Door Knobs Available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Long Way From Baker Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Blank!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…FROM???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why All The Bells?

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

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

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

Bells too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In The Words Of David Cassidy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take the time to add fuel for the race.

How May I Serve You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(After Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.)

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

Oh, Thanks a Lot

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

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

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

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

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

So, yes, do thanks a lot.

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

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

Rock of Ages…or Aged

“Old man look at my life, I’m a lot like you were…” – “Old Man” by Neil Young, 1972.  Off the Harvest LP.

Yesterday, I was thrown off my saddle over a statement.  I really thought it was as simple as walking into a favorite fast-food place, ordering a taco salad and an enchilada plate for my wife and driving home.  It turned out not to be so routine that night.

Yesterday, I visited a blog I follow, Muddling Through My Middle Age, by Ann Coleman.  She entitled her entry, “I Don’t Get It.”  It helped me to be courageous enough to sit down and do a jot.  Thanks, Ann, for the inspiration for this.  I’ll warn my younger friends here and now, you might not be able to wrap your arms around this one, just yet.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my granddad’s chair with my little dog, Tippy, on my lap.  She was part Cocker Spaniel with coal black hair.  She’s been with me all my life, or so it seems.  She ran away when I was five.  Broke my heart.

Me@17

Yesterday, I was having a blast in high school.  The Beatles lyric is true, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…”  I think the biggest troubles I had were my grades and learning how to break-up with girlfriends gently, without all the drama.  I failed the latter.

Me@28 with Tabitha

Yesterday, I found myself to be a dad for the first time.  Baby Tabitha and I ate too much of her one-year birthday cake.  She turned my life on its ear.  I will never be the same.

Me@WDCX Promo

Yesterday, I pursued a dream of a radio career, working with the very best.  How is it I can feel more comfortable behind a mic, knowing 100,000 people are listening, than chatting with someone at a party?

Eastern Hills Buffalo NY 2007 II

Me playing 75 in musical 2002

Yesterday, I continued with a first love.  I no longer sing and act in front of a mirror with my Bruce Lee poster looking on.  I found the stage to be a friend.  Ironically, in the theater realm, I have played elderly men many times.  Through the years, I discovered I don’t need as much make-up for the role.

Yesterday, I was standing at the cash register as the clerk bagged my groceries.  When finished, she turned to me and said, “Sir, would you like someone to carry this out to the car for you?”  It caught me off guard.  I’ve never been asked that before.  I replied, “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, no thanks.  I can deal with it.”  (Then I grumbled about her obvious lack of age identity as I pushed my cart to the car, slower than yesterday.)

Yesterday, I showed up at the ticket window to buy a ticket to the brand new “American Sniper” movie, released last week.  I was prepared for the flick, complete with a U.S. Navy cap on my head that once belonged to my WW II navy vet granddad.  The clerk spoke through the little speaker in the window, “With your senior discount that’ll be $x.xx.”  I grunted softly, but I wanted popcorn, so I didn’t argue as I pulled out my wallet.

Wait a minute!  Noticed I’ve been using the word, “Yesterday.”  Hmmm.

“All my best memories come back clearly to me, some can even make me cry.  Just like before, it’s yesterday once more.” – Lyrics: John Bettis & Richard Lynn Carpenter.

The truth is, I bought the taco salad and enchilada plate last week, in real time.  As the items were being prepped, the young employee wearing the funny hat and plastic apron said, “That’s $xx.xx, with your senior discount???????”  She stated it with her inflection going up, as if she were asking a question.  I said, “Sure.  Why not.”  In retrospect, I should’ve said, “No thanks, good-lookin’.  I just graduated from my ‘senior’ year yesterday.”  (Funny how she never asked for an ID.)

Maybe it’s time to say, I look like a senior citizen.  (Maybe through the eyes of a 20 year old.)  I don’t consider myself there yet.  I can belt out a Joe Cocker tune with the best of ’em. (Oh, yeah.  He’s dead now.)  Not to mention, depending upon the establishment, the senior citizen menu can be for 50+, or 55+, or 60+.  Who’s to say?  With gusto I want to shout, “NO!  I WANT TO PAY FULL PRICE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!”

“…Can the child within my heart rise above?  Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?  Can I handle the seasons of my life?…..But time makes you bolder.  Even children get older and I’m gettin’ older too.” – “Landslide” Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac

Tabitha and me Father's Day wknd 2014

By the way, alas, my little girl, Tabitha, just celebrated her 30th birthday.

Let me leave you with this and a bit of mystery.  To me, life has been like being in an inner-tube, helplessly charging down the lower rapids of the great Niagara River.  (Don’t even think about it.)   There’s boulders to hit and miss as the current carries you down with a power outside of yourself.  All you can do is hang on as tightly as you can. The bumps, cuts and bruises are to be expected.  Ooops, there’s the Devil’s Hole, right there in the bend of the rapids, a whirlpool of great speed and depth.  It’s not to be tested.  Many have perished by challenging its rage.  Some were never seen again.  (Been there, done that.)  As you are carried down, eventually you are emptied into the vast depths of Lake Ontario.  It’s a relatively short trip from the upper Niagara to Lake Ontario downriver.  One might say, as they float out into the calmer waters of Ontario, “Wow, I was just at the Falls a few minutes ago!”

All of my yesterdays, todays and tomorrows, through the rapids of the last 57 years, there’s been a Rock keeping me afloat.  Out of that immovable Rock flows fuel for the race.

“Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.” – Isaiah 26:4 (NAS)          

 

 

Bullets And Bibles

Photo: KSAT.com

“…so he shot down the congregation.” – “Smackwater Jack” -Carole King/Gerry Goffin.  From her Tapestry album, 1971.

Photo: KSAT.com

Once again, here we are.  No words…well, not many.  Truly stunned about our new normal.  It’s interesting how when Carole King recorded “Smackwater Jack”, about a crazed man juiced up on his anger at others, rendering himself to only mass murder on his mind, it was considered a fantasy lyric.  Check out the first verse.

“Now, Smackwater Jack, he bought a shotgun. ‘Cause he was in the mood for a little confrontation.  He just let it all hang loose; He didn’t think about the noose.  He couldn’t take no more abuse so he shot down the congregation.”

The song was to be somewhat of a shock factor because that just didn’t happen in those days.  It was the stuff of movie scripts and shock-value songs.  But not anymore.  Check out American history.  These current events are missing in the track record of American citizenry.  If you do find a similar crime in the yellowed pages of America, it is a rare occurrence.

TRUTH:  The days are hideously showing the rise of evil hearts calloused and seared from desensitization.

In almost every instance, at least to my recollection, almost every perpetrator’s (each mass shooter, bomber, vehicular homicidal maniac) life has ended soon after or during the horrific act.  The murderer becomes the next occupier on the cold metal morgue slab.  Let me say, to those who are of atheistic mindsets, each one of these monsters adds to the truths of scripture.

” ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him.  ‘For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’ ”  – Matthew 26:52 (NIV)

The last time I wrote of homicidal maniacs, homegrown or otherwise, was just about a month ago. (See my post from Oct 3rd, “A Choice In Vegas”.)

Say what you will, but I call this “EVIL.”  Some call it a “Gun Owner.”  I would agree if not for the majority of good, solid and righteous thinking citizens who own guns who would never murder their neighbor.  So, allow me to point to another biblical truth concerning this topic.

“He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack.  And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.’ ” – Jesus – Recorded in Luke 22:36 (ESV)

Did you catch the significance as Jesus was advising His disciples what to take with them on their missionary journeys?  I think the huge phrase is found in the last sentence of the verse.  Notice how Jesus thought the cloak was less urgent than the sword.  In-other-words, “you might be cold on the road, but that sidearm is worth it.” (Alan’s paraphrase)

I sing in two different church bands at two different locations on two different days.  Both are small-medium congregations (below 200 people).  In both, there are security plans to protect the congregation from walk-in violence.  Because it is of a tactical covert design, I will stop there at its description.  However, Sheepdog Church Security is an organization well worth looking into for congregational protection.  It’s not rocket science, but it does take sincere planning.  I know of a pastor in Iowa who once told me the following, “It’s not just the Bible I’m packing when I walk up to the pulpit.” 

There should be no more, “Eh, it’ll never happen here.”  Or, “We’re too small of a congregation to worry about that big city stuff.”  Or, “We don’t need any of that mega-church planning.  The Lord watches over His small flock here.”  YES, the Lord never sleeps, however, the Lord Himself said, “sell your cloak and buy a sword.”  Why?  Simply put, the roads from village to village were laced with waiting thieves and murderers. (Barabbas was one of them.)  Jesus was instructing them to be ready with a sidearm for such dangerous times, for defense only.  Plus, there were aggressive theological zealots who were eager to kill Jesus and His followers early on.

As true with most terroristic murderers, domestic or foreign, all are without God and God’s Spirit who directs, conducts and trains.  Biblically, we are to recognize them by their fruit.  If the fruit is rotten, so are the trees’s roots.  These wolves plan for destruction either through false doctrine or ideology or physical violence.  If you describe yourself as one who holds to no faith, consider yourself, also, in the cross-hairs.  If you are under the flag of freedom, liberty and justice for all, you too are a target. (IE: Las Vegas, Oct 1, 2017, a Christmas office party in San Bernardino, a school in Columbine, a baseball practice in Washington DC, or a dance club in Orlando, etc.)  If the beautiful sanctity of a small town Baptist church in the heart of Texas, where babies and elderly are worshiping, singing and praying on a Sunday morning is disrupted by a mass shooter from the next county, then you, whoever you are, will be vulnerable as well.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus – Recorded in John 10:10 (NKJV)

I had a weekly radio talk show many years ago.  Shortly after Sept 11, 2001, one of my guests was a local FBI agent who was a special op team member of investigators focusing on terrorism.  His message was extremely clear.  Be diligent. Be a busybody.  Notice out of place scenes, people or objects.  Report what you see, even if it seems insignificant.  You can always remain anonymous.

Unfortunately, we also have witnessed radical Jihadists doing their hellish work for some time, attacking Christian congregations and the clergy in the middle-east and now in Europe.  Whether the chosen form is a rental truck, sword, knife, bomb or bullets, it is the sin-sick heart that kills.

There may come a time when little old ladies heading into church will be carrying their Bibles in one hand and a .357 magnum in the other.  Maybe we’re already there.  But for today, I carry, but not conceal, a tank of fuel for the race.

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.” – Jesus – Recorded in Matthew 24:21 (NIV)