Flying With One Wing

Photograpy: Animalia-Life.com

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly again and learn to live so free.  And when we hear the voices sing the book of love will open up and let us in.” – Mr. Mister (Richard Page, Steve George, John Lang)

“To be perfectly honest,” he said sadly, “I am a bit incapacitated.”

That’s what I heard him say last week standing before his congregation.  He is a pastor friend of mine, truly one of the finest persons I have ever known.  (His name withheld for privacy purposes.)  We met almost 40 years ago when I applied at a shoe store for one of my first jobs right out out of high school.  For the specific title, he is a Messianic Jewish Christian.  Today, he pastors a well-known Messianic Christian congregation in the Dallas/Ft Worth area.  In the late 70s, before he was in the ministry, I had the awesome privilege to work side by side with him every day for a couple of years.  He befriended me immediately; and I was mentored just by observing his daily life.  We were in the retail trenches together in a business where some unusual people can test you.  We had many casual times away from the workplace, like playing flag football (he always beat me when running a hook route as a wide receiver).  He and his wife had me over at their home for a dinner or two.  Over the decades we continued to bump into one another at different concert events and gatherings.

He would disagree with me if I said he is a giant person of faith.  He is loving and kind, honest to the point of self-degradation, ready to aid and hold you up whenever your personal tank is dry.  He has been at my side on a few occasions, including presiding at my wedding, as well as at my early morning bedside just before they administered anesthesia for a surgery.  He’s also tough, forging through the wars and hurdles of life while working, going through seminary, raising a family and tending to his parishioners.  I would trust him on a battlefield. I would trust him with an unwritten contract, or frankly, with my life.  Yet, here he was, bomb-shelled, pale and thinner than the week before.  He wasn’t himself, or what I have always known him to be.  Just a few days prior, his dear wife suffered (and survived) a mid-level stroke.

She had been in good health with no reason to anticipate such a horrific trauma. Needless to say, it hit them broadside. On this night, facing the congregation for the first time since the stroke, he stood behind the pulpit looking as if he had left himself at home. His love for people brought him there when he probably could have stayed by her side in the hospital as she continued to be treated.  As common with my dear old friend, he was open and transparent about her status and his own condition.  He delivered a short sermon entitled, “What To Do When You Are Suddenly Flying On One Wing”.  He mentioned how strong and supportive his wife is, not only among the congregation, but in their home life as well.  Later someone said it takes about 20 parishioners to do what she does for church service prep, etc.  (I knew this all too well and have seen that in her over the decades.)  Above all, she is in his DNA, not a crutch for him, but an agent of intricate involvement in the very beats of his heart.

Have you had your wing clipped?  Have you been there?  Are you there now?  Maybe for you it wasn’t an unexpected stroke with a significant other, but maybe a lay-off at work, cancer death sentence, divorce, custody loss, abandonment, foreclosure, totaled car, bankruptcy, an addiction, a suicide or a sudden death of your best friend, baby, parent or spouse.  Allow me to apologize here and now if I typed a word that stings to this very moment.  Proof reading that laundry list, I will tell you I hurt, too.  Indeed, I have been on the receiving end of immense agony with selective titles above, and what’s worse, I could have written much more.  These are weapons inflicting even the very best of us.  Why? Well, some blame it on others, like parents or siblings.  Others point the finger at the general environment.  Still some blame it on a failed government or societal ills.  In reality, these are only results of cause and effect from ground zero of a cursed world.

Simple, but true.  Like a bird with an injured wing, you flutter the best you can in hopes you can stay aflight without spiraling to the wreckage below.  Finally, you find yourself unable to keep the wind beneath the afflicted wing, then a loss of altitude takes over. There you sit, in a busy trafficked parking lot, flapping as if there was a hope of getting off the ground again.  If only the one good wing was enough for liftoff, but alas, the universal science of gravity and aeronautics denies you the freedom of the sky.  Being grounded is a very lonely place to be.  I must add here that I have a few friends who share that ground even now and in various conditions.  And if you’re wondering, it doesn’t matter how “good” of an individual you are.  Those dastardly twins, cause and effect, don’t have favorites.

I have an old beloved friend who calls a life of faith (in my case, a life that follows the teachings of Jesus) a “crutch”.  (For a wounded one, even a crutch would be helpful.) However, where is that “crutch” if there is a fire?  What happens to the “crutch” if it snaps in two pieces at the whims of a pothole?  Where is the aid of the “crutch” when you lose your grip and Mr. Gravity has his way?  If another earthquake jolt comes to the Dallas metroplex, how will a “crutch” hold up?  As for me, I have found a solid rock, a cornerstone to build my house by which all things are measured.  I dare say, if I stand on the cliff-edge of the Rock Of Gibraltar looking down at the Mediterranean, some 1,388 feet below, gravity doesn’t take me to the crashing waves.  Why?  Because the Rock of Gibraltar isn’t a crutch.

My friend and his wife will be fine.  She is currently in a rehab hospital and making terrific progress.  He continues to be perched at her bedside where he belongs gaining strength for the road ahead.  He has always been a super compassionate servant-of-a- guy.  I suspect he will be even more so as his ministry work continues.  The teacher is, once again, the student as they both will find their tank of compassion expanding to aid others who find themselves strapped down by illness.  I believe I see a sling holding up a mending wing.

My weight is on the One Who gave the fowl their feathers and the wind to elevate. Contrary to a false echo, your runway is always stocked with fuel for the race.

“Be not afraid, for I AM with you.  Don’t be dismayed, for I AM your God, I WILL strengthen you.  Yes, I WILL help you.  Yes, I WILL uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.   —   but those who HOPE in the Lord WILL renew their strength.  They WILL soar on wings like eagles; they WILL run and NOT grow weary, they WILL walk and NOT be faint.”   – Isaiah 41:10 (World English Bible) -Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) 

Do You Hear IT?

“And in the naked light I saw then thousand people, maybe more.  People talking without speaking.  People hearing without listening.  People writing songs that voices never share.  And no one dare disturb the sound of silence.” – Simon & Garfunkle

So….do you?  I mean, really.  Can you?  (Alan waits as the reader pauses to understand what he is expecting as the answer.)  Can you hear the sound of silence?  If you go on to read the rest of the thought provoking lyric from Simon & Garfunkle, you get a better picture.  I always wondered where they wrote the song and if a large transit bus pulled up close right after laying down the last line. (LOL)

Where were you when you were slammed with true silence?  Was it a hike in the woods? Was it perching out on the patio after a heavy overnight snowfall?  For you, it might simply be a hot bath with low lights.  Or maybe while sitting in a cold basement after a domestic dispute upstairs that lasted way too long.  (Yep, been there, done that.)  For me, two places come to mind beyond all else.  A lonely, out-of-tourist-season beach and December 25th.

I have three precious daughters, Tabitha, Megan and D’Anna, all grown now.  When they were restless kids late Christmas Eve night, we did the entire Santa prep complete with assembly instructions spread out from its 16 different folds with French, Japanese, Spanish and English to boot.  After all was arranged under the Christmas tree, along with Kringle’s eggnog and cookies nicely plated on the hearth, it was maybe 2:30 am.  From childhood I always stayed up as long as I could waiting for the guy in the red suit to enter stage right.  I never caught him, but instead I was educated in the lessons of quietness. Later as a teen I often would come home from a Christmas party and bundle up for a hushed few moments on the front steps.  To this day, after a Christmas Eve midnight candlelight service, I take a few outdoor minutes to absorb the quietness of the hour.  It seems to me the wee hours of Christmas morning are the times of silence, possibly the most hushed morning of the year.  If you have snowfall around you for the holiday overnight, it’s usually still and silent all the more.  You should try it.  (WARNING: It will fail you when it’s Christmas in July.)

Whether you’re soaking in the stillness after being pooped-out from Christmas wrappings, or having the salty water licking your feet on a deserted beach, the silence speaks.  If it doesn’t, maybe you forgot the television is on in the background or you are sitting in quietness, but you’re surfing the web on your cell phone.  How courageous are you to venture out into the velvet audio of nothingness?  I find it serves me well shutting my brain down by shutting down all the noise, all the sounds and the clangings of the stuff of life.  In-other-words, setting oneself apart from the audio chaos of our technological world we build around us can only inspire and bloom the mind.

During my years as a radio on-air guy and voice actor, my hair always had what I refer to as, “headphone hair”.  Hours and hours of audio pumping into the ears from the cans is common in that industry.  Unfortunately, many of us radio vets suffer from some sort of hearing loss.  After years with the headphones you wake up one day with the realization that over time you’ve inadvertently turned up the audio levels because of the scrutiny applied in search of detecting any audio flaws in production or broadcasts. Certainly us on-air folk get seduced by the frequency levels.  Often after a long day behind the mic I headed home with the radio and CD player off with only the sound of the engine.  Such a relief.

Dare you read on?  Here, I ask only because I am a victim myself.  Here goes.  Are you seduced by the speakers and screen?  Have you tripped over the curb because you were caught-up texting your journey away?  Did you miss a loved one’s sincere question because you were deeply into a scene on a network TV show?  Ouch!  It hurts when we get honest with ourselves.  Please, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting joining a monastery overlooking Mt Everest, although for some, that’s their mission to do so.

Let me say, from actual experience in the art of stillness, there is a dam holding up gold nuggets of thought just waiting to flow down to you.  Downloaded life-changing details often don’t come while encased, wrapped and chained in the noise of the times. Most of all, the One who wants to hear YOUR voice has Himself a still small whisper. Explore it and you may find the sound of silence can be deafening.

Quiet times offer nozzles surging with fuel for the race.

“…Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  After the fire came a gentle whisper…”           – I Kings 19: 11b-12  

 

Bubble Babbles

He said, “Hey, look how big my bubble is.  I bet you can’t blow one bigger than that!” What else could a challenged 7 year old say to his cousin with liquid soup bottles in hand?  I rose to the occasion, of course.  My misty memory dissolves at that point.  Maybe when I blew on the sudsy ring it probably burst before its flight into that Texas summer air.  I’m sure our grandma and grandpa got a big kick out of the shenanigans us cousins would showplace on their lawn out in the country.  Blowing bubbles was among the highlights for summer fun, along with catching fireflies at dusk in mason jars.  (Yes, our grandpa punched holes in the lids)

Do you enjoy scuba diving scenes?  There’s a real reason why I ask.  I always loved the old black and white TV series, “Seahunt” with Lloyd Bridges. (You may be too young for that one.  Google it.)  A favorite classic movie that bubbles up on television from time to time is, “Creature From The Black Lagoon” from 1954.  From my earliest recollections, I always felt as if I were scuba diving when an underwater scene was displayed on the screen. Isn’t that what we pretended to do when underwater in the pool?  I would blow out the air bubbles and watch them float above me to the surface.  Suddenly, I was a rubber-clad Lloyd Bridges with a tank on my back.  You always knew there was life under the water if bubbles rose to the surface from the deep, sometimes a thing to be calm about and sometimes a horrid thought of the greatly feared creature from that Black Lagoon.

Bubbles are fun to watch, especially when sunlight hits the thin membrane walls.  A rainbow of colors swirling, mixing around and around the dripping sphere.  I would love to get some little ones to put down the tablet pumping out CGI then hit the back yard with a bottle of blowing bubbles and watch their faces.  Too wishful?

Once I had a friend who went from rags to riches in a very short time.  Full of talents, he mourned the mundane job he had, not to mention it didn’t polish the bank account.  One day he decided enough was enough.  He quit his boring profession and launched a new career.  He did so well at his new venture, his entire existence changed.  There was a new exotic house, new his/hers loaded vehicles, jewelry, high fashion clothing and even new friends of the jet-set kind. I admired him.  I suppose I was grateful to be kept in his circle of pals.  As we would get together I began to notice a trend in our conversations. Suddenly the main babbling seemed to surround his rise to a wealthy status and how he did it.  Don’t misunderstand.  The topic was fine with me until I began to realize it was all he had to say, for the most part.  Simple basic themes were no longer fun or important. Once more, at a later date my career had changed for the better, although not in the same financial arena as his, and he didn’t really take note of it.  I must admit that hurt. Over the years his house(s) got bigger, the expanded lawns were nice and sculptured by only the best landscaper in town and, of course, there had to be a yacht or two for the family.  Over the years we remained friends, but I found myself striving to remain close. I felt like Lloyd Bridges on the seafloor looking up as my friend’s bubbling life rose to the surface for all to see.   Fast forward a good twelve years or so, along with geographical moves, we lost touch.  The last time I checked he was still doing very well.  I do hope he has joy to this day.

Truth serum, please.  How guilty of the same bubbles can we be?  Isn’t it true?  Various forms and degrees occur, but we all have these bubbles we blow while comparing the status of other bubbles blown from our soapy–handed friends.  Look at the photo above. The weight of the deepest basin of ocean cannot suppress these pockets of air.  Millions of tons of H2O isn’t strong enough to keep those bubbles from escaping to the top.  Yet, when they arrive on the surface they pop into nowhere.  The freed bubble may be enormous, colorful and even loud as it parts the water, but it fizzes and collapses.  Just like my 7 year old cousin’s prideful moment of his sphere of foam rising into the hot Texas sky of forgetfulness.  It is seen for only a few seconds and vanishes with a burst.

How many lessons have I learned and remain prone to fail?  How honest are you about it?  It matters not my clout, my famous friends, my savings account, my promotions, my talents, my home, my cars, my investments, my career, my health (or lack of it), my my, my, my, my….bubbles.  A bubble might look impressive, but don’t try to stand on it.  Go ahead, try to keep it in a punctures mason jar or a pedestal and count the seconds of endurance. That’s who we are.  Our successes, the impressive tags we place on ourselves are only bubbles with nothing lasting.  When they do come to maturity, we find them to be hollow.  What truly matters in life that is lasting?  Better yet, where do you find what matters as you shove over all the stuff of life?

It is wise to “unwrap” oneself, not only once or twice, but often.  Like the onion, strip off the layers one by one as the tears fall, and find the core of what’s everlasting.  Bursting one’s own bloated bubble is always best.  So is rediscovering again the soul and spirit God created within, and build the house there.  The neighbors will notice.

One thing’s for sure, there are no bubbles found in the fuel for the race.

“…who knows what is on the next day.  What is your life?  It is just a vapor, appearing for a little while, and then vanishing.” – James 4:14 (Berean Literal Bible)   

Crickets

C.S. Lewis – (Surprised By Joy: The Shape Of My Early Life)  “All joy reminds.  It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be’. “

May I ask you a deeply and possibly painful question?  (Feel free to surf onward now before reading on if you anticipate a thin layer of skin)  Let me ask as gently as I can with all purpose of cautious sensitivity.  How many loved ones in your photos have you had to say a final goodbye?  I am unsure just how many for me, but I have been attending too many memorial services to count, especially within the last three years or so.  One of my high school friends always says with a chuckle, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” as we stand near a coffin.  Maybe it’s a matter of age. Might it be that the longer one lives the more family and friends pass away?  That may be an accurate and reasonable statement.  While reviewing my picture file I had a difficult time selecting which loved one to include on this post.  You guessed it.  Too many photos collected of those who matter having slipped through the shimmering thin veil.  (Allow me to add right here a solid truth.  It is authentically a very thin veil between where you sit now and where you will be after the “house” you reside in shuts off like a faucet.  My February 2013 experience of near-death proved it personally to me.  My body died…twice.  Only partial brain activity remained.  The story of that pivotal life episode is coming in a future post)

Renea was certainly a beauty on so many levels.  We should have been raised together, but God had His plans.  She was my half-sister.  I, being four years older, never met her until after I had turned 18 years old.  We struck it up right away.  We could tell we had the same biological father.  She too was an only child with the exception of her step-brother from another marriage.  Unfortunately we seldom saw one another.  Has this happened to you?  You say, “Hey, let’s get together soon, okay?”  (Crickets)  Then Christmas comes and you exchange gifts and a holiday dinner.  You hug at the end of the day’s pleasantries and festivities. As you walk out to the parked cars the expected words come, “Hey, let’s do lunch soon.  I’ll call you in a couple of months.”  Your reply is almost a default line stored for the occasion, “Sure, absolutely!”  Months go by and…(Crickets). That’s our story.  Once a year we saw one another, maybe during the occasional sweaty summer family reunion.  Does this ring any bells?  Then time waits for a call and all you hear are…(crickets).  I’m to blame too.  Where was my initiative to call her?  Yep, I am guilty as charged.  Our decades went by.  Marriage happened, kids happened, life happened.  We would see each other at a funeral or two.  More decades went by.  Email is invented and later we both discovered social media and connected more often.  We found out about the sordid details in our lives of baggage and wreckage, some of which were strangely similar in nature.  Suddenly, I was living almost 2,000 miles away from her in Buffalo, NY.

I had gotten wind of an attempted suicide.  We connected on the phone where I asked her about it.  She confided in me concerning hidden deep seeded wounds. She casually shrugged audibly saying they were no match for the sleep aids that soothed her demons. She admitted to an overdose she had orchestrated not long before.  My heart broke as she mentioned how shocked she was to awaken in a hospital bed looking at ceiling tiles. She couldn’t understand why the pills didn’t end her life.  I didn’t know what to say, but there was a mysterious awareness within of a lack of meaningful verbiage in storage. Disturbingly, Renea literally, physically laughed the episode off that day.

There came a time later when she wanted to come visit me in Buffalo to make a good week of it.  Never before had we had the opportunity to share so much quality time together.  I became a tour guide.  We had a blast that never wanted to cease.  I even took her over the border to Niagara Falls on the Horseshoe Falls side with a scenic dinner at the top of Skylon Tower overlooking the beautiful rotating colored lights on the cascading falls.  For a sweet afternoon we also scoped out the brilliant town of, Niagara-On-The-Lake in Ontario at the mouth of Lake Ontario.  To say it was a memorable, monumental time together would be a robbery of the joy we shared.  We wept at the airport’s departure gate, grieving over the decades missed of fellowship and love.  We did make efforts after I moved back to Texas to have dinners and laugh together again at family reunions and holidays, albeit few in between.  Here, I must admit to regretting a fault of mine.  Once I read a darkened email she had sent my way, questioning why we never fervently followed through with a pact we had made concerning being involved more in our lives.  My reply was in the affirmative, but not proactive.  I told her to let me know when she could come visit, spend a weekend, or just arrange for our families to stir up a cookout. You guessed it…(crickets).  There was an acknowledgement inside me that she had sunk further down in depression and loneliness.  Two years later, in 2013, I received a phone call that in a drunken fuzzy moment during a fight with a boyfriend, she had pulled out her pistol and shot herself straight through the heart.  It was said that afterwards she laid there on her back, once again looking at the ceiling, took a couple of breaths and without a spoken word, left the “house” in which she lived.

I invite you to scroll up.  Look at Niagara Falls behind us in the photo.  Over six million cubic feet of water rushes over the crest line every minute.  Standing on the banks you can literally feel the vibration under your feet.  It races quickly down to the lower Niagara for a few miles and feeds into Lake Ontario.

What I share next is pure passion from extreme pain.

You and I have only so many allotted minutes going over our personal crest line.  They are never recaptured.  While gravity exercises its law, we eat, sleep, drink, play music, watch movies as more cubic feet per minute escapes our “upper years” falling to our “lower years”.  After those precious moments flow down and around daily events, as well as mundane daily life, they pass on beyond our ability to retrieve, retake and rework.  At the same time, sweet loves of our past and present are seeing their minutes going over the brink.  However, some will have less allocated minutes to race over the cliff than you will and/or vice-versa.  Which person will deserve the next memorial service that has touched your life?  Social media is popping, cell phones are in our pockets as each minute reaches the eroding edges.  Love, and love well your precious ones while the ability remains.

No more crickets!  But it does allow for more fuel for the race.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Solomon, (Proverbs 18:24 NIV)

Master The Mix

It’s funny how it is said, “You never can go back home”.  Really?  I don’t know about you but I’ve had many trips back home.  Alas, the sight of home can really morph into an unfamiliar scene.

In Buffalo, NY, where I lived for five years, they have what is called, “The Skyway”.  It’s a single high overpass bridge linking the downtown area, across the Buffalo Harbor to points south.  It can take your breath away in the winter (when it’s open for traffic) as it is right at the mouth of frozen Lake Erie feeding the mighty Niagara River.  The view is spectacular year-round as you drive over looking out over the lake only to view water as far as the eye can see.

Like many cities, the Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas area has freeway intersections with mounds of overpasses built over each other.  Here they are called, “Mixmasters”.  After returning to Dallas from my stint in Buffalo, I was amazed at the vast number of differences in the landmarks, notably the new mixmasters in various parts of the Metroplex.  In just five years the freeway system had made an enormous array of changes.  As a longtime citizen I knew well the mixmasters we had, but on arrival back home I was stunned to find a few more that popped up like Texas wildflowers.  Truly it was shocking.  In order to get where you need to go, whether that be north, south, east or west you better be in the correct lane to hit the correct exit.  One must READ THE SIGNS.  Otherwise, you will make a long trip down to the next available overpass for a u-turn to where you needed to be and make that better choice.  Like cement spaghetti, the mixmasters are designed to allow the driver several alternatives to whatever section of the city might be chosen destination.  It’s not unusual to exit left to head to the right, or exit south in order to travel north, etc.  More than a few times I have taken the George Bush Tollway west off of a five lane freeway when the eastbound exit was my intention.  It can be a tad frustrating to say the least.  When approaching a mixmaster, you can look like a new calf looking at a new gate.  If you’re a driver in Dallas/Ft Worth, you need to become a master of the mix unless you want to be late to your arrival.

Honestly, in retrospect I can see in my rear-view mirror where my selections of life took exit ramps that were not for me.  Oh, boy!  Just counting on both hands I realize….(oops, I need to count my toes now) just how many times I allowed my feet to run off the route waiting for me, planned for me.  In fact, I could give you dates and times when I willingly chose a southern direction in my life and times where I should’ve held to my gaze toward the north star.  Unfortunately, in most cases in this life and its freeway system, u-turns are rarely possible.  Frankly, I remain one of life’s student drivers as my navigational skills tend to go to where I don’t need to be.  I will assume you too have noticed not mastered the mix where you are.  Please, read the signs, be focused, be aware, exercise caution and look for the signals you didn’t set-up yourself.

The Captain of my inner guidance system always steers to the better entrance and exit ramps.  When I listen well to the directions, to the parameters, to the signals I know I will arrive for more fuel for the race.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”.  – Captain Jesus  (John 14:6) 

 

 

Don’t Let It Hit Ya

Let’s see how many thoughts come up when I say the word, “DOOR”.  Play along, it’ll be fun.  “I’ll see you to the door”, “They hire, but they have a revolving door”, “She’s like the girl next door”, “Show him the door”, “When the door closes, look for a window”, and Sir Paul’s song, “Soemeone’s Knockin’ At The Door”.  If you think about it long enough you can come up with a few said doors and what they stand for.  Have you ever actually picked up a door, I mean, carry one?  Watch your back.  Who would’ve thought hinges and door jams were so strong and stout?

I’ve been shopping for a storm door with a doggy door flap.  They aren’t cheap!  For cryin’ out loud (as my grandmother always said), all I need is a glass or screen door for the back sun-room leading out to the back steps with a boot box sized cutout for my dog to come and go as he pleases.  For him I want, okay I ‘ll say it, an “open door policy”. My ongoing conundrum?  The neighborhood possum. ARG! After my wallet loses weight then I somehow have to carry that heavy door from the home improvement store to my back porch.  What a project!

Whatever door you step up to in life there seems to be a running theme under its true character of purpose.  After all, you are denied entrance to a place unless that door is unlocked, ajar or wide open.  Isn’t that what you look for first when moving into a new place?  Security lacks if the door is below standard, not to mention weatherproofing.  For example, take a look at my snapshot above.  This photo was taken at Ft Belknap just outside Graham, Texas.  The fort has a lengthy colorful history going back pre-Civil War days.  (That’s a young fort for the northeast seaboard states)  On the sprawling  grounds you will find these thick-walled buildings constructed of limestone or large blocks of sandstone.  This particular building is small, not much larger than the average living room.  It lacks windows of any kind.  There are two doors, one on the north end and the other on the south side.  If you can expand the shot you will see that the wall around the door is a good two feet thick.  Knocking on the door you instantly realize how solid that wooden door is.  The definition of the word, “sturdy” doesn’t make it.  When you read the plaque in front of the small unassuming building it reveals this was the armory and ammo storage.  Gunpowder, musket balls, cannonballs, pistols and rifles all safe and sound from potential enemies.  Of course the opposite is true.  If there were to be a fire inside, the vault-type construction protected all who were on the outside.

Like the soldier’s commodities inside an armory, so too are your precious things behind doors.  Only you know what that looks like in your own existence.  The loved ones locked up safely at bedtime.  The love expressed behind the door of a honeymoon suite.  The savings bond in a safety deposit box behind a bank’s vault door.  Or, how about the classic car in mint condition behind a locked garage door.  Whatever your personal treasure is in your heart of hearts, no doubt you have it behind a door that is not accessible to the strangers among the general public.  In fact, you only allow certain people with special credentials entrance to that protected area.  Some might even have been allowed a key.  Am I right?

Let’s face it, I only really want my precious ones to live on the inside of my dwelling place. Behind the door is my castle, my lounge, my breathing space from a loud, crazy and volatile outside world.  If I’m right, you feel that way too.  That space is reserved for you when you’re without make-up, when your hair is a mess, when you need a shower, when you’re naked running from that shower to the closet, when sleeping, when eating, when you reconcile your bank account and when clipping your toenails (lol).  You get the picture.  And hopefully, when your loved one leaves for the day you resist saying, “Don’t let your shadow touch my door again”.  Instead, we wish them a terrific day with the promise of an accessible door of safety and security when they return.

Do you like brave writers?  If not, now’s your chance to dump your fuel for a landing somewhere else.  I’ll wait for you right here until you make up your mind….(Jeopardy theme song)…..You’re still here?  That must mean you are open-minded and a reasoner who calculates from all points of reference.  I admire you.  Okay, thanks for reading my next line.

I have a friend, no….let me rewind here.  I have a love, no….allow me to reboot.  I have a brother, no….let me restate.  I have a “resident” living in me behind my inner door.  He’s not my imaginary pal from my childhood fantasies.  He certainly is not a Disney cricket on my shoulder.  (I know what my inner voice sounds like)  We literally have non-audible round table discussions from my hearts’ conference room, the one that has a two foot thick door.  I find He is not republican, democrat or independent only because He is not political and yet cares about my leanings.  He has proven Himself to be THE reliable source of the wisdom I am always choked-off from.  I have noticed He soothes my fears and calms my personal storms, especially when I am the hurricane of my own shores. Sharing is His number one aspect in my daily wanderings.  What knocks me out is how He gently gives me a heads-up on dangers on the outside of our door.  When I am hit hard from a combatant I am sorely not trained to take on, He warns me ahead of the punch and delivers first aid when I come home again.  This resident, who actually built my thick door, has taught me how to double lock, install a motion detector floodlight, security camera and monitor.  I am far more aware of the sales rep’s product, with brochures in hand, who pounds on my door at dinner time. He stays with me behind locked doors even when I stink, cuss and scream, never ever leaving.  Concerning authentic love never tosses you out.  Who does that?  I mean, really?  If you were at my house kicking, shouting, dishonoring me and family while berating me with the odor of sour violent language, my foot would be planted in your back as I shout, “Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out!”  Unlike my reactions, He is accepting of me and my explosive madness.  Beyond all, He protects and defends me when I blatantly misbehave against God’s outline for me and others, all behind closed doors.  If not, I know my door would be blown off its hinges and I would be taken away in chains.  Why?  Because I KNOW MYSELF and left to my own feet, I KNOW where my grazing area lies.  Quiet self-honesty will be in brilliant colors and HD.  Try it after you shut out all the noise, if you dare.

Look closer at a mystery surrounding our rustic door from Ft Belknap.  Examine it.  Do you see it yet?  Here’s a hint. Look on the left panel of the door itself.  Now do you notice the oddity?  The door lacks a doorknob!  Only a skeleton keyhole ready for a key-packing Sargent At Arms.  That’s what my inner door looks like.  Only certain precious ones have the key to enter.  Oh yeah, have there been times I’ve opened the door to an enemy?  WAY TOO MANY TIMES!  Have there been times when a thief has unlawfully entered who was unwelcomed?  Oh, yeah.  My One, my Counselor didn’t force the door opened seeing there was a missing doorknob. He knocked lightly, but consistently, day and night. Being Who He is, He has a master key, but never used it.  There was a day, 50 years ago, when I answered the knock allowing Him entrance.  He has willingly never left.  I must admit here that there have been bloated times when I expanded myself, my interior of the heart, but curiously it never forced Him out.  Instead, He quietly took a corner and cautiously watched until I was sick of my-“self”.  Because of that simple maneuver of my hand turning the bolt and knob I have enjoyed a personal relationship with God Himself in a way that never would have been possible.  There are lots of doors in life along with all their invitations. Yet, there is only one door to my heart and mind along with only one very soft recognizable knock belonging to one set of knuckles. I recognize the rhythm of His cadence.  There is no crowbar in His hand.  He isn’t wanting to shatter me for destruction, but to bend me gently to a loving cup of java at my personal table.  He hears me out regardless of frustrations, idiocy and anger.  He never speaks over me like debating talking heads on a news program.  He wants to listen with a bent ear and kind, caring eyes.  God wants to be headlong and INVOLVED in the twist and turns in life where I find He is alive and well.

Since that door-opening day, I have often refilled my tank with fuel for the race.

(ASV – Alan Standard Version)

“Notice, I stand at the door and knock.  If ANYONE opens the door and lets me in I will drink and eat with him/her, and he/she with me.” – Jesus (Revelation 3:20 

On Track

Texas summers will fry you.  The heat on any given day could melt candles, even to the point of wearing kitchen oven mitts to touch your steering wheel.

Long ago and so far away….(not really), I was married to a very disturbed woman who almost took my life on so many levels of reality.  If I were to spell out all the abuse that occurred in our apartment, not only would you find it hard to believe, but it would not be in this format.  After reading my novel, no doubt you would vet a love interest that much more.  Oh, please do!

It was a hot one in the Dallas Metroplex the day I took this picture.  The forecasts were calling for 101-105F degrees for a good week or two.  However, the unbearable heat in the apartment was far beyond the temps outdoors.  Literally, as in many times before, I had to physically evacuate the mounting slaughter of my very spirit.  Have you been there?  I was very unhealthy as I was in rehabilitation recovering from a full-organ shutdown, coma and six weeks in the hospital from February of that year.  (That is another event for a future post.  Stay tuned.)  After walking three-four miles to a hotel, I crashed until the following day where I dreaded the sweltering walk back.  Frankly, the hike to and from could have killed me while suffering the condition I was in, but it mattered not.  Admittedly so, I feared seeing her drive up after discovering me on the road or at the hotel.  That was the current pit I was in.

On the way back to my personal hell the next day, I decided to walk an abandoned railroad track.  (You may want to stop reading at this point because what I write next may cause you to reject my story on a dime.  However, if you continue reading you will at least understand I believe with every ounce of me that I am laying out the exact events as they happened.  You’ve been warned.:)  Not hearing an audible voice, I was spoken to in the core of what turns me to the right and the left.  The communication was so clear and distinct there was no mistake that I was given a “spirit nudge” that didn’t come from my own imagination.  It would be easy to blame the outside articulation as a delusional dehydrated man in ill health suffering heat exhaustion, but in this case I knew better. Not only have I experienced heat exhaustion before, as well as self-consultation along with a writer’s imaginings.  Yes, I KNEW and could decipher the vast difference.

These tracks were abandoned long ago years after the expressway was built just half a mile to the west.  They were heavily traveled with the line coming from downtown Dallas all the way to Oklahoma and beyond servicing many a passenger with nicely bundled baggage in tow.  Yet, there lay the tracks, rusted, laced with weeds, baking in the Texas unforgiving sun.  Words, no….rather impressions came to me that I was NOT abandoned as horrific as my circumstances seemed.  The One who had nourished my very being from womb onward had/has never abandoned me regardless of my circumstances or even my bad behavior in life.  Circumstances by their very nature change.  Like the Texas weather, give circumstances a few minutes, hours or days and things will blow eastward away from above your head.

As I walked the long abandoned rails, I was in class.  I learned that there will be times you begin to adhere to an idea that God’s promises written in ancient texts may seem rusted, abandoned and full of the weeds and dust of days covering over the truths handed down. Never is it always easy to flush such ideas in the abyss of forgetfulness, but rather a struggle emerges.  After conditioning the struggle causes a spiritual numbness seducing even the very faithful.  Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t the fact of faith.

Have you noticed the calendar changes every day?  I left the old rusted tracks that afternoon realizing God’s Spirit may seem dormant at times, and late to arrive whatever depot platform you find yourself standing on.  However, I, the student, learned once again: He may seem late but He’s always on time.  In fact, He awaits your arrival whether you’re on track or off no matter how much baggage you need to check-in.  Leaving the train-starved rails that day I can say I found fuel for the race.

Lost In Comfort

July 1987 (Photo credit Express News.)

Lost In Comfort 
(Link to article)

This tragedy was/is incredibly personal for me.

I (as Alan Scott at the time) was part of an award-winning pioneering radio team called, KOJO94-Dallas/Ft Worth, TX, (2 years later we changed call letters to KLTY as it remains today). It was a 100k watt adventure with cutting edge contemporary Christian music charts competing with the top 40 formats and sounds of the day. I should add here that it was 1987 where many cuts wouldn’t be heard in a church service at the time simply because of conservative traditional church service music tastes and appreciation. (It wasn’t a good or bad atmosphere, just the facts.)  We had our first sign-on date on July 4th that year with full-blown marketing plans for demographics way beyond the “churched” audience. If you were here in Texas listening to our format, you either loved us, confused about us or you hated us….all in Christian love of course. For the on-air staff, it was all about a tight segue, tight board operating, hitting our marks, testing our target audience, monitoring our competition down the dial, doing social proof for our very local core audience and listening to our consultants. We were “doing” radio at its best with some of the finest on-air vets available racing to increase our ratings as quickly as we possibly could. Then…GOD stepped in without a heads-up.

The great Bob Morrison and Dave Tucker headed up our news dept. At first word of this tragic nightmare, we dropped everything and went into ministry mode. Suddenly we were breaking format, slipping on hard unit breaks and keeping the mic open way longer than our objectives. We began adding songs out of format for healing lyrics and spiritual easement. Because a couple of very local churches were involved in the devastating event, we fielded on-air phone calls from family and friends of the victims recovered, along with the missing, giving heart-wrenching stories of the loved ones lost to the Guadeloupe River in south Texas.

Frankly, for the person of faith or the agnostic, there was very little relief among the reports given.  It was overwhelming. Never-ever expecting it, I found myself being a late night on-air counselor to many who would call sharing their grief and needing songs of soul and rest. Local teens, I would not have ever met, were becoming known to me, their personas, their talents and love of life.  It’s one thing to read of someone’s life and another to have the parent cry out of their soul just who that child was.  I must admit, I had to hold back lots of tears opening the mic for a stop-down break while still doing the business of the station. As an actor I had many scenes where directed tears fell becoming almost on-demand for me, but 30 years ago this week, the opposite was the struggle.

Many of those kids today would now be in their mid 40’s. No doubt there were potential business leaders, nurses, doctors, musicians, teachers, parents, pastors and politicians. I still think about the lives lost, but mainly I think of the families left behind who are hurting once again this week with the 30th anniversary upon us. Above all, I am grateful I learned early why I chose that profession. In a single hour, we all learned it wasn’t about hitting the weather forecasts right at :14 and :44, or spilling out the calls and frequency with the handle followed by the next PSA tagged with the pre-selling of the next Amy Grant hit within the quarter hour, all wrapped in a total of :13 seconds of blather. I never forgot that lesson.  As a communicator it served me well for touchstone moments to come.  In fact, I understood and held to the difference all through my radio career all because God stepped in and walked through the rapids of the time.

I am 30 years older now and I find that for me, Comfort, TX remains to be more fuel for the race.