Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Best Friend

I ate lunch every day in 3rd grade next to Sarah Jane Tillman. I only remember 2 things about Sarah Jane Tillman : she ate paste during art class (yum!) and that she was my best friend.She was a bit portly for a 3rd grader so I suspect it had to do with the paste. It's a high calorie art supply unlike it's more modern cousin, the terribly bland glue stick. I was her best friend 'cause she said so. "What if I don't want to be" I asked. "Too bad. I said you are". I pondered this and shrugged. "Sure" I said "best friends forever" and we shook on it. I knew it wouldn't last though. I'm just not a paste guy.

I got a text today I was dreading but knew was coming. My friend Dane Burk died today. He was my friend. I found out around a year ago he had been diagnosed with a Glioblastoma. A brain tumor. As it turned out, a death sentence. So He lost his battle today and I'm so sad. He loved Jesus and was ready to go and for that I'm happy but feel at a loss as to what to pray, what to say. The world, is a little smaller today. I just thought you should know.

I first met Dane in the youth group in the late 80's. He dated my sister for  like a week until he found out what me and my two brothers knew. Yikes. We started hanging out, Dane and me.At the church door every time it was open, doing some youth activity. That was nice and all but our best times were on the court. Basketball. Tennis. Racquetball. Rain or shine we were out there almost every day. For 2 years. 2 amazing years. He was my best friend. I loved being with him, challenging him, just goofing off. Movies, sleep overs, eating at Godfathers pizza. Singing with such passion the love songs to Jesus we used to sing as Bro. Jim led us. We never said it. I guess we never needed to. We were best friends.And I, am better because of it.

As I knew his time was coming to an end I thought back on so many good memories. I went back to our old church where at the end of an overgrown court stood nailed to a light pole, a backboard with no rim. No net, but laden down with the memory of epic struggle. And much laughter. I took a few imaginary jump shots then sat on a 5 gallon bucket. And cried. I drove from there to the tennis courts, to the racquetball courts. And cried. For 2 years I had such a full life. I had a friend.

Two years. Maybe closer to three. And then....poof. I left. Went to college. Made new best friends. Made choices. Made a career. Made a family. Made a life. And I never saw Dane again. Maybe I saw him once or twice for a few minutes when I came back home tho I don't remember that. Just seems like we mighta. But soon enough He left town too and our paths never crossed. I realized I hadn't seen Dane in maybe 32 years. 32 years? How is that possible? We were best friends. It made me sad but also amazed me how profoundly 2 years can shape a life, can have such impact. I consider it one of the best times of my life.

I don't know Danes wife. Or his kids. Well some what I do through Facebook. They seem so wonderful, a loving family dedicated to one another and to God. My heart aches for them. I was in church praying for them, for Dane on Sunday. Ok, well, I wasn't praying per se  as much as my mind was wandering as it is want to do in church. On the video screen was a picture of a huge grape vine with gobs of grapes hanging down. The preachers speech was about abiding in the vine. Abide. All the fruit. It was just hanging there. I felt like God was speaking and saying this was Dane. He abided. And he produced. His wife and kids were just the tip of the iceberg. For months I've seen people posting prayers and stories and memories and I'm just seeing the fruit hanging down from the Dane branch, people he had touched, connected with, and helped make better people. People who love Jesus. I got chills. I felt like God said "That, is your sermon Mark. Go and do like wise" I hope I will.

For a time, Dane, you were my best friend and I am better for it. I know that you are in glory this very day and I rejoice with you. How great it must be. Thank you for living your life so well. You will be missed. You will not be forgotten. I love you brother, my friend.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I believed in Santa for a long time. Maybe I made it to 7th grade before the truth hit home. I was 15 so probably it was time. But what kid doesn't want to believe in Santa? I mean, a guy who comes around once a year and gives you stuff for no reason? Well, yeah, there was the whole 'making a list and checking it twice' thing but still, free toys! I missed the 'Santa's not real' clues for a long time. Dad "helping" Santa put a bike together. Shopping with mom and seeing her buy something that looked eerily like what was found under the tree for my sister. With my ear to the bedroom door hearing what sounded like two people putting toys under the tree instead of one fat guy. I'm a fat guy now. I make noises now when I bend over and stand up.. And the whole chimney thing. Ours was fake. Didn't even go through the roof. So the dawning of understanding came as somewhat of a shock. 7th grade. Maybe I was as dumb as my brother said I was. It was a sad time for me. I really wanted to believe......

I bring this up because I had another dawning revelation today. My underwear were inside out. No not the ones I was wearin' but the ones I was gonna put on when I got of the shower. I always  make sure they're turned right when I take 'em off so they come out of the dryer ready to go (tho this has become harder for me since they took the label off the inside. I really have to study 'em). I want to step right into a pair of pantaloons right after toweling off. No fuss no muss. Drives me nuts to have to take them off again. This began happening back when we got one of those computer controlled front load washer dryer combos that you actually do  have to read the operator manuals in order to use them. We all know washing machines eat socks (or maybe it's the dryer. Have you ever counted socks when you transfer them? Uh huh.You haven't have you.) Apparently now they turn your unmentionables inside out? C'mon, you think this isn't on purpose? Of course it is. The machines are learning, becoming aware. They're trying to make us mad! Insane! Wholly incompetent and dependent on them. And we wont even know. What a bunch of Lemmings.

-If you've read my posts on Facebook for any amount of time you've heard me rail against my computer.It's slow. It freezes. Posts delete themselves. Or it just shuts down. When Terri uses it it acts like Bill Gates personal computer. Works perfect. So irritating.
-The clock in my truck keeps changing time. I know they are supposed  to do that but mine goes backward, a little each day so I have to keep resetting it. It's digital so isn't the computer supposed to do this?
-My coffee maker and alarm clock seem to have a hard time remembering from the night before I set 'em both to go off at 5:30 so half my days I wake up late to no coffee. Drives me crazy and makes me a little less like Jesus every day.
-The toaster burns the toast no matter where I turn the dial so I get the electronic computer controlled toaster with the "just right" browning feature which still scorches my toast and my wallet is torched for sixty five bucks.
-Your're phone mysteriously butt dials your wife, mother or significant other and lets them know that you're not at the men's sunday school social but at Dave's Pool and Beer Hall and who,by the way, is Lorainna?

I see it so clearly now. I am the frog in the slowly boiling water. It starts with a washing machine that eats socks to the one that learn to fold cloths. Pretty soon I'll tell the machines my account numbers and buy a phone that GPS's me. And I slowly let it happen, lulled into a new normal, not guarding the small things in life, those tiny important things that grow into big things later on and one day Skynet becomes self aware takes over and nukes the world and the people, the ones that are left, are put into pods to power the matrix. Pretty grim. All because I didn't guard the small. Because I shrugged at inside out underwear.

Okay. So maybe some of that isn't true. Maybe just my imagination. I was telling Terri all of this and a midst her 'yes dear's' and 'un-huh's and 'hummm's' the words "be on guard" was said. Maybe I said it. Or her. If I actually make a point here we'll say her. But it made me think of that verse.

Proverbs 4:23 says "Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." I don't do that very well. The guard your heart thing. Probably better said is I choose not to do it very well. Too busy with the mundane to look at the details and slowly I come to realize the details matter. Maybe I watch a show or movie I shouldn't. Or read a book I shouldn't. Or not read the Book I should. Eat those extra fries. One less lap at the track. Don't answer that call (caller ID is of the devil). Tell a little white lie.And on and on and on....

Big things often start small. Every flood starts with the first rain drop. If we find we are not the person we ought to be (and often I'm not) we should check to see how we have guarded our heart. Or if we have. So grab a spear and stand guard at the gate of your heart and don't let the small things that don't seem to matter get by. Because it all matters. Because if you don't, you may one day get caught....with your pants down.