A Wonderful Distraction

“When you feel down and out, Sing a song (it’ll make your day).

For you, here’s the time to shout Sing a song (It’ll make a way).

Sometimes it’s hard to care, Sing a song (It’ll make your day).

A smile is so hard to bear, Sing a song (It’ll make a way)…”

(1975) Recorded By: Earth, Wind & Fire Composers: Maurice White/Al McKay

Can I be real frank with you, yet remaining to be Alan at the same time? Okay, I take it that’s a “Yes”.

Over the summer, death has taken a few friends and acquaintances, including one family member, and almost lost another. The losses have been almost on a weekly basis. I have been fighting depression concerning my dementia patient mom who is declining much faster than expected. She still lives alone some 60 miles from me. I am facing mountains of decisions in this arena. My health is slowly headed further south. My wife has been faced with health issues herself, and heavy emotional family issues on her side. I feel like I am going under with my hand stretched out above the surface of a deep, dark ocean. I have needed a distraction…big-time.

It seems I have some new readers which may not know about one of my favorite topics, my middle daughter, Megan. Although I recently posted about her wedding over the summer, here I am again with something new and exciting.

Megan with her band, Grosh
Megan shooting a music video

Megan is a bit of a verified rock star in Western New York. Articles and reviews list her as part of Buffalo, New York’s “rock royalty”, and she’s only 31.

Recently, she was asked to audition to perform the National Anthem at the home opener at the Buffalo Sabres game. She, and her band mate, Grace Lougen from their band, Grosh, (Grace is a superb guitar player.), she recently played for me at Megan’s wedding reception, took the plunge with an audition. BOOM! Before you could say, Ice Capades, she got the call. As it turned out, she needed to learn the Canadian Anthem as well, due to the fact the opposing team was the Montreal Canadiens, (Yeah, that’s how they spell it.)

Although, me being in Dallas Stars’ territory, no outlet was carrying the game, with the exception of ESPN+, which my oldest daughter, Tabitha subscribes to. Thankfully, she shot a cell phone video of the performance, which I posted on my Facebook page. (You can see it there. Search for, Alan Brown Carrollton, Texas. That should do it.)

What’s that? You say you wish you could see some pictures? Really? Well, allow me. Let me grab my slide projector.

Megan (R) with Grace (L) prior to the game.

Megan & Grace at work on the Sabres’ ice.

Megan & Grace remembering the lyrics to “Oh, Canada”
.
Singing without a COVID mask is refreshing for a New Yorker!

It does a dad’s heart some good to find several camera angles for different perspectives from fans in attendance, as well as, those viewing from Canadian networks. (The version on my Facebook page is from the ESPN+ broadcast.) I needed to be ushered away from heavy sorrows and raking worries. It served as an inward reboot button. Thank you, Megan.

Although, with live gigs averaging several times a week, with 19,000+ in the arena that night, plus who knows how many in the television and radio audience, I would say it was her largest audience to date. Yeppers, I was one proud dad. Moreover, I was one distracted dad.

Recently I became aware that the Puritans often used a quote I have used before as a performer through the decades. I had always thought the origin of the quote came from Soren Kierkegaard. Nevertheless, it’s a dandy.

“AN AUDIENCE OF ONE”

Sometime in my mid 20’s, when I became a serious Bible student, anytime I performed a song, a theatrical script, or while on radio and audio commercials, I trained myself to imagine performing to He Who sits on the eternal throne, God Himself. It was a process. Prior to that time, I just focused on the audience of humanity in the seats. That’s all well and good, but it can feel shallow. Laser-focusing on the One Who created talents can bring the performance from the head to the heart rapidly, as if He is the only set of eyes and ears in the room. This is what I taught Megan while she was a child actress back in the day. My hope is that every now and then, she might recall the idea.

When needing a good distraction, find it easily in fuel for the race.

“Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” – Psalm 96:1-2 (NAS)

A Great Fall

“Don’t go jumping waterfalls.
Please, keep to the lake.
People who jump waterfalls,
sometimes can make mistakes.”
(1980) “Waterfalls” Written & Recorded By: Paul McCartney

The cover photo above was taken by my daughter, Megan, last month on the American side of Niagara Falls. Not fully frozen this year, but capturing the late night beauty of the falls is always worth it. At that time of night/overnight, they shut off the colored lights washing over the falls. In this cover photo you can see how it looks naturally at night.

We lived in that region for five years, Megan was the only one of the five of us who stayed. Never did I tire of standing by the majestic Niagara Falls. Only once did we venture out in zero degree air to see the falls in its almost frozen form. Not only does the beauty, and the piercing frozen mist of the frozen falls, take the breath out of you, but the muzzled roar is deafening. Also, in April, you often can watch the breakaway icebergs as big as houses go over the brink and crash in the lower Niagara.

Niagara Falls in winter. The hurricane viewing deck is encased in ice.

My personal favorite location to view the falls is on the Canadian side where the Horseshoe Falls is the most photographed. Below, my daughter, and my future son-in-law, are perfectly happy in the late night hours on the American side.

Megan Brown and Kevin Sampson on the American side of Niagara Falls.

The thundering roar of the falls can amaze you. The fact you can hardly hear your own voice the closer you are to the crashing waters can astound. The rumble beneath your feet from the vibration of the shear weight of the falling waters of the Niagara will raise your eyebrows. While approaching the bottom of the falls in a tour boat, decked out in your plastic raincoat and hood, you can feel the hull shiver and quake from the power of the collision of the millions of gallons from the mighty Niagara.

My late half-sister, Renea & I on the Maid Of The Mist near the bottom of the falls in 2007.

The tremendous wonderment of such a creation has caused presidents, kings and queens, the elite, the ultra famous, the most powerful and wealthy humans on the planet to stand in awe at the might of God’s artwork of Niagara Falls. Yet, its beauty comes with a dark cloud, a stigma.

It’s difficult to shade anything dark upon the majesty of such a place of history and enchantment. The truth is, this wonder of the world is also scarred by many deaths. Niagara Falls is known for being one of the most sought after locations by those who commit suicide. It’s a sad footnote to such a marvel, but true. Multiple deaths recorded there were accidental, as well. Take a look at the picture below taken from the Skylon Tower on the Canadian side from an old friend.

Niagara Falls, Horseshoe Falls.

The upper Niagara, feeding the falls, is several miles in length, reaching the Buffalo Harbor where the mouth of the Niagara begins as it meets the northern end of Lake Erie. This lengthy stretch of the Niagara River is often missed by tourists. It rushes through Buffalo, then splits around Grand Island, NY, and intersects again on the other side of Grand Island, heading with force toward the great falls.

The straightaway from Grand Island to the brink of the falls caught my attention as a kid while watching the 1953 movie, “Niagara” with Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe. They were the two headlining actors, but the star of the movie was the Niagara itself.

I still have the VHS video. The story is of a crime drama with a couple of twists. Sure, the script wasn’t the best, nor some of the acting, but the scenery surrounding the falls is stunning. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I need to get close to the brink of it for this post. There is a horrific, nail-biting scene featuring a couple in a stalled motor boat adrift on the upper Niagara, headed straight for the fringe of the falls. The authorities do all they can to rescue those in certain peril, and the drama causes you to grit your teeth. There, I didn’t give you all the details. If you see the movie, you’ll thank me later.

I thought of that scene the very first time I visited the falls in April of 2003. My future boss took me on a quick tour of the falls that day as we negotiated a contract for me to move to Buffalo to take over a radio show. He drove me down the street, which parallels the banks of the upper Niagara, before reaching the falls. He pointed out a section of the river, just about a mile or so before the falls. There, as the river raged more and more as it rushed toward the falls, were ominous warning signs and bright colored buoys. The closer we drove, the easier they were to read. All the way across the half mile wide river, alarming signs alerting boaters to halt and reverse course immediately. There was no way anyone with eyes could miss the warnings. They detailed that if any vessel went passed that point, it would be the point of no return, literally. Other signs also signaled the fact that the waters were non-negotiable for first responders, including the Coast Guard. It was clear, due to the force of the river, and the rapids scattered about, the force would take its victims to the brink of the falls without remedy. Reading the warnings sent chills up my spine.

Robert Long might have visited the falls, but I can’t say. Maybe he should’ve seen what I witnessed along the road leading to the brink. Have you heard of him?

Robert Long, a kid in his 20’s, made horrific news recently. In a red light district of Atlanta, he shot and killed several female sex workers at three message parlors, and also a male bystander walking past one of the establishments. He then drove toward Florida to unleash another shooting rampage at similar businesses of sex trafficking. He didn’t resist arrest when he was apprehended. Without incident, he was cuffed and questioned. When asked why he did what he did, he gave an interesting answer nobody could guess. He admitted to a driving sex addiction which had overtaken his life and this was how he wanted to take out the people who fed his addiction.

Those who worship the politics of the day, will tell you he was hunting people of Asian decent, blaming it all on white supremacy. Keep reading.

The investigation into the shooting spree continues, but from what has been reported as of now, this kid in his mid 20’s has been a sex addict since he was at least 14 years old. At that time, his Christian parents placed him in a facility for people with addictions. Apparently, the boy was too overtaken to succeed in a clinical treatment of that nature. Even his roommate at the facility reportedly told the authorities how Robert Long was crazed by this sexual addiction.

Scripture says God has a love for His creation. So much so, He calls the stars by name. I imagine a place of His handiwork, like Niagara Falls, holds a great love in God’s heart. Even so, He loves you and I so much more. In fact, he loves the sex worker on a 12 hour shift at a place of red neon. He loves the traffickers who sit on piles of dirty cash while arranging transportation for pre-sex workers. And, he loves Robert Long, who was tricked by the Adversary, into choosing to look at online porn at 14 years old. We know this because He came to earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice to free us from our sins that wrangles and dominates us.

From what I have heard about his parents, a former youth pastor, and church worker and volunteer, no doubt they twisted in their sleep for years over this addiction created for their son. There is so much pain involved for everyone.

Sin comes with a tripwire. It’s like a snare set up to trap a rabbit in a cage. One pull of the string, and “snap“, the rabbit is imprisoned. Along with a tripwire, sin comes with a warning sign. Dire words are given, given again, repeated again, and again, and again.

They are words like, “GO BACK”, “REVERSE COURSE NOW”, “HERE, AND NO FURTHER”, “BEYOND THIS LINE, THE POINT OF NO RETURN”. These words flash in bright, reflecting colors, day and night, night and day for all who travel too close to what will wash boaters down stream to the brink.

Someone once wrote:

“Sin will take you farther than you wanna go,
Slowly but wholly taking control.
Sin will leave you longer than you wanna stay.
Sin will cost you far more than you wanna pay.”

The fall is a long way down.

Warnings of affliction, and a way of escape, are blinking in fuel for the race.

“Do not long for the night, When people vanish in their places. Be careful, do not turn to evil, For you preferred this to misery. Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a teacher like Him?” Job 36:20-22 (NAS)

Up On The Roof

“When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stars
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below can’t bother me…”                                                                   
(1962)  “Up On The Roof” – Originally recorded by:  The Drifters  (Multiple artists have covered this song.)  Composers:  Gerry Goffin & Carole King
In “Your Song” (1970) from Elton John, we get a hint of where his songwriting lyricist partner, Bernie Taupin liked to construct his lyrics.
“I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss.  Well, a few of the verses got me quite cross…”
Lots of creativity can happen up on the roof.
It was July 4th, 2003 when I moved from Dallas, Tx to Buffalo, NY.  It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.  I left my wife and three daughters to take an afternoon-drive radio show at a long-standing Buffalo radio station.  It was a promising, career-healthy move which was almost impossible to refuse.  I had a lengthy radio resume in Dallas and I was at a place in life where a next step was essential.  The idea was to live a lean solo life while hunting for a house to purchase.  After the papers for the mortgage were to be signed, then I would move the family of five to our new home, along with our Yorkie, Great Dane, a hamster, a mouse, and a gerbil, all in an Isuzu Trooper.
Roof Elmwood
Photo:  Google
After my feet hit Buffalo pavement, the first couple of weeks were spent in a motel room while searching for an apartment near the radio station in the downtown area.  All I had with me was a stuffed suitcase, duffel bag, and a briefcase.  Within walking distance of the radio station, I landed a tiny little furnished efficiency in an old brownstone right in the artsy district.  It was near perfect for my needs at the time.
Never living in a city-life efficiency before, there was a learning curve to it.  No elevators.  I was on the top floor, the 4th floor.  The basement (five flights down) housed the laundry area for the building.  I was in good physical shape at that time, but it still challenged me each trip to wash my clothes.  There was no air conditioning, of course, being Western New York.  For this Texas lad, I wasn’t sure I could do without an air conditioner.  However, the only silver lining, to the warm humid days, was the welcomed cool constant winds coming off Lake Erie.
As you can see in the photo, my two windows gave me a view of the apartment windows of the next building just a narrow driveway’s width away.  Nobody kept their blinds shut when the windows needed to be open on warm summer days.  You guessed it, very little privacy.  Jimmy Stewart, in “Rear Window”, never would’ve needed binoculars in my apartment.  In clear view of my neighbors, from the next building, was my bed.  It was vertical inside a wall of my living room, just an arm’s-length away from my kitchen mini-fridge.  When bedtime hit the clock, I just opened the door, pulled down the bed to the living room floor.  The springs squeaked as my body stretched out on the thin musky mattress.  Yep, there was a lot of adjusting for this suburbanite boy.
It took over three months to buy a house for my family, and moved in toward mid November.  So, I had plenty of time to adjust to my new temporary home in the city.  The streets were loud and busy.  With the windows opened throughout the summer, the sounds of yelling, sirens, and the occasional car crash bounced off the walls of our buildings on the block.  It always sounded as if everything was happening right outside my window.  It proved to be a struggle keeping my focus when writing letters to my family, or trying to get some shuteye.  Sometimes the noise was so overbearing, it pushed me out the door for a jog down by the Niagara break wall.  At dusk it was a sight to watch the Canadian side of the river light up their street lamps.
Peace Bridge Break Wall
On my trips up and down the hallways, I would pass a stairwell just off the 4th floor.  Knowing there wasn’t a 5th floor, I would shrug my shoulders and move on.  One day, after curiosity got the best of me, I followed the stairs to a set of old partially rusted Bilco doors.

staircase with black metal handrail
Photo by Octoptimist on Pexels.com

As I reached the top of the stairs I saw the double doors were latched by a bolt from the inside.  When I slid the bolt back it made a loud metallic clang that echoed down the stairwell.  When I pushed open the heavy metal doors, the cool Erie winds hit my face.  I had just discovered a large tar-sheeted flat roof of the building.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Whoever the property owners were they evidently didn’t see the value of constructing a patio-style wet-bar area with outdoor furniture, complete with table umbrellas.  Instead, a large wasted space.  But not for me.  Immediately I found the sounds of the city were faded while displaying a view filled with the downtown slope which met the harbor and the mouth of Lake Erie.  I personally enjoyed seeing the rooftops of the neighborhood showcasing old world architecture from the day when horse-drawn carriages, top-hats, and bonnets were the norm.

Throughout my time there, I visited the old quietened rooftop many times.  I remember signing off the air at the studio, looking forward to climbing up the stairs to my new favorite place.  It’s was a get-away where I would meet with the Creator, watch the sunset over the horizon, and sit on the half-wall at the edge of the roof thinking of how our new lives would be in Western New York.  One weekend, in the fall, I remember seeing The Northern Lights for the very first time.   God truly knows how to put on a light show.  It was a place of comfort from the days of hardship, the rowdy sounds of the streets, and the worries of relocating across the country.  When I see the photo from Google, my eyes first look up toward the rooftop.
Peace, enlightenment, and healing found on rooftops shouldn’t surprise anyone.  In scripture, I am reminded of how a handicapped man was carried by four of his friends to the flat rooftop of a home where Jesus was meeting with a crowd who packed a house.  The entryway was not negotiable.  The Miracle Worker was healing gobs of people in need all throughout the region.  In a desperate move by these men, they reached the roof above where Jesus was teaching, punched a hole in the roof to lower their lame friend to Him on a mat.  Up on the roof love and faith was accessed that day.  In Acts 10, the Apostle Peter was praying up on the roof of a friend’s house when God got his attention concerning the issue of grace vs law, love vs religious racism.  Peter found access to the truth up on the roof that day.  In the book of Joshua, a woman hid two spies of Israel in Jericho from their enemies up on her housetop.  For them, there was access to security up on the roof.  After Solomon felt weary of domestic feuds in the home, twice in Proverbs he mentions it’s better to live in the corner of a roof than with a person (woman) of contention.  (I’m trying to be kind on this one. Apparently he must’ve lost a few battles with some of his wives. LOL)
Roof French
Maybe your place of solitude isn’t up on the roof.  It could be your roof isn’t easily accessible, or physically safe.  For you it might be in your car with the radio turned off.  Possibly it’s on your bike on an open road.  Maybe it’s a place in your garage, or your barn.  I have an old friend who found his access under the roof of his lawn shed.  For many, it’s out on a lake in a boat, a coastline of a lake, a boulder sitting by a creek.  I have a cousin who finds her place of solitude up in the saddle of her horse.  Scripture reads the closet is a good place.
One thing is certain, there is a way of escape.  There is a stairwell to a place to be solo.  You might need to “kick off the moss” first.  In these times of violence, disturbance, pandemic, and masked faces, meeting with the Spirit of God can happen anywhere.  When you find it, that is a place you will always be fond of.
Getting away from the news, social media, and the crashing noise of profanity, there’s always room for two up on the roof with a ample supply of fuel for the race.
“What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” – Jesus –  Matthew 10:27 (NAS)

Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine Blogger Award

by alimw2013

First of all, a big Texas-Sized thank you to Alicia from For His Purpose for the nominee nod.  You are truly gracious.  Although I feel I don’t deserve the nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award, I am humbled and grateful.  I would nominate you if not for the fact you are already a nominee, and so well deserving.

If you’ve not read Alicia’s posts, expect blue-jean, everyday life experiences wrapped in a personal application for spiritual growth.  So well worth it.

DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS?  IT’S NEW TO ME.

About the Sunshine award:

This award is given to creative, positive and cheerful bloggers by other bloggers as a token of appreciation and admiration.

Here are the rules:

• Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to him/her.

• Answer the 11 questions provided by the blogger who nominated you.

• Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.

• Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts.

• List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post.

Okay, Alicia…you asked.  Here are her questions for me:

1) Why do you write?

Really, I believe it’s a threefold reason.  A:  I love, absolutely love the outlet of sharing my thoughts.  B:  For whatever reason there might be, I adore the friends I have made in the blogging community.  I have learned so much through their writings and photos.  Getting to know them has simply been an uplifting pleasure in my life.  C:  Lastly, I love to teach.  My heart wants to touch the soul of another for the better.  There’s something special about teaching biblical concepts through personal and social proof experiences others can relate to.  Life’s race to the finish is long and uphill at times.  We need Divine fuel. 

2) Who do you admire and why? (sorry I know I’m sneaking two questions)

Wow, Alicia.  That’s an umbrella of folks.  If you’ve read my blog you might already know I greatly admire my deceased grandparents.  Salt of the earth people with extraordinary servanthood hearts of tremendous love.  Also, Chuck Norris, who holds up his socks with thumbtacks.  LOL  For much of the 1970’s, during my karate/kickboxing life, he was always so kind to me whenever I was around him.  Of course, he was/is a wiz at business, the Babe Ruth of Karate champions, and a successful instructor and actor.  Beyond that, he has gone through much heartache in life and rediscovered God in his journey back to a peaceful place.  He is also a champ in helping kids stay away from gangs and drugs.  I want to add, CS Lewis for his writings concerning the introductions into a life with God, and the proof thereof.  His book, Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters changed my life.

3) What has been your best vacation?

I have to choose just one?  Arg!  My #1 would have to be when I treated my family (wife at the time and three daughters) on a road trip from Dallas, Texas through Santa Fe, New Mexico and up through Colorado Springs to Denver, Colorado.  The family and I had gone through some devastating personal trauma and in need of some immediate healing.  It was the week after Christmas in 2001 through the first week of 2002.  Plunging straight into the snow and ice we took in the splendor of that beautiful land.  No regrets.  I would do it again.

4) Where would you love to visit one day?

Scotland, Ireland, and Israel.

5) Why is your best friend, your best friend?

On earth, my wife.  I remarried in 2017 to an old high school acquaintance.  In 2013, way before we met-up again, I had a major health crash, a near death experience.  I wasn’t supposed to survive.  It left me in the hospital for six weeks. The hospital staff called me “Miracle Man”.  Since then I have struggled physically.  She has seen much of the underside of this.  Nevertheless, she has been a warrior through it all.  We have no secrets between us.  We speak truth in love to one another, during the good, bad, and ugly.  It makes for a lasting marriage.  However, she’s not the one I pray to.  She would agree with me that Jesus has been my lifelong best friend.

6) What is your biggest concern (about anything)?

Honestly, above all else, the world my three girls are experiencing as adults, as well as my 8 year old granddaughter.  Moral decay, hatred, and violence are causing the earth to groan.  Jesus said the times would grow to be like this.  Still, it concerns me.

7) When did you last owe someone an apology?

Today!  Got to do it before the sun goes down on me.

8) What’s the best movie you’ve ever watched?

Now this isn’t fair.  Way too many.  If I had to choose one…It’s A Wonderful Life.

9) What’s your most favorite childhood memory?

Mid 1960’s.  Waiting until my grandparents, and my mom, went to bed so I could hustle to sit in front of their aluminum Christmas tree to watch the color wheel change the branches to different holiday hues.  For me, it was mesmerizing.

10) What do you love most about yourself?

Eek!  Is this a trick question, Alicia?  Really?  Oh, man.  Okay, uh….well….uh….I can tell you there’s much I hate about myself.  Frankly, I love the Spirit God placed in me to be kind and caring for others.  If not for His influence and direction, I would be the opposite.  I know this because I know myself without God.

11) If you could ask Jesus a question what would it be?

Why and how did He create music to enrich the brain of humanity, to the point of it being medication?  Also, the TRUE story of why and how He did not save the dinosaurs from extinction.  To have a Brontosaurus on a leash in the park would be grand.  The poop bag would be trouble.

Drum roll please!  Now for my nominee choices in alphabetical order:

(If you choose not to participate, you will not hurt my heart.  As an admirer, I just want to shine a light on you and your blog for others who may not know of you.  No pressure.  Nada, zilch, zero.  And if you are already a nominee, I am unaware.)

Dominique at 3C Style combines her posts with highly creative photos of her personal showcasing of beautiful stylings from her own closet.  She has a talent for matching subjects in nature with her outfits while highlighting eco-friendly ideas.  This French scientific journalist from Quebec is a terrific writer who introduces you to possibilities in fashion you might have never imagined before, wrapped in her passion for life.  Her zest for life, fashion, and imagination is simply radiant and thought provoking.  Most of all, I like the fact that Dominique is a caring, loving person toward others.  I’ve learned a lot from my friend from Quebec. 

Anel at Barefoot Diary has a highly unique blog.  I’ve known and loved her for 41 years and I can tell you of her multiple talents.  After the devastating hurricane which leveled so much of Puerto Rico, where she and her husband had been living, they moved on to experience an adventure most would never do.  Since they left the island, they have been travelling from one Central or south American country to another, reveling in each culture with gusto.  Anel’s blog is all about their adventures.  You never know where they will be blogging from next.

Mandy at Blue Collar Theologian is a seminarian and writer.  I love to go deep in biblical studies and so does Mandy.  She has my admiration for her exclusive casual way of serving up the depths of scripture without going over the head of the reader, especially the seeker.  You’ll find she writes about various camera angles of life with a good dose of awareness of biblical thought, shaken together for a personal application anyone can chew on.

Anita at For The Love Of has a smooth way of sharing her love for dogs, which I share, along with God’s love for us.  On any given post she will somehow bring to mind the truth of how we crave love, shelter, belonging, and care.  Be ready for some brilliant photos that touch the eyes and heart.

Jon at His Grace Is Sufficient is an old childhood friend of mine.  He pastors a small church near Green Bay, WI.  Recently Jon was diagnosed with ALS.  The disruption is already taking its toll on his breathing, his speech, and some mobility.  Thus far, he is standing by his word that he plans on delivering sermons until he physically cannot.  He asked me about starting a blog to record his journey with ALS.  So, I encouraged him to go headlong into it.  I love him dearly.  Clicking on you will hear his heart of love and his faith through this hard, rocky road he is travelling.    

Julien at Julien’s Thoughts can be defined as…his thoughts.  He literally takes subjects that press on his mind and heart, considers them against the backdrop of a biblical world view, and woodsheds what he learns.  Whenever he writes you can feel his intellect.  I am grateful he shares the thoughts as most of us identify with the topics he showcases.  A simple devotional thought process which is encouraging, yet challenging at times.

Lisa at Lismore Paper is a master at eyeing antique art forms.  She then cleans them up for a visual experience to die for.  One terrific graphic design artist, as well as a gardener extraordinaire.  I’ve not seen artwork exactly like her talent.  Lisa simply is a craft magician.  She loves photography, as I do, and often highlights her shutter work in nature.  You never know when she will be hiking through the woods taking beautiful shots of plants, birds and trees.  One of the items of wizardry from her hands consists of antique prints lifted from pages of old shipping logs, documents, or ledgers and turn them into a background for layering other art subjects.  Just amazing.  Visit her blog and find options to download her items for your personal use.  Sometimes you will find her art on t-shirts, along with other items, which are available.  As you explore her visuals she writes of them with the love of an artist at work. 

Ann at Muddling Through My Middle Age I believe is my first blogging friend after I launched my blog two years ago.  She is so admired.  I liken Ann to the wisdom and wit of the late syndicated columnist, Erma Bombeck.  She is a volunteer for her local shelter who loves and cares for the four-legged friends behind bars.  She adopts, and so do I.  She is a loving grandmother who often shares with us of her times with her grandchild.  But most of all, Ann writes about the everyday scenarios of life, as well as life’s phases, which can be cantankerous or just plain humorous.  She muddles through what life tosses at her while always searching for the rainbow at the end of the day’s conveyor belt.

Ann (another Ann) at Seeking Divine Perspective is an author and truth-teller.  I discovered her about the time I was going through some doubts in my spiritual journey.  My reading of her posts came just at the right time.  Ann is retired and loves CS Lewis, as I do.  She is not afraid to share the hard knocks in life, or the current social issues of our times, and what she has learned from them.  She is bold with direct conviction, willing to teach with the written word in posts.  Don’t be surprised if she types in a prayer on her heart as it often reverberates what the human heart is thirsty for.  We are all seekers, some just don’t realize it.  Ann spotlights her perspectives.

Stefan at The Fourth Dimension of Life is a young studious thinker.  His love for writing truly hits you in the face…softly.  Stefan is a bright, multi-talented Indian lad attending one of the best universities in India.  Don’t expect his posts to be the norm, or even similar in scope from one to another.  Some days you will get a thought in a statement.  At other times you will read one of his poems.  Inside his random thoughts he often speaks of his life from God’s balcony view.  He also can show you his devotional blog link.  

Junaisha (June) at The Godly Chic Diaries will lead you to think twice, or three times about the topic she writes about.  Unlike some, she is bold about the fact that the spiritual walk is not a perfect stride.  She speaks of the fact that there will be failures in the God-driven journey.  In her quick devotional posts the spotlight on grace, forgiveness, and mercy are illuminated.  Through her telescopic lens concerning life, she will test the mind of the reader with questions not often dissected in one’s own thoughts.

I want to publicly thank all of the above for the influence you have on my life.

And here are my 11 questions for those I’ve nominated:

1 – Who encouraged you to launch a blog?

 

2 – Who was your first blogger-friend & what drew you to that writer?

 

3 – What country, or state are you writing from?

 

4 – Has your writing evolved over time & why?

 

5 – Be honest with me on this one.  How often do you consider the unseen spiritual aspect beyond the tangible?  If “never” is the answer, let me know.  It’s okay.  No tricks.

 

6 – Do you have a pet?

 

7 – When you wake up in the morning, what is your first thought?

 

8 – Do you eat breakfast?  If so, what does it consist of?

 

9 – If you’re still friends with a childhood pal, tell me what has kept you together?

 

10 – What keeps you returning to the same blogger?

 

11 – Does your own family read your posts?

 

Again, if you are on my nomination list of favorites and would rather not participate, just know I understand totally.  I appreciate what you do and how you make my life sweeter.  Love and hugs from Dallas, Texas. – Alan

Slippery Slopes

“…She was going way too fast.  Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass.  She saw both their lives flash before her eyes.  She didn’t have time to cry.  She was so scared.  She threw her hands up in the air.  Jesus, take the wheel.  Take it from my hands. ‘Cause I can’t do this on my own.  I’m letting go…”  – Jesus, Take The Wheel, (2005)  Recorded by:  Carrie Underwood.  Composers:  Brett James, Gordon Sampson, Hillary Lindsey.

14 years ago, an old friend of mine, Jaylene Johnson, miraculously survived a severe crash.  (See her car above.)

She is a successful singer/songwriter/recording artist, Juno Award nominee and Covenant Award winner from Winnipeg, Canada.  To say she was exhausted at the end of a cross-Canada solo tour, would be an understatement.  With her heater blowing full throttle, as she was driving home after a heavy snowfall in North Western Ontario, she was eager to see her hometown.  Jaylene was negotiating the roads as well as could be expected.  There was a moment in time she thought maybe it was best to grab a hotel before they closed the highways, but that had yet to happen.  Her car was packed to the roof with her guitars, keyboard, sound equipment, promotional products, and luggage.  The only thing on her mind was the weather conditions bearing down on the route.  She is a cautious driver, well versed in winter driving, but the semis nipping at her bumper were not so careful.  The rear-view mirror became her friend.

jaylene johnson performing

Jaylene on-tour.  Photo:  Tim Hellsten

The last thing she recalls is the map.  She had made it just outside of Upsala, Ontario, in the Thunder Bay District, when all went dark.  (Some of the following details came from eyewitnesses, EMT’s & police reports, along with her own post-accident inquiry.)

Travelling westbound, she had reached the top of a ridge overlooking a valley below.  As she began to descend into the valley, she slipped on some unexpected black ice covering the highway, and lost control.  As her little vehicle slid across the highway, she hit a transport coming eastbound head-on.  When she came to in the wreckage, a stranger on the scene, named “Willie”, pulled her through a shattered window, held her hand, and covered her with his coat before the EMT’s arrived.  As she sobbed, he comforted her while stroking her hair as she laid there in shock.  Fast-forward, she spent the rest of the day on a back brace in a Thunder Bay hospital.  Her body was riddled with pieces of broken glass.

Back in 2004, I was doing a radio show in Buffalo, NY while she had just released her first major album.  At the time, it was rare for Canadian artists to get radio airplay on the USA side of the border, especially independent bands.  I wanted to change that trend in the corner where I was.  The station I worked for was operating with 110,000 watts, reaching well north of Toronto, generally all of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  The signal stretched over the entire Western New York area, northwestern Pennsylvania, and some portions of Ohio.  There was too many stellar Canadian artists putting out top-shelf cuts, not being heard on the U.S. side.  My number one focus was quality writing, production, along with terrific vocals to debut south of the Canadian border.  However, it was under a global relief, development and advocacy banner where our roads converged.

World Vision International had approached the two of us to join their work in El Salvador, as part of an ad campaign for support.  We worked together there, alongside other Canadian artists, for a week or so.  I was doing live reports back to the radio station as I interviewed World Vision workers, as well as benefactors.  It was there Jaylene and I became friends in a much warmer climate.

me in el salvador with world vision 2004

Jaylene took this photo of an interview I was doing with a World Vision recipient through a World Vision interpreter.

After our trip, we kept in touch.  Jaylene graced my show, in studio, a couple of times when she was performing in the GTA or WNY.  Through the years I kept track of her tours and television appearances.

After hearing from her on the details of the accident, I grew concerned about her health in the wake of such trauma.  In the end, there was no need for concern on my part.  God took the wheel, indeed.

I’ve had my own experiences with icy paths.  When you believe you can negotiate the roads in that condition, caution and prep would be top priority.

Come to think of it, no matter what climate you travel through, icy roads can derail your life.  Do you know what I mean?  We can be living life as a smooth operator, no issues in sight.  Then suddenly, without warning, our feet come right out from under us.  Zero traction takes us by surprise.  We’re never really prepared for it.  Just when we think we are, “BOOM”, on our tailbone we go.  (And it’s always the tailbone, right?)  For some, it might be losing traction on funds and finances.  We might experience losing traction on world peace.  Maybe a loss in traction with our child, our health, our marriage, or our nation.  It happens.  Before you know it, we slide hard into a nearby ditch, off the trek we were to be on. Just like Jaylene’s shellacked pavement, the ice doesn’t have to be thick to cause a head-on collision.  We can find slippage on the invisible, and/or what we deem as non-threatening.  It’s a tragic mistake.  Some find slippery slopes that lead to life-ending results.  There are non-negotiables out there which can transport you to where you don’t want to be.

“…stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand….and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace…” – St. Paul, Ephesians 6. 

In Paul’s time, Roman soldiers were fitted into special sandals with studs on the soles, like cleats.  For me, my preference are my insulated snow-boots with cleats on the rubber soles.  Better yet, Paul indicates a true gripping.  It’s more like the spikes on a mountain climber’s boot.  Anyone who has ever fallen hard on the ice, or slid down a slippery slope in the winter, or did so in a social, political, or economic climate, would recommend cleats in decision making.  Just ask the citizens of Venezuela.  Unlike Jaylene, when driving in the ice on bald tires, your future is certain.

Prep all you want.  There’s always the God-factor outside of your own abilities and strength.  Have you been there?  Maybe you have and you didn’t truly take the time to consider it.

As for Jaylene’s ordeal, a couple of mysteries still hover.  One unsolved oddity surrounds “Willie”.  As she was being placed in the ambulance, she looked back for him.  He, and his coat, were gone.  No person at the scene could tell her who he was, where he came from , or where he went.  Plus, according to the reports, the shear impact from the head-on collision with the transport, and her small vehicle, was of tremendous force.  Yet, she walked out of the hospital, on her own power later the SAME DAY!  Just shocking.

Also, one of the EMT’s was familiar with her music from Canadian radio.  He went the extra mile after taking her to the hospital.  He went back to the scene and helped to retrieve her property from the wreckage, all on his own time.

Lasting effects remain with her, mostly psychological in nature.  To this day, Jaylene will tell you, she can’t seem to fully relax anymore.  Yet, she does see God’s hand in the incident on several levels.  So do I.

jaylene johnson promo Jaylenejohnson.COM

I’m proud to say she continues to write, record, and perform.  She’s now married and raising a family.

When in slippery, tight places, it goes better when fitted with the cleats of fuel for the race.

“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”  -Psalm 91:11-12 (NAS)