When Rockets Launch

“We are strong.
No one can tell us we’re wrong.
Searching our hearts for so long,
both of us knowing,
love is a battlefield.”
(1983) “Love Is A Battlefield” Recorded By: Pat Benatar Composers: Holly Knight & Mike Chapman

“These, ‘so-called’ Christians, like to attack whenever they don’t agree with someone else!”

“I’m DONE with my old high school friends who claim they’re Christians!”

“I’m not surprised anymore by what Christians say. They are all haters and ‘Trumpers’!”

“I’m not surprised either. In fact, I expect it from them (Christians).”

“Yep, most of them (Christians) are uneducated !…#@&*!”

Offended yet? If you are not of the faith, you’ll find it doesn’t necessarily bother you. Or should it? Keep reading.

Let me back up a bit to explain the above.

A “friend” of mine, going back to my high school days, launched a very negative attack on her Facebook post after she read another angry person’s comment on a private group posting memorials of deceased alumni, or teaching staff from my old high school. It’s a very nice service to have, especially when you’re an alumni who cares for old friends and teachers from yesteryear. I have been able to honor former classmates by attending their funeral services due to the fact I was briefed by the memorial page. Yet, all of the harsh words written above about “Christians” were in reaction to the cover photo of the memorial page. Here’s what launched those scathing words thrown at “Christians”. A simple photo.

Photo: R.L. Turner High School Memorial Page

Yep! That’s right, the cross. I guess this gang of vipers would break out in physical convulsions at Arlington Cemetery. It all began with one individual who responded to an obit of a departed alumni. The string of replies were the common condolences, well wishes, prayers for the family, etc, Then came this one who didn’t write anything about the deceased person, but instead questioned the use of the cross as the cover photo. In his complaint, TO THIS PRIVATE GROUP PAGE, he mentioned there were so many classmates and teachers who were not Christians. Stupidly, and yes, I used that word just now, for his assault on the cross, mentioned how the high school is a public school on school district land, therefore religious symbols should stay out of it. Of course, the school, or school district, didn’t put up the memorial page…a “private group” did so on the Facebook platform.

Back to my old high school atheistic chum. She notated on her page a description of what she saw on the memorial page, and how it should be taken down, in the recent flavor of cancel culture. Of course, she wanted to stir the stew, and she certainly did. Most of her friends on her list are far left edge, godless people, who talk about how tolerant they are, but only selectively tolerant. Tolerance for me, but not for thee. So, as one might imagine, a slew of her Christian-hating friends poured it on with a hot liquid steel spew about followers of Jesus. I only shared a short snapshot of what I read. The string of comments went on and on. It wasn’t long until one of the attacking clan aligned all Christians with Donald Trump and overall conservative political supporters. A few foolishly targeted Jesus Himself in their ramblings with despicable adjectives I cannot repeat here.

One of the complaints my old pal had, surrounded the fact that there were some people who responded badly to the man who questioned using the cross as a memorial symbol. Some were defending the cross vigorously from a faith-based point of view, others were chewing on the guy from a civics perspective. However, many replied to him in a loving way. In all cases, everyone was lumped into the “Christian” pile, a pile to burned, or eaten by lions. Been there, done that. Yet, frankly, many did not answer him with an attitude of love, but more on the scale of scrapping with an enemy. The baby hits the ground with the bathwater. Some lambs do roar. Other lambs are just so tired of being attacked by popular culture who thinks a person of faith is a Neanderthal. One vomiting up, “Most of them are uneducated!” (They should remember that whenever they pass by a Presbyterian Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Baptist Hospital, etc.) Otherwise, if Christians stay silent, inactive, and keep their teachings only inside four walls on a Sunday, then all will be right with the world. But a city on a hill can’t be hidden, can it? Salt and light alters things. The Cornerstone continues to cause many to stumble on their dark paths. The spewing haters don’t realize it, but they are indeed proving the scripture to be so accurate.

You might say, “Hey, Alan, wake up and smell the coffee. Are you new to today’s world?”

I spent most of the 1980’s on a job where I was mocked for my faith daily. I’m no stranger to this at all. My reply to such a question lies with another question. What if you take out the word “Christians” from the hateful circle of vile, and replace it with…Jews…Hindus…Muslims…Agnostics…Atheists…LGBTQ…Vets…Mexicans…The Disabled…Blue-eyed people…Bald people… Well, you get my point. The ones shouting, “RACISM!” are usually the most guilty of the sin. Take any of those titles and replace the word “Christians” and the Woke squadron would be all over you like ugly on Sasquatch. Am I right? Are you nodding your head?

I’m not biblically illiterate. Scripture states, humanity ran from God. We still do. We don’t want to be reminded there is a code for living, set by an ultimate Authority. Those who are still running from God’s arms want to make their own codes, their own roads, their own laws. After all, we have to validate whatever we do in action, word, or deed. Am I right? It’s very much like the crowd who shouts in the streets to defund the cops, or delete the police all together. It is why Jesus said if we follow Him, expect haters, expect stones to be thrown, flaming darts released, missiles to be launched. The bottom line here, it’s all part of an ancient Holy war. Israel understands that all too well.

Photo: Fox News Hamas rockets over Israel.

You might be asking yourself if I “Unfriended” my old high school screamer. No, I can’t bring myself to do that. However, for my sanity, I did take a “Break” from her.

Loving others can truly be a battlefield.

The highway of faith is a gauntlet, yet overcome by fuel for the race.

“Blessed are you whenever they revile you and persecute you and they say every evil word against you for my sake, in falsehood. Then rejoice and triumph, because your reward is great in Heaven, for just so they persecuted The Prophets who were before you.” – Jesus – Matthew 5:11-12 (Aramaic Bible In Plain English)

What’s Going On?

“…Brother, brother, brother,
There’s far too many of you dying.
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today,.. Picket lines and picket signs.
Don’t punish me with brutality.
(come)Talk to me,
So you can see,
Oh, what’s going on, (What’s going on)…”
(1971) “What’s Going On?” Recorded By: Marvin Gaye Composers: Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Al Cleveland, Marvin Gaye.

This isn’t the first time I have started a blog release with those lyrics. Yes, it seems that the times we are living in contribute to lyrics from America’s music catalog.

So, after January 6 of 2021, may we sincerely ask Marvin’s 1971 question once again? What’s Going On? Isn’t that part of the liberty our founding fathers left with us to pledge our allegiance, to live under its banner? The freedom to ask questions and expect answers.

Once again, I must preface by saying I am not wanting to write about politics, or certain political players. However, I do, and have, written about how the wake in political gaming washes over us, and so often placing us…out to sea.

Photo: NBC NEWS

So, what’s going on? Questions hang in the American air which brews up disturbance, declination, even destruction. On January 6th, I believe a bit of the pressure valve began to open at the Capitol Building in our nation’s seat of government. Riotous instigators, among a crowd of dozens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators attending a rally and a march, attacked Capitol Hill and broke into the hallowed halls of our house. Here, in this nation, the Capitol Building, which is highly historical and honored, is owned by its citizens. WE THE PEOPLE send our own local representatives there to debate laws, to construct peaceful working relationships with political opponents, and to direct “our” business of concern. This politically sacred place of honor has not been stormed and raided since the British military did it in, what we call, the war of 1812. Shamefully, this time, America’s own sons and daughters became the marauders. As I write this, five people paid for it with their lives, two of which were honored military vets with distinguished records. Bombs were placed, but were discovered and disarmed before ignition. Thank God Almighty the body count lies at just five. If you have watched the news, or saw it happen live on screen, I don’t have to tell you much more than the above. There was no satisfaction there. There was no victory there. There was no battles won there. Only shame, and disgust was created there.

The iron-hot investigation continues to identify these law-breakers in efforts to arrest them and federally try them in a court of law. Only God knows just where it will lead.

The question remains, “What’s going on?”

Photo: NBC News

Both my wife and I have seen and heard hurtful barbs being thrown at family members within our circle of kin, both on her side and my side of relatives. Literally, brother against brother style. Now, citizen against citizen is the norm. It is so painful.

And Marvin’s song spins once again, “What’s Going On?”

There are questions unanswered, although many ignore them..

Did our President literally instigate the storming of the Capitol Building via a speech?

Let’s ask, why four straight years of constant internal assault on the President, much of which could not hold up to the accusations, and/or evidence?

Why are some out of orbit government leaders calling for the heads of conservatives, conservative backers, and conservative voters? The cancel culture wants to feed like rats to a cadaver.

Yeah, what IS going on?

Why have we seen a monumental change in America’s free press over the last four years? Fair and balanced, non-bias news coverage seems to be an extinct dinosaur in the USA. Can you fully trust the press today? If you do, have you noticed you have been fooled?

Why is there now a generation who thirst after defaming and degrading statues of our history? Do they really believe the world will get better by their vandalism? Do they really foolishly believe great things will come to them freely by taking a big eraser to our constitution and history? If so, it will be their cadavers who will be fed upon before this generation is over. They own a blind, foolish, and selfish ideology. This basement is on shifting sand at best.

Craziness will not bring justice, peace, or utopia.

Our law-makers scratch the backs of one another as they agree to send billions of our tax dollars to other countries for fluffy purposes, often not even monitored in spending. Soon, we will see taxes rise due to payments made to any person crossing our borders illegally for free health care. What? You didn’t know? Billions of our hard earned funds are approved to pay for pork projects like studying how long a lizard can work a treadmill, or how fast a tire can burn. Recently, an approved bill, over 5,000 pages long, was packed with frivolous porky pie projects most of us would never agree to. To help mask it all, our representatives were given about 2 hours to read through the 5,000 page pile of documents before voting for approval. Ching-Ching! What? You didn’t hear it? You will soon on your stub.

Top priority is deception in Washington DC. Not to mention, I’m talking about funds we do not have. We are printing money without any true value. Yep, our great grandchildren, and their children, and their children, and their children will be in debt because of this foolishness. Would you allow this in your home’s book-work? If sane, you wouldn’t.

And the question remains, “What’s going on?”

This past election was filled with very questionable tactics, along with evidence of voter fraud which has been refused in the courts. Irregularities in our voting system demands scathing investigations from all sides. I know, so many are reporting there is no proof of voter fraud. Yet, those same reporters refuse to raise the question of how some counties sent in far more ballots than there were voters. How does that happen? Scores of voters were turned down at the voting booths because they were told the system showed they already voted by mail. How does that happen? Massive resurrections occurred as thousands of the deceased voted. How does that happen? The same politicians sing from the same hymnal as some media outlets,who claim there is no fraud, ignored eye witnesses, via affidavits under penalty of perjury, who have yet to be heard in court due to failure of court filing procedures, or weak judges who wanted to pass the buck in most cases. Heads are still scratching from overnight dumps of thousands of mystery ballots, with only one candidate to choose from, or only one candidate chosen. How does that happen? Many ballots were not signed, or processed without signature verification. What are the odds? What ever your political leanings, don’t you believe this issue should be thoroughly investigated and reviewed by objective powers? Dare I say it? If America’s elections are diseased by fraudulent actions, we have no real nation of liberty. In other words, YOU and I can no longer say that WE THE PEOPLE choose our government leaders. I could share more of the election issue, but I won’t. But I will ask, what’s going on?

I had a terrific reunion with an old high school buddy today. He spent decades in the Air Force. He flew missions over the sands in Desert Storm in Iraq, and in the short conflict in Panama. He has been around the globe many times in his military career. Today he told me how he fears for where our nation is going. I couldn’t help but agree as we both know history and how civil wars are born.

My knees bend to no one but King Jesus. Through the mix of hatred and political haze of confusion, I know the One Who still has His place on the throne of the universe. Kings and kingdoms will all fade and vanish and yet, He will still be sovereign.

May our struggle be in that voting booth, and the electoral process. And if evil minded people attempt to ride roughshod over the will of the people, they must be investigated, put on trial, and the system purged by legal means.

The question remains, can we keep our freedom? It’s up to us. Is it not?

Liberty was a gift. We, the people, did not generate it ourselves. It’s clear in fuel for the race.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” – Isaiah 5:20-21 (ESV)

B-17

Cover Title Photo:  Pexels

“Please, Mister, please, don’t play B-17
It was our song, it was his song, but it’s over.
Please, Mister, please, if you know what I mean,
I don’t ever wanna hear that song again.”  (1975)  Please Mr. Please   Recorded by:  Olivia Newton-John  Composers:  Bruce Welch & John Rostill

Mama’s Pizza came to my north Dallas suburb in 1976, or so.  It was the first New York style pizza to land in our area and it was a true hit.  In fact, my single mom and I were one of their very first customers after they opened for business.  The interior was very much like the no-frills, old pizza joints in New York City.  It had its dark maroon painted brick walls kissing the eight or ten booths lining the long dark narrow dining area.  There were three, maybe four tables for those that preferred them.  The kitchen was out in the open with its used pizza ovens.  (I say “used” because they didn’t look brand new to me.)  Two brothers ran the place, both from New Jersey.  They were both in their 20’s and going to school.  One was in dental school, the other in business studies.  They often fought publicly, but it only added to the atmosphere.  They didn’t care how loud they were, or who could hear them.  I smile thinking about witnessing shouts of, “DON’T BOTHER ME WITH THIS!”…”I CALLED MA LAST TIME.  IT’S YOUR TURN, BOZO!”…”AH, FORGET ABOUT IT!”

One of my favorite things Mama’s Pizza had, there on the far back wall, an authentic mounted moose head, possibly a caribou, hanging out from the brick wall.  It’s nose was just about eye-level.  A couple of friends of mine had a tradition of kissing the nose of the poor beast.  Just beneath the animal’s mounted head, an old classic jukebox.  My classmates and I almost wore that thing out over our high school years.  It looked something like this…

woman lying forward on parquet floor in front of jukebox
Photo by Cleyton Ewerton on Pexels.com

From what I recall, you could select your song for a dime, or a quarter if you wanted to push more buttons for a few more tunes.  It seems they had current hits from the 70’s, as well as, some hits going all the way back to the late 50’s.  Zero country songs.  Very seldom did you ever see a goat-roper (Our word for cowboys back in those times.) come in for NY pizza.  That’s was fine with us.  We didn’t like country-western music.

Mama’s Pizza hasn’t been here in many years now.  I miss it.

One thing Mama’s didn’t have was this…

Jukebox Tableside Dallas memories

Photo:  Dallas Memories Facebook Group

Now, depending on how you are, you might not recognize what this is.  Back in the day many small diners often sported these little treasures.  Although most have thrown them out as the years marched on, from time to time you can still find some table-side jukeboxes.   It seems like the last one I saw was at the Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo, NY.

Lake Effect Diner curtinresturants.com

Photo:  Lake Effect Diner, Buffalo, NY.  curtinresturants.com

As a kid, and as an adult, sheer excitement would take over whenever I spotted these babies.  In fact, I remember searching for songs even before picking up the menu.

I will pretend you’ve never seen one.  So, allow me to describe the experience.  tThere is a knob, or lever, which turns the pages of the lengthy song-list.  As you scan the titles and the artists, you should have your dime ready for your selection.  Suddenly, you find your favorite tune, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog” by Elvis.  Next to the song is a letter or number, or both, that you would push the coordinating button for choosing.  Boom, somewhere in the building is a jukebox remotely playing your selection over the speakers at your table.  But usually there are speakers mounted in the ceiling for everyone’s listening pleasure…or hatred.  And there’s the rub.

Like Olivia, there always seems to be a B-17 in our memory.    Maybe you dislike Elvis, and there he comes, forced on your ears because some button-pushing customer in booth #3 selected it without consulting you first.  What’s worse, he might have added a couple more Elvis tunes with a quarter in the slot.  By the time your selection comes around, it may be time to tip the waiter and leave.  Before you know it, just about the time the second verse of “Blue Hawaii” comes around, you’re thinking of taking your sliced tomato off your burger and throwing it toward booth #3.  Do the math.  B-17 + Communal Music = Internal Sour Notes.

Turn Table wikihow.life

Photo:  wikihow-life

For me, the heavy remains to be my personal B-17’s.  You know what I mean.  It’s not so much a disliked artist, but rather a song.  There’s nothing like music that drags you back to a memory, whether it be a good one, or a bad one.  It could be a relationship that went south and the song on B-17 in the selector was what you called, “Our Song”.  Tell me about it, I know it very well.  I could cry a river a few times.  Maybe it was the song on the radio you were singing along with as a truck pulled out in front of you, leaving you in a body-cast for a few weeks.  Someone might think of a song sung at a funeral for a loved one.  That’s what happened to me with Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”.  To this very day, I sink in sadness when it plays over the air.  The song was performed over the coffin of my friend and mentor back in July of 1981.  All these years later the song stings me.  Music has Velcro.  It’s the way God created it.  Music stamps visuals, times, and places.  So many songs do deliver sweet mental-videos of first cars, first dates, weddings, births, and graduations.  If the guy in booth #3 selected one of those I might be persuaded to buy his grilled cheese sandwich.

Sometimes being in a community isn’t always a pleasant thing.  Am I right?  It’s all about how you handle what you don’t want to hear, or see.  Maybe the group of kids in the corner booth are dropping the F-bomb for all of us to enjoy.  Maybe the idiot cutting people off in traffic gets your match lit.  It simply might be a neighbor with a political sign in the front yard you wouldn’t vote for.  Yep, sometimes being communal isn’t always tasteful.  What’s your B-17?

So Olivia is spot-on with, “Please, Mr. please, if you know what I mean, I don’t ever want to hear that song again.”

Grace, living out grace, handing out grace overcomes a lot of B-17’s in life.  Biblically speaking, it means giving favor to someone, or some thing, who you feel doesn’t deserve favor.  Grace fuels merciful action and thought.

“Lady” by Kenny Rogers is a B-17 for me.  It brings up a life-long choice which turned out to be a youthful mistake.  For many moons the sound of the song angered me, literally.  However, when hearing now, I work hard on hunting for the true value the lyrics have for others, not focusing, or feeding on the sour notes of my own past decision-making.  What’s history is history, grace would say.  I for one, need grace all the time, every day.  So glad the Creator invented it, and distributes it.  It’s what’s on God’s menu for us, the consumer.

Before selecting that button, it’s wise to order-up a good warm cup of fuel for the race.

“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over–will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  – Jesus –  Luke 6:38  (Holman Christian Standard Version)

Not Seeing Eye To Eye

Photo:  Thiago Matos via Pexels

“Oh, crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got…So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts.  So don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different date…Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye.” – (1988)  The Living Years,  Recorded by:  Mike and the Mechanics.  Written by Mike Rutherford and B. A. Robertson

The hallway was busy between classes that day.  The platform shoes were loud on the polished hard floor like horses on a brick street.  Everyone was running to their next classroom before the final bell rang.  I, in my bell-bottoms and bell sleeves, was coming out of the choral department rehearsal hall after an a cappella session.  My steps were already inside the broad hallway, but had yet to fully walk through the threshold as my hand remained on the thick heavy wooden door.  That’s when I looked up and saw her.  It was Lori Kennedy high stepping it toward the choir-room door from B-Hall.  She was running a tad late to get to her place on the rehearsal risers just inside the entrance for Women’s Select Choir.  It was a Friday, game-day at our north Dallas suburban high school of 3,500 students.  I recall it was a Friday because Lori was decked-out in her Lionette drill team outfit from a pep-rally earlier the same morning.  As she approached the doorway, I quickly made my way through the entrance while holding the door open for her.  By the time she was within two, or three steps from me, her dark brown eyes pierced mine as she sternly stated, “I can open my own door!” as she swiftly rushed by me.  OUCH!  That was unexpected.  It wasn’t like me to freeze, but I did due to shock.  It was best because it also kept my mouth shut.

Lori Kennedy 1978 RLT

Lori Kennedy, 1978 R.L. Turner High School Yearbook.

Lori and I were 16 at the time, in 1976.  She was about five weeks older than your’s truly.  Our social circles overlapped, so we had mutual friends, but the two of us were mere acquaintances.  In fact, I don’t think we ever had a conversation before that uncomfortable moment.  It’s not that we avoided one another, or even ignored the other purposefully while within earshot.  We both certainly knew about the other, but distantly.  From time to time, over four years, we even dated our close shared friends, but never one another.  There were multiple occasions where we hitched a ride with other friends while stuffed in a 1973 Chevy Camaro.  We were on the same bus during our music concert tours with the choral department’s Spring trip each year.  We also found ourselves sharing a bus for choral UIL contests performed in other cities.  Then there were gatherings at picnics, parties, and popular hangouts, etc.  I should stop here because as I write this I’m remembering many more circumstances where Lori and I shared space through high school.  We, for what ever reason, never made the effort to get to know each other.  One might say, we knew each other through our fellow classmates.

With all that said, it makes her stark, rude remark, (the first words she ever spoke to me), that much more odd.  Maybe she was having a bad day.  Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her.  Possibly life at home had hit a wall.  Could she had slipped on a banana peel in the cafeteria line?  Maybe there was a social undertow of knowing we didn’t see eye-to-eye on life itself.

full frame shot of eye
Photo by Vladislav Reshetnyak on Pexels.com

One thing is for concrete sure, she didn’t know my mom and granddad taught me how to treat the opposite sex going back to my toddler years.  Chivalry was the order of the day in my family.  I must have been three years old, when walking down the sidewalk with my mom and grandparents, my granddad gently instructed me to always walk closest to the curb when walking next to a lady.  When I asked why, in his rural Texas fashion and verbiage, he explained that if a tire splashes a muddy puddle onto the walkway, she will be spared from the splatter.  He followed it up with, “That’s what men do.”  He taught me to remove my hat if a lady enters the room.  If a lady walks by, you tip the brim of the hat.  If a lady is about to sit at a table, you pull the chair out for her, followed by the adjustment to table-side.  If the lady is ready to remove her coat or sweater, you help remove it from her shoulders.  When she is ready to wear the same, you hold it open for her as she slips her arms through.  You always allow the lady to walk in front, choosing second place.  You always open the car door for a lady before placing yourself in the car.  And yes, you always open the door for a lady as she approaches it.  In fact, I do that for men, as well as women.  To be honest, I still practice all of the above to this day.  It’s an act of courtesy, kindness, respect, and honor.  I’m branded with it.  So, what was up with Lori?

At the time, the women’s liberation movement was well above surging, at least in the U.S.  It would be foolish to believe that 100% of women living-out the movement appreciated chivalry with its old Victorian manners.  Because I neglected to get to know Lori, the real Lori, I may have missed my cue.  It very well may have been Lori was exercising her newly discovered rules of engagement as dictated by the women’s liberation movement of the times.  I would have been clueless.  Nevertheless, she may have very well been offended by my gesture of holding the door open for her entrance into the choir room.  Sure, I meant well, but she may have seen my action in another angle, unbeknownst to me.  Just like one can peek through a glass of water while another may see a different distorted view.  And here is where I went wrong.

My mind washed my hands of her as I walked away from the moment of friction.  Lori Kennedy and I never had a potential conversation throughout the balance of our school years together.  Never once.  In fact, I totally avoided her.  My misdirected thoughts went something like, “Well, if she’s going to treat me like a doormat, than I don’t have any use for her.”  This is what unchecked anger can do.  And so, in my bitterness over the incident, I made sure I ignored her each time our paths crossed, wherever it was.  And what’s worse, I allowed our very quick moment in 1976 to stain my view of her from that time forth.  Afterwards, the name Lori Kennedy was held in my grudge-peppered heart.  My new title for her was, Little Miss Rudeness.  Yes, it was wrong.  Very wrong.

One would think in adulthood, with all its twists, turns, and teachings, I would’ve eventually understood better, loved more, and forgave even if I never saw her again in life.  However, we did.  God had other plans.

Lori Kennedy 2018 RLT Reunion

Lori Kennedy at a 2018 casual reunion with old friends.

A year ago, I attended two reunions with old friends and classmates.  One was a casual gathering of about 200 as we paid tribute to a friend who had passed away the year prior.  Two months later, it was our 40th high school reunion.  Lori Kennedy and I bumped into each other at both events.  During the first reunion, I saw her before see saw me.  My first thought was to stay away from her, using my old searing angst as justification.  With so many people attending, it would’ve been easy to just remain on the other side of the large club.  Two months later, the 40th high school reunion gala would be upon us where most likely we would find ourselves in close proximity with mutual friends.  Deep inside, I hated the tensity felt over seeing her again.  Getting lost in the crowd was my first thought.

Miles White Reunion Shot

August 2018 at the casual reunion at the Fox & Hound Pub in Dallas.

Someone called out to her through the noisy event.  With a turn, my eyes caught her.  There she was, laughing, drinking, eating and enjoying a cluster of old friends.  My reaction was to look away to protect the sore spot in my psyche.  After looking down at my shoes for way too long, I filled my lungs with lots of air, slapped on my big boy pants, and made my way across the room of revelers.

She had changed so much since our teen years.  Age hadn’t been particularly polite to her.  Lori always lived fast and hard, so I just assumed it all caught up with her.  She was a bit pale and thin, and the spark in her dark eyes had faded.  Name tags are a gift from God in these cases, but not at this casual gathering.  Often, at our age, it’s guesswork.  I acted as if I wasn’t sure it was her.  “Lori?  Is that you?”  She turned toward me, cocked her head and smiled.  “Alan!  Well, as I live and breathe!  How are you?”  I initiated a quick shoulder-hug. (Still showing signs of my grudge in a tiny gesture.  I know, it’s all so stupid.)  We spoke very kindly for another couple of minutes.  After all, there’s not much to “catch-up on” when you didn’t really have a relationship to start with.  I found out she lived alone with her two beloved Chihuahuas.  Still, it was somewhat a relief to see her genuine greeting.  Surprisingly cordial with a true smile, we shared good words between us.  Simultaneously, there was this voice coming from deep inside me delivering a statement I never would’ve believed.  It was so clear.  Despite our differences, we could have been friends.  Part of me began to feel ashamed what I had secretly held against her over the decades.  Of course, I never brought up our one and only verbal encounter from the days of yore.  Actually, she may not even recall the day she was snarky to me, the “doorman” from early in our junior year.  Frankly, the thought had never occurred to me.  Just because I always remembered it, shelving her as a tyrant and a princess prude forever, doesn’t necessarily mean she remembered our game-day intersect whatsoever.

Monday morning, October 7th, I got in my car, turned on the radio to my favorite classic rock station, and there it was, Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young”.  It was the tripwire to heavy tears as I left my driveway for an hour’s drive to Lori Kennedy’s funeral.

After doing some digging, I discovered Lori was told by her doctor how early tests indicated she had Multiple Myeloma.  This form of blood cancer wasn’t new to me.  A church friend has been battling it for two years, as well as my brother-in-law, who is in the final stages of this life-sucking illness.  An MRI had found a mysterious spot on her pelvic bone a couple of years prior.  At that time tests were inconclusive.  Apparently, Lori shrugged it off.  She had been told most Multiple Myeloma patients have 3-5 years after diagnosis, maybe less.  She was looking forward to her first oncologist appointment to confirm, plus discuss various treatments.  That was during the last week of September.  She passed away in her sleep at home less than a week later.  After the very touching service I spoke with her parents.  They told me she had been suffering from symptoms for at least 2-3 years, but had no idea she had been stricken with cancer until a few days ago.

Before the minister spoke, they played Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven.  As it washed over the the ones gathered, I bowed my head and listened intently for the first time.

“…Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?

Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please, begging please…”

My hands trembled as I realized my judging heart.  Deeply convicted, I acknowledged my stupidity in not letting go of one moment in time of offense.  At my age, how could I have remained so immature?  When we engaged last year, I was unaware she was in severe pain throughout her skeletal structure.  As we stood there and chatted at the reunion, I was unaware Lori was constantly dehydrated, with bouts of deadly low blood pressure and visits to the ER.  Little did I know she was choking down powerful pain killers just to stand, walk, and sit.  As it turns out, she rarely left her house to socialize due to her struggle.  The reunions were a goal she wouldn’t deny herself.  And there I was, trying to be tempered, holding back my old resentment as she smiled at me, even though she should’ve been in the hospital.  What a moron I was.  So much time wasted.  So much life experience gone.  So many chances crumbled away in the living years.

After the service was complete, I approached the opened white coffin where an unrecognizable body was displayed.  The remains of this person looked as if she was some 25 years my elder, resting among the satin lace.  Even though it was way too late, I looked at the face, which once belonged to Lori, and whispered, “Forgive me, Lori.  Forgive me.”

As I drove back home, I asked the Redeemer to forgive my unsettled anger.

True lessons in life come at the most heartbreaking times.  Lessons of humility learned easier when filled with fuel for the race.

“And whenever you stand to pray, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in Heaven may also forgive you your faults.  But if you are not forgiving, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive you your faults.”  – Jesus –  Mark 11:25-26  (Aramaic Bible In Plain English)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Construction Ahead

Photo:  Bartek Wojtas

“..This much I know is true.  That God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you…” – (2004)  Bless The Broken Road   Recorded by:  Rascal Flatts  Composers:  Jeff Hanna, Marcus Hummon, Robert E. Boyd.

Does this sound familiar to you?  A few days ago, as I was on my way to an appointment, I was driving north on one of the main streets in the suburb where I live.  There are three lanes northbound, and three lanes southbound.  It is a very well-known, heavily traveled boulevard.  The speed limit norm allows cruising around 40-45mph.  Suddenly, I am hampered by bumper-to-bumper traffic.  With a rather large exhale, I said out loud in frustration, “Arg!  A standstill.  Figures!”  Inch by inch, foot by foot, I finally arrived at the intersection I was driving toward.  The traffic congestion delayed me for some twenty minutes.  As I was able to get a clearer view of the problem, which caused the bottleneck, it angered me even more.  Yes, I admit, flew off the handle inside my car.  It was unexpected road construction at the busiest time of day for commuters.

Construction-2 Rodolfo Quiros

Photo:  Rodolfo Quiros

Hours later, as I returned home and caught up on social media, I read a notice from the city concerning the specific intersection slowing all of us drivers down to a halt.  It stated that workers were widening the lanes, turn lanes, and reconstructing the curbs, etc.  That’s actually good news, if not for the last part of the traffic notice.  The city was good enough to let us in on just how long the project would take….December of 2019!  That’s a lot of wet concrete, jack-hammering, sawing, frame-working, and all that goes with it.  A tad less than six months for that one intersection.  Ouch!

Well, at least the old pavement itself doesn’t have emotion, pain, and a way to calculate its own history.  It’s very much unlike the way we are constructed.

I don’t know about your life, but I have been hammered, sawed, and broken up a few times.  Even my “No Passing” stripes have been redrawn.  Can you identify?

Shortly after I checked my social media, I locked onto a TV documentary on the National Geographic Channel.  It was a two hour thrill about the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  Stunningly brilliant cinematography, it was a an eye-popper.  It was shot by a hiking crew which began their adventure from the floor of the Grand Canyon.  Not only did they have shoulder cameras, but they also shot their POV scenes from helmet and body cams.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  It was more than fascinating, it was awe-inspiring.  And then the unanticipated spooky moments came.  As they slowly ascended up the canyon walls, mile by mile, their trek involved tiny narrow ledges, some barely seven inches in width.  One misstep, and it’s at least a 500-foot drop.  Yes, I looked away at times.  My mouth couldn’t hold back the words, “Nope, not for me.  Never!”  I decided, right then and there, I would take road construction tie-ups any time of day.

Not unlike the well-planned professional hikers, engineers for the road construction have a blueprint to adhere to.  The mapped-out details will take the more narrow sections of lanes and broaden them for future traffic.  Their scope involves a turn ramp for easy right turns with only a yield sign for safe merging.  Of course, new curbs will be built to accommodate the widened street.  For night driving, good solid curbs have kept my tires from meandering off the road to where I’ve needed to be.

The times my life have been broken-up, jack-hammered, and cut away, were always for a refashioned purpose.  Mainly in retrospect did I ever see it clearly.  Like those adventurous Grand Canyon hikers, I often found myself trying to balance my stride on very thin ledges, step by step.  It seems to me, during those jaunts, I never noticed the drop-off danger just to my left or right.  But the reality was, my boots were on a potential life-ending, risky trail before the constructive remodeling came about.  Like surgery, life construction often is full of hardships.  There’s breaking, bending, stripping, and scraping, all in the process.  Old paint must come off.  Guardrails which aren’t high enough are torn down.  Stubby curbs often aren’t visual enough.  With a journey on that street, one can easily be distracted causing a kissing of the ditch.

Right now, you might be thinking of some tough steamrolling in your own life.  It may be from your past, or your present.  If you believe it’s never happened…it will.  Possibly you thought you might not get through it all before the new cement dries.  Just gazing at the new scaffolding was a mystery at the time.  In fact, it could be you hunted for a detour, but in the end, you had to go through the unsettled intersection to see more clearly.  Am I right?  Usually reconstruction delivers you more easily to where you are meant to be.  Sometimes, the process WILL temporarily hurt, and maybe lengthy on the calendar, but the destination is the goal.

Sign- Cliff warning

Meanwhile, it’s wise to observe the warning signs on the beaten path ahead.  Sure, it may cause a bottleneck, slowing you down from where you set the cruise control, but in the end, it serves.

There’s one thing to keep in mind.  Nobody ever remodels to design a smaller product.  God doesn’t work that way either.  Count on it.  I know do.

When getting the rough places straightened in life, fill-up with fuel for the race.

“You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped.” – Psalm 18:36 (NAS) 

Trash In – Trash Out

“I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love.  I don’t know how someone controlled you.  They bought and sold you.  I look at the world and I notice it’s turning while my guitar gently weeps.  With every mistake we must surely be learning.  Still my guitar gently weeps…”   While My Guitar Gently Weeps (1968).  Recorded by:  The Beatles.  Composer:  George Harrison

A friend of mine took the cover shot above for a Facebook post.  Like her, I immediately saw the humor.  For many who are against fast food, as it bashes decent dietary habits, this is the perfect photo to get on a soapbox and rage away.  Once again I laughed thinking about an old friend of mine who never cleaned out his car.  Whenever I hopped in his Triumph TR6, I first had to push over all the old fast food wrappers, along with the burger boxes, just to sit.  Then, my feet found a place to rest on top of more take-out sacks and such.  The trunk was even worse.  There’s a somewhat faded memory of a cousin who would finish his burrito while driving his pick-up.  After he finished, without a miss, he would toss the wrapper and sack in the bed of the truck behind him where it found company with dozens of other discarded items.  Here, in the photo above, at least as you order from the outdoor menu, you could throw-away yesterday’s take-out trash at the same time.  However, wherever you go, you’ll find garbage.

Trash in – trash out.

Trash-Out

I needed a chuckle this week.  Watching the news sank my spirit.  How about you?  I’ve been thinking about how you must be feeling.

God bless the citizens of Christchurch, New Zealand.  Here we are, yet another senseless mass slaughter.  Dozens of worshipers, men, women, and children, in two different mosques were killed and severely injured.  As often the case, the evil-doer had posted a lengthy manifesto.  It was filled with hatred for other races, and those practicing various religious faiths across the planet.  If you’ve been living in a cave this week, you might be unaware that this corrupted heart, this darkened soul, found forethought to wear a body camera to live stream his ethnic cleansing event for the world to see on social media.  Millions have seen the tragedy from his viewpoint.  In the shredding of lives, he somehow survived, as if protected.

Oh, and should I mention the thousands of Christians in Nigeria which have been slaughtered by Muslim extremists all within the last year?  It is still going on.  Yes, it’s true.  Interestingly enough, it is being reported the victims are mostly women and children in this case.  Very much like a Nazi military doctrine, the idea is to eliminate reproduction of Christian families in that small nation.  For some reason very few news outlets cover the genocide there.  Millions of Christians and Muslims are in concentration camps in China right now.  China calls them “Reeducation centers”.  Honestly, I am barely touching the surface of the topic.  There’s so much more to report concerning hatred on wheels.

Thousands of thoughts run through my mind as I write this.  Frankly, the old man in me wants revenge for the bloodshed of the innocent ones taken from us.  The heart is a tool of great unselfish love…and unthinkable evil destruction.  Washing over me are the biblical words of God, “Vengeance is mine”.

Hearing how the evil one in New Zealand strapped on his camera, along with admiring other mass murderers of note, and his total disregard for life itself, with the exception of his own, I can only imagine one of his goals.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out other fools like him will follow suit.  With the 17 minutes of squashing human life from his camera, looking very much like a violent video game, a huge population of sick kids will use it for their video gaming, with their faces pressed against computer screens.  Already the video has been reproduced for sinister marketeers.  God help us all.

The investigation into this 28 year old mass murderer is underway.  When all the facts come out, no doubt there will be found violent gaming in his little darkened cave.  Along with other vicious videos, there will also be tons of extreme violent movies, authentic death-lovers videos, and celebrated ghoulish websites.  Oh, yeah.  They exist.

Here’s what trash in the mind will do for you.

Turtle-Plastic

Photo:  Huffington Post

When diving deep into the garbage evil sets up, soon one can discover entanglement with the refuse once admired from a distance.  Once it sticks to the pursuer, as it wraps its claws around the mind, it actually distorts who the fantasizer was created to be.  It disfigures the one pursuing.  Truly an assault on the Creator Himself.  Trash in – Trash out.

We are like trash receptacles.  How we act-out all depends on what we toss into ourselves.  We are what we consume.

Make no mistake about it.  The process works like this.  First there is a single thought.  That thought is allowed, given permission, to enter the storage of the mind where fantasy breeds.  The imagination of the mind is sparked by the thought, which came from outside of one’s self, and begins to choose to feed on the thought.  A sense of pleasure hatches from the fantasy, and it is entertained if allowed to fester by lingering.  Soon, the hatching is not a single hatch at all, but rather hatchlings, like infant snakes, or parasites.  As they swim through the bloodstream of the heart and soul, only untried action is left to perform, as it hunts for an ascension to satisfy the urge implanted in the core of a pre-criminal.  The seedling of a thought allowed to nestle ends up overwhelming the will.  Hate is very much like a serpent crawling out of its shell.  It can, and will, only grow.  It is covert, camouflaged, and quick.

It’s times like these when people in the world, who feel intelligent when stating there is no “evil”, only bad decisions, need to reevaluate their belief system.  My recommendation is Jesus, the Judge, the Destroyer of evil.  In scripture, recording the life of Christ, agents of evil feared Him, even asking permission to escape from His immediate vicinity.  I love reading those accounts.

Please, if you dabble in violent video gaming, or you have a child who does, RUN FROM IT!  Soaking in it will distort the view of life, love, and our fellowman.  Visuals are a tool to burn, to etch, to brand images in the mind where nothing can be reversed.  One cannot “unsee” these images.

Think well on a passage from the writings of Catherine of Genoa from the late 1400’s.

“…I have given the keys of my house to Love with permission to do all that is necessary.” – From:  Life and Teachings

building metal house architecture
Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com  

Dregs in the tank can be burned away with fuel for the race.

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy – dwell on these things.”  St. Paul, Philippians 4:8 (CSB)

Tripped Triggers

Photo:  Skepchick

“…Inconsequential things occur.  Alarms are triggered.  Memories stir.  It’s not the way it has to be…”  Darkness (2002)  Written & recorded by:  Peter Gabriel

The following is really for my own therapy.  Do you type away to find some relief somewhere deep inside?  It’s probably more common than I imagine.  Really, I’m not sure if any inspiration can be gleaned from the below.  Maybe I’m wrong.

Humanity dictates that we must be surprised by certain sudden events, words, and actions.  There’s no mistake when we, sometimes out of the blue, look back and discover we have tripwires that have developed from our own personal history.  I am so grateful for the benign tripwires from innocent, wonderful, and good benchmarks from my past.  When those triggers are tripped, and I am flooded with memories delivered, it brightens my day.  In fact, I find myself smiling a lot more often in its aftermath.  Then, there are the inevitable triggers I would rather avoid altogether.  Those are of a unique brand, hidden like armed mines in the underbrush of my rocky, scarred past.  When the trigger is tripped, I can be swallowed up in its snare.

snare - prepperology.net

Photo:  Prepperology.net

You know the kind I speak of.  You never see it coming.  Am I right?  You’re walking along the path of your day when suddenly…SNAP & BOOM!

As Elvis sang, “I’m caught in a trap.  I can’t walk out…”

I’m sure if you are a psychologist, you could tell me how this happens.  You very well might be able to tell me how to disarm these triggers, these mines.  You might even explain to me why I become trapped for many days in that same uncomfortable position, unable to shake it off.  Nevertheless, I soak in it.  Are you that way, too?

See if this rings a bell of familiarity.  The trigger can be a word said, a certain look on someone’s face, a song, a movie, a photo, or a specific action.  Whether it flickers in a deja vu method, or it hits like a sweeping tsunami, it has the strength to wash you back to a past event you’ve been running from.  Pain happens.  Emotional injury takes place in an instant.  An injury for some, unfortunately even fatal for others.

'Cut the blue wire!'

Sure, there’s counseling for this.  I’m sure I need it.

I must be extremely careful with the following.  Names and details will be omitted because of the very personal nature.

A few days ago, one of my triggers was tripped.  Honesty suggests to me there is no way to blame the actor who walked into my scene and leveled a sincere, hurtful, and harmful line.  In fact, if there’s blame to be placed, I am the guilty one for not speaking up first concerning the very sensitive ground about to be tread.  Yep, that’s right.  I had some warning it was coming, but I thought I was strong enough to stand.  So in an indirect way, I opened the gate myself.  The act occurred, words were spoken, and I was slain.  To the onlooker, if there had been one, the event would’ve seemed rather innocent.  However, for me, the act, the words, the laughter rushed me back to a traumatic event in my life from March 4, 2014.  I could even give you the time of day when the personal earthquake shattered my world.  True trauma can cause time stamps in the noggin.  The event this week didn’t take much, as I was already broken.  It’s a brokenness Humpty Dumpty could identify with.  The act didn’t take even a day, an afternoon, or the length of a production of Les Miserables.  Yet, it was 90 minutes of hell for me.  The burns remain as I type this sentence.

I hate triggers.  Maybe I should say, I hate the bad memories, the old wounds that can be ripped opened by them.  Triggers are usually small, but the mechanism attached above the trigger, forces movements of gears and springs.  Not unlike the chime of a vintage clock.  Keep in mind, for a trigger to be tripped at all, it takes outside force against it.  This is important to note.  When these components are in motion, it releases the hammer, or striker, colliding with the firing pin, causing a detonation of a waiting ballistic shell in the chamber.  The result is an explosion of energy.  Such an ignition, moves, or pierces, anything in its projected path.  In my case, I was greatly displaced emotionally, heart pierced.

gun trigger unisci24.com

Photo:  unisci24.com

Okay, enough said.  Frankly, I am still reeling from the recent occurrence.

Please understand, I am all for healing.  Healing happens.  I just wish it would happen quicker than the norm.  Simply put, I like relief.  How about you?  I like resolution.  I like calm seas.  More importantly, my faith must remain strong in order to add the balm needed for this injury.  I’m not saying it’s easy to do.  In fact, if it were easy, we would all be living in a utopia where all things are new and pain-free.  Although I know it to be my future, I am not there yet.  If a true, lasting faith were without struggle, then what use is it?

The faith I exercise is based on Jesus, the Redeemer, the promised Messiah.  Scripture says he was familiar with sorrow and grief.  Literally speaking, it means he experienced sorrow and grief, like you and I do.  Understanding sorrow and grief is NOT enough.  Experiencing sorrow and grief allows one to have compassion for another who is stricken by the same.  There, in the mystery of faith, the darkened stained glass of faith, the fogginess of faith, is my resting place when crap happens.

So, for now, I TEMPORARILY wrestle in the wake of springs sprung.

Remembering the shackles have been unlocked is part of fuel for the race.

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”  Amazing Grace (1779)  Written by: John Newton

The Slicing of Words

“It’s only words.  And words are all I have to take your heart away.”  Words (1968) Recorded by:  Bee Gees.  Composers:  Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb

He said/she said…They said/I said…We heard he said…It’s been reported that she said… There’s so many words firing through the air and not many reach the heart.  Often they are aimed at the brain, the brain that is influenced, pushed and branded.

In case you don’t know, as many readers are from various countries, it’s another political season here in the USA.  As a rule, I refrain from speaking on politics on this platform.  If you’ve opened my blogs you have found me opining on topics which might have come out of political activity, but not politics, per se.  Here’s another example.

Click the Food Network and you will find a mixing bowl of slicing and dicing of some of your favorite veggies.  Some will be baked, some will be stir-fried, while some will be roasted.  All mouth-watering moments of yum.  Channel surf a bit and you will land on another sort of slicing and dicing.

If you watch TV news networks long enough, oh, let’s say :53 seconds or so, you will find talking head shows swiping sentences at one another as if they were..well…swords.  Have you noticed?  There are rants, rages and ravings aimed at slicing up the words, or thought processes, of the other person.  It’s important to note there will be some you agree with, yet still, rants, rages and ravings flying faster than the blade of an hibachi chef.  Most noticeably, the trend of the times is to interrupt and yell over the other person who continues to speak.

Piehole

Earlier this week, I watched three political pundits, plus the host of the show, all on one screen shot in four different camera frames.  No problem with that, until one person said something highly disagreeable to the others, and in one lengthy strand, all four were engaged in yelling over each other.  As you can imagine, no translation came out of the verbal brawl, with the exception of who could speak the loudest.  In those moments of feathers-flying, whoever shouts the loudest falsely believes he’s the one who not only knows the most, but is also right in his ideology.  Honestly, it’s enough to make you watch a Gilligan’s Island marathon.

Have you ever been on a debate team in school?  Have you ever watched a classic debate from years gone by?  There were always rules of engagement, standards of civility and expectations of respect.  In vogue now, envelopes are pushed, rules are ignored and standards are trashed, in many cases.  The public arena is a fighting ring, or so it seems.

Angry screaming woman on the chalkboard backgroundPhoto;  Darkbird

What does it teach us?  What have we learned from it?  Better yet, what are our children and grandchildren absorbing from the fray?  I fear the future battles to come.  Why?

For many, words don’t come easily to a mentally altered mind at war.  Far too often we experience individuals who can’t debate their way out of an ammunition box.  Many of them feel they have exhausted their library of words.  When words fall short, some pick up long rifles.  Just ask John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, or a loner on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.  It could be that these deranged individuals felt they weren’t the loudest voice in the room.

ANTIFA

Photo:  Phil Valentine

I would be remiss, if at this point, I avoided the subject of ANTIFA, and other outrageous antics in public places, with revolting violence and words that urge it, or support it.  As for ANTIFA themselves, there’s no need for me to spell out their doctrine.  Frankly, when they’re not contradicting themselves, the rest is meatless.  The word, “numskulls” comes to mind.  How many times must we see these young kids, decked out in black with bandannas covering their guilty mugs, destroying property, screaming in the faces of the average citizen walking the sidewalk, or kicking and spitting on cars that drive to an intersection?   Ask what the message is, and you’ll be spat upon or showered in profanity, or worse.  Hatred has roosted.

If you adhere to this type of brainless anarchy, read on and see your future.

Out of this action comes deeply seeded rage, festering in the pits of the heart.  Fools will say it’s only politics in action.  Horse piles!  These are highly disturbed people who do not see much of a future, or ambition for the days to come.  We have seen what lies in store for segments of a society who sees nothing but hopelessness.  It may start in a basement with video games, but later, after the energy for rage has faded, one may find joblessness, homelessness, substance abuse for numbing and in the end, prison and/or death.

But for now, these are the aimless, with violence on their minds, looking for any crack in the door to open-up their spew.  Many are wandering gaming addicts, sleeping in their mom’s basement, just waiting for someone to call to give the green light for the next barn-burner.  These are young ones who will follow the next person who has the loudest voice.  If not, they sit, open another bag of Oreos, and wait.  For whatever reason, violence, non-verbal skills and civil abuse will not only ensue, but grow like a weed in an alley.  Wars have launched with less.  At least the civil rights marches of the mid-60’s, followed by the anti-war protests of the late 60’s, had a message.  Meaningful dialogue had so much to do with it.  In the end: a better nation.

“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you.  True power is sitting back and observing things with logic.  True power is restraint.  If words control you that means everyone else can control you.  Breathe and allow things to pass.” – Warren Buffett

Civility matters.  Civility speaks, disputes and debates.  Civility, when ruling the day, keeps citizens from bleeding, while others go to prison.  Otherwise, it is difficult to speak four words at the beginning of a sentence only to be slapped down by a yelling, screaming mouth belonging to a brain full of irrational thought.  (I know about this on a personal level.)

There is no civility police.  We voters assume we elect adults.  Adults have been known to understand how to control the tongue, to curb outrageous thoughts before they develop into action.  Civility matters.

As for today’s political landscape.  Allow me to say, be wise.  Evaluate.  Research.  Read-up.  Listening exclusively to the rants, rages and ravings will only get you angry.  It will also shortchange you on depth of content.  When one only listens to a sound-bite, or a phrase in a political ad, one usually is truly going to the polls uninformed.  There’s also something to the suggestion of getting the ears outside of the echo chamber they find themselves floating toward.  Decision making requires an astute mind.  One of my favorite theological teachers says, “Text without context is pretext.”  Know, understand and dig into why the content of a sound-bite rings right, or wrong.  Do the research.  Sound-bites and edited video clips are designed to change your direction of thought.  I know, my career was to write, voice and produce promos and ads.  The tongue is a sword, but it is also a rudder.  You and your nation deserve better.

Communication is more than just a word, especially when ignited with fuel for the race.

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example.  Although they are so large, and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider (how) a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire…” – James 3:3-6a (NIV)

It’s Only Dinner…Right?

Photo:  tomesto.ru

“I’ll light the fire.  You put the flowers in the vase that you brought today.  Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you…Our house is a very, very, very fine house…”  From 1970, “Our House”.  Recorded by: Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Composed by: Graham Nash

A very talented friend of mine, going back to my high school days, recently pitched the idea of having dinner together.  I loved the gesture.  I even can say I had a spark of excitement run through my heart when he suggested a casual dining get-together.  But, the spark was quickly quenched.  It’s not like we had never been in a casual setting before.  Indeed, about three years ago we had a great time with a handful of school chums, from our teenage years, along with some sour cream potato skin appetizers.  We discussed old times, careers and swapped stories concerning our families.  Before we knew it, three hours scurried by.  We took some pics together, promised to do it again soon and went our separate ways.  However, THAT was before the presidential election.  Keep reading and bear with me.

My old friend is one who I have admired for over forty years now.  His talent in the acting, producing and directing arena is well-known.  I learned so much from watching his stage work, so much so, I utilized his methods during my theater years.

Enter stage right:  Donald Trump.  BOOM!  Suddenly, I was reminded of how opposite we were on the political and cultural spectrum.  How do I know this?  Because he has gone rabid on social media.  You know the type.  Posting anti-this and pro-that, some real news stories concerning the politics of the day, along with some false stories and spins of the same.  Discouragingly, he often spouts off, in cyberspace, with degrading mockeries that often offend me on a personal level, yet not targeting me directly — even to the point of trashing anyone who may have opinions differing from his, like mine.  Recently, he got as good as he gives from another online friend.  This friend of his was pushing back, displaying a couple of profound foolish statements our mutual friend had made.  My friend “Unfriended” him because he disagreed with the vigor my friend typed out daily on his page.  It’s sad to watch his meltdown.

Angry-man_on_computer

Photo:  fallout.wikia.com

Unfortunately, since the election, he rarely posts anything about his life, his joys or his family.  Frankly, I miss my old friend.  He seems unable to put down the political hammer and just be his peaceful, cuddly self again.  It’s as if something has taken over his kind spirit.  It’s like he has been swept away, kidnapped by tons of foaming-at-the-mouth pundits.  Regrettable isn’t close to the sadness I feel concerning this new person I once loved spending time with.

If you read my blog articles, then you know I don’t pitch a tent on politics, per se.  Really, I would rather talk about the thickness of tire tread than debate political discourse on public forums.  As for my old friend, I avoid the temptation of replying to his heated political rants.

We have seen an evolution in our culture over the past couple of years.  My friend represents a huge part of the population in America who are dangerously close to sparking another civil war.  I’m serious.  Do you get that notion sometimes?  Peaceful gatherings for protesting policy has now flipped into dog-fight style, in-your-face-screaming and shoving contests.  We now have elected officials calling for a civil disobedience once viewed as beyond the laws of our society.  There’s been a call for public stalking and harassment of others who speak opposing rhetorical discourse.  Violent insults now vomit out of the foul mouths of ranters toward fellow Americans who hold rival thought.  Profanities that are violent in nature, which I won’t type here, are dumped publicly on people of another political persuasion.  These reckless mouths of venom, with sledge hammers for tongues, are applauded from those who live in their bubble, without a sense of shame or proper decency.  It’s almost numbing to me now.  Where have we seen that before?

White Mob

A demand from a misguided elected official has gone out to the public.  It involves finding people of other views in order to kick them and their families out of restaurants during a meal, shouting and cursing at shoppers in a store, or filling-up for gas at a gas station.  For some, public spittle seems to be an acceptable form of shaming, disgracing and humiliation of others at the movies, street corners or even at the front doors of their homes.  (There’s plenty of videos.  Don’t just take my word for it.)  This activity cuts gravely into what we are to give and share with our neighbors, to uphold the standard right of  “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  We’ve seen this activity before in all its ugliness.

White Cafe Mob

Honestly, what are we doing to our nation?  Have we not learned from our past?

Someone might say, “Oh, Alan, It’s just words.  No one is being harmed.”  Really?  Try asking Congressman, Steve Scalise about that.  Try asking a dozen or so Republican lawmakers who were there at softball practice when the politically crazed gunman, purposefully targeting Republicans, opened fired, almost killing Rep. Scalise.  Try getting an answer from William McKinley, John and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.  Try asking the many in our history who were illegally hanged by hooded mobs due to extreme hatred, or without due process or trial. (Oh, that’s right, you can’t ask.  They are all dead.)

Name-calling has become the norm in the public square.  The word, “Nazis” has been labelled on public officials and citizens just right of center.  Think about that!  If we really believed Nazis were taking over our country, wouldn’t we feel the patriotic duty to load some weapons and take a position?  Calling anyone a Nazi who disagrees with another slant is way out of orbit.  I have friends who lost multiple family members in the Holocaust.  They know the genuine article.  Trust me, today’s Neo, white supremacist versions are like nursing babies in comparison.  The irony of falsely pointing out a family who has a different viewpoint than our own, calling them a despicable term like “Nazi” is indeed acting like…a Nazi!  Ask anyone with dark skin, a Jew or a member of the gay community from WWII what it’s like to be labelled a “rodent” that should be purged from neighborhoods and exterminated.  Again, most are dead now.  This damaging spew must stop before the heat rises to uncontrollable levels.  It will be too late after that dragon is released from his cage.  We’ve seen where that takes us here and elsewhere.

“Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
    but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.”. – Solomon – Proverbs 27:3 (NIV)

White Arab Spring

No, I’m not done.  Why?  Because words, spittle and stalking matters.  What’s worse, it will matter much more to the next foolish John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald or John Hinckley Jr.  It matters to the next wacko in a high-rise with an arsenal peering over an audience at a concert.  Better yet, it will matter tremendously to the next political harassment victim, when violently reacting to public assaults from aggressors because they simply snap.  What father or mother wouldn’t defend their young if attacked, shoved or spat upon from a group of screaming agitators at a mall?  Some celebs (without much cerebellum) have called for assassinations, attacking the White House with explosives and kidnapping politician’s children.  One well-known bright bag of gas celeb called for the kidnapping of the president’s 12-year-old son in order to promptly throw him in a cage with pedophiles.  Another threw out the idea that the Trump family females should be raped.  Holy piles!  Mob mentality ignites easily when soaked in gasoline.  The irresponsible blathering of those calling for this dishonorable aggression need to be careful what they are asking for.  Wars have begun over far less.

Civility can, and is exercised, among those who are on opposite ends of the house in Washington.  It’s a sure sign of a healthy republic.  Why measure love with the caliper of a political obstacle course?  Even in the House of Representatives, dear friends, from across the aisle, go to dinner together and play golf.  Just because you are anti-this or pro-that, doesn’t mean you must alienate the ones you love with hateful shellacking.  Taking deep breaths or counting to 10 or 20 really helps perspective.  Recall that before a policy initiates, before an election, before a current event, you loved and accepted another person with another persuasion or doctrine of thought, for a reason.  Remembering why you loved originally, should aid in bringing back focus away from the dizzy political news cycles, policies and videos of public humiliation and harassment.  From a socialist, to Republican, we should be about peace and respect first, before we crucify each other.  Self-absorbed loss of respect for others will always take a dark and dangerous exit ramp to where you really don’t want to be.

If you are one who will read this and say something like, “Yeah, but he said this first, or she said that first,” I just have one thought for you: visit a summer camp of middle schoolers and take your mirror.  We are all responsible for our own words, actions and thoughts.  Each of us.  We should do what we can, as individuals, to bring peace and a cool, mature level-head.

Like a watchman at the gate of a fort, I wait for my friend’s dinner invitation.  Visions of harassment and vile debate (and maybe chanting) being spewed across the dining table give me pause.  Still, hope exists of seeing him again and sharing a peaceful meal. It’s only dinner, right?

A nice summer salad, grilled fajitas and good conversation would go well with a tank of fuel for the race.

“And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” – Jesus – Mark 3:25 (NKJV)

 

 

Nothing To Get Hung About

“Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields, nothing is real.  And nothing to get hung about…”  – Beatles, 1967.  Composers:  Lennon/McCartney

As he rose above the bubble he found himself in, clarity rebooted his mind.  He shouted, with enormous struggle, compacted by a broken heart, “You just stay away, Molly!  Just stay away!  (singing the next line)  For I could never say goodbye to you again.”  This ended his soliloquy.  Yet, some things aren’t always what they seem.

Molly - Me & money cropped

Allow me to revel in the cover photo at the top of this post, just for a moment.  It represents mounds of wonderful memories and life-long friendships I hold dear to this very day.  It was February of 1978.  Certainly a launching pad for the beginning of many things for me, including my very first leading man role that ushered in decades of various roles acting, directing, producing and lots of make-up jobs on the face.  It was a highly celebrated performance of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”  I was honored to be awarded the role of Johnny Brown, Molly’s hubby.  (The actress who played Molly, on the left, hasn’t aged a bit in 40 years.  I, on the other hand…well… I’ll move on.)  If you’ve ever seen the show, or movie, then you already know he goes through a living hell in trying to be the husband she wanted, but failing to “live-up” to her bar of approval.  They had separate visions of what marriage would be like, while in the throws of passion, goals, new life and new money.  All of the latter perspectives were very different for each person.  In the end, a divorce occurs.  Here, in this promo shot, Molly and Johnny are meeting Mrs. Gladys McGraw, a socialite who lived next door to the Brown mansion.  Mrs. McGraw, being the stuck-up, highbrow, blue-blood that she was, couldn’t be more displeased to have these, now wealthy, country bumpkins residing in her royal flush neighborhood.  Her priest had urged her to do the Christian thing and welcome them into her home to break the self-applied ice.  Johnny Brown is doing his best to greet her in the newly polished way he assumed would meet expectations, although alien to him.  As you can see, Mrs. McGraw barely tolerates the meet-n-greet.  Her face and body language say it all.  She can hardly stand his touch, even through two formal tux and gown gloves.  A bit of irony here.  As well as the scene was played, and as talented as the actress who took the role of Mrs. McGraw was and is, we were actually a dating couple at the time, spending lots of time with each other.  Some things aren’t always what they seem.

22 OMA Lorne Greene Aug 1962

A few years before the Molly Brown production, my grandparents had a unique theater experience themselves.  Martin and Opal Atherton were western fans.  Most of the television shows and movies they watched were “saddle-up and drive-’em out” westerns.  From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, their minds (mostly my granddad) lived in the 1800s, set in the western United States, which had yet to be tamed and settled.  One of their must-see TV shows was the long running “Bonanza” series with Lorne Greene, seen with my grandmother above.  (She looks like a movie star there, as well.)  One year the Athertons planned a vacation road trip that would take them to the Ponderosa ranch house from the TV show.  It was built with huge timbers in a scenic mountainous region. It’s a sight to behold.

Ponderosa House Ext

Photo: Pinterest.com

In those days, as is true today no doubt, they gave tours of the exterior and interior of the famous ranch house.  My grandparents were in hog-heaven.  When they walked through the interior with its wide wooden floorboards and enormous fireplace, they asked to see the second floor where the bedrooms were.  They were told that the door at the top of the staircase was fake, as well as the second floor.  All the second floor scenes were shot on ground level sets.  They were beside themselves.  So much for theater-of-the-mind.  I can still hear my granddad’s soft voice saying in astonishment, “Gooood-night.”

Ponderosa House Int

Photo: azcentral.com

Some things aren’t always what they seem.

While watching the original “Star Trek” TV series from the late 1960s, often when a character leans on a boulder, or a wall of a cave in a scene, you can see a slight give in the sponge-like foam that’s been painted to look like stone.  William Shatner could tell you all about it.  It’s fun to catch these gaffs in scenes, but it also displaces you from the theater-of-the-mind the writer intended for the viewer.

“Alan,” you might be saying, “There’s a point to this tour of mothballs, right?  Where are you going with this?”

I think I’ll let the first line of the second verse of Strawberry Fields help to answer the question.

“Living is easy with your eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see…”

It’s been 40 years since I played Johnny Brown.  Lots of water has gone under the bridge, much of it troubled.  How often, in retrospect, do we say to ourselves, “I can’t believe I fell for that.”  Or, “Why did I believe him/her?”  Or, “How could I not see the truth behind the wizard’s curtain?”  Or, “I will never trust again, now.”  Ouch!  Face it, in a world where fake news is not only the norm, but well accepted, along with general misdirection and sleight-of-hand, it’s no wonder trust is dashed all the time.  Trust matters.  Often we rest in what someone tells us, wanting to believe them, only to be dropped by the sledge hammer of truth after the fact.  It’s so difficult to get back up.  Frankly, the ugliness of it all leads to soaring divorce rates, surging court cases and the handshake no longer being the norm for deal-making.  Some things aren’t always what they seem.

From Hollywood to the stage, frontage framed walls without interiors are created to be misleading.  False breakaway tables, chairs and banisters help the writer seduce us into a scene to make us feel like we’re there.  CGI animals and extras, fake doorways, fake windows, fake food and painted backdrops are visual vacuums assisting to suck us into a world of pretend.  We say it often, but rarely do we see it spelled out with an emphasis on the word “MAKE-believe”.  You don’t have to search long to find someone who understands these props, to manipulate the viewer, when the name of one of Hollywood’s favorite sons, Harvey Weinstein pops up.  Better yet, Washington D.C.

When a victim of illusion, where does one start to snap out of it?

Rise above the Ponderosa of your personal existence.  Lift off the shifting sand with the drone of your eternal goggles firmly strapped on, and orbit with a satellite.  When you fly over the minefield, you will see it is only a tiny bubble you are living in, with an entire unexplored universe all around.  Ultimately, this is the view the Creator of your next breath desires for you: see past the façade. Our responsibility is remembering to do it, day in and day out.

Wait a minute!  Hold on!  I think I smell freshly cut hay.  Are those cows I’m hearing in my backyard — dun, duddle-un, duddle-un duddle-un duddle-un dun — in your best Bonanza theme!!   Nah.  Some things aren’t always what they seem.

In the scope of eternity, there’s nothing to get hung about when hooked to fuel for the race.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.” – Jesus – John 14:1 (NIV)