The Wagon

I found myself in bed last night, in the midnight hour of a bleak December, and like Edgar Allen Poe I pondered over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. We’d spent the evening together as a family; my children, wife, and grandchild in one final hurrah for Christmas before this year slips silently into the one that follows. It was a nice evening in a local restaurant, but that alone gave no cause for the nocturnal mental ramblings that interrupted my sleep. It was the pictures.

The holiday season is rife with photographic opportunities, to cherish memories stored quietly for a later date and freeze those images of a time well spent. But who’s image was that staring back at me from the surreal Polaroid moments I encountered? Surely not mine. The man with the children was too old, had too many wrinkles – an unacceptable caricature of the face I meet in the mirror each morning when I awake to greet another day. And yet I know better: despite its comfortable and familiar façade, the mirror mocks us all accordingly in an equal-opportunity manner.

Each line is a turn in the road, the wrinkles marking memorable changes in direction as decisions, right and wrong, are made along the path. Tired eyes justify and negate at the same instant. But the road continues. Truly we arrive on one road, and depart on another; yet never realizing which of the two we may happen to travel.

And my road is trying, because like everyone else, I pull a wagon behind me. It is filled with things I want to hang on to, treasures accumulated over time and instance. New cars, promotions at work, money made and spent. Houses and swimming pools, clothes fashionable today that have a chance, however small, of dramatically returning to said fashion at a place further down the road. The load accumulates, and it gets harder and heavier to pull as the miles slip silently by.

This is what gripped me and prevented my sleep last night – the wagon and its cruel load. It’s a burden. And I may have made a mistake or two along the way, I’ll admit as much. The things scattered within its cargo area may be practical, and might even make life easier and better in the long run. A dependable vehicle, a warm house; those things are what we aspire to from an early age and they are good things. But as the road turns a corner, narrowing in a way that shows you there is a finite end in sight, you take stock of those items and you become prone to reconsider.

I’m dumping some things from my wagon, and replacing them with others. The Psalmist reminds me: “…we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

I’ll gladly replace the option for newer vehicles for time spent holding my wife’s hand, or a spontaneous hug in the hallway with a whispered, “I love you” thrown in for good measure. I’ll barter other items for my youngest daughter’s laughter emanating from her bedroom as she watches or reads something I have no idea about, along with my asserted inability to comprehend the meaning of such.

Is a comfortable house worth more than a silly face performed by my granddaughter, or the knowing smile of her mother and my oldest son? What price can you place on your youngest son’s ceaseless (senseless?) banter on everything from NFL scores to critical moments in the Star Wars saga?

My own promotions and achievements pale in comparison to my oldest daughter’s courage to do things and visit places I never could, utilizing a silent strength that belies both her and her husband’s years. It’s a strength I barely remember from when I was their age and the world was mine alone to conquer. May they never lose that inner strength or merely trade it for mundane responsibilities and frivolous 401k options.

I travel a silent road, pulling a wagon of my own making filled with items of questionable importance and value. When I arrive at the end (and I will), when it comes my time to fly away, I hope my cargo was soundly chosen. Everything else is only this, and nothing more.

The author and his progeny

Year End Random Thoughts, 2010

I’m not sure if there will be any more posts until after the calendar year rolls over in a few weeks. I have accrued some much-needed vacation time and have a decidedly strong urge to spend it with my precious wife, children and granddaughter. In the interim, I appreciate you great folks out there that visit my blog each day, and some who visit more than others. Your comments and emails make my day. I’ve decided to close out the year by adding a few random thoughts that have never managed to find their way into a blog post (yet):

The church is doing well. We have drawn together, as a church should, following the passing on to eternal life by our pastor a few weeks ago. It has caused us all to reflect on our own lives as Christians and shore up many areas where we may have been lacking or complacent. Brother Donnie would be proud, I am sure. I feel a lot of love and compassion out there right now, and we have been blessed through the Holy Spirit with some very fine interim preachers. The search for a new pastor should commence after the first of the year, and we sincerely covet your prayers as we seek G_d’s will for our church.

Fast Asleep has done remarkably well this Christmas season. Those of you who purchased a book are appreciated; and I hope you enjoy my tale of Rikki and Roger, because there is a little bit of both of them in all of us. If you purchased a book on your own via the Internet site, feel free to contact me and I will sign it for you. No problems.

What’s in store for Random Thoughts in the future? Well, I’m quickly approaching my storage limit on the BlogSpot web site, and I may end up going with an actual web site or domain of my own. I’ve never attempted such and I’m not sure how to do it, but if the Lord provides a way, then… I will. But I’m going to wait on Him and not merely jump in blindly on my own.

Speaking of Random Thoughts, I appreciate the emails and comments, as I have mentioned. Some of you are too shy for either, and I understand those sorts of things. But if you like a particular post and want to express it in some manner other than a comment or an email – click on one of the advertisements! The ads on my page are safe, and I get a whopping eight cents each time you do so. Click away!

To my six readers from the Netherlands, “Bedankt voor het volgen van mijn blog!” Despite the language barrier, it is good to know we can rely on Google Translate!

Keurig coffee machines are incredible. Try the hot chocolate! Providing happiness one cup at a time, I say.

I’m not a birther. If the President of the United States was born in Hawaii, I have no problem at all with it. But please, simply release the birth certificate and close the issue as many of us are beyond tired of hearing about it. A long-form birth certificate, like the one I used to get a driver’s license, vote, and join the military would suffice. BTW – I could send in twenty dollars and get a Certificate of Live Birth from Hawaii myself, so don’t go there. “The truth shall set you free.”

WHO DAT! Or is it TWO DAT? Hoping the Saints continue to march toward a Super Bowl repeat. Maybe then they’ll finally get some much-deserved respect from the media.

While we are at it, Go Huskers!

Take a few minutes to read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2 at some point during this Christmas season. It does a Christian good to go back over that special night so long ago where G_d became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus has many names in the Bible, but my favorite is Immanuel, which means “G_d with us”. It really gets no better than that!

But use a King James Version of the Bible. There are so many versions out there that leave so much out and can confuse many other important things. I saw a Cajun version (CBV) that had Jesus taking five loaves of Po-Boy bread and two speckled trout; then using them to feed the multitude at the Superdome during halftime of the Saints/Tampa Bay game. C’mon man! The King James Version is almost four hundred years old. It’s proved the test of time. Just sayin’.

Most of all, thanks again for visiting my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories this year (all of them true!) (for the most part!) and my prayer is that in some way they’ve managed to touch your heart. Maybe in some manner they’ve drawn you closer to Him, because I find I’m drawn closer to G_d by merely writing them down. I wish for you and your families, wherever you are, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

With all of my heart and my warmest regards,


Reconstructive Thoughts

We drove up to the church on that bright morning; a deep blue horizon tapering to pure cerulean intermingled with wisps of fine, white cirrus above us. I remember that sky very well because I was climbing onto the roof of the church that day. The steeple was gone – an unholy gash remaining in its stead, a silent victim of Hurricane Katrina the morning before. Our goal was to place a well-used tarp over the opening to prevent further damage to the inside of the building. My teenage son accompanied me on the climb, and without incident we stapled the blue plastic in place and stepped back on broken shingles to admire our handiwork. Though far from a final solution, it would have to do in the interim.

From our alpine vantage point, we surveyed a surreal landscape of broken trees and downed power lines, a cluttered world of disarray and nowhere near the way it had appeared only a Sunday before. Our faces grim in the presence of an untold disaster, we climbed back down and walked to the truck. As I loaded the staple gun into the toolbox, a car sped into the parking lot behind us. A haggard woman in tears turned out to be the occupant, and a quick assessment proved her to be alone. I did not recognize her.

She asked if we were going to have church services in the near future, and explained her situation to both my son and me. It was a story all too typical, and one we would be able to recite chapter and verse in the days to come. She had lost everything, abandoning her home on the coast in her last-second flight from the storm’s uncaring path. She wanted to draw closer to the Lord, as anything else was beyond comprehension to her at that moment. I assured her that somehow, someway, we would indeed have services the following Sunday. And in my Christian best I all but promised her that things would be okay. I’ll admit it felt hollow and indifferent. I was lost during that time, and had not yet fathomed a way to make any sense out of it other than to find a way to keep myself busy.

I forgot about this chance encounter in the days that followed, for by then the Great Provider had stepped in to make all things right. Free water, food, and medical care were swiftly imposed upon us; the government having an ability to provide us with everything we needed except for gasoline. The electricity was turned back on and life returned to normal - albeit a few tepid Indian-summer-weeks later. We survived and moved on, most of us anyway, and learned a few new acronyms in the process. FEMA and MEMA became our saviors, by providing not only supplies but much needed jobs for our storm-stricken region. USPHS and the Red Cross followed closely on their heels. SNAP and USDA gave everyone an EBT debit card to purchase food when MREs became passé. Signs of the Great Provider were everywhere to be seen, and the only sacrifice he required was a constant standing in line along with many simplified forms to fill out and turn in.

I did make it to church the following Sunday, as did most of our regular attendees. The penitent victim from an otherwise bright summer day was nowhere to be seen however, as by then a miraculous deliverance was neither desired nor required. Sadly, dependence upon G_d is readily replaced by all things technological in our world today. Society demands as much. There is always some form of governmental assistance to be drawn upon, it seems, despite whatever disaster or circumstance befalls us. The original call for G_d following a disaster of epic proportions is merely an afterthought later, much as dreams in the night lose their significance during the daylight hours that follow.

Some of us grasped the concept of a G_d that provides. We were the ones who said ‘Where do we start?’, ‘Where can I help?’, and most importantly, ‘In Whom can I place my faith?’ Sure, we trusted in the government to do the right thing – they usually do in the end. But it was a trust tempered by a belief in our own talents, skills, and work ethic brought together by a faith in the one true G_d that cannot fail.

Years later I look back upon those days, the aftermath of a critical chapter in American history that has ramifications to our region even at the present. Rebuilding either continues or has been given up on in many areas by this point. Government, though viable and important, can only do so much despite the many and varied resources it can draw upon. Indeed, the Great Provider in most cases turns out to be a god that can neither see nor hear. The fire to rebuild, to work hard, and to strive for a better life can never be garnered from continuous hand-out programs delivered on demand from Washington.

The words of Elijah on Mount Carmel still ring true today, “If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” If you think about it, a comparison between the feddle gub’munt and Baal is not so far-fetched. Baal was known in the Canaanite tongue as the Great Provider. He was depended upon for rain, crops, and fertility in his various shapes and identities. The Children of Israel began following him instead of G_d because it was easier to do so, and a lot more entertaining. (Can’t go into the so-called entertainment value in a G-rated blog!) Furthermore, due to Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel, Baal worship had become the State Religion. Yet by the conclusion of the showdown on Mount Carmel, Baal was proven as toothless, and instead it was the Holy G_d from Israel’s past who answered with fire.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Tink Hijacks My Blog

Waiting, waiting, waiting. I’m consumed with it. Waiting. Everything I am at this moment revolves around anticipating that sound – the one that hurts my ears yet signals that my master is awake and will open the big doorway to the great outside place. I whine a little, but not too loud. The master gets angry when I do so. It wakes the smaller ones in the house. I must be a ‘good girl’. I must, I must, I must!

There! I knew it was close. The sound, oh the hurtful, beautiful sound! I can contain myself no longer. I run to his room, the one he shares with my mistress. Momma and daddy. I wag my tail uncontrollably and dance in circles as his feet touch the floor. The whines escape me because I can no longer refrain from expressing them. I dance around his feet as he moves for the portal, and doing my best to suppress my bark, I scratch at the opening ahead of him. The bad things are out there and I must let them know that this is my territory, my yard. I must. I must. I must!

I burst through the space, scared at first, but definitely excited, for a new day awaits me. At my bark the squirrel-things fly up into the trees, and should one of the Me-Me person’s cats have dared venture into my realm during the night; they will surely get a comeuppance. Many, many smells in the air. I sniff and sniff, then sniff some more. It is cold. I do not like the cold. It hurts my feet and stiffens my six-year-old joints. I bark uncontrollably, delighted in the feel of my chest and the sound that emanates from within me. A quick pass around the yard is enough, I run back to the ingress and scratch my welcome – it is time to go back in. I yelp and throw myself against the screen-thing, unabatedly so. The master will come. He will let me in. He loves me. I feel it in a secret place that no one comprehends, except maybe others of my kind.

Once inside I jump on the couch, forcing myself back under the blanket he has provided for me. The master pats my back and tells me I’m a ‘good girl’. I growl at him, playfully, for I feel loved again. It grows in me, something primordial and untamed, engulfing my every thought. I love the master. I love the mistress. I love the smaller ones – even Sissy. They are mine and I am theirs. We belong.

In a few moments the master sits by me on the couch and watches the glowing, picture-thing in the corner. He drinks the liquid that I long for. I slide from under the blanket and place my nose against his warm leg. He responds by scratching my ears involuntarily. He is engulfed in the glowing thing. He is thinking beyond me, paying me little attention. Not enough attention. I could quickly lick the cup he holds, gaining the tasty nectar for my own benefit, but I know better. I must wait. I am not good at this thing called patience. I’m not. He will drink from the cup, but he will save a sweet-tasting residue for me. He will. He will. He will!

But I also sense the master is worried this morning. He worries too much. It makes me feel funny when he worries. I understand this in a way that only I can. He is thinking about the boy this morning, and he is worried. I sense the boy is ok, but I cannot convey what I know, for I do not have the ability to do so. The master is thinking of the mistress, too, and he worries about her, but I do not know why. I remember that she will give me of the delightful nectar from her own cup, too, and more of her precious liquid than he will save for me. But I am not happy because my master is worried. I feel it. I sense it. I whine a little, and I lick his hand. I wish I could tell him.

I smell the fear in my master, as I have on many occasions. I feel it in the mistress, too. They worry all the time. They worry. They do. They should be happy like me. They have the nectar. They have the other tasty things I smell in the hot room and around the big bowl they sit around when they eat. They have the big bed to sleep in. They have each other. They have the little ones – even Sissy. Why do they worry? I do not know. It is beyond me. I do not worry. Sure, I get hyper at times. But I do not worry. I have my master and my mistress, and the little ones. Even Sissy.

I can also feel the presence of Someone else. Someone I cannot see or hear, except in a secret place somewhere deep inside of me. It’s the Heavenly Master who created all things. He loves me. He watches over me. He knows when I hurt. He knows when I whine. He knows when I am hungry. He designed me. He will never leave me.

Hey! I know. I understand. I do, I do, I do! Maybe the master and the mistress do not know about the Heavenly Master like I do. Maybe He does not watch out for them as he does me? Maybe they don’t trust Him? Sad. Very sad. I wish I could talk to them in a human voice and remind them He is there. He is watching. He is waiting. He will take care of them. He loves them. I would really be a good girl – if only I could do so.

But I’m not thinking about this anymore. My master has set his cup on the floor for me. I leap from the couch. It awaits me, controlling my thoughts for the moment. But I am not worried.

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Tinkerbelle - World's Wisest Dog

French-Style Green Beans

Disclaimer: Mom was not a bad cook. I loved her fried chicken. Her dumplings could give Emeril a run for his money. Red beans and rice with pork chops? Excellent. I had problems only on those occasions where she had meat loaf or liver on the menu. And as an added touch of irony, I actually savor the taste of French-style green beans today.

I looked down at the platter in front of me. The sum all of my afternoon fears since I had arrived home from school that day was now staring back up at me. Liver and onions, with a side order of French-style green beans, mocking me from the small round plate that featured friendly blue flowers along its rim.

It had nothing to do with whether or not I was actually hungry; it seems as though I always was at that age. It was the synopsis of the meal mom had prepared. The cruel liver, mingled with bitter onions and thick gravy always managed to bring out my best gag reflex at the time. The French-style green beans served to enhance that digestive feature - and added muscle to it. Mom fixed our plates, allowing me no chance to limit the portions or bypass altogether the unsavory features of the meal. (None for me, thanks!) But then again, when you are ten years old, the world is not always fair. I cautiously shared a secretive glance with my little brother, and saw that he was having the same reaction. In mom’s kitchen, a clean plate was a happy plate, and one of her children not so inclined to accomplish that task was sure to become a target for her unrefined ire not long afterward.

At that dire moment, I looked for Poco, our poodle, thinking if I could somehow manage to sneak him my cut of liver, half of the dinner battle would be won. Good old Poco, ever faithful and to my rescue. With a practiced stealth, I lightly slapped my leg to garner his attention, and wagging a mere bob of a tail he came over by my feet under the chair, hidden from my mother’s ever watchful eyes. I stole a quick glance around the dinner table, faked putting the sordid meat on my fork, and as mom made conversation with dad and my older sister, I swiftly ‘dropped’ the nasty victual onto the floor in front of him. There was a moment of sheer panic as I (secretively) watched him sniff the offering because a part of me was certain he would ignore the incriminating evidence and walk away. Even a dog has his culinary limitations, you know? In two quick bites my four-legged hero greedily dispatched of the liver portion and looked back up at me, licking his lips in anticipation of ‘more’. You want more, big boy? That I can do! Yessiree!

Faking a chewing presentation worthy of an Emmy, and using a smile I had practiced that was not too broad, yet enough to make mom believe I was in fact eating my liver, I scraped up a bundle of beans onto my fork. When she returned her attention to daddy, I covertly flicked the slimy concoction to my eagerly waiting canine partner-in-crime below me. In one fell swoop, the liver and half of the green beans were gone! I could not believe my good fortune; everything was going to be alright after all and I had been delivered from having to force down vile chunks of things I did not care for. Another quick flick, delicately orchestrated as in the previous manner, being careful not to become careless through overconfidence, and the pretty blue flowers would become my testimony to mom of the requisite proof I had completed the meal.

As I geared up my improvised catapult, an unsettling sound began to emanate from under the table. Poco was choking (or was he gagging?). Mom quickly scanned my end of the table and I did the only thing I could think of: I shoveled the fork-full of detestable green beans into my mouth and began to chew as rapidly as possible, hoping to draw a conclusion of innocence from her as I tried my best to swallow the ever expanding, rubbery green glob in my mouth. They tried to go down my throat, they really did. I give credit where credit is due. But the nervousness of Poco possibly ratting me out evaporated as I began to feel the all too familiar gag reflex rising in my stomach. Please Lord, no! I covered my mouth with my hands and held my breath, the issue remaining in doubt for several seconds as time stood still. And, as if the Lord Himself had intervened in that moment, somehow the rancid cud of green beans miraculously slid uneventfully down my throat.

“There. Not so bad, huh?” My mom said with little quarter. “You cleaned your plate. I knew you would like them if you just tried them.”

I shook my head in a not-so-honest pattern of agreement. My brother gave me a mean look – he was desperately trying to engineer his own solution, one apparently revolving around a few wadded-up napkins and two empty pockets. What an amateur! But the choking of Poco along with my dining end-game had mom on high alert by that point. If I remember correctly, he managed to swallow the liver and the beans in what still ranks as one of the most heroic feats I have ever witnessed in all of my forty-eight years.

As I grew older, I never ate liver again, and barring some cosmic, earth-shattering event, I never will. Furthermore, I have made it a point as a parent to never force my children to do the same. Strangely enough, two out of my four have acquired a taste for it on their own. Go figure.

These days we are asked to keep our minds open, and to ‘think outside of the box.’ We are preached to by the media (and in some pulpits, religious and political) that we should be more tolerant toward the belief systems proposed by others, and less assured of the morals and faith we grew up with. We are reminded by those in the know that there is no right and no wrong, only the various shades of grey in between. We are told that truth is merely relative depending on the situation. ‘Try it, you’ll like it’, a catch-phrase of the 1970’s, has been regurgitated and could very well be used to describe the mantra of our current civilization - if you can still call it that.

Yet I refuse to conform to the modern beliefs of our new-age society in general. Instead I hold dearest to the truths passed down to me from my father and his liver-and-onions-with-French-styled-green-beans cook. I remain firmly within the grips of G_d’s Holy Word, because I understand the concept expressed by the writer of Proverbs when he wrote, ““There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Without passing too much judgment, I’ll merely take those modern thoughts and flip them under the table. It’s much safer that way and easier for me to digest.

Faux Dat!

I’m thinking about completing, with an exclamation point, my fan-hood for all things Saintly in the next few days. Yep, I’m going to take it over the top and buy myself one of those personalized, official NFL jerseys that go for a couple of hundred bucks or so. You know the ones, the real deal. The ones that people go crazy over and must be taken into account for in crime statistics as they relate to the inner cities – in a very real way those jerseys have become a form of currency, if you honestly think about it. (You may have to whirl that around in your mind for a minute or two, but I’m trying to be honest here.)

The first step will be to decide which team member I want to personify as I wear my new purchase. I like Drew Brees, but I also like Lance Moore because he’s a little guy like me. Darren Sharper is another one of my favorites. Jeremy Shockey could be the most popular Saint, but I don’t know…

I saw on TV where you could get a random number and put your own name on the back should you choose to do so, and that just might be the route for me to take. A double-zero and ‘Johnson’ on the title bar would be really hip. Or a lineman number since I’m shorter and stockier than I used to be. If I pull it off, I might possibly be mistaken for a real Saint’s player. Maybe I could even fool my own self into believing that I am a Saints star on his day off, going to Wal-Mart or eating at Wow’s. Me signing autographs, saying things like “Um, yeah, I’m Shannon Johnson, number 00 in your programs but number one in your heart. I’m only on the practice squad this year, but just wait till next year!”

I probably couldn't pull that one off – too many Saints jerseys floating around in public these days, and besides, what’s the point? I could never fool myself. I’m too old and not stout enough for the big leagues. I was never actually drafted or signed to a contract, and I never attended training camp. I can’t be a Saints player by merely wearing an official jersey I purchased off the Internet. I’d be a fraud, a fake, and in the end I’d still just be plain ole me.

I was chewing on these thoughts the other day when I came across a flyer stuck in the window of a store at a shopping center. A quick perusal of my surroundings confirmed that most of the cars in the parking lot had that self-same flyer stuck on their windshield. (I hate those things!) The flyer advertised a baptismal service at a well-known, local church, if you can call it that. The bill acknowledged that if you had children that needed to be baptized, then it was hunky-dory to bring them by the church on that particular day and they’d be dunked along with all of the others in attendance. I got the distinct impression there would be no questions asked; it was merely an opportunity to mark a milestone off the list of things to do in one’s spiritual life.

Naturally I was appalled, but not too much so considering the spiritual condition of our world these days. And if I am going to judge here, then it is best for me to give them lots of room. This is in no way schadenfreude on my part. (Look that one up) Maybe they have read the scriptures and do not quite understand them. As a result, salvation for them has possibly morphed into a gift of grace that does not require things like repentance or acceptance, and instead has become nothing more than a simple ceremony; like joining the Beta Club or being accepted into the Jaycees.

Philip met a man with a similar mindset in the book of Acts. He was an Ethiopian eunuch, and Philip found him parked by the side of the road that ran between Jerusalem and Gaza. He was in a chariot (high-dollar vehicle of the time) and was actively reading the scriptures, but was having a difficult time comprehending them. Philip asked, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” and the Ethiopian replied, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” The Bible tells us that taking that cue, Philip ‘opened his mouth and preached unto him Jesus’.

Later as they travelled together, they came to a body of water. Excited about the Gospel Phillip had shared with him along the way, the eunuch asked Phillip what was left to do before he could be baptized. Phillip responded by telling him that he had to believe with all of his heart. The eunuch replied that he believed Jesus Christ to be the Son of G_d, and thus Phillip baptized him. The writer goes on to say that when they came up out of the water, the eunuch went away from that place rejoicing. He was a changed man.

There is much more to salvation than a mere ceremony performed in a tank of water. Baptism alone is not going to get anyone to heaven, or even right with G_d for that matter. Indeed, baptism is a symbol of the work that has been performed in someone’s heart once they accept the gift readily provided to/for them by the amazing work of grace Jesus provided on the cross. A baptismal certificate will make a person no more a Christian than a high-dollar Saints jersey will transform me into an NFL superstar. And I realize those are very strong words coming from me this morning. After all, I’ve been a Baptist since my birth.

The Computer Guy

It was the last thing I needed on an unusually hectic morning…

I logged onto my PC at work in my office as I normally do, coffee in hand, (caffeinated, no sterile stuff for me) and opened the software package I use to track the tasks my department attends to on a daily basis. Let me re-phrase that: I attempted to open my well-used, critically germane software package. Unfortunately an error had occurred, its cruel grey window box popping up from out of nowhere to inform me that the database was corrupted and the software was unavailable at this time. As a subtle suggestion, it notified me I would be best served by contacting my network administrator for further assistance. Further assistance, huh? Indeed.

I was dead in the water, lights out, and unable to check on the items that are most pivotal to my job. I had no way of uncovering the deeds performed by the evening and night shifts the day before, no option on tasks scheduled for today, and no clue as to what was current and pending for tomorrow. It’s not a good position find yourself in, and although I could regress and ‘wing it’ by using notepads in the meantime, it still meant eventually I’d have to re-enter the accrued data once the software became ‘available’ once again.

I placed the obligatory call to my network administrator, and I am lucky we are on such good terms with each other. I do not refer to him as ‘my network administrator’ because that is much too sterile and callous; at least it seems that way to me. I proudly call him ‘THE computer guy’ and he is adept at solving all of my software or email issues regardless of the severity encountered. I probably should not mention this publicly, but he’s even provided a method of selectively bypassing the SPAM filter so I can receive emails from my brother in Iraq. The dude is very good at his job, and as a result, within minutes my software was up and running in a proper manner that allowed me to return to my routine schedule. It’s good to have him on the team for instances such as the one I encountered this morning, because you never know when you will need him.

I am aware of the other things he does as well, although those skills may not be quite so obvious to others. He guards our network against unwanted emails (SPAM) and protects us from the ever-elusive viruses and threats that are prone to stalk the world of office computing. He provides assistance and quick fixes to my computer when it is not performing as fast as it used to. He is good with advice on issues that may or may not affect me when it comes to ordering new equipment for my department. Basically, he watches over my computer from the background of the office, protecting my data, and thus freeing me from the caustic threat of data corruption while preventing a total failure to my job description. In the very essence of the term, he is the computer guy.

In my spiritual life, I have someone much like the computer guy watching over me. He guides me down the correct paths and warns me through my conscious when I am overstepping my bounds. Through Him I have access to G_d’s will, because He is there for me as a Helper and a Comforter. When I get burdened down or too depressed to even call out my sorrows in prayer, he interprets my feelings and carries them to the Throne of Grace for me, making my unspoken requests known to a G_d that can never fail.

G_d we know, and His existence is a no-brainer. We have a built-in by design knowledge of Him and are told that even the devils believe in Him and tremble. He is the Creator of the universe and our Holy Father. He is Holy, Magnificent, and The Almighty.

Jesus, the Son of G_d is also well known and through Him we are made right with G_d. He is “G_d with us” in human form. We have been offered salvation through His blood by His work on the cross and in His resurrection three days later.

But G_d is three in one and one in three, a hard concept to grasp and one we won’t fully understand until we get to heaven. There is a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and though I do not have all of the answers in this area, I believe in the triune (3) nature of G_d as recorded in the Bible. It is this Holy Ghost I am referring to as the one who comforts me and helps me in my life, although He is readily misunderstood and a lot of times may get left completely out of casual spiritual conversations. Yet He is there, prodding me to do the right things in this life, and coercing me to walk in the paths that I should as a faithful follower of Christ.

Jesus Himself said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

This Comforter made His appearance in my life on the day I was born again. Through this promise made by Jesus, he will abide with me forever. He teaches my heart the things it should know, and calls into remembrance all of the things G_d has taught me through His Word. I’ve noticed that much like my fabled computer guy, He works in the background. Jesus went on to explain, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” He testifies not of Himself, but points all of the honor and glory to Jesus. I think He does so as an example for me to follow; another way of teaching me the way that I should go.

Living a Christian life is no easy feat in this day and age. Temptations abound while sin is ever prevalent and waiting eagerly at the doorway to my heart. It is so good to know that there, working in the spiritual realm, is a constantly abiding Holy Spirit. He is guiding my paths by comforting me and protecting me whenever I may happen to find myself becoming corrupted spiritually. And most importantly, He is always there - because you never know when you’ll need Him.

The Computer Guy And Me

On The Road To Emmaus

It’s a mathematically-proved constant of life: Things don’t always work out the way you planned and seldom in a manner you would prefer. Murphy’s Law is alive and well in our world today and the exceptions to the rule are few and far between. In fact, it has reached a point where in the realm of engineering, we are advised to always plan our projects with built-in variables to prevent a worst-case situation in the areas of safety and environmental impact. This axiom is best expressed in the words of Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

How many times have I used the expression ‘if only’ or ‘I should have’ when pondering the winsome episodes of my past? Many times in my life I have planned things, covering bases and researching possibilities with care and concern, only to discover later a minute detail I had overlooked. And those details seem to always find their way to the surface and return to haunt me. What can I do in those situations - a situation in which what I thought I knew turns out to be what I didn’t account for?

I can pack it in. Give up and move on to something else. Shake my head and wash my hands of the whole goal or plan I had conceived a few days, hours, or even minutes earlier. That’s human nature. We hate failure by others, but abhor it even more so when we unmask it in our own life.

Luke tells the story of two men a couple of thousand years ago who felt the same as I have on many occasions today. They were followers of Christ, but after his crucifixion they had packed it in and were heading home. I’ll let them speak for themselves here: “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel:” They thought He was the Messiah, in fact, they were certain of it. They had watched Him feed the multitude, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. But now He was gone; executed by the authorities and buried in a borrowed tomb. The faith they had placed in a Nazarene carpenter had seemed so sure, so perfect during the time He had walked with them. Now they only felt empty inside, scared, and did not know where to turn. So they left the other disciples in Jerusalem and started walking back home – seven miles away down a proverbial boulevard of broken dreams to a small town called Emmaus.

I’ve been on that road many times in my spiritual life. I’ve been in church services that were dead, empty, and left me wondering why I bothered attending them in the first place. It is during those times I find myself wanting to pack it in and head for home. Give it up and spend my Sunday mornings playing golf, or at least catching the pre-game or pre-race shows on television. I could save my tithe money and put it towards a new vehicle or into a hedge fund for retirement. What’s the point? My spiritual life started out well and good, but things change. We mature and in the process outgrow what we used to love – it’s only natural, right? And after all, I’m only human and can only do so much…

So I find myself walking to Emmaus. Like the two disciples of Luke’s day found themselves.

Then HE shows up. The unknown stranger. The one who seems to be out of the loop to all of the turmoil that is going on in my spiritual life, and He is asking me a lot of very pointed questions. What’s more, He offers me nothing new, no exciting revelations of cosmic events I’ve yet to ponder on my own. Instead He uses the same Scriptures I’ve studied all of my life to point out things to me that I thought I already knew; things I thought I understood. But I was wrong. Somehow despite the study of those scriptures and the earnest way I have tried to live my spiritual life, I’ve obviously missed quite a few things along the way.

My spiritual life is not about the message the pastor provides on Sunday mornings. That message is to help me and feed me as a Christian, but a pastor is human. Some messages will always be better than others. My spiritual life is not about how well I lead the singing, or choosing the most spiritual songs at the appropriate time to go along with the message during the worship service. My spiritual life is not about my Sunday School class and the amount of students that are blessed by me and the knowledge I share with them due to the fact I am such a marvelous teacher. I am compelled by the Holy Spirit to do the best I can in both areas, but I am limited by the flesh and just like my pastor, I am also human.

The truth is, my spiritual walk is about never walking alone. Not just on the road to Emmaus, but on any path I happen to find myself trodding. It’s all about my daily relationship with Him, and having Him near me on the trip as not only my best friend but also as my guide. It’s having fellowship with Him as He teaches me the things I should know in my heart, breaking spiritual bread with me as I pray, and allowing my soul to understand its place within the Kingdom of Heaven. Much like the two disciples after meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus, my heart begins to burn within me as He shares the truths recorded in His Word.

Walking with Him gives me a much needed and longed for perspective on the things that are the most important in this life. That perspective is much harder to find when I find myself out there on the dusty road to Emmaus. Without a trusted guide, you can get lost out there.

Joy In The Morning: A Katrina Tale

The weather outside is thankfully dreadful this morning, and I use the term thankfully because it revolves around some much needed rain for our area. The past few months have been hopelessly dry, and my rose bushes have been displaying their chagrin over the situation. Maybe this newfound abundance of water will provide a change in their attitude, and once again their varied hues and fragrances will fill my yard – at least for a few more weeks before winter makes her appointed appearance.

Etched in my mind when it rains like this are vivid memories of the morning hurricane Katrina made her landfall a few years back. (Warning: Katrina Story!) A dreary morning that quickly escalated to cataclysmic was not the worst part of the storm for me, or for most of the people in our area. The real damage was on the coast. For us, the worst memories remain attached to the days and weeks that followed the storm. The loss of electricity, the shortages of gasoline, the endless task of clearing and cleaning the fallen trees made life hard during those hectic days of an Indian summer. The oppressive South Mississippi heat and humidity, faced without benefit of air conditioning while biased with rationed water, makes me shudder when I think back upon it even today - five years later.

We moved from inside our house to a tent set up in the yard due to that heat, and although the night temperatures were milder, the actions of some of the more sordid members of our society made it a time to reflect with consternation on the precarious safety of the situation. With minimal law enforcement available in the aftermath of the storm, stealing things like gasoline and generators became almost acceptable by a county that found itself ripped apart in the sudden disaster. Eventually, my wife and smaller children moved back into the house; leaving my oldest son and me to abide in the tent and keep the watch over what was left of our meager possessions. Even our dog abandoned us and moved into the house, leaving us to whatever fate awaited us during the ominous nights we spent outside in the thin-walled tent.

You forget how dark the night becomes with no artificial street lights to illuminate the things that are unknown, at least until you’ve lived the part. With no human-made noises, the night becomes a symphony of nature, and your ears regress in an uncivilized manner to a time when protection was so much more than a refined instinct hushed from our psyche by centuries of law and order. Every sound becomes a threat; the breaking of twigs in the grass, leaves crunching underfoot, and the pounding of your own heartbeat resonating in your ears. A faithful shot gun or rifle cradled against your breast is of little comfort on nights where light evades the things that are ‘out there’ and you know those things are quite possibly coming for your belongings or even the ones you love.

Many nights were spent in that manner, sleeplessly awaiting a dawn that seemed far away and impossible to obtain; hoping against hope to cheat disaster and merely make it through just one more night. We always did, and though it seems far away and ethereal today when I look back upon it from the viewpoint of a safer time and place, I earned those memories and keep them with me today should chance provide me with a return appointment.

One particular night stands out more so than others, as they sometimes do. I had been awakened by one of those aforementioned noises, and swiftly alerted by instinct I checked my watch. The time was precisely 4:54 AM, although the calendar date eludes my memory. Dates and days of the week had lost their meaning by then, but time itself remained a viable function of survival in our post-disaster scenario. Peering from the tent with my rifle, I gazed through the pre-dawn stillness across the yard to the road, daring not to use what was left of the batteries in my flashlight for what may or may not have been a false alarm. A highly likely human form was out there, moving silently down the country road that fronts my house. He was using a low wattage penlight to find his way through the murky darkness, and due to the early hour as well as his mannerism it was easy enough to ascertain he was up to no good. Adrenaline coursed through my veins as I tried to decide what to do next, and all that came to mind was to yell loudly - an option I could not perform as it would alarm my reposing son as well as my wife and younger children slumbering fitfully in the tepid house nearby. In the end I clutched the rifle in a firing position and walked purposely toward the stalker, making sure I made enough noise where he would know that not only was someone alert at the Johnson House, but they were coming for him. While I was still a good distance away from my dark visitor, he turned his insipid pen light on me, illuminating my aimed rifle, which caused him to swiftly retreat back up the road in the direction from which he had arrived. As he made good his absence, I heard a clashing of tin from my back yard, and turned back to investigate in that location. I found nothing, (but the next day I would discover a five-gallon can of gas/oil chain saw fuel mixture missing) and more than likely it had been a team effort.

I made a reconnaissance around the house to no avail; nothing human or animal was to be found in my transit of the area, and so I made my way back to the tent. In the dark hour that followed, my stress level remained at a decidedly less than heroic quotient and I was reminded of how the sailors on Paul’s doomed ship had ‘wished for the day’. Eventually, a glow in the east began snaking tendrils of vibrant oranges and reds into the obsidian sky as dawn heralded the much-longed-for arrival of another day. The hopelessness of the night before along with its chaotic fears faded with the beginning of what turned out to be a beautiful morning, also reminding me of the truth penned by Psalmist when he wrote “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Veteran's Day

It’s Veteran’s Day again, yet I seem to feel the ceremoniousness of this particular day a little more deeply than I possibly have in years past. Maybe it is because my little brother is in Iraq and in harm’s way; I worry about him and miss him at the same time. I could say with an honest and forthright sincerity that a part of me is with him over there, because he is my brother, but that may not be understandable to someone who does not know us. We are so much alike and so different at the same time, still the bond between us transcends the miles we’ve spent apart throughout his career.

I have others in the military, young men and women who served and are serving still. Mere children to me when I reflect back on the time they spent in my Sunday School classes many years ago. They have grown and matured; obviously nowhere close in semblance to the same innocuous teenagers they were when I first met them. I worry about them as well, and I miss them in a way only a teacher can ever fully comprehend.

They are out there now, at this very moment, on the front lines serving our country and protecting a lifestyle back home in America which far too often remains taken for granted by their jaded beneficiaries. I’m as guilty as any other - living my life from day to day with little retention of how much I am blessed to be Living in the USA. They serve despite being told by our leaders that we are not exceptional as a country or a people. They serve despite being assured by those same leaders that we are arrogant, bigoted to other cultures, and no longer a Christian nation. They serve despite media pundits propagating the myth that their service is not a viable solution to the world’s problems, and instead has become the root cause of many of those problems.

Still they serve.

From the rugged deserts of Iraq to the bleak slopes of Afghanistan. In the steaming jungles of exotic locales like Guam and the Philippines. Aboard our ships in the rough waters in the North Atlantic, and under our flag in frigid wastelands above the Arctic circle. In countries like Germany and South Korea, Kuwait and Diego Garcia. Thousands of others serve with no less importance on bases in the continental U.S. as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

Usually far from home and the families they love, they perform a job that requires sacrifices unknown and perils we will never fully understand. It’s not the money or the fame, because there is very little of either to be found in their job description. It is far more than that. Watch a grizzled Vietnam veteran at a ball game when the National Anthem is played. Observe an ancient World War II veteran at a museum or monument, his eyes brimming with tears as he remembers places like Normandy or Guadalcanal. Those hardships unknown to us are encountered and withstood because of a love for their country and a reverence for the flag they represent. Our world could use a few more like them, reminding us of what we should stand for not only as a culture, but as a nation.

This year, On Veteran’s Day, it behooves us to give them their due. Be proud of our veterans, thank them publicly when you encounter one, and support groups like the USO and American Legion if and when you have the opportunity to do so. When I served, I have fond memories of people who did just that, even if all they had to offer at the time was a kind word or two.

To all our veterans, whether you serve in a far away land or at a supply depot in Charleston, thank you for your service. Thank you for keeping America safe.

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Beneath The Rosy Tinted West

I met you on a bleak October day now so many years ago. A storm was brewing in the Gulf, and your formal interview was thus delayed for a few weeks, although you had arrived on-time and prepared for your appointment that Sunday morning. I noticed immediately your firm handshake, a grip of steel coming from a very big man, but the softness of your heart was readily apparent nonetheless. When the appointment became official the following month, you warmed our hearts and invited yourself into our lives by the power of your words. His Words.

Those first few months were hard on me, as I became accustomed to the leadership of someone who knew his way around the Bible and had little incentive to tread cautiously in that capacity. You taught me so many things during those early days, and I’ll admit a lot of it was accepted only grudgingly from my own heart. But it was hard to argue with your logic as well as your reasoning on the various Biblical topics we covered, because you always backed it up with a referenced chapter and verse to fit the occasion. As music director, I learned the importance of choosing hymns for services that were not just melodically but also scripturally accurate - whereas in the past I had given it minimal thought. If they had made it into the hymnbook, I figured, somewhere down the line someone had already covered those bases. From you I learned that angels didn’t sing to the shepherds in Bethlehem, there is no scriptural reference to the wise men performing as a trio, and 'Canaan-land across the river' does not compare to the Christian’s final, eternal resting place.

You shared in my joy when my children were born again, yet refused to take any credit for the messages you preached that pricked their hearts and gave them the conviction to do so. One by one you took them into the baptistery, towering over them as you immersed them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And of course, that wasn’t merely the end of the road or a ‘mission accomplished’ for you. You made sure you continued to teach them, exhorting them during each and every service to live their life and walk their paths according to His Word which you consistently shared from the pulpit: “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”

Beyond the church, you showed me your talents when you took the time to help me restore one of my antique tractors. What began as a day of sandblasting took an amazing turn as you repaired worn bushings on clutch levers and fabricated fillers for damaged seat pans. You wanted the old tractor to be perfect, as you had allowed yourself to become part of the restoration process. Most of the true artists of our time are like that; a double threat of being able to express yourself with your hands as well as with words. I remember the morning I took a vacation day to help you wire your shed, all the while wondering why you needed so much electricity out there. It was only later when I witnessed the various creations that began flowing from those hands - the metal engravings, the custom woodwork, and most of all the special gifts you generously gave to my family over the years that followed.

In the time I was blessed to know you, I never saw you shy away from speaking the truth, although I know there were times when it must have been difficult for you to do so. Popularity is never bestowed on those who continuously keep their hands to the plow. I’ll admit there were a few times when I wondered in my mind why you kept preaching on keeping our church unblemished by the things of this world. You were firmly set against the items that are prone to infect the worldly churches of our day, and through your leadership and spiritual guidance we were never pulled into those dark voids. Your legacy will be a constant reminder to us if/when those sins become attractive to us in our future.

Across the road from my house and on my brother’s land there stands a wrought-iron gate. It’s a statement for the importance of keeping things safe and secure, a testament designed, fabricated, and put together by strong hands fit for the purpose. Each seam is welded to perfection, the hinges swing flawlessly, and the hasp forms a perfect latch. The beautiful gate you designed and built for my brother will stand as a vibrant testimony of the importance of safekeeping, very much akin to the manner in which you held our church securely against the wiles of the devil for so many years.

I sang a very special, scriptural song that you had passed on to me many years ago, as a tribute to you during your funeral. It was a difficult task to perform from a soul weighed down by sadness. Yet I was comforted in my heart, warmed in the knowledge that we’ll meet again over in a land of perfect day.

Some day, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessèd Lord will say, “Well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.

Birthday Hope

I found myself in the early hours of the morning, awake but waiting for the alarm clock to make it official for me to be so. Kim muttered in her sleep, oblivious to me or the dawn that waited quietly, holding an unsteady peace for yet a little while longer before thrusting its welcoming light through our window. As I became cognizant of the day ahead of me, my responsibilities and duties, in the far away distance I overheard the rumble of an early morning freight train barreling through McNeill. Interspersed with those rumbles were the calling barks of an indistinct dog, and I wondered when Tink would come and get me to open the door for her so she could go out and investigate. The air conditioner kicked on, breaking me from my reverie by diminishing those interloping sound bites from the world beyond my bed.

I reached over and aborted the alarm clock from its thankless mission, and rose despite the symphony of newly discovered pains in various joints that I’ve learned to call my own. As I made my way down the hallway to the television and the ever-waiting Tinkerbelle, it occurred to me that today was, in fact, my birthday. It gave me pause, exciting me and flustering me at the same time. The excitement stems from a long, dormant portion of my memory hidden by years passed, of a time when birthdays were special and meant no more than presents and cake. The fluster revolves around birth-date recall, and the addition and subtraction required these days to decipher how old I’ve actually become. Let’s see now, 2010, uh, minus 1962, equals uh, forty-eight. Forty Eight???? What tha… how tha? Followed quickly by the obligatory: Where did all those years go?

They’re not so bad really, these special dates we call birthdays. They should be much more than just an annual measuring stick of days gone by. It’s a time for a reflection of the past year, and a time to set goals for the year that begins anew on that date. The calendar turns, yet the Kingdom of Hope continues, and I hope it stays that way for me as I delve ever onward into my twilight years. The writer of Proverbs understood this inspired concept, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Despite the abundant evidence of a broken world, I choose to believe in G_d’s unchanging grace and trust in Him because He holds my future in His hands. That’s important, because left to my own devices, I only see the world through the jaded glasses of someone who has read too much and seen far more than he should have. In the perspective of those glasses, bad appears to be winning and good is no more than a dark horse favorite by this part of the journey. Without faith, a strong faith, the doorway to cynicism is the only one that remains unlocked; beckoning me to enter. There could be no other choice for me. But I have a faith that gives me hope, and in turn, hope shares her vision with me.

Her vision tells me that one day I will reach maturity and the stupid things I am prone to do will no longer plague me in life. You’d think I would be there by this point, but all of the internal polling data proves otherwise. With faith and a vision, however, anything is possible.

Her vision tells me that my marriage will only get sweeter as the years go by. A love born of caring and fashioned by so much more than fate will continue to grow; blossoming into something beyond the realm of the merely normal or mundane as we grow old together.

Her vision tells me my children will grow and mature in their own way, and that I’ll be able to grasp the concept that it is supposed to be as such. Their very own faith, instilled by a firm hand that pushed them toward G_d at a young age, will prove to be more than enough to do so. Keagan will pass nursing school. Sheena and Brandon will achieve all of their goals. Scott, KT, and Parker will grow, with Scott now the head of his own little family. Tyler will manage to survive junior high.

Her vision reminds me that things will work out. Life will go on. The bills will get paid. The job will get done. Time will always heal. The blog will get written.

Most of all, this vision shared with me by hope through the faith I have in One who is bigger than I is sure to pervade my consciousness long beyond my birthday.

One Nation, Indivisible

We have a big-screen television in the conference room for video conferences between customers and the sales office staff. During the rest of its existence, it stays tuned to a well-known news network for most of the day. It’s hard to get your morning coffee and not have something displayed thereon catch your eye for a moment or two. It happens to me all the time. This morning as I brewed my K-cup of exotic, not-so-great-tasting-breakfast-blend-java, a story was reported of a woman being stomped at a political rally in Kentucky. The term I use here, stomped, can be taken as literal in this instance; the video could not be interpreted otherwise. Sadly, it was the party I usually consider as ‘the good guys’ who were in charge of the stomping. It was probably a set-up - she had on a fake wig and was the only dissenting voice in the crowd, but the beat-down wasn’t justified regardless. Sometimes you can be completely right and still be totally wrong. Where is this country headed, and what is it all boiling down to here in the good ‘ole USA?

Less than a week ago video surfaced of a U.S. Representative leading Congress from the floor of the House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, except she conspicuously went silent when she reached the point where the words ‘under G_d’ would normally be said. The incident took place on April 17, 2002, or almost a full decade ago. I guess it took a while for either the video to surface, or for someone to garner the courage to complain about it. Sadly, I feel as though more than likely it is probably the latter. Courage can be found all over the place when an election is right around the corner and my so-called ‘good guys’ need a few more votes.

On three occasions in a little more than a month, our own President, bless him, has been caught deleting the reference to G_d while quoting a portion of the Declaration of Independence. For whatever reason, he glaringly omits the founding document’s acknowledgment of G_d as the “Creator” and therefore the source of human rights. Where the Declaration states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," the President has quoted only that all men "are endowed" with certain rights. Again, very few of the ‘good guys’ have called him out on this. Maybe they are saving it for the Presidential election in a couple of years?

On one side we have a party that is consumed with removing and deleting G_d from everything public and private. They propose an agenda of government control, abortion, suicidal economic policy, gay rights, and the destruction of the family. Yet on the other side, the second party seems satisfied to chronically allow this godless agenda to proceed until election time, at which point they begin blasting the ideology of the first party in an effort to gain my (the conservative) vote. We have a two-party system; there are no other viable alternatives when I find myself in line at the ballot box.

Politics makes my head hurt. I think I’ll ignore it and catch up on Survivor instead. Maybe more Monday Night Football is on tap. Pass the biscuits, please.

Our country is fast achieving critical mass right now. (Duh!) The crux of the matter is that we, with very few exceptions, no longer have a recognizable fear of G_d – neither as a society nor as individuals. To openly ridicule the Creator and disavow oneself from His laws is blatantly evil. To attempt to use Him for political gain is another story in itself and just as bad. To stand by and say or do nothing at all, simply ride the storm out while straddling a fence called oblivion is no solution, either. When Pilate washed his hands, by metaphorically making no decision he had in fact made a terminal one.

I sense a need for a return to the time and mind-set of Job. His answer to his detractors is recorded in chapter 13: “Shall not His excellency make you afraid? and His dread fall upon you? Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay. Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will.”

It’s time for Christians to boldly speak up, with an expressed fear of the Almighty, and let the chips fall where they may.

On The Watch

I was in a safety meeting this morning and a topic came up about individual responsibility. Now there is a topic for you – a lost art, this concept of individual responsibility. Not in our day and age anyway. We can always find someone else to blame for whatever ails each and every one of us. Momma didn’t love me enough, daddy was too stern, or the bullies were mean to me in school; so I went on a tri-state killing spree but it wasn’t my fault. That’s facetious, but you get my drift.

However, in the meeting this morning, (and thankfully because I had my pulpit ready to go when the topic was first mentioned) the content instead revolved around the responsibility of a person to watch out and be alert for his or her own safety in the workplace. Furthermore, we discussed the responsibility we had to others around us, to warn them if what they were doing was unsafe. The concept of not being your brother’s keeper pales comparatively when your crew works around rotating equipment that contains knives and sharp edges on said equipment. The general consensus by the end of the meeting was to make sure all of our employees understood the importance of watching out for each other.

As I walked back to my office, I thought about a time I had to intervene in the safety of my youngest son. I guess he was four years old at the time, and was ‘helping’ his daddy work on a 1941 John Deere 'H' tractor. I was standing there watching it idle, trying to diagnose an intermittent miss-fire and of course he was right under me. The old tractor has an exposed flywheel, and it was spinning, as they do, while the engine was in play. Something caught my eye, call it serendipity but I know better, and somehow I knew what he was about to do before he did it. Casually he stuck his hand out to grab the spinning flywheel, and thankfully, before he could do so, I grabbed his hand and pulled him back. Even today I shudder to think of the possibilities of a four-year-old hand coming in contact with the jagged bolts in the center of a spinning flywheel. It could have been bad, indeed, and I would have had to live with his damage for the rest of my life.

A few months later he and I were walking through the woods to my parent’s house, him in the lead and babbling incessantly as they do at that age, when I looked ahead and saw a moccasin crossing the path ahead of us. A very angry snake he was, and we were both a potential vent for all of his reptilian frustrations. I stopped Tyler in time, and I used a convenient stick to dispatch the snake to his celestial dirt nap. But it could have been bad. Very small children and snake bites are just not meant for each other.

I watched out for Tyler back then, and I do so now. Sometimes I do better at it than at other times, but for the most part, he has survived with no more than a close call or two. It’s my job as a parent, I get that, and so I do the best I can. It’s been that way with all of my kids over the years, and it is not something a father does to get a medal or achieve public acclaim. Watching out for your children falls more often than not in the areas of responsibility and duty, and should never be merely for justification or a perceived reward. You watch out for them. And you do your utmost to keep them safe. After all, it’s a very dangerous world we live in today.

We watch out for our children because we know the ropes, we’ve been there. We have the experience garnered and stored over our lifetime to share with them. Things like ‘don’t go barefoot on a cold day or you’ll get a sore throat’ and ‘get your finger away from that wall socket or you’ll get shocked’ go hand-in-hand with ‘if everybody jumped off a cliff, would you?’

I was thinking how this principle of watching out for our children also applies to the relationship between older, mature Christians and younger, newer members of the Family of G_d. Walking the Christian walk is difficult enough when you try and go it alone. It gets a lot easier when you have someone on the path with you, especially someone with a little more maturity and experience in the issues each of us will surely face in life. In my walk I have been blessed with many wonderful examples to follow from older folks who knew the way to go. They were quick to point out the flaws in my behavior, and most importantly, they shared their advice with more than a little bit of love thrown in for good measure. Because of the things they taught me and showed me along the way, I can be a better Christian today.

We are our brother’s keeper. Paul writes: “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children. That ye would walk worthy of G_d, who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory.” That’s plain enough for me. It is our responsibility to watch out for our fellow brothers and sisters in the same manner as we would watch out for our very own children. In return, it is comforting to know that they will also be there watching out for us.

That's a very important relationship to have when the devil puts those proverbial spinning flywheels and poisonous snakes across our path.

Wearing It Well

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about changing my career. With the way my 401k is performing, retirement seems to be an extremely elusive goal - at least as far as my bank account is concerned. I need a job that will pay me huge amounts of money, crazy money, and I need to start looking now. If not, I will have to continue my working career well into my 80s or possibly even my 90s. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Airline pilot. That’s the ticket. I’m sure they probably make well over 200k a year if they are connected with a major airline. Sure, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be and I know nothing at all about flying a jumbo jet, but I can’t let a few tiny little details stop me. True, I’ve never had training as a pilot, but I do recall one time where a friend of mine let me take the controls of a Piper Seneca II while we were airborne en route to Sylacauga a few years back. So I’ve actually (kinda) flown a plane - for a few short seconds, anyway.

I’ve read biographical sketches on some very fine pilots, too. My favorites were Eddie Rickenbacker and John Glenn. I can share many details about their flying exploits as well as their personal lives – they were both exceptional pilots. Eddie cut his teeth during the bi-plane era, while John used his fighter jet experience to propel himself into the space program during its infancy back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. A few good men, they were, with the right stuff. And they were both aviation pioneers in their own right.

Now that I’ve mentioned it, I have also become acquainted with quite a few aeronautical terms in my reading. I know words like yaw and pitch, turbulence, and the deck. With a little brushing up on my part, I should be able to really talk the talk. If I completely immerse and apply myself, I might just be able to convince others of what a fine pilot I am.

Once while we were flying to Sylacauga, my pilot-friend showed me the flight plan and explained it to me. I’ll admit I did not really pay close attention to it at the time, but I know what it was for. To get to your destination, you have to have a flight plan filed with the proper authorities, and flying without one is a punishable offense. I know what a flight plan looks like and, most importantly, I know where to sign it. Surely that will be enough to impress any future, prospective employer.

And here’s the capper: A few years ago I did a little genealogical study on my family’s history. Guess what? Listed in the archives right around the beginning of the last century, via a far-off cousin, my family was related to none other than Orville and Wilbur Wright! That’s right (no pun intended), I even have the proper blood line to be a commercial aviator. At this point I feel as though it’s a shoo-in for me to be very soon flying the friendly skies as a pilot, thundering my 747 or 757 across the globe to the applause of millions of friendly sky travelers, and receiving a substantial pay check to boot. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.

Oh, you say, there’s a problem? What? No degree from an accredited school? No actual experience? No… license?

What do you know? Who are you to rain on my well-thought-out parade?

I can talk the talk, and I have the lineage. I’ve studied the lives of pilots and what is even more; I look good in a uniform due to my younger years in the military. Believe me, I can wear it well.

(Sigh) On second thought, I guess you’re right. There are steps that need to be taken, and talking the talk is not the same as actually walking the walk. I can’t become an airline pilot based on lineage or knowledge of the lives of historical pilots. It’s ludicrous to think that way. And though I can buy a uniform at a costume store, and wear it well enough to actually look like a pilot and might even fool a few people in the process, I’ll still be a cheap imitation. I can know the nuances of a flight plan, and throw in a few words from the pilot jargon handbook, but the problem will arise when I actually get behind the wheel and find myself face-to-face with all of those buttons and switches. At that point even I will have to admit I am lost as a goose in the cockpit. The game will be over. An epic fail will result, as my youngest son would say.

This sounds preposterous and it should, not only in the realm of aviation, but in the spiritual world as well. I also cannot be born again based upon my knowledge of the lives of other Christians, and I can’t merely put on a good show by saying and doing all the right things. In doing so, although I might fool others, I cannot fool G_d. By the same token, salvation cannot be gained through my family or by my relatives; it is something I have to do on my own. Jesus described it like this: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”

Salvation must be a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. There is no other way and there is no secret, hidden short cut to achieve it otherwise. Saying the right things over and over, attending church on a regular basis, and talking about G_d to all who will listen is not enough. It has to be personal and from the heart. It’s about losing your will and giving in to His will, and accepting the salvation that He so readily offers to each and every one of us.

Guess I’ll just stick to being an engineer and depend on Him to handle those things in the future that I cannot control. That’s a much better career plan.


Going back through some blog posts this morning, I think I see a pattern developing over the past few days. My blogs have been decidedly dark in both nature and expression. Maybe it is due to some things I have been going through in my personal life that I can’t seem to be able to get a grip on. It appears as though I have lost my mojo at handling issues that would not have been a problem for me in years past. In a nutshell, I have become an angry old man, a curmudgeon, way ahead of my time – the horror! I’d call my shrink but I don’t have one.

I‘m sitting here watching Tink drink her morning cup of coffee, which in itself is a strange enough way to start the day to someone who doesn’t know me. Tinkerbelle is my six-year-old Jack Russell/Mini Daschund mixed dog. I don’t give her a whole cup, (PETA alert!) she only gets to lick the cup when I’m finished. But she loves the taste and I’m guessing it’s the sugar I leave behind in the bottom of the vessel. It is a morning ritual we share before I depart for work - I drink the coffee while she watches me, frantically licking her lips and whining, and then I hold the cup for her as she licks the sweet residue. Crazy dog.

I enjoy watching her tree-up squirrels during these cool, Fall evening as well. The limb rats are as big as she, and I think they have figured it out and are no longer afraid of her. They taunt her from the lower limbs; racing down toward her and then swiftly returning to their just-out-of-reach perches before she can close the deal. Tink used to chase them in anger, barking her distaste for all things squirrel as she hotly pursued them across the yard and up the tree. These days, with age and a little (a lot) of added weight, she merely whines her disapproval at their antics, and looks over at me as if I am supposed to do something – anything. I have a very strict policy against shooting yard squirrels, even if they are in season, so she is on her own.

You’d think she’d learn to live with them or at least ignore them. It would more than likely make things a little easier for her in the doggy realm, especially since the fear has left the equation on the part of her prey. She never learns, though. It is against her nature and all of the instincts she holds on dearest to as a canine. She must chase them, there appears to be no other option. I feel sorry for her and wish I could help her achieve freedom from those demons that harass her, if only in her mind.

Watching Tink these days hits a little too close to home for me, because I find myself doing the same things in my life. I’m taunted by many things that are simply beyond my control, and while I used to attack them head-on with all of the gusto I can manage; now I simply sit back and whine about it. That gets old to not only me, but others as well, I’m sure of it. I cannot change those things no more than Tink can change a squirrel gang’s propensity for searching our yard for fallen or misplaced acorns. It is what they do, and… it is what they do.

Sadly, in my own heart I should be far ahead of her, because I know the answer to achieving freedom from my own demons that badger me in my life. Those demons are sin, and their modus operandi is to find a way to cause me to become a servant to them. I’m human, and I inherited a bad ole sinful nature from my great-great (great great great) grandfather Adam. As a result, I have those demons to face at what appears to be (but is not limited to) each waking moment of every day of my life. Those demons have a dark desire to taunt me, to destroy me, but most of all - to enslave me.

Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” Those demons with their sometimes hidden, sometimes obvious agenda can far too often obtain their goal of conquering my heart and controlling my life, making me a servant of sin in the process. I know this, yet despite that knowledge things seldom change. I get angry. I get frustrated. I don’t perform the things G_d would have me perform. I get tempted. I fall. And all the while they run down the tree right in front of me, just out of reach, and they taunt me. They laugh and high-five each other every time I go astray and all they leave in their wake is my broken heart, whining for someone to do something about it and knowing that once again I have become a slave to my very own thoughts and actions. It’s a sad state to be in, I tell ya.

There is good news, however...

Jesus has already paid my sin debt. He already conquered those demons. Unlike me and Tink, He will step in and do something about those things in my life I can no longer control - if only I will ask Him to. Following the quote I mentioned above, Jesus went on to say, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Free from what? Free from being a servant to the sin that besets my heart at every corner and turn. A note worth mentioning here is that it is not a promise I will be perfect in my life. I still have gramp’s inheritance I mentioned earlier to fight and keep under control. But I am free from the penalty and ramification of sin, and that alone ‘takes care of ‘ those malicious things in the trees of my life. And though I may feel compelled, I am no longer forced to chase after them.

Free indeed.

Getting Over It

What a weekend, sports fans! I spent the better part of Saturday in Hattiesburg, and was forced to perform my typical-weekend perusal of college football via my cell phone. I scanned the updates as Alabama absorbed a poll-upheaving loss at South Carolina, while USM jumped out to a big lead and then lost to East Carolina. I made it home in time to witness a dramatic game between Florida and LSU, which seemed to go later into the night than it actually did.

The Saints played late on Sunday afternoon, coinciding with an early-evening NASCAR race start time, so I used my DVR to record both and watched them sans commercial breaks after I arrived home last night from church. My driver did not fare very well in the race and the Saints lost ugly to Arizona, capping off a contest that left many of their so-called fans shaking their heads in disgust. The Times Picayune was rife with reader comments this morning that closely resembled the sound of rats abandoning a sinking bandwagon. (Or something like that, anyway) I’m a lifelong Saints fan – I’ve seen worse times for them in years past. I don’t get too high after a win or too low following a loss because there’s always next week for the boys from the funny-shaped building on Poydras street. I have no real choice in the matter and can take my fan-lumps with the best of them.

Those fickle followers, I tell ya. Nine months ago the streets of New Orleans were filled with fans who believed the team could do no wrong. Sean Peyton could have won in a race for mayor of the beleaguered city; Drew Brees was on pace for an even higher office. (Note the “In Brees We Trust!” banners) Store shelves burgeoned with black and gold merchandise and the mere sight of a Saints player in public would set off a melee for autographs and photo ops. By the time the Super Bowl ended and the victory parades gave way to regular Mardi Gras parades, there yet remained an undiminished feeling of euphoria as ‘our team’ was celebrated for a championship season that came very close to perfection.

Now, less than two months into a new season the same fans are jumping ship because of a perceived shoddy display of output on the part of those same players; players idolized less than a month ago. As one ‘fan’ put it in his comment to an article this morning, “I used to be a fan, but I got over it. Time to bring back the paper bags.” In this statement he is referring to a time in the early 1980’s when fans wore bags over their heads due to the fact the team was so wretchedly bad at the time.

No one stays on top forever. Today’s Tiffany will always be eclipsed by tomorrow’s Miley Cyrus. The Tony Dorsett of yesterday is forgotten with the thrilling ascent of a newer, faster Chris Johnson today. Much like the commenter I quoted above, we get over it and move on in a never-ending search for whatever awaits us over the next horizon.

Sadly, these things are not merely limited to the physical world. A young man stopped by last night to watch the recorded game with me, but it was only a pretense on his part. In actuality he had been encumbered with some recent spiritual questions in his life and basically needed to use me as a sounding board. I did the best I could in providing meager answers and soft advice to the soul searching questions he posited, at least, I hope I did. I do not have all of the answers - and that may be the most truthful thing I’ve yet written in this blog. Thankfully, more than anything else, he just needed a prod in the right direction and I was able to decipher this by the time we finished our conversation. He is a good kid, and by faith I believe that he will continue to walk the straight path that all Christians aspire to. I watched him grow up in our church; he attended my Sunday School class as a teen and I know his heart better than most, maybe.

There have been countless others over the years, some got it and others apparently didn’t. I cringe when I hear the stories, usually second hand, and I pray for those kids, my kids, when I receive an update on a spiritual walk gone awry. It is not for me to judge and I never do, but it has a way of hurting me anyway; a proverbial heartbreak with each and every tidbit that finds its way back to me. As a Sunday School teacher, and as a youth leader – where did I fail them? With no recourse for me beyond a judgment that is not mine to verdict, I do the only thing I can be certain of: I pray for them. And with an admittedly weak faith, I faithfully hope it is enough.

I recall a time in my younger days when I fell away from my Christian walk as well, despite the best efforts of those who taught me and prayerfully advised me as I grew up. Looking back, I acknowledge it was my own fault and also know there was nothing else anyone could have done to coerce me to stick to the right path. It was during that time in my life, despite the Bible, despite knowing G_d had a plan for my life, and despite my Christian faith - I simply got over it. Those were dark days, indeed. I remember with not a little sorrow those lonely days of making an attempt to forge my own way and follow my rules along with my misguided ideas on life. I made it back, albeit in a tough and thankless manner, with many a tear-stained eye in my wake. But someone was praying for me. Somebody loved me. Someone believed in me. My return to G_d would not have happened otherwise.

Paul writes, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”

I can return that favor for others who vacate the bandwagon of faith and get over it when a spiritual walk appears meaningless compared to the things Satan’s world apparently has to offer. They might just make it back as well. The possibilities are endless when your Heavenly Father specializes in the impossible.

In The Heart Of A Child

I was reading a news article this morning discussing an 8-year-old in Broward County, Florida who was expelled from school for bringing a toy gun to class. The school has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on weapons, and although the gun was a toy, it turns out it was capable of firing projectiles. Thus it was considered dangerous and the kid was discharged from school for a year. A quick search on the Net and the story behind the culprit gun was uncovered – it was capable of shooting Styrofoam darts and is available at any Wal-Mart or Toys-R-Us in the neighborhood. Guess he coulda put an eye out or something with that dangerous projectile shooter, who knows. The bad thing is, the incident happened last year, the boy has yet to be reinstated in school, and unless the school board intervenes, he won’t be. Second graders these days, you just can’t trust them, I tell ya.

It made me think of another time and another place, vivid memories of the things boys are prone to do for apparently no good reason. A good friend and I had camped out in the deep woods, hoping to get a jump-start on squirrel-hunting season the following morning. We were using his car, so we had to have been at least fifteen-years-old at the time to have a vehicular license to do such. We had spent an abnormally cold night in his car, a 1953 Chevrolet that had seen better days, and awoke to a dusting of frost on the ground. Fortunately, the night before was cold enough that we had recognized the importance of bringing coats and ski-caps along with us, so we hit the woods at daylight despite the chill. His pump 20-gauge and my father’s borrowed 12-auto reported our progress through the autumnized trees as the crisp dawn gave way to a beautiful South Mississippi morning.

Because we were boys, and the only thing on our mind the night before had been tree rodents, we had brought no food to share between the two of us. I vividly remember that by the time 9 AM rolled around, my stomach was gnawing at my intestines in a way that only a teen-aged boy will ever fully appreciate. We needed a trip to the store, and fast. The squirrel-hunting had played itself out by that hour anyway, so we loaded the guns in the car, got in, and headed for town.

Looking back now, with the benefit of age and wisdom, all we had to do was enter the store, get a honey bun or candy bar, maybe some chips, grab a coke or two, pay, and we’d be on our way. That is the way it works in the sane world - happens just like that every day. Yet for some reason, we decided… No, we postulated. (That can’t be it either as boys in their teens don’t know what that means) We figured it would be a good idea to ‘pull a good ‘un’ on the small store’s proprietor, who we both knew well and who we also knew reciprocated our recognition. He was a young adult at the time, and we thought he was 'cool' because he turned old cars into hot rods as a hobby.

So we exited the vehicle with our ski-masks pulled down over our faces, guns in hand, and loudly announced as we entered the store that we were ‘here to get all your Fig Newton bars’ and if he complied ‘no one would get hurt’. It did not go as planned because he never looked up from his paper. “Shannon, Scott, what are you two idiots up to?” He responded stoically. With much chagrin we leaned our guns against the counter and took off our masks, disappointed that we did not get the desired reaction out of him.

He gave us a mild lecture on the dangers of performing a hold up gag in broad daylight and on the main street of McNeill, no less. He advised us that although it was kind of funny, the local law enforcement officials might not see it as such had they happened to cruise by at that particular moment. We lowered our heads, the reality of our stupid prank beginning to hit home to the two of us. Ever a great person, he fixed us both a cup of coffee and gave us a Little Debbie snack cake ‘on the house’. The free snack paled in comparison to the experience of an adult sharing a cup of coffee with us, and though the remainder of the conversation that morning has faded from my memory, I do fondly remember that much. Lucky for us, he didn’t tell our parents about the prank, and I am sure of that because there were no violent repercussions when I arrived home later in the day. The writer of Proverbs states: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” The Lord knows my momma believed in that verse sincerely enough to drive out most of the foolishness from my system as I grew up.

I can’t help but wonder, after reading the article from Broward County, how things would end much differently if a current teenager of this day and age pulled the same sort of stunt we did. I shudder to think of it. For us it was a spur of the moment prank and nothing more – we were good kids when all was said and done. There was absolutely no malice, and surely no sincerity to our actions. Maybe kids have changed. Or maybe they just need a few more understanding adults willing to play the part of mentor and guide when their actions get out of hand and cross the gray areas between good and bad behavior. We were lucky enough to have those sorts of people in our lives back then, and I’m very thankful to have known them today.

Silly Little Bracelets

While using the elliptical machine at the gym today, I had an epiphany. Well, sort of anyway. As I watched my heart rate climb (which is important to do at my age) I noticed according to the manufacturer’s chart (placed conspicuously by the display) I had actually gone back in time. Yes, conferring to the chart I had either metaphysically reverted to my twenties again, or I was on a torrid pace for a massive coronary. Looks can be deceiving, eh?

Back at work I am watching as one of my projects comes to fruition. (I actually perform work at the plant from time to time) We are installing a new air compressor, and the piping had been completed, the electrical service and controls were in place; all that remained was for a factory start-up technician to drop by and make sure we had everything as it should be before powering the unit into service. I scheduled the visit last week and following a lot of red tape, our technician was slated to arrive this morning at 8 AM. Of course, things being as they are these days, he didn’t arrive until after lunch.

When he arrived, my first thought was that he was simply too young to be a very good technician. He had a funny haircut and an accent that did not bode well for communicating with the good people of the South. Don’t get me wrong, he seemed nice enough, but what closed the deal for me and my obviously not-so-great first impression was the bracelet on his arm. It was one of those ‘fun bracelets’ that the kids are wearing these days, you know the ones, plastic-colored little animals and such until you put them on your wrist and then they simply look like raggedy scraps of who-knows-what. I tried to hide my disappointment, and instead assigned my best technician to work with him. And of course I also made sure I was in the general area to look over his shoulder in case things went downhill. I was almost certain by this point that they would.

What followed next bordered on the surreal. He went through several checks on the machine before applying power, using a well-used lap-top he had produced from somewhere deep within his greasy tool bag. While he made his very thorough checks, he even took the time to point out things to my technician that could possibly cause problems for us later on down the road. As the afternoon wore on, I got to know him a little better and it turns out he is a pretty sharp guy. But more than that, he was a joy to be around as he punctuated each step of the process with a joke or a well-told story from another job that may prove relevant to how we operate the machine once he is gone. Within a few hours or so he had the machine humming to life and it ran as smooth as catfish skin.

Somewhere along the way he noticed my side-glance infatuation with the bracelet, and offered me an explanation, although I had politely not asked. As a technician, he is on the road a lot and has a six-year-old daughter back at home. She gave him the bracelet, and told him to wear it so he ‘would not forget her.’ That bracelet had a lot of meaning to him, and knowing the story I was ashamed of my first impression. Who was I to judge without knowing the whole story?

Due to his mannerisms, as well as accessories such as a child’s bracelet, I am willing to bet he gets a lot of false first impressions when he visits places like our plant. Strangely enough, I believe after getting to know him better that he does not mind at all. You see, he has something in his demeanor I may have had at one time in my life, and have simply forgotten how it feels to be that way. So many times, so many days, I have been guilty of letting life control me, and not letting myself control life, which is the way it should be - and the way G_d designed us to be.

Most of the time, I wake each morning with a memorized list of things I have to do and a schedule I must keep. There are bills to be paid, children to be fed, and a boss to satisfy – I know the score and how the game is played. I’m pretty good at it by this point in my life. But there has to be more to this than merely keeping a schedule and doing the required things and handling the responsibilities I face as an adult. If not then why am I here and what is this ‘life’ I live really all about? Is the world simply spinning and forcing me to hang on for one more hour, one more day, and if it all works out the weekend will be my only reward? Has my life become nothing more than waiting for four o’clock on Friday? That is quite a sobering thought.


The writer of Ecclesiastes put it this way: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” If I get to the end of the line and find out that all I did was work, come home, watch TV, eat, and sleep for sixty or seventy years, I’ll have a very sad existence to look back upon. There is so much more to this glorious thing we call life. There is a wife to be kissed, children to hug, flowers to smell, and a dog that needs a scratch behind the ears. There are friends to share things with, and birthday parties to attend. There are birds to hunt and fish to catch, and motorcycles begging to be ridden. Most important of all, there are personal times for me to praise G_d for giving me this opportunity to live in such a special world, a world He created, and in turn filled it up to the proverbial brim with very special people.

I’ll remember that tomorrow and be grateful when the elliptical machine transports me back to my youth. And you might just catch me wearing a silly little bracelet as I do so.

Ah, probably not on the latter, but you get my drift…