Ghosts Litter

If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts would tell
Just like an old time movie
About a ghost from a wishing well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I’m a ghost you can see
-Gordon Lightfoot (1970)  Warner/Chappell Music

Candy Corn for everybody!  Tis the season, until Nov 1st.  Seems like there’s a ghost here, a ghost there, a ghost everywhere.  Well…maybe so.

Last year I read about a special kind of ghost, a herd of them actually, from an author who was writing about preparing for marriage, or remarriage.  It was enlightening, and I found it to be spot on.  Let me give you a spin-off thought based upon his premise.

When it comes to old spooky ghost stories, which I find far more of a tremble factor than most of the blood and guts writers of today, it usually surrounds people or places long ago or far away.  Mainly, the haunted one is injected mentally with the memory of someone they knew.  Bob Marley comes to mind in Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol.”  Poor old Ebenezer Scrooge.  As you might recall he was visited by his old business partner’s ghost (Bob Marley) to remind him of his past and current transgressions in his dealings.  Mr. Marley spoke of his heavy chains, shackled to his spirit for all eternity, due to his own dark decisions in life, warning Mr. Scrooge to shed the chains while he was still alive.  “What Lies Beneath,”  with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer from 2000, is a great modern-day script. It entails what encompasses a person of guilt due to horrific, damaging decisions.

We do haunt ourselves.  We litter our own souls.

Biblically, there seems to be a ghost story found in the Old Testament.  King Saul of Israel was so worried about a vicious enemy at his gates ready to slug things out with Saul’s army.  Saul asks for a medium known to have the ability to conjure up spirits.  So while  incognito, the king went to consult the “Witch of Endor”. (Really bad mistake)  He charged her to “bring up” Samuel, a prophet who had died.  When the old hag makes the supernatural cell tower ping, it is interesting that when a robed old spirit appears to the witch, the passage says that Saul “perceived” the spirit to be Samuel.  The conversation that follows is one for the books…LOL.  (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.)  Theologians debate about this page in I Samuel 28 to this very day.  Without going into WHO the spirit was, I will say I think one word in the story sparkles like a cut diamond in the verb, “perceived”.  However, the point I’m wanting to make is Samuel was on Saul’s mind because he knew the prophet spoke truths, but was no longer available…or was he?

People and places haunt our memories and emotions.

Me As Ghost

As so many think of things that go bump in the night, why not take a moment and shed some light on our REAL ghosts.  What haunts you way down deep inside?  Grab that mirror and be brave for a moment.

“…But I sing of things I miss, or things that used to be…” – Barry Manilow from “This One’s For You” (Lyrics based upon reflections of his grandfather long since passed away.)

What or whom do you dream about, good or bad?  What ghosts come out of your closet? Some have haunting memories of a failed marriage (guilty here) and the memories linger.  Some ghosts hang around from a failed business.  When starting a new business, the chains from the collapsed venture come rattling when least expected, often holding the owner back without traction.  Some are littered with ghosts among the ruins of a termination from a dream-job.  The career ghosts pour out the sour memories like rapids over boulders which brings tossing and turning.  Am I right?  Before you drag out a ghost buster in a robe, electromagnetic sensor and a bundle of burning sage, let’s do an exorcism of our own.

“The horrible reality occurs when one refuses to acquaint oneself with one’s personal ghosts.” – Anonymous Author

Let me be brutally up front about my ghosts.  My ghosts don’t consist of a draped, hooded figures floating across my bedroom floor.  My ghosts litter me with past failures.  The stumbles, shatterings and slip-N-Slides in life haunt me.  The old, “I should’ve done this or that” reverberates the walls of the mind.  Why?  Because I ALLOW them to come in and fester in my memories.  Then there’s the ghosts of “What might have beens” that are most talented with their nests of the soul.  Ooops, here comes the ghosts of “If I had onlys” drifting above me overnight.  Yep, they’re all there to keep me company…it’s miserable, isn’t it?  Why not try an experiment?  Take the phrases, “What might have been”, “If I had only” and “I should’ve done this or that” and tag them all at the end with the following…”BUT GOD!”

With Biblical perspective the “BOO!” in life is nicely watered down with fuel for the race.

“…I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching to what lies ahead…” – Paul – Philippians 3:13 (NAS)  

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Move Over, Mr. Weinstein. (No, really. Move over!)

“So tell me what you want to hear.  Something that’ll light those ears. Sick of all the insincere….Don’t care if critics never jump in line.  I’m gonna give all my secrets away.” – Recorded by OneRepublic, 2009.  Composer: Ryan Tedder

A couple of days ago, I stepped out of the shower, threw on my bath robe, came out of the bathroom spouting off (in jest) to my wife, “Happy Halloween!  I’m Harvey Weinstein!”  Before she could even react to my failed attempt at humor, I felt a huge conviction way down deep inside.  Right away I admitted to her that wasn’t really funny and walked away from it.  Unfortunately, I feel many will wear a Harvey Weinstein costume for Halloween parties this year.  How sad.

It’s brutal, isn’t it?  I mean, your darkest secrets to be revealed publicly.

I am not intentionally jotting with one hand while gathering stones for Mr. Weinstein with the other.  Frankly all of that (throwing stones bit) would be too easy and almost recreational, in a therapeutic camera lens.  However, with Harvey Weinstein’s horrific actions of sexual abuses and allegations coming out in the public square, with virtually every news agency repeating it as other victims step up to the truth-plate, I won’t keep my computer off.

Sincerely, Mr. Weinstein’s conduct is about as degrading as a human action can get.  In fact I’ll go so far as to say it is next to the act of mind-bending torture and murder.  Allow me to explain my thinking.

One of Harvey’s excuses is that it’s been well accepted and even applauded when it comes to the ancient casting couch.  I’m afraid that is true.  While on Howard Stern’s radio show, he was quoted as saying something like, “Well, it’s not how it used to be back in the day,” concerning the ability to look the other way.  You might be asking yourself just how many sexual victims are out there.  I don’t even want to think about it.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine why so many victims of this brand of cruelty and shame hold their silence.  After all, they have been victimized, brutalized and used like a wet rag by a powerful man in the entertainment field who shakes the proverbial trees and bushes in his business.  He is the king of that kingdom.  You would think they would leave his office and make a straight line to the police station. If so, they might appear to be liars with a grudge on a tear to dethrone and destroy someone’s career and family.  (Let me say the unpopular here.  THAT DOES happen more times than you will ever hear about.  But that is not the focus of this post.)

My past is a collage with multiple hats.  Among the hats: director, casting director, producer, playwright, copywriter, editor, actor, music director, voice coach, program director, voice actor, voice-over talent and singer.  I have worked with some of the best actors from Hollywood to Texas, New York to Toronto and from the BBC in the UK.  Many of my best friends are in show business, splintering through a wide range of talents and titles.  None of these have personally confessed to me they have been at the hands of a sexual predator in high places, with the exception of one.  Since the Weinstein media explosion, the #ME TOO social media campaign has ignited, for solidarity purposes, in warp speed.  I was saddened to see a couple of my friends post the two-word reveal in recent days.

Harvey Weinstein’s victims are not all A-List actors worth millions of Hollywood dollars.  I am certain, simply by the shear numbers who work in the entertainment world who are grunt workers, extras and one or two jobs-a-year-actors.  Between auditions, these are women and men who are slaving away slapping burgers together at McDonald’s or washing dishes at Denny’s.  They have bills to pay and kids to feed, many without health insurance.  They are living in a world where friendships are often shallow as they step on one another to get that next solid connection.  Back-stabbing is common as a way to dominate or prosper.  An actress at 40 years old is considered old, yesterday’s flavor.  The younger actress can be blackballed and fired if she gains an inch or five pounds, which ever comes first.  It happens all the time.  Flaky is the real word for Hollywood.

For a few, suddenly, a nice break might be in the wings with a principle role on a new project coming up next summer.  It goes something like this.  He/she is thinking, if I can only get that pay scale for a year I could pay off a year’s lease, send my kid to camp, college, or get my mom and dad into that care facility they so desperately need.  Let’s say The Weinstein Company is the executive producer of the new project.  Harvey Weinstein holds futures in his hands like a puppet master.  The agency sends he/she to Weinstein’s party the next weekend because it would be expedient.  While there, he hands him/her a script and states he would love to hear a read for the role at his apartment in the city the following day.  He/she agrees, asks off for the private audition and off to Harvey’s for an enormous opportunity.  After arriving, Harvey himself lets him/her in and apologizes for having to take a quick shower first.  After a few minutes, he comes out in his bathrobe, offers the actor a drink before the read.  He/she is doing all he/she can to be on his/her best possible behavior.  Then, at an unanticipated moment, Mr. Weinstein opens his robe, suggesting a full-body massage before the read.  While in a state of shock, he/she has a quick life-altering choice to make within a second or two.  Unfortunately, often the actor prostitutes herself at the alter of Mr. Weinstein and others like him.  Why?  Money, career, or for the love of the craft and family.  Seemingly, it’s seen as a fork in the road to end years of poverty.  What does a starving artist do?

“Some of them want to use you.  Some of them want to get used by you.  Some of them want to abuse you.  Some of them want to be abused.” – Eurythmics – 1983.  Composer: Allen Toussaint

You may not like the next line, but if you read my posts you know I don’t shy away from realities.

Mr. Weinstein and his victims are slaves to their own creation.  Before you write your nasty comment in response, allow me to shine a brighter light on this.

More times than not, Hollywood, Broadway and the recording industry celebrates, highlights and nurtures scripts and lyrics of violence of all types, including the violence of sexual assault.  Moreover, they pump out sexuality to the max like a sausage machine.  Playing to the core lusts of the human mind, the machine targets the libido with all of the visual and audio tools to arrive there.  Too many times, a producer might toss back the original screenplay saying it doesn’t have enough sex, nudity and violence.  So, the poor screenwriter does a rewrite on a piece he/she has been working to sell for maybe thirteen years or more.  Often an actor is asked how they are able to perform a sex scene with a virtual stranger while 20 crew members are watching.  Usually they will say, they mentally take themselves out of their own body.  (Interestingly enough, rape victims often say the same.  I know this because I have known a few.)  How often can you perform this mental escapism, talented or not, and not damage your own soul’s outlook?  All in the name of the buck.  Sex and violence sells.  Way too often a film has to get back to the editor for cuts just to get a downshift to an R rating.  So, someone who deals and peddles sex and violence on a day-to-day basis is a seeded individual.  Furthermore, we, you and I, BUY the product like a thirsty dog.  How dare we show shock and dismay that a movie exec gets a pass to force his way with those he might hire.  Seeds grow.  And like a seedling punching through the soil, so does the acting out of a seeded one who uses it as his/her income.  Thus, Mr. Weinstein, who in his value system, considers sexual assault to be part of the biz.  As he told one actress who complained of his grope while secretly recording him, “Come on, you know you like this.  You’re used to this.”    

My suggestion?  Never ask why the victim stays silent.  It’s a tad more obvious when you place yourself in their loafers.  True, in their loafers you might make a more dignified decision, and many do, and are never heard from again. The artist often sees their very life on the line.  Silence hides their shame.  Silence will keep them working at what they love.  Silence passes the buck to the next victim with choices.  It’s indeed a vicious trap. Too many suicides come from this industry.

I could go on, but I won’t.  I will add that the one actress I worked with who admitted to being a victim of a Weinstein, also admitted she had twelve abortions over her lifetime.  (On the surface you would never detect that she was a disturbed individual in many ways, but I did not question her sincerity on this topic.)  Years ago she moved away from Hollywood to escape the depressing gauntlet.  However, around 2007 she returned to it.  She has yet to became a steady-working actress.

Compassion says, hurt for them.  Righteousness says, pray for all involved while revealing the truth.  Forgiveness says, as for me, I must release the offender to God’s justice, not mine.  God will do His work in the life of Harvey Weinstein, no matter what the result may be.  No sexual abuse rehabilitation center in the world can remove sin and forgive the offender.  Only the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Who sacrificed Himself as the replacement for God’s wrath for sin can do so.

If you have ached from an abuser, just know there is an escape, even though it may seem impossible.  Your exit starts with fuel for the race.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

“Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by.  And feed them in your dreams, the one they pick(s), the one you’ll know by…”  Recorded by: Crosby, Stills & Nash, released May 1970.  Composed by: Graham Nash

How are you?  I’m glad you dropped in on this west Texas adventure with me.  I’ve just slipped on my Mr. Rogers tennis-shoe loafers (No to Mr. Fred Rogers sweater, as it’s still too warm in a Texas October).  I have something I want to share with you.  Grip tightly.

Take another look at that incredible grapevine above.  I took that picture with my cell phone at Ft. Belknap in Young County Texas.  The old 1850’s fort is chock-full of local West Texas history of which the Wild West movies are made.  (For more on Ft Belknap see my post from July 21, 2017 entitled, “Don’t Let It Hit Ya.”)  Among the old ammo houses, bunkers, stables and school house is an enormous grapevine arbor providing a huge covering.  It measures around 9 feet in height and the main stalk, or trunk, is over 54 inches in circumference.  It spreads over a large picnic area with some 25-30 picnic tables.  It was planted long ago by Burl W. Cox, an early day Ft Belknap school teacher, who was also a talented gardener and naturalist.  The photo was taken during the off season for the Mustang Grapevine, but when fully in bloom, the grape clusters and thick vine leaves are a terrific canopy, well-deserving of a postcard.

I suppose, over many decades of nurturing and growth, it has filled young children with imaginings of a deep dark forest with grapevines ready for Tarzan to swing from one branch to the next.  I was one of those kids.  Meanwhile, multiple family reunions are held there under the arbor each year as the potluck dishes are spread from table to table.  If you close your eyes you can almost hear the laughter, greetings and children running circles around the old arbor.  One family’s reunion, which happens each year under the natural canopy, is my family on my adopted father’s side.  Have you been to one recently?  How do you feel about them?  Are you the first or last to leave the festivities?  If you escape early, ask yourself why.  Better yet, leave me a comment and tell me.

Recently, I attended another family reunion in East Texas.  It was an annual gathering of relatives from another branch of my birth-family tree, or maybe I should I say, “vine.”  It was a pleasant time renewing old friendships with cousins, uncles and aunts.  All had a good day together over some awesome homemade dishes that was to die for.

Here, allow me to disrupt that Norman Rockwell moment for some other realities concerning family.  How brave are you?  Can you pull back the layers of this onion with me?  Warning here:  It might bring some bad memories to you.  Here we go.

I love my family.  I do.  I respect my family members…as best as I can.  I say that only because, in my grapevine, there are some family members who can and will hurt you and others.  These, on this vine, appear from time to time along the stalk and produce bitter or even rotten grapes.  Much like the Mustang grapes from Ft Belknap’s arbor, where the raw skin of the grape can burn or irritate your lips, tongue and throat, some family can burn like acid to the heart.  OUCH!  Did that hurt?  How honest am I with you right now?  Are you thinking of a family member with acidic tendencies?  If you’re like most of us, you have a sour grape or two on your branch.  He, or she, could be a criminal, maybe a thief. Perhaps you share DNA with a drug dealer or child molester.  Maybe you have a domestic spousal abuser in your vine.  There very well could be an adulterer sharing your apple pie.  It could be you have a grape in the cluster who loves injustice, or applauds it.  How about one who, without deep thought or heart-searching, publicly displays harshness and venom against another race. (If you are one of those who adopts language that could be printed in a neo-Nazi newsletter, you won’t like this blog at all.  But if so, read on and consider why you do such things, if you’re not afraid of the touchstone of truth.)  I listed these things above because I have them all in my family vine across the various branches and limbs.  Should I just avoid family reunions all together?  Should I go and cocoon myself in the corner hoping nobody will speak to me?  Maybe I should snuggle up to each one, playing the denial actor for 2-6 hours at a time and eat cake.  I feel those options are way too easy to initiate.  Because my Christian faith teaches me differently, I must entertain another method.

The old saying, “No man is an island”, comes from a sermon by the 17th century English author and Anglican cleric, John Donne. (No doubt he adopted it from Paul in scripture, “No man lives or dies to himself.” – paraphrasing Romans 14:7)  It’s true.  The older one grows the clearer this view becomes.  We, whether we like it or not, affect one another.  We persuade one another to the right or to the left.  Some of us cause others around our vine and branch to lean in nefarious directions where the edge is sharp, overgrown and slippery.  Let us be sincerely honest with each other.  The Ft Belknap vine is bent purposefully toward the picnic area where the branches are trained to follow after the wire grid to create a natural roof over the area.  It took effort by Mr. Cox, and those who followed after him, to make this a successful covering.  It reminds me a bit of, “And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.” – Jonah 4:6 (NLT)  (Interestingly enough, that was in Nineveh, modern-day Mosul in northern Iraq, where ISIS had ruled for some time until recently.

Ft Belknap under grapevine

Like the great vine being arranged, we too can help to train those on our branch.  It’s easy to excuse some in our family with statements like, “Oh, let him go on with all that nonsense.  Let’s have seconds on the fried chicken.” Or how about, “I see the teens are headed for a joint or two out back.  They’ll be back for some cookies later.  You know how kids can be.”  We might even reply passively to vile words spoken from a pillar of the branch with something like, “Ha-ha, there he goes again, rattling on about ‘those people’.  It’s just where his generation came from.  Let’s play checkers.”  This technique is all well and good, with one exception: We are all followers, whether we want to admit it or not.  Our little ones in our grape cluster are impressionable with rather large ears.  You may not consider they, too, will walk away from things said with a new ideology growing inside them.  Why?  Because no man is an island!       

 “…And you, of tender years, can’t know the fears that your elders grew by.  And so please help them with your youth.  They seek the truth before they can die…” – Crosby, Stills & Nash

What’s wrong with pulling aside a relative, influencing your section of the vine, and privately speaking the hard truth in love about their statements or actions?  I say, nothing is out of bounds.  If that family member laughs you off, or worse, so be it.  At least in the eternal view of your existence, you made the attempt to stand for righteousness that protects the family.  After all, Jesus said we are like sheep and there are wolves.

The next time I enter in under the great canopy of the Ft Belknap Mustang Grapevine Arbor, I will recall the way we train our own branches and what kind of fruit we leave behind when pruned off at the appointed time.

Being grafted into a Holy vine trains us and our next generation, ushering in fuel for the race.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – Jesus – John 15:5 (NIV)

Consider It All Dung

Photo: The Recorder

Photo: The Recorder

“I was walking into town in my white bucks.  A man with a gun, he said, hands up.  I tried to get away but too slow.  He got me and took all of my dough.  I heard him shout as he cut out, Well you ain’t lost nothin’.  What are you cryin’ about?  Your cash ain’t nothin’ but trash.” – Recorded by: The Clovers – 1954, Composer: Jesse Stone

Take my apologies now if you happen to be chowing down while catching up on blogs.

Look at the mounds.  Nothing pretty and tidy to see here.  The photo above is a representation of the wake of hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas.  Literally, from one house damaged by the flooding waters from Harvey.  Black mold is the extreme enemy.  It grows, festers and taunts property owners after the water recedes.  Many homes will undergo complete renovations; some will be demolished.  This house had up to six feet of water in it.  EVERYTHING must go.

Have you been there?  Maybe for you it was a tragic fire, tornado, pluming issue with pipes, or a basement flood after torrential rains.  In my case, it was October 13, 2006 in Buffalo, NY. It was an October surprise, a fury of a blizzard wiped out trees, roofs, carports, sheds , power lines and basements, including mine.  The beautiful autumn leaves were striking but couldn’t hold the massive weight of the lake effect snow.  The near-hurricane force winds did their job.  Off came the branches, complete with tree trunks and telephone poles splitting.  Afterwards, it looked like a snow bomb exploded leaving destruction everywhere you turned.  Quickly, the snow melted furiously with flooding in the streets, rivers, the Erie Canal and basements.  I had classic vinyl albums carefully stored in boxes in my basement closet that would make a record collector pant like a thirsty Labrador.  Yes, you guessed it, out to the curb many of them went, but some survived.  In the end, I had a pile of trash and timber much like the Harvey heap above.  Afterthoughts containing the words, “garage sale” rolled mentally in rotation, like a carousel.  Like what happened in Buffalo, the fine sanitation workers of the city of Houston are doing all they can to load-up all the waste and debris as quickly as possible.

Fast forward to my new life in Carrollton, Texas, not too far from a place many grudgingly call, “Mount Lewisville.”  Lewisville is our neighboring north Dallas suburb.  Right on the border is the city dump.  I had been gone from the area for five years.  When I moved back, I was shocked to find a…well, a….okay, I’ll say it, a mini-mountain.  This area of the city had grown so much, so fast, the city dump also had mounted up and had to expand.  Driving by it can be unpleasant, even with the windows rolled up.  In fact, I often cough going by.  It’s where you find perched vultures, along with an air force of grackles flying in circles just waiting for the next caravan of dump-trucks to arrive for an afternoon feeding frenzy.  Biblically speaking, you might say it’s where the worm doesn’t die. You can have your eyes closed and know for certain you’re close to Mount Lewisville.  (I’m sure my fellow Lewisville citizens call it, Mount Carrollton.)

Looking at the videos of interviews of Houstonians, I am reminded of the heartbreak which goes unseen for the cameras.  The loss is overwhelming.  Among the heap, personal family items, historic irreplaceables, priceless finds now headed for the dump.  Even so, each one interviewed will admit that life is far more precious.  For those who were blessed to still have their loved ones survive the storm, they know full well the highest of value.  After all, the pile is just that…a pile, a mound of damaged worthless stuff ready to be burned and buried.

It’s times like these I recall the garbage I collected in my mind and heart that should be burned and buried.  Do you know what I mean?  Stuff, trash, worthless piles of garbage I have fed on that is against God’s design for my life.  He had mounds of blessings for me, even pointed me in the right direction, while I got distracted by the trinkets of the barterer along the wayside of Alan.  I bought these things of no value and placed them in the secret storage of the mind which reaches my heart.  Like the filth on the curb after irreversible damage occurs, rats, insects and buzzards come to feed, too close to where I should be living in God’s shelter.  They are to be fought-off daily.

“…I count all things but (as) loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but (as) dung, that I may win Christ.” – Paul, Philippians 3:8 (KJV)

(Although the context is the topic of how self-righteousness is to be viewed as a filthy rag, the same principle applies to fleshly treasures.)

Please, forgive me if what I am about to write disturbs you.  Just hear me out.  Here goes.  God, through Jesus, has volunteered to be my garbage collector.  No other god followed can come close to wearing the sanitation worker’s uniform.  Because of what Jesus volunteered to do for me on the cross, paying heavily the hell I deserve, He now is my trash removal technician that I am unable and powerless to be.  As I stand among the sludge, holding tightly to the black mold I have collected for myself as if it were treasure, if I stand aside, He drags the crap out of my house tossing it all in His personal dump-truck.  He arrives at the gates of Mount Hell and there it is burned away, keeping the mounds of sins off my record in the eternal courts.  No recycling here.

We all have the black mold growing in our hearts like a cancer on a mission.  The scripture says, if we allow Him and believe that He will, in righteousness and humility, He will “wash it (us) whiter than snow.”  – Psalms 51:7

It’s all something I will remember this week as I roll the garbage bin out to the curb, its contents never to be seen again.  As I watch the sanitation truck load it up, crushing it as it drives down the street, I will once again have more fuel for the race.

“But now that you have God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” – Paul, Galatians 4:9

A Choice In Vegas

“Mother, mother, there’s too many of you cryin’.  Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dyin’.  You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today…” What’s Going On, recorded by Marvin Gaye.  Released on Motown subsidiary Tamla label, 1971. Composers: Al Cleveland, Renaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye

As I write this entry, I am waylaid once again by grief pressed down on me.  The grief I speak of is not directly personal, in that I knew none of the victims of the massacre in Las Vegas which occurred last night, October 1, 2017.  My grief is not lonely.  The nation, in fact masses across the globe, joins me in the sorrow which is almost indescribable.  There is no understanding.  No discernment, no comprehension to declare here.  Really, I do not know how I am writing these sentences in that truly there are no words that can measure the outcry felt deeply within.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, landslides, tsunamis, floods, and volcanic eruptions have no evil within their cause and effect.  Nature and nature’s realities can be, and will be, dangerous, devastating and deadly.  Those disasters listed are often called “an act of God.”  The one shooting thousands of rounds of ammo from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, wasn’t a force of nature directed by an act of God.  This madman had a choice.  In fact, from what investigators are reporting, this early in the process of the aftermath, the man had planned the mass murder over several days, at least.  He was meticulous in preparing his blueprint of what would be labelled the worst mass shooting in American history.  There was a way to forego his path of destruction.  The sign in the road read, “CHOOSE LIFE.”  He did not hold life as precious.

Evil is calculating.  Evil is aware.  Evil is intelligent.  Evil adjusts for its namesake.  Evil cares not for age, race, color, creed or who will, or will not stand for a national anthem.  Evil is not a respecter of politics or persons, nor will it ever be.  Through the history of humankind, has there been a time when evil was wiped away from the earth?  Has there ever been a time when evil relented, retreated or repented?  Has there ever been a time where we grew as a society to the point of eradicating evil and its actions?  I loudly proclaim “NO” to each of the above.

As we mourn the loss, while praying for the hundreds of injured and their families, let us ask, what now?  Is there a remedy?  Will we get better when left to our own devices?  Have we yet?

Once again, the chosen tools evil utilizes will be debated.  (I am not willing or intending to utter anything political at this point.  However, I am a supporter of Evil Control.)  Do we melt down all the guns?  We would also need to melt all knives, box cutters, hammers, scissors, corkscrews, axes and swords.  We would need a global military with inspectors to confiscate all piano and guitar strings, rope, cable, and baseball bats.  There would be worldwide campaigns to crush all motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks, and 18-wheelers.  Great work would be had to discover and destroy all bomb-making materials, gas tankers, propane cylinders and, of course, pressure cookers.  No longer would humanity fly from point A to point B for all airplanes would be grounded and placed in museums.  Erase all chemicals, all pesticides, all fertilizers, all fire-starters……need I go on?  Yes, we can dive headlong into the debate of removing any and all weapons evil uses, but we would be busy building shields to deflect the rocks bound to be hurled at any given time.

Ask yourself the following.  Where does evil reside?  Where does evil fester?  Where does evil grow?  Where does evil hide?  Where does evil plan?

“The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Silence in the face of evil is in itself evil;  God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer     

There is no simplicity to evil, with one exception.  Those who have studied it and its source, know full well, evil resides in the heart of each one of us.  I know that is hard to hear.  The truth is, you can be a good person, a great model for your community, even a terrific Bible thumper, yet while attempting the feats, we have the righteous plumb-line to measure ourselves by.  You and I will always fall short of it.  Each living person has the ability to express evil at will.  Some, like the mass murderer in Las Vegas, will exhibit various depths of this cancer within the human heart.  All have broken God’s law — His outline for life’s objectives wrapped in divine purpose.  WE make the choice.

“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” – I John 3:15 (NIV)

Things done in Vegas do not stay in Vegas.

There is evil.  Evil was birthed from the Father of Lies.  That ancient adversary delivers a false promise.  This serpent, this dragon, uses vast intelligence as he presents the promise that evil will satisfy; evil performs justice.  Just ask the heavily armed dead man on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.  Oh, that’s right, you can’t.  He had an appointment to face the Righteous Judge.

The timeless classic song, mentioned at the top of this post, was released as a single.  Interestingly enough, the “B-Side” of the 45 vinyl was a song called, “God Is Love.” Thank you, Marvin Gaye for reminding us in 2017.  Its poetry certainly applies for this day of grief in October.  Choosing well in the here and now, in the time of decision, delivers fuel for the race.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Jesus, Matthew 10:28 (NAS)