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)

Chime Away

“When the blasts of the day shift my times,
When the nature of things birth crimes,
Awaken the strength stored up for me
Lest I become entangled like a clanging chime”  -Alan

Do you like them?  There’s so many to choose from.  Take your pick: ceramic, wooden, steel, iron, plastic (yuck), glass, blown glass, stained glass, seashells, aluminum tube pipes, hardware, engine parts and as my front porch version, bamboo.  Run up to your nearest department store and have a field day with the overwhelming styles for the taking.  A sister-in-law sent me a set of 5 foot long pipe chimes to hang from a higher tree branch.  (It kept the neighborhood awake.)  One of my high school pals replied on a Facebook post that he enjoys building his from scratch.  (I’m still waiting for him to show me some love as I watch my mailbox.)

Long ago and oh, so far away, I must have had an aunt or great grandmother that had chimes swinging in the Texas wind from a porch or an eave.  I wish I could recall just where I fixated on the “magical” sounds from the first set of chimes that caught my eye.  My chime-hanging days didn’t start until I was well into my 30s. Before you know it, I had as many as 4 or 5 sets of chimes hanging from my patio portico.  It drove Wolfgang, our Great Dane, nuts.  When the Texas spring storms came blowing through, we had to raise our voices to hear each other. I know what you’re thinking.  Go ahead, say it.  “Moderation, Alan.  All in moderation.”

When chimes are meant to be seen and not heard it would be a time like this morning on my front porch.  The weather was still without a hint of breeze, laced with light rain and cloud-cover.  It was quiet and pleasant, actually.  But you know, I knew the weather conditions before I opened the front door simply because the chimes were denied their song.  Here in Texas, wait ten minutes or less and the outdoor conditions will change.  A front could roll in from the Oklahoma border that could flip my chimes on their heads, even to the point of seeing them in a horizontal position as the straight-line winds make havoc.  When in the throws of horrific winds or gusts, the chimes ring out in more of a clamoring clash of tones that one might call, clusters.  The audio aroma is lost in the violent sweeping torrent giving way to the chaos of what one might hear while a marching band is tuning-up.  In those times, the chimes would be better servants to the ear if they remained still.

Am I reminding you of anybody you know well?  How about me?  When the storms of life hit me and I’m ruffled up pushing me out of my comfort zone, I begin to clamor and complain with the best of them.  In fact, if panic occurs, I can be like bacon on a skillet.  If you should step into my house on such a day, you will find me rustled and unkempt. More than likely, I will not be able to converse or keep my thoughts straight enough to understand whatever topic you’ve spelled out.  Simply, I can be a mess.  When the floods come or the tornado warning is accurate, I am unraveled.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are episodes where I’m able to shut my mouth during those times as if calm and collected.  More often, I shoot-off my mouth like a drunken blowhard.  So embarrassing.

Troubles and pain can turn the gentlest creature into an ill-mannered buffoon.  When those moments arrive and we clamor away like a verbal lawnmower cutting down everything in its path, how can one concentrate on finding solid emotional ground?  How does one concentrate at all?  It’s hard!  Tell me about it.  I know full well.

Let me ask a deeper, more complex question.  Are you cool with that?  Okay, here goes. In the whirlpool of disaster, HOW does one pray and ask God for help?

We have a free invitation to go to the Author of prayer to find the answer.  You know what He said when asked how we should pray?  I’ll paraphrase it here.  “Our Father in Heaven, your name is truly perfect without a stain.  Bring Your kingdom here soon. Accomplish and complete Your plans for us, right here on earth, just like it is done among those in Heaven…..”  I’ll stop there.  Notice the, “plans for us” are laid out in perfect order as He, the orchestrator and arranger of Heaven above, has done outside of our existence here, where we physically live.  If He can organize and compose the songs of Heaven’s angels and saints beyond our vision of galaxies, then certainly He will perform His plans through your entrance, strife, struggle and exit to come.  In that scope, what can the raging winds do to me that the One has commissioned Himself?  Why squirm in the palm of the One Who tells the sea, “This far and no more”, and it obeys?  Whether you know it or not, wish for it or not, believe it or not, this truth stares you in the face.  We were built, fashioned, to face the torrents to come.

Sure, we will not always be silent and still.  Yet, we do have instructions when the weather opens up its can.  When so, we are able to unlock our caps for more fuel for the race.

“Be still, and know that I Am God…” – Psalm 46:10a 

Flying With One Wing

Photograpy: Animalia-Life.com

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly again and learn to live so free.  And when we hear the voices sing the book of love will open up and let us in.” – Mr. Mister (Richard Page, Steve George, John Lang)

“To be perfectly honest,” he said sadly, “I am a bit incapacitated.”

That’s what I heard him say last week standing before his congregation.  He is a pastor friend of mine, truly one of the finest persons I have ever known.  (His name withheld for privacy purposes.)  We met almost 40 years ago when I applied at a shoe store for one of my first jobs right out out of high school.  For the specific title, he is a Messianic Jewish Christian.  Today, he pastors a well-known Messianic Christian congregation in the Dallas/Ft Worth area.  In the late 70s, before he was in the ministry, I had the awesome privilege to work side by side with him every day for a couple of years.  He befriended me immediately; and I was mentored just by observing his daily life.  We were in the retail trenches together in a business where some unusual people can test you.  We had many casual times away from the workplace, like playing flag football (he always beat me when running a hook route as a wide receiver).  He and his wife had me over at their home for a dinner or two.  Over the decades we continued to bump into one another at different concert events and gatherings.

He would disagree with me if I said he is a giant person of faith.  He is loving and kind, honest to the point of self-degradation, ready to aid and hold you up whenever your personal tank is dry.  He has been at my side on a few occasions, including presiding at my wedding, as well as at my early morning bedside just before they administered anesthesia for a surgery.  He’s also tough, forging through the wars and hurdles of life while working, going through seminary, raising a family and tending to his parishioners.  I would trust him on a battlefield. I would trust him with an unwritten contract, or frankly, with my life.  Yet, here he was, bomb-shelled, pale and thinner than the week before.  He wasn’t himself, or what I have always known him to be.  Just a few days prior, his dear wife suffered (and survived) a mid-level stroke.

She had been in good health with no reason to anticipate such a horrific trauma. Needless to say, it hit them broadside. On this night, facing the congregation for the first time since the stroke, he stood behind the pulpit looking as if he had left himself at home. His love for people brought him there when he probably could have stayed by her side in the hospital as she continued to be treated.  As common with my dear old friend, he was open and transparent about her status and his own condition.  He delivered a short sermon entitled, “What To Do When You Are Suddenly Flying On One Wing”.  He mentioned how strong and supportive his wife is, not only among the congregation, but in their home life as well.  Later someone said it takes about 20 parishioners to do what she does for church service prep, etc.  (I knew this all too well and have seen that in her over the decades.)  Above all, she is in his DNA, not a crutch for him, but an agent of intricate involvement in the very beats of his heart.

Have you had your wing clipped?  Have you been there?  Are you there now?  Maybe for you it wasn’t an unexpected stroke with a significant other, but maybe a lay-off at work, cancer death sentence, divorce, custody loss, abandonment, foreclosure, totaled car, bankruptcy, an addiction, a suicide or a sudden death of your best friend, baby, parent or spouse.  Allow me to apologize here and now if I typed a word that stings to this very moment.  Proof reading that laundry list, I will tell you I hurt, too.  Indeed, I have been on the receiving end of immense agony with selective titles above, and what’s worse, I could have written much more.  These are weapons inflicting even the very best of us.  Why? Well, some blame it on others, like parents or siblings.  Others point the finger at the general environment.  Still some blame it on a failed government or societal ills.  In reality, these are only results of cause and effect from ground zero of a cursed world.

Simple, but true.  Like a bird with an injured wing, you flutter the best you can in hopes you can stay aflight without spiraling to the wreckage below.  Finally, you find yourself unable to keep the wind beneath the afflicted wing, then a loss of altitude takes over. There you sit, in a busy trafficked parking lot, flapping as if there was a hope of getting off the ground again.  If only the one good wing was enough for liftoff, but alas, the universal science of gravity and aeronautics denies you the freedom of the sky.  Being grounded is a very lonely place to be.  I must add here that I have a few friends who share that ground even now and in various conditions.  And if you’re wondering, it doesn’t matter how “good” of an individual you are.  Those dastardly twins, cause and effect, don’t have favorites.

I have an old beloved friend who calls a life of faith (in my case, a life that follows the teachings of Jesus) a “crutch”.  (For a wounded one, even a crutch would be helpful.) However, where is that “crutch” if there is a fire?  What happens to the “crutch” if it snaps in two pieces at the whims of a pothole?  Where is the aid of the “crutch” when you lose your grip and Mr. Gravity has his way?  If another earthquake jolt comes to the Dallas metroplex, how will a “crutch” hold up?  As for me, I have found a solid rock, a cornerstone to build my house by which all things are measured.  I dare say, if I stand on the cliff-edge of the Rock Of Gibraltar looking down at the Mediterranean, some 1,388 feet below, gravity doesn’t take me to the crashing waves.  Why?  Because the Rock of Gibraltar isn’t a crutch.

My friend and his wife will be fine.  She is currently in a rehab hospital and making terrific progress.  He continues to be perched at her bedside where he belongs gaining strength for the road ahead.  He has always been a super compassionate servant-of-a- guy.  I suspect he will be even more so as his ministry work continues.  The teacher is, once again, the student as they both will find their tank of compassion expanding to aid others who find themselves strapped down by illness.  I believe I see a sling holding up a mending wing.

My weight is on the One Who gave the fowl their feathers and the wind to elevate. Contrary to a false echo, your runway is always stocked with fuel for the race.

“Be not afraid, for I AM with you.  Don’t be dismayed, for I AM your God, I WILL strengthen you.  Yes, I WILL help you.  Yes, I WILL uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.   —   but those who HOPE in the Lord WILL renew their strength.  They WILL soar on wings like eagles; they WILL run and NOT grow weary, they WILL walk and NOT be faint.”   – Isaiah 41:10 (World English Bible) -Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) 

Do You Hear IT?

“And in the naked light I saw then thousand people, maybe more.  People talking without speaking.  People hearing without listening.  People writing songs that voices never share.  And no one dare disturb the sound of silence.” – Simon & Garfunkle

So….do you?  I mean, really.  Can you?  (Alan waits as the reader pauses to understand what he is expecting as the answer.)  Can you hear the sound of silence?  If you go on to read the rest of the thought provoking lyric from Simon & Garfunkle, you get a better picture.  I always wondered where they wrote the song and if a large transit bus pulled up close right after laying down the last line. (LOL)

Where were you when you were slammed with true silence?  Was it a hike in the woods? Was it perching out on the patio after a heavy overnight snowfall?  For you, it might simply be a hot bath with low lights.  Or maybe while sitting in a cold basement after a domestic dispute upstairs that lasted way too long.  (Yep, been there, done that.)  For me, two places come to mind beyond all else.  A lonely, out-of-tourist-season beach and December 25th.

I have three precious daughters, Tabitha, Megan and D’Anna, all grown now.  When they were restless kids late Christmas Eve night, we did the entire Santa prep complete with assembly instructions spread out from its 16 different folds with French, Japanese, Spanish and English to boot.  After all was arranged under the Christmas tree, along with Kringle’s eggnog and cookies nicely plated on the hearth, it was maybe 2:30 am.  From childhood I always stayed up as long as I could waiting for the guy in the red suit to enter stage right.  I never caught him, but instead I was educated in the lessons of quietness. Later as a teen I often would come home from a Christmas party and bundle up for a hushed few moments on the front steps.  To this day, after a Christmas Eve midnight candlelight service, I take a few outdoor minutes to absorb the quietness of the hour.  It seems to me the wee hours of Christmas morning are the times of silence, possibly the most hushed morning of the year.  If you have snowfall around you for the holiday overnight, it’s usually still and silent all the more.  You should try it.  (WARNING: It will fail you when it’s Christmas in July.)

Whether you’re soaking in the stillness after being pooped-out from Christmas wrappings, or having the salty water licking your feet on a deserted beach, the silence speaks.  If it doesn’t, maybe you forgot the television is on in the background or you are sitting in quietness, but you’re surfing the web on your cell phone.  How courageous are you to venture out into the velvet audio of nothingness?  I find it serves me well shutting my brain down by shutting down all the noise, all the sounds and the clangings of the stuff of life.  In-other-words, setting oneself apart from the audio chaos of our technological world we build around us can only inspire and bloom the mind.

During my years as a radio on-air guy and voice actor, my hair always had what I refer to as, “headphone hair”.  Hours and hours of audio pumping into the ears from the cans is common in that industry.  Unfortunately, many of us radio vets suffer from some sort of hearing loss.  After years with the headphones you wake up one day with the realization that over time you’ve inadvertently turned up the audio levels because of the scrutiny applied in search of detecting any audio flaws in production or broadcasts. Certainly us on-air folk get seduced by the frequency levels.  Often after a long day behind the mic I headed home with the radio and CD player off with only the sound of the engine.  Such a relief.

Dare you read on?  Here, I ask only because I am a victim myself.  Here goes.  Are you seduced by the speakers and screen?  Have you tripped over the curb because you were caught-up texting your journey away?  Did you miss a loved one’s sincere question because you were deeply into a scene on a network TV show?  Ouch!  It hurts when we get honest with ourselves.  Please, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting joining a monastery overlooking Mt Everest, although for some, that’s their mission to do so.

Let me say, from actual experience in the art of stillness, there is a dam holding up gold nuggets of thought just waiting to flow down to you.  Downloaded life-changing details often don’t come while encased, wrapped and chained in the noise of the times. Most of all, the One who wants to hear YOUR voice has Himself a still small whisper. Explore it and you may find the sound of silence can be deafening.

Quiet times offer nozzles surging with fuel for the race.

“…Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  After the fire came a gentle whisper…”           – I Kings 19: 11b-12  

 

Master The Mix

It’s funny how it is said, “You never can go back home”.  Really?  I don’t know about you but I’ve had many trips back home.  Alas, the sight of home can really morph into an unfamiliar scene.

In Buffalo, NY, where I lived for five years, they have what is called, “The Skyway”.  It’s a single high overpass bridge linking the downtown area, across the Buffalo Harbor to points south.  It can take your breath away in the winter (when it’s open for traffic) as it is right at the mouth of frozen Lake Erie feeding the mighty Niagara River.  The view is spectacular year-round as you drive over looking out over the lake only to view water as far as the eye can see.

Like many cities, the Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas area has freeway intersections with mounds of overpasses built over each other.  Here they are called, “Mixmasters”.  After returning to Dallas from my stint in Buffalo, I was amazed at the vast number of differences in the landmarks, notably the new mixmasters in various parts of the Metroplex.  In just five years the freeway system had made an enormous array of changes.  As a longtime citizen I knew well the mixmasters we had, but on arrival back home I was stunned to find a few more that popped up like Texas wildflowers.  Truly it was shocking.  In order to get where you need to go, whether that be north, south, east or west you better be in the correct lane to hit the correct exit.  One must READ THE SIGNS.  Otherwise, you will make a long trip down to the next available overpass for a u-turn to where you needed to be and make that better choice.  Like cement spaghetti, the mixmasters are designed to allow the driver several alternatives to whatever section of the city might be chosen destination.  It’s not unusual to exit left to head to the right, or exit south in order to travel north, etc.  More than a few times I have taken the George Bush Tollway west off of a five lane freeway when the eastbound exit was my intention.  It can be a tad frustrating to say the least.  When approaching a mixmaster, you can look like a new calf looking at a new gate.  If you’re a driver in Dallas/Ft Worth, you need to become a master of the mix unless you want to be late to your arrival.

Honestly, in retrospect I can see in my rear-view mirror where my selections of life took exit ramps that were not for me.  Oh, boy!  Just counting on both hands I realize….(oops, I need to count my toes now) just how many times I allowed my feet to run off the route waiting for me, planned for me.  In fact, I could give you dates and times when I willingly chose a southern direction in my life and times where I should’ve held to my gaze toward the north star.  Unfortunately, in most cases in this life and its freeway system, u-turns are rarely possible.  Frankly, I remain one of life’s student drivers as my navigational skills tend to go to where I don’t need to be.  I will assume you too have noticed not mastered the mix where you are.  Please, read the signs, be focused, be aware, exercise caution and look for the signals you didn’t set-up yourself.

The Captain of my inner guidance system always steers to the better entrance and exit ramps.  When I listen well to the directions, to the parameters, to the signals I know I will arrive for more fuel for the race.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”.  – Captain Jesus  (John 14:6) 

 

 

Don’t Let It Hit Ya

Let’s see how many thoughts come up when I say the word, “DOOR”.  Play along, it’ll be fun.  “I’ll see you to the door”, “They hire, but they have a revolving door”, “She’s like the girl next door”, “Show him the door”, “When the door closes, look for a window”, and Sir Paul’s song, “Soemeone’s Knockin’ At The Door”.  If you think about it long enough you can come up with a few said doors and what they stand for.  Have you ever actually picked up a door, I mean, carry one?  Watch your back.  Who would’ve thought hinges and door jams were so strong and stout?

I’ve been shopping for a storm door with a doggy door flap.  They aren’t cheap!  For cryin’ out loud (as my grandmother always said), all I need is a glass or screen door for the back sun-room leading out to the back steps with a boot box sized cutout for my dog to come and go as he pleases.  For him I want, okay I ‘ll say it, an “open door policy”. My ongoing conundrum?  The neighborhood possum. ARG! After my wallet loses weight then I somehow have to carry that heavy door from the home improvement store to my back porch.  What a project!

Whatever door you step up to in life there seems to be a running theme under its true character of purpose.  After all, you are denied entrance to a place unless that door is unlocked, ajar or wide open.  Isn’t that what you look for first when moving into a new place?  Security lacks if the door is below standard, not to mention weatherproofing.  For example, take a look at my snapshot above.  This photo was taken at Ft Belknap just outside Graham, Texas.  The fort has a lengthy colorful history going back pre-Civil War days.  (That’s a young fort for the northeast seaboard states)  On the sprawling  grounds you will find these thick-walled buildings constructed of limestone or large blocks of sandstone.  This particular building is small, not much larger than the average living room.  It lacks windows of any kind.  There are two doors, one on the north end and the other on the south side.  If you can expand the shot you will see that the wall around the door is a good two feet thick.  Knocking on the door you instantly realize how solid that wooden door is.  The definition of the word, “sturdy” doesn’t make it.  When you read the plaque in front of the small unassuming building it reveals this was the armory and ammo storage.  Gunpowder, musket balls, cannonballs, pistols and rifles all safe and sound from potential enemies.  Of course the opposite is true.  If there were to be a fire inside, the vault-type construction protected all who were on the outside.

Like the soldier’s commodities inside an armory, so too are your precious things behind doors.  Only you know what that looks like in your own existence.  The loved ones locked up safely at bedtime.  The love expressed behind the door of a honeymoon suite.  The savings bond in a safety deposit box behind a bank’s vault door.  Or, how about the classic car in mint condition behind a locked garage door.  Whatever your personal treasure is in your heart of hearts, no doubt you have it behind a door that is not accessible to the strangers among the general public.  In fact, you only allow certain people with special credentials entrance to that protected area.  Some might even have been allowed a key.  Am I right?

Let’s face it, I only really want my precious ones to live on the inside of my dwelling place. Behind the door is my castle, my lounge, my breathing space from a loud, crazy and volatile outside world.  If I’m right, you feel that way too.  That space is reserved for you when you’re without make-up, when your hair is a mess, when you need a shower, when you’re naked running from that shower to the closet, when sleeping, when eating, when you reconcile your bank account and when clipping your toenails (lol).  You get the picture.  And hopefully, when your loved one leaves for the day you resist saying, “Don’t let your shadow touch my door again”.  Instead, we wish them a terrific day with the promise of an accessible door of safety and security when they return.

Do you like brave writers?  If not, now’s your chance to dump your fuel for a landing somewhere else.  I’ll wait for you right here until you make up your mind….(Jeopardy theme song)…..You’re still here?  That must mean you are open-minded and a reasoner who calculates from all points of reference.  I admire you.  Okay, thanks for reading my next line.

I have a friend, no….let me rewind here.  I have a love, no….allow me to reboot.  I have a brother, no….let me restate.  I have a “resident” living in me behind my inner door.  He’s not my imaginary pal from my childhood fantasies.  He certainly is not a Disney cricket on my shoulder.  (I know what my inner voice sounds like)  We literally have non-audible round table discussions from my hearts’ conference room, the one that has a two foot thick door.  I find He is not republican, democrat or independent only because He is not political and yet cares about my leanings.  He has proven Himself to be THE reliable source of the wisdom I am always choked-off from.  I have noticed He soothes my fears and calms my personal storms, especially when I am the hurricane of my own shores. Sharing is His number one aspect in my daily wanderings.  What knocks me out is how He gently gives me a heads-up on dangers on the outside of our door.  When I am hit hard from a combatant I am sorely not trained to take on, He warns me ahead of the punch and delivers first aid when I come home again.  This resident, who actually built my thick door, has taught me how to double lock, install a motion detector floodlight, security camera and monitor.  I am far more aware of the sales rep’s product, with brochures in hand, who pounds on my door at dinner time. He stays with me behind locked doors even when I stink, cuss and scream, never ever leaving.  Concerning authentic love never tosses you out.  Who does that?  I mean, really?  If you were at my house kicking, shouting, dishonoring me and family while berating me with the odor of sour violent language, my foot would be planted in your back as I shout, “Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out!”  Unlike my reactions, He is accepting of me and my explosive madness.  Beyond all, He protects and defends me when I blatantly misbehave against God’s outline for me and others, all behind closed doors.  If not, I know my door would be blown off its hinges and I would be taken away in chains.  Why?  Because I KNOW MYSELF and left to my own feet, I KNOW where my grazing area lies.  Quiet self-honesty will be in brilliant colors and HD.  Try it after you shut out all the noise, if you dare.

Look closer at a mystery surrounding our rustic door from Ft Belknap.  Examine it.  Do you see it yet?  Here’s a hint. Look on the left panel of the door itself.  Now do you notice the oddity?  The door lacks a doorknob!  Only a skeleton keyhole ready for a key-packing Sargent At Arms.  That’s what my inner door looks like.  Only certain precious ones have the key to enter.  Oh yeah, have there been times I’ve opened the door to an enemy?  WAY TOO MANY TIMES!  Have there been times when a thief has unlawfully entered who was unwelcomed?  Oh, yeah.  My One, my Counselor didn’t force the door opened seeing there was a missing doorknob. He knocked lightly, but consistently, day and night. Being Who He is, He has a master key, but never used it.  There was a day, 50 years ago, when I answered the knock allowing Him entrance.  He has willingly never left.  I must admit here that there have been bloated times when I expanded myself, my interior of the heart, but curiously it never forced Him out.  Instead, He quietly took a corner and cautiously watched until I was sick of my-“self”.  Because of that simple maneuver of my hand turning the bolt and knob I have enjoyed a personal relationship with God Himself in a way that never would have been possible.  There are lots of doors in life along with all their invitations. Yet, there is only one door to my heart and mind along with only one very soft recognizable knock belonging to one set of knuckles. I recognize the rhythm of His cadence.  There is no crowbar in His hand.  He isn’t wanting to shatter me for destruction, but to bend me gently to a loving cup of java at my personal table.  He hears me out regardless of frustrations, idiocy and anger.  He never speaks over me like debating talking heads on a news program.  He wants to listen with a bent ear and kind, caring eyes.  God wants to be headlong and INVOLVED in the twist and turns in life where I find He is alive and well.

Since that door-opening day, I have often refilled my tank with fuel for the race.

(ASV – Alan Standard Version)

“Notice, I stand at the door and knock.  If ANYONE opens the door and lets me in I will drink and eat with him/her, and he/she with me.” – Jesus (Revelation 3:20 

On Track

Texas summers will fry you.  The heat on any given day could melt candles, even to the point of wearing kitchen oven mitts to touch your steering wheel.

Long ago and so far away….(not really), I was married to a very disturbed woman who almost took my life on so many levels of reality.  If I were to spell out all the abuse that occurred in our apartment, not only would you find it hard to believe, but it would not be in this format.  After reading my novel, no doubt you would vet a love interest that much more.  Oh, please do!

It was a hot one in the Dallas Metroplex the day I took this picture.  The forecasts were calling for 101-105F degrees for a good week or two.  However, the unbearable heat in the apartment was far beyond the temps outdoors.  Literally, as in many times before, I had to physically evacuate the mounting slaughter of my very spirit.  Have you been there?  I was very unhealthy as I was in rehabilitation recovering from a full-organ shutdown, coma and six weeks in the hospital from February of that year.  (That is another event for a future post.  Stay tuned.)  After walking three-four miles to a hotel, I crashed until the following day where I dreaded the sweltering walk back.  Frankly, the hike to and from could have killed me while suffering the condition I was in, but it mattered not.  Admittedly so, I feared seeing her drive up after discovering me on the road or at the hotel.  That was the current pit I was in.

On the way back to my personal hell the next day, I decided to walk an abandoned railroad track.  (You may want to stop reading at this point because what I write next may cause you to reject my story on a dime.  However, if you continue reading you will at least understand I believe with every ounce of me that I am laying out the exact events as they happened.  You’ve been warned.:)  Not hearing an audible voice, I was spoken to in the core of what turns me to the right and the left.  The communication was so clear and distinct there was no mistake that I was given a “spirit nudge” that didn’t come from my own imagination.  It would be easy to blame the outside articulation as a delusional dehydrated man in ill health suffering heat exhaustion, but in this case I knew better. Not only have I experienced heat exhaustion before, as well as self-consultation along with a writer’s imaginings.  Yes, I KNEW and could decipher the vast difference.

These tracks were abandoned long ago years after the expressway was built just half a mile to the west.  They were heavily traveled with the line coming from downtown Dallas all the way to Oklahoma and beyond servicing many a passenger with nicely bundled baggage in tow.  Yet, there lay the tracks, rusted, laced with weeds, baking in the Texas unforgiving sun.  Words, no….rather impressions came to me that I was NOT abandoned as horrific as my circumstances seemed.  The One who had nourished my very being from womb onward had/has never abandoned me regardless of my circumstances or even my bad behavior in life.  Circumstances by their very nature change.  Like the Texas weather, give circumstances a few minutes, hours or days and things will blow eastward away from above your head.

As I walked the long abandoned rails, I was in class.  I learned that there will be times you begin to adhere to an idea that God’s promises written in ancient texts may seem rusted, abandoned and full of the weeds and dust of days covering over the truths handed down. Never is it always easy to flush such ideas in the abyss of forgetfulness, but rather a struggle emerges.  After conditioning the struggle causes a spiritual numbness seducing even the very faithful.  Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t the fact of faith.

Have you noticed the calendar changes every day?  I left the old rusted tracks that afternoon realizing God’s Spirit may seem dormant at times, and late to arrive whatever depot platform you find yourself standing on.  However, I, the student, learned once again: He may seem late but He’s always on time.  In fact, He awaits your arrival whether you’re on track or off no matter how much baggage you need to check-in.  Leaving the train-starved rails that day I can say I found fuel for the race.