Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine Blogger Award

by alimw2013

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

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

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

About the Sunshine award:

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

Here are the rules:

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Why do you write?

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

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

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

3) What has been your best vacation?

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

4) Where would you love to visit one day?

Scotland, Ireland, and Israel.

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

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

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

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

7) When did you last owe someone an apology?

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

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

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

9) What’s your most favorite childhood memory?

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

10) What do you love most about yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Who encouraged you to launch a blog?

 

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

 

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

 

4 – Has your writing evolved over time & why?

 

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

 

6 – Do you have a pet?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

10 – What keeps you returning to the same blogger?

 

11 – Does your own family read your posts?

 

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

Move Over, Mr. Weinstein. (No, really. Move over!)

“So tell me what you want to hear.  Something that’ll light those ears. Sick of all the insincere….Don’t care if critics never jump in line.  I’m gonna give all my secrets away.” – Recorded by OneRepublic, 2009.  Composer: Ryan Tedder

A couple of days ago, I stepped out of the shower, threw on my bath robe, came out of the bathroom spouting off (in jest) to my wife, “Happy Halloween!  I’m Harvey Weinstein!”  Before she could even react to my failed attempt at humor, I felt a huge conviction way down deep inside.  Right away I admitted to her that wasn’t really funny and walked away from it.  Unfortunately, I feel many will wear a Harvey Weinstein costume for Halloween parties this year.  How sad.

It’s brutal, isn’t it?  I mean, your darkest secrets to be revealed publicly.

I am not intentionally jotting with one hand while gathering stones for Mr. Weinstein with the other.  Frankly all of that (throwing stones bit) would be too easy and almost recreational, in a therapeutic camera lens.  However, with Harvey Weinstein’s horrific actions of sexual abuses and allegations coming out in the public square, with virtually every news agency repeating it as other victims step up to the truth-plate, I won’t keep my computer off.

Sincerely, Mr. Weinstein’s conduct is about as degrading as a human action can get.  In fact I’ll go so far as to say it is next to the act of mind-bending torture and murder.  Allow me to explain my thinking.

One of Harvey’s excuses is that it’s been well accepted and even applauded when it comes to the ancient casting couch.  I’m afraid that is true.  While on Howard Stern’s radio show, he was quoted as saying something like, “Well, it’s not how it used to be back in the day,” concerning the ability to look the other way.  You might be asking yourself just how many sexual victims are out there.  I don’t even want to think about it.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine why so many victims of this brand of cruelty and shame hold their silence.  After all, they have been victimized, brutalized and used like a wet rag by a powerful man in the entertainment field who shakes the proverbial trees and bushes in his business.  He is the king of that kingdom.  You would think they would leave his office and make a straight line to the police station. If so, they might appear to be liars with a grudge on a tear to dethrone and destroy someone’s career and family.  (Let me say the unpopular here.  THAT DOES happen more times than you will ever hear about.  But that is not the focus of this post.)

My past is a collage with multiple hats.  Among the hats: director, casting director, producer, playwright, copywriter, editor, actor, music director, voice coach, program director, voice actor, voice-over talent and singer.  I have worked with some of the best actors from Hollywood to Texas, New York to Toronto and from the BBC in the UK.  Many of my best friends are in show business, splintering through a wide range of talents and titles.  None of these have personally confessed to me they have been at the hands of a sexual predator in high places, with the exception of one.  Since the Weinstein media explosion, the #ME TOO social media campaign has ignited, for solidarity purposes, in warp speed.  I was saddened to see a couple of my friends post the two-word reveal in recent days.

Harvey Weinstein’s victims are not all A-List actors worth millions of Hollywood dollars.  I am certain, simply by the shear numbers who work in the entertainment world who are grunt workers, extras and one or two jobs-a-year-actors.  Between auditions, these are women and men who are slaving away slapping burgers together at McDonald’s or washing dishes at Denny’s.  They have bills to pay and kids to feed, many without health insurance.  They are living in a world where friendships are often shallow as they step on one another to get that next solid connection.  Back-stabbing is common as a way to dominate or prosper.  An actress at 40 years old is considered old, yesterday’s flavor.  The younger actress can be blackballed and fired if she gains an inch or five pounds, which ever comes first.  It happens all the time.  Flaky is the real word for Hollywood.

For a few, suddenly, a nice break might be in the wings with a principle role on a new project coming up next summer.  It goes something like this.  He/she is thinking, if I can only get that pay scale for a year I could pay off a year’s lease, send my kid to camp, college, or get my mom and dad into that care facility they so desperately need.  Let’s say The Weinstein Company is the executive producer of the new project.  Harvey Weinstein holds futures in his hands like a puppet master.  The agency sends he/she to Weinstein’s party the next weekend because it would be expedient.  While there, he hands him/her a script and states he would love to hear a read for the role at his apartment in the city the following day.  He/she agrees, asks off for the private audition and off to Harvey’s for an enormous opportunity.  After arriving, Harvey himself lets him/her in and apologizes for having to take a quick shower first.  After a few minutes, he comes out in his bathrobe, offers the actor a drink before the read.  He/she is doing all he/she can to be on his/her best possible behavior.  Then, at an unanticipated moment, Mr. Weinstein opens his robe, suggesting a full-body massage before the read.  While in a state of shock, he/she has a quick life-altering choice to make within a second or two.  Unfortunately, often the actor prostitutes herself at the alter of Mr. Weinstein and others like him.  Why?  Money, career, or for the love of the craft and family.  Seemingly, it’s seen as a fork in the road to end years of poverty.  What does a starving artist do?

“Some of them want to use you.  Some of them want to get used by you.  Some of them want to abuse you.  Some of them want to be abused.” – Eurythmics – 1983.  Composer: Allen Toussaint

You may not like the next line, but if you read my posts you know I don’t shy away from realities.

Mr. Weinstein and his victims are slaves to their own creation.  Before you write your nasty comment in response, allow me to shine a brighter light on this.

More times than not, Hollywood, Broadway and the recording industry celebrates, highlights and nurtures scripts and lyrics of violence of all types, including the violence of sexual assault.  Moreover, they pump out sexuality to the max like a sausage machine.  Playing to the core lusts of the human mind, the machine targets the libido with all of the visual and audio tools to arrive there.  Too many times, a producer might toss back the original screenplay saying it doesn’t have enough sex, nudity and violence.  So, the poor screenwriter does a rewrite on a piece he/she has been working to sell for maybe thirteen years or more.  Often an actor is asked how they are able to perform a sex scene with a virtual stranger while 20 crew members are watching.  Usually they will say, they mentally take themselves out of their own body.  (Interestingly enough, rape victims often say the same.  I know this because I have known a few.)  How often can you perform this mental escapism, talented or not, and not damage your own soul’s outlook?  All in the name of the buck.  Sex and violence sells.  Way too often a film has to get back to the editor for cuts just to get a downshift to an R rating.  So, someone who deals and peddles sex and violence on a day-to-day basis is a seeded individual.  Furthermore, we, you and I, BUY the product like a thirsty dog.  How dare we show shock and dismay that a movie exec gets a pass to force his way with those he might hire.  Seeds grow.  And like a seedling punching through the soil, so does the acting out of a seeded one who uses it as his/her income.  Thus, Mr. Weinstein, who in his value system, considers sexual assault to be part of the biz.  As he told one actress who complained of his grope while secretly recording him, “Come on, you know you like this.  You’re used to this.”    

My suggestion?  Never ask why the victim stays silent.  It’s a tad more obvious when you place yourself in their loafers.  True, in their loafers you might make a more dignified decision, and many do, and are never heard from again. The artist often sees their very life on the line.  Silence hides their shame.  Silence will keep them working at what they love.  Silence passes the buck to the next victim with choices.  It’s indeed a vicious trap. Too many suicides come from this industry.

I could go on, but I won’t.  I will add that the one actress I worked with who admitted to being a victim of a Weinstein, also admitted she had twelve abortions over her lifetime.  (On the surface you would never detect that she was a disturbed individual in many ways, but I did not question her sincerity on this topic.)  Years ago she moved away from Hollywood to escape the depressing gauntlet.  However, around 2007 she returned to it.  She has yet to became a steady-working actress.

Compassion says, hurt for them.  Righteousness says, pray for all involved while revealing the truth.  Forgiveness says, as for me, I must release the offender to God’s justice, not mine.  God will do His work in the life of Harvey Weinstein, no matter what the result may be.  No sexual abuse rehabilitation center in the world can remove sin and forgive the offender.  Only the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Who sacrificed Himself as the replacement for God’s wrath for sin can do so.

If you have ached from an abuser, just know there is an escape, even though it may seem impossible.  Your exit starts with fuel for the race.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” -Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

A Choice In Vegas

“Mother, mother, there’s too many of you cryin’.  Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dyin’.  You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today…” What’s Going On, recorded by Marvin Gaye.  Released on Motown subsidiary Tamla label, 1971. Composers: Al Cleveland, Renaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye

As I write this entry, I am waylaid once again by grief pressed down on me.  The grief I speak of is not directly personal, in that I knew none of the victims of the massacre in Las Vegas which occurred last night, October 1, 2017.  My grief is not lonely.  The nation, in fact masses across the globe, joins me in the sorrow which is almost indescribable.  There is no understanding.  No discernment, no comprehension to declare here.  Really, I do not know how I am writing these sentences in that truly there are no words that can measure the outcry felt deeply within.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, landslides, tsunamis, floods, and volcanic eruptions have no evil within their cause and effect.  Nature and nature’s realities can be, and will be, dangerous, devastating and deadly.  Those disasters listed are often called “an act of God.”  The one shooting thousands of rounds of ammo from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, wasn’t a force of nature directed by an act of God.  This madman had a choice.  In fact, from what investigators are reporting, this early in the process of the aftermath, the man had planned the mass murder over several days, at least.  He was meticulous in preparing his blueprint of what would be labelled the worst mass shooting in American history.  There was a way to forego his path of destruction.  The sign in the road read, “CHOOSE LIFE.”  He did not hold life as precious.

Evil is calculating.  Evil is aware.  Evil is intelligent.  Evil adjusts for its namesake.  Evil cares not for age, race, color, creed or who will, or will not stand for a national anthem.  Evil is not a respecter of politics or persons, nor will it ever be.  Through the history of humankind, has there been a time when evil was wiped away from the earth?  Has there ever been a time when evil relented, retreated or repented?  Has there ever been a time where we grew as a society to the point of eradicating evil and its actions?  I loudly proclaim “NO” to each of the above.

As we mourn the loss, while praying for the hundreds of injured and their families, let us ask, what now?  Is there a remedy?  Will we get better when left to our own devices?  Have we yet?

Once again, the chosen tools evil utilizes will be debated.  (I am not willing or intending to utter anything political at this point.  However, I am a supporter of Evil Control.)  Do we melt down all the guns?  We would also need to melt all knives, box cutters, hammers, scissors, corkscrews, axes and swords.  We would need a global military with inspectors to confiscate all piano and guitar strings, rope, cable, and baseball bats.  There would be worldwide campaigns to crush all motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks, and 18-wheelers.  Great work would be had to discover and destroy all bomb-making materials, gas tankers, propane cylinders and, of course, pressure cookers.  No longer would humanity fly from point A to point B for all airplanes would be grounded and placed in museums.  Erase all chemicals, all pesticides, all fertilizers, all fire-starters……need I go on?  Yes, we can dive headlong into the debate of removing any and all weapons evil uses, but we would be busy building shields to deflect the rocks bound to be hurled at any given time.

Ask yourself the following.  Where does evil reside?  Where does evil fester?  Where does evil grow?  Where does evil hide?  Where does evil plan?

“The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Silence in the face of evil is in itself evil;  God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer     

There is no simplicity to evil, with one exception.  Those who have studied it and its source, know full well, evil resides in the heart of each one of us.  I know that is hard to hear.  The truth is, you can be a good person, a great model for your community, even a terrific Bible thumper, yet while attempting the feats, we have the righteous plumb-line to measure ourselves by.  You and I will always fall short of it.  Each living person has the ability to express evil at will.  Some, like the mass murderer in Las Vegas, will exhibit various depths of this cancer within the human heart.  All have broken God’s law — His outline for life’s objectives wrapped in divine purpose.  WE make the choice.

“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” – I John 3:15 (NIV)

Things done in Vegas do not stay in Vegas.

There is evil.  Evil was birthed from the Father of Lies.  That ancient adversary delivers a false promise.  This serpent, this dragon, uses vast intelligence as he presents the promise that evil will satisfy; evil performs justice.  Just ask the heavily armed dead man on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.  Oh, that’s right, you can’t.  He had an appointment to face the Righteous Judge.

The timeless classic song, mentioned at the top of this post, was released as a single.  Interestingly enough, the “B-Side” of the 45 vinyl was a song called, “God Is Love.” Thank you, Marvin Gaye for reminding us in 2017.  Its poetry certainly applies for this day of grief in October.  Choosing well in the here and now, in the time of decision, delivers fuel for the race.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Jesus, Matthew 10:28 (NAS) 

Deep Calling Deep

“Lay me down, roll me out to sea.  Calling on a mighty wave to cover me.  Lay me down and roll me out to sea.  Heaven if your ready, shine your light on me.” – Composer: Larry Weiss, 1974. Recorded by: Barry Manilow on “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again” 1975 project.

Check out those lyrics.  Seriously, if it gets that bad, call somebody, like 911.  I am happy to report the composer, Larry Weiss “made it through the rain” and is alive today.  The picture above is my visual expression reflecting the depths of the translation of such lyrical cries.  I was suffering at that dark time.  The darkness almost tangible and certainly indescribable. You can actually read the depression in my face.

With that said, depression is an authentic mental state that rocks the spirit of an individual.  Sadly, I have known a few who have ended their own lives in a haze of what they considered to be a bottomless, hopeless despair.  The swirl they found their minds in seemed endless without escape or fading.  I am not a psychiatrist, but I believe one might say we all have been approached and flirted with the deadly side of depression. Some cover it well while others are unable.  Some even create a career of stand-up comedy, music, painting and other creative forms of diversions as a drapery covering the enormous fault-line of depression in their lives.  When someone so injured in their deepest soul can no longer speak out for rescue, the wound settles and nests in the caverns of the mind and heart.  Rarely can anyone realize just how far down the roots of the harmful growth embeds itself.  Even now you are thinking of someone you know that I speak of.  Maybe I am describing you.  If so, please read on.

Admittedly, I don’t have a street corner on the subject at all.  I know, and have known, many who have had the cancer of depression – chemical, clinical or otherwise.  I have been close to individuals who were so infected at an early age by trauma or abuse which initiated mental rages, addictions, violent actions injuring the innocents around them. They often leave a road of disaster behind them as the infliction acts-out. (Here, I must state that I am uncomfortable in revealing personal relationships where I had a front row seat to generational abuses that visits all who come close.  But I will admit, more than a few times, I’ve been affected to the core of my being and struggle to recuperate to this very day.)

Someone I called a friend, once told me she loved, in fact, thrived on striking up a fuse of dynamite and tossing it into a room (figuratively speaking) and leaving, knowing all she left behind would be pierced to the core, shattered, broken, without the ability to trust again.  She told me of the analogy with a smile, as if she spoke with a great deal of fondness.  At the moment, it shook me. yet I shrugged it off and went on my merry way. Not long afterwards she did just that and I was one of those who suffered the most.  In retrospect, I recalled the dozens of companies she worked for, always in short time frames ending in terminations, as well as short personal relationships.  For her, there was a string of commonality pointing to a sordid past that no doubt went back to a traumatic ground-zero in her life.  I am one who bears the scars.

Destruction doesn’t always follow bullets and bombs. Sometimes it’s behind darkened closed doors in a young child’s life, or an experience of a travesty heard or witnessed. (See “Straight-Jacket” from 1964 with Joan Crawford.  Or, “The Deer Hunter” from 1978 with Robert De Niro)

These injuries, branding the very make-up of one’s psychological personal outlook and worldview, are not surface or even near the surface.  The wounds go deep, deep into the core of a person’s spirit that often cannot be spoken verbally, but rather stews in the depths of what turns them to the right or to the left.  The strata goes so far south it would submerge the Grand Canyon.  It would be at a level, I believe, only the Spirit of God Himself could recognize and communicate with.   It is a place where no doctor, no hospital, no medication or psych study could reach.  The iceberg is vast and drives its base into the ocean floor.  Man’s abilities cannot reach the open crevice of this seething wound. With each step in life the injured spirit takes in that sorrowful journey through its own quicksand, the griefs that accumulate in the heart as the years move on. Layer upon layer.  Mound after mound after mound.  Only the One Who is “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) can have full compassion.  The Almighty understands the language of the depths of our hearts.  His Spirit communes with our spirits.  His heart to ours, His depths to ours.

I love this old Margaret Becker song from her 1995 “Grace” collection :

“In this ocean of my soul there’s a voice that calls and calls.  Calls to You night and day using words I can not say.  They are words of waiting, words of want.  Without You, I’m undone.  Calling to deeper love.  Calling to higher truth.  Calling to anything that leads me deeper and farther on with You.  Calling to deep.  Calling deep, calling deep….”

This past week I was disappointed in a family member.  I have been in the dumps fighting new health issues of late.  I was dismayed and frustrated in tallying up my bank account today.  These are surface hurdles to be jumped, but not to the depths of my unseen fault lines.  I would say, when honest, you know where that trench is for you and what dragon lies there.  Yet, knowing Who goes that deep with me, with all willingness, gives me fuel for the race.

“Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.” – Psalms 42:7 (NASB)

Pray for WHO?

“In years to come they may discover what the air we breathe and the life we lead is all about.  But it won’t be soon enough for me.  In another world we could stand on top of the mountain with our flag unfurled.  In a time to come we will be dancing to the beat played on a different drum.” – Paul McCartney – “Tug Of War”, title track to his 1982 album.                                                                                                                               (This was his first project after the assassination of John Lennon.)

“Hey! which one of you said, ‘*@#%^&!’ ” came a voice from the gang of high school rivals as they got out of two different cars.  What a night.  I believe it was the fall of 1977, my senior year in high school.  A well attended party had just wrapped up at Lisa’s house with her parents on the front porch waving all of us off as we headed toward our cars.  The street was dark at curbside of this upper middle class quiet neighborhood in a northern suburb of Dallas, Texas.  It was not my first rodeo with multiple attackers.  I saw the writing on the wall. The guys and gals I was with, maybe 10 of us, were all fellow choir members from school and zero street experience with thugs.  Knowing who I was with, I was aware nobody in my group had yelled obscenities at these passing cars.  It was clear, these were what I called “Quackers,” flapping off their mouths to start a fight.  I was the only one in the group who could stand up to these jerks. The number of bullies changed depending upon who you asked the following day, but I believe it to be about 7 or 8 guys, half of which had long-neck bottles in their hands. Fortunately, I was in my 4th or 5th year of Tae-Kwon-Do and kickboxing, training with world contenders of that time.  Then a friend of mine, who should’ve kept his mouth shut (Greg, if you’re reading this, you know who you are, lol), challenged the hearing ability of these bloodthirsty hoods.  With that, I winced for the first punch I was about to witness.  Instead, I was suddenly overcome with a sense of protectionism.  Without going into lots of details on antics, I had to take on the biggest brute among them.  I say, “take on,” but I wasn’t trying to injure the guy. I simply did a freight train of martial arts show-&-tell on his body while his buddies in crime watched.  As what usually happens in tribal poundings of chests, they got spooked and wanted to leave.  About that time, the men in blue pulled up in a couple of cruisers. (I’m sure Lisa’s parents closed the door and dialed 911.)  The cops saw what was up, quickly identifying the trouble makers, the cops threatened them all with jail time and off they went like a sack in a tornado. Nobody was arrested because the actual rumble, if you want to call it that, only lasted about :25 seconds before the cops arrived.  After they interviewed me, and our group, it was clear what took place.  I’m so grateful none of my friends were hurt.

Bullies are often like that, ya know.  They have a big hole in their face and loud noises come out of it, combined with a vicious scowl.  If you have been the victim of abuse, you know what I’m talking about.  Yet, most of the time, they are so lacking in self-esteem and confidence they cower into a scared paper tiger when they get just a whiff of being over-matched. The theory is, bullies feel as if they need to be bigger, louder and feared to hide their inner wounds.  I’ve known many.  Psychologists can tell us more of such a mindset, but that’s what I have observed several times over in my personal life.

I sincerely believe North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un is such a person.  I may be wrong, but he obviously has mental issues and certainly has a deficit in maturity.  Besides what he allows the world to see on state-controlled television, he has slaughtered thousands of innocents, imprisoned the old and the weak, guilty of nothing.  His people live in totally frantic fear of him and must stage happiness and joyful enthusiasm when he is present and on camera. They are raised to believe that he is GOD.  Yes, that’s right, an ALL-POWERFUL BEING, just like his dad and granddad! (By the way, they are STILL dead.) Besides the obvious twisted view he sets up for himself, the people have no rights, no freedom.  You can be killed over a long-distance phone call, a hint of displeasure, an internet connection, books on philosophy, religion or love.  Stories of severe torture and numerous overpopulated prison work camps from hell come from the courageous underground and those who escaped seeking asylum.  I have known many Korean men and women in my life, precious souls.  All of them change their facial expression when the name of the dictatorship family is mentioned.  Many have family on the north side of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Meanwhile, the vast majority of North Koreans starve as the little creep sits on his throne, eats cookies and plays video games all day between staged photo ops.  Yet, he has personal deficiencies making and molding him into who he is.  Only God, the True and Living One, knows.

Sure, I could go on about his missiles, bombs, nuclear technology he has been allowed to build, followed by super ridiculous and risky threats, but I won’t.  Instead, I will spotlight MY responsibility of protectionism concerning this bully.

The One I follow, Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, who with the breath of His nostrils could instantly scar the Korean peninsula to its very bedrock, orders me to….(wait for it)…pray for him.  Hold the missile launchers, rocket man!  Really…P-R-A-Y for him?  Are we sure it’s not, we are to make P-R-E-Y out of him?  That’s what I want to do.  I want to see a shock & awe shellacking of the little boy’s palace.  I want to see him evaporated!  I want to see him get what he deserves, as well as ISIS, Iranian leadership, Al-Qaeda, all human trafficers, drug cartel kingpins, Antifa, KKK, Neo-Nazis, Charlie Manson…..(I’m tired already.)  Do you see where I’m going with this?  There’s plenty of bad blood that can be shed out there.  How much time do we have? How many bombs are available? How much of the planet do we destroy?  How much energy do we have to erase all the bad guys with bad haircuts?

So, Jesus. How would you have me pray for this tiny dweeb dressed in black?  Sure, I’m brave enough to ask.  Scripture tells me I should come to God with all things including my angst.  He invites me to come reason with Him.  I think I know the answer when it comes to praying for my enemy.

How would you pray for a loved one?  You might request that your loved one might become a better person, a person of good character.  Right?  I don’t think I should start with requesting he eat more cookies and die of kidney failure.  Rather, I think I can be more in-line with the following.  Pray for a conversion, even though it would be a miracle.  Pray that the evil shown, and on its perch ready to launch, would be curbed, sidelined.  Pray for perfect divine judgment.  After all, human judgment can be faulty and most often is.  Pray for protection of the public under his laced-up booties.   Pray for all his efforts to fail or fall short.  Pray the short little thug gets distracted and overlooks the underground church and political resistance in North Korea.

Sure, Alan, it’s totally easy to pray for my enemies, my torturer in life, my abusers past, present and future…yeah, right.  Hey, I’m the worst about this.  I pray an asteroid falls from the sky and takes out the regime, but that’s God’s choice.  Then, I read what I just typed and recall Jesus’ prayer on the cross.  “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”-Luke 23:34 (Alan’s paraphrase)  Torturous evil inflicted can be an action of ignorance…or not.  But, then again, I am not the Perfect Judge Who sees the hearts of men and women.

So as the highly disturbed man in North Korea rattles his saber shouting, “Hey! Which one of you said, *@#%^&!?,” we pray for his change, his inabilities to rise, his passion for blood and fire to wain, for this flag unfurled to change and most of all, for the innocents over which he lords.

I’ve read the end of the book.  McCartney is right.  “…In a time to come we will be dancing to the beat played on a different drum.”

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” – Jesus, Matthew 5:43-47 (NIV)

 

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 

www.redcross.org

www.salvationarmy.org

www.samaritanspurse.org

The Incredible Shrinking Man

“I will remember you, will you remember me?  Don’t let your life pass you by.  Weep not for the memories.” – Compose by:  Sarah McLachlan, Seamus Egan & Dave Merenda. Recorded on Sarah’s project, “Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff”, released in 1996 on the Nettwerk label.

So will you?  Will you remember Sarah McLachlan in 100 years or more?  What about, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, John Lennon or Elvis maybe.  (Although, tourism has declined at Graceland in recent years.)  I love Sarah McLachlan, but only the iconic are remembered after a century or more.  Just ask Mozart, Beethoven or Caruso.                 ME:  Or, maybe George W. Johnson! See what I mean? (George was the first African-American vocalist to be recorded in 1890.)                                                                               YOU:  Oh, yeah, THAT George W. Johnson!                                                                                 ME:  Come on, don’t kid me.

Okay, so you’re not an icon….or are you?  Doesn’t it depend on who analyzes you today?  I dare say Barbra Streisand might be a global icon that may survive another ten decades, but you may not be a Streisand.  In the end, does it really matter?  Does it matter to you?

In 1957, Hollywood put out a slew of memorable movies.  One of which, “The Incredible Shrinking Man”.  Surely you remember catching it on a late night movie slot on television.  When I was a kid I recall the fright that went through my body watching the tiny Tom Thumb-of-a-man fight for his life as a normal sized spider wanted him for breakfast.  If memory serves me right, just before being gulped, he slew the spider with a sewing needle, or safety pin that, to him, was the size of a pole.  He kept shrinking into a speck of a man trying to survive the flood of a drop of water, a dinosaur-sized house cat, etc.  Great effects for 1957 cinema.  The smaller he got the more his shrinking voice couldn’t be heard screaming for help.  Before you knew it, his friends could no longer see him as he transformed more and more into the microscopic. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. I do remember dreaming my mom shrunk and fell into the sound hole of my toy guitar, unable to get out, no matter how hard I tried to rescue her.

We too will shrink.  You realize this, right?  Maybe you already have.  It’s not science fiction.  For some of us, it’s quite alright.  That’s what memorials and tombstones are for. At the cemetery, I am always surprised to have to reboot my memory of birth and death dates of family long since gone.  Sad, really.  The truth is, after you are put in the ground, or your ashes are spread, the memory of you immediately begins to shrink.  Not long after you’re gone, your Facebook friends will be too.  Generation after generation of descendants may not read of you, hear of you, or even know where your grave lies. The Who might ask, “So tell, who are you?  I really want to know.”                                         Allow me to ask again.  Does this matter to you?

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children” – Chuck Swindoll.  There’s something to be said about the overly used phrase, “We preach our funerals everyday.”

The old faded photo above I believe to be, Robert Samuel Martin.  He was born 12/14/1848, died 8/20/1917.  I say, “I believe to be…” because I am going by old records from a great aunt, I didn’t know well, who is also long since dead.  If I am accurate, Mr. Martin was my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side.  That’s it!  I know nothing else about the man.  He’s only been dead for 100 years this month and I am at a loss when it comes to just “WHO” he was.  I want to pick up my cell phone or hook him up on Skype for an interview.  Was he a singer?  Was he a farmer?  Could he read?  What did he like to read?  What were his habits?  What and who did he love most in life?  What stock did he put in the society and politics of his day?  Better question might be, did he care? Who told him to wear his Sunday-go-to-meetin’-clothes for this photo?  When told, did he laugh, balk or cuss?  Did he know he would have a great-great grandson who would have a similar beard?  Did he fight in the Civil War as a teen?  It’s all guess work.  I’m afraid the good, bad or ugly will stay a mystery concerning grandpa Martin.  Alas, I will never know.

What will they say about me in 100 years, if anything?  How interested today are my own children?  How many questions have they asked me about my thoughts, habits and life? That is a solid gauge to measure what my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know of me.  Am I preaching my funeral everyday, or will I be another incredible shrinking man out in a cemetery somewhere?

Choices, choices.

“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” – King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 7:1 (ESV)

 

Totality!

“Once upon a time there was light in my life.  But now there’s only love in the dark.  Nothing I can say.  A total eclipse of the heart.” – Composer:  Jim Steinman, on Bonnie Tyler’s, Faster Than The Speed Of Night project- (1983)

Am I right?  Flashback city! (At least for some of us.)  It’s been reported that 66 year old Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit, “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” made the current charts again this month all because of Monday’s solar eclipse.  Good for her!  I watched it, did you?  How’s your eyes?  I wonder if my retina specialist is super busy this week.  Hopefully you can read this.

It’s always surprising to me, to an extent, how a cosmic event rouses the curiosity and exuberance of the general public.  People from all corners of the planet spent thousands of dollars per person to make it to the American solar eclipse to view it in its totality.  As for me, I went out to the front yard to watch a partial eclipse right here in the Dallas, TX area.  It made for an eerie sky-show and a good Monday afternoon with my wife and daughter.  The effects of the moon’s robbery of sun-rays are amazing indeed.  Before I knew it, around 12:45 pm, the interior of our house faded to a dusk atmosphere. Nature was flipped on its ear.  Animals were confused, temperatures dropped and the shadows did a mysterious dance. The media reported roosters crowing in bewilderment.  Unlike some, I neglected to wear an aluminum foil hat.  I’m happy to say I made out okay without one.  All in all, it was a good Monday.

An old friend sent me good-natured message ahead of the galactic event.  It read, “Mind the power of Monday’s eclipse crossing America coast to coast, positive energy for new beginnings.”  One thing written there came true for a couple of hours: America stopped chewing on each other over politics and statues of old dead Americans.  Like a great anticipated Star Wars movie debut, all eyes were fixated on the show in the sky. (Although a Star Wars sequel would’ve lasted longer.)  Beyond that, have you had a renewal since Monday afternoon?  Is your personal energy different than it was this past weekend?  Will you never again in your rush to head out the door on time say to yourself, “I’ve got to get myself together!”  In other words, are you together?  Would the person who knows you best, and has seen it all, say you are in a personal…totality?  Do you find you are made aware of a more positive outlook on the world, concerning things around you, since that good celestial and sequenced display above us?  (I say “sequenced” only because we ourselves proved it to be so.  We have expected it since, or before, 1918 as the astrophysicists calculated its clock-like arrival down to the synchronized millisecond.  There was no chaos involved as observed in fragments from a bomb explosion.  I’ll stop there.)  If you have more positive energy with a sparkling new beginning in life since that 2:28 long eclipse totality, compliments of the orbit of the moon, I’m happy for you.  I really am.  Tell me your lasting euphoric secret.  As for me, I don’t hang my spiritual joy hat on an eclipse.  Just like the eclipse, whatever burst of positive energetic renewal experienced, it is momentary with a quick shelf-life. Just take a look at the news, or Facebook, to see what the truth is about the matter. In spite of my obvious nay-saying above, it made for a good Monday.

Let me ask you a question.  If it’s too bold of a question, or too private, I will understand. Here goes.  Are you ready for this?  Have you ever used the word, “TOTALITY” prior to the days of the eclipse?  Maybe you have.  In all of my uneducated buffoonery and slaughter of the English language, I don’t believe I have ever even heard it.  However, I like the way it sounds.  Very brainy.  Very scientific, don’t you think?  NASA must utilize the word in common lingo in Houston, TX.  If used, I think I should understand its definition.

For a 70 mile swipe across America, the eclipse certainly was seen in its…totality, its completeness, its conglomeration, its wholeness, its entire kit and kaboodle.  The totality was part of the ingredients that mixed well for a good Monday had by all from Oregon to South Carolina.

Here’s the next hard question.  First, allow me to ask, are you brave enough for this curve-ball I’m about to type?  Inhale and hold it now……How is YOUR “totality”?  How complete are you? When the lunar dust settles, are you all-together?  Could it be you’re still looking for another eclipse to straighten out your existence?  It truly is in that word…“TOTALITY”.

Totality truly does come interestingly close to another original word we get from classical Greek.  The word that comes to mind is, “TETELESTAI”, (tuh-TELL-eh-sti), at least that’s how I recall it is pronounced.

My brilliant stepson, Alex, whom recently, after completing years of rigorous study and microscopic examinations, received his doctorate in computer science.  After defending his dissertation he was awarded his PhD.  A true completion.  An earned accomplishment.  A good day for Alex.  An Australian man, after spending $4,000.00 (That’s a long flight), arrived at his destination in a field in Idaho to harness a totality view of the eclipse.  A reporter asked him if there was a sense of completion, as he was folding up his pup tent in the crowded pasture, he answered in the affirmative.  A good Monday for the Aussie.  Whenever I wrote, cast, produced, directed, performed and finished post production on one of my radio theater plays, I always had this peaceful sense of accomplishment.  Hundreds of excruciating hours ended in a release of tension, listening to the end product of the body of work.  It always made for a good day. Completion, accomplishment, attainment or achievement can all fall under the definition of “tetelestai”, but they also fall shy of…you guessed it, totality.

How about this for “positive energy for new beginnings”?

Greek is a very colorful extended language.  It shades, colors and deepens the vocabulary in multi-level arrangements.  The word “tetelestai” was mainly used by accountants, bankers and merchants.  During, and hundreds of years prior to, the first century, any country who used Greek as a first, second or third language, understood the labeling of “tetelestai” as written confirmation for the purchase of goods and the paying off of a debt.  Some, after paying off a mortgage, have a mortgage burning party to celebrate the victory of completing the loan on their home. Before its tossed into the fireplace, somewhere on the paperwork, it is indicated the mortgage has been successfully paid for, completed, accomplished.  The homeowner could shout, “TETELESTAI!”

This ancient Greek accounting term was used only twice in biblical scripture.  Its final appearance in the original Greek text was translated by the English scribes as the word, “finished”.  The text depicts a Friday afternoon.  It’s found in John 19:30. “Then after He received the sour wine Jesus said, ‘It is (tetelestai) finished’, and bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”  A Greek word, chosen by an eye-witness at the cross of execution, the Apostle John, literally points to a certificate of debt paid in fullness. That is probably the most profound theological statement in all of holy writ.  NO MORE INSTALLMENTS, TEMPORARY COVERINGS, (eclipses) OR ETERNAL DAMNATION FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE AND RECEIVE!  Fabulous news that shifts the earth’s tectonic plates to this day.

Totality simply isn’t strong enough a term to place in John 19:30.  John was reflecting the last words of Jesus as He cried out the fact that the penalty, the price of the sin-debt owed by all humanity, had been “TETELESTAI”…PAID IN FULL!  An offer no other “god” or ideology extends.  What Jesus did was the zenith of uniqueness.  A debt from my failures, my stupid leanings against God’s perfect road laid out for me, my infractions, my transgressions slapping up against of His holiness, not only had been forgiven, but the certificate of debt, the mortgage for this corrupt “house I live in” was burned away and placed in the fire of His grace of forgetfulness.  It is in that correct biblical aspect of the divine pro-action He placed upon Himself, we see a gift card of sorts.

I still have a Starbucks gift card in my wallet I received from Christmas, nine months ago.  Although, I have yet to receive my java.  Someone loved me enough and went ahead of me to purchase it, not with MY wages, but out of his unconditional love for me.  Jesus’ gift card has been offered to you, but it truly isn’t yours to “cash-in” until you take it to your own wallet of heart.  The debt of all disobedient actions placed on your record is ready to be burned away forever because of “tetelestai”.  If this is news to you, take note. Although tetelestai happened some 2, 000 years ago, the itemized list of infringements against God’s righteousness remains on your balance sheet.  Being a great person, a good citizen or decent parent, falls short of the majesty of God’s holiness.  NOBODY CAN OBTAIN IT!  We are automatically in the red.  It’s like someone saying, “Mind the power of Monday’s eclipse….positive energy for new beginnings” and now you find the eclipse didn’t perform such spiritual depths.  Try going to the shores of San Francisco and make the leap to Hawaii.  It can’t be done.  It fails you every time, just like our good Monday of totality. The answer to this dilemma? (My paraphrase) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not eternally perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Yes, Virginia, there was a good Friday and those who believed and received continue to see perpetual fuel for the race.

“When I consider Your heavens, the works of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” – King David, Psalms 8:3-4 (NAS)

Hey, What Sign Are YOU?

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.  Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” – Five Man Electrical Band, released in 1971. Composer, Les Emmerson, Ottawa, Canada.

I just finished listening to that cut from 1970-1971.  Wow, the kaleidoscope of memories from my “mind of mush” years came leaking in.  Google it and hear this obscure anti-establishment lyric.  It’s all about a rush of anger at signs, mainly signs of directives.  The songwriter blathers about disobeying and mocking every sign he sees because…well….uh, because…I guess it was the hippie thing to do to “stick it to the man” and everybody that looks like him.  (Actually, watching the news today, that old sentiment seems to be new again.)  If you give it a listen with mature ears it’ll make you cackle, but when I was 11-12 years old I was singing it as a duo with my radio at the top of my lungs.  But, ya know, it never caused me to act-out with sign damage or civil disobedience.  I think it hilarious knowing after they recorded the tune, they drove up to a stop sign and stopped. It’s evident since they survived the journey home.  I’m happy to report, Les Emmerson, the composer, is now almost 73 years old and still playing their old hits. After making a few million off his songs, he no doubt bought a mansion.  I will assume here he must’ve hung a no trespassing sign somewhere on his high-walled gate.  He, himself, turned out to be “the man”. ($$$$)

Signs are on my mind of late.  My 18 year old daughter, D’Anna, is learning how to drive. She’s really doing very well.  She’s learning how to interpret road signs galore.  If she turns right on a red light where a “no right on red” sign is displayed, off comes the points on her upcoming driver’s test.  If there were no signs of instruction, she certainly would be introduced to frequent collisions.  And, of course, if there were a lack of signage concerning geography, she would wind up two states over in short order.

Almost 10 years ago, while living in Buffalo, NY, I had an evening business appointment in the southern tier close to Gowanda, NY.  The “southtowns” beneath Buffalo are blessed with beautiful, picturesque countryside.  You name it, they’ve got it, including ski resorts. I want to say it was December of 2007.  From where I lived, I knew it was a good hour’s drive.  I looked at the clock and off I went.  As often true in the western New York frontier, in a moment’s notice, a lake effect snowfall began (compliments of Lake Erie) while on my journey.  Dusk was done and I was being mesmerized by the gigantic, flakes flying toward my windshield with a velvet black background.  A word to the wise. Exercise caution!  One can fall asleep as the snow effect can seduce and hypnotize.  I was in my trusted “Moose”, a stout Isuzu Trooper, and felt the 4-wheel drive would get me there on time….(said the all-knowing-Texas-born-and bred-fool). Fast forward about 50 minutes or so, I suddenly found myself lost as a flock of baby Canadian Geese.  My cell phone, and that’s all it was back in those days, had zero bars showing.  Dreams of the tragic movies about Mt Everest climbers raced through my mind as I realized I was experiencing a full-blown blizzard with very little light and very little speed.  Truly, the depth of snow can reach a foot or more in an hour in that part of NY, and it did.  I had printed directions from Mapsco. (Remember Mapsco?  You may have to Google that one too.)  I will tell now, it didn’t cover road directions in certain areas as you’re about to see.

Without too much detail on my wintry maze, I arrived at a sparse area.  If I were to describe it, I would sum it up as an old gas station/general store in a wooden frame-style building that looked to be from Opie’s Mayberry, and then nothing for 6 miles. There was an old silver mobile home from time to time, but there were no street lights to aid my snowy vision.  There was nothing but black and white.  I noticed something else strange….NO STREET SIGNS!  Wrong.  I saw one small street sign at a tiny country road intersection, but it was encased in blowing snow making it illegible.  I got out to see if I could wipe it off, but it was too tall, not to mention the snowbank was already to my hips.  Every other country road, including the main road I was on, wasn’t labelled with signs.  I was just about to give up and go back the way I came in the darkness when I saw a distant light.  As I approached the light, I could make out a building with a few pick-up trucks in the parking lot.  Unlike the gas station/general store a few miles behind me, this looked to be a modern building.  My watch said it was about 9:30.  I pulled up into the parking lot and saw it was a civic/recreational center of some kind.  I made my way up to the front entrance and felt as if I were in another country altogether. Turns out, I was.  I had somehow made my way onto the sprawling Cattaraugus Indian Reservation.

To say I was a flopping fish out of water would be an understatement.  It was clear by the looks I received from the citizens there, I was no longer in Kansas with Dorothy’s old Auntie Em.  Turns out it was domino night.  A group of men, around a card table, looked at me as if I had a grass skirt on.  I said, “Hi, how are ya?  I could use some help.”  One of the men responded in a frigid way that went nicely with the weather outside.  When I said I was lost and couldn’t figure out why there were no street signs, the man said, “You don’t belong here, that’s why.”  I’m the only one that chuckled at his reply.  When I told them I was on my way to the town of Gowanda, they were slow to give me directions using landmarks only.  Apparently, if you live on the reservation, you have no need for street signs.  It went something like, “At the post, turn right.  At the bear crossing sign, turn left, cross the log bridge…”, etc.  It took a chunk of time, with the icy trek given me, but I made my way out of the reservation.  Embarrassed and frozen, I arrived almost an hour and a half after my scheduled appointment.  They accepted my apology as I warmed myself by their fireplace.  Needless to say, I went back another direction at the end of the meeting.

Signs are important. A necessity, really.  Scroll up and see the picture from an old friend who recently visited the canyons of Grand Junction, Co.  Would Les Emmerson reject that sign and sing, “WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?”  Watch that last step, Les.  It’s a long one.

How many signs will my D’Anna see as she drives out on her own?  “No U-Turn, Green Arrow Turn Only, Duck Crossing, Elk Crossing, Deer Crossing, Gator Crossing, School Zone, No Passing Yellow Line, Comfort, Tx -7 miles, Cut And Shoot, Tx -5 miles, Woman Hollering Creek, Tx -10 miles, Hell, Michigan -4 miles, Paradise, Tx -25 miles, West, Tx -10 miles, Italy, Tx -6 miles, Fishkill, NY -50 miles, Welcome to Muleshoe, Tx”  etc.  She could see them all.  They exist.

My most memorable signs were not posted on the road. Do you know what I mean? Have you been there, done that?  You’re thinking of one now.  How about the signs that whisper, “Don’t look at a solar eclipse without protection,” “Don’t go to their house tonight,” “Your buddy has an open can of beer in the cup holder.  You shouldn’t be in the car,” “Slow down before rounding this curb,” “Get your eyes off of her/him,” “Don’t stay angry. Peace, be still,” “Apply for THAT job,” “Run from THAT job,” “Don’t invest in that offer,” “Don’t take that last drink,” “Oops, the label says Opioid,” “You’re sinking into a bad place here,” “Refrain from kicking his teeth in,” etc. Some of these can bring a laugh, but most can bring heartache, destruction and depression.  Have you ever had a LOUD thought about turning here or there, only to find out later, a bridge collapsed or a tragic accident took place ahead of your intended direction, at that precise time?  Your default inner response was something like, “Wow.  I dodged that bullet.”  I know, it helped to smooth over, to clumsily explain the obvious whisper that nudged you earlier.  You physically shrugged and off you went with your day.

Some signs will be spoken softly to your heart while other signs can be heard aloud by a passerby, friend, family member or a teacher.  Often, in amazement, you recognize it only in retrospect. Other signs can read like this one: “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” -King Solomon, Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)  Or, from someone who knows you and the road you’re on better than you know yourself, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” -Jesus, Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV).

Without groveling — dishing out sin-sick self-history — I will say, I am living proof that a non-audible sign can be clearly given, that no one else hears, and then pushed off as silly fears of anticipation or imagination.  Watch the footing, the edge is close by.  Heeding such a sign will definitely add fuel for the race.

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be.  And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.  If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.