“…And the rush of crashing water surrounds me with its sound. Striking out to reach you. I can’t get through to the other side, When you’re racing in the rapids, there’s only one way, that’s to ride. Taken down, taken down by the undertow…”(1974) “In The Rapids” Recorded By: GenesisComposers:Anthony Banks, Michael Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, SteveHackett
Earlier in June, I wrote of my experiences while attending my daughter’s wedding in Buffalo, NY. My other daughters, D’Anna and Tabitha, and Tabitha’s daughter, Skylar, as well as, D’Anna’s fiance, Nik, all made the journey from Texas to be at the incredible occasion.
Being former citizens of the Buffalo area, naturally the family wanted to check out old stomping grounds, our old house, and iconic places of the area. Nik, on the other hand, had never been there. D’Anna was on a tear to get Nik to Niagara Falls. Before you can say, “Drip-drip”, the family hightailed it over the Grand Island Bridge to see one of the Seven Wonders of The World. I have never gotten tired of visiting and revisiting this magnificent awestruck creation.
Once there, the kids did what they had time for. They visited The Cave of The Winds behind the falls. They explored the panoramic view from the foot of the falls, while on the deck of the Maid of The Mist touring boat, where you can feel the churning rumble beneath your feet. And of course, what’s a summer day if you miss getting sprayed really nicely climbing the wooden staircase next to the American side of the falls. They were immediately reminded the water is always cold in every season.
For me, the drive just outside the falls, in itself, is something to behold. Before you arrive at the falls, you travel a road which stretches alongside the upper Niagara as it speeds toward the falls. The closer you get to the falls, the more turbulent the river becomes. Some 100 yards, or so, before reaching the rim of the falls, the upper rapids churn and toss the waters filling the misty air with the roar of its rage. I have written before about the ominous, “point of no return” warnings set for boaters, which may be about a mile upstream. By the time you see the rapids racing to the brink, the force of the poundage of the water could violently toss the Empire State Building over the edge. It’s massive. It’s powerful. It’s unforgiving. It’s stirring to walk alongside the rapids as you feel its unmatched strength.
Nik and D’Anna did just that.
At some point, Nik noticed something that caught his eye. Most wouldn’t even notice, or even think about how it happens, but someone with a observant mind would take note. It was this…
There, just a few yards from the brink of the falls, a stubborn tree in the middle of the roaring deadly rapids. They noticed it didn’t budge, sway, or even wobble. There was no detection if the tree was rooted beneath the torrent on the riverbed, or if it was an uprooted tree from upstream which found a stabilizing foothold in the boulders beneath the surface. Nik was amazed at the tree’s resilience as the crushing flood crashed into its trunk, pushing, tugging, and grappling through the might of the raging undertow. So astonished by what he saw, he took the picture with his cell phone. My theory? I believe it to be a driftwood tree carried downstream which jammed one of its limbs in a crevice of a boulder, or two, anchoring it in place, forcing the rapids over, or around it. From what they observed, unless authorities remove it somehow, that tree might never see the edge of the falls.
Flying back to Dallas, Texas, while on my layover in the Baltimore airport, as I waited to change planes I took out the phone to catch myself up on the news of the week. I had been so busy while in Buffalo, I hadn’t seen any news reports Of course, as I began to scroll through the headlines, I regretted stepping out of oblivion.
So much anger, rage, and social idolatry has become the norm in such a short time. Hatred, deception, chaos, Marxism, and crime are on the rampage. Oh, and did I mention hatred?
The one giant elephant in the room parents discovered over the pandemic, as their kids were going to school online, was they actually got to see what their children were being taught. One of which, is CRT (Critical Race Theory), birthed out of the BLM movement. If not familiar with the CRT protocols, its statements, and its goals, you should look it up for yourself. In a nutshell, in very seductive undertows, it pits one race against another. The focus demonizes the white race, teaching all white people are born oppressors. How blatant is that? The focus is to shame the white race with the false idea that if born to white parents, you are unable to rid yourself of being an oppressor, a white supremacist, or a flat-out racist. Even our own president has said as much at his podium.
This twisted, deranged lie indicates a white person can, and will, never shed the haughty attitude of automatically degrading, from the very soul, other ethnic categories of color, especially anyone of African decent. According to CRT, this happens in infancy.
This is all where the phrase, “Systemic Racism” is developed. If you are one of my readers who has brown, or black skin, this places you in a cultural psychological pit in which you do not belong. CRT, if it has its way, has a dangerous, venomous seedling to be planted in your mind. The seedling will root itself in the crevice of your brain, programming you to believe that today, tomorrow, and always, you will be an “oppressed victim”. No matter how much income you deposit in your bank, no matter what level of education, no matter what position you take in the marketplace of careers, you will always have this root growing its limbs and branches, wrapping its warped ideology around and around your mind like a grapevine, or like a vicious cancer. In the end, you will never displace its roots once they have taken the foothold within. The result will not have you moving forward in our culture, but backward to the 1860’s after America’s war to abolish slavery. Instead of what Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about, judging by the character of a person, and not by the color of their skin, you and your children, and their children, will be indoctrinated to adapt the lie of being beneath all whites at birth. That is not a free person. That is not the truth. That is not God’s hand.
CRT divides us into tribes, into mental masters and slaves, and how one race will always be evil. It is also designed to create stigmas of hate within the family unit itself. Ironically, unlike what CRT teaches, so many families are made up of various representatives of races. At American restaurants tonight, many tables will be full of loved ones dining together, who happen to be white and black, Hispanic and white, Asian and black, etc. Not to be missed, there are those wonderful families who have adopted children of various races. I have several white friends who have adopted, or fostered, black children, as well as, kids from other colors of God’s rainbow. CRT targets the family unit at its very DNA strand, which feeds discord. It’s clever, it breeds racism, and it’s deadly.
Is this what we want? Is this leading to a healthy culture, and respectful society? Is it not true that we are all created equal? In the biblical aspect, yes, we ARE created equally. In Jesus, we are no longer these categories: slave and free, women and men, Greek or Jew. (Galatians 3:28 Paul’s writing.) If someone comes along in history with another teaching, they are not of the doctrine of the God of Creation.
Some corporations have adopted the ideology into their HR requirements, especially for leadership positions. The fight to keep it out of our military is a current debate on Capitol Hill as I type this. Now, where various school boards have adopted the indoctrination of CRT into the curriculum, out of social fear or political pressure, some parents are beginning to vigorously speak out at public board meetings. That’s what it will take, patriots who love this nation to stand up for truth, justice, and the rule of law against the rage of a few who wish to see America crumble.
As for me, I hope that tree, in the middle of the rapids in the Niagara, holds tight to its stabling rock. I sure would hate to see it let go due to the sheer weight of the rushing torrent against it, only to see it go over the edge into…oblivion.
A solid rock in midstream was introduced from ancient days in fuel for the race.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water That extends its roots by a stream, And does not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought, Nor cease to yield fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NAS)
“We are strong. No one can tell us we’re wrong. Searching our hearts for so long, both of us knowing, love is a battlefield.” (1983) “Love Is A Battlefield” Recorded By: Pat Benatar Composers: Holly Knight & Mike Chapman
“These, ‘so-called’ Christians, like to attack whenever they don’t agree with someone else!”
“I’m DONE with my old high school friends who claim they’re Christians!”
“I’m not surprised anymore by what Christians say. They are all haters and ‘Trumpers’!”
“I’m not surprised either. In fact, I expect it from them (Christians).”
“Yep, most of them (Christians) are uneducated !…#@&*!”
Offended yet? If you are not of the faith, you’ll find it doesn’t necessarily bother you. Or should it? Keep reading.
Let me back up a bit to explain the above.
A “friend” of mine, going back to my high school days, launched a very negative attack on her Facebook post after she read another angry person’s comment on a private group posting memorials of deceased alumni, or teaching staff from my old high school. It’s a very nice service to have, especially when you’re an alumni who cares for old friends and teachers from yesteryear. I have been able to honor former classmates by attending their funeral services due to the fact I was briefed by the memorial page. Yet, all of the harsh words written above about “Christians” were in reaction to the cover photo of the memorial page. Here’s what launched those scathing words thrown at “Christians”. A simple photo.
Yep! That’s right, the cross. I guess this gang of vipers would break out in physical convulsions at Arlington Cemetery. It all began with one individual who responded to an obit of a departed alumni. The string of replies were the common condolences, well wishes, prayers for the family, etc, Then came this one who didn’t write anything about the deceased person, but instead questioned the use of the cross as the cover photo. In his complaint, TO THIS PRIVATE GROUP PAGE, he mentioned there were so many classmates and teachers who were not Christians. Stupidly, and yes, I used that word just now, for his assault on the cross, mentioned how the high school is a public school on school district land, therefore religious symbols should stay out of it. Of course, the school, or school district, didn’t put up the memorial page…a “private group” did so on the Facebook platform.
Back to my old high school atheistic chum. She notated on her page a description of what she saw on the memorial page, and how it should be taken down, in the recent flavor of cancel culture. Of course, she wanted to stir the stew, and she certainly did. Most of her friends on her list are far left edge, godless people, who talk about how tolerant they are, but only selectively tolerant. Tolerance for me, but not for thee. So, as one might imagine, a slew of her Christian-hating friends poured it on with a hot liquid steel spew about followers of Jesus. I only shared a short snapshot of what I read. The string of comments went on and on. It wasn’t long until one of the attacking clan aligned all Christians with Donald Trump and overall conservative political supporters. A few foolishly targeted Jesus Himself in their ramblings with despicable adjectives I cannot repeat here.
One of the complaints my old pal had, surrounded the fact that there were some people who responded badly to the man who questioned using the cross as a memorial symbol. Some were defending the cross vigorously from a faith-based point of view, others were chewing on the guy from a civics perspective. However, many replied to him in a loving way. In all cases, everyone was lumped into the “Christian” pile, a pile to burned, or eaten by lions. Been there, done that. Yet, frankly, many did not answer him with an attitude of love, but more on the scale of scrapping with an enemy. The baby hits the ground with the bathwater. Some lambs do roar. Other lambs are just so tired of being attacked by popular culture who thinks a person of faith is a Neanderthal. One vomiting up, “Most of them are uneducated!” (They should remember that whenever they pass by a Presbyterian Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Baptist Hospital, etc.) Otherwise, if Christians stay silent, inactive, and keep their teachings only inside four walls on a Sunday, then all will be right with the world. But a city on a hill can’t be hidden, can it? Salt and light alters things. The Cornerstone continues to cause many to stumble on their dark paths. The spewing haters don’t realize it, but they are indeed proving the scripture to be so accurate.
You might say, “Hey, Alan, wake up and smell the coffee. Are you new to today’s world?”
I spent most of the 1980’s on a job where I was mocked for my faith daily. I’m no stranger to this at all. My reply to such a question lies with another question. What if you take out the word “Christians” from the hateful circle of vile, and replace it with…Jews…Hindus…Muslims…Agnostics…Atheists…LGBTQ…Vets…Mexicans…The Disabled…Blue-eyed people…Bald people… Well, you get my point. The ones shouting, “RACISM!” are usually the most guilty of the sin. Take any of those titles and replace the word “Christians” and the Woke squadron would be all over you like ugly on Sasquatch. Am I right? Are you nodding your head?
I’m not biblically illiterate. Scripture states, humanity ran from God. We still do. We don’t want to be reminded there is a code for living, set by an ultimate Authority. Those who are still running from God’s arms want to make their own codes, their own roads, their own laws. After all, we have to validate whatever we do in action, word, or deed. Am I right? It’s very much like the crowd who shouts in the streets to defund the cops, or delete the police all together. It is why Jesus said if we follow Him, expect haters, expect stones to be thrown, flaming darts released, missiles to be launched. The bottom line here, it’s all part of an ancient Holy war. Israel understands that all too well.
You might be asking yourself if I “Unfriended” my old high school screamer. No, I can’t bring myself to do that. However, for my sanity, I did take a “Break” from her.
Loving others can truly be a battlefield.
The highway of faith is a gauntlet, yet overcome by fuel for the race.
“Blessed are you whenever they revile you and persecute you and they say every evil word against you for my sake, in falsehood. Then rejoice and triumph, because your reward is great in Heaven, for just so they persecuted The Prophets who were before you.” – Jesus – Matthew 5:11-12 (Aramaic Bible In Plain English)
“Sometimes even now, When I’m feelin’ lonely and beat, I drift back in time and I find my feet, Down on Mainstreet… Down on Mainstreet” (1977) “Mainstreet” Written & Recorded By: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
(I’ve always wondered if Bob Seger meant to write, “Main Street” vs “Mainstreet”. Oh, well.)
Deep Ellum is an old section of Dallas, Texas, just off the east cusp of the downtown area. The “main” street is Elm Street. However, over the decades, during the development and expansion of what is now known as Deep Ellum, it is a full-blown artsy neighborhood of small businesses dishing up terrific nightlife, complete with restaurants, sidewalk cafes, coffee shops, and live music clubs. You can also expect a plethora of outdoor festivals. A pedestrian’s party haven.
The last time I was there, I was enjoying my daughter’s band at a quaint brick-walled night club. She was on a national concert tour that year out of Buffalo, NY.
Deep Ellum was one of the scheduled gigs before performing at the annual SXSW Fest in Austin, Texas.
There’s nothing like the sound of live music, Texas sunshine, and the smell of street tacos in the air. In a bohemian part of any large city, you can always expect street vendors.
Allow me to introduce you to one of Dallas’ most beloved street vendors, 60 year old, Leobardo Torres Sanchez.
Like a ripple of joy expanding out into the streets of Deep Ellum from Leobardo’s goodies cart-on-wheels, comes the opportunity for cotton candy in a bag, or on a stick, (He always wants you to know it was grown right here in Texas. Come to think of it, I might have seen a crop or two myself). He’s also loaded down with apples, popcorn balls, and often in the summer, balloons on a stick. Along with the tasty treats, he has a gift for dancing up a storm, including a pretty mean moonwalk. Those who frequent Deep Ellum know of the exuberant Leobardo very well. He is hard to miss…or hard to miss hearing.
Originally from Mexico, Leobardo has been selling his stuff on the curbs of Dallas for over eight years now. Like many men south of the border, Leobardo left his poor village, leaving his family behind, to find work away from home. He did just that with his focus on chipping-in on the American dream. According to his daughter, Miriam Torres Leon in Mexico, he faithfully sends money back to his family. He is seen as wealthy to others back home. He lives alone in a rented room, lives humbly, but considered blessed. He is a man who truly loves what he does each day.
If you visit this section of Dallas, you not only will hear good things concerning Leobardo from the business owners, their patrons, and the cops on bikes or horses assigned to the streets of Deep Ellum, but also the homeless and fellow street vendors. Many of the homeless have had their hands filled with free goods straight from Leobardo’s cart. Another street vendor mentioned recently to the Dallas Morning News how when he was robbed, Leobardo gave him 40 bags of cotton candy to sell to help stretch the dollar. That is a good reflection of the kind of heart you can expect from this man of commerce on wheels.
As you may have heard, Texas was hit in mid February with a freak winter 100 year storm with temps plunging to zero and single digits for much of Valentine’s Week. Leobardo, and street entrepreneurs like him, were forced off the streets. Being concerned after hearing of the Texas freezing storm, his daughter in Mexico called him. On the 12th, he told her the plummeting temperatures was unbearable to him. He told her not to worry, even though he lost electrical power due to an unprepared power grid, explaining to her that he was in his rental room wearing several jackets and had wrapped himself in layers of blankets. His circumstances was not unique here. Millions of Texans lost power, water, and sometimes gas.
After several days, Leobardo’s daughter could not contact her dad. However, she did put out a message on social media about the situation in hopes the Deep Ellum community might be able to locate him. Unfortunately, his daughter, Miriam, didn’t know his address, or just what part of Dallas he lived in. A couple of street vendors who knew Leobardo, and his location, heard of her digital posts and fought through the frigid weather to check on him.
On Tuesday, the 22nd, as the thawing was welcomed in Dallas, the police did a welfare check on Leobardo. He was found deceased in his frozen room. His body was found in his bed under several layers of blankets and wearing multiple coats. This poor man was one of a multitude of Texans who did not survive the single digit blast from a very rare weather tragedy. The heartbreak is real. Leobardo and I were the same age.
As the news of Leobardo’s death began to circulate, the mourners responded in droves with cash funds for his family in Mexico, flowers, written tributes, and a Go-Fund-Me account. It seems Leobardo was indeed a man of poverty. but wealthy in heart.
As I read of Leobardo’s passing, I was awestruck by the outpouring of the kind citizens affected by this man with what many would consider an insignificant life. Knowing that sounds harsh to read, or say aloud, I must state the following. Many who walked by his cart-on-wheels, maybe even purchased an apple from him on a hot summer day, might have seen him as a “lower rung” individual. Those who drove by Leobardo’s cotton candy stand, while on their way to Del Frisco’s for a $350.00 dinner, may have smirked at his efforts to scrape out a buck, or laughed at his dancing in the dust around his cart. Tears filled my eyes when imagining a man or woman seeing Leobardo ahead at the corner, crossing Elm Street just so they wouldn’t hear him ask in his broken English if they would like a popcorn ball. You know why, right? Because if one avoids someone like him, they are conveniently cancelled in one’s mind, as if they don’t exist. It’s that easy to put someone under the foot.
Then, at some point in my thoughts and imagination of these things, I remembered the outpouring of love from gentler hearts. Some of which who knew him, some who just gave him a smile as they walked around his cart, or perhaps some who bought one of his balloons for their child. I read more of the comments made by the many he impacted with his humble life. That’s when I smiled through a tear which had escaped.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne’s Devotions (1624)
A pebble can be so insignificant under foot. The sound of a hiking boot crushing many pebbles, as the weight is distributed, has a unique tenor. Yet, when the sole applies weight to just one pebble, the resonance is hardly noticeable. But, pick up that single insignificant pebble, toss it into a still street puddle then count the ripples from the point of contact to the outer edges on all sides. Isn’t that all God asks of us while we walk our various pavements? Impact others around you. Sway individuals with your light, so that everyone will see how God works in your heart. In doing so, we make waves.
Making a ripple around you has a blueprint in fuel for the race.
“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.” Romans 14:7 (NIV)
“Go on now, go, walk out the door. Just turn around now, ‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore. Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye? You think I’d crumble? You think I’d lay down and die?” (1978) “I Will Survive” Recorded By: Gloria Gaynor Composers: Freddie Perren & Dino Fekaris
If you’ve not heard about it, you soon may become a victim of it with a blindside punch.
Some say it began about 25 years ago on college campuses across America. There were “safe spaces” for young college students who wished to get away from hearing opinions which didn’t align with their’s. In fact, any speech, just right of center, began to be shunned in efforts to push a more left field of thought. As this ideology brewed over repetition, married with time, a type of brainwashing began to occur among students. Of course, silencing other points of view was dressed up to appear to be an exercise in “safety” and “chaotic avoidance”. After all, if you banish dissenting thought, which evolves into speech and writing, then debate, disruption, and deciphering another view means self-conjured peace and quiet ruling over others not in your camp. In other words, it can be translated simply as, “I WANT MY WAY, AND I WILL HAVE IT MY WAY!” That sounds strangely like little voices from the past. “I WANT THAT ICE CREAM! I WANT IT NOW!” In the end, true healthy debate will be over.
Imagine a world where your opposition is no more…all the time.
Fast forward 35 years, America is full of 40-somethings who are CEO’s, owners of corporations, and last but not least, chiefs of Big Tech Corps. With a great deal of help from social media giants and corrupt news media, we now see where a culture has risen in numbers to browbeat and intimidate anyone they do not like, or anyone they do not want to hear from. In the name of safety and concern, and protection, conflicting voices can now be silenced in America by the few, not the majority.
This culture has now spread their tentacles into a dangerous discard mode. Literally, a culture delving into “cancelling out” of the public, those who dare to disagree politically, culturally, religiously, and ideologically. Just like the little ones who marinated themselves in the make-believe magic of Harry Potter, wishing away, or vanishing, anything perceived as evil.
Moreover, it bleeds into guilt by association. A perfect example would be cancelling all who supported conservative politicians, or whoever worked for a conservative candidate, or a particular administration. If you are a famous, well-established entertainer in comedy, movies, TV, or recording artist, who happens to be a conservative thinker, if you voice it, support conservative views, via donations or speech, you are in danger of being erased in the field of your occupation. Not unlike a pack of jackals on an African prairie, you can be ganged up on, chased through the streets, harassed publicly from your front lawn to your favorite social media site. In severe high profile cases, you can be so smudged because of your views, that you find your bank will no longer serve you. Imagine being turned down for career opportunities after a good screening of who you have been associated with. THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN AMERICA. History can be rewritten if not opposed.
Yes, the cancel culture is flexing its biceps in the current political atmosphere, in the wake of recent current events. Make no mistake, if it grows, free speech will shrink. In my opinion, free speech essentially could one day be a part of our history…unless they cancel that part in history books. To vanquish, to erase, to delete opposing opinion out of existence is the goal.
If you know world history, you have seen this before. It doesn’t take long to discover nations who lost their freedoms in this way. How about the Salem witch trials right here on our soil? Because of a few disturbed accusing girls, many were executed as they were falsely accused of being witches. It didn’t take long for that small cancel culture to ignite hysteria, anger, and ruin.
At the same time of the growth of this twisted cancel culture, who couldn’t stand up to their own standards for very long, there is a Redeemer Who spent a very short time being crushed by a cancel culture.
Throughout this Redeemer’s life, He taught and exhibited the opposite of a cancel culture. He was okay with being ridiculed to meet up with a Samaritan woman at a well in a town nobody in His culture would ever go through because they had “cancelled” the people who lived there. They thought of it as cursed land. (Sound familiar red states?) He met with her, offered her living water and freedom from accusations. After visiting another town, He invited Himself to the house of a little man who had been “cancelled” by his own fellow citizens because he was a chief tax collector for Rome. Zacchaeus soon found freedom of the spirit after this Redeemer went home with him for a dinner. One day, this Redeemer was approached by a gang of “cancellation experts” who wanted to stone a young woman to death for an accusation of adultery. Even though the law at the time demanded an execution for the crime of adultery, this Redeemer stood between the mob with stones and the accused, boldly challenging the pack of “cancel lovers”. “Whoever here is without a sin in life, let that person throw the first stone at her.”(My paraphrase.) Each one, from the oldest to the youngest, evaluated his own corrupt heart and dropped the stones while walking away. She was not cancelled that day, but rather uplifted.
Jesus was so against a culture of cancellations. He didn’t silence voices of opposition, but asked to hear them. He lived, modeled, and displayed inclusion, not exclusion. Why? Because He knew where it placed a culture. It placed them in a deadly, murderous, unforgiving, and soulless spiral into an inescapable abyss. God’s mercy and grace was rejected, cancelled from the minds of its citizens. In fact, He warned the nation that their stiff-necked destructive behavior, without a turning from it, would direct them to a physical destruction, and a spiritual cancellation. Roughly 40 years passed, and in 70 AD, the Romans utterly destroyed the nation.
In our current worship of cancelling the lives of our fellow citizens, allow me to pick one verse of scripture which shines a brilliant light on how Jesus felt about cancelling those in opposition.
“Jesus then told the crowd and the disciples to come closer, and he said: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.” – Jesus (Mark 8:34)- Contemporary English Version)
There’s two things Jesus did cancel. Sin as a master, and eternal death.
Freedom of speech wasn’t new in 1776. It’s first found in fuel for the race.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)
“…He did the mash, it caught on in a flash. He did the mash, he did the monster mash.” (1962) “Monster Mash” Composers: Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi
At this time of the year in America, you might experience some not-so-paranormal sights. During the Halloween season you just might turn a corner and see something like this…
Super frightening things can pop up from out of nowhere, like this…
Who knows, you may bump into a pumpkin on any given front porch. Or possibly, the most horrid, beastly thing which may be in your path…a political sign.
However, my personal spooky occurrence didn’t happen on a nearby neighborhood street, or a fund raising haunted house, or even a pumpkin patch with a maze. My personal ghastly experience appeared in my own living room a few days ago. Keep reading…if you dare.
It happened earlier this month of October, on a misty autumn evening. We had a family gathering, a reunion of sorts, complete with three generations of family in attendance, a potluck meal, three dogs, and eight people total. (Not to be confused with “ate people”.)
There was an abundance of laughter, snacks, and attempts at social distancing. After dinner, as expected, some games were unpacked and played around the dining table. Before you knew it, someone mentioned the game of charades. The partying group of eight formed a circle in our living room with cards suggesting characters and items to be acted out. It was tough when attempting to guess an apple bobbing in water, or a steam engine train, or Cleopatra. Then a family member read his card, got up on his feet and began to portray a raging, violent lunatic of an individual. This was acted out very well. There was rage plastered on his face with nostrils widening with gnashing teeth, looking down toward the floor while violently throwing invisible items toward invisible characters at his feet. Then ending with the clue of his arms folded and an evil grin of satisfaction on his face. Everyone was shouting out their ideas, “A criminal”, “A rioter”, “An angry sibling trashing his brother”, etc. Then suddenly, to my surprise, someone shouted out…”It’s GOD!” The presenter relaxed his disposition as he let go of the character, admitting that God was the right answer. To be perfectly honest, God was the most distant idea in my mind…but not for some in the room. If someone had shouted, “Zeus”, that would’ve been more of an accurate depiction. For me, it was frightening knowing there were those in the family viewing God in such a way.
You might think me too serious of a so-in-so with my thoughts of the clues given. And, frankly, maybe I should’ve lightened up. But, the One I know in my heart, the One dear to me since my childhood, can not be accurately characterized in such a way. Can one read scripture, especially in the Old Testament, and find God brutal, violent, and scathing? Yes, without a doubt. There have been times when God judged a people, a nation, in fact the entire world in Noah’s time. In context, it is easy to find His actions justified. Here’s a couple of examples: There was a people who offered their living newborn babies as a burnt offering to satisfy their false god. They didn’t have this practice for very long because they were removed from history. You will find entire nations wiped out by God’s hand who assaulted Israel, the people of His promise. Early in human history, you will find two incredibly vile evil cities “nuked” (for a better word) by a duo of angels sent by God. Sure, those actions were accomplished by the Almighty. Yet, what most readers miss is the fact that in each instance, God gave opportunities to stand down, to repent, to live by the truth of His righteousness for blessing instead of curses. Each of His actions teach those left behind. And we still remember. So much so, we make movies about these events.
It is interesting to note that most of God’s enemies knew about Him, knew His works, knew His deeds. At the same time, it’s one thing to know about God, even recognize His existence and authority, and yet another thing to KNOW Him. We may know ABOUT Queen Elizabeth, her likes, dislikes, her family, her homes, her deeds, but we may not KNOW her.
Four hundred years after the Old Testament events were history, Jesus was born. In that miraculous act, divine love, a love that cannot be imitated, was displayed. He came in spirit and in truth. Jesus, in all of His loving kindness, generosity, and unconditional love, told us that if we see Him, we also see the Father. In our finite minds it is hard to wrap our arms around the fact that Jesus, and the Heavenly Father, are One. It is the truth of the scriptures. If I go further on this subject I will write a book here.
Unlike the character portrayed by a family member, God always reaches out in love, not willing to destroy or harm. In fact, the opposite is the case. He sent Himself, in the form of Jesus, to be scourged, beaten, humiliated, and crucified in our place for sin sake. Grace with forgiveness is freely offered by the One who is not willing we all perish…not one.
It’s the reason why you don’t see God as a Halloween character for the front lawn.
True fact-checking is available in fuel for the race.
“…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 9:24 (NAS)
“Please, Mister, please, don’t play B-17 It was our song, it was his song, but it’s over. Please, Mister, please, if you know what I mean, I don’t ever wanna hear that song again.” (1975) Please Mr. Please Recorded by: Olivia Newton-John Composers: Bruce Welch & John Rostill
Mama’s Pizza came to my north Dallas suburb in 1976, or so. It was the first New York style pizza to land in our area and it was a true hit. In fact, my single mom and I were one of their very first customers after they opened for business. The interior was very much like the no-frills, old pizza joints in New York City. It had its dark maroon painted brick walls kissing the eight or ten booths lining the long dark narrow dining area. There were three, maybe four tables for those that preferred them. The kitchen was out in the open with its used pizza ovens. (I say “used” because they didn’t look brand new to me.) Two brothers ran the place, both from New Jersey. They were both in their 20’s and going to school. One was in dental school, the other in business studies. They often fought publicly, but it only added to the atmosphere. They didn’t care how loud they were, or who could hear them. I smile thinking about witnessing shouts of, “DON’T BOTHER ME WITH THIS!”…”I CALLED MA LAST TIME. IT’S YOUR TURN, BOZO!”…”AH, FORGET ABOUT IT!”
One of my favorite things Mama’s Pizza had, there on the far back wall, an authentic mounted moose head, possibly a caribou, hanging out from the brick wall. It’s nose was just about eye-level. A couple of friends of mine had a tradition of kissing the nose of the poor beast. Just beneath the animal’s mounted head, an old classic jukebox. My classmates and I almost wore that thing out over our high school years. It looked something like this…
From what I recall, you could select your song for a dime, or a quarter if you wanted to push more buttons for a few more tunes. It seems they had current hits from the 70’s, as well as, some hits going all the way back to the late 50’s. Zero country songs. Very seldom did you ever see a goat-roper (Our word for cowboys back in those times.) come in for NY pizza. That’s was fine with us. We didn’t like country-western music.
Mama’s Pizza hasn’t been here in many years now. I miss it.
One thing Mama’s didn’t have was this…
Photo: Dallas Memories Facebook Group
Now, depending on how you are, you might not recognize what this is. Back in the day many small diners often sported these little treasures. Although most have thrown them out as the years marched on, from time to time you can still find some table-side jukeboxes. It seems like the last one I saw was at the Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo, NY.
Photo: Lake Effect Diner, Buffalo, NY. curtinresturants.com
As a kid, and as an adult, sheer excitement would take over whenever I spotted these babies. In fact, I remember searching for songs even before picking up the menu.
I will pretend you’ve never seen one. So, allow me to describe the experience. tThere is a knob, or lever, which turns the pages of the lengthy song-list. As you scan the titles and the artists, you should have your dime ready for your selection. Suddenly, you find your favorite tune, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog” by Elvis. Next to the song is a letter or number, or both, that you would push the coordinating button for choosing. Boom, somewhere in the building is a jukebox remotely playing your selection over the speakers at your table. But usually there are speakers mounted in the ceiling for everyone’s listening pleasure…or hatred. And there’s the rub.
Like Olivia, there always seems to be a B-17 in our memory. Maybe you dislike Elvis, and there he comes, forced on your ears because some button-pushing customer in booth #3 selected it without consulting you first. What’s worse, he might have added a couple more Elvis tunes with a quarter in the slot. By the time your selection comes around, it may be time to tip the waiter and leave. Before you know it, just about the time the second verse of “Blue Hawaii” comes around, you’re thinking of taking your sliced tomato off your burger and throwing it toward booth #3. Do the math. B-17 + Communal Music = Internal Sour Notes.
For me, the heavy remains to be my personal B-17’s. You know what I mean. It’s not so much a disliked artist, but rather a song. There’s nothing like music that drags you back to a memory, whether it be a good one, or a bad one. It could be a relationship that went south and the song on B-17 in the selector was what you called, “Our Song”. Tell me about it, I know it very well. I could cry a river a few times. Maybe it was the song on the radio you were singing along with as a truck pulled out in front of you, leaving you in a body-cast for a few weeks. Someone might think of a song sung at a funeral for a loved one. That’s what happened to me with Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”. To this very day, I sink in sadness when it plays over the air. The song was performed over the coffin of my friend and mentor back in July of 1981. All these years later the song stings me. Music has Velcro. It’s the way God created it. Music stamps visuals, times, and places. So many songs do deliver sweet mental-videos of first cars, first dates, weddings, births, and graduations. If the guy in booth #3 selected one of those I might be persuaded to buy his grilled cheese sandwich.
Sometimes being in a community isn’t always a pleasant thing. Am I right? It’s all about how you handle what you don’t want to hear, or see. Maybe the group of kids in the corner booth are dropping the F-bomb for all of us to enjoy. Maybe the idiot cutting people off in traffic gets your match lit. It simply might be a neighbor with a political sign in the front yard you wouldn’t vote for. Yep, sometimes being communal isn’t always tasteful. What’s your B-17?
So Olivia is spot-on with, “Please, Mr. please, if you know what I mean, I don’t ever want to hear that song again.”
Grace, living out grace, handing out grace overcomes a lot of B-17’s in life. Biblically speaking, it means giving favor to someone, or some thing, who you feel doesn’t deserve favor. Grace fuels merciful action and thought.
“Lady” by Kenny Rogers is a B-17 for me. It brings up a life-long choice which turned out to be a youthful mistake. For many moons the sound of the song angered me, literally. However, when hearing now, I work hard on hunting for the true value the lyrics have for others, not focusing, or feeding on the sour notes of my own past decision-making. What’s history is history, grace would say. I for one, need grace all the time, every day. So glad the Creator invented it, and distributes it. It’s what’s on God’s menu for us, the consumer.
Before selecting that button, it’s wise to order-up a good warm cup of fuel for the race.
“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over–will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Jesus – Luke 6:38 (Holman Christian Standard Version)
“Every breath you take and every move you make Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you Every single day and every word you say Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you.” – (1983) – “Every Breath You Take” – Recorded by: The Police (Sting) Composer: Gordon Sumner
Creepy, isn’t it? I always thought so. I felt that way about the lyrics of “Private Eyes” (They’re watching you…) by Hall & Oats. Who would’ve ever thought there would be something so spooky connected with Christmas?
December for me was the anticipation of my mom breaking out my old Christmas pal, Elfie. He was an elf doll dressed in a red velvet body suit with a Santa hat on top of a soft plastic head, along with a face garnished with rosy cheeks. In fact, I believe there was a little jingle bell on the point of his hat. He was skinny and maybe 8″ tall. The mittens on his hands were sown together, creating a loop with his arms for slipping over a doorknob, or a thin bedpost. For this little boy, he not only was a celebratory pal, but he was also the visual symbol that Santa was soon to arrive. He spent many Decembers with me until one Christmas Eve my dog, Tickey, found Elfie’s plastic head to be a chew toy not to be resisted. I cried, but forgave Tickey…eventually.
Many years ago, when producing radio theater plays for a radio network, I had an idea which came to me like a sled on an icy roof. While producing my second Christmas radio theater production, I decorated the recording studio in all things Christmas. When coming into the recording session from a 100 degree July day in Texas, you needed something to help transport the theater of the mind to December. As I recall, I even had the air conditioner set to a frosty level. Some of us even had to wear jackets or sweaters in the session. In honor of my old buddy, Elfie, it seemed appropriate to have a few of his descendants brighten the studio. Some actors found it intimidating while delivering lines from my script.
Of course, all of the above was way before the Christmas craze we now know, and affectionately call, “Elf On The Shelf”. My granddaughter, Skylar has one. If you don’t have children, or grandchildren going headlong into the American Christmas traditions, you may not know who Elf On The Shelf is, or what he is rumored to do. Well, let me enlighten you before December 25th settles upon us. This elf doll sits on the shelf, the bed, the table, the mantle, ect with eyes wide opened. At Skylar’s house he surprisingly appears in the most unexpected places every day. He’s not gazing in amazement at the traditional holiday decor, or the Christmas gifts under the tree, or even the wintry changes in weather. Nope, not at all. Just like the lyrics from The Police, his one and only job is to watch…okay, I’ll use the word “spy”, on the children of the house as he reports back to Santa for his big global flight. The little snitch is all about deduction of potential gifts on Christmas morning. OUCH! I guess Santa is too old to be seeing when you’re sleeping, and knowing when you’re awake. Age has gotten in Kringle’s way when it comes to knowing if you’ve been bad or good. Oh, for goodness sake. Now it seems Claus has a built-in security camera in the form of a sneaky elf, who sits on a shelf, keeping a sharp eye on the do’s and don’ts. Now if that isn’t creepy, I don’t know what is. At least the fat old man in the red suit wasn’t peeking through the closet door of my bedroom each night of the year. I guess that’s of nightmare status, like movies called, “Santa’s Claws” or “Santa’s Slay” Yikes! Okay, I’ve gone amok. I apologize.
Back to sanity now. I will say Skylar isn’t bothered by her Elf On The Shelf at all. She’s had about 3-4 years of having his judging eyes on her for a few Decembers. Frankly, I’m not sure if she is better behaved because of it. So, in the end, I will say he might not cause lasting psychological scars. Maybe we will know more in the next 20 years.
Certainly, if you read my last post you might surmise I am one of those Christians who shuns anything in the fluffy & puffy from the Christmas tradition arena. Well, no, I am not in that category whatsoever. Like a foreclosure sign in the lawn of a palm reader’s house, you didn’t see that coming.
Putting child psychology aside, the Elf On The Shelf, and St. Nick’s omnipresent, omniscient eyes are truly the opposite of the authentic act of the first Christmas. Can you guess what the difference is?
Contrary to a popular belief in our culture, I am not eternally rewarded by superior behavior walking in my shoes today. Let it be known: I AM SOOOOOO IMPERFECT! While I’m at it, don’t take Elf On The Shelf as a picture of what a good Christian does. The Babe in the manger grew up and said we should not judge anyone, or we will be judged. It’s not the Christian’s job to sit on a shelf and search for others to flub, fall, and falter. If you’re under a spiritual teacher which pounds that misnomer into your ears, I say run and never look back. In fact, a better suggestion is to take a pair of your well-worn shoes, nail them to his/her office door with a note which reads, “Walk in these for awhile.”
Sorry for my rabbit trail on thought. I’m no Scrooge. Really, I’m not.
As cute as Elf On The Shelf is, he is theologically off. The child in Bethlehem’s manger Christmas night was a free gift wrapped in swaddling clothes. You don’t get a free gift because you necessarily deserved it, but because someone loved you enough, thought of you enough, cared for you enough to go before you arrived and purchased it with a tag which reads your name, in whatever language you speak. Moreover, this free gift, the Baby in the manger, was given BECAUSE of misbehavior, BECAUSE of abuses, BECAUSE of flubs, falling, and falters, without condition. Let me write that again…WITHOUT CONDITION! Try that on some stranger. No, I mean it. Find a criminal who abused, or injured, or killed your family member, withdraw all you have in the bank, purchase a gift of great price and present it to the guilty law-breaker. Do I see any hands for a volunteer? No, I didn’t think so. Yet, that’s what God, the Author Of The Law did for us all. Today, we call it…Christmas. His unconditional free gift is truly the opposite of Elf On The Shelf.
For anyone who accepts this gift, who believes the adult Jesus when He said, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” – John 3:16a (KJV), will have the Spirit of His very essence within. He reminds me inwardly what is best for my life as He writes His law on my heart. It’s a good thing because I could never have a perfect behavioral stat concerning the Mosaic Law from the Torah found in the Old Testament.
So maybe if you see an elf hanging out on a shelf, it might bring to mind the idea of an elf inside yourself (In the flavor of Christmas trinkets.) whispering wisdom, guidance, and unconditional love. However, when diving deeply for a close-up excursion, you find the lacking of an elf, but rather, “RUACH” in Hebrew, the “Breath” of God’s nature.
Christmas can always be merry with a cup of good cheer, spiked with Fuel for the race.
“For the eyes of Yahweh roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His.” – 2 Chronicles 16:9 – (Holman Christian Standard Version)
“Oh, crumpled bits of paper Filled with imperfect thought Stilted conversations I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got…So we open up a quarrel Between the present and the past We only sacrifice the future It’s the bitterness that lasts. So don’t yield to the fortunes You sometimes see as fate It may have a new perspective On a different date…Say it loud, say it clear You can listen as well as you hear It’s too late when we die To admit we don’t see eye to eye.” – (1988) The Living Years, Recorded by: Mike and the Mechanics. Written by Mike Rutherford and B. A. Robertson
The hallway was busy between classes that day. The platform shoes were loud on the polished hard floor like horses on a brick street. Everyone was running to their next classroom before the final bell rang. I, in my bell-bottoms and bell sleeves, was coming out of the choral department rehearsal hall after an a cappella session. My steps were already inside the broad hallway, but had yet to fully walk through the threshold as my hand remained on the thick heavy wooden door. That’s when I looked up and saw her. It was Lori Kennedy high stepping it toward the choir-room door from B-Hall. She was running a tad late to get to her place on the rehearsal risers just inside the entrance for Women’s Select Choir. It was a Friday, game-day at our north Dallas suburban high school of 3,500 students. I recall it was a Friday because Lori was decked-out in her Lionette drill team outfit from a pep-rally earlier the same morning. As she approached the doorway, I quickly made my way through the entrance while holding the door open for her. By the time she was within two, or three steps from me, her dark brown eyes pierced mine as she sternly stated, “I can open my own door!” as she swiftly rushed by me. OUCH! That was unexpected. It wasn’t like me to freeze, but I did due to shock. It was best because it also kept my mouth shut.
Lori Kennedy, 1978 R.L. Turner High School Yearbook.
Lori and I were 16 at the time, in 1976. She was about five weeks older than your’s truly. Our social circles overlapped, so we had mutual friends, but the two of us were mere acquaintances. In fact, I don’t think we ever had a conversation before that uncomfortable moment. It’s not that we avoided one another, or even ignored the other purposefully while within earshot. We both certainly knew about the other, but distantly. From time to time, over four years, we even dated our close shared friends, but never one another. There were multiple occasions where we hitched a ride with other friends while stuffed in a 1973 Chevy Camaro. We were on the same bus during our music concert tours with the choral department’s Spring trip each year. We also found ourselves sharing a bus for choral UIL contests performed in other cities. Then there were gatherings at picnics, parties, and popular hangouts, etc. I should stop here because as I write this I’m remembering many more circumstances where Lori and I shared space through high school. We, for what ever reason, never made the effort to get to know each other. One might say, we knew each other through our fellow classmates.
With all that said, it makes her stark, rude remark, (the first words she ever spoke to me), that much more odd. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her. Possibly life at home had hit a wall. Could she had slipped on a banana peel in the cafeteria line? Maybe there was a social undertow of knowing we didn’t see eye-to-eye on life itself.
One thing is for concrete sure, she didn’t know my mom and granddad taught me how to treat the opposite sex going back to my toddler years. Chivalry was the order of the day in my family. I must have been three years old, when walking down the sidewalk with my mom and grandparents, my granddad gently instructed me to always walk closest to the curb when walking next to a lady. When I asked why, in his rural Texas fashion and verbiage, he explained that if a tire splashes a muddy puddle onto the walkway, she will be spared from the splatter. He followed it up with, “That’s what men do.” He taught me to remove my hat if a lady enters the room. If a lady walks by, you tip the brim of the hat. If a lady is about to sit at a table, you pull the chair out for her, followed by the adjustment to table-side. If the lady is ready to remove her coat or sweater, you help remove it from her shoulders. When she is ready to wear the same, you hold it open for her as she slips her arms through. You always allow the lady to walk in front, choosing second place. You always open the car door for a lady before placing yourself in the car. And yes, you always open the door for a lady as she approaches it. In fact, I do that for men, as well as women. To be honest, I still practice all of the above to this day. It’s an act of courtesy, kindness, respect, and honor. I’m branded with it. So, what was up with Lori?
At the time, the women’s liberation movement was well above surging, at least in the U.S. It would be foolish to believe that 100% of women living-out the movement appreciated chivalry with its old Victorian manners. Because I neglected to get to know Lori, the real Lori, I may have missed my cue. It very well may have been Lori was exercising her newly discovered rules of engagement as dictated by the women’s liberation movement of the times. I would have been clueless. Nevertheless, she may have very well been offended by my gesture of holding the door open for her entrance into the choir room. Sure, I meant well, but she may have seen my action in another angle, unbeknownst to me. Just like one can peek through a glass of water while another may see a different distorted view. And here is where I went wrong.
My mind washed my hands of her as I walked away from the moment of friction. Lori Kennedy and I never had a potential conversation throughout the balance of our school years together. Never once. In fact, I totally avoided her. My misdirected thoughts went something like, “Well, if she’s going to treat me like a doormat, than I don’t have any use for her.” This is what unchecked anger can do. And so, in my bitterness over the incident, I made sure I ignored her each time our paths crossed, wherever it was. And what’s worse, I allowed our very quick moment in 1976 to stain my view of her from that time forth. Afterwards, the name Lori Kennedy was held in my grudge-peppered heart. My new title for her was, Little Miss Rudeness. Yes, it was wrong. Very wrong.
One would think in adulthood, with all its twists, turns, and teachings, I would’ve eventually understood better, loved more, and forgave even if I never saw her again in life. However, we did. God had other plans.
Lori Kennedy at a 2018 casual reunion with old friends.
A year ago, I attended two reunions with old friends and classmates. One was a casual gathering of about 200 as we paid tribute to a friend who had passed away the year prior. Two months later, it was our 40th high school reunion. Lori Kennedy and I bumped into each other at both events. During the first reunion, I saw her before see saw me. My first thought was to stay away from her, using my old searing angst as justification. With so many people attending, it would’ve been easy to just remain on the other side of the large club. Two months later, the 40th high school reunion gala would be upon us where most likely we would find ourselves in close proximity with mutual friends. Deep inside, I hated the tensity felt over seeing her again. Getting lost in the crowd was my first thought.
August 2018 at the casual reunion at the Fox & Hound Pub in Dallas.
Someone called out to her through the noisy event. With a turn, my eyes caught her. There she was, laughing, drinking, eating and enjoying a cluster of old friends. My reaction was to look away to protect the sore spot in my psyche. After looking down at my shoes for way too long, I filled my lungs with lots of air, slapped on my big boy pants, and made my way across the room of revelers.
She had changed so much since our teen years. Age hadn’t been particularly polite to her. Lori always lived fast and hard, so I just assumed it all caught up with her. She was a bit pale and thin, and the spark in her dark eyes had faded. Name tags are a gift from God in these cases, but not at this casual gathering. Often, at our age, it’s guesswork. I acted as if I wasn’t sure it was her. “Lori? Is that you?” She turned toward me, cocked her head and smiled. “Alan! Well, as I live and breathe! How are you?” I initiated a quick shoulder-hug. (Still showing signs of my grudge in a tiny gesture. I know, it’s all so stupid.) We spoke very kindly for another couple of minutes. After all, there’s not much to “catch-up on” when you didn’t really have a relationship to start with. I found out she lived alone with her two beloved Chihuahuas. Still, it was somewhat a relief to see her genuine greeting. Surprisingly cordial with a true smile, we shared good words between us. Simultaneously, there was this voice coming from deep inside me delivering a statement I never would’ve believed. It was so clear. Despite our differences, we could have been friends. Part of me began to feel ashamed what I had secretly held against her over the decades. Of course, I never brought up our one and only verbal encounter from the days of yore. Actually, she may not even recall the day she was snarky to me, the “doorman” from early in our junior year. Frankly, the thought had never occurred to me. Just because I always remembered it, shelving her as a tyrant and a princess prude forever, doesn’t necessarily mean she remembered our game-day intersect whatsoever.
Monday morning, October 7th, I got in my car, turned on the radio to my favorite classic rock station, and there it was, Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young”. It was the tripwire to heavy tears as I left my driveway for an hour’s drive to Lori Kennedy’s funeral.
After doing some digging, I discovered Lori was told by her doctor how early tests indicated she had Multiple Myeloma. This form of blood cancer wasn’t new to me. A church friend has been battling it for two years, as well as my brother-in-law, who is in the final stages of this life-sucking illness. An MRI had found a mysterious spot on her pelvic bone a couple of years prior. At that time tests were inconclusive. Apparently, Lori shrugged it off. She had been told most Multiple Myeloma patients have 3-5 years after diagnosis, maybe less. She was looking forward to her first oncologist appointment to confirm, plus discuss various treatments. That was during the last week of September. She passed away in her sleep at home less than a week later. After the very touching service I spoke with her parents. They told me she had been suffering from symptoms for at least 2-3 years, but had no idea she had been stricken with cancer until a few days ago.
Before the minister spoke, they played Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven. As it washed over the the ones gathered, I bowed my head and listened intently for the first time.
“…Would you know my name If I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same If I saw you in heaven?
Would you hold my hand If I saw you in heaven? Would you help me stand If I saw you in heaven?
Time can bring you down Time can bend your knees Time can break your heart Have you begging please, begging please…”
My hands trembled as I realized my judging heart. Deeply convicted, I acknowledged my stupidity in not letting go of one moment in time of offense. At my age, how could I have remained so immature? When we engaged last year, I was unaware she was in severe pain throughout her skeletal structure. As we stood there and chatted at the reunion, I was unaware Lori was constantly dehydrated, with bouts of deadly low blood pressure and visits to the ER. Little did I know she was choking down powerful pain killers just to stand, walk, and sit. As it turns out, she rarely left her house to socialize due to her struggle. The reunions were a goal she wouldn’t deny herself. And there I was, trying to be tempered, holding back my old resentment as she smiled at me, even though she should’ve been in the hospital. What a moron I was. So much time wasted. So much life experience gone. So many chances crumbled away in the living years.
After the service was complete, I approached the opened white coffin where an unrecognizable body was displayed. The remains of this person looked as if she was some 25 years my elder, resting among the satin lace. Even though it was way too late, I looked at the face, which once belonged to Lori, and whispered, “Forgive me, Lori. Forgive me.”
As I drove back home, I asked the Redeemer to forgive my unsettled anger.
True lessons in life come at the most heartbreaking times. Lessons of humility learned easier when filled with fuel for the race.
“And whenever you stand to pray, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in Heaven may also forgive you your faults. But if you are not forgiving, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive you your faults.” – Jesus – Mark 11:25-26 (Aramaic Bible In Plain English)
“A child is black. A child is white. Together they grow to see the light, to see the light…” (1972) Black & White – Recorded by: Three Dog Night. Composers: David I. Arkin, Earl Robinson.
Appreciation note: A quick thank you to the very kind, Alicia from the blog, For His Purpose for nominating my blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I am greatly shocked and humbled. I do enjoy your everyday camera angles of life with the filter of truths.
This will not be a political post. This will not be a ranting post concerning those who play at politics, or the swift blinding blame of another. This will lack the spewing of hatred and emotional blathering of negativity currently blowing across the media. If that’s what feeds you, look elsewhere. However, if you are open-minded, wanting to hop off the meat wagon, serving up all kinds of dangerous rhetoric currently being wielded like a Gladius sword, you are welcome to read below.
Billy Boyd was my best friend in 7th grade. In those times that was our first year at Dillingham Jr. High School, before “middle school” was introduced. We lived in Sherman, Tx where the west side of town was mainly made up of white population. There was also the east side where the African American community settled, or was made to settle in post-Civil War days. Dillingham Jr. High was situated close to the border of the east and west sides of the medium market town. We met on our first day of the new school year.
When we left our elementary schools to enter 7th grade, it was a cultural shock for all of the student body. Obviously my elementary school consisted of mostly white kids. At Dillingham the heavy black and white mix was a first for all of us. Billy was African American from the east side of the tracks. He was my first black school friend ever. At the time I really thought nothing about it. In fact, I thought it was cool to have a black friend who was my age.
What I didn’t expect, nor every experienced before, was racial name-calling, slurs, racial riots on campus, gang violence, and violent ambushes. (Forgive me for giving too much info here, but I must write it.) As a white kid relieving himself at the urinal, I was kicked in the back from time to time. Once, I was slammed in the back of my head with a football helmet while standing there facing the wall. This was the environment I was introduced to. Billy didn’t have anything to do with the vicious tagging of white kids. I was on the sharp end of the above racial abuses in a big way simply because I was a white kid from the west side. There were attacks I received in the hallways, between buildings, after football practice, and after school on my way across campus to the bike rack. Some of these were 15 and 16 years old students who were still repeating 7th or 8th grades. I received threats concerning my dog and my mom. In that school year, I learned how to box and street fight the hard way. My uncle taught me how to box, and another friend trained me in Aikido that same year. Through it all, Billy and I remained friends. You might say we were the odd couple. After the school year slowly dropped me into the summer break, my mom relocated out of town, and just in time. Only God knows what might have been if I had spent another year in racial turmoil. However, the hatred and bigotry had a profound influence on me. But, I would experience it again.
When I was a toddler, 98 years after slavery ended in the U.S., I met my first African American. (I have written about him before, but it’s been a couple of years.) While visiting my grandparents in Greenville, Tx, every-other Saturday they had their lawn work done by an elderly black man named Mr. Amos. To this day I don’t know if that was a surname or his first name. No doubt he was the son of slaves, living in the far east side of Greenville in a sector notable for the African American neighborhood. I recall there being a side street which served as the border between whites and blacks, as it was set-up by the local government leaders in the late 1800’s.
From my toddler days, all the way to 11 years old or so, I LOVED old Mr. Amos. I saw him as an uncle from another grandmother. The neighborhood in those days would remind you of the street scenes from the movie, To Kill A Mockingbird. He would drag his lawn mower down the street cutting grass and hedges for a few dollars. To see him was like imagining Mr. Bojangles in various ways. He was ragged, skinny, and toughened by the years. His very dark skin was weathered and rough from a lifetime of working in the Texas sun, like leather from an old baseball glove. He always had an old rag, or bandanna hanging out his back pants pocket, along with old worn-out hard-soled leather lace-up shoes. The elderly man always did a wonderful job on the lawn and hedges. He had the talent. Whenever I was there, I would watch him out my grandparent’s front window as he worked his fingers to the bone with pride. I never saw anyone sweat as much as he did. When he finished the front lawn he began to pull his mower up the driveway toward the backyard. From the time I was 3, my grandmother would take an ice cold, frosted bottle of Dr. Pepper out of the fridge, pop open the cap with the bottle opener, which hung on her kitchen wall, hand it to me and say, “Alan, you go give this to poor Mr. Amos.” Wrapped around it was the money he earned. (They were very liberal with the payment.) I would grin from ear to ear as I ran outside before he reached the back. There in my Buster Browns I proudly said in my Mickey Mouse voice, “Here ya go, Mr. Amos!” No matter how often our encounters, he always acted surprised as he shook my hand and replied with his gruff voice, “Well, what’s this here? (chuckle) Why…thank ya, son!” When in my earlier age, I would look at the palm of my hand to see if the black color rubbed off his sweating hand. I kid you not, he never took his mouth off the bottle until it was turned upside-down and empty, without taking a breath. There’s no way I could do that. I would watch him drink in shear amazement. Handing the empty bottle back to me, he would exhale with a huge drawn-out gasp, like a swimmer coming up for air and say, “That’s my boy!” I always waited to hear him say those words. It made my day. He didn’t know it but just saying that to this fatherless lad made me feel warm inside. With his statement of gratitude, I ran back in to tell my grandmother once again, how he called me “son” and what’s more, I was “his boy”. I honored and respected him. Through the years of youth, I wondered why he always looked so poor.
I’m not certain what year it was, but I will say I was 13 (1973) when hatred came calling.
Mr. Amos was in my grandparent’s yard, doing his job one Saturday, when he was suddenly interrupted by his son and daughter-in-law who had pulled up in the driveway. The man was angry with his father for mowing the lawns of “Honkies”. (It’s a name I was familiar with from school. I didn’t believe Mr. Amos thought I was one of those.) Mr. Amos protested saying he was doing his purpose in that stage of his life. The voices got louder as they argued in the side yard. I pressed my ear to the nearest window to hear more clearly what was being said. The son of Mr. Amos spewed about how shameful it was to be “workin’ for the white man” and how embarrassed he was to see him on our lawn in the “white part of town”. My granddad came out to see what the issue was. After he was told, my granddad gently explained to Mr. Amos that it was okay if he needed to go and do what he thought was right. Sheepishly looking down at his tired scuffed shoes, Mr. Amos agreed he should load-up and go with his son. Hearing it my heart broke. My granddad paid him in full, even though the job wasn’t completed, then they drove away. I was highly disturbed. Tears rolled down my freckled cheeks at what I had witnessed. That was the last time I saw Mr. Amos after knowing him through 9-10 years of my childhood.
I had a friend like Billy, as well as a man of grit and heart like Mr. Amos for one reason. Early on my mom had coded within me, from the days of Mr. Amos, to love all people, regardless of their skin hues. As a little one, she read the words of Jesus to me at bedtime where He taught what she preached to me. What she didn’t teach at the time was the perspectives and inward struggles some possess, like the son of Mr. Amos.
Still, I came away from my experiences at Dillingham with a chip on my shoulder, combined with an unjustified angst against black people. In fact, the realities left me unwilling to trust African Americans for many years throughout much of the 1970’s until I got the chance to work and worship alongside African Americans from 1979 and onward.
In these days where racial slurs, alongside accusations of racism, are being tossed around like confetti, there’s a warning for us all. When young men soak up vile, filthy hatred from certain websites, or chat rooms brainwashing them to the point of mass murdering another race due to their ethnicity alone, we should take note. Words are like bullets. Enough of them, combined with a deadly spin, will and do rip open the hearts of our youth. Good parenting is so vital. Compassionate parenting is so vital. Informative parenting is so vital. So often these word-projectiles reverberate through the rooms of the home for little ears to plant in the fertile soil of their souls. Each and every community and culture should surgically remove attitudes of hate-filled, damning speech about our neighbors. If not, the next generation will see domestic death, domestic destruction and possibly war. There is a desensitizing which is slow, like marinating a pork loin. Sleeping with the pigs will make you muddy. And oh, how dark that mud can be.
If you dare, journey with me for a moment on the following hypothetical.
If one leans toward Darwinism, and sees another race as beneath their own DNA, then one must ask how it got to such a point. If we, collectively, all derived from an ancient amoeba, which washed up on a beach in ions past, then how can one defend a racial ideology? Maybe the ancient amoeba community rioted against other amoeba of a different thickness of cell wall. Then again, can an amoeba possess hate? Unfortunately, hate is branded in humankind exclusively. There’s a reason for that. Follow me on this.
As we continue to search for the “Missing Link” (still missing), there’s a newer, more popular theory.
If one leans toward the newer idea that humanity was placed here by ancient aliens from another planet, there’s even a bigger leap to make. I suppose it’s plausible ancient aliens also suffered from racism, implanting that curse on the earth as we were left here to populate the world. It would also seem plausible that such an advance interstellar civilization would’ve been cautious to populate the earth with beings like themselves, assuring racism wouldn’t be introduced. If the theory is accurate, then wouldn’t it make sense they would sprout beings which reflected a visual likeness? If so, why do have racial issues at all?
If you come from a biblical world view, as I do, then how can I ever hold to a twisted view of racial hatred? Since I am a creationist, I read and study the account where we were all created in the image of God, a likeness of the Divine. Therefore, how could I ever look at a black, brown, yellow, or red man or woman crying, “Moron!”, “Mistake!”“Mutant” or “Monstrosity!” Racism dictates that you have cheap blood and I do not. But, I’ll take your kidney, or a transfusion if I need one. Cheap? Really? For me, scripture reveals we all came from a set of flesh and blood ancient parents who had a multitude of offspring, and so on. Genesis has the genealogy listed covering about a two thousand year span complete with names, nations and seasons of geology. Even DNA experts have found the evidence which mirrors this view. Within the last few years DNA studies have shown we come from the same part of the world with ancestry funneling into a clan going back to the beginnings of life itself, matching the Genesis timeline. So, why do we, or why should we have this scent of racism?
Let’s be super honest here. I like to call balls and strikes as I see them.
Racism, at its core, is the belief in a lie. Yep, we’ve been snookered.
“…Mmm, no no Lyin’ to the races Help me, come on, come on Somebody, help me now (I’ll take you there)…” (1972) “I’ll Take You There” by: The Staple Singers
Moreover, racism is an ideology which dictates thoughts of I, me and myself am to reign over another due to my skin pigmentation. The lie woos one to beliefs like; if one is darker, or lighter skinned than I, then that person is to be subordinate to me, simply due to color. It even can get down to the shape of a skull, or the nose. Racism methodically massages the mind and heart of the pre-white supremacist, for example, who will claim God made a mistake by creating black, brown, yellow, and red skin. Unfortunately, even shades of skin tones are targets of racial darts. In addition, let’s not forget the racism within the color spectrum itself. English vs Celts, Anglo Gentiles vs Jews, African tribes vs other African tribes, the list goes on. Furthermore, it revels in the false idea which says a particular race was created to be supreme over all peoples, nations, societies and cultures. If one hears it enough, studies it enough, sniffs the belly of the dragon enough, the ideology is perceived as authentic. Just as evil thoughts grow and widen, hatred begins to fester like Multiple Myeloma which eats away at the bones. Racism eats away at the very soul of a person.
Are you still with me? Can I go a step further?
Let’s say you are one who believes in the afterlife. Maybe it’s a belief that the spirit, once separated from its body, roams the earth as a ghostly individual, for whatever purpose. If you were a racist in the flesh, how do you exercise racism in the spirit world? When there’s a failure to control the body in life, how then do we expect to control and navigate our spirits? Interesting thought. Are we suddenly stronger and wiser in spirit than we were when we had flesh? After death the skin, once proudly admired as a trophy in life, grows pale and decays, falling away from the skeleton, which is the same color as all skeletons. So now, in spirit form, how do you rant and rave over other spirits who have no skin color? In spirit form, racism is also dead. Suddenly, racist views are no longer so important. In the end, the 79 year old racist can look back on his/her earthly life and will see the damning foolishness of a faulty ideology.
Let’s say you have a biblical perspective of the afterlife. In the place described so well in scripture as heaven, there are a number of problems if racism is to continue. First, God says haters (which includes racist users) will not see the kingdom of heaven. Secondly, in this present age, there is the spiritual form left after the body fails. How, as an eternal racist, do you push back on another spirit residing in God’s Kingdom? Thirdly, the ancient text is clear on the following. There will come a time in eternity when the old earthly body will be recreated to reunite with the spirit in which it once belonged, much like the resurrection of Jesus. God does the recreation at His sovereign will. Colors or not, He will do what He plans. Whatever skin color, if any at all, is resurrected in God’s timeline. At that point, how could hatred of it exist? Fourthly, in heaven there is no spirit who will submit to another based on color of robe, earthly ethnicity, or thought. Jesus Himself said there’s only One Who reigns in heaven. All is made new in the afterlife, if with God. In Paul’s writings, he mentions that “in Christ” there is no difference in “Jew or Gentile”, “slave or free”, “male or female”, etc. THAT is God’s view of the color spectrum of the souls He created and saw it to be good. Racism is NOT eternal. What does that tell us about the perceived value and validation of racial disharmony in life today?
Racism will always be with us. The seed is there in this imperfect world. It was introduced by God’s adversary early in human history to distort the mind’s view of every created race. It is the management of it which must be priority. If the lion is not tamed, it will eat the foolish ringmaster.
The shooter in El Paso, Texas believed a racial lie. In his manifesto he wrote of multiple issues which pushed him over the edge like, plastic in the oceans, immigration flow, economics, eco-system, etc. But, in the end, his frustrations were decidedly poured out over helpless Hispanics with intention. The shooter in Dayton, OH and the shooter at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California were driven by hate, even though it appears not to be racially motivated. As a result, many were brutally murdered and maimed. It’s a seeded lie laced by the enemy of the human brotherhood of soul and spirit. Police in Gilroy reported the shooter there wore a clown mask. Appropriate, don’t you think?
Please accept this warning. Those who ricochet darts coming from the mouths of haters, is a very dangerous thing. Wars have been launched for far less. Unfortunately many like the shooters of El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy are weak-minded, easily influenced, or simply mentally ill. They are like a weed bending to a dark wind from whichever direction. The result is, “I AM DOMINATE!” For some, all it will take is a spewing of hate-filled venom to cause the voices to ring violence in their minds. Once it takes hold, it is like the gravity of opium to the offender. If it’s not an assault rifle, it will be a bomb, a poison, a chemical, a blade, a flip of a rail switch, a van, a bus, a truck, a water bottle full of gasoline, etc.
Love, compassion, and understanding will always been the answer. In fact, love is the basis found in fuel for the race.
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. – Jesus – Matthew 5:21-22 (MSG Version)
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin…” (1981) “Memory” from Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber
The young Dr. Frankenstein meets Igor, for the first time, at a foggy depot railway platform. As they introduce themselves, the great Marty Feldman, who played Igor, presents himself as “I-gor”. Dr. Frankenstein, played by the fabulous Gene Wildman, thought the pronunciation was a bit odd. He remarks that he was told it was pronounced, “EE-gor”. Without a slip of a beat, Igor cocks his head, leans in and says sharply (in his very British accent), “Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they?”Young Frankenstein, from 1974 from the brilliant Mel Brooks, is not only considered a classic, but it’s also one of my all-time favorite comedies, if not my #1 favorite. So much so, I have it on both VHS and DVD. I just cackle at the late Marty Feldman’s comic timing in the unforgettable scene. He was a comedic genius. To this day, my finger gets busy on the rewind button, just to treat myself a couple of times before the movie moves on.
As I date myself by the following line, I will be straightforward. As a teenager, when graduating from vinyl albums, I had to replace most of them with cassettes for my car and tape player in my apartment. That was a chore. However, the ease of the rewind button allowed me to quickly scan for my favorite cut from the artist I was listening to. After all, you couldn’t do that with the vinyl LP. You had to be steady-handed as you carefully picked up the needle, while locating the correct grove, when hunting for Elton’s “Crocodile Rock”.
Admittedly so, when on my DVR, or On Demand selection, the rewind button is one of my best friends.
Have you ever noticed, the rewinds are usually not for searching that gruesome scene where the stabbing took place? My guess is that you rarely push the rewind button to “re-watch” the tragic scene where the little boy, along with his dog, can’t escape the burning house. No doubt you never raced for the rewind button to capture again the flogging scenes in the movie Amistad. If so, there’s counselling available for that itch. Yet, I’m afraid we do it all the time…mentally. Think about it.
My last post on this format was about too many windows in old hotels. Well, I’m about to pull back the drapes on one of them for you.
Over 40 years ago, I had a troublesome relationship that went on much too long. This individual was my friend through much of the 1970’s. As time went by, we grew close with a very tight bond, which seemingly was permanent. Fast-forward to December of 1979, things abruptly ended hard with a resounding thud. Most all of my old friendships are still intact and loving. I don’t lose friends, for the most part, and I am grateful. Still, this one was substantially significant in my life…or so I thought. The relationship needed some healing, which never took place, and fighting became our norm toward the bitter end. Truly, it was a downhill slope into quicksand. We were teenagers with mounds of maturity which had yet to settle-in. Regrets? Sure, at least for me. I went back to my friend a few times, during the following days, in attempts to mend, soothe, and restore. But I learned quickly that it takes two to do so. Believe me when I say, it was a nasty split. My friend was wrong, and I was wrong. Nobody was innocent. I have been mourning over it ever since. How sick is that? There have been 40 years of rehashing the “what if’s”, “why this”, or “why that”. The questions roll along, wondering what I could have done differently, as it pertained to me and my chosen actions. If the other person is not able to do the same, it makes it almost impossible to make peace in the heart. But I know you can’t go back and change anything. If you pull out a nail in the fence post, you still have a hole. There’s not been a resolve in my own heart. Thoughts of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin comes to mind. Like Jerry and Dean, in retrospect, I believe our lives have been better without each other.
You don’t have to tell me how unhealthy this species of mourning and regret can be. I know all too well. If you’re like me, then you know you can beat yourself up over and over again. Of course, just as you think you have conquered the pain and trauma, you drag out the old dusty remote, hunting for a decades old mental movie from your life, and hit the rewind button. <<
How sad, that we keep an old dusty remote in our minds just to relive heartbreaks which don’t have to be replayed. We lie in our beds, refusing sleep, as we replay infractions from the days of yore. Other times we scan back to a fork in the road, where we turned left instead of right, wondering what might have been. Am I accurate? The scene WILL NOT CHANGE! Oh, sure, you want to see a different outcome, but it is what it is. Yet, in acknowledging that truth, it is also history, where it belongs.
Recently, to my surprise, I discovered my old friend may be struggling emotionally more than I have. While on Facebook, the morbid side of me decided to look for my old friend’s Facebook page. Shockingly, this social butterfly wasn’t anywhere to be found. Later, I sadly learned my old friend blocked my name so that I would vanish when on our mutual friend’s pages. I guess it shouldn’t bother me when thinking someone wants to scrub me from the earth, as if I never existed. There’s not been one word of any communication since January 1980. I was blocked as if I were a troller, stalker, or a monster to be shunned from the town square. “Sanctuary”, cried the hunchback in his chains. I thought it interesting that after 40 years, my name was a curse in the eyes of this person. Wow, maybe I unknowingly inflicted more harm than I received. Somehow, it added salt to my wounds.
Why do we do this to ourselves? What betterment does it apply to our mental and emotional state? Better yet, why do we crave it? We do, you know. We pick up the mental remote, push rewind to find the old scabs in life way too often. What’s more, we push the pause button to gaze for a bit, which makes matters worse. It’s a choice, isn’t it?
I don’t have a psychology degree, but I do know a bit about human nature. Under my belt, there is a ton of biblical advice in which I have marinated. In God’s camera angle, guilt, self-damning, and judgement is what we are to ween ourselves off of. Sure, biblically speaking, when we recognize our own wrongs, we are to loosen our grip, while placing them at the feet of the Righteous Judge. It is written, so we would understand, when wrapped in His forgiveness, there is no divine condemnation staining the humble who apply His forgiveness in a true, heartfelt confession. In doing so, we are to learn to forgive others…and ourselves. The old dusty rewind button should only be for scenes of joy, love, and laughter. Otherwise, take out the batteries.
Thank you Marty, Gene, and Mel.
When in play >, or fast forward >>, always expect fuel for the race.
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:11-12 (NAS)
“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” – Isaiah 43:25 (NAS)
“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” – A prayer by King Hezekiah found in Isaiah 38:17 (NIV)