Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Shelter of His Wings

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My firstborn son, SGT Eli Jordan Patterson, has to return to his unit today. He will be leaving his beautiful wife, Courtney Fisher Patterson and his firstborn son, Heath Jordan Patterson, to serve his country.
But it's not nearly as bleak as it sounds. Courtney's father recently moved from New York to a beautiful and spacious house on the Fulton/Cherokee line, and Courtney and Heath, and Jordan when he can get away from Army duties before deploying to Afghanistan, will be living in the basement apartment. 
Living is not really the word I want to use. I want to use the word, sheltered. But when you hear it, don't think of it as 'homeless shelter,' just a place where the rain doesn't get you wet. Think of it as comfort, sheltering under His wings.
Psalm 91: 4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
Courtney's father on earth is a good, loving, strong provider. The term "apple of the eye" has another translation, "daughter of the eye," and as the father of a daughter, I get this, oh, boy, do I ever get this. He and I would both infinitely prefer that Courtney and Jordan and Heath be able to be together, but we both recognize that Jordan is a man who has made a commitment to the security of his country, and is now discharging that duty, and he would not be the man that he is if he were to seek to avoid his duty, no matter that it tears at him to drive away from his sweet, sweet wife and his sweet sweet son.
Listen: you who know me know that I would rip out walls and throw together plumbing in order to provide a place for Courtney and Heath. But even if I were to do that, (hard for me to admit) it would not be the same for her. She is safe and loved in the house of her father.
And I can visit, and hopefully I can baby sit. But when my visits are over, and my baby sitting is done, I can return to my home in peace, knowing that Courtney and Heath are safe and loved in the house of her father.
Feasting on locusts and wild honey,


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Revisiting the scene of the accident

This is probably going to be a difficult blog to write.
Starting about 2002, I began reloading ammo for handguns. It was a way of saving lots of money, but more than that, it was I hobby I took pride in. And that sentence ends with a preposition, but I don't care, this is MY blog. 
I started out just loading for the .45, and as time went on I added different calibers: 9 mm, .38/.357, and even a couple of rifle calibers. I bought more sophisticated equipment, and I cast my own lead bullets. I polished the used brass, tried different powders to see what I could do, and in general just had a lot of fun with the whole project. I did all the work on my work table in the tool shed outdoors, and it was relaxing and productive.
Then I got sick.
But I kept reloading; it was something I could do, and I could get some instant gratification from the loading, and from the shooting, at a time when there wasn't very much in my life that seemed to be working.
And then I got sicker. The insomnia became an overwhelming part of my life; I doubt that there was a single week that went by that I didn't miss one night of sleep, and it got to where my cut-off was four nights; I knew if I had gone that long, I was going to be non-functional. 
But I guess I kept trying to reload, for a while. I certainly wasn't shooting anymore. I still had my guns, but family members didn't really trust me, and so to keep the peace, I stopped shooting. That's not entirely true; it was in part to keep the peace, although the peace was long gone, and the most important part of it never returned; mostly, I guess I stopped because I just couldn't do it anymore. Either pain or meds or insomnia-induced fatigue got in the way of everything I did. I didn't do anything, except go to work and sit. And then they told me I couldn't go to work anymore; and even though it was traumatic, they were right right; I was not functioning as a competent person. At any rate, I stopped going to my reloading bench.
I guess it's been about four years now that I started trying to pull the fragments of my life together. It was three years ago that we finally, formally put an end to a 32 year marriage. And a year and a half ago, I married my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa. And a year ago, this month, I decided that even though I was still suffering from chronic pain, I wanted to get off the daily doses of narcotics, and try to be And six months ago, I learned that if I lost weight, I might be able to breathe again, so I started doing that. And I've been trying to do other things as well, to return to a functional life.
And today, I decided I was going to start reloading again. There has been a severe ammunition shortage, and I've got all the supplies I need to make thousands of rounds, and I'm trying to interest my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa in shooting, and there are probably other reasons; but mostly, reloading would be another sign that I was getting my life back.
So I went out to the tool shed, which I had avoided for years, and I took a look at my reloading equipment; it was awful. I had broken things; I had pieces of equipment laying all over; my supplies, at one time so very well organized and coherent, were chaotic, and I couldn't even get my brass polishing tumbler to work. 
Right now, all that together is saying this to me: this is how sick you were. This is how sick you were. You couldn't take care of your stuff, you couldn't take care of your self, and there was no one who could take care of you, and so it all disintegrated.
Now, that is NOT the final word. The truth? I'm a little bit excited about buying a new brass tumbler, and some of the other new supplies I need to get organized. The tumbler was the only bit of equipment with a motor; evidently I had ordered another handle to the bullet mold as a replacement to the one I broke. And whether my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa goes shooting with me or not, I know I have some hours of peaceful, productive time ahead of me. So, in a little bit, it's going to be blue skies and sunshine.
But right now, at this moment, I'm having to face how sick I was, and remembering what I've lost ain't no fun at all.

It's Charlie Poor, Not Poor Charlie

You never really know under what circumstances you are going to meet one of the really special ones. Maybe we are all special ones, and there's just too much mud caked on us for it to show. But, at any rate, I met one of the special ones about twenty years ago, and this past Sunday, March  3, 2013, we had his memorial service. Charlie Poor. That was his earth name; his real name was Charlie Overflowing With Riches and Spreading Them Around to Everybody He came In Contact With. 
This is Charlie Poor Story Number One: Charlie wasn't the first of his family I met. That position is held by his son Scott. I met Scott when we were both members of North Georgia Young Men's Vida Nueva #6. My job was to talk about communications. Scott's job was to wait on a table. It wasn't even  my table; but I still can see him, 20 years later, just busting with excitement and joy as he ran around getting drinks and snacks and other goodies for the young men who he was assigned to serve, and Scott taught me in that moment what a joyful servant looked like. 
After that VN weekend, I started working on the teams regularly. And Scott was on the teams regularly, too. Now, there was another young man who was an important part of those early years of the VN movement; his name is Rafe Hyatt. And it was customary for all the adult men talk about what a wonderful young man Rafe was (and he still is a wonderful man, although he really, really old now, heh, heh,heh) and we would say things like, "The only problem with Rafe is that he's not the right age to marry my daughter," and other such witticisms. 
Well after one team meeting, there were a bunch of us, adults and teens, still hanging around, and the Rafe topic had come up, and we were all saying what a fine example he was, and...
....and then I saw Scott sitting in a chair, listening. And I do believe God spoke to me then; and he said "Be careful of how you praise Rafe, because Scott is going to be your Youth Leader when you are Director, and you don't want him to think he is second best." And I got it, I totally got it, and the only real surprise to me was that I had no idea that I was ever going to be a Vida Nueva Director. 
And Scott WAS a wonderful young man, and he is now a wonderful adult man, and I could tell some more stories about him, but I won't because this is about Charlie.
It was maybe a year after God had told me that I was going to be a Director before the V N Council told me the same thing, and I was finally officially in the market for the youth leader. In that time, I had met with Charlie Poor, and immediately discovered I liked him and could trust him. So, I thought to run past him the idea of asking for his input on selecting Scott for the position.Charlie was as straight as it is possible to be. He told me that Scott was like every other teen, in that he had his struggles, but that he had no doubt at all that if I asked him to be the youth leader for VN 11, that he would do a fantastic job. He was right. Scott did a fantastic job. The  single greatest thing I remember about what Scott did: he was supportive of me. He was a paraclete: one who comes along beside to support. Fantastic, solid, humble, cheerful, hard-working young man. And you know what? I learned all of these things about Scott; and as I grew to know Charlie better, it was clear to me where Scott had learned those things. 
This is Charlie Poor Story Number Two: In the fullness of time, Charlie was asked to be Director of a Vida Nueva. And, in the interim, my first-born son, Jordan, had grown into his teen age years, and had gone through VN, and had developed the reputation for reliability and energy that is such a solid part of his character. And I was pleased when Charlie called me and said he was returning the favor: he told me he was planning to ask Jordan to be his youth leader, and he was asking for my input. And I gave Charlie the same report: Jordan, like every other teen, had his struggles, but if Charlie asked him to be the youth leader he would do a fantastic job. I had another request to make of Charlie at the time, though. I told him that if did pick Jordan as youth leader, I wanted to be on the team, too, in a position that was directly subordinate to Jordan. I told him I wanted to be able to show Jordan  submission to authority from the other side. Charlie got it. He totally got it. And he made me Head Table Cha, which I knew how to do from seeing Scott perform as a table cha those many years before, and I got a chance to serve under my son, and it was good. I made T-shirts for all the table chas, with a picture of Grover the Muppet on the front, with the caption "Hello Everybodeee! It is I, your lovable furry Table Cha  (name)!" And on the back of the shirts, I had the visual for Charlie's weekend: the eagle soaring.
This is Charlie Poor Story Number Three: When Richie Casey was Tres Dias Rector, he asked Charlie to be Head Dorm Cha, and I was one of the dorm chas. Charlie wanted us to do some skits for the candidates, in addition to cleaning the toilets, which was pretty cool. And I asked if I could make the t-shirts for the dormchas, and we all agreed that was cool. I scrambled the letters of "dorm cha" so each of us chas had a different name (I was Dr. Macho; somebody else was MachRod, I don't remember the others) and as Head Dorm Cha, Charlie got to be Cheddar O'Ham. And the skits we did were funny; the last one had Charlie introduce each of the others in increasing amounts of protective gear, required depending on how awful the conditions were in the bathroom. And at the end, I started screaming outside the conference room, and then staggered in with ripped clothes, yelling for Richie. They had smeared me with about a dozen brownies, leaving big chunks embedded in  my chest hair; and my story was that I had been cleaning a toilet, when there was an explosion in the next stall that had blown me out of the bathroom. And as soon as I finished saying that, Tony Olivastri came in patting his tummy, and saying, "Well, that feels better!" And I screamed "RICHEY!! I NEED A HUG!" and ran toward him, and Richey ran out of the room. It was funny! maybe you had to have been there...
And this is Charlie Poor Story Number Four, and the last: When Charlie was VN Director, he would call the house to speak to Jordan quite often, and if I answered the phone, we'd chat a bit before I passed it to Jordan. One time, I asked him how it was going with the team meeting process, and he told me that it was okay, but that there just seemed to always be somebody who was complaining about something, and form my own experience, I was pretty sure he was talking about adults who had little patience with teens. So I made a suggestion: "Tell 'em to go pound sand up their butt." Charlie busted out laughing. I guess he had never considered doing that. I assured him that it was a useful strategy to keep in mind. And I wrote him a palanca note at the first team meeting with the acronym: GPSUYB. And then for the weekend, I brought him a leather mallet that came from my father's wood shop and a bag of sand, and a note that said "In case it comes up on the weekend, I want you to be prepared to provide the tools." Charlie appreciated it; and though I CANNOT imagine him ever really telling anyone to do that,  I know that if he did, they would receive it in good spirits. So, if you should happen to be looking trough some of the old palanca Charlie picked up over the years, and you find a leather mallet, either cherish it for yourself, or, tell me to come get it, and I will.