Archive for February, 2015

The Mission

February 8, 2015

The Mission

She was waiting for me on Antioch Pike southeast of Nashville. “How can you do this?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” I replied.

“Do you have a doctor I can call?”

“Walt Franz. At the Mayo Clinic.”

Later that day on the phone Dr. Franz told me that a reporter for the Nashville Banner had called to ask her question. “I told her,” Walt said, ‘Ed has a mission, and because he does, he can override his physical problems’.”

Walt was more right than he knew. I had three missions. The first was to find that spark of goodness and genius I think burns inside every person on the planet. I had always said it was there. Now I had to find out.

My second mission was to tell people across the country about the Human Family Reunion we had been having at William Jewell for eleven years. And my third mission was to prove that other doctor wrong. The one who said, “It’s a damnable disease. And you can’t be active.”

Two weeks on the road it has taken me to pedal from Orlando to Nashville, two weeks into a journey bound northeast to Seattle, then due south to L.A., two weeks into my triple mission when that reporter for the Nashville Banner appears in a grocery store parking lot on the outskirts of Nashville to ask me her question.

When I was a child and would listen on Saturday mornings to Let’s Pretend, my imagination took flight as the magic of radio made pictures in my mind. King Arthur and Excalliber and the Round Table, Cinderella, Goldilocks, Sleeping Beauty, the Seven Dwarfs, Rumplestilskin, Prince Charming, Hanzel and Gretel. On Sunday mornings in church my teachers would tell me stories of little David the shepherd boy who took his slingshot and slew Goliath, of Moses who led his people out of slavery, of Samson who pulled down the pillars and killed the bad people.

I would have believed anything I was told when I was six and seven years old. Great good fortune came to me as a child as I would hear fairy tales and Bible stories. My mind and heart were shaped and filled with heroic and noble persons. Through nothing I did to deserve it, I was in my first years of life caught in an upward spiral of soul-shaping, mind-expanding ideas and ideals.

Scriptures of all the faiths express common themes that would lead those who take them to heart to embrace one another. One of the teachings I encountered as a child and have since found in different words in other faiths is this: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

I had been trained and now I was old. So how was I at age fifty to fulfill my three-pronged mission? With a child’s toy! In a place for children. Get on a bicycle. At Disney World. Alone and without money, pedal west and north. To Atlanta. Chattanooga, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Lincoln, Scottsbluff, Casper, Missoula, Spokane, Seattle. Then turn south to Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Then meet Mickey at Disneyland.

At whatever town I would come to between three and five in the afternoon, stop at the first church I see and ask for a meal and a bed for the night. Go to the newspapers and the TV. stations. Tell them the story of what had happened thus far on my journey. Tell them of the spark of goodness and genius. Tell them about the Human Family Reunion. Ask them to tell their readers and viewers.

The five year old I was in my mind saw no problem with this plan. The 50 year old visible to other people had doubts. “Are you crazy?” “You’ll get killed.” “Nobody’s gonna give you anything.” “People will think you’re nuts. This was the 50 year old talking to the five year old. The five year old paid no attention.

So the five year old gets on his bike at Disney World. May 16th. Ten o’clock in the morning. The Congregation of Liberal Judaism and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and a Disney camera crew have come to see me off. And now on June first I have come to Nashville to answer her question. Or to put it properly, to have her question answered for me by my doctor.

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Once There Was a Spot

February 6, 2015

Once There Was A Spot

1945

For Christmas when I was ten, Mother bought me a used bicycle and taught me to ride. She would hold me up and run along beside me until I was going fast enough to remain upright. The sidewalk that ran past our house ended abruptly a few blocks later, and more than once I lost my balance and fell where the sidewalk ended. I began to fear arriving at that place.

Then one day as I got there, I noticed that where the sidewalk ended, there was now a paved path sweeping gently and upward to the right. The bicycle seemed to turn itself in that direction. A short time later the path became a country road leading soon to a town I had never seen before.

“I’d better get home,” I said to himself. “Mother will have supper ready.” But when I turned my bike around, the road was gone. Before I could cry or be afraid, someone appeared at my side. I looked quickly around. An old man stood in front of me and around me stood four beautiful children about my own age. Something about them all soon let me know that I had nothing to dread. I didn’t ask who they were, how they got there or even how I chanced to be in a place I had never seen before even though I had traveled only a short distance from my home.

“Hello, Arthur,“ the old man said.

Before I could tell the old man my name was Edgar, he continued. “I knew that bicycle would one day bring you back. Don’t you recognize it? It was yours when you were 10,” the old man said. And you had to be 10 for it to bring you back.”

“Merlin?” I didn’t understand how I knew the old man or why the old man called me Arthur or why I asked the old man, “What happened to us? Where have you been?”

“I’m sorry, Arthur. I forgot to warn you about Mordred. Now Camelot’s gone. But I’ve found you again, and this is the City of Nevaeh.”

I thought I should cry and be afraid. Mother had taught me not to talk to strangers. And I understood that I was lost. But I was happy. And glad to be here. I didn’t know why. I just was.

“You can’t go home again, Arthur,” Merlin said gently to me. With my magic, however, I will bring your home to Nevaeh. Your house, your street, your mother and dad and your school and church and all your friends will be here. You won’t know it from where you were before. You will go to sleep tonight and when you wake up in the morning you will think this has all been a dream. But you will live the rest of your life here in Nevaeh. Peace and Power and Purpose and Joy will be with you always. You won’t see them again with your eyes, but you will feel them in your heart. And you won’t see me again, Arthur. But as I have spoken, so shall it be.

“Now, Arthur, ride into Nevaeh. Your mother has supper ready.”

“Edgar Ray, you better wake up. It’s Saturday morning and Let’s Pretend is coming on. It’s the story of King Arthur today.” Mother called me “Edgar Ray” when she wanted to be sure she got my attention.

Dedication

February 6, 2015

Dedication

When I came years ago to teach at William Jewell College, I was met and welcomed by the Dean, Bruce Thomson. Bruce showed me around campus, introduced me to everyone in sight, paid rapt attention to every word I said. I left him after a couple of hours, wanting to work in this place that would have a man like him.
Over the years I came to appreciate his quiet strength. More than most anyone I knew, I trusted him. He seemed to have no personal ambition other than to be of service, and toward that end he worked like a demon. We didn’t always agree, but we could talk about our disagreements. And we could still be friends.
That first day I met him Bruce had said that he and his wife wanted to have my wife and me over for dinner. But we would have to wait until they finished painting their house. Years passed and we didn’t go to dinner.
One of the saddest days of my life came when I heard that Bruce had cancer. I knew when I heard he was sick that I had to go see him. On a beautiful fall Sunday I drove to the nearby town where he was hospitalized. I had gone before when other friends were sick. We had talked about the weather. Never about illness or death.
I couldn’t do that with Bruce. It took all the courage I could muster, but after I had exchanged pleasantries with his wife and daughter and son-in-law, I asked if they would leave the room so Bruce and I could talk.
I took his hand. “Bruce, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say. If I had just been told I had cancer, I would be scared out of my mind. So I’m here to listen to anything you want to tell me.”
Bruce began to cry. He talked for a while about fear and death and hope. I left the hospital knowing that my life had been changed. I had stepped across that moat that separated me from real contact with another human being.
Over the next three years, Bruce was in and out of hospitals. I visited him at every opportunity. At first we both thought he was getting well. Then, we knew he was not. Finally he was confined to his bed at home, and at last I was a guest in his house.
Each time we talked, we talked of death. Not solely, but we never avoided it. We talked about the college, our families, sports, books we were reading, and dying. It was not a depressing conversation. Ever!
Now that Bruce has died, I think of those talks. I miss him terribly, more I think because he was the only one I could talk to like that. But I’m finding others. Bruce, this book is for you. I wish you were here so we could talk about all of this. I like to think that somehow you know.