say anything, the young man said, “I will be praying for you, Dad. I will pray that Grandfather and Grandmother will be with you in such a way that you visualize them walking beside you. I love you, Dad. Be at peace….”

The young man then turned, stepped down from the step out of the bus, and began to walk away.

“Give me a call if you……need anything…” his father said to his retreating back.

As the young man walked, tears welled up in his eyes, and began to run down his cheeks. He would have replied, but his voice was choked off due to his deep emotion. So…he just kept walking.



As he walked through the streets of the small town, he began to study the possible directions he could travel. He started asking questions of himself, but the only answers he could determine, were ones from his past experience, and something deep inside himself questioned the veracity of those answers. Somewhere along the way, he heard within himself a soft voice,

“Follow Wilderness Road…”

The young man frowned in response….

“Wilderness Road…” He thought inwardly, “Why would I travel Wilderness Road in order to reach Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s house? Grandfather and Grandmother live with people. I don’t want to go into the wilderness. It sounds lonely and hard.”

Continuing to walk, the young man was passed by numerous vehicles. Cars, and pickups pulling campers, large RV’s with ornately painted designs on the sides and shiny chrome in front and back, motorcycles and scooters… Eventually, he noticed that many of the vehicles seemed to travel in no particular direction, with no apparent rhyme or reason to their motion. They just seemed to move. With a little more study, however, he did notice some of the vehicles moving in the same general direction, but in varying speeds and with differing forays side-to-side along the way. A few of the cars seemed to be in really good mechanical condition, and looking through the windows, he noticed that the countenances of the occupants seemed to exude peace and caring for one another. He noticed how often the riders laughed with each other, and even when they seemed to be crying, it seemed they were doing it together, holding each other close in tender hugs. There were times when the faces of the front seat passengers appeared to be grim, as if in disagreement. The young man noticed that these same cars would stop from time to time, and the two companions sitting in the front seats would exit the car, pop the hood and begin to work on the engine, or open the trunk to lift out a new tire and replace one of the tires on the car with it. Often, these cars seemed to make better headway along the road, and didn’t take nearly as many detours as some of the other cars, he observed. “That is something I probably need to remember,” the young man told himself. He was also surprised that you couldn’t tell by how stylish the car appeared on the outside, what the condition of the motor, and mechanical stability of the vehicle was. Several times, he noticed a beautiful car putting along, with the engine cutting out and moving progressively slower and slower until it stopped altogether, and the occupants got out, slammed the doors yelling at each other, or simply walking away in opposite directions in stony silence. What was especially sad to the young man, though, was the younger passengers in the back seat. While the front seat occupants climbed out of the car and walked away, the back seat passengers stayed in the car, with no way out; their world limited by no fault of their own, destined to deal with the consequences of a dead car. As he watched these events unfold, the young man would stare at the front seat passengers with judgment and disgust clearly written on his face. He would also shake his head sadly as he watched the back seat passengers stare through the windows at the other cars which passed them by. Cars that looked to be old, and in need of a paint job, but rolling away the miles with engines running faithfully, and the occupants in sync with one another due to ongoing maintenance both in and on the vehicle.

Eventually, the young man came upon a sign along the roadside, raised above the traffic. He read it with much curiosity:

Middle Earth University: Your First Step Towards Grandfather’s House.

Smiling, the young man turned in the direction given by the sign, and walked until he found several buildings nestled together on the top of a small hill, which seemed to be carved out of the numerous cornfields which surrounded it. Walking to the first building, he strode purposefully through the door and found an information desk. After a short conversation, the person at the desk directed him to the Admissions department. The young man walked down a short hallway to a door with a simple sign on the wall next to it declaring the space behind to be “Admissions”. He opened the door and walked in. The “Admissions Department” consisted of an open area of about 15 feet square with 3 doors along one wall which opened to the space, and a desk situated in the center of the space, behind which sat a middle-aged woman who was currently absorbed with the task of putting stamps on a large stack of letters. Upon hearing the door open and the young man enter, her head raised from the task, and she asked pleasantly, “Hi. How can we help you?”

The young man smiled and said, “I would like some information about the school, and about how to get to the road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house.”

Upon hearing the request, the woman’s smile stiffened just a bit, and she said, “Certainly…let me see if one of the Admissions’ counselors has time to meet with you.” She then picked up her phone, dialed three numbers, and once the phone was picked up in one of the offices, said, “Would you have time to meet with a perspective student?”

The answer must have been “yes”, because the woman hung up the phone and said, “Nathan will be with you in just a moment.”

The young man removed his backpack, and sat down in a straight-back chair set against a wall alongside a small row of other similar chairs. Since the other chairs were empty, he sat his backpack in the chair next to him, and looked around the room searching for something to read. Before he could find something, Nathan opened the door of his office and walked forward with an extended hand.

“Hi. I am Nathan, and you are….?”

The young man rose while stating his name and grasped Nathan’s hand. The young man was a little surprised by Nathan’s appearance. Nathan was dressed in crisply pressed khaki pants, a light blue, button-down oxford shirt which over-laid a  pink polo shirt with popped collar. The hand shake was also a surprise. It was weak!

The young man followed Nathan into his office where information was swapped and all necessary arrangements for the young man to become a student at Middle-Earth were completed. As he arose to leave the office, the young man reached for his backpack, and Nathan said, “Now…about the backpack…. Why don’t you let me take that for you? We have everything you need here at Middle-Earth. You won’t need the pack. I will save it for you, until you finish your studies here, and if you decide you need it when you leave, I will return it.”

“Thank you, but I will keep it with me.” The young man responded.

“I suspect you will find that many of our students and faculty will find it strange that you are still carrying it. You might feel awkward.” Nathan countered.

The young man responded with a frown strangely combined with a slight smile, and said, “I have been called strange before…I will hold on to it. Thank you for your consideration.”


The young man spent several years at Middle-Earth. During that time, he noticed that although Grandfather was mentioned frequently, Grandmother was seldom acknowledged, and when she was, it seemed to be as an afterthought which was given space, but not seriously respected. Further, he noticed that although the faculty seemed to speak about the search for the Road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house, few students seemed to actually be occupied by the search. The ones that did search, seemed to walk lock-step in one particular Way. Intermittently in his classes, he heard professors whisper of The Wilderness Road, but more in an historical sense rather than an ongoing option. What he noticed predominantly was how often the students would pair up to purchase cars together, and then begin to drive along the Way most of their contemporaries  were driving. The young man was deeply affected by this final observation.

“That must be the way to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house. You must do it with another person.” He thought.

So he searched for another person with which to travel. Eventually, he found a woman who seemed to be interested in the same journey. Although their former paths, and understanding of the Way forward were very different, he eventually asked if she would like to purchase a car together. She said “yes” and they signed the purchase agreement together. The young man removed his backpack, and placed it in the trunk for storage.

From the beginning, it was apparent that they both wanted to drive, and had different perspectives about which road they should travel. Since neither had an overbearing perspective about how they should proceed, and in which direction they should drive; they basically followed the flow of traffic. Fairly quickly, they added a boy passenger and later, a girl.

They followed traffic with a few deviations from time to time, and seldom stopped to do maintenance on their car. Surprisingly, the car continued to run, although the fuel economy got progressively worse as the years progressed, so the fuel they added from time to time didn’t go as far. The engine eventually began to run rough, especially when they each began to individually pursue directions when behind the wheel that the other reluctantly agreed to.

Finally, the motor of their car gave out. However, rather than immediately getting out of the car, they stayed in it for quite awhile, until the woman opened her door and stepped out. Eventually, the man…not young anymore…also opened his door and stepped out. Looking around, he realized just how lost he was. The landscape was barren, and unrecognizable to him. As he looked around, he heard another door of the car open. Turning, he noticed the boy, now a young man, get out of the car and begin to walk away from both the man, and woman for a time. A short time later, the girl, also now a young woman; opened a car door and in some way positioned herself between the man and woman.


the older man walked to the trunk of the car, unlocked it, removed his backpack,  and shrugged it onto his back. With a great sense of personal failure, a fair bit of hidden, growing anger towards the woman, and feelings of confusion for the young man and young woman; the man reluctantly turned away from the car and began to walk through a strange land in search for the road…

…to understanding…

…to healing…

…to wisdom…

…to his children…

…to his parents…

…to others…

…to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s House…

…but, first….

…to himself…

…along the Wilderness Road…..

Symmetry and Redemption…Part 4

Blue Eyes Seeing Clearly

That brings me to 2012, and the move to Florida…

The other day I was reading the story of Abram, in Genesis 13. I wrote the following in my journal:

“So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him into the Negeb.” vs. 1

“He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.” vss. 3-4

Abram’s impatient wandering into Egypt lead to lies and liasons between Sarai and Pharoah. Abram gave one gift of God away… his wife… and put other gifts at risk. He was stuck. God acted according to God’s promise to Abram. God acted according to God’s…

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Symmetry and Redemption… Part 3

Blue Eyes Seeing Clearly

In one of my Facebook status posts, I took a moment to summarize the year 2011 in short form:

“2011 was a year of personal insight, growth, and introspection; with the introduction of new and now cherished friends. It was beautifully difficult at times, and called from me a deeper faith in God and an appreciation of life’s hard gifts. I pray 2012 will open itself daily as it, indeed, comes from the hand of God. I ask God to help me be a better man, father, and lover of life in the coming year than I was in the last.”

During 2011, I took a look backward at my life experience and the forces which formed me into who I had been up to that point. In the course of my graduate classes, I was exposed to information which helped both in looking backward with new understanding to help…

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Symmetry and Redemption… Part 2

Blue Eyes Seeing Clearly

Although I regret that decision, I now realize that a life isn’t made of

the things we didn’t say…

the choices we didn’t make…

the risks we didn’t take…

Rather, it is made by the ones we did. I now realize that although I felt like I didn’t fit, and that there was something wrong with me… in fact, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. There was no need for me to ask permission to have the passions and talents I had. They were, and are, gifts from God… and that is a very good thing. However, the 19-year-old me didn’t know that… maybe couldn’t have known that. So I kept chipping away at the square edges, trying to fit into someone else’s understanding of how life SHOULD be lived.

Further disonance ensued because of football. Mid America has always been a thoroughly Midwestern college. At the time…

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Symmetry and Redemption…

The next four posts were ones I wrote before moving from Kansas City to St. Petersburg, FL. They provide a backdrop to posts I am currently working on, to be published shortly….

Blue Eyes Seeing Clearly

I first came to the Kansas City area in August, 1980. I came to go to college, but more importantly, at least to me, to play football at Mid America Nazarene College (that was the name at the time, but has now grown up into a university) in Olathe, Kansas. The first guy I met was Tim Robbins, a defensive lineman from California. Tim was to become a good friend, with whom I would work for several years at a local juvenile detention. I fancied myself a somewhat mature freshman, as I had finished high school in 1979 in Longmont, Colorado while living with family friends, since my parents had moved to Indiana. The summer after graduation, I traveled to Europe with a choir and concert band. We were 6 tour-buses filled with high school and college students from across the United States. It was a month-long trip to 7 different…

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Hopefully Lost…

Blue Eyes Seeing Clearly

This is another paper I wrote for a class on personal transformation. It might be a little long….

Hopefully Lost


Let me lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee.
May all self be slain, my friends see only Thee.
Though it costs me grief and pain, I will find my life again.
If I lose my self I’ll find it, Lord, in Thee.[1]


Christian transformation is the ongoing, lifelong process whereby the character, spirit, and behavior of Jesus Christ is uniquely expressed in and through the life of a person. The overwhelming value associated with Christian transformation is love. Love continually changes us into who we were originally created to be and makes us change agents in the world to facilitate similar transformation in the lives of others. The primary barrier to Christian transformation is fear. Mistrust of God, our self, and others leads us to…

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