Spooky Stuff

“Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.  I have a constant fear that something’s always near.  Fear of the dark, fear of the dark.  I have a phobia that someone’s always there.  Recorded by: Iron Maiden, 1992.  Composer: Stephen Percy Harris

BOO!  Did I scare you?  Probably not.  It’s okay, my feelings aren’t hurt.  However, I do have a daughter who understands BOO really well.

Meet D’Anna, my youngest daughter.  The snapshot above was taken three years ago when she was sixteen years old.  We had dinner at one of our favorite eateries for Tex-Mex in a north Dallas, Texas suburb.  We both hadn’t been there in many years and felt the tug to go.  Just inside the front door, in the atrium, is a rather large stuffed (what I assume to be a grizzly) bear.  He stands in the corner of the entry way.  He’s certainly not to be missed as you must walk passed the bear to enter the doors to the dinning area.  When D’Anna was a little one, she was frightened by him, as most small children would be.  She would react by wanting to be held, with her face buried in my shoulder.  She would say, “Walk faster, Dad.”  She wanted us to be out of that atrium as quickly as possible.  As she got older, she would place her back to the opposite wall from the bear, never taking her eyes off of Mr. Grizzly, walking sideways until she quickly made her way to the door where the maìtre d’  was waiting.  Being a badly behaving dad, I am sure I once said, with all fear in my pipes, “I think I saw him breathe!”  (Shame on me.)

So, there we found ourselves.  Same bear, same atrium, same daughter.  This time a well-rounded, indestructible and wise teenager of the world, with her back to Mr. Grizzly.  Again, she hadn’t been there in many moons, so one of her most profound statements, one that truly spoke to me was, “Hey, he doesn’t look as big as he used to be.”  The fear obviously melted away as the giant bear was being viewed through a different lens.

Woods at night

Fast forward to March 2018, just two nights ago.  Our two dogs, Sammie and Shorty, went out into the very dark backyard to do their biz just before bedtime.  Like racehorses they took off out into the blackness of the property barking like country hunting hounds, which they’re not.   My wife Michelle, called for me to come take a look at a large black shadowy figure perched in one of our trees.  There it was, way up high, huge and ominous looking, nestled tightly by its claws on a long sprawling thick limb.  A neighborhood possum, the largest I had ever seen (possibly pregnant) came to visit, but frozen stiff in the canine calamity.  I had forgotten how, as a defensive strategy, in an involuntary response, the possum will play dead when frightened or highly anxious in a traumatic event.  I am sure there is another thirteen-letter medical term for this action, but I can pronounce, “Thanatosis”, a state resembling shock resulting in playing dead.  Frankly, I felt badly for the mammoth marsupial clinging to our tree.  In many ways, it reminded me of myself.

In May, I will turn 58 years old, yet I feel as if I have lived three or four lifetimes.  I have lived through incredible tragedies, traumas and turmoils.  My life was forced into a horrific near death experience (Read my post from mid February.)  There have been abuses suffered in every aspect.  Unexpected health crashes are part of the maze, including a quadruple bypass performed this past December.  A novel could be written of the countless trials, tortures and troubles.  All of which could have ended my mental health, and/or my very life, like a road running out of pavement.  There’s a great possibility I may be the poster child for survival training.  Maybe I should teach a course on the subject.  Yet, I hear the lyrics from Kelly Clarkson’s hit, “Stronger” and wonder why I didn’t write the following section of the song…

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Stand a little taller…What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter.  Footsteps even lighter…”

Stairs in Savana seawall

The lyrics sound appropriate, and even true, but alas, I am a little girl staring at a stuffed grizzly, or a frozen possum in a tree.  Even though those in the know say about 98% of what we worry about never happens, I must admit it doesn’t help.  Fear overtakes my steps forward too many times.  After the old ship gets a constant beating against its thinning hull, the anxiousness of launching again can override the euphoric adventures of what lies beneath, or around the darkened corner, or down a flight of stairs to a mysterious place.  In recent years I find I tend to freeze.  It’s funny really, I used to be the opposite when I was younger, before the tsunamis ravaged my landscape. How is it I was once known as the brave warrior with sword drawn, leading the charge, forging off into the blackened thicket of things?  How is it I was the kickboxer unafraid of the next punch or shin across the rib-cage from a world contender?  Where are those days?


In essence, I just spelled out my worldview, my fleshly camera angle with the warped lens through which I tend to filter.  However, I do have another view that is detached from my human knee-jerk reactions to the stuffed grizzly and barking pack in the velvet night.  The view, through my very spirit, that part of me that will never die, outlasting all things I consider mine: my body, my brain, my health.  It is that boundless, reconstructed and renewed spiritual center of my DNA I must default to when the “BOO” in life causes me to grab the nearest tree limb.  There is where I find the “hidden Person of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4).  It’s Twila Paris’ old song spells it out, “The Warrior is a Child”.

It is to be God’s grip, not mine.

After all, the grizzly standing in the opposite corner really is smaller than when I first met him.  When there are bear tracks in the dark, it’s best to be lit with fuel for the race.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” – Paul from, 2 Timothy 1:7. (NAS)




“Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea.  All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see.  Dust in the wind.  All we are is dust in the wind.” – Recorded by:  Kansas, 1977.  Released, 1978.  Composer:  Kerry Livgren

They came somewhat covertly early last week, Tuesday morning to be exact.  Several masked scrappy-looking men, wearing gloves, dark glasses and baseball caps broke through, encroaching with the sunrise.  They quietly pulled up to the curb in a truck in the early morning while I remained defenseless in a deep sleep.  They brazenly, with all sense of one focused purpose, poured out of their truck, covered their faces with bandannas, and raided our property in broad daylight of the dawn.  It was horrifying.  The dreaded lawn-care crew invaded, started their mowers and latched themselves onto their leaf blowers without apology.

I never really liked spring in Texas.  Not that the blooms are less to look at than those in New York, but for other purposes.  Maybe it’s the pollen gifting sneezes, or the childhood memories of saying goodbye to classmates at the end of the school year.  Maybe it’s because the Texas heat , with deflating humidity, begins to melt your energy as early as April.  Either way, I could go from fall to winter then winter to fall with nothing in between, at least I think I could.  But here they were, marking the beginning of things to come as they chopped away at the lawn for the first time this season.

It’s funny the memories of yard work I have endured (and hated) over the years.  In the days of yore, I recall cranking up the old Craftsman mower from Sears (after my mom lit a fire under me) and went to it.  We were poor and couldn’t afford lots of lawn-care tools.  In fact, the mower I cut my teeth on didn’t have a grass-catcher bag attached.  The blades of discarded grass and weeds spewed out the side of the mower laying on the last row of newly sheered lawn where it remained.  As expected, in the end it disbursed by the wind.  What did stay, turned yellow and crunchy under the feet in the Texas sun.  It was what it was….chaff, so to speak.

Dust In The Wind was a huge hit when I was a senior in high school.  In fact, it became a classic and is highly regarded today as a treasure among the American songbook of the 70’s.  Kerry Livgren, of the group Kansas, and composer of the song, had become a Christian after years of spiritual searching and testing other theological and philosophical road-maps.  The other members of Kansas once said, back in the day, if you went to the back of the tour bus where Kerry was, they always were prepared to debate religion and philosophy.  In the lyric, you can hear his search for spiritual redemption and value.

As the decades go by, kids grow and exit stage left, grandchildren enter from stage right and health issues attend the golden way.  I can see, for me, school never seems to let out.  You get to a certain age where you have seen more in life than you will in the future.  I’m there.  One might ask; “Alan, just what have you observed?”   I’m glad you asked.

As the masked men tackled our lawn, wild flowers were hashed and slashed, weeds were mulched and clovers sliced and diced.  (Yes, even the four-leaf variety.)  When finished, all the tiny bits and pieces were blown away into the early morning March air, never to be rejoined to the stems left behind.

If you use your imagination, while sitting on a lawn chair with your cup of java, you can place your life among the shortened blades of grass.

Mower wacking

I’ve learned that dreams are mowed over, products of your work gets cut down, property rusts, rots and falters.  Diplomas and certificates, confirming conquered majors and minors, turn yellow and fade.  Fellowship, itself, blows away as friends leave you in the dust, or physically move away.  Strength, once thought of as life’s nuts and bolts, weaken, losing its grip.  Have you noticed that even careers, businesses and opportunities, once thought as bedrock, fall under the active sickles?  Wealth, retirement or income can escape in a day as things change with a blistering gust from Wall Street.  Beloved pets come and go like Texas Bluebonnets in early spring.  Isn’t it true, even self-esteem withers when there’s a drought?  Reputations often are bagged and taken to the curb as public image can be weed-whacked.  Your closest relationships grow old or often sour under the beating rays of the sun.  Unfortunately, marriages often get mulched under the swinging blades of life.  Certainly, the very life of the famous, the proud, including kings and queens, are visited by the blades.  When a loved one is cut down, before the possessions are distributed and the bank account is dissolved, the life is remembered.  The lyric of George Harrison comes to mind in, “All Things Must Pass”.

“All things must pass.  None of life’s strings can last.  So I must be on my way and face another day.  All things must pass away.” – George Harrison (1970)

In the end, there is a great tractor that cuts wide and deep, ravaging everything under its path.  The chaff of such is tossed into the wind, or bundled for the herds waiting in an open pasture.  After the team of mowers and blowers have loaded up their trailer and all is raked and bagged, what remains?

Billy Graham would say, the only thing that truly lasts is your relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Eternal, not temporal. Imperishable, not perishable.

The mower needs its gasoline just as we need ample supplies of fuel for the race.

“For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field, the grass withers and the flowers fall.” -1 Peter 1:24 (NIV)


To Miles With Love

“There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who standing looking
Ooh, it makes me wonder…”
Composers:  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
“Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin, 1971

(In honor of my friend Miles.)

Out of the blue I heard you didn’t pull the cord
The parachute used to float through life has failed
They said you were sleeping, not spilled on the floor
Gigs hushed, mountains unscaled, now grief prevails

Gone are those sweet days of our youth’s resilience
You with your rock band and I with mine
Gone are the days of full volume, crushed to silence
Where are our shots of laughter and innocent times

Miles' Warrors

You faced the horror, finding your mother passed
I knew we were too young to absorb or defend
So you turned to medicate softly to deaden the gash
The depths I did not see, the mask held to the end

Miles' keyboards

Fun-loving years we gleaned, all things well considered
You covered the pain with amps, frets and strings
Watching from afar your heart and mind dismembered
In wild abandon, you fought through choking weeds

The winds of change split our paths, yours a thorny way
Decades of numbing drink with daily acid to drop
Sad, not finding you through the wars of chosen haze
Still, your talents carried you with art and prints to crop

Miles' Art

Your love spread wings, giving shelter for those in your Victorian
They say you had a lofty heart, always aiding, always there
Yet, the demonic fuel did flow, like Pilate in his Praetorium
How were you able to be played, yet show Christ’s love and care

Miles' Corvettes

The great house has been stilled, and the guitars now hung
Your Corvettes are washed and waxed with no place to go
Shelves hold your empty bottles and your dealers stunned
Like dominoes, your inspired drunks, all lying in tight rows

As for me, I couldn’t sleep the night you so quietly left us
It all makes sense as I think back on the ache in dismay
Sometimes the burn of our past brands as we adjust
But, Miles, my best memory, that glorious night we prayed

How vital to select the correct nozzle, pumping fuel for the race.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” – Jesus – John 10:27-28 (NIV)

Mysterious Visitor

He boldly said, “I won’t be back, but you’re going to be okay.”

A Warning:

Before you read the account below, please read my article entry from last week entitled, “Confronted By Death – February 13, 2013.” This is a continuation of the life-changing event detailed in the earlier blog release.  In fact, I purposefully omitted this chapter of my story from last week’s piece. What is written here will be confusing if you read it prior to reading the entry posted on Feb 12th.

Once again, as I did in last week’s posting, I preface this account with a hard statement:

The documentation below is my accurate testimony, without embellishments or artistic license.  What I have written here was only witnessed by two people, my former wife (depicted for this purpose as “Joan”) and myself.  On more than three separate occasions, I double checked the facts and timelines with Joan in order to be as accurate as possible.  At the time, I told my doctors I would write a book about the experience of the journey I was hurled into.  I never did so.  Then came the promises to family, friends and God that I would tell the story in some format when the time was right.  In one case, I spoke clearly concerning my story during a speaking engagement.  Prior to public speaking of the episode, I documented it for posterity and memory sake.  I was reluctant to share this account on this blog, but was persuaded to do so, only after watching two similar occurrences from interviews with a well known Dallas, Texas business man, as well as Dr. Kenneth Cooper MD, MPH, founder of the renown, Cooper Aerobics Center and the Cooper Institute of Dallas, Texas.  In short, it is what it is.

I will make a request of you.  If you begin to read this stunning, and very personal episode, please read it to the end for a greater understanding of the evidence and circumstances detailed here.

CCU Hallway

A Grim Setting

I believe it to have been Friday the 16th, or Saturday the 17th of February, 2013.  I had just awakened for the first time from a coma.  (The first time with ability to observe and reason.) I was quickly beginning to get clarity of thought, consciousness of people around me and my surroundings.  As mentioned in my posting from last week, I was hooked up to various machines with tubes and cords coming in and out of every part of my body.  I was on life support and had my mouth full of tubes, unable to talk.  My wife, at the time, was there with nurses swiftly coming in and out of my ICU/CCU room like a fast food restaurant.  My room doorway in the ICU/CCU ward remained opened, leaving my bed in a clear line of sight from the nurses’ station just across the hall.  This was on the 3rd floor at the Medical City of Plano in Plano, Texas in the North Dallas area.  Opening my eyes, I recall seeing Joan standing close to the door that led into the hallway, as a nurse was tending to me.

To be as detailed as possible, I do not recall how much time passed from when my eyes opened and the following took place.  I will say less than five minutes, certainly no more than that time-frame.

A Grand Entrance

At a point when a nurse stepped out of my open door, a very familiar tall, slender man, clean-shaven with dark brown short thinning hair, walked briskly into my room as if he owned it, without knocking or asking if he could enter, or inquiring if I was awake or not.  He was dressed in a mid thigh dark coat, or a suit coat.  Aesthetically speaking, he looked to be roughly in his late 40’s.  As for appearances this is all I can honestly remember, with the exception of wearing a million dollar grin with joy-filled warm eyes to match.  There is no certainty, but I want to say his eyes were brown or hazel in color.

Without any hesitation or shyness, he walked right up to my bedside, on my left, and took my hand, which was strapped down.  Looking directly into my eyes he stated with a wide white toothy grin, “It hasn’t been a good day for Alan Brown, has it?”  This is a point that is difficult to explain.  As he asked the question, it was as if my best friend was there with a lighthearted phrase.  He was so very familiar to me, as if we had a past, a history.  Let’s just say, ironically, I recognized him, this man I had never met.

In retrospect, what is remarkable to me is the WAY he said the words.  He uttered them with an authority, as if he knew not only my prognosis at the time, but WHY I was hospitalized. As strange as it might sound, it was as if he wasn’t really asking a question, or even delivering a sounding board for information gathering.  When it hit my ears I thought I was missing time, as if he had been an eyewitness to a tragic event I didn’t recall and was following up with a kind visit.

At this time in my health event, I didn’t know a thing.  Clueless would be a good word.  (I knew I was in a hospital setting, but had no idea why or for how long.)  If I am sounding as if reaching or stretching for an explanation, I certainly understand, but he sounded as if he had the complete history of an event that I had yet to find out about.  My former wife told me later she hadn’t seen him before, outside or in the hallway prior to that moment.

My CCU Room Panned-2013

Dim To Lit

He continued to grip my left hand with his in the way we used to call the “soul handshake” with our thumbs nestled against each other at their base.  During his initial entrance, Joan had moved to the right side of the bed while he remained on my left, just between the railing of the bed and the row of machines keeping me alive.

Although intensely focused on my face, he glanced up at Joan a couple of times as he was speaking to me.  Let me add here, I began to get emotional, shedding a couple of tears.  It was unusual for me to get weepy without much context.  After all, this guy was a stranger who had only spoken one sentence at this point. However, I felt as if I was being caressed by a dear old friend, one I had known for a long time.  There must have been some sort of reading in my face for what he asked next.  I might have nodded my head in the affirmative or squeezed his hand because he reacted by saying, “Do you know who I am?”  I nodded my head to confirm.  Why did I?  Because, again, I felt like we had an old relationship.  I know, it doesn’t make sense as you read this today.  I understand.  One thing I want to add here is a certainty of the boldest expression in which he looked at me and spoke to me as if HE, too, had known me for a long time.  Joan described the look on my face as a look of comfort and connection, as well.  She indicated she thought at the time this man was someone I knew well by the glow on my face and the grip of our hands.  She went on to say for the first time she saw a “light” in my eyes.  (Apparently I had opened my eyes before, while in the coma, but nobody was at home, so to speak.)  One of the thoughts Joan had was that he must have been one of my favorite pastors from the metroplex area, prior to our marriage.  Making the point clear, I will repeat this important element: I never saw this man before that moment, yet somehow I knew him intimately. I only know he was there, the first visitor to comfort me at the moment I became conscious with full mental awareness, not a minute before, nor the next hour afterwards.

In a very cherished moment, he spoke some words that, to this day, cause me to shiver.  Joan believed it to be one of the most defining moments.  It was the stuff of raised eyebrows and confirmation that this man was not your average Joe randomly entering a stranger’s hospital room.  Withholding now the comments made, I will say, I speak of something divulged which was highly personal, shaking us both to the core.  However, I feel uncomfortable to share all he had to say, at this time.

“…This is what the Lord, the God of your father David says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you…” 2 Kings 20:5 (NIV) 

For the following I admit I honestly do not recall the next words used, although I would give away my possessions to know.  After some words of warmth and comfort, the man then said something to the effect of, “Let’s pray”, or “I want to pray for you”.  He reached across the bed to grab Joan’s hand. There we were, the three of us, alone in a CCU room without one interruption from medical staff or the various sounds from monitoring equipment, which seemed constant.  As mentioned earlier, the hospital staff was on high alert, constantly entering and exiting like an endless parade.  Yet, suddenly, there was an astonishing hush.

If I were to explain why I cannot bring up the wording of his prayer it would be simply put, I was mesmerized.  It was as if we were somewhere else with frozen clocks.  To describe exactly how I felt during this part of his very quick visit is to solicit judgment from those who will flush this entire account of my mysterious visitor.  I am hyper-aware some will claim me to be a cloaked new-ager of the highest order, or mystic at heart with deceitful intentions of pulling out of the reader a wow factor.  Allow me to reinstate, as the Lord God is my eternal judge, I speak the truth of the matter written in this testimony, without the tool of artistic license.

A No Latin Or King James Zone

Joan has verified and attests to the following description:  As he prayed, beginning with whatever his opening words were, I was in complete and utter wonderment, we both were, almost to the realm of a trance-like state.  He didn’t “pray TO” the Father, or spoke “AT” the Father, but rather he “communed verbally WITH” the Father.  He gave off the sense of a closeness or intimacy with Whom he addressed.  No dogma, no Christianese, no highbrow factors.  Lacking were the standard Old English verbiage, habitual memorized automatic phrasing, or a listing of the various titles of the Almighty One (often used to impress the human ears).  If you are not a person of faith, or an unchurched individual, you will not understand my meaning, and that’s okay.  Stay with me on this.  If you are a person of faith, let me ask in all sincerity, the following:  Does this make any sense at all?  Has this happened to you in your prayer life?  In my clumsy efforts, I am sure I am not truly revealing, in a comprehensive way, the sheer, raw essence of this man’s prayer.  To say I have known thousands of Christians in my life would be a gross understatement.  It is also a gross understatement to say I have heard thousands of prayers and from many who would certainly be labeled “prayer-smiths”, who could write them as poetry, selling calligraphy or audio copies for years to come.  At no time in my days have I ever been lifted, dazed and amazed as I was with this man’s effectiveness of praying.  He delivered the prayer as if he were speaking to a brother or a dad he had known since hour one.  When you hear someone speaking on the phone with a loved one, where you only hear a one-sided conversation, this is the hew of tone he used with warmth, love and an overwhelming sense of the familiar.  As I laid there I felt as if warm honey had made its way into my IV.  It was nuts!

“There isn’t any problem in my life, there isn’t any uncertainty in my work, but I turn and speak to Him as naturally as to someone in the same room, and I have done it these years because I can trust Jesus.” – D.L. Moody, Founder of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. 

After he prayed, he walked to the other side of the bed, spoke her name and lovingly hugged Joan, wrapping his hand around the back of her head, patting her as if consoling a long lost daughter, just holding her there for a few seconds.  I watched her simply melt into his embrace like a rag doll.  I had never seen her so moved, nor since.  She later would compare it to a father holding a child in comfort, with designated warmth she had never felt to the point of a physical relaxing of the muscles.

An Astonishing Reveal

The two of us gazed at him as he walked toward the door just as he had entered.  Just before he stepped out into the hallway, while placing his hand on the door frame, he turned and stated something strangely odd for the occasion.  The first part of the sentence was, “I won’t be back…”  It was true, we never saw him again.  Within a six week hospital stay, there were a couple dozen ministers, pastors, chaplains and church layman, with business cards in hand, who took the time to visit with me.  Although I dearly appreciated the encouraging visits and prayers done on my behalf, none could ever compare to this mysterious moment of visitation.  I say his reveal was strangely odd, and it was.  But the proclamation spoken, ending his statement, was the most mysterious phrase of the entire episode. He said something no doctor, EMT or nurse had yet to say and wouldn’t say from that time onward.  Just before his exit, with that enormous grin, in concert with the joy in his eyes, with a forceful delivery, these words were the last thing he uttered, “…but you’re going to be okay.” 

I won’t be back, but you’re going to be okay.”

That declaration was the exact opposite of what we heard during my six weeks in the hospital.  There wasn’t much hope concerning my survival, in fact almost zero when I arrived in the ER.  All through my struggling journey, while in the hospital, I was being told of how handicapped I would be for the rest of my life.  I was told to expect a return to ICU/CCU.  I was told my kidneys were dead and would never come back.  I was told about unexplored brain damage, heart damage, neurological nightmares, motor skills,  muscle depletion, double pneumonia, sepsis in the bloodstream, etc.  So, how dare he blatantly sound off as he walked out the door with these words, obviously said in ignorance and false hope, “…but you’re going to be okay.”  Delivered in the midst of tragedy, as if he knew for certain the outcome of the crucial time, his delivery was smooth and effortless.  How cruel!  Am I right?  Joan, knowing the extent of my condition at that time more than I, was left stunned at this sentence.

My CCU Room Zoom-in 2013

He Might Have Been Olympic Great Jesse Owens

In a state of shock, along with wiping tears from her face, Joan said something to the effect of, “Wow, that was really a different experience.”  She then mentioned to me how she didn’t ask for his card (as was her practice with various ministers visiting me).  Right away she turned toward the door and left to catch him.  After a time, she came back with a pale look.  She told me that he wasn’t seen in the hallway or visiting any other CCU patients in other rooms. (With the exception of my room, the other rooms had sliding glass doors.)  My room was in the corner of two adjacent long hallways where you could see all the way down to other wings, both leading in two different directions.  She approached the nurses at the desk just outside my room, some nine or ten feet from my open door.  After she inquired about our visitor and his description, they claimed they saw no one in my room. Zero, zilch, nada!  I strain to even type the following, but I must.  He simply seemed to have vanished.

My CCU ward layout 2013

Almost as if I had responded to a director’s cue in a tear-jerking scene in Act II, I slipped right back into a coma a short time after he left us.  I remained unconscious for at least another 12-24 hours.

The simple truth sounds absurd.  I awoke, for the first time, before he entered the open doorway, and sunk back under the surface of unconsciousness after his exit.  Beyond being ultra mystifying, it didn’t occur to us until weeks later that while he was there, not one staffer walked in or out.  It was as if time was stilled in that room exclusively for the three of us.  Of course, that never happened again with any other visitors.  It was indeed an exclusive moment.

If you’re like me, your mind is probably scrambling and searching every corner of the imagination to find a key to unlock this mystery.  Don’t spin your wheels, I already have. Joan and I muddled through a mix of scenarios concerning this mysterious visitor.  Between the two of us we came up with a couple of possible explanations.  Allow me to shed some light on our thoughts.

It wasn’t long when I began to wonder about the in-house chaplain service there.  It would be natural for an “on-his/her-toes” chaplain to visit the CCU patients and families every day with some good old fashioned shoe leather, followed by some pressing of the flesh.

A Visit Of Another Kind 

Not too many days after they wheeled me into my new telemetry room on the 5th floor three weeks later, a middle-aged woman with a clipboard sheepishly knocked on my door.  She wasn’t dressed in hospital garb, but did have a badge identifying herself as a member of the chaplain volunteer service.  I never remembered her name, but she was very faithful to visit me when she was on duty.  She explained to me that she was indeed a volunteer who was commissioned, by the chaplain himself, to visit the patients on each floor.  She said there were just a handful of volunteers who participate in that ministry, which are mostly made up of laypeople from different faiths, to be available and suited for any situation and/or needs of various faiths, creeds and cultures.  With direct intension, she asked if I wanted her to pray for me.  I immediately responded in the affirmative.  She asked what faith I belonged to.  I told her I was Christian and quickly added, “I belong to the Lord”.  How evangelical of me.  Frankly, I don’t know why that phrase came out of my mouth, only to say it was like an involuntary reflux. The health event did rekindle a hearth-like closeness to God from the moment I was awake with the ability to reason again.  Like a survey marketer, asking about my race or marital status, she asked if I was protestant or catholic. By this time I just wanted to say, “Sister, forget the titles and the denominational stats.  Place your rubber-garnished hand in mine and let’s get to it.”  After what I had been through up to that point all religious borders, laws and ideas of what God looks like seemed almost silly child’s play to me.  I knew the true Creator, Healer and Lover of my soul and He is a God of intimacy, on the microscopic personal level, Who cares not for the titles we publish to each other.  Somehow, the truth-is-truth notch had been cranked up in my heart and mind.  Instead, I answered very calmly, “Protestant”.  To this day, I don’t recall when I asked her about the man who visited me, but I did ask if he was the chaplain.  She said he wasn’t there every day.  That was one of the purposes for her volunteerism and her co-minister’s efforts.  When I described the mysterious man to her in detail, she didn’t recognize him, but she didn’t believe he was the chaplain.

Being Sherlock 

After several months at home I gained strength to get myself to the desktop computer.  I initiated a bit of research on the chaplain ministry at Medical City of Plano.  Like a would-be gumshoe, I went to the hospital website in hopes of finding a page on the chaplain ministry and perhaps a photo of the chaplain.  Very little info on the ministry was on the site, but it did give me a phone number to the chaplain’s office.  Like a man on a mission and without hesitation, I called.  The chaplain himself answered the phone.  Without delivering all the fine details, I told him a bit of why I was calling.  He reconfirmed to me about the structure of the volunteer staff.  He explained some chaplain office protocols.  He revealed how they are required to wear badges with their names and what service of the hospital they serve under. He mentioned he too dons a name-tag at all times while on duty.  It seems they all are told they MUST ask permission to pray with the patients when introducing themselves and their general ministry.  Also, they MUST ask the individual’s religion of choice in order to pray the selective prayers with all its slants.  After a nervous swallow I inquired concerning his length of service there, thinking he may be new to that location.  He said he had been the one and only chaplain there for ten years.  A lump grew in my throat when I asked if it might have been him in my CCU room that day.  Right away he began to describe his features to me.  By process of elimination he was out of the running fairly quick when he mentioned how he was heavyset and wore a salt-n-pepper beard.  I asked if he would have been clean-shaven the week of Feb 13th.  He proudly replied that he had his beard for at least six years. Like a snapshot flashback, I was reminded of the slender, beardless, tagless, badgeless man who did not ask permission to pray over me in my CCU experience. Nor did he ask what religion I adhered to.  I thanked him for his service and said good-bye. With remarkable timing, my wife walked through the front door.  Right away I told her of my decision to look up the chaplain at the hospital.  Before I could tell her how the minister described himself to me over the phone, she said he, the chaplain, had come by a few times while I was in CCU.  She had his card to prove it.  Before that moment, I had no idea Joan had met the chaplain.  She immediately stated the mystery man was NOT the chaplain.  Her description of him was spot on.  She vividly remembered both the chaplain and the mysterious visitor being two very different men.

Questions have faded in my brain concerning the man.  There is a good reason too.  FAITH!

No need to ask me where God was in my time of trouble, trauma and tragedy.  He will do what He will do.

Poignant Questions

Without my identity on the door, how did he know my full name?  Moreover, how did he know Joan’s name?  Why or how was it that we seemed to know one another?  Why did he know of my desperate, critical condition without seeing my chart or asking a status at the nurses’ station?  Even so, there were medical privacy rights in play.  Why did he not ask permission from the nursing staff, or the welcome desk, or Joan herself to enter my room and approach me, the guy in the coma?  Why did he not knock before entering my room?  During the time of the visit, why did the hospital staff not enter, as was their custom, regardless of who I was with?  Just before he left the room, why did he make it a point to tell us we wouldn’t see him again? I dare say, the average visitor wouldn’t spell that out in a case like mine.  Why was that important to mention?  Could it be he was saying, “So, take this word of encouragement.  Use it and ride it like a wave.  No need for me to come back.”  Lastly, why did he walk in as soon as I came out of the coma and not before and/or after other friends or family visited?  Why was he seemingly aware I had just awakened and was about to go back under?  The timing was, well…impeccably synced to perfection.  How did he vanish in the hallway, alluding the nursing staff?  How could he exit the long hallways before Joan followed him out of the room?  Was he an Olympic sprinter?  Perhaps other questions may arise, but one thing is for certain.  Whoever he was, there is a peace of knowing that after my life is over this same individual will come to me once again with that brilliant grin and say, “Hello, Alan Brown.  Remember me?”  My response will be, “How could I ever forget?”  In that new day I will not be surprised if he then says, “It’s a good day for Alan Brown, isn’t it?”

My veins have been full ever since with warm fuel for the race.

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14 (NIV)

Confronted By Death – Feb 13, 2013

There is a power keeping you alive, and it’s not us.” – Medical City of Plano’s chief respiratory doctor.

This will be different than any other article from my blog page.

At the risk of sounding overtly macabre, I must resist the fear of writing the following account.  I promised myself, God and others, I would write in detail, candor and accuracy of the event that took place five years ago this week.  Please know, the following details are indeed truthful in every way without embellishment, even though some aspects may be difficult to believe unless you know me well or if you were there.  I am one not known for tall tales of fantasies, or a demon under every rock.  My friends and family would assure you of this fact.  If you are from the medical industry, know that other members of the medical field are always amazed when they read my medical history.   Before God, the Living One, the Father of Israel in Whom I trust, all descriptions of the events from February 2013 written below are true and verifiably witnessed events.  The episode I am testifying changed my life on multi-levels that remain with me today.  It is my hope, you, or someone you know, might glean a newness, a sense of hope, a concrete foundation that we (you and I) are never alone.  The reality you will find from the entire reading of my story is that we (you and I) are greatly cared for out of undeserved love and favor.  Know this, going into the text beyond this line, YOU cannot, and never will, defeat death, nor can concentrated grit of fortitude.  Allow me to tell you my story.  Feel free to print this off for an easier read.

The Unexpected

For a few weeks at the beginning of 2013, my former wife (For this account, we will call her Joan.) and I were treating a boil on the back of my head at the base of the skull.  I was reluctant to see a doctor in that I was uninsured at the time.  So, for me, home remedies seemed to be the answer.  The boil grew delivering severe pain, a physical anguish I had not experienced up to that point in life.  One of the soothing routines was to soak the back of my head in a hot salt bath.  I did this often, every couple of days.  On February 10th-12th, a change became evident.  I began to slur my speech, even to the point of being non-intelligible at times.  My body and mind slipped into a stage of being lethargic.  I slept almost around the clock, at one point, 20 hours.  On the 12th, I began to be violently ill.  That is the last thing I remember.

For a good year or two my marriage was also violently ill.  Divorce had already been considered.  The canyon dividing us was vast and bottomless.  Nightly, I slept in the closed master bedroom while Joan made her bed on the living room couch.  It was a joint decision.

Here, I believe it important to note that the following is from her account of the pre-hospitalization event.  It might be wise to include here that Joan probably had been drinking heavily that day.  It was common.

Around 2:00am, on February 13th, Joan heard bath water running from the bathroom, just adjacent to the master bedroom.  Later, Joan admitted she reasoned I had awoke from sleeping around the clock and was prepping for another soak, so she turned over and went back to sleep.

Some six-seven hours later, at approximately 8:30-9:00 that morning, Joan opened the bedroom door only to find me missing.  She then walked to the master bathroom door, opened it and found me lying in a tub full of frigid water, with my face above the waterline, my eyes were open and fixed.  My skin was shell-colored.  I was unresponsive and ice cold to the touch.

For logic I cannot fully understand or explain, she delayed calling 911 for some unverifiable length of time.  In a moment of clarity, Joan called my mom, who lived some 60 miles away, telling her that I had gone to “another place” and described what she had discovered.  My mom recollects those maddening minutes.  Joan mentioned something to her about not having life insurance on me.  Being dismayed at the words, Mom pushed Joan to hang up and call 911 immediately.  While my mom was trying to cut through the confusing conversation, she had Joan place the phone to my ear as my mom yelled at me to awaken, but to no avail.  After several minutes, my mom pleaded with her again to call for an ambulance, and did so several times.  Joan then told her that I was naked in the tub and that I wouldn’t want the EMTs to see me in that condition.  She went on to say she wanted to take a shower first before calling.  (As a side note, the shower was built alongside the bathtub with only a glass wall separating the shower stall and tub.  While taking a shower she would have been looking down at my naked stone cold body.)  With a bit of fire in her tone, my mom finally convinced her to call for help.

Within the hour, I was rushed to the ER, to what is now called, Medical City of Plano in Plano, Texas.  No doubt the EMTs feverishly worked on my body in efforts to revive me.  I was told, many days later, by Dr. Betz, the ICU/CCU doctor in charge, they brought me in dead.

The ER staff was unable to fully revive me and placed me on life support.  At some hour overnight in that bathtub, my body suffered a full-organ shutdown with only minimal brain activity.  I was left comatose.  As common in situations like mine, the ER staff placed an internal thermometer into my torso revealing, at that hour, a core body temperature of 78 degrees!  (Few ever come back to tell of a 78 degree core body temperature.)  Not only had my organs stopped functioning, I was also suffering from hypothermia from being encased in cold bath water for several hours in mid February.  After the ER team consulted with several specialists it was decided that I was a lost cause and to consult my wife in the waiting room.

After discovering I had no directive or legal will, the ER doctor on duty, as well as a nurse, advised Joan of my dire condition explaining a respirator was keeping me breathing.  He went on to tell her they could try to treat me in my current condition, but that patients in my circumstance who survive are 1 out of 20.  He went on to mention there was no way to know how much brain damage had been levied.  The ER doctor made an attempt to have her choose a directive to pull the plug.  In the end, Joan signed a document requesting that they treat me in efforts to sustain my life.

The most common question I am asked surrounds the cause of the full-organ shutdown.  To be as accurate as I can, it remains a mystery.  There were a number of factors, all of which could have ended my life.  It may have originated from hypothermia after falling asleep in the bath, cardiac arrest, infection from the open boil, diabetic shock, kidney failure, etc.  All of the above could’ve happened first, but nothing can be chronologically pinpointed with all certainty.  All we can say is an internal domino effect occurred sometime in the overnight hours.

Sometimes being gone is better.

I am unsure the exact number of days I was in a coma.  I will say I had come out of a coma once for a significantly short time (which I will detail for you next week in a part II article) only to slip back into it for at least another day or two.  The impression from calculations, based upon friends and family who had visited my ICU/CCU room, I believe it was a four-day coma.

When I surfaced to consciousness, for the final time, I was aware I was in the hospital, but unaware of why or what had deposited me there.  It’s funny what can go through one’s head in that circumstance.  I recall being confused as to why my wrists and ankles were strapped down.  I was made aware right away that I was hooked up to loud machines and monitors all around the bed.  There were tubes and hoses going in and out of every orifice, and I mean EVERY orifice, with the exception of my ears.  In fact, besides the IVs and ports in various areas of my body, I also had one tube going into my rib-cage and another planted in the side of my neck.  I couldn’t inquire verbally, with breathing hose and feeding tube down my throat.  Other than a slight ability to nod and shake my head, as well as do a thumbs up in response, my body wouldn’t move on command.  Nurses and doctors were coming in and out like a swinging door, but rarely did anyone speak directly to me, as if I wasn’t there.

My immediate thought was I had been the victim of a car crash.  Curiosity spun my mental gymnastics every minute.  Joan walked in the room at some point telling me things at home would be different from now on.  My first thought was that she meant our relationship would be better now.  Interestingly, my fresh-from-a-coma brain went to the ailing, damaged relationship at home when she uttered those words.  In retrospect, I believe she was trying to say my health, my lifestyle had been compromised.

This new “awakening” was so hard for a plethora of reasons.  In contrast to the state I was in just prior to my days in a coma, the realities of a CCU room were close to torturous.  One of the almost unbearable treatments, still so prominent in my memory, was no liquid whatsoever passed my lips for almost three weeks due to the inability to swallow properly.  Hydration was applied through an IV and a feeding tube into my abdomen.  My tongue became like lizard skin.

While in a coma (or while separated from my body), I was at perfect peace, with a sense of flotation, never touching the ground.  There was no noise, no sound, only solitude.  There was no sense of the passing of time.  There was a lack of care for clocks and calendars.  There were no binding limitations, but rather a feeling of flying or floating at will, wherever I wanted to go.  Vivid ultra-brilliant colors of objects observed were beyond any shades I had ever witnessed in my lifetime.  Frankly, they were shockingly striking to the vision.  Here I will stop with my description that forever will be stamped in my memory.  Just allow me to say I had an experience beyond the reality of the bathtub and hospital bed.  It is incredibly personal and forever shall be.  Only a handful of close friends and family have been given my “beyond view” of that time.

There is a Power

I had 8 doctors working on me.  However, in the beginning while in ER, there was one doctor, the only doctor, who wanted to take on my case, to give me a chance of survival.  All others had felt I was for file 13.  This one courageous and selfless man was a kidney doctor, Dr. Sidiqui.  After I came out of the coma and began to show unanticipated signs of my body functioning, other specialists were assigned to me.  Regardless of the prognosis from a team of professionals, regardless of my 1 out of 20 chance of survival, regardless of how my body was still in resurrection mode, Dr. Sidiqui never gave up hope, always going the extra mile.  Although I was on sessions of dialysis, breathing treatments, oxygen mask and fluid pumps, I was improving very slowly.  I am unsure of when I developed sepsis in the bloodstream, but a debridement surgery of my head was performed where the infected boil was.  I also developed pneumonia in both lungs while in CCU.  After a time, I was helping to plan part of my own funeral with one of my daughters and a dear cousin.  Over the span of several months, I lost some 70+ pounds, much of it in muscle tissue.  I became anemic.  I started with zero body function but gained motor skills at a snail’s pace.  During physical and occupational therapy my body had to learn to swallow again, walk again, talk again and write again all because I had lost most of my motor skills, including various neurological autonomic functions.

Plano Med Center Stan PT guy Sept 2, 2014

Photo:  Stan, my physical therapist from Feb 2013

I spent three weeks in ICU/CCU then I was upgraded to a telemetry room for another three weeks.  One day I found myself listening to three doctors, including a couple of nurses, standing over me.  CCU is NOT a quiet place.  After having several staff members swing by my room, congratulating me on the rise from death, some of whom were telling me they were there when I was brought into the ER, the doctors were discussing what meds to remove, how much fluid to drain and what my prognosis was for each organ.  As the conversation wore down, my respiratory specialist, while looking at my thick chart said, “There’s a power keeping you alive, and it’s not us.”  He slammed the notebook closed and walked out in frustration.  I responded by saying it was the result of many people praying for me.  I will never forget that moment.  It was as if God needed me to hear what he had to say openly to bolster my personal faith.

As for Dr. Sidiqui, he explained the unfortunate truth was that my kidneys had not come back to life.  Simply put, I was at stage five kidney disease.  After leaving the hospital after six weeks, I was admitted to out-patient dialysis three or four times a week, four hours at a time.  This was devastating on my body.  I likened it to chemo treatments.  It left me weak and very ill for two days after each session.  At the same time, I had a Medvac attached to the base of my skull.  This was a suction hose going from the surgical area of the debridement of the boil, which was a 4”-5” square of raw flesh thinly covering that part of my skull, and leading to a briefcase-size unit I had to carry.  It was in efforts to keep the open wound free of particles and toxins which remained on my head 24/7 for several weeks.  Surprisingly, after several months of this harsh regiment, my kidneys began to come back.  In fact, the kidneys rose to a stage three status which discharged me from dialysis.  The nurses at the dialysis center were in shock.  Again, that alone is almost unheard of.  Today, I remain at stage three, leaving a 31% renal working capacity, managing functionality as best as I can.

Being an invalid at home was a new difficult challenge.  Dr. Sidiqui worked hard to place me in a much needed rehab hospital, but was unable.  Slowly, from June to the end of October of 2013, I worked on strength and endurance while using a walker.  October 31st, I was admitted in an out-patient physical therapy program, at another hospital, which lasted through February of 2014.  Because of the fine work there at that facility, I was able to graduate from a walker, to a cane, to walking without assistance.

The personal tsunami of February 13, 2013 still has its waves around my house.  Some effects remain in the aftermath, but I am relatively well, considering the alternative, with a few lasting medical issues that are managed daily (too many to list here).  After all, it’s hard to come back from the dead.

To this day, medical personnel often will ask how I was able to stay alive with the ability to function.  Many answer their own question before I am able to get the words out.  “It must be for a divine purpose” or “God had His hand on you” or “You must believe in prayer”.  I say, all of the above.  As an ER respiratory nurse told me, when our time comes, we have very little to do with it.  Without power of our own, we seem to be like a flower plucked out of a meadow by a force outside of ourselves.  That is so true.  The shear realities, surrounding the fact that you are reading this from my own fingers on a keyboard, dictate that I did not survive because I am an exceptional individual or some righteous leader.  To be blunt, I deserved the opposite of life.  The hospital admitted I walked away beyond the scope of their medical technology, care and the modern medical mechanics available.  They called me “Miracle Man” during those last few weeks.  However, it is clear; the power did not come from me, nor from their medical abilities, but rather from the Creator of the body.  (More proof of this next week in a part II article.)

Some have asked how it all has changed me, other than physical.  My answer is easy.  I love more.  I tell my loved ones more.  I reach out more.  I am grateful more often with a greater measure.  I find I cry more at movies, TV shows, commercials, photos and songs.  How can you not have your life placed back in your lap, knowing you had nothing to do with it, and not be more sensitive in every way?  Furthermore, I don’t get all twisted up in anger at the level I once did concerning trivial, temporal stuff.  I came back realizing there’s too much in the world that doesn’t matter in the end, only eternals.  We are often fooled into thinking temporals matter as priority.

If you’re wondering about my medical bills from that year alone…over $1,000,000.00!


As mentioned earlier, my next blog, part II, entitled “A mysterious Visitor” will surround an astonishing slice of time in my CCU room that we could not explain away.  Frankly, that part of the story is far more important and stunning than anything I have written here.  Look for it on my page in a few days.  Once you read what I omitted in the account above, you might find it leads to the pump of fuel for the race.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that you may have life and have it in fullness.” – Jesus –   John 10:10 (paraphrased)


Hook, Line & Stinker

“You’re dreaming your life away.  Fish out of water.  Go swim in the tide today…”  Fish Out Of Water, Recorded by: Tears For Fears, (1993)  Composers: Alan Griffiths/Roland Orzabal

Fish Photo:  ABCNEWS.com

The following is a true story.  Have your giggle box turned on.

An old friend of mine had an office just two doors down from a family-owned cleaning business in Buffalo, NY.  He and the owner of the cleaners became friends over the years and fishing buddies.  In fact, the two were maniacs for the open waters, with fishing poles in hand, two or three times a month.  The owner of the cleaners had a large freezer set up in the back storage room of his business.  Whenever he came back from a fishing trip, he would store the fish there at the establishment for future dinners at home as needed.

Chow Chow Petwave.com

Chow Chow Photo:  petwave.com

One of the pleasures of having your own business is feeling free to bring the family dog with you every day.  He had a beautiful Chow Chow (we will call him Chang) by his side each business day.  The beloved Chang became somewhat of a mascot for the business.  The customers always expected to see his special brand of canine greeting as they walked through the door with their bundle of laundry.  Chang was fun-loving with an obvious sense of ownership for the place.  Whatever he saw and sniffed, he felt he owned it, as most dogs do.  When the little bell on the top of the front door rang, he came running to the counter to see who had come to say hello.  Chang also loved ice fishing with his owner.  He knew the fish-treats were coming in short order, while watching the line sink into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario.

On the night of October 12, 2006, and throughout the overnight hours bleeding into October 13th, a terrible blizzard blew across the region leaving behind broken trees, collapsed roofs, crushed vehicles, downed power lines and four to six-foot snowdrifts.  To say it appeared to be a winter bomb would be accurate.  It was called the October Surprise Storm and it was devastating.  Two weeks later, on Halloween, officials were discouraging trick-or-treaters from going door-to-door because of broken limbs, debris and power lines remaining on sidewalks and common grounds.  It took the rest of the year to clean up after that horrific blast.  Erie County snow plows were not yet prepared in mid October for this kind of icy squall.  Many, including your’s truly, were without power for many days, some for weeks on end.  Convoys of utility trucks, from power companies from several states, came to our aid in the aftermath.

The shopping center strip, where the cleaners was located, had been closed for business for lack of power.  After a good week or two, power was restored and the cleaners opened its doors to receive customers.  Unfortunately for the owner, the freezer packed with fish had to be unloaded and cleaned out.  As you can imagine, when the freezer door was opened, everyone had to cover their noses.  Naturally, this wasn’t good for a well-respected cleaning business and the racks of customer’s clothing just waiting to be redeemed after being cleaned and pressed.  So, the business man made a quick executive decision to remedy his problem.  Behind the business, beyond the alleyway, was a rather large vacant field.  Snow was still on the ground as he loaded up the rotting fish on a flatbed dolly, dumping the fish into a pile a good distance from the back of the building.  After a good cleaning of the freezer, and some air freshener, all was right with the business once again.

As the snow began to melt with the sunshine in late October and early November, the back door to the business was often propped open for deliveries and for a fresh breeze during decent weather.  One day, Chang peered through his facial fur and spied a glorious canine opportunity as the back door was left opened.  He ran across the alleyway and into the field with a giddiness in his step.  As he approached the rotting, putrid pile of decomposing fish, without missing a beat, Chang dove right on top of the mound of fishy mush.  He lavished in the rolling of his thick-haired body all across the stack of stench of stiffs.  He was seen exercising intentional maneuvers to shellac his coat, belly, face, head and rear with his newly-found heaven of heaping hell.  He enjoyed it greatly.  So much so, that he made a happy bee-line back to the cleaners to share his wallowing experience with his owner, as well as his patrons.  My friend, two doors down, told me he laughed the whole time as he witnessed Chang’s joy while on his smelly excursion.  He said, as Chang trotted into the building, it took less than a minute as the customers and staff ran out of the doors, evacuating as quickly as possible as if a wild bear had just raided the place.

Poor Chang.  I’m a dog lover.  I’m not a pro, but I know canine psychology fairly well.  As he rubbed his fur all over the foul fish, a witness might have heard him say, “MINE!  ALL MINE!” (In dog language, of course.)  I’m certain, as he entered the cleaners afterward, he was proud to share the fog that followed for a collective celebration.

Chang comes to mind when I am reminded of the new world we are living in.  There are too many instances where law-breakers expect the rest of us to accept their actions.  You see it surrounding recent current events, like the “Me Too” movement of sexual harassment survivors revealing their abusers.  You saw it, while on trial, in the face of Dr. Larry Nassar, the USA gymnastic sports physician who sexually molested young girls in his charge over the decades.  You see it in the street thugs and gangs who openly live a life of crime as the neighborhood watches without protest.  You see it in a family member who has given themselves over to drug or alcohol abuse while bringing the results back to a sober peaceful home.  Too often I am seeing blatant rudeness, abusiveness, lawlessness run amok without consequence.  Too often I am seeing actors of hatred and violence show rage when a minority of the general public stands against their actions and words.  Too often I see, so-called, elected civic leaders in high places speak and showcase various fits of immaturity with vile disrespect for their colleagues, all the while not expecting another opinion or debate.

Is it not true, we trot into where we hang our hat, stinking of our offensive sins of disorder, disrespect or disregard, not caring what our loved ones think?  I’m seeing a lot of that.  Is it not true, offenders have false expectations of acceptance concerning their selfish actions or destructive words?  Like Chang, we tend to own our faults, show them off with a twisted pride.  There was a time, not long ago, we had enough sense of shame to hide these infractions in a deep dark closet.  Today, it seems we want to smother our neighbors with it, even encourage them to join in the fray.  Meanwhile, we wonder why we lose quality friends and family as they run out the door as if a wild bear just raided the place.  We roll around in our choice of muck-pile as if we want to own it, be one with it.  The dad of one of my best friends in high school always had a quick word for us just before we went out on the town.  He would always say, “You boys don’t bring home somethin’ you can’t keep.”  He passed away in December, but left this young man a brand on the brain.  In his blue-collar Texas wisdom, he knew we could be like Chang.

However, this is not the bitter end of the story.  The story is not so much about the stinking pile of rotting fish, or the patrons and staff running away in horror, or even about the beloved Chang himself.  The story is more about the business owner.  He didn’t chase and kick Chang out of the cleaners, while silently counting the profit escaping out the door, like we might have.  Rather, he put the closed sign in the front window, locked the door and proceeded to fill a utility sink with hot water mixed with lemon scented detergent.  He rolled up his sleeves, wrapped his arms around the crusty dog of disdain and placed him in a makeshift bath for scrubbing.  Now THAT is love.  Before you knew it, Chang was back to smelling like the famous mascot of the corner cleaners once again.

I believe in that kind of grace, in that kind of love.  If only our world would understand it.

And if one should pass the sniff test in life, that one is ever so much closer in catching the aroma of fuel for the race.

“Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” – Psalm 51:7 (NAS)




Door Knobs Available

“The long and winding road, that leads, to your door will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before.  It always leads me here, lead me to your door.” – Composers:  McCartney and Lennon (1970)

Jerry Van Dyke passed away last week at the age of 86.  I was so sorry to hear of yet another master at comic relief leaving us with a bit less laughter than before.  His brother, Dick Van Dyke, released a statement revealing a couple of unknown facts to me.  After mentioning that Jerry had been born with a severe birth defect, an enlarged funny bone, he went on to say Jerry was in a car accident back in 2015 that began a health spiral.  As a side note, which I wholeheartedly agree with, he added that Jerry was brilliant in comedic timing to the nanosecond.  Dick Van Dyke went on to say that his brother deserved more, in that he was underrated.  I gasped when he mentioned that Jerry had turned down the role of Gilligan for a then new series entitled, “Gilligan’s Island.”  What a mistake that was.  Yet, Jerry walked through many doors to great success.  Come to think of it, in retrospect, I’ve made similar mistakes.  How about you?

A few posts ago I had mentioned that my mom inherited her parents house after they had passed away.  It was built in the 1840’s.  I know that house like the back of my hand.  One of the unique structures in the house are the cut glass door knobs.  My fingerprints can be found on every one of them going back more than five decades.  I’ve always loved how they look.  Each one has it’s own skeleton key.  Here at our house we have three from that era hanging on the wall.  The antique door knobs are great for conversation pieces.  We use them for coat hangers.  For me, they also represent a sweet and innocent part of my life with my grandparents.

For a short time, between radio gigs, I once attempted to pay my bills in the home improvement sales industry, while living in Buffalo, NY.  It placed me in many old world homes built in the days of yore, by American standards.  Some of which were mansions with four floors, pocket doors, wide hallways and high ceilings.  As you wander through those old homes, it’s easy to lose count of how many rooms the old Victorian and pre-Victorian homes have.  I don’t think I will ever forget those places I was privileged to see and experience.

As I write this line, we are in mid January of 2018.  My last two posts I had compared 2018 to a blank sheet of paper to write on, as well as a long adventurous highway.  Why not think of 2018 as a very large house that will take you 12 months to explore?  If you enter a large house with many rooms, you will also encounter a multitude of doors.

There is a hard truth here, not to be confused with a modern-day term “Your Truth,” which leaves a false idea that one truth is not another’s truth.  There’s no reasoning here to bicker over phraseology.  I am, and always will be, one who points out that there are absolute truths ruling all of us while oceans of various opinions, judgments and beliefs run around them.  Let me give you a couple of illustrations.  Example:  “Your Truth” may be that there is no Grand Canyon in Arizona.  Maybe it’s because you don’t like the thought that it is there.  Maybe you prefer beaches or forests, instead.  However, the absolute truth will kill you as you drive your car off the edge of one of its cliffs.  Example:  New Wave music (Google if needed) was once a hot item for the record industry.  However, classics remain the best and most downloaded songs.  You might say that the New Wave composer’s and producer’s truth was that it would sell.  BOOM!  It proved to be an opinion developing into a strong belief, yet the hard truth awards “Permanent Wave” tunes as champs with a longer shelf life.  Just ask Carole King, Paul McCartney or Tony Bennett.

Thus, this brings me back to the door knobs to turn or not.  The hard truth is, many doors in the house at 2018 Winding Way Street, are to be tested before opening.  Frankly, you will walk down its broad hallway and spy a few wide fancy, brilliantly painted, exquisite doors with a crystal cut glass door knob.  It will be tantalizing with almost a suction pulling you toward it.  Beware of these.  Test the door.  Many will open that over-sized door to find a room that will destroy their lives.  It may be a door to a new, but devastating, relationship that rips out the heart, throws you into poverty and bankruptcy with anguishing life-long nightmares in the end.  It may be a job opportunity with a very flaky or questionable organization that leads to nowhere.  Maybe the beautiful immense door opens you up to a substance designed to draw you closer to a stroke, heart-attack or a personality alteration that robs you of your own family.  Oh, please, test that door.

There will be door knobs to turn that are intended for your hand.  In this wide hallway, there will be rooms you should enter to brighten your very existence.  If you see a door that seems to lead to golden opportunities, knock and see who opens.  However, study well that greeter before entering.  Have lots of conversation and then assess well what they say.  Some of these doors chosen will allow you to see eternity, beyond your experiences up to this moment.  Jerry Van Dyke can tell you about missing this door.

Let me leave you with some solid advice.  I don’t consider myself old, yet I am no longer jogging four miles at lunchtime either.  My life’s journey has left me with some absolute truths that went against my original hopes, plans and opinions.  With that said, some doors will be ancient, even aesthetically not desirable at all.  Consider the wisdom of age and long life.  Review its squeaky hinges, square-top door-nails and cut glass door knobs.  Don’t be timid to turn that knob.  There are ancient ways that prove current thought to be nothing but mist or smoke.  I have also learned, when you come to a door that has you locked out, trust that.  Don’t force it, out of curiosity or frustration.  It might provide a polished skeleton key, but someone came long before you arrived and said, “Here and no further.”  Trust that.  Move on for your own safety.

The house on 2018 Winding Way Street will be filled with so many doors to chose from.  No matter what your opinion or perspective may be, or where it has led you thus far, this is a new, uncharted house.  Stop and ask the designer of this house for wisdom.  There can be joy in the exploration.  In the end, if guided wisely and choices are based on solid thought and analysis, you will discover it mixes well with fuel for the race.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” – Jesus –  Matthew 7:7 (NLT)

A Long Way From Baker Street

“Winding your way down Baker Street, light in your head and dead on your feet.  Well, another crazy day.  You’ll drink the night away and forget about everything…..Another year and then you’d be happy.  Just one more year and then you’d be happy.  But you’re crying, you’re crying now.” – Baker Street – Written and recorded by: Gerry Rafferty (1978)

There was a day when I was on a road, very similar to the one in the photo above, doing about 65 mph.  It was a sunny day and very calm weather.  The curves were easy to take and no small towns to slow me down.  Suddenly and without warning signs, about 50 yards in front of me, the road abruptly ended leaving a large deep gorge.  I slammed on my brakes as the car slid ever so close to the drop-off edge.  I held my breath as the car’s inertia brought the smoking front wheels some 4-5 inches from the abyss.  At that point, I woke up.  It is a recurring dream I have had for decades now.  I guess that’s why I still am not a fan of bridges and cliffs.

As I write this, we are about to complete our first week of Highway 2018.  I surmise it will be constructed of many curves, detours, signal lights and scenic views.  From time to time there will be places to stop and enjoy, and other times you should not stop at all, but rather put on some speed to escape the area.  No doubt the road will bring old friends and family you’ve not seen in some time.  My recommendation is to pull over and soak it up while they are still available for the visit.  As any long distance traveler knows, there is the risk of a blowout while putting rubber to road.  It always comes at the worst times and certainly never expected.  There will be weather changes.  There will be rain, driving rain, against your windshield.  Fog will roll in without a moments notice, obstructing your best view.  At times, you will lose traction and winds will test your ability to control the steering wheel.  Exercising caution on a road like Highway 2018 is always the wiser choice.  Be aware of the twists and turns Highway 2018 will deliver.  Watch the warning signs and observe them on the way.  Above all, keep your eye focused on the road ahead, lest there be an unanticipated washed-out section.

We all are born with a GPS guide.  It has proven to be a mistake to ignore it.  If you turn down the radio you can hear the smaller voice saying, “Turn here.  Go there.  That way is not negotiable.  Manage well your line of vision.  Don’t stay focused on the rear-view mirror.  Slow down here.  Don’t pass the one in front of you, notice the yellow line.”  Remember, someone has been here before and has marked the danger zones for you. Better yet, someone has paved Highway 2018 way before you arrived and knows what you have in store on your journey.

With all that said, someone once wrote, “Sometimes plodding is better than plotting.”  One foot, one mile in front of the other.  Each one is to be conquered.  Each one is to be enjoyed, savored and at times, endured.

My apologies to the late Gerry Rafferty. If your trek brings you to a detour and you find yourself on a Baker Street, take note.  That lively lane may seem like a haven, but don’t be fooled.  It’s short-lived, short on satisfaction and short on delivering promises.  Think of it as a small temporary band-aid for a shotgun blast.  My advice, take the exit ramp back to Highway 2018 as the Baker Street saxophone fades to black.

One thing is certain, treat the road well.  As you do, you will come upon fuel for the race.

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will make plain thy paths.” – Solomon –  Proverbs 3:6 (DBT)


It’s Blank!

“We can never know about the days to come.  But we think about them anyway….I’m no prophet and I don’t know nature’s ways.  So I’ll try and see into your eyes right now.  And just stay right here ’cause these are the good old days.” – Anticipation, Carly E. Simon, 1971.

I’ll be frank.  I just took my 2017 wall calendar off the wall in my study and tossed it ever so quickly into the trash can.  I felt like taking a shower afterwards.  Let’s face it, as a whole, 2017 was a year I would like to forget.  It was laced with hatred, anger, riots, bloodshed, bullets and bombs.  2017 dished up harsh, lewd words vomiting out of the mouths of regarded people in pop culture, news anchors, politicians and around the family dining table.  The past year was armed with mass murders, anarchists and thought police.  2017 seemed to water and fertilize individuals who were so sensitive they had to create unrest and violence because they heard another opinion than their own.  The year brought up many who reveled in dishonoring and ripping apart sacred sites, sacred ideas and even targeted houses of worship.  The old year spotlighted the horror of the powerful demanding, even forcing, sexual favors while bartering with those subservient in the social strata.  Nature rumbled at 2017 with multiple earthquakes, record-setting hurricanes, floods and wildfires.  This blogger wrote about much listed here.  With exception in some areas (I married a wonderful lady in April), 2017 was severely ugly in my line of vision.

With all of that said, 2018 is very much like the photo above.  It’s a blank sheet of paper.  Unlike my new 2018 wall calendar, this clean sheet of paper isn’t divided up by dates and months.  Freedom is its message.  There’s nothing written on it on this January 1st.  Do you see its liberty?  It shouts out something like, “BEWARE, TIME SURFER!  THE PEN IS IN YOUR HAND.  WRITE WHAT YOU WILL!” 

However, before you begin to MAKE your 2018 happen, take a closer look at the paper above.  Notice it is notebook paper.  It has straight horizontal lines to help guide your jots of thoughts.  Make your way, your thoughts, your life as straight as you can, as it pertains to you.  Remember the old lyric, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…”  State what you plan to do, with intentional purpose, as an objective, not a reaction.  Each line offers that freedom.  What a gift!

It is very important to notice in the photo that the page in which 2018 is represented is a short one.  Unfortunately, it is not much longer than the pen itself.  2017 went by with lightening speed and so will 2018.  The older you live, the quicker the 12 months warp by you.  Yes, you have 12 months, but do not allow the grass to grow under your feet.  Remember, be intentional, but progressive in initiation.  Otherwise, the perception of standing still becomes reality.

Lastly, you can see in the photo, the pen is just laying there.  Like the frozen Niagara Falls, it is motionless.  The pen will not write on its own.  It takes a writer, like yourself.  You can gaze at it, speak to it, blow on it, pray over it, but at the end of the day, it does nothing.  The pen is just a utensil, nothing more, nothing less.

Here, I must add, you have zero control what others will write on their page, so be ready when another’s actions intersect, disrupting your written lines.  They tend to carry large erasers and are eager to use them.  But for now, you MUST pick up the pen and write your own 2018 story.

If you follow my blog, you know I am a practicing Christian.  Because I rest on biblical truths, I will remind you of my belief.  There is an Almighty One Who holds your future.  Your days are numbered, the hairs on your head are also numbered.  2018 will be vetted by the Maker of Days.  Yet, He says that we are to choose well in life, regardless of His unknown manuscript for 2018.  It’s a clear sign of “free-will” given as a gift for the new year. He is well-known for this.  A few thousand years ago He too had a clean slate to write on.  In doing so, He wrote of a perfect recipe for righteous, healthy living.  God’s clean slate became the 10 commandments.  It’s been the gold standard each and every year since.  Sure, you will not be able to uphold them all in 2018, nobody can, but that is where grace through Jesus comes to relieve you of failure. 2018 would be a great year to trust in that gift.

“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’  For it is not wise to ask such questions….When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.  Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.”  Solomon – Ecclesiastes 7:1 & 14. (NIV)

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…FROM???

Print of Atlas – D’aulaires’ Book Of Greek Myths

“God rest ye merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay.  Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day.  To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.  Oh, tidings of comfort and joy…”  – Old English Traditional Carol in the Roxburghe Collection – 18th Century.

As I write this, it is Christmas night in north Texas.  As you read this, wrappings, ribbons and bows are bagged up and carted away to the dumpster.  Some, not many, will drag their Christmas trees out to the curb to be recycled tonight.  Christmas 2017 is in our history now.  Or, is it?

I just returned home from a three week stay in the hospital, now recovering from a quadruple bypass open heart surgery.  The surgery was successful, but my weak kidneys suffered in the process as well as dealing with anemia due to an unexpected low blood count.  My rehab and recovery will take a few months.  As a side effect of the ailing kidney dysfunction, I have extra fluid in my tissues that needs to be taken off the body.  It literally has not only caused swelling in my frame, but has added extra body weight.  After surgery I became the Puff Marshmallow Man.  Coupled with inactivity and being anemic, I feel the extra poundage as I am learning to walk again in a walker just traveling from one room to the next.  I KNOW it would be a lot easier to maneuver rehab if I didn’t have this extra water weight hanging on my body.  Envision water balloons draping off your shins and shoulders.  It slows me way down.  In the end, it exhausts me as my energy quickly depletes.  Yet, I am grateful just to be here typing away with you.

I thought of the Greek Myth of Atlas.  As the myth has it, he was condemned to carry the weight of the heavens on his shoulders for eternity.  Now, THAT will slow you down.  There’s a terrific sculpture of him holding up the universe on his shoulders in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. (Great artwork.  He just needs some pants.)

Similarly, because we chose to be law-breakers from the beginning, going against God’s authentic standard of righteousness, we carry the weight of our wrong-doing.  Maybe you’ve not killed someone or robbed a bank, but you have told a lie, rebelled, or had a bad thought that would condemn you in a Holy court to come.  Small sin, or large sin, it is what it is.  We step on God’s law each and every day.  Still, we carry that baggage, just like extra fluid in the body, or like Atlas condemned to hold up the universe on his shoulders without a break.

Christmas is when the True Condemner, the Judge and Jury reached out toward our exhaustion, in love and compassion, as we fail to carry about our poundage of sins, and offers eternal rest.  The manger scene in the Bible is all about lifting your burden of wrong-doing, not just now, and tomorrow, but FOREVER!  Who wouldn’t want to be released from the trillions of tons of personal guilt?  Ask Atlas if he would like for the true God to come and take the weight of the world off his shoulders and onto Himself.  I think we would hear a resounding, “YES!”…in Greek of course.  We tend to ignore the pain, shame, emptiness and utter sadness we are haunted by, when it comes to this birth defect in our spiritual DNA.  Unnecessary!  Much like stopping debt, a personal decision must be made.

Unfortunately, the older we grow, the less we think about it.  The older we grow the more we become adjusted to the bowling balls we drag around in our personal backpack.  The older we grow the more we are blinded by the fact we must have that weight in the tissues of our soul/spirit removed.  The gate of heaven is way too narrow for it all.

So, before this Christmas season is totally gone, ask the Giver of the Gift for forgiveness and rest from the trail of sin-scrape you leave behind.

We strayed from God’s perfect design for life.  The struggle continues in the here and now, and in eternity, after this body is drained of life.  However, Christmas came delivering the best news ever……God rest ye merry gentlemen.  Let nothing you dismay.  REMEMBER Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day…..”

“Come to Me, all those toiling and being burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus – Matt 11:29. (BLBV)