If you read this blurb sometime between mid-afternoon Sun to early morning on Mon Virginia time then you will be reading while Zak and family are traveling to Korea by air. It is a long trip – very long for three little ones – and I truly hope it goes well. I’m tracking his progress on the Internet regularly and hope – some how – to hear from him upon arrival. The phone-Internet situation over there is completely different than here so I’m not too worried if I don’t hear for a few days but it’s amazing how much we depend on and hope for instant notification when or if something happens. We all need to be patient. Korea is 13 hours ahead of Virginia so if it is noon here on Sun then it is 1am on Mon there. Pretty cool. It brings a whole new meaning to wondering when to celebrate a new year at midnight!
I’ve said much about Zak and his choices and plans so I will not belabor the point. But this is a big day – the beginning of something pretty amazing. Of course, thousands and thousands of military people and their families have traveled to and lived in Korea over the years so this is not a first and is pretty routine – except that this is about some family people who I care for so give me a break for a few years while I ponder the significance of what is happening.
If and when I hear something, I will let you know right here. Between the asterisks below. Check back for updates.
12pm ET Sun – Leaving hotel for SEATAC airport.
2:30pm ET Sun – Call from Zak. Everyone is at gate. No problems checking in despite 14 bags of luggage (it’s all the goods they have for about a month until first shipment arrives). Kids are okay and anxious. Last call for bathroom break and snacks then loading. Direct flight with no stops. Current chaplain and staff in Korea will pick them up in Seoul upon arrival with two Navy vans. All seems set to go. No turning back now.
7:30pm ET Sun – Latest tracking information. Hope it’s accurate.
5am ET Mon – Well, according to tracking apps, they’ve arrived. About an hour ago. I haven’t heard anything but that’s to be expected. Hope they’re in one piece.
As I write a paper about Lancelot this evening, I’m brought to tears by the way he dealt with his poor decisions as a young knight and how he tried to reconcile with Guenever, Arthur, and God. After hearing of the death of Arthur, Lancelot takes on the habit and lives in strict asceticism for a period as a monk and then, actually, graduates to being priest able to order mass. He is held in very high esteem by his brother monks. His influence is such that eight former knights also become monks with Lancelot. Despite Lancelot’s concern that he isn’t worthy before the eyes of men and God due to his past, others find him to truly be a devout and honorable man of integrity and station.
The truth of the matter, and as Lancelot realizes, is that because of his irresponsible actions, both Guenever and Arthur “were both laid full low.” At Guenever’s funeral, Lancelot’s moment of reflection is an especially moving and touching scene. Lancelot is completely overwhelmed by the emotions and paradoxes of the situation. He is not so much grieving for the loss of Guenever as much as he is grieving the loss of his companionship with both Guenever and his beloved King Arthur. He regrets deeply that his “orgule [arrogance] and pride” ultimately led to the demise of Guenever and Arthur, individuals “that were peerless that ever was living of Christian people.” Lancelot is truly brought to a lowest of lows at the funeral of Guenever, and yet, this is what makes him a man who is able to be used by God. The truth is that God is not able to use the influence of Lancelot until Lancelot is brought low by his own admissions of guilt, insolence, and relationship-wrecking.
It isn’t the man Lancelot that remains but, rather, it’s his influence that remains. After Guenever’s funeral, Lancelot is distraught, eats little, becomes sick, and dies six weeks later. During Lancelot’s time of remorse prior to his death, no one is able to make Lancelot feel better.
A special hermit shares some kind words with Lancelot during Lancelot’s period of regret. The words are profound, beautiful, and so true. The hermit says to Lancelot, “…ye shall be well mended by the grace of God to-morn.” These powerful words resonate in this story and sums up the whole of the life of Lancelot.
Of course, Lancelot dies in his sleep that night but the Bishop hermit, on the night that Lancelot passes, has a dream that makes the Bishop laugh out loud in happiness from his sleep. When asked why the laughter, the Bishop tells of a wonderful and beautiful dream scene where “mo angels than ever I saw men in one day” were surrounding Lancelot as Lancelot triumphantly enters heaven.
Later in the night when the monks visit Lancelot in his cell, Lancelot has expired but with a rapturous smile on his face. The story of the redemption of Lancelot is beautiful in that it is about the sad but victorious demise of a noble but broken man. The truth is that Lancelot – as the hermit had promised – was mended by God’s grace next morning when Lancelot woke up in heaven.
It is very hard to not be selfish and self-centered, isn’t it? Our nature is to focus on ourselves and do whatever it takes to keep things going our way and keep things always pointing to us. Unless someone tells or shows us, we have no other way to live, it seems. Human nature is very powerful – it pulls, tugs, finagles, and twists to make sure that it is all about me. Let’s listen to my music, let’s talk about my problems or wins, let’s feel like I feel, and let’s do what I want to do. The irony is that in doing everything I can for me, I get lonely, depressed, and afraid. A rational thinker would think that if I did everything for me then things ought to work out better. But no! It seems the more I worry about me and my stuff the harder life gets.
Here’s a major announcement! Rationality, empowerment, and selfishness does NOT lead to happiness, peace, and joy.
You and I know people who come across as conceited, selfish, and me-centered. And how would you describe their general dispositions? Happy? Fun-loving? Giving? Forgiving and magnanimous? Willing to be transparent? Open to hugs? Able to sincerely love?
You are right! People who care for themselves too much can’t be close to anyone else. I suppose it’s a thing where a person is too much in love with themselves so they have no room for anyone else. But seriously, people who struggle with identity issues and security issues often also think, probably, too highly of themselves.
I want to be transparent and I want to be around giving people.
This might be fun for you (and especially Tiffany, an expert!). I’m enjoying getting through this list. I’m sure I’m not exactly catching all of the nuances and significance as we zip through the list but it’s good anyway.
1. Homer Iliad
2. Dream of the Rood
3. Sophocles Oedipus the King
4. Dante Inferno
5. Mallory Morte d’Arthur
6. Shakespeare Hamlet
7. Cervantes Don Quixote
8. Paradise Lost
9. Voltaire Candide
10. Dickens A Christmas Carol
11. Wordsworth Tintern Abbey
12. Tennyson Ulysses
13. Hawthorne Young Goodman Brown
14. Joyce Araby
15. Yeats Second Coming
16. Yeats Sailing to Byzantium
17. Eliot Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Not being well versed in classic literature, I still find this an enjoyable and challenging list of works to read and understand. I am struck by the darkness and despair in some of the works – it all fits, however, a human existence that many live without hope or principle. I’m also catching on how writing, heroes, and attitudes have changed through the centuries. It isn’t a surprise, of course, but to see the changes so vividly in literature is actually fascinating to me.
One generalization I will make – very early heroes tended to be honorable and somehow assumed a god would intervene (in a good or not so good way) in their human affairs. Later protagonists were more anti-heroes and instead of having, depending on, and assuming the existence of morals and ethics from the gods, the characters are often motivated by their own preferences and opinions even to the point of appearing to be self-crazy (Hamlet and Quixote, for sure). Interestingly, as the Renaissance and Enlightenment came along and Descartes said, “I think therefore I am” or “I am, I exist,” literature very much followed his lead in shifting from things godly and eternal to matters that were earthly and temporary.
We went in for our first guitar lessons on Mon. I was nervous and anxious. I wondered what could be accomplished in a 30 min session but, as it turned out, the instructor was with me for about 45 min and with Niki for about 45 min. The thing is, there isn’t anyone after us on Mon afternoons until around 3pm so I guess we get full run of the teacher if he wants to take the time. Anyway, I was first up.
A pleasant and very talented instructor. Excellent credentials, very knowledgeable, a professor at a local university, and a life-long musician and music teacher. We chatted a few minutes then got down to business. He pulled out my chording notebook and started writing out the layout of a guitar neck, note and sound relationships, and comparisons to a piano keyboard. With me, he even discussed some mathematical relationships that apply to all music schemes and how important Pythagoras was to music. Who knew?
Anyway, for homework this week I have to practice playing several octaves of the C scale up and down up and down up and down on the first three frets. Also, I have about ten chords I have to perfect. And I also – this is cool – have to come up with a list of ten of my favorite blues and/or jazz songs that we will begin working on together over the next few weeks. (I picked jazz and the blues as my preferred music.)
Niki went in and within a few minutes I heard Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes emanating from the training room. So cool! Anyway, she had a good time, too, and is also home now doing a bunch of homework and practicing (and recovering from getting four teeth pulled). Like me, she has to come up with a list of her top ten songs that she will begin working on over the next few weeks, too.
All in all, a very interesting, fascinating, and satisfying day. There is, of course, much to learn (and unlearn!) and I don’t know what the future holds for all of this but it is something I’ve wanted to pursue for a long time. Niki and I have been practicing together and having a good time (and a few laughs) making odd but slightly recognizable guitar sounds.
It’s another worthy adventure.
For a few days we will experience the same amount of sun up and sun down. That is what happens this time of year – the first day of fall. Whereas the summer had long sunny days and shorter nights, we are now transitioning into shorter sunny days and longer nights. For at least a few days, the days and nights are in some kind of balance – 12 hours of sun and 12 hours of no sun.
There seems to be some kind of cosmic rest during the spring and fall equinoxes every year. One comes after a long, hot summer and all of its outdoor activities and another after a long, cold winter with all of its indoor activities. During summer, the ground sizzles and pushes up budding life. In the winter, the ground freezes and insists that hibernation take place. Both summer and winter have their places in the cycle of life, don’t they? Both are essential. And lots happens during the summer and winter months in life cycles.
And yet, two times a year I like to think that there are just a few days to take a breather. A few days to, so to speak, sit back just a bit and reflect on time past and time future. Things are in stasis, of sorts. There’s a temporary – very temporary – peace between the rivals summer and winter. After all, lots of changes come after the spring and fall equinoxes. Things really pick up and rush.
But again, for just a few hours there is calm and serenity.
Come stand with me where grief and experience is mostly in the past. Instead of talking and worrying about the future, simply come stand with me for awhile and get a feel for how things can end for some people. It can be said that I’ve made it most of the way through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s me at the other end standing in what seems to be a bit more light than shines back deep down in the valley.
You see, I don’t get too hyped up any more about how wonderful things can be and how amazing the future might be. I don’t disagree that all of that can happen for anyone and everyone, but I’m not quite as easily impressed with the possibility of whoop and awe as I was before. It doesn’t make me depressed or any less able to function, but it does – because of where I’ve been and where I am yet going – make me see things in a slightly more balanced way, I think.
Here, empathy and sensitivity is king. Making time is important and even vital. Thinking, praying, and being silent sometimes is often required. Heavy laughter and silly humor must be earned but so must real sadness and sincere emotion – highs and lows are not trifled with where I am standing. Time is better defined by eternal measures and less so by physical existence. Talking things out but listening intently in meaningful ways are now both very important. Investing in and building up equity in a few solid relationships seems the best way to proceed. And finally, it’s about being humbled, broken, and patient.
New life exists but it is earned with great cost.
Zak, like Abraham, has heard and is responding to a call and is leaving for a place far away. He has given up all of his goods where he is, has packed what he can carry, is preparing his family for travel, and will be departing shortly for a new land on the other side of the planet. Without question, the journey will be difficult, long, and challenging. Likewise, the time in the foreign land will be potentially interesting but, nevertheless, something that will have to be approached with intentionality, patience, and courage.
But in faith, I believe Zak and this family will make it to their new home and will survive their living in another place in a manner that brings notice to God. I believe this because God has called Zak to be in another place – this isn’t a test to find out if Zak can jump through hoops but, rather, it is a test for Zak to be and live and prosper in a new land. It is where God needs Zak for a time – him and his precious family. And for almost ten years, God has been prepping, molding, shaping, massaging, twisting, turning, and polishing Zak – all for this! It must be something pretty special for God to spend this much time and invest this much effort in Zak to send him off to way over there.
God can be quite presumptuous when tagging people for help. Sometimes it’s a tiny urge, but more often it can be a life-changing, punch-in-the-gut, take-no-captives, hard-charging push into a new life. Sometimes it takes a person’s breath away. Sometimes it makes a head spin. Sometimes it’s painful – sometimes it might be joyful. Regardless, though, it is always a game changer. When God needs or wants something, he gets it and there is little or no use in trying to push back.
Zak heard and responded. He is going.
His mom would be excited and so proud. I am.
It’s been two years, three months today.
When I am with people now, I am the one who they see and converse with. I carry the name, reputation, history, and stories. I realize very often how much I depended on her. She was always friendly, kind, interested in people, and could muster a giggle or laugh. Going somewhere with her was usually comfortable because I knew I could depend on her to, so to speak, represent us. She was approachable, unlike me, I think. People liked to see her and immediately start up a conversation about something or anything. l’ll admit, I liked having her around when we went into social situations. She brought me comfort and security. I appreciated her for being the tip of the spear in social settings. It was something I never took for granted and it is something that I very much miss now.
I was usually proud to have her with me. Not in a mean or silly way, but in a sincere way. I was proud of her. I liked to know that others liked her. Yes, she did deflect conversation away from me so that was nice, but I appreciated her for being someone that others liked and wanted to be around. She made others feel good, and she never put anyone down or belittled them in conversation. It made me feel good to be with her when we were out. Sometimes when we weren’t together, but we could send eye-signals across the room and know that everything was okay.
In a few weeks, I will be taking another trip – the kind she would have liked. And my parents adored her, and it always made me feel so good to know that. And now when I visit my parents, I have nothing to show them – nothing to be proud of like her. She could carry on with them for hours, unlike me.
I don’t know. There are so many things I miss. This is one of them – having her out with me. I’m sad that I can’t have her with me to share with you. I know you loved her being around. I did, too. I still can’t believe it.