Missing

“…I’m lost without your love.
Life without you isn’t worth the trouble of.
And I’m as helpless as a ship without a wheel.
A touch without a feel.
I can’t believe it’s real.
But someday soon I’ll wake,
And find my heart won’t have to break.”
(1976) “Lost Without Your Love” Recorded By: Bread Composer: David Gates

“LOST”…Webster’s Dictionary breaks the definition down in all its various forms. One of which is, “Not made use of.” Another usage, “No longer possessed.” Yet another description, “Taken away, or beyond reach, or unattainable.”

Have you ever felt that way? Let’s present it in another camera angle. Have you ever known a loss?

It was excruciating. The year was 1982, when Tickey, the beloved dog I grew up with, escaped my mom’s apartment while she was at work. He was almost 15 years old at the time. I was married, living across town from where my mom lived. Unfortunately, a neglectful maintenance man entered the apartment unannounced, and Tickey saw his opportunity to dash out the door for a great adventure. He had no idea the dangers he would face while outside of my mom’s protection and shelter.

Photo: Tickey at a year old, may of 1968. Part dachshund/corgi.

Hours and hours passed before my mom came home from work to discover our little pal was gone. I was working during the day as well, chained to the office. I felt so hopeless and helpless to search for him. He was gone for several days. I spent the early mornings and evenings combing the streets and alleys calling out his name in hopes he would hear me and come running. Lots of fear, and loads of falling tears. Of course, I admit to watching for a little lifeless body along our busy streets.

My mom and I both had contacted the local pound with Tickey’s description on a daily basis. Their answer was always the same. “Sorry, you can always call us tomorrow to see if we’ve caught him.” An old friend, who lived in another section of the apartments, told us she had seen a little dog resembling Tickey, dodging cars as he crossed one of the busy streets nearby. Even that episode was a couple of days prior.

A friend of mine at work told me I should spend my lunch hour driving to the city pound and look at the dogs behind bars. After I had mentioned how we call each day, she told me to ignore it and go look for myself. Feeling depressed and a bit defeated, I didn’t go to the pound until after work that day. I drove up to a parking space in the parking lot of the pound and noticed their fenced-in communal dog-run was just about 15 feet from the parking space. The pound was closed already, and the sun was rapidly going down in the west. But there, among 7-10 dogs looking in my direction, was a little brown dog with his pointy ears standing straight up like a rabbit. I could hardly believe my eyes. Getting out of the car, I ran toward the fence thinking it would be too good to be true, only to find Tickey standing on his hind legs, stretching out his little front legs as high as he could get them, as if wanting me to reach through the chain-link fence and pick him up. He licked my fingers through the steel mesh and cried with a sad whine. My words of comfort didn’t seem to sooth his little heart, but I told him I would be back first thing in the morning right after the pound opened its doors. Walking away in a sense of victory, he barked at me over and over again. If I had a set of major wire cutters, I might have done the deed. It broke my heart. Crying gobs of tears, I left to find the nearest phone booth.

The next morning I was overjoyed, yet furious. As it turned out, the pound had him in doggy jail for several days, and would have put him down within a couple of days later. Someone either lied to us on the phone all those days, or they honestly didn’t care enough to do some dog inventory. When I had to bail him out, I realized the longer they had him, the more money they deposited. I was outraged. But, wow. The reunion was fabulous. We hugged, licked and drooled, hugged, licked and and drooled some more. (He licked and drooled, not me.) What a joy to have my old pal back in my arms of safety and love. I will never forget it.

Photo: Tickey, safe back home. I had a hard time letting go of him.

I was reminded of that chapter in my life when a friend of mine posted the picture below on her Facebook page.

Photo: Facebook. Her dog was stolen. After quitting her job, and following several leads, she recovered him. This was the moment they reunited.

Look at her face. She is overcome in a swell of joy and inexpressible relief. The dog also seems beside himself to be back in his mom’s arms again after being away in the unknown. Amazing, isn’t it? She loved him so much that she quit her job to free up the clock and personal energy to search for him. Risking her own provisions, future, and income to find her dearly beloved pal, it paid off. Unsure if she was able to get her job back or not, I know she was rewarded by her diligent work in searching for her stolen buddy. Another happy ending.

This isn’t the first time a story like this has been told. Someone who greatly understood this kindred love described a shepherd who loved so expressly, that he left his job to seek out a single lost sheep. He left a flock of 99 sheep, went out into the unknown, the dark unfamiliar areas, in hopes of finding his lost one. No doubt he called out to the little lamb many times, maybe through the night, through storms, and through rugged terrain. When he did find him, he rejoiced bigtime, held him, and carried him back to the flock where he belonged, where the food, water, and safety resided.

Jesus understood the life of a good, responsible shepherd of his day. He gave this parable in order for us to identify with God’s longing to protect, serve, and nurture, not just a flock of 100, but a single one who strayed from the care of the shepherd.

About 30 years ago, during my radio days, a kind, loyal listener sketched this precious scene, from an original piece of art, depicting the moment the good shepherd found his lost little lamb. If you compare this sketch with the photo of the lady who found her dog, you can see they are very similar in response of the heart.

Photo: Artist, Carmen Appleby

I know what it is to be lost. Full transparency here. I have felt the anxiety, the emptiness of not having a clue of where I was during a horrible blinding lake effect Western New York blizzard while driving through an Indian reservation deep in the night. A night without street lights or signs, encased in frozen fog, along with zero visibility by horizontal blowing sheets of snow, is a desperate place to find yourself. With that said, it is much like times in my life when I was morally lost, spiritually lost, and emotionally lost. When the compass is invisible, it is a very lonely place. The only remedy is guidance by someone who seeks the lost who can direct the way back to where one needs to be.

Today, our world is very, very lost. It doesn’t take long for a generation to lose its way, running after self inflicted ideologies, diving deeper into depravity, and false promises. Utopia is always promised, but it never delivers. Self-serving stab wounds will eventually cause death, along with scars which will never be erased. Gone are the thoughts of returning to a righteous way, a lit path, a road of stability and safety, not to mention true love. Instead, today we call evil good, and good evil. We see bitterness and call it sweet, and sweet whatever is bitter. Our society, our culture is so far removed from where we were just a few years ago.

Still, no matter how far off the narrow road of righteousness, there is a shepherd who seeks to save, one who searches for the lost among the ledges of the thicket. This is one who leaves his comfort zone, his familiar surroundings, his job, to locate the small one who has no clue they are lost, or even stolen, and what most would believe is, beyond unattainability.

The long, loving arms of a rescuer is found only in fuel for the race.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” – Jesus – Found in Matthew 18:12-14 (ESV)

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Life Is…

“In the circle of life,
It’s the wheel of fortune.
It’s the leap of faith.
It’s the band of hope,
‘Til we find our place.
On the path unwinding, yeah.
In the circle, the circle of life.”
(1994) “Circle Of Life” From Disney’s, The Lion King. Recorded By: Elton John Written By: Elton John & Tim Rice

Look around. We see the results everywhere. Our culture tends to scream it out. Childhood abuse, in various forms, can cause even the brightest souls to spin off course, or knocked into another orbit than intended. Early trauma in a child’s life can deliver a lens through which the injured views the future by way of a fogged scrim. Often this skewed vision can last until death, or to the doorstep of an intervention of some kind giving opportunity for an adjustment.

A brilliant young man, Reginald Kenneth Dwight was such an injured person. His childhood experiences drove him headlong into a life of debauchery, self-destruction, horrific tantrums, and hopelessness. Reginald became a severe addict. His addictive behavior was manifested in numerous ways. He became addicted to all things material, shopping, sexual addictions, sour relationships, abusive actions toward lovers, alcohol consumption, drug abuse (cocaine being the pet), out-of-control financial spending, gross hording of collectibles, eating disorders, and so much more. When it came to substance abuse, he became so addicted that he was in the all-you-can-consume-buffet-line. If there was more cocaine in the building, his nose found found it until it was all gone. Once he started, he couldn’t stop.

Relationships, good relationships, were seemingly avoided as a young man. Although he found himself engaged to a young lady, a woman who was abusive in word, in deed, and violent at times, he was presented with a solution to his troubled relationship. He listened to a close friend who was gay, and decided that he himself might be gay. Although it went against all he was raised with, he made the decision to try the gay lifestyle as he continued to run away from his past. The next morning they came with a truck to take him home, while she went her own way. His decisive choice threw him into a never ending line of gay lovers, some of which he never knew their names.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Many years later, he fell in love with…a woman. Nobody close to him believed it could happen, but it did. For reasons a bit unclear, they married. However, his lifestyle, and all that goes with it, had become so amalgamized with his daily life, and the destructive choices he made, ended the marriage some four years later. He, and his wife, both truly loved one another. They both still honor one another to this very day. They vowed to never discuss publicly the intimate details of their marriage, however the fly in the ointment was fairly evident.

As hard as it is to wrap your head around the following, it still must be mentioned here. Always looking for love, and always looking to satisfy his sexual addictions, he would pick up men like some pick up stray dogs. He would use them sexually for a few days, weeks, or possibly up to six months, then drop them by way of a friend slipping the rejected man an airplane ticket home. In the end, he admits to having hundreds of these types of relationships.

He never contracted AIDS, but many of his lovers and friends did. In fact, Reginald lost numerous friends to AIDS, drugs, accidents and suicide. In fact, he attempted to end his life at least three times with intension. Other times, he almost lost his life without any attempts due to cancer and rare infections. Still, his non-stop raving appetite for drugs and alcohol could’ve been his demise at any time throughout the fuzzy decades of abuse.

In 1978, on a rainy, dreary Sunday morning in one of his homes in England, he rose from his bed in deep depression. Actually, he had been in depression for many years as he tried, but failed to self-medicate. But on this day, it seemed much darker to him. Once again, he morbidly felt he was on the edge of death, even visualizing floating away from his body toward space itself, burning up the fuse up there alone. His steps from the bed to the doorway competed heavily with a massive hangover from the night before. As he made his way through the spacious home, he left Reginald Kenneth Dwight behind like a cold bathrobe and , as he did each day, slipped into his Elton John character as he made his stumbling way to the piano bench.

Photo: From – Me: Elton John from, Macmillan Publishing. Photographed By: Terry O’Neill/Iconic Images.

It was a rare occasion when he would write a song without his co-writing partner, Bernie Taupin. Bernie was the lyricist, and Elton was the music composer. However, something often came over him to write a song on his own, without the lyrical assistance of Bernie. This particular, dark morning, was one of them. Still in a cloudy haze from what lingered in his bloodstream, a haunting melody reverberated in his mind. He began to plink it out note by note, chord by chord. As usual, it was beautiful to the ear. At first, he had no thought as to a lyric as he was only playing the instrumental bubbling up from within. The song itself came rather quickly to the keyboard, as was the norm for Elton’s gargantuan talent, but soon a line wormed its way through the notes and the fog of the morning. Like a tape loop, it rotated in his mind over and over again. Being in such a depressive, hungover state, with a sense of great loss, he wasn’t expecting a lyric to make its presence known. Yet, there it was, out of nowhere, loud and clear. Elton began to match it with the chord structure, repeating it verbally like a thick continual scroll. Unlike past lyrical adventures in the composition of songs, this line was the only line that displayed itself to him that morning. It was a short lyric, but a massive, hard-hitting domino of a line not to be lost or forgotten. It read like this…

“Life…isn’t everything.”

Now, say what you will about the validity, or the absurdity of such a line, but there are times when one can be inspired by something in the air? Something outside of one’s self? A spiritual connection? A spirit tested? A spirit not tested? Which ever way you believe it to be, this did happen while the melody was being formed in his music room that day. It’s a sad state of affairs when an individual, who is worth north of $500 million dollars, held such a lack of darkness and hope.

He loved the song so much that he wanted to release it. His intension was to title it, “Life isn’t Everything”. In studio, he simply sings the line very softly, repeating the line several times, toward the end of the instrumental. If you should bring it up on YouTube, you will find it to be a stirring, daunting piece, mixed with an edge of a feeling of floating away without care. Businesswise, the song did well on the UK charts, but poorly in the US. Still, if you heard it you might recognize the recording.

Guy Burchett was a 17 year old who ran messages and errands for Elton’s production company. He was a local lad who was always available, hard working, and dependable. Guy was a year younger than I. Knowing how I loved EJ’s music, I can see how eager he was to work for the musician. Elton was notified the following day of Guy’s unfortunate sudden death due to a motorcycle accident. As the information came down, as it turned out, the young man’s life had been snuffed out at the same time Elton was constructing the song on that Sunday morning. Grieved, he made the choice to honor his young friend by entitling the new song, “Song For Guy”.

I am not here to be Elton’s judge. I am not here to bash Elton’s lifestyle. I am not here to denounce Elton’s decisions in life. Because I view things through a biblical point of view, I know that for the grace of God go I. I know I have a tendency to feed on addictive trappings. God granted us freewill. I cannot blame my DNA heritage, or any particular generation in my bloodline, although it would seem easy to do so. Scripture makes it clear that I am responsible for my own decisions, whether to try for the bait in the traps, or not. In Elton’s autobiography, Me: Elton John, he admits falling hook, line, and sinker for cocaine at the very first snort. It can happen.

Still, the single line whispered into his brain on that drizzly Sunday morning in 1978 is so profound…and yet, so wrong. “Life isn’t everything”.

I will assume here that there was a Mr. and Mrs. Burchett who grieved painstakingly at the news of their son’s tragic death on the road. Although we don’t know them, I will assume they might have said, in their grief, “Oh, no!” Or maybe, “No, not my precious son!” Or possibly, “Our boy meant the world to us.” Grief is indeed the penalty of loving. More than likely, Guy’s life meant everything to his parents, in fact, to anyone who loved Guy.

Allowing for Sir Elton’s possible meaning, as he wrote the lyric which pounded into his head, the expression may have been a statement of eternal hope after this life is over. In that respect, it’s true. Life, in the here and now, isn’t everything. Life here is only temporary. Scripture aligns it like a puff of a vapor in the air, or a blade of grass that comes and goes with the seasons. Of course, in Elton’s state of loss, depression, while reeling from the aftermath of a night of debauchery, he might have been thinking death is more valuable. After all, it must be the relief of all that stains us, all that pains us, all that shakes us.

Here, I am pushed to disagree with one of my favorite musicians.

How valuable and distinctive is life?

Life isn’t just a four letter word on a board game by Hasbro. Life isn’t just a name on a Quaker Oats cereal box. Life is a gift, issued to each living thing. However, life for the human was issued in the most intimate way. Unlike the cow, the tree, the worm, humanity first took a breath when The great I Am, The Creator ordained the inhale by placing His own mouth over the nostrils and blew the breath of life into the first human. In other words, God Himself crouched down to the lifeless body of His creation and performed mouth-to-mouth, and that action caused life to occur in the new man. Life is issued. It is a gift. Just ask anyone who has had a near-death experience and lived to tell about it. Moreover, ask anyone who was lifeless due to an illness, or accident, and was reignited. I am one of those people. Life is a gift. Life is a stone thrown into a motionless pond, activating ripples upon impact. If you are alive, you have an impact on others around you. Yet, the One who gave life, also removes the breath.

Let us resolve to mention another truth concerning Elton’s lyric. As stated before, life isn’t everything, in that it is temporary. Just ask Guy Burchett. Oh, that’s right, you can’t ask him. Guy left his body at the age of 17 in 1978 during a tragic motorcycle crash. Guy, the person of Guy, left his body to enter eternity. Holy scripture is clear, there is more to this life. It may seem like a candle in the wind, but when the wick burns away, our flame carries on. Jesus spoke about the afterlife often, and the place(s) of the afterlife. God controls the final exits, and the doors entered. In scope, this life is only a blink of an eye compared to eternity. There is a second life, and a second death for some. I didn’t make that up, it’s spelled out in the ancient scrolls.

Although Elton is weird and wonderful, his book is brutally honest, so much so, it can be a very difficult read. Trust me, there were times at the end of a chapter I wanted to take a shower.

The man, the soul, Reginald, found himself removing his electric boots and entered a 12 step program. He learned much about his mistakes, his substance abuse, and even his old ruthless ways with those around him. He has gone back to many he has wronged to apologize for past behaviors. Sobriety has been his norm for many years now, and helps others who need to enter treatment. His view toward life softened much through the following years, even to the point of pouring himself into charities, and forming the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised over $450 million in AIDS research and medical treatment around the world. Through his circumstances in life, he has been forced to a more pliable heart. Even at this elder stage of his life, who knows where it might direct him.

As for Elton’s 1978 view of a throw-away life, he has changed his camera angle. In his book, on the very last page, he writes something so vastly opposite of his 1978 lyric. After suffering from cancer, and a devastating infection he contracted while on tour in South America which almost took his life, he writes:

“In the hospital, alone at the dead of night, I’d prayed: ‘please don’t let me die, please let me see my kids again, please give me a little longer.’ In a strange way, it felt like the time I spent recuperating was the answer to my prayers…It was like being shown a different life.” – Elton John, Excerpt taken from, Me: Elton John, Macmillan Publishing

He knows you wouldn’t mind if he put it down into words, how wonderful life is.

The true circle of life, and life’s destination, is in black and white in fuel for the race.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.” – Jesus From John 3:16-17 (NAS)

Borders

“Now in my place.
There are so many others.
Standin’ in the line;
How long will they stand between us?”
(1975) “Nights On Broadway” Recorded By: Bee Gees. Composers: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb

My left turn took me down Pine St. which intersected Jones St. At that vantage point, you can clearly see the old house, the second lot to the right.

Photo: Google Earth shot, from many years ago, of my granddad on his front porch in Greenville, Texas.

My maternal grandparents, Martin and Opal Atherton of Greenville, Texas, bought the old house in 1955. Prior to their moving, they lived in the country on a farm south of Greenville. Because the new I-30 was being built straight through the property, they chose to move into town. My mom was only 11 years old when they settled into the house on Jones St. It was an old neighborhood, in fact the original house itself goes back to the late 1840’s. Driving down the street just a few years ago would remind you of the neighborhood in the movie, “To Kill A Mockingbird”. High ceilings, large porches and floor-to-ceiling windows. We still have the old skeleton keys which go to the three bedroom doors with crystal-like glass doorknobs. It’s the house I knew first as a newborn.

Photo: A rare snow on the lawn of my grandparents house taken from the west side of the property.

The couple who owned the place before my grandparents were excellent landscapers, and true green-thumbers. My mom described it as a garden showplace on the block, filled with fruit trees, a small orchard along the west side of the house, various flowers, holly hedges, and various items of produce in the backyard. I remember as a small child some of the lush cool Saint Augustine grass, and the trees and grapevines climbing the western kitchen window. However, my grandparents were not of the same fabric as the former owners. Over the years they didn’t nurture much of the plant life on the property. As it turned out, my granddad didn’t want to spend much money on the the water bill. Still, much of the trees, hedges, and perennials remain to this day.

Next door to them, on the west side lot, lived a wonderful middle aged couple. They lived on the corner lot in a simple white frame house. They became dear friends of my folks right away. They had children of their own, although I am unclear of how many. The neighbors shared meals, special dishes, after school snacks for my mom and her two brothers. The man there was a wiz at making homemade candies. He was well-known for bringing a plate of them over to the house for holidays, or special birthdays.

At the time, there was no backyard fence, or border fence. In fact, the former owners of the house had shared a small orchard with their neighbors next door as their gardens ran along the back border of the properties. A line of Bradford Pear Trees grew along the adjoining side yards beside the neighbor’s driveway. When I was a toddler, I actually recall running through the garden and into the neighbor’s backyard without realizing it was their property.

The year the couple moved out of their house, to a newer neighborhood across town, is uncertain. I believe it was around 1967-1968. From that time on, the house next door must have had a revolving door. More than likely, it became a rent house. Over the years, several tenants moved in and out. It seemed like each time I came to visit my grandparents, some new family lived next door. Sometime around 1969, or 1970, my granddad had a backyard fence put in. By that time, most all of the shared garden and orchard were no more. Sad but true. There was nothing to stand in the way of constructing a privacy fence for the backyard.

Photo: (1999) My grandmother with my Great Dane, Wolfgang with the privacy fence behind her.

Years later, maybe by 1977, the old house next door was torn down. If memory serves me right, there was a fire that destroyed a room in the house. After the house was demolished, only the unpaved driveway and front steps to where the porch once stood was left.

After my grandparents passed away, my mom inherited the family house. She lived alone there for several years until she developed mild dementia last year. It became necessary to move her out of the old place where she was no longer able to take care of the house, or herself very well. She has been living with my wife and I ever since November of last year (2021). As for the house, we plan to sell it soon. There’s so much work that must be done before I can even begin the process. The place is an old friend, filled with a lifetime of precious memories for my mom, and for me. Nobody ever said it would be easy to let go of an established family home.

About a month ago, I had made the hour long trip to Greenville to check on the house. I took that left turn onto Pine street, a left turn I have made a million times in my life, and drove to the stop sign where Jones St. intersects. I looked to the right to glance at the tired house from across the empty corner lot, and was absolutely stunned. So stunned, it took my breath away. There, in the vacant lot, construction work had been done to prep for the pouring of concrete for a new home. Even more surprising, our fence on the adjacent west side was missing, showing our backyard open and bare.

Photo: This WAS part of the backyard. Showing where the side fence was, about where the baseboards are fixed for the foundation. Also, missing, next to the white storage shed, was a brown storage shed. The stakes next to the white shed are the property stakes placed.

Furthermore, my granddad’s storage shed, which sat next to a second storage shed, filled with well-worn garden tools, old auto parts, and storage boxes, was also missing. As I pulled up in front of the house, I could see where property stakes were hammered into the ground marking what the contractor believed to be the property line from the curb to the back border fence.

Photo: From the curb to the back fence line. All the Bradford Pear Trees were uprooted and removed.

Albeit an astonishing view, as it was, what was more disturbing was the stakes were driven into the turf just about 5 feet from the wall of the house. There is also a garden water faucet which protrudes from the ground some 12″ or so, that has always been used to water the lawn. Now, it is on the property next door, and it’s from our water pipes.

Photo: Our wrapped water faucet just on the other side of the property stake. It’s our water bill.

The backyard fence once extended some 10-12 feet beyond where they staked out the borderline. Gone were the line of Bradford Pear Trees where the perceived property line was, just east of the neighbor’s driveway. The grounds look so naked without them.

A thousand emotions ran through my mind and heart. Honestly, I couldn’t think straight. My first recognizable emotion was outrage. I was angry! In fact, I was steaming. I am grateful there were no construction workers there at the time. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My granddad’s fence and his storage shed had vanished, as well as about 10 feet of the side yard. There was no mail in the mailbox. No note on the door. No phone calls from the contractor involved. Zero communication.

After I caught my breath, a deep, sickening sadness invaded my spirit. There was a mammoth gratitude overwhelming me as I thought what my grandparents would’ve done if they saw what had been done. They were long gone to their new eternal home, not to be bothered by earth’s troubles. Thank you, God for the delay of the purchase of this vacant lot until after my folks left.

Looking at the stakes in place I couldn’t help but tear-up as I thought of 62 years of my life knowing and playing on the encroached ground which suddenly was no longer owned by my family. My earliest memories of running through the trees, the strawberry bushes, and the clusters of red berries on the Holly shrubs were vivid in my mind. The dozens of times I mowed the thick Saint Augustine from the time I was in Jr. High raced through my mind. Mental videos of the mounds of enormous Sycamore leaves just waiting for my cousins and me to dive into the crunch were racing through my brain. And now, some unknown stranger took that strip of land for their own. At least that’s how I saw it.

I just knew there had been a mistake. Somehow, someway, this contractor got bad information, an incorrect survey, or maybe a zealous real estate agent decided to take advantage of an old vacant house. There had to be a solution to this issue before they started pouring the foundation. Immediately I took a snapshot of the contractor’s sign sticking up by the curb. I emailed them about my displeasure over the removal of the fence and the storage shed. I mentioned how we would get our own survey done without delay. I called the local county tax office about the matter. The clerk on the other end of the line was very helpful. They sent me the measurements of our lot, as well as a bird’s eye photo of our house. To my shock, the picture from above, looked as if the marker stakes were accurate, according to the deed of the property. I quickly called a cousin of mine who lives just 10 minutes away. He came out with a measuring tape and marked it off to the exact footage listed for the width of the property. You guessed it right, didn’t you? My cousin’s survey put it as exactly the footage published in the original deed. It came out right at the border stakes in the ground.

Photo: Hunt County tax Office: Skyview of our house. To the left is the troubled west side of the property. The turquois line shows the valid borders of our lot.

Don’t get me wrong. My anxiety hasn’t vanished from this stark revealing. Moreover, I am unable to discover just how this happened, and when it happened. Questions popped up right away. Was my granddad a land grabber? NO WAY! He was a righteous man from head to toe. He was a straight shooter with God, family and neighbor. Never would he ever take land that wasn’t his…knowingly. Of course, I wondered how far back this mistake goes. Was this property line blurred over 100 years ago for some reason? Could it have been a friendly agreement between neighbors who shared the lush gardenwork of the couple who lived in our house 70+ years ago? I keep thinking of that “over-the-border” garden facet. How old is it? Could the contractor, who built my granddad’s fence back in 1969, have made an eyeball judgement without a surveyor? Who knows? One thing is sure, everyone that would have the answers are long since dead. There’s no one alive to ask.

Even though the way our fence and storage shed, along with its contents, was uprooted and taken away was harsh, and frankly, rude and inconsiderate, I have been humbled by the experience of finding out the unfortunate truth. I have to be settled in my core about the facts, beyond the sweet lifelong memories I have of the grounds.

Here’s a truth that is marked out by the stakes in my heart. I will not sell to the broker who was involved with the lot next door. Someone else will get our property when the time arrives. Right or wrong, that’s how I feel.

Spiritually, there are deep reminders as I see the new borderline on the west side of our property. In scripture, God set out some stakes for healthy boundaries to be observed. From the Garden of Eden and onward, God set up boundaries we were not to cross. In doing so, peril was a surety. Very much like buoys marking the drop at the edge of the shallows. Stakes were firmly placed in the ground by ten commandments. Today we see them more as suggestions. Borders, boundaries, property lines mean something. It’s supposed to show the thief to be aware of trespassed ground. It’s turf to be honored. However, in today’s crime-gone-bonkers, boundaries are ignored. Borders, boundaries, stakes, property lines are there for a reason. It matters. Just ask the tax office.

You can see the deed of eternity with the Pro-Border Maker in fuel for the race.

“And I placed boundaries on it (the sea) and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘As far as this point you shall come, but no farther; And here your proud waves shall stop’?” Job 38:10-11 (NAS)

Losing Faith?

“I will be here for you,
Somewhere in the night.
Somewhere in the night.
I’ll shine a light for you,
Somewhere in the night.
I’ll be standing by,
I will be here for you”
(1992) “I Will Be Here For You” Recorded By: Michael W. Smith Composer: Michael W. Smith

It was late. I had been up since 3am. I traveled for 70 miles in a heavy downpour from a Texas autumn storm to reach a hospital in Greenville, Texas. I spent all day in a plastic chair in a small recovery room with three walls and a curtain. My plan was to drive back home that night, but Glaucoma has wrecked my night vision. Although I didn’t want to, I reserved a nearby hotel room. It was cheap, and on many levels, it should stay cheap.

The night didn’t go well at all. My mind and heart remained in that tiny recovery room at the hospital down the interstate. The last thing I heard, as my head hit the pillow, was a vacuum cleaner at work in the hallway at 10:21pm! I’ll spare you from the profanity which echoed off the concrete walls.

Drained of energy, I checked out around 8:30 the following morning. The rain had stopped, but the parking lot was littered with puddles to avoid. My heart was heavy, and my soul was dry. Somehow I felt I was on an internal cruise control as I opened the door to my parked SUV. My head hit the steering wheel as I placed the key in the ignition. There was no ignoring the craving for answers, the thirst for wisdom, and the starvation for comfort.

Not long ago, I wrote you a brutally honest post concerning my 77 year old mom who recently had been handed a diagnosis of dementia. Since I live in the Dallas area, and she lives in Greenville, we speak on the phone every day, sometime’s more than once. Over the past year or so, I have seen her begin to stumble on word processing during sentences over the phone. Just a few months ago she clearly began to experience hallucinations. When she began to forget the names of her granddaughters, I knew it was getting serious. She holds her cards close to her chest, so I am rarely aware of any specific assistance she needs. Slowly I have learned she can no longer do math, count money, or write well at all, etc. Stubborn and independent as the day is long, she slugs it out with life’s battles alone in her childhood home, the one she inherited from her deceased parents. Tough like a Texas oak tree, a woman made of steel, she raised me as a single mom through poverty, pain, and perseverance during the 60’s and 70’s. Not one CEO of any top 100 corporation could compare to her work ethic and drive to make a living.

The two of us in 1962.

And now…now, she is fading quickly. I’ve heard it said that it is like a great thriving tree losing its leaves in the fall, one by one. So true.

It’s not like my wife and I haven’t spoken to her about the need to sell the house and consider assisted living. She poops it right out of her noggin when the subject is presented. She’ll say, “No, I’m not near ready for that. I’m feeling much better today.”

Many hours have been spent wrestling just how I might be able to convince her to turn this page in her life, without her being forced. I walk a balancing wire because I do all I can to keep from upsetting her, or have her turn angry with me personally for pushing her too hard. My belief is she dreams to live long enough in that special house until she dies in her sleep in bed.

A little over a week ago, when I asked how her day was going, she was hesitant and sheepish. Her voice sounded tired and foggy. It took a few minutes to get her to confess that she had been sick at her stomach for a few days. There were a coup[e of phone conversations interrupted because she had to rush to the bathroom to throw-up. But then the next day she would tell me how well she felt, and how it must have just been a flu bug. Pressing her I could tell she wasn’t back to norms. On the 5th morning from the day she told me of her sickness, she confessed that she wasn’t better after all. My bootstraps were pulled up as I spoke to her like a parent, telling her she must go to a clinic, or ER. She barked at me saying some over-the-counter meds would do the trick, etc. I knew better. No bait was taken. I called her doctor, but she couldn’t see her for several days. I called my cousin, who lives just 5 minutes from her, and told him he needs to take her to get checked out. In the end, it was necessary.

A couple of hours rolled by when I received a call from my cousin who handed me over to a nurse in the ER. Tests were being run. Later in the afternoon, a surgeon called me. He informed me she had a concerning hernia near her navel. He mentioned there was trapped bowel material in the hernia, as well as, a traffic back-up in her GI track. Emergency surgery needed to be done within that very hour. I approved it over the phone. She would be in the hospital for at least 5 days as they attack the blocked GI track. All went well with the surgery. I arrived to be with her the next morning.

That was 8 days ago, as I write this post. Although the procedure went well, and the draining of her bowels was completed yesterday, she remains very weak and in need of rehab. My “Iron Lady” has quickly become frail and needy.

In recovery

I wondered why she wouldn’t let me in the house when I would come for a visit throughout the last few years. I am her only child, just 16 years younger than she, and our relationship has been good. While she was in the hosp[ital, I was able to get into her house as I needed to retrieve her ID and documentations. The word “gasp” would fall short of what I walked into. Without getting into the horrific scenes I saw and walked through, I will just say, she has been living in filth and squalor, seemingly for a long time. My heart broke seeing and smelling the realities of how far my dear mom had spiraled. A dumpster will need to be delivered in order for us to clear and clean. That’s how bad it really is.

Life has been very tough. Without my life-long Christian-based faith, I know where I would be by now, and it wouldn’t be a place where you would want to be. In fact, I know of a few times suicidal thoughts were at play during some personal tragedies in my past. With that said, more than a plethora of times, God Himself reassured me of who I am in Him, and without Him I would be on skid-row, or worse several times over. Honestly, and you know this if you are a long-time reader of my blog, there have been near miraculous moments in my life, where in the darkened corners I found myself in, I was brought to my feet. It grieves me to type the next two words…AND YET, I still have faltered in my faith, even though God showed me His hand through the wind and waves. “AND YET”…don’t you just hate those words?

With my head on the steering wheel, along with waning droplets on the windshield from the night before, I felt spiritually empty. My “worry wart” was getting bigger as I sat there pondering what needed to be done. My mom is ill, and can never live alone again without assistance. Where will she go? My wife and I don’t have room for her, not to mention, she will need more care than what we will be able to do. Even now, she thinks she is going back home to live as she was living. I fear looking into her aged eyes to tell her she can no longer be alone. Frankly, I don’t know how to break it to her without crushing her spirit. I’ve already been taking over her finances. A Power Of Attorney will need to established on her behalf. The herculean job of tackling the house, cleaning, moving her out, selling furniture, then selling the house….arg! Sitting there in my vehicle, I only had less than a quarter of a tank left in my spiritual reserve. The tears began to flow with the current of loneliness taking me downstream to where I shouldn’t be.

My prayer-life has been eaten away, practically. Ashamed to say it, but it’s true. The realization of my forehead hitting the the steering wheel brought me to a place where I needed to scream-out to God. That’s exactly what I did. No dogma involved, no Christianese spoken, no pretense whatsoever was present. With a good old fashioned yelling, in concert with my belly-crying, I called out to God in despair.

Before I go any further, let me caution you on something. If you have not accepted God’s grace and mercy through what His son, Jesus did on the cross for our redemption, you may not get what I am about to write. Please, forgive me if I am describing you. Nevertheless, what I am about to proclaim is factual, even biblical. If you are a Jesus follower, and think of prayer as quietly spoken, laced with a “thee & thou” because it is your habit, or because you believe your prayer would not make it out of the room if not practiced in this way, you might find what I am about to advise somewhat sacrilegious. If you use ritualistic phrases in your prayers, often repeating them several times for punctuation, you may not like what I am about to suggest whatsoever. When in the cave, the belly of the great fish, or at hell’s gate itself, God wants to hear YOU, YOUR HEART, YOUR GUT-WRENCHING SOUL! Scream out to Him in your suffering, in your neediness, in your emptiness. He’s a BIG GOD, He can and will handle what you need to say. Maybe the words might not be so pretty, or elegant, that’s okay. In fact, that’s what He wants from you. In a personal relationship, that’s what you do in tense times. Reveal your passion of the moment to Him. My experience has been, when I do that, I hear from Him, strongly, directly, and timely.

During my prayer, through pouring tears, I reminded God of how much of a servant my mom has been in her faith-walk all of her life. My verbal slideshow to Him consisted of how faithful she has been to Him and His words. The pulse of her deep faith was so evident in her song, her servanthood, her sacrifices. Brutal honesty rolled out of my mouth as I fessed-up to God that I am helpless in facing this giant of an issue. He heard how I felt alone in this task, weak and feckless. In my yelling out to Him, I ended it by confessing how I needed Him to show-up. I admitted that I am clueless on just how to begin all that needs to be done, all that needs to be said, all that needs strength that I don’t seem to have anymore. My sincerity was brutal and blunt when I screamed out, “Lord God, I need to know you are with me! Not tomorrow, or even the next day, but today!”

At that moment, I cleared the drops from my eyes, reach out to turn the key in the ignition, and the radio was on my favorite classic hits station.

The very first sound coming out of my speakers as the engine turned over was…

“When you’re weary,
Feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes,
I’ll dry them all.
I’m on your side…”

In that very moment of my darkened frame, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water” began to air. Slotted at that precised juncture in time, not 5 mins before, or 10 minutes after, but right then and there, out of their 600+ songs in rotation, sprinkled in with news, weather, and traffic, the lyrics met me like a subway at the station. I spent about 30 years in radio and radio programming, and I can tell you, this just doesn’t happen at the whim of a programming clock with its categories of rotating songs, separation slots involving artists, titles, and production types. There is a true science to what you hear on the air. I recognized it as a, “God Thing”.

Recently, my wife and I read through a book on odds, the law of averages, chances, and frequencies of events. This would be a good study on the odds of this happening as a coincidence, happenstance, etc. Based upon the book we recently read, I can tell you that the odds are against me hearing the first verse of that song, programmed at the right hour, at the right minute, at the right second after my prayer.

Suddenly, I wept again, but for a different reason. My faith was bolstered as in times past. Because I was shouting out my guts to God in faith that He would hear my pleas, He responded using a medium so very precious to me and my life…music. He arranged all roads to converge at that moment to prove to me that indeed, He is there, and will be there.

When reaching out for God’s grip, look no further than fuel for the race.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NAS)

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)

Good Grief!

“In the words of a broken heart,
It’s just emotion that’s taken me over,
Tied up in sorrow, lost in my soul…”
(1977) “Emotion” Recorded By: Samantha Sang Composed By: Robin Hugh Gibb / Barry Alan Gibb

It’s been a longer span of time since I wrote a post on this blog. A number of reasons come to mind as I write this, but for now I will say it’s because of grief. Really, grief is just a pinch inside a mix of ingredients. Grief, with a good dose of anger, stirred with a mix of anxiousness makes for a good bunt cake to the belly. Throw that in a pre-heated oven deep down inside, and see what comes out as the temperature rises. Have you felt it yourself? This cake is bitter.

Grief can be born out of many things. Frankly, it could be manifested out of an ongoing flash flood of issues, washing everything down stream, taking out foundations which were once thought as solid and sturdy.

Photo by Ian Turnell on Pexels.com

Take note of the drastic rise in crime across the U.S. Notice the overwhelming splash of drug abuse nationwide. Research the scoreless population of homelessness in our streets and under bridges. Violence is becoming the norm in the streets, against everyone, including Asians, elderly, and children. Much of which were committed by ex-cons who were set free from behind bars. Others act out due to mental illness, peer pressure, or pure hatred. Where is the righteous rage?

Try not to ignore the vast numbers of “illegal” immigrants crossing our southern border at will. Throngs have entered illegally from all over the world. The White House continues to sit in silence about this problem. Many of these are sexually abused on the journey, victims of human trafficking. A few days ago, two little girls under 10 years old, walking solo across the border, had been sexually assaulted. Our border officers have had to get wet while retrieving bodies floating in the Rio Grande, including the bodies of children. Not a peep from the White House, as if it’s not happening. When out of the confines of much of the media, you will find out that thousands of these untested, unmasked, unvaccinated illegal immigrants are ill with COVID as they are freely placed by our government all over the U.S. by plane and bus, possibly in your town unknowingly. It’s not a racial statement to point out the facts of what is going on. That’s a foolish default narrative accusation set-up by those who don’t want to face the problem, but are willing to attack those who do. Pouring in without resistance includes drug mules, various criminals, and well-known gang members, including the murderous, MS-13. Very few are being vetted. There are those close to the the border crisis warning of terrorists taking advantage of an reckless open border. Yet, the White House looks the other way. Yep, nothing to see here. That’s the same people who planned the exit from Afghanistan. Trust?

Unwise massive spending bills, much of which are politically charged from the far left, are being passed that will cripple our economy, leaving generations to come under water. Trillions of dollars we Americans do not have. We are no longer energy self-sufficient. Fossil fuel production here has been dramatically clipped in the last 8 months, and now we are dependent on OPEC, and OPEC’s whims once again. Sure, some nations pay $9.00/gallon and call it, “normal”. Some pay more than that. Is that what we want? My wallet isn’t big enough. How about yours? Maybe we will find a way to grind up all those statues of the founding fathers we have torn down and pour the dust into our gas tanks. Do you think that will work? At the same time, businesses are shutting down, while some can’t stay open due to the lack of employees. Why? Because the White House continues to spoon feed people with unemployment checks, along with stimulus checks, which add up to much more than their salaries.

Critical Race Theory is quickly becoming a norm for school districts all across the nation. Why do we approve of our children being soaked in the false narrative that one race is better than the other, adding that one race is a perpetual victim at birth? CRT teaches against Martin Luther King, Jr. He believed a nation should not judge by the color of skin, but by one’s character. CRT aims to divide the population into tribes, no longer with the goal of ONE NATION, ONE PEOPLE. The White House approves. Why is that?

We have a Godless generation being raised. Marxism is celebrated now. That sound isn’t wooden pews creaking as someone shifts their weight, it’s crickets. Ebbing away are moral directives and disciplines, unless it’s from the gang-banger on the corner, or the leftest professor with a communistic agenda. In fact, I have seen more Christian-haters, and Jew-haters, online now than ever before who rage openly, about how people of faith should be removed, or shut down in the proverbial public square. Just today, I read a post from an old friend who blamed the resistance to mask mandates on…(wait for it)…”religious people.” Have we forgotten how Nero blamed the ills of the Roman Empire, and even the burning of Rome on…(wait for it)…Christians? Oh, yeah. If CRT is replacing true history, than maybe no one will know about that.

Photo by Jonas Ferlin on Pexels.com

I have seen people I know die from COVID. At this very moment, one of my dearest cousins is struggling for her life from this virus, and her husband is in ICU on a ventilator who may not recover from it. At the same time, there are multitudes who will read this and respond with, “If they are part of the unvaccinated, they deserve to suffer and die.” The White House is now using a carefully crafted title, “The Pandemic of The Unvaccinated”. This is dangerous! It sets the idea, for minds of mush, that the pandemic is only here due to individuals who have chosen not to get vaccinated. Thus, the blame-game. This is where we are in our society now. The love of many will indeed wax cold, so says scripture.

Unfortunately, much of our current politicians in Washington DC, care more about applauding themselves on passing a multi-trillion dollar spending bill into law, or the number of vaccines pierced this week, or how many masks are smothered over the faces of Americans than the sloppy mess of how it was decided to exit our people from Afghanistan. Because of this failure, many American soldiers have been killed in the process of helping to evacuate helpless civilians in harms way. Scores of civilian losses. Women who remain will be beaten, raped, murdered, and refused access to education. Why? Because there, they are seen as pack mules and baby factories by extremist pigs like the Taliban and ISIS-K. In THIS crisis, the White House can’t look the other way, only due to the outrage of the majority of Americans, as the White House watches the polls in hopes it will be just another news cycle scenario. Experts now fear another 9/11 will take place. I certainly expect it.

So, yes, my grief is good! It needs to happen. Too many today are NOT grieving over the dragging down of our nation, our culture, our society, our laws. Too many haven’t felt grief at all because of the option to medicate oneself. Drink this. Swallow this. Shoot-up this. Snort this. So many of what’s running through our veins is coming across…(wait for it)…our southern border. Soon, grief is drowned in the pool of a blank mind, a blank spirit, a blank soul. America is in trouble. And if America is in trouble, the free world is in trouble.

Believe me when I say, I am not wallowing in grief, but I do find it difficult to shampoo it all away. How do YOU rinse it out?

Grief itself is not wrong. It is not a sin. In fact, Jesus said it’s even rewarded.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Jesus – Matthew 5:3-4 (NAS)

Even Jesus was a man of sorrows. He wasn’t shielded from hurting and pain.

After His friend, Lazarus died, he was hit with grief. Before raising him from the dead…

“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35 (KJV)

He mourned for His nation in peril and disarray.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that murdered The Prophets and stoned those who were sent to it! How many times have I desired to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is left to you desolate!” – Jesus – Matthew 23:37-38 (Aramaic Bible In Plain English)

He sees. He knows. He weeps. The Author and Finisher of The Faith wrote of all of the above in prophecies, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

He also comforts in the most difficult of times. That means I can react to our state of affairs and grieve. In doing so, I know I am in good company.

Grieving is expected. Righteous action is plainly printed in fuel for the race.

“I heard the LORD of Hosts declare: “‘Surely many houses will become desolate, great mansions left unoccupied. ‘” Isaiah 5:9 (Berean Study Bible)

Texas On Ice

“I really can’t stay.
But baby it’s cold outside.
Got to go away.
But baby it’s cold outside.
This evening has been…
Been hoping you’d drop in.
So very nice.
I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice…”
(1949 release) “Baby It’s Cold Outside” Composer: Frank Loesser

My posts are written from my desktop computer in our study/studio in the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton, Texas. Today, Saturday, Feb 20th, is the first day this week I felt comfortable enough to plug the computer back into the wall socket. We have been practicing electrical limits, among other outages here.

Linemen have been busy in Texas this past week.

In case you haven’t seen the news this week, Alaska got mad at Texas and threw-up all over us. For my friends up north, and around the globe in winter-friendly areas, allow me to apologize on this printed line before I continue. I spent five years in Buffalo, NY and know how piercing winter can be north of Oklahoma. However, this week in Texas was historical.

It’s a very rare thing, almost unheard of, if we see zero degrees on the thermometer in Texas. It’s also rare to see single digit temps in the winter. We see the teens, but only once or twice a winter, if that. Yet, in the last few days we saw zero and the single digits. To accompany the drastic frigid blasts, we were dipped in snow and ice for much of Texas.

My backyard.

Oh, sure, one might ask what the fuss is about. We love snow here in Texas. We rarely see it. When we do, it may be an inch or two once a year for a day, or even an overnight and morning before it vanishes. However, with the record breaking lows on the temperature scales, the snow and ice didn’t melt all week. Only today we crawled over the freezing mark with snow melting slowly. Swimming pools, ponds, rivers, lakes, and creeks froze. Kids took up ice hockey. Pile-up crashes occurred on the freeways, due to dangerous black ice on the pavement. One event involved a multi-vehicle pile-up in Ft Worth where over 130 vehicles were involved, several fatalities, and dozens injured.

A drone shot of a neighborhood just north of our street.

All of Texas was hit.

Our driveway on the first day. By now we should be in the 50’s & 60’s.

Apparently, Texas can handle a day of the extreme single digit temps, with minus wind chill factors to boot, but if it continues…real problems arise.

The investigations are ongoing, but Texans were struck hard this week. It began with enforced rolling blackout power outages. Then for many, in fact over 4 million, were without power in weather only Canadians could love. The wind turbines, which partially fuels power transfers, froze. The oil and gas pipelines were frozen or interrupted. The cascading rolled along as so many had to go without water, too. At one point, over 13 million, nearly half of Texas, experienced water boiling orders due to water treatment facilities grinding to a halt. I know several in my own circle who went without gas, water, and electric for 3-4 days. A friend posted this shot of how she got her meals together as if it were the 1800’s.

Texans living as if the calendar read Feb, 1885.

Organizations amassed efforts to help in Texas-sized fashion. Water and food lines became the norm. Here’s one at a local church parking lot waiting for cases of water.

Millstone Church parking lot waterline.

For some, desperation took over as grocery stores were raided, leaving empty shelves.

Sadly, various ranchers began cutting off the ears of their cattle due to frostbite. Many farmers with hogs and goats had to do the same. Without gas, electric and water, many poultry plants stopped production as chickens and eggs froze in the hatcheries. Even feed and seed couldn’t be shipped to the ranchers and farmers. Hundreds of sea turtles were rescued on Texas beaches as they could no longer move. The Texas citrus crops are done for in the Rio Grande Valley. It was reported today by Sid Miller, Secretary of Texas Agriculture, that volunteers are harvesting frozen wildlife, deer, wild hogs, antelope, rabbit, etc, for massive BBQ’s and wood smoking to aid in feeding the public. He went on to say that even dairy plants need natural gas to pasteurize milk products. No doubt, Texans are in for a food shortage. Who knows how long it will last?

Unfortunately dozens of Texans have been found dead, and I’m sure many more will be found as the thawing has just begun.

Mistakes were made around the desks of decision in preparing for the unthinkable this past week. Lessons have been harshly learned. Preparedness will be reviewed and replaced for any future natural disasters, even those which Texas doesn’t normally see.

As pipes are being repaired, and shortages hover over us, I know One who is never short on power, and everlasting water.

This classical Greek word, ἐνδυναμοῦντί, changes everything about running on empty while facing outages. The Darby Bible Translation states it very closely to the original Greek text:

“I have strength for all things in him that gives me power.” – Philippians 4;13

The Greek directly places the emphasis on tasks, or circumstances being wooden horses which can be hurdled.

“(For) all things I have strength in the One (endynamounti) strengthening me.” -Direct Greek translation as Paul wrote it. FOREVER CHURNING! No frozen wind turbines here!

Often this verse is taken out of context. Remembering, that text without context is pretext. You really should read the complete chapter in Philippians. Many times Paul admitted he suffered when stuff happened that he could not control. Way too often God allowed Paul to experience the fan being hit. Early Christians were getting hit hard in their own type of cancel culture, not to mention the local government restraints, as well as, Rome itself. But Paul is so encouraging by saying, when the trials come, I know I can, and do, get through them by the One who continually pumps in, like a rushing fountain of water, the ability to overcome by a power which is outside of myself.

Texans are tough, but God is tougher. If we break chains, if we move mountains, it’s because He infuses the strength into us for the purpose. If even hell freezes over, because of his ongoing distribution of His all-powerful grip, we will skate over it. If He should send snow to our rooftops, in a state that takes on 110 degrees in the summer, then He will give us a transfusion of His ability to walk through it.

He will never lose His distributed power. There are no outages in fuel for the race.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” – (Jesus) John 15:5 (NAS)

Christmas Among The Ruins

“If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me”
(1961) “Stand By Me” Recorded By: Ben E. King Composes: Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller

Did I catch you singing? Yeah, me too. WARNING: You’ll be singing it all day now.

The song, “Stand By Me” was inspired by, and derived from, a Christian song from the great, Sam Cooke & J.W. Alexander. The original was entitled, “Stand By Me Father”, and was written based upon Psalm 46:2-3. Sometimes a music hit is more than meets the ear.

Imagine for a moment that your world, and everything you built your life upon, crashes down all around your head and shoulders, where all things, seemingly solid, tumble and fall. Deep depression settles in like a thick black velvet blanket, with the exception of the fact it’s cold, not warm. Have you ever been there? I have, a few times.

During 2020’s COVID-19 crisis, many across the world have lost everything. Many are now without health, family, loved ones, houses, property, businesses, churches, neighbors, and so much more. It could be one of your trusted neighbors called 911 on you due to how many cars showed up at your house on Thanksgiving. (Truly joyful, grateful people, aren’t they?) If you are one of these smitten by the virus, you know the dull ache of loss due to something you could not control, nor could you escape.

An old friend of mine was bamboozled, broadsided, and bombarded by a tsunami of forces he didn’t see coming, nor could he escape the swinging demolition balls, nor could he control their power and pain. Steamrollers have a way of flattening you…not the curve.

I call this old friend, “old” because his story comes from the oldest biblical manuscript known. The poetic Book of Job is lengthy, and full of sorrow until the end of his ordeal. In a nutshell, Job was a wealthy, honorable man, full of righteous ways, and a full house of children, 10 in all. His marriage was solid, and had a list of many friends. Everyone looked up to Job. God was very pleased with Job and his life.

It’s important to understand, Lucifer, the adversary, was restricted from wrecking Job’s world. I love that! Obviously, the man was guarded from satanic schemes of destruction. It’s an odd scene for us, on this side of the stained glass, but this fallen angel challenged God, using Job as the subject. He wanted the Creator to allow him to tinker with Job’s life. God’s enemy swore that when he was finished with Job, he would no longer worship Him because of bitterness, rage, and a broken faith. I’ve always found it a mystery why God agreed to the experiment concerning Job. He did lay down a line that was not to be crossed. Job’s divine Shepherd gave a stipulation that Satan could not take Job’s physical life. The agreement was inked and off went the unshackled fallen one to do what he wished. Did he send his minions of shadow people to haunt and scare Job and family? If only. Nope. No Halloween tricks for Job, but rather authentic exploits of fright and terror.

If you know the record of Job’s onslaught of destruction, then you know well the hell-on-earth the poor man took on the chin. I won’t list all of the arrows which pierced Job’s existence, but I would say most of humanity never saw what Job experienced.

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His vast property was shredded and burned. All of his offspring met a violent tornado, perishing under a collapsed house. Job was robbed of his numerous and varied livestock, way up in the thousands of all kinds, was gone by fire or sword, leaving him in poverty. His hired hands were slaughtered by thieves and marauders. He became very ill, close to death himself. Racked in pain from huge boils which covered his body, his friends urged him to confess his hidden sins for relief from the devilish curses, even though Job was not guilty of gross sins. Their narrative went so far as to accuse him of being godless. (With friends like that…) His wife’s eroding spirit broke, causing her to demand that he curse God and die. He refused her shameful advice. Although Job questioned God in his torment and grief, the poor man held to his love for his Creator.

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” Job 13:15a (KJV)

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If Job’s story ended there, I would hang up my shield of faith forever, but there’s more.

God’s amazing personal encouragement to the battered Job reads like nothing else penned by mankind. Although God’s response covers many chapters, it is so worth the gleaning. It serves a 2020 generation well. Truly, there is nothing else like it.

Eventually, the demonic realm could not prove their projected case. God put a stop to the waves of anguish. He rewarded the faithful Job with all he had lost, and then some, by multiplying over and above what he once held dear to an abundance none had ever witnessed. He was the wealthiest man alive in his times. For Job’s day and culture, he was a billionaire…without all the corruption.

Being the earliest manuscript in the Bible, Job gave us the first human view of Christmas while sitting among the ruins. It came in Job 19, after a couple of so-called friends berated him in chapter 18. As Job responded to their emotional word-salad, Job spoke the following words which are now rich in the writings of scholars and composers across time and space to this very day…

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” Job 19:25-26 (KJV)

Did you catch it?

This man of antiquity speaks of a faith in the hereafter through a resurrection which includes his own physical body. Most astonishingly, he mentions something his friends must have been floored by. “…and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth…” WOW, says anyone who once read where God walked in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Job knew of the event of Adam and Eve, and God physically walking in the garden at will, but THIS was an advent to come. Job had the audacity to speak of God’s feet standing, once again, on the planet in Job’s “someday”. Job, in his day, was envisioning the future, but for us, it’s already occurred.

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Thousands of years later, about 3 BC, Job’s prophecy came true. Most date the birth of Jesus around 4 BC. Certainly, by 3 BC, a baby Jesus was learning to use his feet and legs to stand and walk. We know this because after the account of His birth, the scripture states…

 And as Jesus grew older He gained in both wisdom and
stature, and in favour with God and man. ” Luke 2:52 (Weymouth New Testament)
(Biblically, outside of His infancy, we only have one scene of His childhood written down for us.)
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I wonder if Jesus ever visited Job’s graveside. If so, I can imagine Jesus “standing” at the tombstone and saying something like, “Job, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Because Job’s twofold prophecy was unveiled at the first Christmas, we also wait for the promised second unveiling as His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, just across the valley opposite the Jerusalem gates. In fact, circumstances will be different. When Jesus’ little feet toddled about the house, in His meekness, it was more of a silent event. Zechariah’s prophecy details how His feet will touch the Mount of Olives in the future before walking into Jerusalem. The very act will create an earthquake, splitting the ground beneath His step. Incredible to picture it without a good dose of CGI. (In biblical times they had no way of knowing about the fault line running straight through the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem.) It’s then, the ruins of life will be made new. My ruins, your ruins.

Christmas was wrapped first by fuel for the race.

“As it has been written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those proclaiming good news of good things!'” Romans 10:15b (Berean Literal Bible)

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
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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)

When Mom Fades

This was not the post I was planning for upload today.  Literally, I sat down at my desk to construct a post I’ve mulled over for three weeks now, when suddenly I remembered to try again to reach my mom on the phone.  It would be the fourth attempt today.  This time it worked.  She answered.  We spoke.  Afterward I felt the sliding of my emotions which tends to be the norm of late.

In the past, on Mother’s Day weekend, I have told her story.  Each year I gained morsels of bravery to shed more light on our tapestry.  It’s a unique, heroic recounting of a strong, courageous single mom.

Mom 1962 Grandmother's Kitchen

At 15, she found herself fighting off, or attempted to fight off, her rapist.  I was the product of that violent attack.  Being out of her crushed mind, heart, and spirit, she attempted suicide twice while pregnant with me, but survived.  She was unaware God had His plans of destiny beyond the messy road she was on.  I told this story with a great amount of reveals a year ago.  I invite you to look at May’s archives from last year to get a sharper camera angle of her torn life. (“If I Were…” From May 10, 2019)

Mom & Me Granddad's Coin Box

In the last 20 years she took-on the role of caregiver for her parents, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.  Nancy Reagan called this disease, “The Long Good-bye”.  She was right.  My mom retired as early as she could to move-in with her ailing parents, giving up her life to hold them up, as best as she could, as they faced the monster of this disease.  My granddad passed away first with complications of dementia in 2008.  My grandmother had full-blown Alzheimer’s, struggling with it for about 14 years before she passed.

My mom aged quickly while being a soldier for her folks.  It was difficult to see her own physical health decline during those years of tremendous servanthood.  I was never more proud of her battling away in those times.

Around 2014, her oldest brother, 4 years older than her, began to show signs of the same disease.  Today, he is deep in the jaws of the struggle, rendering him to a shell of a man, vacant in many ways.  A couple of years ago, my mom’s other brother, 2 years her senior, began to mentally deteriorate with the same invader of the body.  Trust me, it is no respecter of persons, or brilliance.

My mom is only 16 years older than I.  (I’m turning 60 in a few short days.)  Over the last 2 years, I became aware my mom was changing, and not for the better.  She lives alone about 70 minutes from me in the house she grew-up in.  At first, I felt the changes I observed were simple gaffs of the aging process.  Our communication often left me scratching my head.  There were occasions where she got lost while traveling to our part of the Dallas Metroplex, a way she knows like the back of her hand.  About 2 years ago we were to meet at a halfway point, as we have done many times before.  Her sense of direction was totally absent.  She had to call me for help to walk her through which way to turn at each intersection.  When I instructed her to turn left, she would turn right, not understanding the mistake.  It was on that day I realized she…we had a problem.  It would be a problem that would grow.

Recently, almost overnight, she found herself unable to spell the simplest words.  Her cell phone texts became more difficult to read as the days rolled on.  She began having issues with sentence construction and word retrieval during our conversations.  Items would come up missing in her house.  She blames it on her dog.  Asking if I can help is a loss.  She no longer allows me in the house.  Her excuse is it’s too messy for company.  In the last few months, she has had losing battles in operating her cell phone, including prompts, icons, and modes.  Today, in our telephone exchange, she expressed an urge to give it up and order a simple landline phone.  I hope it helps because she has trouble answering the phone these days.

There are also other health issues of concern I recognize as side symptoms of dementia.  She is a proud, independent woman, and holds these cards close to her chest as I attempt to decipher how her daily life is changing.

Frankly, I know where this is going.  As she shrugs it off as amusing, even humorous, I am accepting the fact that my mom is fading before my eyes.

Somewhere in the thicket of my mind, I knew this day was coming.  Although there was a 20 year span as my grandparents experienced massive declining health, there were also wonderful times of mysterious joy in the midst of it all.  I must remember this as I tend to my mom’s needs today and tomorrow.  Currently, I just don’t know how, or where to begin.

Mom salon

So, what’s the purpose of this particular post?  Unaware of the true answer, all I can do is display brutal honesty of how I feel on this Mother’s Day weekend.  Because I didn’t have a dad around, most of the time in my life, I saw her as my touchstone.  I liken it to a small child in a swimming pool, with an inflatable tube around his/her torso.  He/she feels much safer holding on to the side of the pool with his/her waterlogged wrinkled hand grasping tightly to the concrete edge.

I’m turning 60 years old now.  It’s time to let go of the concrete edge.  Scripture tells us not to hold too tightly to this world, especially what we deem as “concrete”.  Even concrete crumbles.

As the concrete crumbles in my grasp, I am reminded once again, God is the life-saving tube around my torso.

My days are filled with the reminder that I need to top off my tank every day with fuel for the race.

“So I said: ‘Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations.  In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.'”  – Psalm 102: 24-27 (NIV)