For Sale! Must Go!

Photo: Durun.ugrasgrup.com

“When you walk through the door hang on to your senses.  At best you must assume it’s a house of many rooms.” – A House of many Rooms (1995).  Recorded by:  Mike & The Mechanics.  Composers  K/A B A Robertson, Brian Alexander, P. Robertson & Michael Rutherford.

Here in north Texas, it’s a terrific time of year for a garage sale.  We plan on making it happen.  However, our friends, who live next door, are selling their entire house.

MansionPhoto:  Unsplash

No, not that one!

They are a kind, young couple with two toddlers in tow and twins on the way.  They MUST move out.

Our neighborhood is in a historical district.  In fact, the Dallas, Texas suburb, where we live, was founded in our neck of the woods.  So, most of the homes on our street are older, frame-pier & beam style houses with large windows.  Their house is particularly small.  For only being there for about 3 years, they have put loads of work into the place, refurbishing and repairing.  They are very creative, as well.  They have built back-porch stairs, a store house and a nice garden of veggies.  Just in the short time they have resided there, the upgrades have lifted the value of the home to a nice rate any realtor would be proud of.  As of last night, they have had a parade of prospective buyers tour the place, drawing a few offers.  Relatively quick for a brand new realtor sign by the curb.

One of the first people who took advantage of the open house tour, said out-loud, “This is MY home!  I’ll give them an offer today!”  He obviously liked what he saw.  Ironically, he mentioned he and his wife live in a newer part of town where they raised a family in a multi-bedroom & bath home that would dwarf the house of interest.  He went on to say they are wanting to retire and scale-down now that they are empty-nesters.  I hear that!  There have been many who have chosen to go the same route.

As I’ve mentioned, our neighbor’s house is old, but solid and well worth the price.  We will miss the family.

Yet, sometimes, window-dressing can be deceptive.  In 2003, I bought a great house in Williamsville, NY (Buffalo area).  It was beautiful, stoutly built by hand from a team of Mennonite contractors in 1968.  I was astonished it only had one owner.

House Countryside Lane

As the buying process moved slowly on, a home inspector looked the place over with a fine tooth comb.  I walked alongside him, as he almost wore out the batteries of his flashlight, inspecting every nook and cranny.  Thirty minutes later, with his stamp of approval, he took my money and off he went.  Fast forward to our first week in the house, the furnace died.  It was the beginning of November in Buffalo, NY!!!!  Need I say more?  Yes, it was a big problem.  In the end, we found out the inside of the furnace had rusted out.  It was the original furnace from 1968.  The rust could clearly be seen with a flashlight through the vent on the casing of the old furnace.  As it turns out, the home inspector worked closely, almost exclusively, with my realtor.  They shared a wallet.  ARG!  BING! “That’ll be $3,500.00 please.”  AND, by law, they had to cut off our gas line until the new one could be installed, no matter how much snow covered our roof.  It took another two weeks with nothing but a fireplace, along with loaned-out space heaters.  Be careful, deception is often in the list of ingredients to wheeling and dealing.

“The eyes are the window to your soul…” – William Shakespeare –

Handshake

I guess I can’t judge the realtor and inspector too harshly.  In life, I have had to sell myself over and over again with certain temptations.  You probably have too.  Right?  Sure, you give someone the truth in an interview for that job of a lifetime, but maybe there’s a bit of fudge in that cake of a resume’.  Or, you are introduced to prospective in-laws for a dinner and you found you smiled way too much for no good reason.  Maybe, you oversold while writing a blog.  If you’re a politician running a campaign for an upcoming election, well…yeah.  Possibly, in efforts to encourage your non-athletic child, who is about to try-out for the soccer team, you just couldn’t help but say, “You’ll be the best!  You’re gonna slay ’em big-time today!  Go get ’em!”  Sure, it’s an oversell, in efforts to let him/her know you believe in them.  Yet, you knew in your heart it wasn’t going to happen.  In retrospect, you realized there was another, more truthful way, to cheer him/her onward as they display their best.  The opposite is also suspect.  In love, my mom tried to use reverse psychology on me just before a musical audition, recital, or a karate tournament.  It went something like, “Okay, Alan.  If you mess-up, don’t come cryin’ when you get home.  Just suck it up.”  Later in life, she admitted that wasn’t the greatest way to encourage me.  Of course, I agreed with her, but I didn’t admit that I also held a grudge for decades.  Not good.  Oh, the things we learn.

Window dressing is fine, unless the outfit on the mannequin isn’t on the rack inside the store.  When on a date, you might find you change yourself, in some way, to make the most impact.  You were selling.  After the future wedding is over, the newlywed spouse sees you for who you really are.  OUCH!  Deception, no matter how small, can have a large price.  It’s better to calculate, analyze and reveal than to barter a shady soul.  Otherwise, the future relationship may come to a dead end when concealed rust is found in the core of what turns you to the right or left.

Last weekend I attended my high school reunion.  It was a wonderful time of reuniting old relationships, memories and tons of hugs and kisses.  One of my closer friends went to a small after-party that went into the wee hours.  I was not too shocked of how she described the afterglow gathering.  She said, “Alan, I just had to leave after awhile.  There were too many trying to be cool.”  My understanding was, there had to be a smattering of overselling in play.

I’ve learned it is better to be who God knows you to be in front of others.  No doubt, a vehicle to loving others more than yourself.

Our neighbors will enjoy a bigger place as their young family grows.  Possibly an older buyer will purchase the cottage-style house in efforts to downsize.  Now THAT is a sale looking through a humble lens.  Maybe, in the doorway, will be found, a FREE nozzle for fuel for the race.

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” – Jesus – John 14:2-3 (NASV)

 

 

Haven’t We Been Here Before?

July 1987 (Photo credit Express News.)

“Rescue me.  Take me in your arms.  Rescue me.  I want your tender charm…I need you, and your love too.  Come on and rescue me.” -Recorded by:  Fontella Bass (1965)    Composers:  Carl Smith and Raynard Miner.

Wow!  It’s my first anniversary as a blogger!  Shocking really.  The year has flown by us.  Having lots to say, lots to type, my fingers are sore.  I find it therapeutic.  Allow me to show my gratitude for the new friends I’ve made through the lines posted.  If you are one of those, thank you, dear friend.  My life is sweetened because we share our words.

My first posting, from one year ago, was concerning something horrific I lived through while on the job behind the mic at KOJO-94FM in Dallas/Ft Worth.  (See the cover picture above.)  The surviving stranded teens, coming home from summer camp that July morning of 1987, will never forget the scene.  Neither will I.  Certainly, you are invited to my archives to July 19, 2017 and read the story, “Lost In Comfort”.  To say that today’s article is ironic would be an understatement.  It seems we’ve been here before.

Earlier this month the world was held tightly in an unexpected anticipation as we hoped and prayed for a young boy’s soccer team in Thailand.

Cave Boys Happy AFP Getty Images

Photo:  AFP/Getty Images

The “Wild Boars” soccer team, ages 11-16, along with their 25 year old coach, often went out for a bite to eat followed by some off-the-field-activity after practice on Saturdays.  One Saturday in June, they had lunch and elected to explore the well-known Tham Luang Cave.  During their impromptu excursion deep inside the sprawling cavern, the monsoon rains began to pound the area.  You know the story.  The waters began to rise trapping the team of 12 lads, and their coach, inside the far belly of the cavern.  For much of the 18 day ordeal, they had no food, only the water dripping from the stalactites from the ceiling of the section in which they were confined.  The boys did all they could to try to dig their way out in efforts to seek another exit, but there were none to be had.  Hopelessness and helplessness began to sweep over the group while at the same time trying to inspire one another.

Over 2,000 people from many nations were involved in the search and rescue attempts.  From local citizens to Navy SEALs, construction workers and engineers, they all came together for one goal.  At some point, great minds had to defeat the cloud of despair around them to focus more on a plan of action only supreme bravery could tackle.

As the flood waters continued to rise, as well as global prayers, a brilliant thought-out proposal was hatched. Part of the blueprint had to do with reaching the captured team, teaching them how to use oxygen tanks and swimming under cold water for at least half of a mile, often in tight bottleneck areas.  Everyone knew it was an operation of high risk.  One courageous soul volunteered to dive down to place oxygen tanks strategically along the lengthy swimming route for the rescue divers and the boys inside.  He was 38 year old former Taiwanese Navy SEAL, Petty Officer Samarn Kunan.  Diving into the frigid subterranean rising waters, Officer Kunan carefully deposited several air tanks along the cave route so others could sustain life during the rescue.  He never swam back out.  Later a rescuer found Officer Kunan floating in the flooded tunnel beneath.  He was unconscious from lack of oxygen, the very same element he was placing for others coming behind him.

The project worked.  The boys were freed one by one without serious injuries.  After some time in the hospital for observation and needed attention, the team gave a news conference.  They were all so grateful and praised the passion, compassion and life-giving efforts of their fallen hero, Samarn Kunan.  Some gave a heartbreaking thought that they felt it was their fault he lost his life.  The medical attention also included much needed counselling.

Cave Boys Reuters

Photo: Reuters

When asked what they had learned from this harrowing experience, the answers came loud and clear.  One mentioned, always tell your parents what your plans are before you go anywhere.  (As a dad, I concur.)  Many others expressed how they felt a strange urge to live life more carefully.  Others humbly stated that Samarn Kunan’s gift of bringing them hope and life gives more meaning to life from now on.  One can only hope so.

Valeepoan Kunan, the widow of Samarn Kunan, sent out photos of the “life-sustainer” hero from their personal family moments.  In her grief, she said something I actually felt inside my own heart.  She said of, and to, him, “You are my very heart.”

Cave Boys Navy SEAL

Photo: CBC.Ca

It all reminded me of the WWII movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”  There’s something of inexplainable valor concerning the act of giving one’s life away so that others might live.  Tom Hanks’ character did just that in a final battle while saving Private Ryan’s life in order for the young soldier to leave the front lines and see home again.  His character had been given dangerous orders to take a team deep into enemy territory to extract the young soldier and bring him back to the states.  (SPOILER ALERT)  At one point, toward the end of the movie, Hanks’ character is gravely wounded while shielding the life of Private Ryan during a fierce firefight just as they reach a bridge of freedom and safety.  As his body is propped up in a sitting position, he continues to fire his weapon toward the Nazi advancement, he challenges Ryan in his final breaths.  He charges Ryan to boldly go home and make his life count.  The scene fades, seguing into modern times where the now elderly Private Ryan is kneeling and sobbing at the cross headstone of Hanks’ character in the military cemetery in Normandy, France.  At an extremely touching moment, with his children and grandchildren surrounding him, Mr. Ryan rises to his feet, turns to his wife standing there and makes an astonishing, heart-wrenching request.  Needing confirmation if his life has mattered from the woman who knew him best, he said, “Tell me I have led a good life.  Tell me I am a good man.”  It was as if to say, “Has my life been worthy of this man’s sacrifice?”

Saving Private Ryan

“Saving Private Ryan” – Amblin Entertainment, Mutual Film Company, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Pictures

Hear me out on this.  Flat out, let me just say, even in a far greater way, Jesus Christ did this for me.  His purpose, His mission was clear, stating it several times.  He came to rescue lives, our lives that live on after physical death.

We, all of us, are law-breakers in various forms.  Who hasn’t lied, cheated, lusted, coveted, ran from God’s heart, etc?  Some worse than others, but we can’t measure up.  We all are unable to truthfully say we have kept God’s design, His commandments for us.  From the Torah onward, law-breaking has its consequences.  Blood was shed to cover over the sins of the average Joe to the Charlie Mansons of mankind.  It was a price-tag God placed in the beginning to keep righteous wrath in its scabbard.  This is why historically, and even some today in multiple cultures, practiced the sacrificing of animals for spiritual appeasement.  It’s truly no longer needed.  Jesus, the sacrificial lamb from God, was sent to be that atoning sacrifice for the fallen souls of humanity, across cultures, nations and schools of thought.  Love made the difference.  Like Samarn Kunan’s story, He literally took our place when He took the cross upon Himself.  A monumental price was paid for wrong-doing.  Just like the soccer team digging for escape only to find it impossible to rescue themselves.  So too, we are unable to dig-out of our dark spiritual cavern.  I know, it’s our self-programming to attempt to do it ourselves, or call on a crystal for relief, but at the end of the day, we hit the sack still in sin-sickness in our DNA.  This is why Jesus said, and unpopular then, so it is today, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 paraphrased.)  Even our very best behaviors are void.  Taking it — His sacrifice for us that we can live beyond this life — to heart is not only a covering for law-breaking, but also an ongoing renewal cleansing in a deeply spiritual process only the Life-Giver can bring.  Think of it as a life-sustaining oxygen tank you did not own, you did not bring or create.

Jesus' Invitation (pinterest)

Photo:  Pinterest

After a year of insights, there’s even more room in the tank for fuel for the race.

“This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you.  It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven.” – Jesus – Matthew 26:28  (Contemporary English Version)

Peace Paradox

“Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down…” Simon & Garfunkel (1970)

The gusts coming off Lake Erie can, and will, knock you over as you jog on the break wall stretching out under the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, NY.  Erie feeds into the mouth of the Niagara at the end of the break wall.  After moving there in 2003, I couldn’t wait to make this my new jogging track.  The cool mist from crashing waves kissed my face as the gulls flew about with their unique vocals, the experience was almost addictive.  A friend told me that by the time November arrived I would find another place to run.  Being a tough Texas boy, I laughed.  He was right!  Little did I know the wintry winds off Lake Erie, along with the dipping temperatures, went right through me with a piercing I had never felt.  Plus, the strong, rising waves hitting the break wall, tends to splash over the walkway.  By December, horizontal icicles form on the railing.  The walkway is a thick sheet of ice by then and the winds are often 60-70 mph and well below zero.

Peace_Bridge

Photo: wikipedia

The Peace Bridge connects Buffalo, NY to Ft Erie, Ontario, across the Niagara.  If you are able to zoom-in, you can make out two flags (American and Canadian) flying halfway by its railing where the U.S. and Canadian border is designated.  Have your passport in hand.

Further out on the break wall, it’s a very peaceful place to be, but it wasn’t always.  Cannon fire was common in this area coming from the banks on both sides of the river.  Many ships were sunk as they made their way from Lake Erie.  During the War of 1812, the battles were daily as the British and the Americans were locked and loaded for their causes.  Extraordinary history was made in the area.

The Peace Bridge commemorates the peace accords signed by both nations to cease hostilities, putting away their arms.  The bridge is more than a stretch of concrete and steel for 18-wheelers executing open trade between our countries.  To a point, the bridge has a voice, loud and clear.  It shouts out to all who pass by, this is a peaceful place, decided equally by two powerful nations.  It shouts out there were individuals, patriots, who met across the tables and hammered out a deal, a contract that fitly benefited both peoples to the south and the north of the Niagara.  It shouts that a promise was given long ago, by men in powdered wigs with swords resting in scabbards, that their future generations would not see bloodshed between them again.

Peace bridge Buffalo Night

Photo: thousandwonders.net

Now imagine, if the builders extended their end of the bridge just slightly off from center.  Let’s imagine the builders on each side spanned their half of the bridge unequally so that when they met in the middle, one side was three feet off from the other, rendering the roadway useless, but rather created a drop-off down to the chilly currents below.  One might ask where the mutual benefit lies.

In peace talks, whether with North Korea or anywhere else, one side cannot benefit while the other does not.  A bridge built must have negotiated plans and well-thought out profitable reasoning for both parties’ satisfaction.  Give and take are not just words, they must be actions, as long as the end result doesn’t weaken one party or the other.  Should one party deliver a boatload of cash to the other to buy a synthetic peace that would be fruitless in the end?  Common sense says….NO!  That would be approving, even engaging in simple blackmail.  Threats should not be profitable to any nation.  Only the aggressive nation benefits from that mistake.  One party cannot come to the table expecting everything it wants on a silver platter while giving nothing in return, hoping to acknowledge goodwill.  Otherwise, there will be no lasting bridge.

The same is true with our personal relationships.  When wronged by another, something must be said at the table of reasoning.  If the one injured, by the first strike, comes in peace to remedy the cause of the aggression, only to be met with a shrug of the shoulders by the aggressor, there is no bridge.  Troubled waters remain without a crossing.  The ministry of reconciliation is just that…a ministry.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – St Paul (Romans 12:18 NIV)

To eat from the tree of peace, one must starve self.  Peace-making has a chronological cycle in the psyche that says peace must first administer a choke-hold around the neck of the “Me-first” mindset.  There is a biblical concept that states, to die is to gain.  To live one must first die to self’s raging appetite, to give up the self-buffet daily lunch one is accustomed to.  When making peace, humility and self-denial is key.

It boils down to loving one another, looking out for the other’s best interest with a generous heart.

When peace is settled, run free where the fiery cannonballs once flew without fear.  When sprinting with fuel for the race, the trail is found dry and clean.

Cistine Chapel Artwork

” ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.’ ” – Isaiah 1:18 (NAS)

Nothing To Get Hung About

“Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields, nothing is real.  And nothing to get hung about…”  – Beatles, 1967.  Composers:  Lennon/McCartney

As he rose above the bubble he found himself in, clarity rebooted his mind.  He shouted, with enormous struggle, compacted by a broken heart, “You just stay away, Molly!  Just stay away!  (singing the next line)  For I could never say goodbye to you again.”  This ended his soliloquy.  Yet, some things aren’t always what they seem.

Molly - Me & money cropped

Allow me to revel in the cover photo at the top of this post, just for a moment.  It represents mounds of wonderful memories and life-long friendships I hold dear to this very day.  It was February of 1978.  Certainly a launching pad for the beginning of many things for me, including my very first leading man role that ushered in decades of various roles acting, directing, producing and lots of make-up jobs on the face.  It was a highly celebrated performance of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”  I was honored to be awarded the role of Johnny Brown, Molly’s hubby.  (The actress who played Molly, on the left, hasn’t aged a bit in 40 years.  I, on the other hand…well… I’ll move on.)  If you’ve ever seen the show, or movie, then you already know he goes through a living hell in trying to be the husband she wanted, but failing to “live-up” to her bar of approval.  They had separate visions of what marriage would be like, while in the throws of passion, goals, new life and new money.  All of the latter perspectives were very different for each person.  In the end, a divorce occurs.  Here, in this promo shot, Molly and Johnny are meeting Mrs. Gladys McGraw, a socialite who lived next door to the Brown mansion.  Mrs. McGraw, being the stuck-up, highbrow, blue-blood that she was, couldn’t be more displeased to have these, now wealthy, country bumpkins residing in her royal flush neighborhood.  Her priest had urged her to do the Christian thing and welcome them into her home to break the self-applied ice.  Johnny Brown is doing his best to greet her in the newly polished way he assumed would meet expectations, although alien to him.  As you can see, Mrs. McGraw barely tolerates the meet-n-greet.  Her face and body language say it all.  She can hardly stand his touch, even through two formal tux and gown gloves.  A bit of irony here.  As well as the scene was played, and as talented as the actress who took the role of Mrs. McGraw was and is, we were actually a dating couple at the time, spending lots of time with each other.  Some things aren’t always what they seem.

22 OMA Lorne Greene Aug 1962

A few years before the Molly Brown production, my grandparents had a unique theater experience themselves.  Martin and Opal Atherton were western fans.  Most of the television shows and movies they watched were “saddle-up and drive-’em out” westerns.  From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, their minds (mostly my granddad) lived in the 1800s, set in the western United States, which had yet to be tamed and settled.  One of their must-see TV shows was the long running “Bonanza” series with Lorne Greene, seen with my grandmother above.  (She looks like a movie star there, as well.)  One year the Athertons planned a vacation road trip that would take them to the Ponderosa ranch house from the TV show.  It was built with huge timbers in a scenic mountainous region. It’s a sight to behold.

Ponderosa House Ext

Photo: Pinterest.com

In those days, as is true today no doubt, they gave tours of the exterior and interior of the famous ranch house.  My grandparents were in hog-heaven.  When they walked through the interior with its wide wooden floorboards and enormous fireplace, they asked to see the second floor where the bedrooms were.  They were told that the door at the top of the staircase was fake, as well as the second floor.  All the second floor scenes were shot on ground level sets.  They were beside themselves.  So much for theater-of-the-mind.  I can still hear my granddad’s soft voice saying in astonishment, “Gooood-night.”

Ponderosa House Int

Photo: azcentral.com

Some things aren’t always what they seem.

While watching the original “Star Trek” TV series from the late 1960s, often when a character leans on a boulder, or a wall of a cave in a scene, you can see a slight give in the sponge-like foam that’s been painted to look like stone.  William Shatner could tell you all about it.  It’s fun to catch these gaffs in scenes, but it also displaces you from the theater-of-the-mind the writer intended for the viewer.

“Alan,” you might be saying, “There’s a point to this tour of mothballs, right?  Where are you going with this?”

I think I’ll let the first line of the second verse of Strawberry Fields help to answer the question.

“Living is easy with your eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see…”

It’s been 40 years since I played Johnny Brown.  Lots of water has gone under the bridge, much of it troubled.  How often, in retrospect, do we say to ourselves, “I can’t believe I fell for that.”  Or, “Why did I believe him/her?”  Or, “How could I not see the truth behind the wizard’s curtain?”  Or, “I will never trust again, now.”  Ouch!  Face it, in a world where fake news is not only the norm, but well accepted, along with general misdirection and sleight-of-hand, it’s no wonder trust is dashed all the time.  Trust matters.  Often we rest in what someone tells us, wanting to believe them, only to be dropped by the sledge hammer of truth after the fact.  It’s so difficult to get back up.  Frankly, the ugliness of it all leads to soaring divorce rates, surging court cases and the handshake no longer being the norm for deal-making.  Some things aren’t always what they seem.

From Hollywood to the stage, frontage framed walls without interiors are created to be misleading.  False breakaway tables, chairs and banisters help the writer seduce us into a scene to make us feel like we’re there.  CGI animals and extras, fake doorways, fake windows, fake food and painted backdrops are visual vacuums assisting to suck us into a world of pretend.  We say it often, but rarely do we see it spelled out with an emphasis on the word “MAKE-believe”.  You don’t have to search long to find someone who understands these props, to manipulate the viewer, when the name of one of Hollywood’s favorite sons, Harvey Weinstein pops up.  Better yet, Washington D.C.

When a victim of illusion, where does one start to snap out of it?

Rise above the Ponderosa of your personal existence.  Lift off the shifting sand with the drone of your eternal goggles firmly strapped on, and orbit with a satellite.  When you fly over the minefield, you will see it is only a tiny bubble you are living in, with an entire unexplored universe all around.  Ultimately, this is the view the Creator of your next breath desires for you: see past the façade. Our responsibility is remembering to do it, day in and day out.

Wait a minute!  Hold on!  I think I smell freshly cut hay.  Are those cows I’m hearing in my backyard — dun, duddle-un, duddle-un duddle-un duddle-un dun — in your best Bonanza theme!!   Nah.  Some things aren’t always what they seem.

In the scope of eternity, there’s nothing to get hung about when hooked to fuel for the race.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.” – Jesus – John 14:1 (NIV)