Archive for the ‘The Parsonage Kitchen Table’ Category

There Goes My Life–Chad Bird

February 4, 2014 Leave a comment

“There Goes My Life”:  The Career Decision that Shaped the Course of My Life

04TuesdayFeb 2014

A few years ago, I made a decision that has shaped the course of the rest of my life. It was a career change, to be sure, but that was only what the eye saw. Deeper down, it was much more. It was a life change, a life choice—one that I still get asked about today.  This is what happened.

At the end of 2006, I drove a packed-to-the-gills U-Haul truck from Cincinnati to Oklahoma City. I had twin goals in mind:  finish my Ph.D. from Hebrew Union College and land a teaching job at one of the handful of Christian universities in that buckle of the Bible Belt. It seemed not only possible but doable. After all, I reasoned, I already have three Masters degrees, five years of teaching experience as a professor in a graduate school, and a few publications on my resume.  Surely a position will open up. The only drawback in my plan was that I’d be living and working a little over four hours from where my two young children lived. But we’d make it work. Somehow.

I transformed half of my little apartment into a quasi-study, where I could labor over page upon page crammed with scholarly wisdom. To make ends meet, I got a part-time job at FedEx, loading trucks every evening.  I worked my mind during the day, my body during the night. All the while, I was progressively putting my career plan into action. I researched the colleges and faculties of the area, brought my C.V. up to date, and wrote letters to the heads of various universities to introduce myself. And once every couple of weeks, or three, I would drive four hours to spend a few fleeting hours with six-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter, then turn the car around and drive back to the city, to the apartment, to my books.  And my dreams.

But a strange thing was happening to my dreams. The brilliance with which they had once shone was fading. Indeed, the dreams were slowly being swallowed by darkness. And the darkness, it was swallowing me, too.  Every time I looked in the rear view mirror to see my two children waving goodbye, inside me a dark presence was waving a blade, slowing slicing away at my heart. As I stared at the pages of my books, I saw no letters, no words, only the faces of son and daughter. I felt exiled from life, an expatriate adrift in a world inhabited only by nightmares masquerading as dreams. One day I stood and walked about that place I had tried to make home and realized it was a prison cell of my own devising. I fell to the floor. I wept. And I made a decision.

It took a few months to make it happen. There was a short course to complete.  There were moving plans to make. There were a couple of interviews to arrange. But by the summer of 2007, with a Commercial Driver’s License in my wallet, I was driving a truck. I had found a job where the only jobs were to be found in that area—in the oil and gas field. And, most importantly, my new home was about three miles from where my children lived in the small town of Pampa, Texas. I was able to take them to school and pick them up on my days off. We played in the park down the street. We swam at the local indoor pool, all year long. We sat in the same pew at church together. We made up for lost time, grew closer, deepened the bonds of father and child.

Before I made the move to live near my children, as I realized the poignant truth that my dreams of becoming a professor again were over, I confess that in moments of selfish weakness, I muttered to myself, “There goes my life….” There goes my years of study. There goes my aspirations.

But on those mornings when I hugged my children, told them I loved them, and watched them walk from my car into the school; on those summer days when they’d run ahead of me down to the park for an hour or two of play; all those times when they’d scurry through the house, bang out the back door, and jump on the trampoline, calling for me to hurry and join them, I’d smile and say to myself, “There goes my life.”  There goes my daughter, overjoyed to be with her Daddy.  There goes my son, looking up to a father as only a son can. Indeed, there goes my life, in those two young gifts of God.

My dream, my aspiration, my self-identity changed course. I became more fully, more faithfully, the man God had made me to be: a father. I began to live out my vocation. I realized that, at the end of my life, if I had failed as a father but succeeded in a career, it would all have been for naught.

A life fully and faithfully lived is a life of love, in which we give of ourselves to others. And in that self-giving love—whether as a parent or spouse or child—we discover true joy.

What Kind of Fish is This?

June 13, 2013 3 comments

2013-06-06 michigan fish 005

What kind of a fish is this?  Anyone know?


I caught it up in Northern Michigan, near Cheboygan, in the Black River (I think it was).  That’s where we were on vacation the last week and a few days.


This fish was 17.5 inches long, and I’m not sure exactly how many pounds.  This guy told me it was a walleye.  But I thought it was a bass.  That was why I told my wife only to cook part of it, since I don’t know anything about fishing, but I heard that bass are not tasty.


However it tasted really good.  This guy said it was a walleye, but it didn’t really look like pictures of walleye.  But then it didn’t really look like the pictures of bass I saw either.


I had a few other Hemingway fishing moments up in Michigan, but I’ll tell those later.  This was the first half decent size fish I ever caught in my life.

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My son won’t raise hell

pksThanks to Angela, who sent me this.  She doesn’t ever read this blog though, or have a facebook account, so she’ll never see this.

Pete if you see this, enjoy.

Pastor laments, ‘My son won’t raise hell’

LOUISVILLE — Pastor Sean Welch and his wife Eleanor are concerned that their 16-year-old son isn’t turning into the hellraiser they thought he’d be.

“We’ve always heard how much trouble PK’s are, so we spent years reading parenting books and attending seminars,” said Eleanor. “It looks like all that preparation is wasted.”

The boy, Adam, is admittedly mild-mannered, even annoyingly so. He likes to sit in his room and strum his guitar and play computer games with his friends. He wants to be an orthodontist. His teachers say he’s a good student, if lacking in creativity.

“Dad sat me down a few weeks ago and told me it was time I start causing trouble,” Adam said, clearly uncomfortable with the subject. Pastor Welch handed him the keys to the car, a fifth of whisky and a baseball bat and shooed him out of the house, then waited by the phone for the police or an angry parent to call. That call never came.

“I went out and hit a few mailboxes with the bat, but it didn’t feel good, so I poured out the whiskey and came home,” says Adam. “If I have a police record, dentistry schools won’t take me.”

Welch faces humiliation at pastors’ conferences, where other men confide in each other about their troubled teenagers.

“I’ve started lying and telling them Adam is having problems, too,” Welch says. “I make up drug use, promiscuity, all sorts of stuff. Then I go back to my room and cry. I’m missing the whole father-of-a-PK experience.”

The Welches fret that Adam’s testosterone level may be low, though he tested normal. Sean and Eleanor sit at home most evenings, their boy upstairs playing worship songs, and stew.

“I’ve lost some respect for the kid,” says Sean with a sigh. “I’ve tried to be the model pastor, and I’d hoped he would be the model PK. I feel I’ve failed somehow.”

Lord Snowman

calvin-and-hobbes-snowmen-6My son and my wife made a snowman the other day when we got half a foot or so of snow.  When I got home he showed it to me out of the window.

“See, it has a carrot nose and a charcoal mouth and eyes.”

I said, “Is it charcoal, or lava rock from the garden?”

He said, “It’s charcoal.  Mom chopped up charcoal in the garage with your hatchet.”

“It looks like the snow packed pretty well.”

“Yeah, it was really good packing snow.  Also, see how it has a top hat?”

“Yes.  The hat has a lot of snow on it.”

“Well, after I put the top hat on it, you know what me and Mom decided to call it?”


“Lord Snowman.”

Then his mom told me the story later.  “Yeah, after we finished making it and put the hat on it, he looks at me and says, ‘Well.  Would you like to call him ‘Lord Snowman?'”

At first I sort of thought this was like “Lord Krishna”.  But he meant an English lord, like “Lord Henry, Duke of Snowdon, Earl Gloucestershire”.

Repeat, Repeat the Sounding Joy

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Clausae parentis visceraBrewers_Blackbird

Caelastis intrat gratia;

Venter puellae baiulat

Secreta quae non noverat.


[Into the womb of the chaste mother

There enters heavenly grace;

The girl’s belly bears

Secrets that she does not know.]


Today as we walked out of the church doors a noisy flock of starlings had roosted on the roof of the church and in the trees in front of the old steep steps to the doors to the nave and in the poplar in front of the derelict house across the street. 


My son heard them.  But I didn’t.  I was thinking about the kinds of things I think about when I leave church.  That usually makes it impossible to hear much else.


My son said to my wife, “Listen to the birds!  Doesn’t it sound like they are all singing, ‘Merry Christmas’?”


“You think they are happy that Jesus is born?”  “Mm hmm,” he said.


My wife hates birds of all kinds, but especially black birds.  And for me starlings are kind of like flying stains.  When I was a kid and my dad would see one he would practically spit on the ground and say, “Grackles.”  They don’t sing so much as gurgle or gargle to one another, or babble mutually incomprehensible nonsense to each other like an Alzheimer’s ward. 


They aren’t really a color, either.  They’re black.  But then if you move your head slightly they are purple, or green.  Like a rainbow in a puddle of oil. 


A long time ago when I was in my early 20’s I remember reading Psalm 84, looking at it with adult eyes for the first time. 


How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord of hosts!

My soul longs, yes, faints, for the courts of the Lord;

My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.


Even the sparrow has found a home,

And the swallow a nest for herself,

At your altars, O Lord of Hosts, my king and my God!


I remember the intense skepticism I felt about the Psalmist’s interpretation of the sparrow’s motives.  It was unpleasant.  I felt despair about it.  I needed God, and I needed the Bible to be true and not a book of fairy tales.  I knew no religion or god that needed me to correct its facts would be able to save me.  And I had come to the conclusion that I needed not assistance but saving.  Above all I needed to be saved from the way that I thought I could figure everything out.

  Read more…

On Vacation

July 10, 2012 1 comment


Mississippi River Scenic Byway in Missouri

Mississippi River Scenic Byway in Missouri (Photo credit: Doug Wallick)

I’m gone until at least Saturday the 14th.  Up in the hills in Missouri, where there is no internet (and no cell phone reception for that matter.)


I thought of several things I wanted to write about, but I’ve been too busy catching fish and playing Sherlock Holmes with my son.  And working on translating Westphal and the Gebets-Schatz.

I ate bluegill for the first time today.  We caught about 10 in this stocked pond.  I don’t think I’ve ever successfully caught and eaten my own fish.  Maybe in Africe once.  There were of course only about two bites of meat, but those were tasty bites.


However, I should post something by Monday.

My Son on Insects

This morning I was very tired and my son was in my bed talking to his mother.  She said, “Stink, did you tell Dad what we found out about lightning bugs?”  He didn’t want to have to explain it.  So she told me.  Lightning bugs apparently live underground for 2 years as grubs.  Then they come out and fly around during the summer for about 3 weeks, mate, and die.

The reason they were telling me this was because the other night we were catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar, and my son put a crabapple in the jar.  I said, “Why did you do that?”  He said, “So the lightning bugs will have something to eat.”  I said, “Lightning bugs don’t eat crabapples.  They eat other bugs.”

But I think what they were telling me this morning was that they don’t eat anything at all for the few wekks of their lives.  I’m not 100 percent sure on that, though, because I was pretty tired.

So I was saying, “So basically lightning bugs spend two years underground in order to spend two weeks flying around with glowing butts in a big lightning bug summer of love.”  My son said: “Dad, lightning bugs don’t have butts.  They have rear ends.”

Then later on I was eating french toast at the breakfast table, and there was a little ant crawling on the table, which I killed.  Then a few minutes later there was another one.  I said, “When did all these ants get into the house?  Son, ask these ants what they think they’re doing.”

He said, “I don’t speak ant.”

Lost* Sayings of My Son, part 2–Scientific Name

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment
* From about June last year.
**This may not be funny unless you know my son’s name.  But even if you do know it it may still not be funny because changing his name as I’m doing here may interrupt the flow of the saying.  Anyway, in order to protect my kid’s anonymity (sort of), let’s pretend his name is Ralph and his middle name is Harold.

My son says to me, “Is that book you’re reading The Grapes of Wrath?”

“How did you know that?”

“Wrath,” he says, “has a silent ‘w.’  Kind of like my scientific name, Ralph, has a silent ‘h’.”

I said, “Ralph is not your scientific name.”

He said, “What is?  Harold?”

Lost* Sayings of my Son, part 1–Superman

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment
They almost were lost, because I wrote them in a memo pocket notebook, but then I switched to a different one and forgot about them.  I think these were from around June or July.

Him: Grammy told me that

Superman was born on the planet


An Email from Willy Wonka

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment

aka my son.

Dear Charlie Bucket
Please tomorrow will you come to the chocolate factory.  The address is ######  A________ Drive.
It is the biggest one.  I want you to see all and rooms and have fun and go in the great glass elevator.
And the television room.
Love,Willy Wonka
From, Willy Wonka=)) rolling on the floor
List of all the rooms:
the chocolate room
the cooking room
the tasting room
the making chocolate room
the making other candies room
the television room
the great glass elevator
the squirrel room
the square candies that look round room
the bubblegum room (i’m not taking Violet Beaureguard in there)
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