Hello. Good Bye.

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HELLO: I’ve been silent for the past few weeks and now you can hear the rest of the story.

Two weeks ago Friday my life changed dramatically (I hope this is not an overdramatic way of describing what happened.) While checking into the Bristol Hotel near the Bahnhof (Train Station) on a hot Friday afternoon in Zurich, I looked away from my bags for perhaps 60 seconds, and in that time my computer bag was lifted off my roller bag. Thus ends life as we knew it.

In the bag were my laptop, passport, iPod, all my daily medications, printed materials and dozens of other items including house keys! We planned to depart the next day for New York and after making a quick call, I was informed by the US Embassy in Bern that I could not replace the passport with a temporary one until Monday. The hotel sent us to the police department where I filed a report with a young detective, who oddly enough, lived in Herrliberg, the town on the banks of Lake Zurich from which my great grandfather emigrated years ago (photo of the crest, three yokes posted above.). He held out no hope for the recovery of the computer and little hope for the bag or its contents. He was impressed that I knew of Calvin and Zwingli, who I mentioned in reference for a need for revival in the heart of the thief, and I was impressed that he knew the origin inScripture of his name, Samuel. I commented that such a wise man could likely find my bag and he assured me he would get right on it. Kathy called the prayer chain at our home church.

Swiss Family Staub (Kathy, Molly, Heidi and I) spotted an Italian restaurant and having just spent two days in Lugano, Switzerland’s Italy, we figured we’d take comfort in food, though our appetites were somewhat dulled by the trauma of the afternoon. Kathy and I began making lists of to-do’s. Kathy and the kids would go on to NY without me. I’d stay and take the train to Bern to get a temporary passport. Notify the bank of possible identity theft. Call a pharmacy and get temporary prescriptions. Call the CS Lewis Foundation and cancel my weeklong daily 2 ‚½ hour seminar scheduled to start on Monday. The list grew like weeds in a tomato garden and we felt choked by the life-sapping force of the after effects of evil.

An hour later while trudging wearily and defeatedly back to the hotel my cell phone rang. It was the hotel. The police had found and returned my bag, and though minus my computer and iPod everything else was intact, including my passport. Two hours from theft to recovery of my bag. Amazing grace how sweet the sound.

Fast forward. Since that day we traveled as a family to NYC and saw our daughter Jessica who just moved to Brooklyn to teach in Red Hook with Teach for America. I presented the seminar on “Towards a Christian Response to Popular Culture” to an overly kind and appreciative group of 25 registrants at the CS Lewis Foundation event, the theme of which was “Love Among the Ruins.” We completed the Kiln’s Capital Campaign with over ($) 30,000 in new pledges in two days!

I have returned to Seattle to buy a new computer, beginning the laborious process of rebuilding my systems, recovering data, hunting down passwords and attempting to reestablish the patterns of daily life and work so dependant on this crazy laptop. I cannot afford the time or money this theft necessitates, but what choice to do I have? I really need to concentrate on raising money for CFC to which the added cost of a new computer to replace the stolen one has been added, but first-things-first. Where are the names and phone numbers of our faithful friends and supporters?

GOODBYE: Upon returning to Seattle I’ve said some goodbyes.

Goodbye to easily accessible and accurate information. I had backed up a lot of data in the months leading up to my computer’s theft. But the most recent backup of my contact database of 4500+ names and addresses was somehow damaged and recovered only 1700 names. By accessing earlier backups I’ve rebuilt a considerable % of it, but with old addresses, phone numbers and email addresses the access to my friends and supporters will be more difficult. Through this goodbye God is speaking to me about my dependence on systems and information and on the goodness and grace of friends like you. If ever you considered making a financial contribution to CFC-now is the time! (CFC PO Box 77385, Seattle, WA 98177–Your contributions are tax deductable.)

Goodbye to feeling invulnerable. Back in the 90’s I hosted a discussion about safety from crime on the streets of Chicago with detective JT Bittenbinder he told me a big strapping guy like me was not a likely target. Yet, during our Swiss trip my wife scared off a pickpocket who was literally unstrapping a Velcro pocket on my shorts and, did I mention small hotel lobby where a professional thief followed me from the train station and stole my computer? Heidi pointed out that since the 90’s I’ve become a bigger, less strapping, more sagging, aging guy who any criminal could outrun. Any boomer can tell you moments where they realize things are changing due to the advancement of years. Maybe next time that fool invitation to join the AARP comes I won’t laugh and throw it away! Through this goodbye God is speaking to me about taking better care of my body, being more vigilant and pragmatic.

Goodbye to deceased friends and fading careers. I just finished reading Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” and the inevitability and suddenness of death is fresh on my mind. Thus, the most sobering aspect of rebuilding my contact database was identifying the names of friends, family and acquaintances from my broadcasting career who have died, like Carl Henry, Ken Eckstrom, RA Harlan, Lewis Smedes, Henri Nouwen, Dwight Ozard, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Grandma Agnes, Bob and Pat Kelly, my mother Esther and so many more. I no longer need to keep their phone numbers and addresses, but it seems dishonorable to delete them. Other once active friends are still living, but have moved off center stage, their productive public years replaced with quieter, less visible activities. I realize the same will be said of me in the not-too-distant future. Through these goodbyes God is speaking to me about keeping my work in perspective and also about making good choices in my pre-twilight years.

All this to say that in the theft of my computer I have been given a gift of slowing down, rethinking and refocusing, which after all is a time honored tradition during the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Other than an homage to its agricultural heritage, I don’t know the significance of Herrliberg’s triple yoke, but I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Such a yoke can accommodate Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in the Triune God I rest.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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