The Thing Is …

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“The thing is”, whispered the father slowly, “that there is something wrong with me.”
I sat across the table from this large, strong, rough looking man, not quite sure about what it was that he had come to speak to me about.

His son, an active and highly alarmed little six year old, was having troubles in our school.  He had come to our school full of fear, hesitating to settle down and seeming to struggle with understanding what was happening around him.  His mom had told us two years ago that his father was out of the picture, and we hadn’t really asked anymore about it.  That is, until recently when mom announced that she had lost her job, and that her ex-husband would be looking after the kids while she looked for employment.

Joey was struggling with staying at school for the whole day, some times becoming so alarmed that he would run into the forest.  So the school started to call the parents at lunch time to pick Joey up and take him home.  I am not sure if this was meant to be a punishment, or a break for Joey.  One day, Joey’s dad appeared at the office ready to pick up his son.  He was calm.  He was gentle.  He thanked the teacher for giving him some work for the afternoon and told Joey that they would be working on this once they got home.  Joey cried.  Joey screamed that he hated him.  Joey ran off to the playground and sat on the bench looking away.  And dad, he just walked over and told him that it was time to go home.  And Joey followed him to the car and they drove off.

“I don’t know what is wrong with me, sometimes I can’t understand why I am not angry like other guys.  They stalk their girlfriends, they beat them up – but I, I just feel so sad and I cry and then it is over and I don’t feel anything anymore.”  I looked at him and asked him to tell me more.  “Men don’t cry, that’s what is wrong.  I am supposed to be angry, but I cry and then I don’t want to be angry any more, I just want to make it work for my kids.”

He talked about his kids, about the  structures and routines at home.  He talked about how important it was to him to follow through with what he promised.  He talked about being with them.  When I told him that his kids were lucky to have him as their dad, he teared up and told me about his conversation with Joey that day when he had picked him up.  “The thing is”, he said to Joey, “that I am your dad and not your friend.  And it is my job as your dad to make sure that you learn everything that you need to learn so that you can make it on your own when you grow up.  And even if you don’t like what I tell you that you need to do, you are just going to have to trust me, because the thing is, I am your dad.”

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Living in a Park

“Duh, they think that they are in the park”, said the ferry worker to Mary as she handed her the ticket for the ferry. The park. Mary nodded. You are right, those tourists think that our little island is a park.
Mary had been driving down the road that morning, rushing to catch the ferry over to the main island when she had been stopped by a group of summer visitors who were leisurely walking down the road on their way to the market at the marina. They hadn’t even noticed that a car was behind them trying to get through. Their minds and their hearts focused on the ice-cream that they were going to enjoy after looking at the goodies sold at by the local artists and artisans at the market.
Every Sunday, the little market appeared under the covered area at the marina. Filled with beautiful pottery, exquisite glass jewelry, lovely scarves, paintings and photos of the area, fresh baking and produce, the locals arranged their goods on their tables and prepared to sell them to the tourists. Visitors who had come by boat, and visitors staying at the local resorts and B&Bs would make their way down in anticipation and looking for a good bargain. The market was not only a place for selling, but a place where the locals came to connect with each other, visiting with each other and talking about the latest event or the upcoming social occasions. It was the place for the latest gossip, the latest news, the feeling of connection that happens when people live in a small community.
The latest story flying through the air was about the AA meeting at the community center, and how D had saved the day by picking up the visitors coming from the ferry because Ron had forgotten to pick them up, and how D had given them some cake to take to the meeting, and how she had had the exact number of slices for each person present without even knowing. Others talked about the baking group absent from the market, and about how they had gotten in trouble with the marina owners and now were banned from the market. Of course more stories about the marina owners (who had come from the big city and didn’t understand island life) started to be shared, no one really bothering to check to see if they were true but enjoying the juiciness of them all.
Down at the produce table, Mike and John talked about the fire ban on the island and wondered if there would be any issues with the campers down by the rocks. The island became dry very quickly, and residents worried often about the vulnerability of living in the woods were a fire could easily and quickly spread during those dry hot days. Next to the driftwood art exhibit, Myra was telling Judy about the party down at the beach next to their house the night before that had gone on until three o’clock in the morning. Myra was trying to be gracious by talking about how quiet it had been that morning when she had gone down with her dog, but it was obvious to everyone that she had not had a lot of sleep the night before. Judy was listening as she thought about her son who had not been able to get work, and wondered if the marina would be a good place for him to try to work, even if they didn’t care much for the locals. Her son struggled with a disability, and unlike many of his peers who had gone off island to find employment he was determined to stay home and find work there. Judy worried about him, not just about the summer. The stories continued to be shared as the summer visitors came and went.
Mary reflected on all of this as she drove on to the ferry, they think they are in the park. She realized that this park, while not filled with concrete buildings and paved roads, was her home, her living community. A place full of joy and sorrow. A place blessed by people who looked out for each other. A place challenged by the differences of opinions and hopes. A placed filled with stories. A place that she called home. She loved her little island. She loved her little park.

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Come Though Fount of Every Blessing

‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ came the sound of the singing from the kitchen. It was just one voice. Not a good voice. But a solid sound. As the staff stacked dishes and lined them up on trays in order to wash them, one young man started to sing.

The afternoon had been eventful. The group had gathered together after lunch to walk through each section of the camp and pray over it. Soon, camp would be full of children and adults; busy, enjoying the outdoors, kayaking and canoeing, swimming in the pool, playing on the field, practicing archery, going fishing, playing on the Wibbit, waterskiing, chatting, enjoying, singing, laughing, learning. Each section of camp was being prayed over for safety. Each section was being dedicated to God, where He was being invited to dwell for the summer in the sounds and the laughter of the children who would be there.

As the group walked through the camp, a tremendous sense of peace filled the air. This was indeed where God was. This was where God would surprise them with His daily love and gifts. The anticipation rising, the young men and women walked from spot to spot. Excited. Hopeful. Expecting. And then it happened. The cook, who was an older man slipped down the grass, fell on his side and could not move. They ran towards him to help him, and saw that he had broken something. Irony of ironies, he was also the first aid attendant. Carefully. Slowly. Gently they helped him up and carried him to the car, and one of them drove him to the ferry and then to the clinic for help. After x-rays it was determined, he would need surgery.
The story was not simple. This man, the cook, had given his home up for the summer in order to be the main cook at the camp. This man was experiencing a family crisis already, and his wife was away attending to it. He was alone, he had nowhere to go. Everything that could go wrong for him was.

After supper, an announcement was made about his condition. He was not well. He was being taken to the hospital. No one knew the prognosis. This community of believers needed to come together to carry on.

As the voice of the the young man rose above the steam of the hot dish washer and the sounds of the clanging pots and pans, another voice joined it, and then another, and another. Each harmonizing. Building from what was there. Creating an ever better and better sound. Soon, the whole kitchen was filled with the sound – come though fount of every blessing – continuing the prayer that had started that afternoon, believing that God was indeed among them, the fount of every blessing, ready to respond and provide.

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1. Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

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