Watch For Construction

“And the wolf said to the piglets inside the brick house, ‘Open the door!  If not, I will huff and puff and blow your house in!’  The piglets had faith in the brick house built and defied the wolf.  So the wolf huffed and he puffed, and he huffed and he puffed again, but he was unable to blow the house in.” – Paraphrased version of The Three Little Pigs.  Originally an 1886 English nursery rhyme by James Halliwell-Phillipps.

Not far from me, about 100 yards, is a never-ending construction zone on a main road in Carrollton, Texas.  In fact, you don’t have to live in my neighborhood to say that you too have construction near you.  In the city and suburbs, it seems like you can’t swing a rope without hitting an “Under Construction” sign.  From your perspective, does it appear to you it never ends?  It is either delayed, gets redone or expands but never wraps-up.  Yet, I must admit, as much as ongoing construction is a part of my life, I am reminded my life, my existence here, is also under construction.  Do you feel that way?

Brick by brick, stone by stone, foot by foot, my life, my view, my thoughts are being stretched, expanded and, need I say, halted or delayed from time to time.  But isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?  Otherwise, I would still be in nursery school hearing about three piglet brothers with construction hardhats.  What good would I be in that condition?  If not for the sawing, hammering and screws in life, I believe I would become stagnant.  Construction is hard, it even hurts sometimes.  Right?

Do you like writers who step out on a limb?  You know, a person at the keyboard typing out something that you may or may not adhere to in your personal ideology.  Stick around as I climb this tree trunk.

I am a Christian, a Bible student, a Jesus follower.  I could easily say I am a person of faith, but there again that would be too wide of a definition.  Why?  Because everyone has a faith, a faith in something.  You have the faith in the next chair you sit in.  Sure, the agnostic and atheist might argue they are living without a faith or trust-fueled life.  I can see where I would say that, if I were in that arena.  But, please, bear with me for the next few lines and I’ll present more clearly my thoughts.

Yesterday, my 27 year old middle daughter, wrote a Facebook post about the subject of spiritual unity, or human-connectivity in the face of so much anger and divisiveness in the world.  In her post, she mentions brotherly love, faith, spirit, soul and God.  Some of her views were not exactly 100% biblically based, but very close.  Altogether, it was an entry of good will and hope she shared with her readers.  Most all replies received were kind and affirming as it was written to envelope the perspectives of many, regardless of doctrines held by her readers.  Then, along came an atheist friend challenging her post, specifically concerning the spiritual realm, faith and God. (Frankly, if he IS truly a friend, he should’ve called her up or met for coffee, and caringly challenge her there instead of a public forum.  But this just may be the protective dad typing here.)  His challenge was to suck her into a debate on her personal faith, belief in God and the spiritual life.  She defended her stance well, but like a trained MMA fighter, he circled her responses, hunting for a weak opening and attacking for the “GOTCHA” moment.  He went on to express how her faith was based off of experiences she “thinks” she had, adding that her memory of those experiences were faded and faulty.  It was clear, he had his daggers out to slice and dice her faith stance.  One of his arrows in his quiver surrounded the idea that she had no faith at all in a God, or God concept, because she mentioned her past spiritual experiences.  He loosely used a biblical phrase from the New Testament in an effort to make his point. (This is an old tool.  Satan, the enemy of Jesus, did the same thing in Christ’s life.)  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” -Hebrews 11:1.  He tried to use the last part of the passage, saying if her faith was built (constructed on) experiences, it’s not truly faith.  There is some validity to that school of thought, if that were the only pillar holding up the faith house.

Unfortunately, for this combatant of the spiritual life, he proved the Bible to be more accurate than he wishes.  Scripture defines the enemies of God multiple times as scoffers, agitators, self-willed, boats without rudders, having an appearance of holiness and yet denying the power of it, and of course, often using biblical texts lifted out of contextual forms in order to make it fill another purpose.  One of my favorite Bible teachers brands this into our skulls.  He says, “A text without context is pretext.”  Think about that.  I’ll still be here waiting for you when you’re done.  Read it again.

Scores of atheistic scientists and scholars have changed their beliefs after discovering truths like the DNA strand, the proof that the universe had a beginning and synchronized clockwork perfection with a designer’s blueprint.  Scores of intellectuals have now written volumes on the subject of the fact that ONLY earth is constructed to sustain life on all its levels: micro, horticultural, animal, embryonic, humanity itself.

In the end, this man, replying to my daughter on her post, proved he also has a faith.  It takes faith to trust in atheistic platforms.

I passionately point you to the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  A remarkable “thinkers” apologetics collection that stands alone in modern-day literature.  If you want a challenge, a true honest challenge, concerning faith in Jesus and your personal expedient spiritually-connected moment, this is the book to order.  Below is a small excerpt to sample.

“…You can shut him up (Jesus) for a fool, you can spit on him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Faith.  I struggle with it.  If you find a Bible believer, a Christian like myself, who says they have 100% faith all the time, 24/7 that never fails no matter what, I will show you a liar.  Even the giants of the faithful in scripture, the Old Testament and New Testament characters listed, each and every one of them struggled with faith, each and every one of them.  Look it up.  Don’t take my word for it.  The ancient texts state that only Messiah would have perfect faith, never disobedient and always in tune with God’s opera of His-story.  I believe that to be Jesus, (Yeshua) from Nazareth, Israel.  I had a faith (the condition of the mind and soul that holds up the hope that I hold to) prior to any “evidence” seen or experienced.  In the beginning of this acceptance, this conversion, the only “evidence” I could list here, besides creation itself, would be God’s Spirit turning the light on in my spirit to see and learn of Him for Who He is.  Afterwards, I was shown evidence, clear evidence that bolstered my faith in God throughout the following decades of my life.  If none of that had ever happened, I too would be scouting out people of faith on social media, ready to do all I could to destroy their personal faith holding to any and all religions.  It seems some do feel they are the knights of the night with orders to take Holy writ and use it as weapons against the readers, if at all possible.  But be careful, unlike a construction saw, the Bible calls itself, “A two edged sword.”  It will cut both ways.

As mentioned earlier, I struggle, even fail in my daily walk of faith.  I will NOT be perfect here in this earth-suit I’m wearing, called skin.  Fortunately for me, the scripture also tells me ahead of time to expect faith struggles and how normal it is for the sin-painted condition I was born with.  Thank you, God!  His grace, His unearned favor and aggressive love towards me, allows room for my failures.  Again, look it up.  Don’t take my word for it.  I am under construction and it will be ongoing until I reach that final exit ramp.  I can only arrive when there’s fuel for the race.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)


Chasing Unrest….AWAY!

“Do you remember the 21st night of September?  Love was changing the minds of pretenders, while chasing the clouds away…” – “September” – Recorded by Earth, Wind & Fire (1978), Columbia label.  Composers: Maurice White, Al McKay, Allee Willis.

Hey, look at the post date of this jot.  As I write, it’s actually the 21st night of September.  The lyric of this classic isn’t just timely for the calendar date, but for what it represents. More on that below.

Can I get personal way up front?  How tired are you?  Maybe the better question might be, how sick and tired are you?  Yeah, me too.  I don’t believe it’s just me twirling my hair, sitting on my front steps with coffee in hand making up scenarios. There’s just lots of dismay, dishonor and disheartening things coagulating at the same time across the planet.  You would have to be living in a cave not to feel it in the air, that’s if the cave doesn’t fall-in on you from the next earthquake, or flooded out by the next hurricane, or burned out by the next wildfire, or nuked out by a nuclear fallout, etc.  Nope!  I refuse to list the itemization in my head here, although if I did, it would take a few pages.  However, I would refer you to the news of the day, news that doesn’t have to be conjured from an instigator spewing “fake news.”  It’s enough to make one lose sleep, or act-out in an uncharacteristic knee-jerk reaction in traffic, at work, at home.  I know, I’m guilty as charged.

Certainly you and I deal with the craziness of our society’s environment differently. Depending upon our backgrounds, and the source of our personal peace, we can trek various paths in search for that sweet spot where we are at rest, running from the unrest we feed on each day. Many will choose their drug of choice.  It might BE a drug.  If so, don’t procrastinate. Get help now.  It might be finding solace in other externals.  What does that look like for you?  What is your escape sled into the fields of release?  Pizza?  BBQ?  A glass of Merlot?  Movies, TV sitcoms, game day, video games, scenic drives, a cruise to other coasts, jogging, artwork, concerts, a vintage album, dancing, singing, acting, blogging?  Hmmmm.  I perceive a lengthy scroll is needed.

Burn-out is a real issue.  I have known many highly successful individuals that admitted to the experience.  I’ve known many songwriters who MUST get away to a secluded beach or mountain cabin to pound out new songs for new projects.  I’ve known owners of businesses who seem to be the Energizer bunny that keeps going and going and going, yet have to shut down in a park or at a lake with a fishing pole.

Remember Christopher Cross’ song, “Sailing” from 1980?

“Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me.  And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility.  Oh, the canvas can do miracles just you wait and see. Believe me….”

Did I catch you singing?  Me too.  It was a huge hit with great hooks.  The 2nd verse is even more revealing.  Here’s just a sliver.

“…if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again…”

I love Christopher, but if he were with me now, I am sure he would say, although he released the song in June of 1980, he is still searching.

The refresh button is a pleasing symbol, I think.  Isn’t it?  You’re reading an article when suddenly you can’t seem to scroll down to the next riveting page.  After taking a hammer to the mouse, you click on the refresh button and it begins to make it’s circling dance testifying to something like, “Hey, I’ve got your back.  Relax.  It’ll just take me a few seconds”.  Then, if all goes the way it should, BOOM!  It all loosens up and stress has been freed into the atmosphere for another time, another victim.  To me, it’s like the reboot button, mainly on the older units.  My shaking finger would reach for it out of frustration when my screen froze right in the middle of an audio production I worked tirelessly on, back in my radio theater days.  After engaging the reboot, I held my breath, trying to recall the last time I saved whatever scene I was building.  Most of the time, it went well.  But the first project I did 20 years ago on Pro-Tools software, I hadn’t saved squat within the first 42 minutes of post-production.  A rookie mistake.  The computer froze.  I rebooted and when it came back to my screen, I had lost 42 minutes of mixed post-production work. Heartbreaking!  I had to reproduce it all, and in some cases, brought back certain actors to lay down lines lost. I never forgot that lesson. (Ooops, let me hit “save” right now while it’s on my mind.)

I also love the word, “REBOOT”.  It reminds me of my first job the summer after I graduated from high school.  I worked for Florsheim Shoes in a retail store at Valley View Mall in Dallas, Texas.  Some customers, who thought we were cobblers as well, would come in with a worn-out sole asking for a re-sole.  If the boot or shoe was a sown-on leather sole, it could be done.  In those cases, we would refer them to a cobbler shop down the street where old boots or shoes could be….well, “rebooted” so to speak.  So, to me, rebooting my computer feels like I am re-soling for more computer roadwork.

Yet, the deeper question remains.  Does my “s-o-u-l” really get rebooted, or is it a temporary weekend band-aid as I go sailing with Mr. Cross?

You remember Dr. Svend Brinkmann Ph.D., the Danish author and professor of psychology, right?  (I know, I didn’t know him from Adam.)  But I was struck by an excerpt from his new book, “Stand Firm: Resisting The Self-Improvement Craze”.

“In our secular world, we no longer see eternal paradise as a carrot at the end of the stick of life, but try to cram as much as possible into our relatively short time on the planet instead.  This is, of course, a futile endeavor, doomed to failure.  It is tempting to interpret the modern epidemics of depression and burnout as the individual’s response to the unbearable nature of constant acceleration.  The decelerating individual – who slows down instead of speeding up, and maybe even stops completely – seems out of place in a culture characterized by manic development and may be interpreted pathologically (i.e. diagnosed as clinically depressed). – Dr. Svend Brinkmann Ph.D.

Interestingly enough, King Solomon wrote about this dilemma many times throughout Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  I sure hope Dr. Brinkmann didn’t spend a decade discovering this truth.

I have to ask myself in the scope of my days, do I cram “stuff” in my existence on my sled down to another plane to escape the utter chaos of my surroundings? Better yet, when I climb back up that snowy hill, dragging my sled behind me, do I return to the same plateau I descended from? Is it a never-ending circle in a cyclical effort to refresh, to reboot my soul?  I think the conclusion is, too many of us use stuffings in our lives like toys and trinkets, activities, events, flights, social acrobatics all in efforts to find peace and sanity.

Because I am a Christian, my faith doesn’t ask me, it demands me, to connect with His Spirit for the refresh and reboot.  It’s a divine attribute specifically guaranteed to each who call on the name of Jesus. If only I, in my fleshly nature, in a fleshly world, can remember on this 21st night of September how to chase the clouds away, rediscovering the truth.  When I do, I am promised fuel for the race.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted (having shod your feet) with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace.” – Paul, Eph 6:14-15 (NIV)

Deep Calling Deep

“Lay me down, roll me out to sea.  Calling on a mighty wave to cover me.  Lay me down and roll me out to sea.  Heaven if your ready, shine your light on me.” – Composer: Larry Weiss, 1974. Recorded by: Barry Manilow on “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again” 1975 project.

Check out those lyrics.  Seriously, if it gets that bad, call somebody, like 911.  I am happy to report the composer, Larry Weiss “made it through the rain” and is alive today.  The picture above is my visual expression reflecting the depths of the translation of such lyrical cries.  I was suffering at that dark time.  The darkness almost tangible and certainly indescribable. You can actually read the depression in my face.

With that said, depression is an authentic mental state that rocks the spirit of an individual.  Sadly, I have known a few who have ended their own lives in a haze of what they considered to be a bottomless, hopeless despair.  The swirl they found their minds in seemed endless without escape or fading.  I am not a psychiatrist, but I believe one might say we all have been approached and flirted with the deadly side of depression. Some cover it well while others are unable.  Some even create a career of stand-up comedy, music, painting and other creative forms of diversions as a drapery covering the enormous fault-line of depression in their lives.  When someone so injured in their deepest soul can no longer speak out for rescue, the wound settles and nests in the caverns of the mind and heart.  Rarely can anyone realize just how far down the roots of the harmful growth embeds itself.  Even now you are thinking of someone you know that I speak of.  Maybe I am describing you.  If so, please read on.

Admittedly, I don’t have a street corner on the subject at all.  I know, and have known, many who have had the cancer of depression – chemical, clinical or otherwise.  I have been close to individuals who were so infected at an early age by trauma or abuse which initiated mental rages, addictions, violent actions injuring the innocents around them. They often leave a road of disaster behind them as the infliction acts-out. (Here, I must state that I am uncomfortable in revealing personal relationships where I had a front row seat to generational abuses that visits all who come close.  But I will admit, more than a few times, I’ve been affected to the core of my being and struggle to recuperate to this very day.)

Someone I called a friend, once told me she loved, in fact, thrived on striking up a fuse of dynamite and tossing it into a room (figuratively speaking) and leaving, knowing all she left behind would be pierced to the core, shattered, broken, without the ability to trust again.  She told me of the analogy with a smile, as if she spoke with a great deal of fondness.  At the moment, it shook me. yet I shrugged it off and went on my merry way. Not long afterwards she did just that and I was one of those who suffered the most.  In retrospect, I recalled the dozens of companies she worked for, always in short time frames ending in terminations, as well as short personal relationships.  For her, there was a string of commonality pointing to a sordid past that no doubt went back to a traumatic ground-zero in her life.  I am one who bears the scars.

Destruction doesn’t always follow bullets and bombs. Sometimes it’s behind darkened closed doors in a young child’s life, or an experience of a travesty heard or witnessed. (See “Straight-Jacket” from 1964 with Joan Crawford.  Or, “The Deer Hunter” from 1978 with Robert De Niro)

These injuries, branding the very make-up of one’s psychological personal outlook and worldview, are not surface or even near the surface.  The wounds go deep, deep into the core of a person’s spirit that often cannot be spoken verbally, but rather stews in the depths of what turns them to the right or to the left.  The strata goes so far south it would submerge the Grand Canyon.  It would be at a level, I believe, only the Spirit of God Himself could recognize and communicate with.   It is a place where no doctor, no hospital, no medication or psych study could reach.  The iceberg is vast and drives its base into the ocean floor.  Man’s abilities cannot reach the open crevice of this seething wound. With each step in life the injured spirit takes in that sorrowful journey through its own quicksand, the griefs that accumulate in the heart as the years move on. Layer upon layer.  Mound after mound after mound.  Only the One Who is “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) can have full compassion.  The Almighty understands the language of the depths of our hearts.  His Spirit communes with our spirits.  His heart to ours, His depths to ours.

I love this old Margaret Becker song from her 1995 “Grace” collection :

“In this ocean of my soul there’s a voice that calls and calls.  Calls to You night and day using words I can not say.  They are words of waiting, words of want.  Without You, I’m undone.  Calling to deeper love.  Calling to higher truth.  Calling to anything that leads me deeper and farther on with You.  Calling to deep.  Calling deep, calling deep….”

This past week I was disappointed in a family member.  I have been in the dumps fighting new health issues of late.  I was dismayed and frustrated in tallying up my bank account today.  These are surface hurdles to be jumped, but not to the depths of my unseen fault lines.  I would say, when honest, you know where that trench is for you and what dragon lies there.  Yet, knowing Who goes that deep with me, with all willingness, gives me fuel for the race.

“Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.” – Psalms 42:7 (NASB)

Pray for WHO?

“In years to come they may discover what the air we breathe and the life we lead is all about.  But it won’t be soon enough for me.  In another world we could stand on top of the mountain with our flag unfurled.  In a time to come we will be dancing to the beat played on a different drum.” – Paul McCartney – “Tug Of War”, title track to his 1982 album.                                                                                                                               (This was his first project after the assassination of John Lennon.)

“Hey! which one of you said, ‘*@#%^&!’ ” came a voice from the gang of high school rivals as they got out of two different cars.  What a night.  I believe it was the fall of 1977, my senior year in high school.  A well attended party had just wrapped up at Lisa’s house with her parents on the front porch waving all of us off as we headed toward our cars.  The street was dark at curbside of this upper middle class quiet neighborhood in a northern suburb of Dallas, Texas.  It was not my first rodeo with multiple attackers.  I saw the writing on the wall. The guys and gals I was with, maybe 10 of us, were all fellow choir members from school and zero street experience with thugs.  Knowing who I was with, I was aware nobody in my group had yelled obscenities at these passing cars.  It was clear, these were what I called “Quackers,” flapping off their mouths to start a fight.  I was the only one in the group who could stand up to these jerks. The number of bullies changed depending upon who you asked the following day, but I believe it to be about 7 or 8 guys, half of which had long-neck bottles in their hands. Fortunately, I was in my 4th or 5th year of Tae-Kwon-Do and kickboxing, training with world contenders of that time.  Then a friend of mine, who should’ve kept his mouth shut (Greg, if you’re reading this, you know who you are, lol), challenged the hearing ability of these bloodthirsty hoods.  With that, I winced for the first punch I was about to witness.  Instead, I was suddenly overcome with a sense of protectionism.  Without going into lots of details on antics, I had to take on the biggest brute among them.  I say, “take on,” but I wasn’t trying to injure the guy. I simply did a freight train of martial arts show-&-tell on his body while his buddies in crime watched.  As what usually happens in tribal poundings of chests, they got spooked and wanted to leave.  About that time, the men in blue pulled up in a couple of cruisers. (I’m sure Lisa’s parents closed the door and dialed 911.)  The cops saw what was up, quickly identifying the trouble makers, the cops threatened them all with jail time and off they went like a sack in a tornado. Nobody was arrested because the actual rumble, if you want to call it that, only lasted about :25 seconds before the cops arrived.  After they interviewed me, and our group, it was clear what took place.  I’m so grateful none of my friends were hurt.

Bullies are often like that, ya know.  They have a big hole in their face and loud noises come out of it, combined with a vicious scowl.  If you have been the victim of abuse, you know what I’m talking about.  Yet, most of the time, they are so lacking in self-esteem and confidence they cower into a scared paper tiger when they get just a whiff of being over-matched. The theory is, bullies feel as if they need to be bigger, louder and feared to hide their inner wounds.  I’ve known many.  Psychologists can tell us more of such a mindset, but that’s what I have observed several times over in my personal life.

I sincerely believe North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un is such a person.  I may be wrong, but he obviously has mental issues and certainly has a deficit in maturity.  Besides what he allows the world to see on state-controlled television, he has slaughtered thousands of innocents, imprisoned the old and the weak, guilty of nothing.  His people live in totally frantic fear of him and must stage happiness and joyful enthusiasm when he is present and on camera. They are raised to believe that he is GOD.  Yes, that’s right, an ALL-POWERFUL BEING, just like his dad and granddad! (By the way, they are STILL dead.) Besides the obvious twisted view he sets up for himself, the people have no rights, no freedom.  You can be killed over a long-distance phone call, a hint of displeasure, an internet connection, books on philosophy, religion or love.  Stories of severe torture and numerous overpopulated prison work camps from hell come from the courageous underground and those who escaped seeking asylum.  I have known many Korean men and women in my life, precious souls.  All of them change their facial expression when the name of the dictatorship family is mentioned.  Many have family on the north side of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Meanwhile, the vast majority of North Koreans starve as the little creep sits on his throne, eats cookies and plays video games all day between staged photo ops.  Yet, he has personal deficiencies making and molding him into who he is.  Only God, the True and Living One, knows.

Sure, I could go on about his missiles, bombs, nuclear technology he has been allowed to build, followed by super ridiculous and risky threats, but I won’t.  Instead, I will spotlight MY responsibility of protectionism concerning this bully.

The One I follow, Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, who with the breath of His nostrils could instantly scar the Korean peninsula to its very bedrock, orders me to….(wait for it)…pray for him.  Hold the missile launchers, rocket man!  Really…P-R-A-Y for him?  Are we sure it’s not, we are to make P-R-E-Y out of him?  That’s what I want to do.  I want to see a shock & awe shellacking of the little boy’s palace.  I want to see him evaporated!  I want to see him get what he deserves, as well as ISIS, Iranian leadership, Al-Qaeda, all human trafficers, drug cartel kingpins, Antifa, KKK, Neo-Nazis, Charlie Manson…..(I’m tired already.)  Do you see where I’m going with this?  There’s plenty of bad blood that can be shed out there.  How much time do we have? How many bombs are available? How much of the planet do we destroy?  How much energy do we have to erase all the bad guys with bad haircuts?

So, Jesus. How would you have me pray for this tiny dweeb dressed in black?  Sure, I’m brave enough to ask.  Scripture tells me I should come to God with all things including my angst.  He invites me to come reason with Him.  I think I know the answer when it comes to praying for my enemy.

How would you pray for a loved one?  You might request that your loved one might become a better person, a person of good character.  Right?  I don’t think I should start with requesting he eat more cookies and die of kidney failure.  Rather, I think I can be more in-line with the following.  Pray for a conversion, even though it would be a miracle.  Pray that the evil shown, and on its perch ready to launch, would be curbed, sidelined.  Pray for perfect divine judgment.  After all, human judgment can be faulty and most often is.  Pray for protection of the public under his laced-up booties.   Pray for all his efforts to fail or fall short.  Pray the short little thug gets distracted and overlooks the underground church and political resistance in North Korea.

Sure, Alan, it’s totally easy to pray for my enemies, my torturer in life, my abusers past, present and future…yeah, right.  Hey, I’m the worst about this.  I pray an asteroid falls from the sky and takes out the regime, but that’s God’s choice.  Then, I read what I just typed and recall Jesus’ prayer on the cross.  “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”-Luke 23:34 (Alan’s paraphrase)  Torturous evil inflicted can be an action of ignorance…or not.  But, then again, I am not the Perfect Judge Who sees the hearts of men and women.

So as the highly disturbed man in North Korea rattles his saber shouting, “Hey! Which one of you said, *@#%^&!?,” we pray for his change, his inabilities to rise, his passion for blood and fire to wain, for this flag unfurled to change and most of all, for the innocents over which he lords.

I’ve read the end of the book.  McCartney is right.  “…In a time to come we will be dancing to the beat played on a different drum.”

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” – Jesus, Matthew 5:43-47 (NIV)


Running On Empty

“Running on, running on empty.  Running on, running blind.  Running on, running into the sun, but I’m running behind.” – Jackson Browne.  Title cut to his 1977 album.

We were turning into a corner service station in Greenville, Texas when she said, “We have to give old Misty a drink.” (Misty was my grandparent’s teal-green Oldsmobile at the time.  She always named their cars like they did horses.)  The “full service” attendant (That would be the smiling guy in the Air Force style cap with his starched white shirt and tie) asked how he could serve her.  “Fill her up with Ethel,” she replied.  His reply was something rarely heard in today’s lingo but standard in her time, “Yes ma’am.  Right away, ma’am.”  He opened the hood to check the fluids and wash the windshield as the gasoline was being pumped. She never left the car.  She never swiped a credit card located on the gas pump.  And therefore, she never smelled like gasoline. She paid the attendant there at her rolled down window and off we went.  That’s how it used to be.  I know, it’s a foreign idea to anyone under 50 years old.

It’s ironic that what I’ve witnessed in the last few days at the Texas gasoline pumps would remind me of the title I chose for my blog, “Fuel For The Race.”

If you don’t live in Texas you may not know there have been long lines at the gasoline pumps stretching out into the streets and down the lanes. In the 1946 classic movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” there’s a maddening scene of a bank run when the stock market crashed.  It was true to life as the public panicked and ran to the banks to yank out their funds before it all disappeared.  Experts call such crashes “social phenomena” where external economic events combine with the psychology of mob behavior in a domino reaction, resulting in sell-offs and mass hysteria.  Some label it, “Herd behaviorism.” Very much like one spooked cow in a grazing herd of 100 can trigger a chain reaction resulting in a full-blown stampede.  Some stampedes have been known to run straight off cliffs in a mad dash to a fictitious oasis of safety.  How does THAT make you feel? Case in point, I saw a Dallas native being interviewed on a street corner.  He was laughing at the panicked throngs of nervous, agitated drivers sitting in a line of cars some 30 vehicles deep.  He wisely stated that he lived through the energy crisis in the Jimmy Carter years where drivers sat in long gas station lines.  Rationing depended upon your licence plate ending in an odd or even number, coinciding with the odd or even calendar date. He commented that the 1970’s crisis was real and lengthy, but that this was just the public acting stupid. There was one lady in the pump line who HAD a full tank but brought a can with her, while the man behind her in line was running on fumes.  As for me, all I saw were cows sitting behind the steering wheels (excuse the pun).

Compliments from Harvey (see my post from Aug 30), the Texas coastal oil platforms and refineries were interrupted and halted due to the hurricane and its aftermath.  Energy experts weren’t caught off guard.  They expected a hick-up, price per gallon temporarily rising, but not a devastating fuel shortage crisis.  Plans for reserves, along with various other pipelines, would bridge the gap and are doing just that as I type. Meanwhile, we get to see the worst in the consumer behavior, in my opinion.  The rushing run on gas pumps “caused” the temporary shortages, gas stations closing, pumps with yellow tape around them, etc.  We, the people, caused our own crisis, short-lived as it may be.  Forgive me if you were caught up in the fray.  My intention is not to offend.

What we are observing in the post-Harvey wake, are clear indications of the waning “hope” barometer of our society as a whole.  Let’s face it, there seems to be a spiraling of sorts across the world:  Scenes of North Korea missile/bomb idiocy…  Unheard-of international and domestic terrorism…  The violent viciousness to shut down free speech… Then, there’s the public disdain for righteous thought and practice… The ongoing rising war against all things of Judaeo/Christian thought… The political numbness and gridlock  from disregarding voter’s ballots… Videos of the bloody rioting and looting in the streets by thumb-suckers who can’t even balance a checkbook… Chicken Littles who rant and rave concerning planet warmth complete with CGI of rising tides that will erase half of the continents… Heightened ethnic uprisings among fellow citizens… Rumors of a possible new civil war…  A radical move to erase whatever history some don’t want to be reminded of because it might hurt their feelings… While some are bankrolled to drive violent chaos in the public square, not even having an ideology or doctrine of their own… And on and on and on and on…  Indeed, I could go on.  There’s enough groaning to orbit the earth for another millennia.

The earth is trembling for peace and safety without a hint of solutions anytime soon.  A simple hint of a small speed-bump in the Texas fuel pricing or flow is all it takes for “herd behavior” as the stampede tramples away at common sense and patience, while disregarding stable minds who pull back and see the larger true picture.  Imagine, just imagine how the public of such a society will respond to an authentic crisis.  We lead by fear, or so it seems.  Do we not cause our own calamity in life?  Do we not cause our own dry tanks?  Do we not empty out our own energy reserves simply because of anticipated fears, folly and faithlessness?  I’m sorry that I have lived long enough to see its foothills, but I believe we are witnesses to what erosion of true hope and faithlessness does.

No matter if you are an atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jew, Gentile, Christian, you might find the following words comforting, only if you hold back your knee-jerk bias of your leaning or preconceived positions.  Try it and read the next paragraph.

A man, a dethroned prince, who was raised in religions that worshiped kings, queens and the sun, moon and stars was running on empty himself from a personal crisis. Without warning he was spoken to by God, the true One who he had not searched out, in the form of a bush that burned, yet not consumed.  When he pulled up his bravery, he asked the voice coming from the burning branches to identify Himself.  No doubt, coming from the most educated and most powerful kingdom on earth, he must have thought he might have studied this “god” in the list.  The God answered in a mysterious way that speaks loudly to this very day and long after I’m gone.  “I AM that I AM!”  Unlike any other deity known in all the stone tablets, scrolls and bound leather volumes of earth’s history, this God envelopes time and continuum all wrapped in His personal name.  In fact, like a perpetual looping, there is no beginning or ending, no before the alpha or after the omega, as He described His name to this man of royalty.

What is that to me?  What is that to you?  Plenty.  I heard it explained in these terms and it’s truly the best deciphering of this name I can possibly deliver to you.

I AM in your past…right now.  I AM in your present…right now.  I AM in your future…right now.  It’s difficult to wrap your arms around the idea.  He was there with me before I got here.  He is here now as I arrive.  He is in my future when I arrive to see Him there.  All encompassing.

Match THAT, gas tank.  No need to run on empty.  No need to BE emptied.  No need to suck off of emptiness.  Be fueled for the race.

“Some boast (trust) in chariots (4-cylinders),and some in horses (hybrid engines), but we will boast (trust) in the name of the LORD, our God.” – Psalm 20:7 (NAS & Alan’s interpretation commentary)