Confronted By Death – Feb 13, 2013

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

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

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

The Unexpected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes being gone is better.

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

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

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

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

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

There is a Power

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

Plano Med Center Stan PT guy Sept 2, 2014

Photo:  Stan, my physical therapist from Feb 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE NOTE:

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

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

 

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Hook, Line & Stinker

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

Fish Photo:  ABCNEWS.com

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

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

Chow Chow Petwave.com

Chow Chow Photo:  petwave.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Door Knobs Available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Long Way From Baker Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Blank!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…FROM???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why All The Bells?

With the growing disturbances in our world this Christmas, I thought of re-publishing the below from my December 2017 post.

“Silver bells.  Silver Bells.  It’s Christmas time in the city. Ring-a-ling. Hear them ring. Soon it will be Christmas Day.” – Composers: Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. (1950)

Not long ago I heard of a certain residential neighborhood that took a nearby church to court.  Their complaint surrounded the bells joyfully ringing from the church steeple on Sunday mornings.  I will assume these would be the same neighbors who clamored about Sunday morning traffic around the church, before and after services.  I didn’t attend the trial, but I just know that if I read the transcript of the proceedings, certainly someone said something like, “What’s with all the bells?”

Bells too

It’s a valid question.  So, what’s up with all the bells?

Imagine you’ve had a wonderful 18 year marriage with an incredibly loving and supportive spouse.  Whatever the world dishes out, you had shade and shelter at home with your understanding mate.  Growing a family together has been a true gift.  Now imagine, that the love of your life tragically perished in a devastating accident when her clothes caught fire.

Imagine, by way of this nightmare in life, you are left with children to raise on your own.  Your first born son is a stunning, strong 17 year old who is proud to carry on the family legacy.

Imagine war breaking out just down the road from where you buried your soulmate.  Your young son’s enthusiasm for the war’s cause, coupled with his school lads running off to take up arms to fight for their country, pulls your son’s interest to join up.  He fights with you about being a new recruit, as you sternly stand your parental ground.  You debate with him.  You state that he is too young to fight a man’s battle where the blood shed has no respecter of age.  Imagine he shows honor for your wishes, agrees to continue his high school education, along with sharing the household duties.  Imagine for the next two years, each time you looked into his eyes, you saw his smile, or the way he visited his mother’s grave, and how he soothed your grieving heart every day by just being there.

Now imagine, one morning your 19 year old son vanishes overnight without a word or a note.  Your heart is pierced.  Your fears serve up the worst scenarios to the point of being unable to function and unable to eat or sleep.  Suddenly, after several weeks, a letter appears in your mailbox.  The envelope is marked with your missing son’s handwriting.  You can’t help but notice how his phrasing, even his handwriting, reminds you of his mother.  As you read through your tears, he explains his disappearance.  He details how he had joined the military to fight on the front lines for his country.  He goes on to describe how he had resisted the temptation to join up, as long as he could, and is now in the army fighting alongside his schoolmates.  He acknowledges how it must hurt you by his abrupt decision, but also making it clear that he is where he needs to be.

Imagine the worry, the fear, the sadness you would go through for the next several months without word of his health or his location.  Imagine a few months later, you receive word that this first born son was gravely injured in a major battle and could no longer be of service.  Now imagine it’s nearing the Christmas season, with the familiar sound of bombs and the gunfire of war echoing dangerously through the county.  The terror of your first born son offering his life each and every day, facing the blasts of the enemy drowns out all Christmas cheer and celebrations.

You can imagine going through such grief, such turmoil and fear, while fighting the clanging sound of Christmas bells all around you, as if everything was truly right in the world with all of its pretend joy, jolly-hollies and Santa’s jinglings.

This is what happened to American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from 1861 to 1863 during the Civil War.  In his deep depression, coming out of a writer’s block, dating back to his wife’s violent death, he pens an honest reflection of where his hopes and dreams were last seen.  One of the verses written in his poem, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” reads like this:

“And in my despair I bowed my head.  There is no peace on earth, I said.  For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.

But the bells are ringing, like a choir singing.  Does anybody hear them?  Peace on earth good will to men….”

After the poem was published some years later, a songwriter put music to it in 1872.  Today we sing this song of Christmas blues with gusto.  I seem to sing it through tears each time. and even louder when I arrive at the next verse.

“Then rang the bells more loud and deep.  God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.  The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men.”

“So why all the bells?” one might ask.  It’s because ancient bells were an announcement, an attention-getter.  Heralds would ring their bells while shouting, “Here ye, hear ye!”  Bells were meant to be loud.  The bell’s vibration was to pierce the air with a message to be readied to be received.  The bell-ringer assigned to pull the bell-clapper rope had the fervor to bring attention to a message of news.  A newsflash of importance or urgency, so urgent it mustn’t be ignored.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, through his familiar immense pain, wrote of the interruption of the bells of GOOD NEWS.  The bells speak of evil destined to be crushed by a Savior, a Redeemer, a Rescuer being born to us who live in the bondage of a spiritual war.  The bells proved the validity and certainty of an Almighty God Whose death is all about pulling back the curtain on the original fake news of no hope, no future, no God in ultimate control.

Maybe this Christmas will not be your best Christmas.  Maybe this Christmas might even be your worst on record.  This Christmas is not the best our nation has known.  Allow it to come, says Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and let it pierce through the wall that seems so solid, so thick, and so unscalable.  Because death, sin and the grave has been defeated and utterly destroyed already.  Sure, we have the effects of them now, but with that baby from the manger, there is a victory party that has already started that will usher in a nuking of the father of lies in a very short while.

low angle photo of steeple
Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels.com

COME ON, RING THOSE BELLS!  When you do, hear them proclaim, “There’s fuel for the race.”

“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ The Lord.'” – Luke 2:10-11 (KJV)

In The Words Of David Cassidy…

“Sayin’ goodbye is not easy.  How will I ever explain?  Everyone looks just like cardboard pictures, falling apart in the rain…Running, yes I am, wave goodbye to all the trains.  If I’m looking for a river that goes on forever, then I guess I’ll have to go away.  Sayin’ goodbye is not easy.  How will I ever explain?…” – “I’ll Have To Go Away”, recorded by David Cassidy from, “Getting’ It In The Street” album, 2014.  Composers: Renee Armand & Kerry Chater

1970 was an impact year for the young David Cassidy.  The musical-sitcom, The Partridge Family, launched its first season on ABC.  The story is of a single mom with five kids heading up a pop-rock band made up of the entire family.  David Cassidy played the lead singer, Keith Partridge.  He was only 20 years old at the time.

Although Mr. Cassidy had millions of residual fans spinning off from the TV show, after the series’ end he struggled to be taken seriously as an authentic rock star.  Alcohol and substance abuse addictions plagued his journey throughout the next few decades.

Fast forward to the last couple of years, he began to experience dementia issues.  While on stage, he tussled with recalling the lyrics of his own songs, and the city and venue in which he was performing.  I personally was saddened when he passed away recently from organ failure.  The comet of this star burned out quickly.  David was only 67.

Family members of David Cassidy gathered around his bedside in ICU during his last days of life.  The reports from various family members said, when awake from a coma, he was in good spirits, considering the circumstances.   He lit up like a Christmas tree seeing many of his family walk through the door, albeit for a short time.  His daughter, actress, Katie Cassidy tweeted out a heart-wrenching statement after her father’s death.  She wrote that before his life ended, David’s final words were, “So much wasted time.”

Katie Cassidy states that she learned something from her father’s final words; may we, as well.

Singer/Songwriter, Jim Croce comes to mind from his “Time In A Bottle” classic.  “If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do, is to save every day ‘til eternity passes away just to spend them with you.”

TIME!  It’s not just the title of a magazine.  It’s ruled by the orbits and rotations of the moon and planets, so precise that all humanity survives on it to the millisecond.  Time is overwhelming in its weightiness.  The poundage outweighs the earth’s oceans.  You can’t buy it, barrow it, cheat it, shape it or maneuver it.  You can’t retract it.  You can’t delete it, displace it, delay it or deny it.  Time is a raging creature, almost stealthy with a speed which cannot be reversed.  During the trek of time, it only shifts to one gear: forward drive.  If you believe you can do the above, in the end, time will rise up, chain you and place you in the town square while selling tickets to see the town fool.  Time.  It will overtake you like a steamroller.

If David Cassidy were able to communicate to us today, I believe he would speak through the filter of a time management consultant.   Maybe he would advise us with the following.  Find the time to fill in the blank.  We are at the midnight hour of 2017.  There is still time to hug more, kiss more, write more letters, Christmas cards and emails.  There is still time to get clean and sober.  Time says, “Make that apology while you can!”  There is still more time to pick up the phone and call just to say, “I love you.”  There is still time to give of your blessings to bless someone else.  There is still time to stand in the Santa line with your favorite munchkin.  There is still time to have lunch with that old friend who helped to change your direction in life.  David might shout, “TAKE THE TIME!”

Scripture calls out the urgency of wisely using the time allotted to us.  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’…”  “And it came to pass…”  “The time is at hand…”  In fact, if David Cassidy could be with us today, I firmly believe he would agree with St Paul.  “Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:15-16)

Take the time to add fuel for the race.

How May I Serve You?

You hear it from time to time.  Usually it catches the ear at maybe a highbrow restaurant, tuxedo department in Neiman Marcus or a Rolls Royce dealership.  But it doesn’t have to be.

Thanksgiving afternoon finally arrived at our house.  It was just four of us, my wife and her two adult sons.  After the prayer, the dishes were passed around the table.  My son-in-law, Kellen was sitting next to me, scooping out his portion of the delicious rosemary Swiss cheese sweet potato casserole right out of a heavy corning ware baking dish.  When finished, instead of passing it to me, he said something to the effect of, “Can I dish this out for you?”  That happens at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle, not at our house.  I thought maybe he might place my napkin in my lap, as well.  It was so unusual, but I accepted his offer.  Ever since Thanksgiving I’ve been thinking about that humble moment of servanthood.

Many years ago, while working at KLTY/Dallas, my boss, Jon Rivers, attended a showcase gala of sorts for radio and record labels in a ballroom at one of Nashville’s finest hotels.  The dinner was prepared by the chefs of the hotel.  It was arranged in a buffet style with servers in funny hats and chef smocks, standing at the ready behind each delicacy, under silver domes.  After the meal was served, the reserved seats were waiting for artists, record and radio moguls.  As Jon went through the buffet with the servers assembling his choice of dishes, he made his way to the end of the long line of serving tables to find exquisite dessert selections.  The server asked, “How may I serve you?”  Jon thought he recognized the voice.  As he looked up from the wide range of desserts, there stood, none other than, recording artist and songwriter extraordinaire, Rich Mullins.

That was who Rich Mullins was.  With humility, he was exercising servanthood for the nourishment of his own soul and spirit, but he was also making a quiet statement for the suits in the room.  It was as if he were shouting, “THIS IS THE WAY OF CHRIST!  LET US NOT FORGET!”

In 1979, the cultural music icon, Bob Dylan released the song, “Gotta Serve Somebody” off his “Slow Train Coming” project.  It would receive airplay on many Christian radio stations at the time and through the following years.  It’s been covered multiple times by artists from almost every genre.  Here’s a sample:

“…You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.  But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.  Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody.  Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  – Bob Dylan

When I see the madness of the mobs on Black Friday, many of which ignored Thanksgiving with family and friends to campout 24 hours prior the retailers Black Friday frenzy, my mind goes into shock concerning the change in our society.  Injured people are carried away from the stores, victims of trampling or punching, kicking and shoving by fellow-shoppers.  WHY?  For a few dollars of savings.  For a new item seen on an ad.  Meanwhile, the Salvation Army volunteer with his/her bell and red collection kettle is run over as if invisible.  Selflessness has been invaded by selfishness.  Giving has been encroached upon by greediness.  Servanthood, out of love for others, has been replaced by self-hooded retail ravagers.  And, I fear it will only get worse in years to come.

Let me challenge myself, and you, to rise above the fray.  As you calculate serving somebody during this Christmas season of giving, donate to that Salvation Army kettle when you see it.  In fact, we invite you to read about, “A Hand Up” homeless initiative I’m involved with.  It’s not a hand-out, but truly lifting up the homeless to opportunities to live a productive life, and planting their feet in a home or apartment, not a shelter.  It’s a great way to serve somebody while you can still choose to do so.  Please read about it at http://www.ccmclassic.com  When you do, you might just hear yourself say, “How may I help you?”

There are two people in today’s world.  Givers and takers.  What would you like to be known for?  Choose well for the soul of our society.  When you do, it will pour out fuel for the race.

(After Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.)

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” – Jesus, John 13:14-15 (NIV)

Oh, Thanks a Lot

“Yeah, but every little boy grows up, and he’s haunted by the heart that died.  Longing for the world that was before the fall.  Oh, but then forgiveness comes.  A grace that I cannot resist.  And I just want to thank someone.  I just want to thank someone for this.” – Andrew Peterson – 2012 from, “Light For The Lost Boy” CD

I slept in the guest bedroom of my grandparent’s house when visiting.  It’s in an old part of Greenville, Texas, built in 1852.  Creaky wooden slat floors, no insulation in the walls and high ceilings.  Unfortunately, the guest room was next to my grandmother’s kitchen.  It was a blessing and a curse.  My mom and I would arrive for Thanksgiving a day early, way before the uncles, aunts and cousins would pull up at the old house.  By that time, my grandmother had already been in prep for the family feast to come.  Needless to say, on Thanksgiving morning, around 4:00am, I would awake to the sound of egg beaters, along with a collage of holiday aromas, drifting and hovering over my bed like a web of tantalizing treats.  THAT was Thanksgiving morning for me.  Those particular family traditions are gone, fading into treasured memories.  I do thank God for the mental slideshows.

Look at the title of this article.  It’s a common phrase we say all the time.  We hear ourselves blurt it out when someone holds the elevator doors for us.  We speak it when shown to our theater seats.  It’s normal to say it at the drive-thru window, after paying for the sack of fast food.  Funny how you can make it sound sarcastic, or very warm.  Try it.  “Oh, thanks a LOT!” (Maybe ending it with the word, “Pal” or something I can’t type on this format.)  Even the word, “Oh…” can be hurtful to an ear.  “Oh” makes gratefulness appear to be an afterthought, as if the offering of it was almost forgotten.  I recommend dropping the “Oh” and go straight for the cherished words.  Why?  Read on, if you dare.

While listening online to CCM Classic.com, I heard, for the first time, an Andrew Peterson song from 2012, “Don’t You Want To Thank Someone” from his, “Light For The Lost Boy” CD.  Let me tell you, tears may come as you hear the song, or just read the lyric.  It will test you.  The melody is haunting.  His verses will pierce you, even reclaim some memories, but guaranteed to make you put down the phone, turn off the screen and ponder once again.  I highly recommend it for a rich Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving should be a way of heart, daily life, like prayer.  Secular society would discover it takes humility to do so.  When calling up a loved one to say, “Thanks a lot”, recall Who gave that person to you.  Recall Who paved the road that brought the intersections of your relationships.  Many will be grateful for the view on a midnight clear.  That’s terrific; however, many will not thank the Painter of the scene, the Engineer who spins the orbits in precised synchronization like the atomic clock of perfection.  Many will be thankful for their jobs.  That’s great.  But, many employees will neglect gratefulness to the One who inspired the business owner who founded the company who hired them.  Many will be appreciative for good health.  However, many will ignore the One who holds all things together.  Many will tell their child how thankful they are for their young lives mingled with theirs.  However, scads will forget to thank the Creator, the Life Giver and the Birth Giver.  Frankly, in the end, when we thank someone, or some object, we are thanking the “thing” or the “person” God created and graciously gave as a gift.

So, yes, do thanks a lot.

It takes a humble heart to give thanks, instead of using it as a throw-away line.  When we accept this truth, it always adds fuel for the race.

“’Cause I can hear the voice of one.  He’s crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready for the Kingdom Come’.  Don’t you want to thank someone for this?” – Andrew Peterson, 2012- “Light For The Lost Boy” CD. (Youtube this one)