Snakes!

Snake
Baby rattlesnake in the bucket

 

 

This past week Jane got a frantic phone call from Lydia. She was trapped in the teacher supply room by a baby rattlesnake curled up by the door! Jim and I rushed over and there it was: a small rattler who had slithered into the supply room by crawling under the door. They say baby rattlers are the worst because they haven’t learned to control how much venom they inject. They just give you the whole dose and that makes them even more dangerous than an adult.

I got a shovel and scooped it into a bucket and hauled it off into the canyon where I released it. With all the rodents, we really need the snakes to control the vermin. No one was hurt and we all laughed and returned to work.

The next day Jim and his little dog Emmy searched the classrooms and the supply room for snakes and came up empty. Just before going home, I had a feeling I better check one more time. I opened the supply room door and there he was again! It was definitely the same snake, but this time he was mad at the world. When I tried to scoop him up with the shovel again, he struck it twice. I thought I had flipped him in the bucket just as before, but when I picked the bucket up, there he was grinning from ear to ear (if snakes had ears.) “Ha! You missed me,” he hissed and charged. It was at that point I realized I was wearing flip-flops and no socks. Not exactly the best choice in footwear for rounding up rattlers! The little guy was fast chasing me as I high stepped down the sidewalk. I really hated to do it, but we couldn’t risk him coming back when the children were there, so I pinned him to the sidewalk with my shovel. Even then he refused to die and now I had a really mad rattlesnake snapping and twisting under the blade of my shovel. I couldn’t lift it up to strike him again so there we were stuck together shouting for help. Jim raced to the rescue, grabbed another shovel and dispatched him much to my relief.

Standing there looking at the carnage (and trying to get my heart to slow down), it occurred to me some people are like that angry little snake. God graciously gives us a second chance. He scoops us up and gives us a second chance, but some people are so stubborn or so angry they immediately return to their old life. They reject God’s grace, shake their stubborn tails and venomously strike back.

 

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6).

Father of the Bride

The rental shoes of my tuxedo made a funny noise on the stone floor of the country club. I felt a little self-conscious. People I didn’t know swirled around me laughing and talking. The photographer’s assistant pinned a flower to my lapel and I looked around for a familiar face. The impression was joyful but I still felt awkward. My baby girl was getting married! I knew this was an important moment that I needed to remember but what did I feel?

It was going to be a hot one. What were they thinking? An outdoor wedding in Arizona in summer! But they were passing out fans and water and I knew it would be fine. I reached in my pocket for a handkerchief and realized I forgot it.

There is John Michael and there is Jennifer. But where is Charlotte? Someone pointed me to a door and someone else opened it for … for… “The father of the bride.”

I was quickly pushed through and surrounded by bride’s maids and mothers to shouts of “Door! Door!” It wouldn’t do for the groom to see the bride before she came down the aisle. It didn’t matter to me. I was transfixed by my beautiful daughter sitting on a little stool in the midst of a sea of silk. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. A little veil was pinned to her blonde hair. She held a bouquet of fall colored flowers and she looked up at me and smiled.

Somewhere under all that satin and lace, make-up and under-pinnings was my little girl. She was so happy. I tried to remember her whole childhood at once. The memories flooded past me now: pre-school Charlotte rappelling off the freezer in the garage in her “footie” pajamas, her and her brother scuba diving in the bathtub, learning to ride a “two-wheeler bike” in the park and watching her ride away as I bent over double out of breath. I thought of all the hikes and camping trips: her little teddy bear’s head sticking out of the top of her rucksack, watching her learn to throw a tomahawk and shoot a rifle at scout camp. Sailing together, catching fish, and most of all, reading bedtime stories.

Too soon it was time to go. Too soon we walked down the aisle. Too soon I shook the love of her life’s hand. Too soon I sat and listened to the beautiful words of two young people deeply in love. Warm tears slid down my cheeks. Someone passed me a handkerchief. Then they marched back down the aisle “Mr. and Mrs. Bentz.”

The reception was a giant party. There was food and drink and laughter and dancing and everyone had a wonderful time. I still felt a little lost. I made small talk and ate my cake. I strolled outside and someone tapped me on the shoulder. “It’s time for you to dance with the bride!”

Dancing? I don’t dance! Then I remembered twirling Charlotte in the kitchen. My little girl loved to dance and she judged a skirt by how it would twirl. Of course I will dance with the bride!

Every eye was on us as they cleared the floor. I took my little girl in my arms, kissed her cheek and we began to move. She made me look good and I began to relax. We laughed and her blue eyes sparkled. She twirled once more her skirts flying. I saw my little girl again. She is so much in love!

“Do you want to dip me?” She whispered as the song was coming to an end. “Of course!” I said. Everyone roared their approval and we were blinded by the flashes of every camera in the room. This joyful moment was frozen as I held my little girl in my arms one more time.

Being a father is one of life’s greatest rewards.

Chaos

 

John’s solo flight at age 15

When I was fourteen I worked at a little uncontrolled airport in Issaquah, Washington. During the week it was a dairy farm and on weekends the cows were penned up so sailplanes and skydivers could use the pastures as a runway. My job was to clean up the gliders, hook up tow cables and run along side them balancing their wings until they could get up enough speed to take off. I was working in exchange for flying lessons.

I didn’t really understand what “uncontrolled” meant until one fateful day the cows got out. Bessie and her cohorts charged out onto the runway/pasture just as a glider was coming in for a landing. At the very same time, the tow plane was landing from the other direction and a poor parachutist, on his very first jump, was coming down in the middle of it all. It was a sight to see!

Fortunately the tow plane pilot saw what was happening and pulled up in time to fly over the glider. Someone jumped into an antique Jeep and roared down the “runway” parting the bovine sea ahead of the unfortunate sailplane. Red and white sailplane landing, blue and white power plane flying straight up, poor terrified skydiver coming straight down and a very silly looking stampede of black and white milk cows racing in all directions.

Unbelievably, no one was hurt (although it did take a while to revive the parachutist after we dug him out from under his billowing white drape). No one will ever forget the chaos of that afternoon.

Does life ever seem that chaotic to you? People coming and going – demands on time, energy and those few precious moments you were saving? The fourth of the Ten Commandments says, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” This commandment recognizes people need time to stop, think and put everything back into perspective. Why wait for the weekend though? It’s time for a pause right now.

Welcome

Welcome to CanyonView Church of Christ

If you’ve followed www.JohnMcKeel.com in the past, you’ll notice a huge change in the format. For nearly 10 years I’ve been posting articles and pictures and movies about my life and family. The site was mostly a way for friends and family to keep up with the adventures Jan and I were having. The webpage was mostly a “vanity site.” Now that Santa Teresa (our 40 foot wooden sailboat) has found a home in San Diego Bay, and I’ve settled down working with my childhood congregation, the Canyon View Church of Christ, it’s time to reformat our website and this is my blog.

Jan and I live in San Diego and celebrate the joy of life together. I am the pulpit preacher for the Canyon View Church of Christ (you can hear my sermons here) and we have four grown children, five grandchildren, two cats (Phoebe and Lucky) and one mess of a terrier-dachshund named “Charlie.”   Some people believe Christians are basically boring people but I haven’t found that to be true. I think life is to be an adventure and it should be spelled with a capital “L” but you’ll learn more about that as you follow my stories. I hope you have fun and are challenged as you read.

Cheers!