The Seed of Racism

“A child is black.  A child is white.  Together they grow to see the light, to see the light…” (1972)  Black & White –  Recorded by:  Three Dog Night.  Composers:  David I. Arkin, Earl Robinson.

Appreciation note:  A quick thank you to the very kind, Alicia from the blog, For His Purpose for nominating my blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award.  I am greatly shocked and humbled.  I do enjoy your everyday camera angles of life with the filter of truths.

This will not be a political post.  This will not be a ranting post concerning those who play at politics, or the swift blinding blame of another.  This will lack the spewing of hatred and emotional blathering of negativity currently blowing across the media.  If that’s what feeds you, look elsewhere.  However, if you are open-minded, wanting to hop off the meat wagon, serving up all kinds of dangerous rhetoric currently being wielded like a Gladius sword, you are welcome to read below.

Billy Boyd was my best friend in 7th grade.  In those times that was our first year at Dillingham  Jr. High School, before “middle school” was introduced.  We lived in Sherman, Tx where the west side of town was mainly made up of white population.  There was also the east side where the African American community settled, or was made to settle in post-Civil War days.  Dillingham Jr. High was situated close to the border of the east and west sides of the medium market town.  We met on our first day of the new school year.

When we left our elementary schools to enter 7th grade, it was a cultural shock for all of the student body.  Obviously my elementary school consisted of mostly white kids.  At Dillingham the heavy black and white mix was a first for all of us.  Billy was African American from the east side of the tracks.  He was my first black school friend ever.  At the time I really thought nothing about it.  In fact, I thought it was cool to have a black friend who was my age.

person holding hands
Photo by on

What I didn’t expect, nor every experienced before, was racial name-calling, slurs, racial riots on campus, gang violence, and violent ambushes.  (Forgive me for giving too much info here, but I must write it.)  As a white kid relieving himself at the urinal, I was kicked in the back from time to time.  Once, I was slammed in the back of my head with a football helmet while standing there facing the wall.  This was the environment I was introduced to.  Billy didn’t have anything to do with the vicious tagging of white kids.  I was on the sharp end of the above racial abuses in a big way simply because I was a white kid from the west side.  There were attacks I received in the hallways, between buildings, after football practice, and after school on my way across campus to the bike rack.  Some of these were 15 and 16 years old students who were still repeating 7th or 8th grades.  I received threats concerning my dog and my mom.  In that school year, I learned how to box and street fight the hard way.  My uncle taught me how to box, and another friend trained me in Aikido that same year.  Through it all, Billy and I remained friends.  You might say we were the odd couple.  After the school year slowly dropped me into the summer break, my mom relocated out of town, and just in time.  Only God knows what might have been if I had spent another year in racial turmoil.  However, the hatred and bigotry had a profound influence on me.  But, I would experience it again.

When I was a toddler, 98 years after slavery ended in the U.S., I met my first African American.  (I have written about him before, but it’s been a couple of years.)  While visiting my grandparents in Greenville, Tx, every-other Saturday they had their lawn work done by an elderly black man named Mr. Amos.  To this day I don’t know if that was a surname or his first name.  No doubt he was the son of slaves, living in the far east side of Greenville in a sector notable for the African American neighborhood.  I recall there being a side street which served as the border between whites and blacks, as it was set-up by the local government leaders in the late 1800’s.

From my toddler days, all the way to 11 years old or so, I LOVED old Mr. Amos.  I saw him as an uncle from another grandmother.  The neighborhood in those days would remind you of the street scenes from the movie, To Kill A Mockingbird.  He would drag his lawn mower down the street cutting grass and hedges for a few dollars.  To see him was like imagining Mr. Bojangles in various ways.  He was ragged, skinny, and toughened by the years.  His very dark skin was weathered and rough from a lifetime of working in the Texas sun, like leather from an old baseball glove.  He always had an old rag, or bandanna hanging out his back pants pocket, along with old worn-out hard-soled leather lace-up shoes.  The elderly man always did a wonderful job on the lawn and hedges.  He had the talent.  Whenever I was there, I would watch him out my grandparent’s front window as he worked his fingers to the bone with pride.  I never saw anyone sweat as much as he did.  When he finished the front lawn he began to pull his mower up the driveway toward the backyard.  From the time I was 3, my grandmother would take an ice cold, frosted bottle of Dr. Pepper out of the fridge, pop open the cap with the bottle opener, which hung on her kitchen wall, hand it to me and say, “Alan, you go give this to poor Mr. Amos.”  Wrapped around it was the money he earned.  (They were very liberal with the payment.)  I would grin from ear to ear as I ran outside before he reached the back.  There in my Buster Browns I proudly said in my Mickey Mouse voice, “Here ya go, Mr. Amos!”  No matter how often our encounters, he always acted surprised as he shook my hand and replied with his gruff voice, “Well, what’s this here?  (chuckle) Why…thank ya, son!”  When in my earlier age, I would look at the palm of my hand to see if the black color rubbed off his sweating hand.  I kid you not, he never took his mouth off the bottle until it was turned upside-down and empty, without taking a breath.  There’s no way I could do that.  I would watch him drink in shear amazement.  Handing the empty bottle back to me, he would exhale with a huge drawn-out gasp, like a swimmer coming up for air and say, “That’s my boy!”  I always waited to hear him say those words.  It made my day.  He didn’t know it but just saying that to this fatherless lad made me feel warm inside.  With his statement of gratitude, I ran back in to tell my grandmother once again, how he called me “son” and what’s more, I was “his boy”.  I honored and respected him.  Through the years of youth, I wondered why he always looked so poor.

I’m not certain what year it was, but I will say I was 13 (1973) when hatred came calling.

Mr. Amos was in my grandparent’s yard, doing his job one Saturday, when he was suddenly interrupted by his son and daughter-in-law who had pulled up in the driveway.  The man was angry with his father for mowing the lawns of “Honkies”(It’s a name I was familiar with from school.  I didn’t believe Mr. Amos thought I was one of those.)  Mr. Amos protested saying he was doing his purpose in that stage of his life.  The voices got louder as they argued in the side yard.  I pressed my ear to the nearest window to hear more clearly what was being said.  The son of Mr. Amos spewed about how shameful it was to be “workin’ for the white man” and how embarrassed he was to see him on our lawn in the “white part of town”.  My granddad came out to see what the issue was.  After he was told, my granddad gently explained to Mr. Amos that it was okay if he needed to go and do what he thought was right.  Sheepishly looking down at his tired scuffed shoes, Mr. Amos agreed he should load-up and go with his son.  Hearing it my heart broke.  My granddad paid him in full, even though the job wasn’t completed, then they drove away.  I was highly disturbed.  Tears rolled down my freckled cheeks at what I had witnessed.  That was the last time I saw Mr. Amos after knowing him through 9-10 years of my childhood.

I had a friend like Billy, as well as a man of grit and heart like Mr. Amos for one reason.  Early on my mom had coded within me, from the days of Mr. Amos, to love all people, regardless of their skin hues.  As a little one, she read the words of Jesus to me at bedtime where He taught what she preached to me.  What she didn’t teach at the time was the perspectives and inward struggles some possess, like the son of Mr. Amos.

Still, I came away from my experiences at Dillingham with a chip on my shoulder, combined with an unjustified angst against black people.  In fact, the realities left me unwilling to trust African Americans for many years throughout much of the 1970’s until I got the chance to work and worship alongside African Americans from 1979 and onward.

In these days where racial slurs, alongside accusations of racism, are being tossed around like confetti, there’s a warning for us all.  When young men soak up vile, filthy hatred from certain websites, or chat rooms brainwashing them to the point of mass murdering another race due to their ethnicity alone, we should take note.  Words are like bullets.  Enough of them, combined with a deadly spin, will and do rip open the hearts of our youth.  Good parenting is so vital.  Compassionate parenting is so vital.  Informative parenting is so vital.  So often these word-projectiles reverberate through the rooms of the home for little ears to plant in the fertile soil of their souls.  Each and every community and culture should surgically remove attitudes of hate-filled, damning speech about our neighbors.  If not, the next generation will see domestic death, domestic destruction and possibly war.  There is a desensitizing which is slow, like marinating a pork loin.  Sleeping with the pigs will make you muddy.  And oh, how dark that mud can be.

If you dare, journey with me for a moment on the following hypothetical.

If one leans toward Darwinism, and sees another race as beneath their own DNA, then one must ask how it got to such a point.  If we, collectively, all derived from an ancient amoeba, which washed up on a beach in ions past, then how can one defend a racial ideology?  Maybe the ancient amoeba community rioted against other amoeba of a different thickness of cell wall.  Then again, can an amoeba possess hate?  Unfortunately, hate is branded in humankind exclusively.  There’s a reason for that.  Follow me on this.

As we continue to search for the “Missing Link” (still missing), there’s a newer, more popular theory.

If one leans toward the newer idea that humanity was placed here by ancient aliens from another planet, there’s even a bigger leap to make.  I suppose it’s plausible ancient aliens also suffered from racism, implanting that curse on the earth as we were left here to populate the world.  It would also seem plausible that such an advance interstellar civilization would’ve been cautious to populate the earth with beings like themselves, assuring racism wouldn’t be introduced.  If the theory is accurate, then wouldn’t it make sense they would sprout beings which reflected a visual likeness?  If so, why do have racial issues at all?

If you come from a biblical world view, as I do, then how can I ever hold to a twisted view of racial hatred?  Since I am a creationist, I read and study the account where we were all created in the image of God, a likeness of the Divine.  Therefore, how could I ever look at a black, brown, yellow, or red man or woman crying, “Moron!”, “Mistake!” “Mutant” or  “Monstrosity!”  Racism dictates that you have cheap blood and I do not.  But, I’ll take your kidney, or a transfusion if I need one.  Cheap?  Really?  For me, scripture reveals we all came from a set of flesh and blood ancient parents who had a multitude of offspring, and so on.  Genesis has the genealogy listed covering about a two thousand year span complete with names, nations and seasons of geology.  Even DNA experts have found the evidence which mirrors this view.  Within the last few years DNA studies have shown we come from the same part of the world with ancestry funneling into a clan going back to the beginnings of life itself, matching the Genesis timeline.  So, why do we, or why should we have this scent of racism?

Let’s be super honest here.  I like to call balls and strikes as I see them.

Racism, at its core, is the belief in a lie.  Yep, we’ve been snookered.

“…Mmm, no no 
Lyin’ to the races 
Help me, come on, come on 
Somebody, help me now (I’ll take you there)…”  (1972)  “I’ll Take You There” by:  The Staple Singers

Moreover, racism is an ideology which dictates thoughts of I, me and myself am to reign over another due to my skin pigmentation.  The lie woos one to beliefs like; if one is darker, or lighter skinned than I, then that person is to be subordinate to me, simply due to color.  It even can get down to the shape of a skull, or the nose.  Racism methodically massages the mind and heart of the pre-white supremacist, for example, who will claim God made a mistake by creating black, brown, yellow, and red skin.  Unfortunately, even shades of skin tones are targets of racial darts.  In addition, let’s not forget the racism within the color spectrum itself.  English vs Celts, Anglo Gentiles vs Jews, African tribes vs other African tribes, the list goes on.  Furthermore, it revels in the false idea which says a particular race was created to be supreme over all peoples, nations, societies and cultures. If one hears it enough, studies it enough, sniffs the belly of the dragon enough, the ideology is perceived as authentic.  Just as evil thoughts grow and widen, hatred begins to fester like Multiple Myeloma which eats away at the bones.  Racism eats away at the very soul of a person.

Are you still with me?  Can I go a step further?

Let’s say you are one who believes in the afterlife.  Maybe it’s a belief that the spirit, once separated from its body, roams the earth as a ghostly individual, for whatever purpose.  If you were a racist in the flesh, how do you exercise racism in the spirit world?  When there’s a failure to control the body in life, how then do we expect to control and navigate our spirits?  Interesting thought.  Are we suddenly stronger and wiser in spirit than we were when we had flesh?  After death the skin, once proudly admired as a trophy in life, grows pale and decays, falling away from the skeleton, which is the same color as all skeletons.  So now, in spirit form, how do you rant and rave over other spirits who have no skin color?  In spirit form, racism is also dead.  Suddenly, racist views are no longer so important.  In the end, the 79 year old racist can look back on his/her earthly life and will see the damning foolishness of a faulty ideology.

Let’s say you have a biblical perspective of the afterlife.  In the place described so well in scripture as heaven, there are a number of problems if racism is to continue.  First, God says haters (which includes racist users) will not see the kingdom of heaven.  Secondly, in this present age, there is the spiritual form left after the body fails.  How, as an eternal racist, do you push back on another spirit residing in God’s Kingdom?  Thirdly, the ancient text is clear on the following.  There will come a time in eternity when the old earthly body will be recreated to reunite with the spirit in which it once belonged, much like the resurrection of Jesus.  God does the recreation at His sovereign will.  Colors or not, He will do what He plans. Whatever skin color, if any at all, is resurrected in God’s timeline.  At that point, how could hatred of it exist?  Fourthly, in heaven there is no spirit who will submit to another based on color of robe, earthly ethnicity, or thought.  Jesus Himself said there’s only One Who reigns in heaven.  All is made new in the afterlife, if with God.  In Paul’s writings, he mentions that “in Christ” there is no difference in “Jew or Gentile”, “slave or free”, “male or female”, etc.  THAT is God’s view of the color spectrum of the souls He created and saw it to be good.  Racism is NOT eternal.  What does that tell us about the perceived value and validation of racial disharmony in life today?


Racism will always be with us.  The seed is there in this imperfect world.  It was introduced by God’s adversary early in human history to distort the mind’s view of every created race. It is the management of it which must be priority.  If the lion is not tamed, it will eat the foolish ringmaster.

The shooter in El Paso, Texas believed a racial lie.  In his manifesto he wrote of multiple issues which pushed him over the edge like, plastic in the oceans, immigration flow, economics, eco-system, etc.  But, in the end, his frustrations were decidedly poured out over helpless Hispanics with intention.  The shooter in Dayton, OH and the shooter at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California were driven by hate, even though it appears not to be racially motivated.  As a result, many were brutally murdered and maimed.  It’s a seeded lie laced by the enemy of the human brotherhood of soul and spirit.  Police in Gilroy reported the shooter there wore a clown mask.  Appropriate, don’t you think?

Please accept this warning.  Those who ricochet darts coming from the mouths of haters, is a very dangerous thing.  Wars have been launched for far less.  Unfortunately many like the shooters of El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy are weak-minded, easily influenced, or simply mentally ill.  They are like a weed bending to a dark wind from whichever direction.  The result is, “I AM DOMINATE!” For some, all it will take is a spewing of hate-filled venom to cause the voices to ring violence in their minds.  Once it takes hold, it is like the gravity of opium to the offender.  If it’s not an assault rifle, it will be a bomb, a poison, a chemical, a blade, a flip of a rail switch, a van, a bus, a truck, a water bottle full of gasoline, etc.

Love, compassion, and understanding will always been the answer.  In fact, love is the basis found in fuel for the race.

 “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. – Jesus –   Matthew 5:21-22 (MSG Version)



If I were…

“She was just sixteen and all alone when I came to be.  So we grew up together…mama-child and me.  Now things were bad and she was scared, but whenever I would cry, she’d calm my fear and dry my tears with a rock and toll lullaby…” (1972) Rock And Roll Lullaby.  Recorded by:  B.J. Thomas.  Composers:  Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil.

With age, I have learned that…

If I were the teen who fought through a sexual assault, then carried an unwanted pregnancy, debating the heart’s choices, then allowing life to grow, I would be a spectacular teenager wise beyond my years.

If I were a parent who protected my newborn from assault and murder at the hands of the father, with a sacrificial unselfish front, I would be a medal of honor recipient.

If I were to end an abusive marriage, to defend and shield my innocent toddler, knowing there would be no child support, I would be a heroine authors would write about.

If I were a single parent constantly contending with the voices of psychological demons, chanting accusations of worthlessness, depreciation, and shame, all the while rising above it all to raise my child, I would be the dragon-slayer described in countless novels.

If I were to defeat my fear by moving into an uncharted world, away from family, to make a life for my young child, I would be a courageous warrior with monuments anointing the landscape.

If I were one who taught my toddler the true value of the gift of grandparents, I would be a brilliant educator with my name on the walls of universities.

If I were to faithfully read scripture to my young child each night, combined with the simplicity of personal prayer and church attendance, I would be a righteousness seeker with my statue erected by the world’s cathedrals.

If I were to seek out the finest pre-schools and kindergartens, in the attempt to assure my only child got a leg up, I would be a proactive parent to be noticed.

If I were to be rejected for loans and credit, due to being a single parent in the 1960’s, only to exercise faith while tackling a life of poverty with my head held high, I would be a fearless champion in my child’s eyes.

If I were to knock on every door to find a job waiting tables, or struggle with an overnight shift on an assembly line, I would be a humble workhorse of a provider for others to impersonate.

If I were to give away the opportunity to have a brilliant singing & recording career, just to be home with my child at the end of a hard night’s work, I would be self-sacrificing, worthy of a screenwriter’s time.

If I were to provide for my child after several lay-offs, by way of two or three jobs, I would be Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman combined, never being poor in spirit.

If I were to train my child well enough to leave him alone overnight, in order to work the graveyard shifts, I would be an example of a strong tower of faith.

If I were to work overtime to aid in the development of my elementary age child with raw musical abilities, by paying for piano, violin, guitar, and voice lessons, my portrait would hang in Carnegie Hall.

If I were to be a staunch, independent single parent, refusing financial aid from my parents, I would be wealthy of heart.

Mom & Me Granddad's Coin Box

From my granddad’s cedar coin box.  The two of us from 1969.

If I were to resist the temptation of suicide, while being beaten down by company lay-offs, Green Stamp submissions, and accepting government blocks of cheese, I would be a brave ferocious fighter for my child’s future.

If I were to support my teen’s sports and musical interests, which differ from mine, I would be a liberally devoted parent of love and understanding.

If I were to tirelessly stand up to my rebellious teenager, with the possibility of damaging our relationship, I would have attributes resembling the God of the Bible.

If I were to sit all alone in a church pew watching my child wed, I would have earned the vision of a soldier adorned in glistening armor after a long battle.

If I were to bless my grandchildren with my physical presence, my mind, as well as my heart, I would be worth my weight in gold.

Mom & Megan 1992ish

My mom with my middle daughter, Megan. (1992)

If I were to deny myself, for the betterment of my child, to the point of self-injury, while killing my own pursuits, and avoiding life’s trinkets that shine in the night, I would be Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Anne Sullivan, and Rosa Parks rolled into one.

If I were to be an example for my adult child, by being the caretaker of my aging parents, suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, along with other elderly ones in my community, I would reflect what I have always been…a mountain of love, compassion, and selflessness.

If I were to describe a fictitious character from my own dreams, they could not come close to the one I have held in my heart for my entire life.

I don’t have to write the words “If I WERE…”  The reason being, I simply could never measure up.  The one described above is my mom, Carolyn Atherton-Brown.

Mom salon

I am her portrait.  I am her monument.  I am her novel.  I am her screenplay.  I am her statue.  I am her champion.  I am her armored soldier.  I am the medal of honor.

To be gracefully broken, brilliantly strengthened, and beautifully poised is to be one who drinks deeply from the well of fuel for the race.

“…As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given to the Lord…” – The words of Hannah –   I Samuel 1:26b-28a (NIV)



Upon This Rock

Photo:  Sierra Club, iStockphoto/MikeNorton – Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

“I’m gettin’ married in the morning.  Ding-dong the bells are gonna chime.  We’ll have a whopper, pull out the stopper.  Get me to the church on time.”  Composers:  Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, “Get Me To The Church on Time” from “My Fair Lady”

Have you ever been somewhere, a geographical location, in your life where you have bad memories attached to that location?  Have you ever had something horrific occur either to you, or witnessed something horrific, so much so that whenever you drive by that location your hair stands up on your neck?  Most of us have.  In the swarm of the rage, locale seems to be what sticks to the memory.  In most cases, just the street, the structure, the building, or the name of such, can cause flashbacks of darker days, hurtful moments.  In fact, often times, that street, structure or building is avoided, even if it takes a few turns out of the way of traveling from point A to point B.

Church Exterior

(The church photo above is not the church building mentioned below.)

Recently, I got a phone call concerning an old family friend’s passing.  I wanted to attend his memorial service, regardless of when or where it might be.  Waiting each day after his death, and keeping my eyes on obituary notifications, I finally learned where the service would take place.  It wasn’t a surprise to me where the tribute would be held when I read of the location.  He had been serving as an usher in Sunday morning church services not far from where I live.  It happened to be at a church building where I attended in my teenage years.

It had been 40 years since I worshiped there.  Frankly, when I did leave that congregation at the time, I ran and ran hard.  Many others did the same.  Unfortunately, because of the twisting of what Jesus taught, there are several former parishioners that never darkened the doors of another church again.  In fact, as for me, never in my wildest dreams did I ever construct a scenario that would drag my feet across the threshold of the front door of that place.  There is much to tell here, but I will spare you the gory details.  Just know, even as a teen, I knew the scent of harmful and secretive inner-church politics, dominated by a corrupt dictator of a pastor. Extreme unjustified hyper-judgmental teaching ruled the day every time the doors were opened.  It would be a mistake to not include the fact that I was a victim of some of the false teaching which fueled the attitudes of parishioners delivered by the man in the corner church office.  This species of spiritual abuse stunts spiritual growth, amputates joy and plants painful shaming as the end result.  Unlawful, unbiblical teaching can and will shadow the listener for years to come.  The shaping from false biblical thought is like a child working with wet putty, resulting in distorted shapes.  It’s the same reason the warnings against this practice in biblical passages are so stark, hard and ominous.

At that time in my life I was not a true student of the scriptures.  I was ignorant of the textual evidence to support what my spirit already knew.  Later, many years later, I became more studious with biblical text.  Then, and only then, did the realization wrap me in the confidence that God had placed the unrest inside of me back in the day.  When teaching is contrary to scripture, the consistent Bible student knows the difference.  After all, God does not suffer from multiple personality disorders.

When Bible readers take the time to truly study what has been written down for us, then we know the ways of the great I AM often comes across as humorous.  Yes, God has and shares His sense of humor.    The day of the funeral, I re-discovered this truth once again.

Driving into the parking lot, I began to show familiar signs of stress and anxiety.  I had donned a sports jacket which hid the sweat soaking through my shirt.  Seriously, walking through those doors was a true test of my endurance.  Immediately, I began to see the extensive remodeling of the building which obviously had taken place over the decades.  There was a drastic color change, new pews, reconstructed stage, etc.  Right away, just the fact the building looked like a different place gave me some relief from how I was feeling.

Church Interior

(Photo not from the location.)

Truly, the greatest aid toward my sore, bruised heart, was the actual congregation.  Long-gone was the “old guard” who had been shaped by the now retired, misguided pastor.  I had also learned that the corruption hurt the congregation to the point of reduction of parishioners. (Once 500-600 attendees strong.) Apparently, due to a modern-day exodus, all were victims, to some degree, of a power-hungry clergyman who ruled over the unsuspecting flock.  In the end, there was no one there to remind me of the way things once were under the roof of the facility.  All of those years there was no need for the angst and bitterness I harbored.  If you find false teaching in a place, move on until you find where a correct biblical doctrine is taught.  God certainly has His ways.

Church Congregation


Walking away from the memorial service for my departed friend, I was struck by a deeply-seeded biblical truth.  The classical Greek, the original language of the New Testament, spells it out:  “Ekklesia” (ek-Klay-See’-ah).  In Hebrew it is very close to the word, “Adat” (uh-DOT’ or uh-DOTH’).  It is the the word Jesus used to describe HIS “church.”  It is NOT a building, even though we might say the wedding is “at the church,” or turn left “at the church in red brick.”  “Ekklesia” means an assembly, or a gathering of people.  In short, we might say, congregation.  Sure, the building had been updated, painted, remodeled, but also, the local “ekklesia” who assembled at the address, had been changed.  He will do what He will with His ekklesia.

His ekklesia was to be built on ROCK, not shifting sand.  What foundation could manage shifting sand?

As a serious believer in the teachings of Jesus, my job is to be sure the attitude of my heart is remodeled, painted and updated.  He came to make all things new.  Therefore, I should follow in His newness, adding fuel for the race.

“…upon this rock I will build My chucrch (ekklesian); and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” -Jesus.  From Matthew 16:18b (NAS)

Once Upon A September

Painting:  My step-son, Kellen Mills

The waning heat is urging us onward
Farewell to its waves and thunder
Parks and pools have been silenced
The kids mourn the death of summer

Sounds from the Earth, Wind and Fire
Together inviting us to remember
Some clouds will not be desired
Selective memories bring September

Labor awaits in loud rigorous debate
August’s end ushers the work of rest
The light colors fade to darker shades
Breezy wisps birthing autumn’s best

Brooklyn’s mine unearthed a Diamond
Its cut resonates September Morn
How blessed to dance-in a new day
Mending hearts broken and torn

Johnny Appleseed launched his orchards
Vast colors and kinds among the members
Their sweet aromas mask political torture
Tis the season to approve of September

Old Maggie, was a wooing abuser for self
T’was late September in her brutal court
The jester’s wage became a kick in the head
Tests from this wake-up school still ignored

Unexpected screams flooded 110 floors
Love held us between hell and heaven
We prayed and then prayed all the more
Reflections of Pearl, our September eleventh

As for now, I wait for the leaves of fall
Like Ol’ Blue Eyes, spying through tears
The children’s laughter, bikes and balls
Singing along, The September of My Years


Remembering the times in which we live with a good dose of fuel for the race.

“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.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10 & 14 (NIV)

Music Ref:

“September” – Earth, Wind & Fire.  Composers:  Al McKay, Maurice White, Allee Willis.  Recorded:  September 1978.
“September Morn” – Neil Diamond (1979).  Composers:  Gilbert Becaud, Neil Diamond.
“Maggie May” – Rod Stewart (1971).  Composers:  Martin Quittenton, Roderick Stewart.
“The September of My Years” – Frank Sinatra (1965).  Composers:  James Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn.

Spooky Stuff

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

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

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

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

Woods at night

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

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

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

Stairs in Savana seawall

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


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

It is to be God’s grip, not mine.

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

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


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:

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

Chow Chow Photo:

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)

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)

Deep Calling Deep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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