.

.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Salem

I think they say that hearing is the best trigger of memory after smell. And if they don't say that, for our purposes here just assume they do. I heard Heavenly Sunlight at church tonight, which yanked me back to about 1982 in a place called Salem, near Alba, TX.

I didn't know it at the time, but Salem Church of Christ was a place where the roots ran pretty deep. There was an old, no-nonsense building with wide, white asbestos siding that would rub off on you like chalk if you touched it. It was high off the ground on piers, and smelled like, well, exactly the way a church building should. There's a Confederate cavalry officer buried in the cemetery adjoining, ringed off by a chain-link fence. When I would get loud, the porch served as the nursery. I remember the sand. What everyone parked on was like yellow beachsand, surrounding the 10x30 spot that was actually paved with ancient blacktop. Everyone would stand around in bright moonlight in lengthy Friday-night conversations (early on the mid-week service was on Friday nights). I see and smell these things as if they happened last Friday.

As a small child, I had kind of surrogate grandparents there: an elderly couple, poor as churchmice. They would always tuck three or five dollars in my hand for 'ice cream money' which wasn't really ice cream money at all. They were truly good, deep down, the way so few are. To make endless possible stories short, the men there led singing in turn, each doing a song and sitting down. Dad preached. Every one of them knew several songs, but due to time, I guess, they only got to lead one or two. So all of them had a "usual." My Paw Paw Lennon's two were Heavenly Sunlight and Farther Along. I have a faint memory of a crowded, unbearably hot little church building where I stood for an hour or so the day we buried him, probably singing those same two songs.

So tonight, this kid starts up with Heavenly Sunlight, and I'm wrestling a feisty Jack. And when I looked at Jack, the continuity of it all struck me like an anvil. And I wished old, smiling, bald, cancer-ridden Paw Paw Lennon could see me now. And I started to appreciate the heritage we have in Christ, at least in the physical, familial way. That this faith is not some new idea, an untried idea. Our ancestors have practiced it longer (and maybe much better) than we have, for a long long time. It was passed from person to person to person with care.

On to the wanderings of our Captain. Sometimes we can accept bad things from a loved one, if they're tempered with good things. This weekend, I can overlook Jack peeing a football-sized spot on my shirt (during church) because I got home Friday to a 2-tooth grin and a little voice that said, "Da Da." Bygones are now bygones. Today we went over to the bayou for the poor man's bluebonnet photo shoot and hit the swings on the way. It was about the most beautiful day imaginable. Heavenly Sunlight? Your darn right it is, Paw Paw. Full pictures are forthcoming.

We are now 35 or 40 seconds from the child crawling. He's already pulling up and smashing his fingers, toppling over, you name it. I'm discovering that babyproofing the vessel's rigging and cannon is a monumental headache and darn near impossible. I mean, what safety measures can you put around black powder? Flintlocks? Cutlasses? It's maddening. And most of the crew can't figure the 'proofing out once it's in place.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Wearing of the Green

Saint Patrick's Day was this week, right? Jack has this KISS ME I'M IRISH onesie. By the way, this just shocked the living daylights out of me. Her Majesty does not normally roll with the catchy phrase baby-garb. But I thought "Oho! Ye be so young, yet thou art so seasonally appropriate. Wayest to go, thou righteous kid" (we sailor-types really lay it on thick like that. It's for the ladies.)

Alas, it was not to be, though. Right before the big day, the skipper had a monumental diaper blowout while wearing it, nearly destroying himself, the onesie and a nearby parking meter. We think it was a botched trial-run on another target. Made me remember that Tommy Lee Jones movie Blown Away where he sports the fake Irish accent (he's chronically Texan) and detonates everything imaginable during the wall-to-wall U2 soundtrack. Loved it back in the day, but it's probably a marginal flick, right? Somebody update my decades-old movie info. Really, I'm curious on this one.
But, as you can see from the pic, Jack found other ways to wear the green. Mmmm, broccolicious. Oh - Almost slipped my mind - behold ye the newest picture album link at right, ye scalawags!

In any case, the Cap'n wasn't finished and decided to detonate himself during church this morning, on what we think was his real target: the poor gals in the church nursery. According to initial reports, Jack yelled Tiocfaidh ár lá and let loose. Took the whole staff to clean him up. We had no idea his politics were so radical. We're investigating. One of the survivors told Melanie, "He'll never have one like that again."

I can't remember much of the week, really. It probably has something to do with with some sort of psycho-defensive mumbo jumbo. So we're doing the annual audit down at the cinnabar mines where you count how much pretty but extremely neurotoxic ore was mined, how many workers succumbed to the conditions, you know, the usual. Wasn't fun.

The finer than fine weekend aboard ship consisted of bouts of enjoying the PRISTINE Is-this-San-Diego-or-what? weather, entertaining Jack, enjoying the unbelievably PRISTINE weather, watching some Godfather which was inescapably looped on AMC, church and all that entails, entertaining Jack, some sitting on the porchswing to get out in the PRISTINE weather, church, and I think even more Godfather (Part II this time) on the new (color) TV set. No doubt some of you had similar experiences. We're savoring all this Springtime for when it's time to pay the piper in July/August. Yuck.

Some pictures of the high times over at the Admiralty:



















And the promised pics of the Sleeperoo Incident from a few weeks back (sorry):

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Serial Blogging Part 2

My way-too-serious letter to Jack, continued from last week:

Surround yourself with good friends. Some friends are easy to make, and yet never should have been made at all. Some folks are hard to get to know, but you’ll be the richer for it. Keep these people close to you. They’ll unwittingly hurt and disappoint you, and you’ll do the same or worse to them. But friendship is still worth it. It takes time to cultivate these relationships. Make it. They’ll be more valuable to you than most things in life. You’ll inevitably move between and away from different circles of friends. Again, don’t make the mistake I did, leaving close friends behind and not keeping in touch for sometimes many years at a stretch. Wandering the earth like a gypsy, out of contact with those that once knew you well is no way to live, Jack.

It’s corny, and I can’t believe I’m sharing this story. You’ll learn that being a father will make your brains mushy at times. When I was a boy, I asked the Lord (quite often) to give me wisdom. I had read James 1:5, “But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally… and it shall be given him” (ERV) and I Kings 3 where Solomon asked God for a discerning heart. I know in my bones that I am the wiser for having asked this thing. And I would encourage you to ask this too, and to “believe and not doubt,” because he “gives generously to all.” If there's one thing you'll need in this incredibly complex world, it's wisdom, Jack.

Maybe you’ll have your old dad’s taste for black humor. I hope you’ll use it often, if so. Sometimes, cracking wise in the face of extreme pain and grim circumstances not only makes you feel better, but it might make others relax, too. And if it gets you into trouble (as it often has me), at the very least you had a good laugh. When bones break, fortunes evaporate, or dreams don’t come true, pop off a good one for your old dad. Preferably within earshot.

WOMEN. Oh boy. That one’s a doozy. They’re about the best thing that ever happened to us, but you already knew that. Son, the only sound advice possible to give is that they’re all different, and all fallible people, just like us. And there are ultimately two women in every one you’ll meet: The woman on the outside, and the woman on the inside. Find one that looks nice in both places, but especially the latter. It’s terribly unfashionable, but ultimately, being a man and acting like one is the best method to attracting said beauty. And I’m not talking about strutting around with a cigar in your mouth calling everyone “honey,” either. Men open doors, hold elevators and pick up the check. Men exude strength to those around them, even when they don’t feel all that strong personally. We handle the little details for others. We serve others. Men take the lead spiritually. We know all about the world we live in. And darn it, we dress well to boot.


Speaking of attire, I have two words for you: Half Windsor. If it’s good enough for Presidents and Kings, it’s good enough for you, kid.

I learned a while back that everyone has a rock to throw. If you possess something great and take pride in it, people will envy and hate you for it. If you create something beautiful, or do something admirable, or stand up for something worth defending, they’ll be there, rocks in hand. I tell you this not to discourage, but to warn. Being good, doing good, and having good in your life is your goal, no matter what. Steel yourself against those who would destroy all that is right and good in the world. Defeat them with any and all the weapons at your disposal, the most powerful of these being goodness itself.

Jack, always give the benefit of the doubt. I can’t tell you how many times someone has wronged me, and I’ve thought hastily of vengeance, only to discover there was a reason or some other circumstance behind it. Don’t condone wrong, but at least try to understand first.

Don’t be afraid to fight. Literally, if necessary. To some people’s horror, men still fight with their bare hands. Yes
, hopefully only in very rare instances. It’s a frightening and exhilarating thing. But if you know you’re in the right, have done all you can to avoid violence, and have used your wits to effect a better resolution, fight with everything you have. Contrary to popular thought, there is no such thing as a fair fight. In the moment, there is only the strong, and the stronger. “Defeat in battle begins with the eyes,” Tacitus said. Take him at his word: At least look like a tough sonofagun, even if you’re still working on it. Never compromise yourself or your character, but if the time ever comes, hit harder than the other fellow. And the best battle is one that ends quickly.

I wondered a lot after you were born about where you would go in the world, and what you would see in your life. I suppose it’s only natural for a father to want to know those things. So I’d encourage you to go see the world as soon as you can. Make time for it when you’re fairly young. People tried to discourage me from traveling after college. They said, “Ah, you’ll have time for that later.” But you probably won’t. Since I’m piling quotes of wiser men on you, here’s one from St. Augustine of Hippo (yeah, Hippo): “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.” Go see all that you can see. You’ll never regret broadening your perspective, knowing how others live all over the world.

Don’t be afraid to do something that looks stupid to others. A calculated risk sometimes can be very smart, indeed. Now everyone is afraid to fail, and even more afraid to call others failures or keep score. But failure isn't your enemy. Failure may lead to your great victories. Learn from these low times in your life. It’s not possible to know beforehand where you’ll be led by God. Or why.

Now whether all this advice is good or not, I don’t know (although I think it’s not bad, to be honest). But, good or not, as your father, it’s my prerogative and duty to give it. Jack, I wish you the best in your life, and wish you a long one, at that. I also pray to God that I’ll get to savor seeing a whole lot of it. I love you more than you will ever be capable of knowing. May God richly bless you.

Your Loving Father,
Morgan Lee

Have a great week, everybody. Postscript: It dawned on me yesterday that when he's older, Jack will either read this letter with a smile on his face, or see in it a detailed list of my failures as a dad. Now that's motivation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Serial Blogging Part 1

I'm grateful this morning. Grateful for a lot of things. Allow me to elaborate.

Those who saw my Facebook status on Friday will know that by the grace of God Almighty I survived a 50% layoff down at the cinnabar mine. I'm grateful for that, and the mortgage payments on Home Port 2.0 will continue for now (my bank is grateful for that). But even more than that, I'm grateful that I have such a wonderful, Godly, beautiful, tolerant, patient wifey, Her Majesty. I love you, Your Worshipfulness. I am also supremely grateful for my illustrious little son, my Jackbaby. Picking words to describe the degree of my gratefulness is umm... hard.

Oh, H.M. and the Captain have sailed to visit the Admiralty at Port of Mobile without me, leaving me completely unsupervised for the week. Only First Mate Belle is here to stare disapprovingly. So, since I have basically no fresh content to contribute this week I will share something that I thought I would never share, to wit, this letter to Jack:


February 11, 2009

To Jack Morgan, My Son,

You turned six months old yesterday. I have to confess that I love to watch you. In your crib, when you are awake (or not), when I’m holding you (or not). I find myself staring at you even while I’m having a conversation with someone else. I love the few days every week when I get to see you wake up. Every day and every experience is brand new for you. It makes me feel young to just see you do it all for the first time.

But I’m ashamed to say that I have an ambiguous feeling of dread. Maybe it’s a lack of faith. Maybe it’s a by-product of these uncertain times (but what times aren’t uncertain?). Perhaps I’ve learned what all parents are destined to learn: how to worry. For whatever reason, though, I have a need to write you this letter from a very new father to a very new son. My goal is to give you something permanent in this moment to shed some light on myself and my life, so as to help you in yours, even in a small way. I don’t mean to sound trite, but I surely will. Bear with me in saying the things that need to be said.

Follow the Lord, Jack. Trust in Him. In my life, some have distilled the Gospel and the Law of Christ into rote rules, that when followed strictly, without emotion or compassion or judgment, would lead to Heaven. These almost entirely ignored the Holy Spirit (and faith). Others simplified Christian living into simply having a proper frame of mind, discarding most, if not all commandments, however simple and explicit, in their search for Heaven. These people seemed to almost worship the Spirit alone. Neither of these ways lead along the path of the Gospel. The time will come when you’ll think going your own way is how to serve Him best. Be very careful of this. Hold to what you yourself will see written in the Bible, to what your mother and I will teach you. I hope we will do right in this. Jack, nothing is more important than your relationship with God and our Lord Jesus. Nothing. Not your family, your job, your money, your friends, your status, your pride, nothing. If you need to be a pauper in this life to be righteous, then proudly be a pauper. If you need to resign your prestigious position to hold to God, then do it without hesitation. If you look like a fool, so be it. If your family decides it holds first place in your life, gently remind it that it’s only second. Young as I am, I’ve made all these mistakes, and don’t want you to do the same. I heard a man say, this week, in fact, that God has made the Law of Christ easy (Matthew 11:30, I John 5:3). It’s the Devil himself that tells you otherwise.

Learn from history, Jack. People will laugh and say that it’s ridiculous to look into the past, when today’s new and shiny world is so far-flung from history's dusty books. Old ways of thinking, they’ll say, can’t interpret these modern times, that are different from any other time that's come before. They’re wrong. Indeed, as The Preacher said some thousands of years ago, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Learn from those captains of men that walked the earth and conquered it, and are now long dead. They took the time to write what they discovered, so that you don’t have to. I can’t emphasize how important this one point is. Even if something, by chance, has never been seen before on the face of the earth, the questions raised will have been explored already. Find the answers for yourself while others scratch their heads.

Don’t chase after money. I made this mistake early. Try to do what you love and make a good living at it. But don’t be fooled – everyone can’t do this. It’s okay for a job to just be a job. If that’s the case, some will tell you you’re a failure, or even that you’re not using the talent that God gave you. Don’t let their well-intentioned enthusiasm discourage you. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said these words in 1956:

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.’
Work hard. Work harder than anyone around you. You’ll know when it’s interfering with more important things. When it does, put it back in its proper place in your life. Giving serious advice from a movie is a real risk. But giving advice from a mobster movie is an even bigger no-no. But here it is, from Don Corleone: “Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” I guess even underworld kingpins get some things right.

The finest foods, the finest houses, the finest possessions are only temporary. These things are nice, to be sure, but they easily come and more easily go. I realized that when I saw a tree lying over our beautiful new house last year. The house wasn’t so beautiful anymore. Mold quickly grew on the things inside. They weren’t beautiful anymore, either. Don’t put your trust in these things. Life is far, far more, and the earlier you realize that, the richer and more colorful your life will be. Jesus said, “The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.”

To be Concluded...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fatigueroo

Your correspondent battled typhoid for most of the week, and was laid in his hammock for days on end looking pretty gaunt. That said, I have only the time and energy before starting work at the cinnabar mines to relate one Jackstory. Lucky you.

On Thursday, I'm fiddling around with the ship's (color!) Tele-Vision set minding my own while the Cap'n bounces uncontrollably in his Jumperoo. I'm watching my 34th Eastwood film of the week, and suddenly I find it very strange to be actually hearing the dialogue. Usually I just hear the gunfire and see lips move. Jack provides all the other sound effects.

So I look over, and the poor kid is slumped over in the contraption like a crash victim. For a good solid 30 minutes, a placid little puddle of drool forms as the Skip takes his ease. I. Got. Pictures. No, not with me (they discourage that sort of thing at the mines). Yes, I'll post them. No, not now. Quit your nagging.