Consider It All Dung

Photo: The Recorder

Photo: The Recorder

“I was walking into town in my white bucks.  A man with a gun, he said, hands up.  I tried to get away but too slow.  He got me and took all of my dough.  I heard him shout as he cut out, Well you ain’t lost nothin’.  What are you cryin’ about?  Your cash ain’t nothin’ but trash.” – Recorded by: The Clovers – 1954, Composer: Jesse Stone

Take my apologies now if you happen to be chowing down while catching up on blogs.

Look at the mounds.  Nothing pretty and tidy to see here.  The photo above is a representation of the wake of hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas.  Literally, from one house damaged by the flooding waters from Harvey.  Black mold is the extreme enemy.  It grows, festers and taunts property owners after the water recedes.  Many homes will undergo complete renovations; some will be demolished.  This house had up to six feet of water in it.  EVERYTHING must go.

Have you been there?  Maybe for you it was a tragic fire, tornado, pluming issue with pipes, or a basement flood after torrential rains.  In my case, it was October 13, 2006 in Buffalo, NY. It was an October surprise, a fury of a blizzard wiped out trees, roofs, carports, sheds , power lines and basements, including mine.  The beautiful autumn leaves were striking but couldn’t hold the massive weight of the lake effect snow.  The near-hurricane force winds did their job.  Off came the branches, complete with tree trunks and telephone poles splitting.  Afterwards, it looked like a snow bomb exploded leaving destruction everywhere you turned.  Quickly, the snow melted furiously with flooding in the streets, rivers, the Erie Canal and basements.  I had classic vinyl albums carefully stored in boxes in my basement closet that would make a record collector pant like a thirsty Labrador.  Yes, you guessed it, out to the curb many of them went, but some survived.  In the end, I had a pile of trash and timber much like the Harvey heap above.  Afterthoughts containing the words, “garage sale” rolled mentally in rotation, like a carousel.  Like what happened in Buffalo, the fine sanitation workers of the city of Houston are doing all they can to load-up all the waste and debris as quickly as possible.

Fast forward to my new life in Carrollton, Texas, not too far from a place many grudgingly call, “Mount Lewisville.”  Lewisville is our neighboring north Dallas suburb.  Right on the border is the city dump.  I had been gone from the area for five years.  When I moved back, I was shocked to find a…well, a….okay, I’ll say it, a mini-mountain.  This area of the city had grown so much, so fast, the city dump also had mounted up and had to expand.  Driving by it can be unpleasant, even with the windows rolled up.  In fact, I often cough going by.  It’s where you find perched vultures, along with an air force of grackles flying in circles just waiting for the next caravan of dump-trucks to arrive for an afternoon feeding frenzy.  Biblically speaking, you might say it’s where the worm doesn’t die. You can have your eyes closed and know for certain you’re close to Mount Lewisville.  (I’m sure my fellow Lewisville citizens call it, Mount Carrollton.)

Looking at the videos of interviews of Houstonians, I am reminded of the heartbreak which goes unseen for the cameras.  The loss is overwhelming.  Among the heap, personal family items, historic irreplaceables, priceless finds now headed for the dump.  Even so, each one interviewed will admit that life is far more precious.  For those who were blessed to still have their loved ones survive the storm, they know full well the highest of value.  After all, the pile is just that…a pile, a mound of damaged worthless stuff ready to be burned and buried.

It’s times like these I recall the garbage I collected in my mind and heart that should be burned and buried.  Do you know what I mean?  Stuff, trash, worthless piles of garbage I have fed on that is against God’s design for my life.  He had mounds of blessings for me, even pointed me in the right direction, while I got distracted by the trinkets of the barterer along the wayside of Alan.  I bought these things of no value and placed them in the secret storage of the mind which reaches my heart.  Like the filth on the curb after irreversible damage occurs, rats, insects and buzzards come to feed, too close to where I should be living in God’s shelter.  They are to be fought-off daily.

“…I count all things but (as) loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but (as) dung, that I may win Christ.” – Paul, Philippians 3:8 (KJV)

(Although the context is the topic of how self-righteousness is to be viewed as a filthy rag, the same principle applies to fleshly treasures.)

Please, forgive me if what I am about to write disturbs you.  Just hear me out.  Here goes.  God, through Jesus, has volunteered to be my garbage collector.  No other god followed can come close to wearing the sanitation worker’s uniform.  Because of what Jesus volunteered to do for me on the cross, paying heavily the hell I deserve, He now is my trash removal technician that I am unable and powerless to be.  As I stand among the sludge, holding tightly to the black mold I have collected for myself as if it were treasure, if I stand aside, He drags the crap out of my house tossing it all in His personal dump-truck.  He arrives at the gates of Mount Hell and there it is burned away, keeping the mounds of sins off my record in the eternal courts.  No recycling here.

We all have the black mold growing in our hearts like a cancer on a mission.  The scripture says, if we allow Him and believe that He will, in righteousness and humility, He will “wash it (us) whiter than snow.”  – Psalms 51:7

It’s all something I will remember this week as I roll the garbage bin out to the curb, its contents never to be seen again.  As I watch the sanitation truck load it up, crushing it as it drives down the street, I will once again have more fuel for the race.

“But now that you have God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” – Paul, Galatians 4:9

Running On Empty

“Running on, running on empty.  Running on, running blind.  Running on, running into the sun, but I’m running behind.” – Jackson Browne.  Title cut to his 1977 album.

We were turning into a corner service station in Greenville, Texas when she said, “We have to give old Misty a drink.” (Misty was my grandparent’s teal-green Oldsmobile at the time.  She always named their cars like they did horses.)  The “full service” attendant (That would be the smiling guy in the Air Force style cap with his starched white shirt and tie) asked how he could serve her.  “Fill her up with Ethel,” she replied.  His reply was something rarely heard in today’s lingo but standard in her time, “Yes ma’am.  Right away, ma’am.”  He opened the hood to check the fluids and wash the windshield as the gasoline was being pumped. She never left the car.  She never swiped a credit card located on the gas pump.  And therefore, she never smelled like gasoline. She paid the attendant there at her rolled down window and off we went.  That’s how it used to be.  I know, it’s a foreign idea to anyone under 50 years old.

It’s ironic that what I’ve witnessed in the last few days at the Texas gasoline pumps would remind me of the title I chose for my blog, “Fuel For The Race.”

If you don’t live in Texas you may not know there have been long lines at the gasoline pumps stretching out into the streets and down the lanes. In the 1946 classic movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” there’s a maddening scene of a bank run when the stock market crashed.  It was true to life as the public panicked and ran to the banks to yank out their funds before it all disappeared.  Experts call such crashes “social phenomena” where external economic events combine with the psychology of mob behavior in a domino reaction, resulting in sell-offs and mass hysteria.  Some label it, “Herd behaviorism.” Very much like one spooked cow in a grazing herd of 100 can trigger a chain reaction resulting in a full-blown stampede.  Some stampedes have been known to run straight off cliffs in a mad dash to a fictitious oasis of safety.  How does THAT make you feel? Case in point, I saw a Dallas native being interviewed on a street corner.  He was laughing at the panicked throngs of nervous, agitated drivers sitting in a line of cars some 30 vehicles deep.  He wisely stated that he lived through the energy crisis in the Jimmy Carter years where drivers sat in long gas station lines.  Rationing depended upon your licence plate ending in an odd or even number, coinciding with the odd or even calendar date. He commented that the 1970’s crisis was real and lengthy, but that this was just the public acting stupid. There was one lady in the pump line who HAD a full tank but brought a can with her, while the man behind her in line was running on fumes.  As for me, all I saw were cows sitting behind the steering wheels (excuse the pun).

Compliments from Harvey (see my post from Aug 30), the Texas coastal oil platforms and refineries were interrupted and halted due to the hurricane and its aftermath.  Energy experts weren’t caught off guard.  They expected a hick-up, price per gallon temporarily rising, but not a devastating fuel shortage crisis.  Plans for reserves, along with various other pipelines, would bridge the gap and are doing just that as I type. Meanwhile, we get to see the worst in the consumer behavior, in my opinion.  The rushing run on gas pumps “caused” the temporary shortages, gas stations closing, pumps with yellow tape around them, etc.  We, the people, caused our own crisis, short-lived as it may be.  Forgive me if you were caught up in the fray.  My intention is not to offend.

What we are observing in the post-Harvey wake, are clear indications of the waning “hope” barometer of our society as a whole.  Let’s face it, there seems to be a spiraling of sorts across the world:  Scenes of North Korea missile/bomb idiocy…  Unheard-of international and domestic terrorism…  The violent viciousness to shut down free speech… Then, there’s the public disdain for righteous thought and practice… The ongoing rising war against all things of Judaeo/Christian thought… The political numbness and gridlock  from disregarding voter’s ballots… Videos of the bloody rioting and looting in the streets by thumb-suckers who can’t even balance a checkbook… Chicken Littles who rant and rave concerning planet warmth complete with CGI of rising tides that will erase half of the continents… Heightened ethnic uprisings among fellow citizens… Rumors of a possible new civil war…  A radical move to erase whatever history some don’t want to be reminded of because it might hurt their feelings… While some are bankrolled to drive violent chaos in the public square, not even having an ideology or doctrine of their own… And on and on and on and on…  Indeed, I could go on.  There’s enough groaning to orbit the earth for another millennia.

The earth is trembling for peace and safety without a hint of solutions anytime soon.  A simple hint of a small speed-bump in the Texas fuel pricing or flow is all it takes for “herd behavior” as the stampede tramples away at common sense and patience, while disregarding stable minds who pull back and see the larger true picture.  Imagine, just imagine how the public of such a society will respond to an authentic crisis.  We lead by fear, or so it seems.  Do we not cause our own calamity in life?  Do we not cause our own dry tanks?  Do we not empty out our own energy reserves simply because of anticipated fears, folly and faithlessness?  I’m sorry that I have lived long enough to see its foothills, but I believe we are witnesses to what erosion of true hope and faithlessness does.

No matter if you are an atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jew, Gentile, Christian, you might find the following words comforting, only if you hold back your knee-jerk bias of your leaning or preconceived positions.  Try it and read the next paragraph.

A man, a dethroned prince, who was raised in religions that worshiped kings, queens and the sun, moon and stars was running on empty himself from a personal crisis. Without warning he was spoken to by God, the true One who he had not searched out, in the form of a bush that burned, yet not consumed.  When he pulled up his bravery, he asked the voice coming from the burning branches to identify Himself.  No doubt, coming from the most educated and most powerful kingdom on earth, he must have thought he might have studied this “god” in the list.  The God answered in a mysterious way that speaks loudly to this very day and long after I’m gone.  “I AM that I AM!”  Unlike any other deity known in all the stone tablets, scrolls and bound leather volumes of earth’s history, this God envelopes time and continuum all wrapped in His personal name.  In fact, like a perpetual looping, there is no beginning or ending, no before the alpha or after the omega, as He described His name to this man of royalty.

What is that to me?  What is that to you?  Plenty.  I heard it explained in these terms and it’s truly the best deciphering of this name I can possibly deliver to you.

I AM in your past…right now.  I AM in your present…right now.  I AM in your future…right now.  It’s difficult to wrap your arms around the idea.  He was there with me before I got here.  He is here now as I arrive.  He is in my future when I arrive to see Him there.  All encompassing.

Match THAT, gas tank.  No need to run on empty.  No need to BE emptied.  No need to suck off of emptiness.  Be fueled for the race.

“Some boast (trust) in chariots (4-cylinders),and some in horses (hybrid engines), but we will boast (trust) in the name of the LORD, our God.” – Psalm 20:7 (NAS & Alan’s interpretation commentary)

So Long, Harvey

Photo:  NOAA Radar

“Oh, can’t you see the morning after?  It’s waiting right outside the storm. Why don’t we cross the bridge together and find a place that’s safe and warm?” – “The Morning After.”  Composers, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, recorded by Maureen McGovern for 20th Century Label, 1972.

Nasty, isn’t it? (Not the song, but Harvey.)  I write this on Wed afternoon, Aug. 30, 2017 and still historic Harvey continues to dump his rain along the Texas coast and Louisiana. Rain totals continue to be calculated in the trillions of gallons.  The mayhem, the destruction of this ravenous hurricane has ripped open the heart and peace of the Texas coast.  The healing has already begun.

When Harvey was first named, I immediately thought of the movie by the same name, based on Mary Chases’s play.  From Universal Pictures, a sweet 1950 comedy-drama, “Harvey” with James Stewart.  It involved a man, a slightly off, yet peaceful man, who claimed he had a close companion named Harvey, a 6′ 3.5″ invisible rabbit.  His family, and most of the small town he lived in, accepted this oddity about James Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd.  Whenever he introduced Harvey to anyone Elwood seemed surprised about the raised eyebrows and opened mouths displayed during the introduction.  Harmless to the core, Elwood explained a bit about himself in a piece of dialogue. (I’ll try to use my best Jimmy Stewart impersonation here.)  “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart.  I recommend pleasant.  You may quote me.”

It made you smile, or you smiled on the inside, right?  You know why?

Unlike Elwood P. Dowd and his polite invisible associate Harvey, hurricanes tend to be the opposite in nature.  Just ask the 20,000+ homeless flood victims of Houston, Port Aransas or Beaumont.  Take a look at the floating carcasses of cattle and submerged homes.  Far from pleasant or smart.

While watching the radar with hurricane Katrina lodged in my brain, I braced for the worst news and videos to come.  I have kept in contact with a few friends and family living in Houston and praying for a good week now for them all. Yet, at the same time I realized there are people just like Katrina and Harvey. You may know one or two yourself.  Have you noticed?  Allow me to draw a profile for you.

Just like a venomous storm coming ashore, this person feeds on damaging all around you and all above you and all beneath you with a violence unmatched by anything else you have personally witnessed.  Words of raging lava erupt and in the spewing, consumes everything good in the path of verbiage.  When done and cooled, the flow turns to rock and all loveliness growing under its belly is evaporated away.  In fact, you might have noticed this person blows away any goodness of heart in his/her target range damaging reputation, righteousness and personal renovations.  Usually in retrospect, through cautious inspection and inventory, you align such an individual as a wrecking ball of demolition against house, home and honor.  If a structural engineer could inspect your heart and mind after such, they would deem you structurally unsound, unable to hold up in a strong gust and surge in your future.  Dreams, goals, family and lives are crushed and drowned in the flood of a violent, murderous spirit.  In this person’s intense overwhelming tide to perform a scorched earth, they will delight, even laugh in the wake. I hesitate to write the following line, but I will.  Although I have never been in a hurricane, my life has been wrecked by such a wall of wind and water, so to speak.  In fact, twice the surge within its evildoing almost took my life.  If it sounds like I am a survivor, I am.

Harvey was devastating to millions of my fellow Texans.  The clean up and rebuilding will be tedious and lengthy.   Likewise, if you are close to someone like Harvey the hurricane, who enjoys attacking all that Paul lists in Philippians 4:8, my recommendation is…EVACUATE THE AREA!  On the other hand, if you find yourself to be a destroyer, I urge you to take the nearest, holiest exit ramp.  Ask forgiveness, give aid to your victim and make the u-turn.

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” – Paul, Philippians 4:8 

Like Elwood, I choose to be pleasant in search for a morning after.

As for Maureen’s song of hope and extended love, “The Morning After”, Harvey the hurricane won’t like the 3rd verse.  It is most significant now and it floods us with fuel for the race.

“It’s not too late, we should be giving.  Only with love can we climb.  It’s not too late, not while we’re living.  Let’s put our hands out in time.” – The Morning After