Tribute to my father #2

Thursday, October 9th, 1969.

 
I was six-years-old, in school learning my ABCs at Bethany
Christian School, Taipei, Taiwan.

 
I remember we heard sirens—many many sirens—so many that
my schoolmates and I took notice and said, “Someone’s house is
burning down!”

 
Sometime later in the day, my class was interrupted by a knock at
the classroom door. Someone asked that Jeff be excused for the
day. I got to go home early.

 
It was my house that had burned down.

 
I suppose—no, I’m sure—that this was a catastrophic loss for my
parents. It was, after all, my mother’s birthday. But for me, sixyear-
old Jeff, it was another adventure.

 
After all, what was I doing in Taipei, Taiwan, at six-years old?
I was born in California, just a short walk away from Disneyland.
My dad’s decision to take us to Formosa—an island as far away
from California and Disneyland as could be imagined—was like
taking us to Peter Pan’s Neverland.

 
But now it was October 9th, 1969. Our house and all our
belongings were gone.

 
Everything. I suppose I must have realized that my parents were in
shock. But for me it was an adventure. Peter Pan’s Formosa.
And this adventure—the burning down of our home and the loss
of all our belongings—took us the next summer to Hong Kong to
replace much-needed things.

 
Hong Kong, a half-century ago, was sort of like…well…IKEA.
But for me, Hong Kong was a giant toy store.

 
I remember quite well going to the Ocean Terminal and walking
past toy store windows. Corgi and Matchbox and Hot Wheels, toy
guns and toy soldiers and battery-operated robots—all the things a
six-year-old boy in those days could desire.

 
And we used the Star Ferry—there was no MTR back then—and
for me, little six-year-old Jeff, the Star Ferry was the same as Peter
Pan’s flight at Disneyland, a magical adventure.

 
Yesterday, my wife Julia and I went on the Star Ferry, and re-lived
the magical adventure I took as a six-year-old child 47 years ago
in 1970.

 
Today we meet in Hong Kong to mourn my father’s death and
celebrate his life.

 
And I, Jeff Stone, Don Stone’s son, want to tell you that he loved
Hong Kong.

 
For those of you who watched the live stream of his memorial
service in the USA, you might remember that I told you a secret
about my father—that he was a deeply shy man whose calling,
commitment, and conviction gave him the ability to overcome his
shyness.

 
Today, in his second memorial service, I am telling you another
secret: for all his Texas bluster, through all of his travels, having
lived in a dozen cities and dozens of apartments and houses, he
found his home here in Hong Kong. His real home. His chosen
home.

 
He might tell you that God chose it for him—but then again, God
chose Texas and Missouri and Florida and Oregon and California
and Taipei and Detroit and Waipahu and Berlin for him, too.
This second secret is that my father, already over sixty and with
over four decades of ministry behind him, along with my mother,
fell in love with this church, with this congregation, with the
people here.

 
With you.

 
God surely does not always call us to serve through sacrifice.
Sometimes God might send someone to a place where they can
say, “I belong here. These are my people. I love it here!”

 
For me, Hong Kong will always be a giant toy store—Peter Pan’s
Neverland. I love it here.

 
For my father, Hong Kong was a place he not only felt called to,
but where he truly wanted to be. He loved it here, and he loved
this church, and Hong Kong had become his home.

 
I am not a man of God. I am not a minister. It humbles me to stand
behind my father’s pulpit. But please allow me to say:

 
May God bless you.

 
My father truly enjoyed you, felt at home with you, loved you.

 
May peace be with you.

 
Amen.

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Tribute to my father #1

As one gets older, one becomes more aware of what one
has inherited—or not inherited—from one’s parents. And
what we have inherited can be surprising.

 
My father, Don Stone, for example, was a very shy man. I
know this—and I know this with some certainty—because I
myself am a shy man, and I recognized it in him as I
approached middle age, and realized that I had inherited my
shyness from him.

 
And this surprised me.

 
Those of you who knew him well and are listening to these
words are probably also surprised.

 
Don Stone seemed to love attention. He despised the
silence of an elevator, so spoke to everyone else in it. Every
check-out clerk at Wal-Mart got to hear that he lived in
Hong Kong. Every waiter and waitress got called by their
first name—and was asked whether they could speak
Chinese, like he could. He seemed out-going and charming
everywhere he went, and while we children might have
been embarrassed at his extroverted behavior, those people
in the elevator, those check-out clerks and waiters and
waitresses, almost certainly enjoyed their encounter with
him. He made them smile.

 
A shy man?

 
My father, through his chosen life’s work, spent over six
decades speaking with people, communicating with people,
praying with people, counseling people, grieving with
people, sharing dreams and hopes and sorrows with people.
He preached to people: he preached his faith, preached what
he believed to be the better path, preached how to avoid
hell and reach heaven in the afterlife. He preached of his
belief in Jesus Christ.

 
And he spent these six decades communicating and
preaching not in the prickly-peared cactus and rattlesnakefilled,
poverty-stricken wasteland of the west Texas of his
childhood, but across the United States and the entire
world. From Texas to Missouri and back to Texas, east to
Florida and then to the northwest to Oregon and then down
the coast to California, then to Taiwan, to Detroit, to
Honolulu, to Berlin, To Hong Kong. He preached to tens of
thousands of people across the globe, and did so with
charm, humor, eloquence—with a larger-than-life presence
behind the pulpit, in homes and hospitals, as preacher,
pastor, missionary.

 
A shy man?

 
Don Stone the pastor was a man with a conviction. A man
with a calling, A man with commitment. This conviction,
this calling, this commitment required him to develop
something he wasn’t born with, something which didn’t
come naturally to him. It required him to meet people, to
communicate with people, to preach to people, to stand
behind a pulpit and have attention given to him—in spite of
his natural shyness. His calling, in other words, transformed
him. He needed to be outgoing. He needed to be not shy.
And, with God’s help, he succeeded.

 
His nature was to stay at home and study. Until he lost most
of his eyesight, his favorite pastime—by far—was reading
and studying. In his private life, he wanted—almost
literally—no attention at all. He wished for the love of his
wife and children, and cherished it when we told him we
loved him, but that was enough. He had no need to be
President. He had no need to be on television. He did not
crave the spotlight. He did not want to be—like his lifelong
friend Jerry Falwell—famous.

 
Today we mourn his death and celebrate his life. I, his son,
want to tell you that my father was a shy man because I
want to tell you that my father’s calling, his conviction, and
his commitment made him a public man, not because that is
what he himself wanted, but because he believed it to be
what God wanted. He was a man of faith, and his faith
made him something other—something bigger, something
more important—than his natural shyness would ever have
allowed him to be.

 
I do believe that on this day, my father, Don Stone would
ask us not to spend our time thinking about how wonderful
he himself was, but about how wonderful Jesus is.

Running shoes

So yesterday I bought running shoes.

No one told me how complicated it would be.

Years and years ago—back in college—I once went along with my friend John to buy him some running shoes.  He talked a lot about pronation and supination before we went, but I knew that he had his mind on Saucony.

When we got to the shop, some Randy-Mac girl (who was cute as a button!) was helping him.  And she was wearing one of those post-Flashdance ripped-up sweatshirts (without a bra), and as she was bending over to fit his shoes I was thinking about anything but pronation and supination.  I was thinking that she had the most beautiful breasts I had ever seen, and how they were hanging oh-so-nicely, and how if she had ripped her sweatshirt just a wee bit more I could see her nipples.  I don’t know what John was thinking.  But I don’t think he was thinking about pronation or supination, either.

But yesterday there were no Randy-Mac girls in sight.

Instead there was some woman who looked angry and was waiting for combat.

She asked if she could help.

I said I was looking for shoes that were “günstig”.

Now, by günstig I meant (obviously!) that I was looking for a bargain.

But she would have none of that nonsense.

She said, “by günstig do you mean ‘cheap’ or ‘good’?”

I suppose a brief digression about the German language is in order.  The word günstig means something like “advantageous”.  So when someone is looking for a price advantage, they are looking for something günstig.  Of course, what I myself meant was cheap.

I said, “I mean inexpensive”.

She said, “because what is günstig in price may not be günstig for your feet.

I said, “OK, let’s look at it this way.  If price were not an issue, what shoes would you recommend?”

She said, “Sit down.  We need to look at your feet.  We need to analyze the way you run.  How much do you run?”

I said, “I don’t run at all.  I’m planning to start.”

She called for her colleague to help me, and abandoned me.

The colleague came and asked, “How much do you run?”

I said, “I don’t run at all.  I’m planning to start.”

She looked like she wanted to abandon me, but carried on.

She had a lisp.

That’s not relevant to the story.  It’s just a colorful detail.

She told me to take off my shoes, roll up my pants legs, and hop onto the treadmill.

She asked, “have you ever been on a treadmill?”

I said that I hadn’t.

She carried on.

I got onto the treadmill, and she started it up and made it go way  too fast.  I think that was to get me to start running instead of walking.  But then she left, and I found myself in an awkward position.  First, although the pace was too fast for walking, it was a bit too slow for running.  Also, I was leaning forward and hanging onto the hand rails, which she had told me I wasn’t supposed to do.  “Just touch them lightly, if at all.”  And all of this matters, because she complained that I had been too far back on the treadmill.  So I did it again.

Then we looked at photos of me running.  She analyzed them in complete seriousness, and suggested a different shoe.

Let’s go back a bit.  The shoes I was wearing were WAY COOL.  They were black and white with florescent, lime-green laces and soles.  I looked like I was ready for the olympics.  I would have been proud wearing those shoes.

But she wouldn’t have that.  I needed more arch support, because my left foot slightly pronated towards the toe on the uptake of my foot from the treadmill.

So she got a nearly identical shoe—same brand, same price–but black and white with florescent, lemon-yellow laces and soles.  They make me look like a Pittsburgh Steelers or Borussia Dortmund fan.  Neither of which is a particularly bad thing to be, but it’s not my style to flash my sport-fandom-associations while running.  Not that I am all that familiar with running, since I haven’t started yet.

But she sold me the shoes, and she didn’t even have to rip up her sweatshirt.  Here they are:

 

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Now all I have to do is start running.

Tomorrow, maybe?

I’m in love

OK, it’s strange to post something like this.  But I feel compelled to do it.  I’m in love.  I feel the need to “out” myself.

Go back six months or so.  I felt lonely, depressed, desperate.

I did something very, very, very, very strange for me.  (Can I insert another “very” and still pass the Strunk and White test?)  I signed up to an online dating service.  It made me feel like I was out of my mind.  But in my despair, I did it.

Within the first few days, I realized it was a stupid decision.  I simply couldn’t relate to all the “is he the right one?” messages that people were posting, and I myself had only received two or three messages of interest.  Or non-interest, if we want to be precise.

OK, let’s be precise.  I got three messages.  One from a woman who said, “you sound nice, but you are too far away.”  Another from a woman who said, “I’m too pretty for you.”  And a third just sent me sexy pictures.

I wrote back to the woman who said I was nice but too far away.

She wrote back.  I wrote back.  She wrote back.  I wrote back.  I suggested we meet.  We met.  We loved.

And we have been loving ever since.

jj

 

 

 

 

 

Hope

It’s time to update this blog, because the last post—in remembrance of a loss–fails to reflect my state of mind.  Right now, I’m feeling a deep sense of hope.

Sometimes we human beings get sort of stuck:  stuck in how we eat and drink, stuck in how we think, stuck in our prejudices and fears.  And God knows, I’m not one who knows how to unstick himself very well.  In fact, I’m rather poor at it.

But I’ve made a few decisions lately.  Some were very hard to make.  But all were a long time coming.

And having made them, I do indeed have the sense that maybe I have finally be in the process of unsticking.

For those who are playing a role (jk;ab):  thank you!

jj