Soaring, Running, Walking

Another gym story, if you will. I’ve decided I can do that on Fridays. It’s the end of the week and as always, each weekend arrives with the unlimited possibilities of better things to come. Today, in a paraphrase of Steve Winwood: “If you’ll hold onto me, I will let you into my dreams”.

Normally, my partner and I lift weights for a little while, and then it’s treadmill time. This is our routine and I look forward to an encounter with the rolling belt each day in a manner much akin to hanging out with an old friend. Today I was walking while Peter Frampton streamed through my iPod, reminding me that he still needed someone to show him the way. (Any time I can get Steve Winwood and Peter Frampton into my blog, it is a good day, you know?) As I strolled along the mystical pathway, recollecting my own time back in the 1970’s, into the gym walked Barbie and Ken. Young and vibrant in a manner that makes us older folks wonder why a couple in their physical shape would even bother to waste their time exercising, they mounted the treadmills on either side of me and in minutes they both began to run at a torrid pace.

Feeling an unstated disdain emanating from the two of them, I began to run as well. Let’s just say it was contagious, because to admit I suddenly felt old will not do my reasoning any justice in this matter. To my surprise, it felt good! I ran in a way I had been unable to in years, my feet providing a steady flop flop as the mileage counter on the display began to climb. I was younger, happier, and caught a glimpse of a more carefree time in my life while doing so.

For a few minutes.

I lowered my speed to a comfortable jog, and although the obviously-computer-generated couple far outpaced me it was still a good clip. The rate on the distance meter dropped off, assuredly, but I still felt pretty good about what I was doing and my performance to that point. The mere thought of me at first running, and now jogging of all things - at my age? Who knew?

For a few minutes.

My ankles began reminding me that despite my sudden foray into the world of youthful galloping, they were not convivial about it. A fallen arch on one of my converse-clad feet seconded the motion. And according to the instrumentation, my heart rate was almost ready to register on a Richter scale in Honolulu. I backed off my pace, and sheepishly returned to a brisk walk. Though I could not compete with the younger couple’s pace, in the end they finished and were off to wherever it is that young people go long before I completed my routine. And I was none the worse for wear and had burned an adequate amount of calories in the process.

Isaiah writes: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” I absolutely love these verses from the Bible. They mean more to me with each passing year of my life, because I have developed a deeper understanding for the unfathomable depths of what it means to ‘wait on the Lord’ as the years have steadily passed for me.

As a Christian, it is my duty and responsibility to ‘wait on the Lord’ despite my own intuitions and the desires I have hidden deep in my heart. Any decision I am called upon to make in my life, whether work related, personal, or even (gasp!) financial, should be submitted to G_d through prayer beforehand. He deals with the big decisions, but He is also the master of the small ones. I understand this concept very well at this point in my life when maybe it was not as obvious to me in my younger days.

Sometimes as I wait, I can see Him at work in my life. His Spirit fills me with hope and confidence, and I know what He has planned for me. During those times, the way He works things out is miraculous, and I find myself unable to do anything at all except humbly offer my unworthy praise to Him. Furthermore, I am left with a sense of how full my cup is and I cannot wait to share the story of how He has blessed me with others. In a very literal way, I am soaring like an eagle; in a spiritual realm where everything makes perfect sense and my path is open and laid out before me. Those times are the best.

At other times I can only get a glimpse of these things. He is working in my life; the bills are getting paid, the kids are happy, and my earthly problems are all being worked out. I am comfortable in my position in life, and though nothing appears to be as miraculous as the situations I discussed earlier, I am happy and know I have been blessed. I continue to wait on Him and in a very real sense I am not weary with the things in life that beset me. He is taking care of me. Things are good, and I keep running.

But sometimes I cannot feel His Spirit at all. The deck seems to be stacked against me. Life is hard. I know G_d is there and I know He has a plan for me, but I just can’t see it. I am left unable to ascertain what awaits on the dark road ahead of me, but I understand it will all work out somehow - if only in His time instead of mine. It is during those troubled times, which are substantial in my life, that I have learned even more so to simply wait on Him. I learn to be patient during those times, and I learn not to give up. More importantly, I do not faint as I continue to walk.

You see, in my spiritual journey, I’ve learned it’s not how fast I get there that matters in the end. It’s simply waiting on Him that makes it all work out for the best. No matter how old I get.

Days of Convenience

I’ve been working hard in the gym these days, attempting to stave off old age for yet a little while longer. I know I’m still getting older, but by working out I am improving my health for that wild ride we call life and I’m losing a little bit of weight in the process. It calls for more than just exercise on a daily basis; I have to watch everything that I eat and avoid those delicious fried foods I've grown to love so well. I’ve been doing pretty good so far. To be blatantly honest with you this morning - I feel I deserve a pat on the back.

You see, I know the formula for health and eating right, and it’s no big secret. Throw away those fancy diets with foods such as broccoli, spinach, and exorbitant amounts of lettuce. Doctors have told us since the beginning of time that regular exercise and a low-fat diet are the tricks you need to improve your well-being. A developed habit of saying ‘no’ to hamburgers and sausage, and avoiding situations where you happen to find yourself in Pizza Hut will do wonders for your heart as well as your waistline.

So the scale gave me a much-deserved number this morning, which is always good on a Friday. Later I noticed I’ve changed to a smaller diameter belt loop-hole as I dressed for work. My confidence in what I am doing grew as I considered the avenue I had taken during the past month. Things are good. Life is good. McFadden and Whitehead’s hit song entitled ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ played through my mind as I began my day in the office.

I walked down the stairs for coffee when it happened. Doughnuts – the bane of civilization as well as dieters and the health-conscious crowd were waiting for me on the counter. And they were hot! And they were glazed! And they were… good. As my body began the slow process of digesting those deep-fried sugars, I began to wonder where I had gone astray. I did not eat breakfast, and last night I ate a little less than normal for supper, therefore I was hungry. I still could have walked by, ignoring the doughnuts had I chosen to do so, but instead I opened the box to see what flavors were hidden there. Once the aroma bounded into my nostrils it was over, the fight was lost, and I was undone. Literally.

I guess you could call it a convenient moment, and I’ve learned a lot about those times this week. In the Bible, King Herod imprisoned John the Baptist because he had preached that Herod should not have married his brother’s wife. Herodias, the wife in question, was not too happy about having her sin pointed out in public, either. Herod was afraid of John the Baptist and knew he was a great prophet. Mark writes, “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” Despite this fear, he kept him in prison but it is doubtful he intended to carry it any further than that. Let me put it like this: he did not plan to harm John, only silence him for a while. (I didn’t really want to eat the doughnuts either; I have been doing great on my diet and only wanted to smell them!)

Mark continues, “And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee.” The part about it being a convenient day is the key here. That day created a situation that brought out the worst conceivable resolution. You probably know the story by now. Herod’s step-daughter performs a special brithday dance for him and his guests in an enticing manner, and Herod in his lust promises her she can have anything she wants up to one-half of his kingdom. She asks her mom, who fears John the Baptist much less than she hates him, what to ask for. Herodias tells her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod had placed himself in a situation (a convenient situation) in which he cannot back down. Trapped, he grants his step-daughter (and Herodias) her wish.

There is a lesson to be learned here about the way the devil can be allowed to work in our lives. We must be careful and on our guard at all times. If we have a bad habit or a secret sin in our heart that may appear to be small and harmless, we need to take note of it and correct it. Down the road satan might just happen to have a convenient time in our own lives he can use to ensnare us, causing us to stumble or fall.

Note: My personal thanks goes out to the evangelist at the tent revival I attended this week for opening my eyes and heart toward the emphasis of the word 'convenient' in the scriptures I used in this blog today.

A Gathering Storm

So much for the whole “April showers bring May flowers” thing. My yard is parched despite habitual daily watering on my part, and apparently there is no relief in sight as far as the rain is concerned. We were close last night, but not close enough. Our neighbors in Slidell and Hancock County were blessed with a shower or two, but not us. If things continue as such, I may ride my motorcycle to work as that's usually a sure bet to bring on a monsoon of epic proportions. At least that has been proven as the case for me in the past.

The weather forecasters all but promised us precipitation, both yesterday and today. And I trusted them. Someone I know personally (and since I do not use names on this blog I’ll just call him ‘my dad’) has a lot of fun with me when we compare the latest weather forecasts. We’ve decided the best you can hope for from the paid prognosticators is an accuracy rate of around forty percent. Keep in mind they make good money performing that job. Anyway.

Yesterday afternoon the skies darkened and the wind picked up out of the North. You could smell the rain in the air as all signs (including those from the weatherman) pointed toward a sure inundation. I went with my wife and kids to attend a tent revival in McNeill, but we were convinced we were going to be leaving early due to the ominous clouds building above us. It was a sure thing if ever I saw one, and immediately I began to be thankful; knowing I would not have to water the lawn the next day. The flowers would come back, the grass would turn from brown to green, and best of all - the pollen would be washed from everything stationary whether animate or inanimate. But despite the signs, the forecasts, and all things I took for granted as known; nothing happened. No rain. No thunder. Just a calm evening with heat lightning dancing across the sky on the dark southern horizon.

It was disheartening, but not really that big of a deal when I thought about it. I will have to continue my watering chores each evening, but it will eventually rain again. It always does. The verse from Genesis comes to mind after the flood, when G_d promised Noah about seedtime and harvest, etc. The rain will return and I will follow-up by complaining about how that rain sure does make the grass grow a little too fast for my liking.

It kind of reminds me of preachers in the past, and sermons I’ve heard from each on the Second Coming, the Tribulation, and the Rapture of the Church. In 1973, when I was a mere lad of 11 or so, the Arab alliances invaded Israel in what became known as the Yom Kippur war. Many comparisons were made at the time to Ezekiel’s war as prophesied in chapter 38 of his book, and it actually made a lot of sense. Later on we had the election of Ronald Reagan, and a lot of folks made reference to his name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, as having six letters in each part of his nom de plume, hence the number 666. (I never believed for a moment that he was the anti-Christ, I’m just using this as an example!)

One prophecy that did make me anxious of the possibility we were close to the end occurred in the late 1980’s. I do not remember who the ‘prophet’ was at the time, but he had data configured to prove that 1988 would usher in the end of time. It was forty years, or the end of a Biblical generation after Israel had been reborn as a nation and that sounded accurate to me. Of course it didn’t come to pass, but I still consider it one of the best predictions as it had me convinced at the time that it was legit.

These prophecies have escalated since then, with Y2K among other examples. We’ve had several wars in the Middle East along with enough earthquakes and natural disasters to forge our thoughts into believing that surely the time of the end is…now. Seeing how the so-called experts have been wrong so many times in the past, what should we believe at this point? Does this in any way change things for us? Are world events at this hour any different for us today than it was for our parent’s generation before we were even born?

My answer is that it does not matter. What does matter is that I strive to be as one of the seven wise virgins Jesus spoke about - I must be ready for that day to come at all times, beginning with today. Selling all my possessions, stockpiling ammunition and dried foodstuffs, and moving off to a hidden enclave in the hills will do me no good at all if I am not ready in my heart for His return. True, I don’t know the day nor the hour, but much like the rain I spoke of earlier, I know it will happen soon enough. In our fast-paced world it is easy to lose sight of that fact, and to honestly believe in a return of Christ could even lead to open ridicule these days. Peter summed it up with a prophecy that very closely resembles the attitudes we can currently see in our own society today: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

The weatherman says we will have another chance for rain later on this week. I’ll water my lawn as best I can, and I might ride the motorcycle in to work tomorrow to hedge my bets. I’ll go about my life as per normal. Because I know that even if he is wrong again, it’s still only a matter of time before the rains will finally come.

Faith And What To Believe In

My youngest daughter is doing her persuasive speech for her college class on ‘whether we did or did not go to the moon.’ Furthermore, she asked me to help her with the research required on the project, and so I did. Being of a technical nature and also as a father, I did not mind the work, despite it being a topic which I considered frivolous at best. But that’s just me.

Ah, these Generation-Y kids these days; they think they know it all. Do tell.

I was out in the yard on a tepid summer day back in 1969, playing army with my little brother. Mom and dad were working and my grandmother had been called from the bull-pen to take care of us while they were away. All things considered as such, it was a normal afternoon. Just about the time we were ‘dug in’ and deep in our preparation for assaulting the dirty Germans in one final, desperate battle, Granny called out to us from the back door. We came into the house and watched as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, the grainy television footage interspersed with his famous comment, “That’s one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.” It should have been a major moment in our lives, yet it was something easily dismissed by two young boys as we returned to the back yard to complete our conquest of the Huns. Things have a tendency to be like that when you are six and three, respectively.

Over the next few years there were several landings on the moon as the NASA program consolidated their hold on the title of Winners of the Moon Race against the dreaded Soviets. I understood things better by the time the latter missions were performed, and became quite a fan of all things Apollo. I had the books and periodicals; I had the plastic models and glossy pictures of my space heroes hanging on the wall in my room. A not-so-well hidden dream of mine was to one day be an astronaut in my own right, and to repeat Armstrong’s feat by becoming the first American to set foot on say - Mars, maybe? Hope springs eternal when you are young and life is ahead of you, waiting for its chance to be written.

Years passed and I grew old, and find myself where I am today. I never made it to Mars, but it’s just as well for all of us. I studied a lot of science in pursuit of my career as an engineer, but strangely enough, very little about the space program or NASA in general. This may appear rather odd when taken in the context of my former electronics career in the military and the fact that I have lived most of my adult life in close proximity to the Stennis Space Center. I never gave it much thought, accepting space exploration and the moon for what it was: something that happened a long time ago and was spuriously being continued, events returning to the evening news forefront only on those rare occasions when a Shuttle flight sadly ended in disaster.

In pouring over data for my daughter’s speech, I will admit that there is compelling evidence for the contrary opinion she posits in her speech. It is no longer, “she is young, she wasn’t there" as I perceived when I began the research. And it causes me to doubt not a little the things I used to take for granted. My faith in those high-strung heroes of yesteryear, with names like Aldrin, Scott, (even Armstrong) and of a program that brought glory and fame to our nation has been called into question by my heart. A little, anyway. The strong intimations from a host of perceptive critics, using arguments on everything from blast zones to photographic anomalies have forced me to re-examine the things I used to hold on to as dear. How can a faith (or at least an honest belief) be so easily shaken? What do you do when the known things you once considered as truth begin to unravel? (In the back of my mind, the strains of REM’s Man on the Moon are still blaring from the radio back in the early 90’s)(Just saying)

By the same token, for centuries data from even more ‘perceptive’ critics has also piled up in an effort to downplay the role of G_d, not only in our world but in our individual lives as well. Those pundits come and go, albeit with a seemingly endless supply of logic to affirm their findings. Science begins a cycle that first disproves and then, a victim of its own theoretical evidence, by fact only re-proves the existence of G_d. It is the proverbial Holy Grail of evolutionists and atheists alike; to eliminate the Creator and in so doing, to nullify the laws and morals that are recorded in His Word. Though at face value some of their arguments may appear compelling, the truth of the matter is always going to be the truth that is recorded in the Word. The Psalmist writes: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” I choose to believe, for that is my faith. It is what I am and what I have been called to be.

And though I may never know the truth behind the lunar landings, by faith I know there are yet far more important truths for me to believe in.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

It’s funny how you look back at certain events in your life with fond memories of those moments, although at the time they may have been filled with no small amount of trepidation. Usually those moments were quite possibly not as great as you remember them to be. I was thinking about something funny that happened to me during boot camp this morning, for no apparent reason. It’s just something that men do and whether they share those memories with you or not can also be just as random. You are lucky to have me, dear reader, because I am a man who does not mind a good share every now and then.

But the incident triggered from my memory bank is not nearly as important as the lesson I learned from it today; and that is the angle I choose to delve into this afternoon. If you are a veteran of military service, regardless of branch, you will always remember boot camp. I attended an old school boot camp back in an era when there were very few regulations against what a drill instructor could or could not do to you to establish a point he felt obliged to make. Those were rough days indeed, and they were made worse by a cruel twist of fate that had me attend basic training during the sweltering months of July and August. It was an ordeal that I am glad I went through, though I'll confess it had its moments of comedy and created many friendships that were born out of necessity. Would I want to do it again? No way. It was also brutal. It bordered on being inhumane. Ask anyone that was a proud member of our squad, KILO 121, and I’ll bet the farm you would get the same response.

What I learned from today’s seemingly inconsequential trip down memory lane is why my memories of that time, despite all the bad things I could write about it, are still special to me even today. The cork-screw pressure of those ten long weeks, the physical as well as the mental, placed a huge amount of stress upon me. But it caused me to blossom at the same time. There are very few moments in life I can recall where I felt so… alive. Maybe it was not all about survival, in actuality it wasn’t, but you could not convince me of that idea at the time. The fear of failure, the assorted body aches and pains, the mental ups and downs kept me on edge on an hourly basis. We’d usually catch a break on Sunday mornings, when we were allowed to go to chapel services, yet those short hours were only fleeting intermissions wedged into the middle of a script from Dante’s Inferno. By no small miracle I survived and by the end of it, on the day of graduation, I felt fulfilled and very proud of myself.

In my description of life, the polar opposite of happiness is not found in the state of being unhappy. I believe the true contradiction to happiness in life can be discovered when one is found in a state of being merely apathetic about life in general. When life throws me curve balls and I find myself scrambling to beat long odds arrayed against me; that is when I am truly forced to live in the moment. I think it would be down-right dangerous for me to wake up one day and find that I have met all of my goals in life and have nothing further to look forward to. At that point, I would have nothing left to define me and it would be easy to get lost in a shuffle hand-delivered to me by the years that followed.

The sad fact is that soon enough this will happen. I will make enough money and retire. The house will be paid for, the kids will be grown, and life will change for me. At that point, I will search for new goals to pursue, yet I’ve also learned that sometimes goals are harder still to project. What will I do in that case? What will continue to motivate me and give my life meaning when my career is over and I’ve taken that last ride home from work? What can I use to drive me during my golden years as my time on earth begins to wind down? When the day arrives to find Kim and I sitting in a rocker out on the porch… what then?

The things in this life are all ephemeral in nature. The cars, boats, and houses do not last as long as they should these days. Money will never buy happiness, but it can purchase emptiness. Children grow up and start families of their own. Friends grow apart and move away to new cities. Knowing these things, the unpredictability of wealth, friends, and even family; where can I find meaning both now and in the future? Is there a cure for apathy?

True meaning can only be found in one manner. Jesus said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” It is for this purpose I was created and this should always be my utmost goal in life. After all, He qualified the commandment by stating that it was the ‘first’, or most important commandment. This goal may never entirely be met while I inhabit this mortal body, but it serves as the benchmark to continue to work toward, no matter what else happens in my life. By living this life in the present as well as in the future with a sincere manner of striving to achieve this goal, I will be guaranteed to find happiness despite any circumstance. Furthermore, and in a very real sense of the phrase, this verse of scripture quoted directly from the Son of G_d is the actual meaning of life.

No matter where I find myself and despite the things tomorrow may hold for me, I will always have this guideline: to love G_d with everything that I am and to strive toward that as the ultimate goal. Besides, an honest pursuit of this goal will very well change not only this life, but eternity for me in the end.

Experts And Weakness

During a warmer than usual October last Fall, we ran into a small problem with the air conditioning unit at our house. Small problem as in - it stopped working. The house became warm and the natives grew restless as the temperature within began to climb. Dad needed to do something, and he was up to the task as usual. I decided I had two choices; call the air conditioning repairman and fork out a load of cash, or make the repair myself. Seeing as how money was tight at the time, I chose the latter. I am by no means an expert in the field of air-conditioning, I’m an electrical engineer; but I decided on the spur of the moment that surely those respective fields of science were close enough in resemblance for me to make the repair.

Multi-meter and screw driver in hand, I approached the unit. It seemed harmless enough as it sat silently in my back yard, a stoic sentinel in the fading afternoon sun. After a minimal amount of troubleshooting, I determined that the compressor thermal overload had opened up and decided it was the likely culprit. It was altogether too easy – I jumped the overload out of the circuit and within moments the unit sprang back to life and began operating normally. Summer was almost over down in the Deep South, but I did make a mental note to get it checked out before spring. I put the covers back on the unit and came back inside. Sure enough, things were cooling down and life was returning to normal.

My wife absolutely swooned at the amazing intelligence I had displayed while my son danced excitedly around in the kitchen. My teenage daughter retreated to her room to compose a song on her guitar about the utter brilliance of her father in an effort to notify the world (via YouTube) of that greatness. Daddy, daddy, he’s the man, if he can’t do it no one can! My wife, fitfully recovering from said swoon, began making plans for a ticker-tape parade through the streets (street) of McNeill because after all, I was a hero and totally deserved the reward.

(Of course I’m stretching things a tad here; there was no ticker-tape parade as the four buildings in town are all one-story and as such, ticker tape can’t be dumped on any passing parade should we ever choose to have one.)

Flash-forward to a week ago: My mental note had somehow been forgotten over the winter and we began using the unit now that spring has arrived. After only a few days, the compressor grenaded, rendering the unit inoperable once again – this time terminally so. I had no choice but to call in an expert, and he was less than impressed with my own repair from a few months earlier. In a nice way, he reminded me that thermal means ‘hot’, and pointed out that had I called him last Fall, the compressor would not require replacement and I could have saved a lot of money. As it stood, I needed a new compressor and a lot of cash to make the house cool once again, and summer has not even begun at this point.

I tell ya, those air conditioning repairmen absolutely love it when engineers do stupid things.

I learned a hard lesson this week, and anytime you learn a real lesson it will cost you something. I now understand the importance of using a professional when a job is over my head, as a temporary fix can take a large bite out of your wallet later on. The experts are there for a reason, and they became experts for a reason. How quickly was I humbled by the whole experience - a one time brilliant engineer now merely a study in foppishness.

Ironically, I find the very same lesson can be applied to my spiritual life as well. Paul writes to the Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I love that verse. Yet I need to be reminded at times to include the complete verse as a part of my daily walk with Him. Too many times I think “I” can do all things by myself. As a result I can forget that it is Christ who strengthens me and enables me to stay on the right path. Without His help and His guidance, I am nothing at all. He is the expert in all things, and I need to call on Him before I make rash decisions in my life.

Many times I try and do things myself because it is hard to confess a weakness that may exist in my spiritual life. An argument with my wife? I can fix that. A falling out with a friend? I can handle that. Sin in my life that does not need to be there? Ink me up as the one to provide a solution, because I don’t need to bother G_d with that one. Paul also wrote under inspiration: “for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The times I attempt to handle things myself can cause me to miss out on a special blessing and a glimpse of His power in my daily life. It also robs Him of the glory he so rightfully deserves through that process.

Take it from me; I’ve learned that it’s always better to put your trust in the expert.

Annual Physicals

I gotta go to the doctor today. It’s not something I look forward to each year, but it is what I’d call by definition a ‘necessary evil’ once you begin ‘getting on up there’ in age, of the which I am. The hard part is behind me as I completed the actual sit down meeting with the doctor a week ago. That visit concluded with the inevitable needle-pricks as the requirement in blood was paid, and of course I fainted. But I always do, so it was no big deal - I’m a wimp when it comes to getting blood drawn from me. I guess that’s not the most dignified admission on my part, but in my case it is what it is.

So I get a phone call this morning; the test results from my blood work have been determined, and I have been invited back to his office this afternoon to discuss the dark, hidden secrets of my body that were uncovered with extreme prejudice by the lab technicians. I’m not expecting bad news, but I know I’ll be chided for things that revolve around sodium levels and excessive caffeine intake. That’s usually the norm for me and I’d be foolish to anticipate no less during the pending after-work visit. Again, it only gets worse as I get older.

Aging is natural and occurs every day in all of us. We fight against it, and it is a good fight, but the truth of the matter is the deck is invariably stacked against us. We diet, we exercise, and we constantly ward off the gray in our hair, all to no avail. On the other hand I’ve accepted it; consciously watching as my motives have evolved from physical appearance to physical well-being. I don’t know about you, but it hit me when I reached forty-five a couple of years back. I noticed my efforts in the gym were suddenly going unrewarded by my unrepentant body. Around the same point in time, food suddenly began to taste better, and I discovered new and even unhealthier choices to enhance my appetite. How can a Barq’s root beer and Popeye’s fried chicken not be good for you? Do tell.

Fragile things, these bodies we inhabit as we take our earthly walk through time and space.

Maybe that’s why the Bible is full of verses encouraging us to make the most of the short time we have been allotted here. So many times I catch myself looking down the road to a retirement that may never come or a project that cannot be completed, instead of concentrating on the only moment I’ve been promised that I can call my own. Solomon states in Proverbs, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

My annual doctor’s exam serves as a yearly reminder to me of this fact, and that’s a shame when you think about it. He compares my weight to the one recorded from the year before, as he also ascertains the changes in the levels of cholesterol in my blood. He listens to my heart and takes my blood pressure, and asks personal questions no one else could ever get away with asking me. Those are good things and they are wise things. It tells me where I’ve been and serves to predict where I’m going, at least physically. But you can never be too sure.

That’s why it is also very important (as I age) to keep tabs on my spiritual being, or specifically my heart of hearts. What is in there that should not be? Is there bitterness, or a desire for revenge for something that may or may not have been done to me during the year that passed? Have I wronged someone over that course of time, someone I may need to obtain forgiveness from? Have I done my best with the time I’ve been given, or am I looking ever forward to a tomorrow that may never come, fueled by dreams and ambitions that matter least within the spiritual realm? In a nutshell; as a Christian, have I done my best?

Just as it is unhealthy for me to physically gorge on Popeye’s and Barq’s, it is bad for me spiritually to allow sin to satisfy the hunger that is always present in my heart. I have to watch what I feed my heart and soul and take stock of each, and it is important to do so daily, instead of merely once a year. I can never be certain of what tomorrow holds for me, but when my time here on earth is done and my last chapter has been written, I want to go out on the best of terms.

Comes The Horseman?

I try very hard not to delve into the political spectrum with this blog, but there is just so much material out there to use right now. So many things are going on, and it has all happened so quickly; it can leave you gasping for air. Well, maybe not all of us. Let’s be more specific and say that it leaves those of us who follow the news and stay abreast of current events shaking our heads at the very least. One year ago at this time GM was just another car company, Cap and Trade was something we knew very little about, and stimulus packages along with health-care reform were mere talking points from a new President. The only thing consistent from that time until now is the state of fear we exist in: a fear for the economy and for the status of our country in general. I’m no economist, and politics is not in my natural persuasion, but I’ve realized that now is not the time to become lax in paying attention to Things Goin On - to borrow a title from Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Neither do I have answers or solutions to the problems that beset this country of ours, at least not in the earthly realm. That is not an ‘out’ on my part, nor is it an excuse to write a lot of empty rhetoric within this column. But it doesn’t take a political science major to recognize that time and circumstance can’t go on this way forever. Something’s gotta give.

We keep hearing that this accumulated debt is bad for and will be passed on to our grandchildren. I don’t think it will take that long at all. These deficits will come home to roost much sooner than we think, and the pot is apparently simmering on the stove as I write this. Not only is that proverbial pot ready to boil, the government is turning up the heat with each passing day that Congress convenes. And no one seems to care except those who have been denigrated into silence or are being vilified into obscurity.

My take on the situation is this: we have to do something about the debt or the dollar will be worthless and our economy will crumble. No one doubts this and what I’m saying is not some grand epiphany sent down to me from on high. It’s action and reaction/cause and effect, and even our government is not immune to the logic. We can raise taxes. But that is akin to pouring a bucket of water into the ocean by this point. After all, with the current deficit we are talking trillions of dollars here. The interest alone is staggering by comparison. Taxes will be raised, and they will be creative about it, but I do not believe taxes alone will be enough.

We can cut spending in the area of entitlements and welfare. No we can’t. Not at this point. The backlash from the masses would be unbelievable, Armageddon-esque. The roof would come off. Think New Orleans after Katrina with a steroid multiplier. Plus we’ve now added the entitlement of healthcare into the mix and that dog is ready to hunt. To suggest a reduction in entitlements would bring on howls of racism, greed, or branding the one who suggests such with the title of being uncaring for the unfortunate in our society.

No, there is but one sacred cow left where money can be saved in sums large enough to make a difference, if only for a little while. The military plum is ripe for picking and I look for cuts, massive cuts, down the road or possibly sooner. A withdrawal from the world stage followed by a path to Argentinean irrelevance for this country will probably be the payment required by the piper. An end to the era of Pax-Americana that has existed since World War II, and what will happen then? Can the UN or the EU fill the void we leave behind?

“And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” In Revelations 6, John sees a rider (interpreted by most theologians to be the Anti-Christ) with a bow, but he mentions no arrows for that bow. Was it merely an oversight on the writer's part, or something to be assumed? Or was the rider to be understood as conquering in the name of peace? Maybe conquering comes easy for him because the conquered can sense the horrors associated with the horses and riders that are following on his heels? It makes me wonder.

I truly believe the coming year will be interesting. In any case, I can hear the hoof beats drawing ever closer; they may possibly be at our very door by now.