Thursday, December 27, 2007

Four Score Of Wisdom

Have a great birthday Bernie!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blessings Upon You

There are so many things I could say, and so many ways I could say them...but it really all boils down this:

Amy and I wish you great blessings, and the ability to recognize and share them.

May you always know God is with you, that you never travel alone, and may Christ be reborn in your heart this day...and every day.

Merry Christmas!


Amy & Michael

Friday, December 21, 2007

Give 'Em The Chair

It's sort of like one of those robot vacuum cleaners...except it's a chair. I think it's still in the concept stage, but the idea is your local public library would have these chairs, which you'd "activate" with your library card. Then your chair-bot would follow you around ensuring you a place to sit while you browse the books.

What will they think of next? I mean going to the library is already soooo physically taxing...

Oh yeah, I want 3 or 4...."Chair Wars!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bandleading Bernie's Brigand Brigade

I apologize for not blogging lately, life is a little very hectic these days, but I figured I better write something since Amy is starting to get a little put off by the emails inquiring where to send the flowers from people assuming I died and they missed the funeral.

In addition to our now somewhat routine daily confusion, we're dealing with the mad rush to prepare for the holidays, a couple more unexpected deaths, friends in need, some work frustrations (most of which I've resolved by the way - it's easier to adopt the prevailing office attitude of not caring about common sense or quality then to continue to feel like I'm swimming upstream), and fiddling far too much with "Google gadgets" that always seem to need just a little more tinkering - I'm now convinced they're the tools of the devil. Foremost, we're also allegedly preparing for a rapidly approaching family cruise.

The cruise, in honor of my Father-in-law Bernie's 80th birthday, is going to be wonderful, but when I say "family" I mean virtually every member of our family - on Amy's side. Were it my side of the family this would be a snap, we could rent a dinghy and still have room for an ice chest and a handful of rubber ducks that would provide more than enough amusement.

This however is far different. It is a major affair that obviously includes Amy's parents, their kids, all but one of the grand kids, every one's spouse, spouse-to-be, and probable and/or potential spouse to a great-grandchild still in incubation mode.

Priscilla, my unbelievably resilient and patient Mother-in-law, is valiantly trying to get everybody (and it's a lot of people) "organized" for this extravaganza. "Organized" is not the first adjective that usually springs to mind when describing our clan of marauders. Simply taking on the task of attempting to shepherd this motley mix into the ocean while resisting the urge to succumb to the "lemming approach" speaks volumes as to her character...and quite possibly her sanity.

Priscilla will come out of this experience with even more stars for her heavenly crown, and/or a purple heart, and quite possibly as the winner of the first ever Carnival Cruise Line Betty Ford Clinic lifetime merit pass...assuming she survives the ordeal of course.

I'm not exaggerating. I mean when our family has our annual summer retreat in Ohio it doesn't usually include this many people at once and certainly doesn't require passports/coordinating airline schedules/hotel reservations/group excursion preferences, seating charts and making sure at least one cabin has padded walls for use in the event of an emergency by any number of our family members, myself certainly among them...heck there could be a line to get in.

During those summer reunions it's not uncommon for a discussion of where everyone wants to go to dinner to last hours...maybe days, I don't really know since I usually stealthily retreat to snag leftovers from the fridge fearing the collective indecision may only end when we all starve to death so it's every man for himself.

I suppose it's like an N/A meeting...except there's less smoking and the "N" stands for neurotic. Plus there's almost no anonymity...we usually know most every one's name, although occasionally it takes some of us "elder members" of the tribe a few tries to call our children by their names, rather than the names of their siblings or the family pet, depending upon our level of frustration, fear and or sleep deprivation.

Seriously, this is a huge undertaking and observing Priscilla "Cap'n" our crew via email, phone calls, postings to the family website and at times I suspect cattle prods, has resulted in me recently being startled awake on occasion by a recurring, and slightly disturbing, vision.

[STAGE INSTRUCTION: Gradually dim house-lights. "Twilight-Zone style music" fade up.]

In this "vision" our entire rag-tag troupe is boarding the ship while a slightly wild-eyed - but fashionably dressed - Priscilla is futilely trying to get every one's attention by shouting,"ARE YOU SURE YOU HAVE YOUR !*%$#@#*%^! 'FUN' PASSES?" Simultaneously she is interrogating a ship steward of some sort, but I am able to clearly hear only a small portion of that conversation:

[STAGE INSTRUCTION: Rapid music fade]

"Are you certain there are enough jackets on board for everyone?

"Why of course Ma'am, this is a state of the art cruise ship, we have more than enough life jackkaa."

"Not 'LIFE jackets silly! STRAIGHT jackets! I ordered two for everyone, figuring various members of the crew might be in need of them in order to convince the Captain it's safe to set sail! Now if a few double as life-preservers, well, that's a bonus... but believe me at this point life-saving is NOT a priority!"

"Aye Aye Ma'am! I'll go below to double check the cargo!"

Then the vision fades...with only a slight murmur still audible that took me a while to discern.

I'm fairly certain it's a spontaneous chorus of people asking,"We were supposed to bring our 'fun' passes?"

Ahoy mates! The first phase of our 2008 course has been charted!

Although I'm convinced that Priscilla's destination is eventually Sainthood.

"The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men - from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms
." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, December 10, 2007

Susan Gregory - Daniel Fast Expert

It's weird how search engines work. For the few remaining readers of this blog who have hung around a while you know that I still rank high in Google for what started out as an innocent post - actually a snide remark - about a certain fast food breakfast sandwich...don't even think I'm going to mention it again. I still get hate mail from people desperately craving the recipe and are sent here only to find I was joking...even after I actually posted a recipe.

Anyway, I also get a continual stream of visitors who come here seeking information about fasting, specifically the so called "Daniel Fast" because many years ago I adhered to a modified version of that "Daniel diet" as a spiritual discipline, and I also lost a lot of weight.

I still do fast, but I stopped blogging about specifics because a lot of folks apparently assumed I was some sort of expert...once again, Google determined my place in the digital social order without consulting me.

Most of those folks who contact me about the Daniel Fast are very nice, very genuine and very spiritual. The people who still email about "the breakfast sandwich I will not name" are apparently very hungry and a bit testy.

In any case, today I had a series of email exchanges with a writer named Susan Gregory who is far more of an expert on the Daniel Fast or Daniel Diet or whatever you wish to call it, than I ever will be or have ever been. In fact she's devoted an entire website to help people with information about the Daniel Fast. She asked if I might direct a link her way or mention her website should people contact me seeking information.

This request is like manna from above.

I really do like helping people on their various spiritual journeys but it has at times gotten to the point where large portions of church congregations were apparently dependent on me emailing them information on what foods were acceptable, which I found frightening. Then it got worse as I was drawn into some ongoing theological discussions about the origins of the Daniel Fast to the point where I felt way out of my depth...which didn't take a lot of effort on my part.

I ate sticks and berries and stuff...and I talked to God about what my true needs were in life. I didn't write a thesis on it or anything, I just blogged about my experiences.

Susan Gregory, the Daniel fast expert, even offered to allow me to post her email address...however I'm hesitant to do that, just because the Internet can be a weird place...take my word for it, one of the other phrases I still get a lot of visitors directed here by involves naked pictures of a member of the San Antonio Spurs, something I never wrote about much less posted - oddly enough, a lot of those folks come from France.

However I will gladly direct anyone and everyone seeking information on the Daniel Diet to Susan's website.

Don't say I didn't warn you Susan.

Now, if only I could get someone to lay claim to being the McGriddle recipe expert....DOH! I did it again!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

So Close

I'm barely awake...I have only read the front page of the newspaper and in a few minutes plan to go back out on the porch to leisurely read the rest before going to church. However on the second page of the newspaper is a story about how someone in northeast San Antonio won the thirty-million dollar lottery last night.

I don't play the lottery, but Amy will occasionally - usually to my muttered consternation. Yesterday, as were traveling across town to spend the afternoon with a friend, we stopped to get Amy a fountain drink (with extra extra ice) and she bought a scratch off lottery ticket. I stopped muttering when she revealed, "We won 20 bucks!"

"We" as defined in this situation does not necessarily mean I will share in that minor bounty...although I did get her to foot the bill for a "Blizzard" at Dairy Queen on the way home.

When she won the 20 bucks she also mentioned she had purchased a lottery ticket for last night's thirty-million dollar drawing. I will admit for many years it was our tradition to buy a lottery ticket in small towns because it always seemed like the winners we read about bought their tickets in some obscure little town.

Anyway, the thirty-million dollar winning ticket was purchased not in that small town on the outskirts of San Antonio where Amy bought "ours" but rather at a store in northeast San Antonio...on the nearest road of significance to our home.

It's about 5 or 6 miles from us, in an area we travel almost daily.

So it goes. The important thing is that it started my day with a laugh...and a memory of something I wrote many years ago, in pre-blog times - which I sent to family and then-friends. I've re-printed it below.

Remembering where your true treasures reside, that's a nice way to start a Sunday.



I have a lot of somewhat mundane duties in my job, for instance, each Thursday morning I must determine if there has been a winner in the Wednesday night lotto game and write the story accordingly. It's usually a two-line story, "Some one's rich in Houston!" or "You didn't get lucky last least not in lotto!” I've written that story once a week for years and years now.

If perchance there is a local winner, I play it up much bigger and we go out and talk to folks about what they would do with all that money. We also try to find the store that sold the winning ticket.

This morning I deduced that there had been a winner. I came to that conclusion by utilizing my seasoned journalistic skills; I took note of the Texas lottery billboard on loop 410 on my way into work, and noticed that the top prize had reverted back to 4 million from the 48 million the day previous.

When I got to the office I scoured around and determined there were actually two winning tickets sold, one was purchased in Addison near Dallas, and the other was sold in Balcones Heights. Coincidentally my office is in Balcones Heights, a suburb completely surrounded by San Antonio in which there are very few convenience stores. I was well pleased with this since it meant I could send out a reporter at 6 a.m. and have stories on the air right away because there was no travel time involved.

Did I mention there is a lotto pool at my office? Some employees kick in a shekel or two when the lottery prize gets up above 20 million dollars. We pool our money with fanciful dreams of having mutual retirement anniversaries. I confess I have succumbed to this temptation occasionally. There is some guilt involved, but it's offset by the stark fear that I could come into work one day and find everyone else rejoicing in their new found wealth. I would of course be glad for them, but I'd rather be glad WITH them, so I play along.

Even at two or three in the morning, the synapses within the gray matter under my hair occasionally fire off in a manner that result in me coming to some conclusions. This morning I was factoring that there are only a few convenience stores in Balcones Heights, my office is in Balcones Heights, there is a lotto pool in my office, and there is a convenience store next door.

I joked around with several co-workers, most of whom had opted not to play in the lotto pool and were kicking themselves. Then I went about my business without giving it much more thought. I did send out a reporter to do the usual story, and she reported back a short while later that she had found the store where the winning ticket was sold. The Diamond Shamrock next door to the radio station.

At that point a lot of folks in my office started getting spiritual, not necessarily in ways that would be pleasing to God I suspect.

I will admit I started doing calculations in my head...half of 48 million, cash value option works out to about 12 million, split between 31 people, deduct taxes...200 thousand dollars each????

I could get our fence fixed; pay off the cars, Joey and Lisa's college? No problem! God would get His share I promised!

The co-worker who runs the lotto pool arrived around 8:30, only to be swarmed by folks wanting to know if she had bought the tickets, where she had bought them, and if she had checked them.

Despite the fact this woman works for the largest out of home media corporation on earth and works in a building where there are 6 radio stations, she had not heard any news. She was oblivious to the story, and had not checked the tickets. They were locked in a safe in her office. That safe soon became the modern day version of a golden calf. We were all huddled around it praying.

Out came the tickets, and we started comparing our numbers with the now sacred ones that had appeared on ping-pong balls the night before. There's a 2! There's a 4!..... There’s a....uh...oh...hmmm.

We checked all the tickets, purchased at the store where the 24 million dollar ticket was sold, right next door to my office...and we came up empty. Not even 3 dollars.

I share this story for a couple of reasons. First, you don't hear many Sunday school teaching Baptist Deacon's telling their gambling stories. More importantly, however I think I've found the spiritual lesson in all this, and God didn't require any more of my brainpower than I'm obliged to use at work deducing if there's been a lotto winner.

When we finished going through all those losing tickets, I noticed something unusual. I was smiling. I wasn't really upset about not winning the money. I laughed it off easily.

The very first thing I thought about was how I wanted to share this story with people I loved.

I am far richer knowing all of you than I could ever be with any lotto prize.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.- Luke 12:34

Saturday, December 08, 2007

So Many, Too Many So So

So many things...

I sat in a small church on San Antonio's deep east side this morning and watched people cry. So many diverse people in such a small room, weeping and hugging and praying. So many people sharing, saying so many wonderful things about a ten year old boy, born with seemingly no future. So many words he must have wanted to say but couldn't, yet still he obviously profoundly affected so many.
I turned off the radio, saddened not by the recap of a speech a man had made, but by the fact that he had to make it all.

So many real issues, so many ambitions, so few spines.

I thought how so many people might have taken a real interest in our nation if the "so very many people" who claim themselves capable of leading our country had demanded to stand next to this one man, on this one day and say so few words in unison despite their differences on so many issues.

I thought what would the reaction have been if they had simply said, "If this is what politics has come to we want to stand in solidarity, so many with the same ambition but diverse ideas on this one day speaking clearly with one voice to state: Personal faith should and will always rise above politics, this speech should shame us. If we are to preach tolerance, we must practice it and honestly we believe the American people are educated enough to discern not only what defines a sincere faith, but also the constitutional separation between a President's responsibilities and that individual's personal relationship with God. We'd like to move the country forward toward far more relevant issues, and once this silly, sad and sidetracking speech is done, we hope you'll pay attention to all of us...because we have so many more important things to discuss."

So many day few statesmen.

After the funeral, we spent the afternoon and most of the evening with our friend whose wife died in late August, but who only now is really addressing the first stage of grief, having been robbed of that privilege in the immediate hours following his wife's death.

So many questions he much pain he displayed.

So many times I said, "You are supposed to feel this way...this is grief, this is loss, this is natural...this is death."

So many times, in so many different ways I tried to say, "Don't let anyone, including yourself, rob you of your heart, and your memories. Hang on, get through this...she will remain 'alive' inside you for so many more many good years. Survive this, surrender this pain, this anger...this gaping wound of sorrow."

So many times...I hear so much being said by those who say nothing, yet at the same time I see so many being touched by those about which so little has been said.

So much for this was good, I think very good.

Then again, maybe mine are just so many empty words.


In tribute to Griffin and Dallas.

Someday, so many will understand.

"'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' When we wrench that language loose from its moorings and use it to separate ourselves from our neighbors, we deform the good news of God in Christ. We turn the way of servanthood into a way of asserting our own dominance...The danger, when we do this, is that our insistence on Christ may make us less Christian." - Barbara Brown Taylor

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Life Interuptus

So how have you been?

I haven't written here in a while because quite honestly I wasn't sure what to write. Life has been sort of strange as of late with a variety of changes and sort of an ongoing swirl of uncertainty.

We spent the better part of the past few months investing a good part of our time, energy and prayer into a lot of other people's lives and now I'm wondering if we've been overlooking our own lives too much.

Quick recap - Some of you noticed that I removed a couple of posts about a man who said he was dying and living with some dear friends of ours. I won't go into details - apparently some of those details may show up in another venue - but the gist of the situation is that it was not what we were told. No one is dying, let's leave it at that, and really that's all I know since our realization of that fact resulted in our counsel being rejected. I suppose we'll leave that one to the power of God's timing.

Erik, who seemed to be doing wonderfully in the Salvation Army rehab center, suddenly left the program. He says he's dealing with a family situation, but has only communicated through some short email blurbs, and I know we can only help people who want help. We're not writing off that relationship but again there's only so much we can do.

My job is still my job and I really can't write about that, except to say it's been dominating my thoughts a lot lately.

Amy's health is still fragile, I worry a lot and realize my worrying only makes me less effective in all aspects of our lives.

So I guess I'm saying I sort of feel like I've been trudging through sludge lately, not making a lot of progress and am a little too prone to thinking about life instead of living life.

However, we're still here...

I'm praying that we're actually getting somewhere though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Milk & Funny

I should be packing, getting ready to head to Dallas, but we're not rushing and well, I couldn't resist posting one last thing before I pack up my computer.

First off, did you see "Dear Abby" today?

Here is one of the queries:

Dear Abby:

I have been dating "Leon" for a few months. He is smart, cute, ambitious, caring, a great kisser and has a fantastic sense of humor. The problem? He gives new meaning to the phrase "Got milk?"

Leon still has the remains of the first gallon of milk he ever purchased when he moved into his apartment. (He had overestimated the amount of milk he would consume and before he knew it had a gallon in his fridge that was three weeks past its expiration date.) Time passed, and still it remained there. Soon it was 6 months old and a novelty.

Abby, Leon has kept this container of milk through two roommates, three girlfriends, seven jobs and two refrigerators. It will soon be five years. He seems to have formed some sort of sentimental attachment to it. Can it still be classified as milk? Leon is entertained by the reaction he gets when people hear about it and even has a blog about it with a picture.

If our relationship is to get serious, I see a "me or the milk" ultimatum in our future. Is it asking too much for him to leave his life of keeping expired dairy, or should I cut my losses and seek a dairy-free bachelor? Or should I just accept it as a souvenir or a pet?

in Oregon

Seriously! Her response was cheesy, and you can hunt it down for yourself if you're really interested, but essentially Abby said the guy had to choose between his love of stale dairy products and his girlfriend. I'm amazed he's had ANY girlfriends, but that's besides the point.

I really wanted to track down his blog, but that would be even more of a waste of time. However it did seem ironic this morning, after reading that column, I was at Starbucks ordering some badly needed quad lattes for Amy and myself and I asked that mine be made with soy milk.

The "Batrista's" response?

"Sorry, we're out of soy milk. We do have organic milk though, would you like to try that?"


I'm sorry...but I burst out laughing.

Yes, I am aware that they sell non-pasteurized milk for folks whom I guess want to die like thousands of their ancestors, however I sort of thought ALL milk was "organic."

Well, it struck me as funny...and I figured I'd milk it for all it's worth.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Surrender's Serenity

As Jim astutely surmised in his comment to my previous cryptic post, I have been struggling with some issues with my job. Mercifully I am on vacation this week, and was able to take advantage of some of my 45 accrued sick days last week, so I didn't act on my "feelings" and instead spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection.

Amy's parents have been attending one of the programs offered by their church which deals broadly with the topic of addiction - although it certainly could apply to alcoholics, drug abusers, and the like - it really is for everyone, to help them understand how we all can be led astray not only by substance abuse but even by our best intentions. I say that in part to clarify that Amy's folks aren't standing up saying, "Hi, my name is Bernie and I'm a ________aholic," but also to explain why they sent us some of the literature from the class. I found myself leafing through some of that material the other morning at about 1 a.m. when I couldn't sleep because my thoughts were overwhelmed by concerns about my recent work woes, problems involving some of our friends, a great deal of self-pity, and - after a while - almost anything else about which I could think to worry.

It was good timing.

The readings helped lift many of the burdens I had placed upon myself and reinforce what I already know, but too often forget, that I'm not in control - God is.

When I surrendered to that reality, I was immediately at peace and, I might add, soon afterwards soundly asleep.

This week Amy and I will be making a brief trip to Dallas to be with my "eclectic" family - the odd little group of people whom I'm actually not related to except by the binding ties of love we've established over the years. It could be hectic, it could be wearisome, it could be an unnecessary strain on Amy's could be a lot of things...if I let it. I don't plan to allow that to happen, because I'm not in control of anything except how I react.

Keeping that truth at the forefront of my thoughts I believe will make this little road trip restful and enjoyable.

Hopefully maintaining that perspective will provide a guidepost for a far longer journey as well.

Therefore, this may be my last post until after Thanksgiving - I should be working on making the house presentable since we have some overnight guests coming in later today whom I haven't met. I know God is in control, but so far He hasn't volunteered to vacuum and I would prefer this family's first impression of us not be dominated by concerns that their immunizations are not up to date. So, I need to wrap this up.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring in terms of health, work, finances or anything else. If I were psychic, I'd be in Vegas. I do know that when I turn over my "worries" about such matters to God, I am immensely unburdened.

I know there will be challenges, but there is a great deal of serenity in knowing that I am never facing those challenges alone, nor could I.

So I am thankful for much this Thanksgiving. The blessings of true friends, the reminder that sometimes we have to loosen our grip if not unleash our hold entirely on relationships or things or jobs in order to understand their true value, and foremost I am thankful for a loving and forgiving God who has blessed me in so many unexpected ways, including the relationships I have developed by my odd little writings in this undefined space of digital gadgetry.

May God bless you this Thanksgiving, may He keep you safe, and may He allow you to partake of the feast of awareness that you are free from all worries by the faith and foundation of His abiding love.

Grace and peace my friends...I am truly thankful for each and every one of you.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. - Psalm 119:105


Sorry - one, postscript. The photo at the top of this blog is one I took many years ago of a little shack not too far from our home. Today the story behind the home that stands behind that little shack is in the local newspaper along with a photo which unfortunately they didn't publish in their on-line edition.

Luckily, I happen to know the photographer...Thao, our most recent "Upper Room" family member.

You can see that photo in a higher quality and some other shots she took of the property on her blog - you'll need to scroll down to October 30th. Thao and I talked about that shack after she had taken the pictures and she mentioned she knew she had seen it somewhere before. I mentioned my blog was a light bulb moment :) We hope to have time to visit Thao and her parents during our brief pilgramage to Dallas this week.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dilbertian Dilemma

I can't write what I want to write.

Suffice it to say, I am at a turning point...possibly toward poverty.

I'm off work for 10 days or so, and I can't think of anything right now for which I am more thankful this Thanksgiving season.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Death Be Not Shamed

We've decided to meet for breakfast at least once every couple of weeks, more often if the need arises. Grief is a lonely process for anyone, in this man's case I believe being alone could be toxic.

He's a funny guy, a former neighbor...his wife died, and I didn't know. We'd been in touch since her cancer diagnosis but when last I spoke with her she was upbeat, the treatments seemed to be defying the odds, and...well, I made the mistake of thinking "no news is good news."

Turns out she died on August 29th, the same day I was in Dallas for the funeral of a dear family friend. It wasn't until two weeks later that I thought it had been too long since I'd made contact so I called only to have her husband tell me his wife was dead, buried, and he was alone out in the country where they had built their "retirement home."

He hasn't handled it well, and it's been made worse by circumstances so distasteful I wish I could distract my mind from dwelling on them. I will have to force myself to do that, because I know that's what God wants me to help my friend do.

Suffice it to say his bride's "adult" children from her previous marriage robbed this poor man before his wife's funeral was even finalized. They stormed into the house and ransacked the place, taking almost everything that wasn't nailed down. Things they had no right to, things that were just "things"...their mother would be heartbroken. My friend was too absorbed in the aimless morass of mortality's reality that he didn't know what to do, or say...they even took the family address book, so he didn't know who to call. So he suffered...alone...for far too long.

These "kids" never accepted my friend during his 16-years of marriage to their mother and made that quite obvious at every opportunity. He tolerated it, because he loved their mother. Now it's all different.

We've had several long talks over the phone, over dinner a week or so ago, breakfast this morning. I think I'll be eating out a lot more in the months ahead.

When we talk, I do my best to remind him there is justice in this world and beyond...and in this world he has lawyers who can right some of the damage, while in the next world the ultimate justice will be fulfilled. Still he is angry and he is so very lost.

We've talked about the true value of money, that the things that were taken are not worth anything if they take away from his time to grieve and grow, and we've talked about his desire for revenge. It's natural to feel that way. We've had heartfelt conversations about God, and Heaven and forgiveness...but I can tell it's going to take a lot more conversations and more coffee than either of us should be drinking these days.

There's no disputing he's been robbed, but because of that bit of petty thievery, he's suffered a grand theft. The memories of his wife are now dominated by a few remarks she made months if not years ago which suddenly have planted a deep seed of doubt in his mind about his entire marriage, usurping years of memories of a deep abiding love to which I was a close witness.

There are stages of grief. I know them well. However I never have walked those stages before with someone who has literally been robbed of the actual onset of heartbreak.

Greed trumped his very first grapplings with grief.

So very much was stolen that day.

Those "children" may have a pile of "things" all of which will eventually crumble, fade or be forgotten.

Due to their selfishness however, none of those "things" will tarnish as quickly as their mother's memory has in the heart of the man who devoted so much of his life to loving her.

I'm going to be having a lot of breakfasts in the months ahead...

God help me to find the wisdom and patience to help my friend make those meals fulfilling, sustaining and far easier to swallow.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Evolution of Erik

I've been saddled with some crud for the past week which has pretty much laid me low, but today we were determined to get in a visit with Erik, since this is the first weekend since he made the choice to go into rehab that he was allowed to have "family" visits.

To put it in perspective, I slept all day Saturday and then crashed at around 8 that night thinking I'd be fully energized for church and then a visit with Erik. I ended up waking up at 9:30 (missed the first service) and Amy took one look at me and said, "Maybe we should just make it our goal to visit Erik...and not infect the entire congregation with whatever disease you're carrying"

Okay, she didn't say it quite like that, but the gist of her message was for a guy who normally sleeps 3 to 5 hours a day to sleep for 36 hours almost straight through that perhaps we should consider that a 'sign' that I needed to slow down a little.

I think I mumbled something which was supposed to sound macho....and then took a nap.

We did manage to get a few items together for Erik - a CD player and a CD of tunes which I realized later he really wanted less for the music but more for the headphones to drown out the noise so that he might get some sleep.

It was a wonderful visit. It's an amazing program the Salvation Army runs and Erik seems much better (albeit he's still adjusting to waking up at 6 a.m. ) - I commented on the dark circles under his eyes and he said, "I'm a night person, but my body is slowly convincing me that I'm not going to be able to stay a night person."

He's working the program, taking full advantage of almost everything offered (he hasn't hit the gym yet) and he says he's having no problem surrounding himself with guys who are not destined to fail and drag him down in the process. In fact he says once people see you are committed to changing your life, you tend to attract people who are equally committed...the guys who are just "playing the system" write you off pretty quick.

I was happy to hear that, and ecstatic to see him rapidly advancing up the system - the folks in charge apparently are well acquainted with the hard cases and the people who might only need some solid support to get their lives completely turned around. They've obviously devoted considerable resources toward Erik after determining he is highly "salvageable."

He's got a mentor but says really everyone he's living with is helping him. He's working 40 hours a week, going to classes, going to meetings, doing homework and has a schedule for every day. He's busy and he's blessed to be so. It's been a long time...of drifting. He also knows despite the miraculous changes he's already made, he's got a long way to go.

He reinforced that point to us as we discussed the fact that next week he should essentially be off his 30 day probationary period. Amy and I were hoping to get permission to take him to Dallas for Thanksgiving, but he told us that wasn't going to happen. Although we might be able to pull a few strings - play our "ordained" cards and such - Erik said he wanted to stay within the guidelines, not cut any corners...yeah, I was even prouder of him then.

Although I had been with Erik for his "intake" this was my first time actually inside the facility. It's amazingly clean, comfortable, there are lots of activities from ping-pong, to video games, a gym, computers for 'games', and computers for 'business', plus a TV room devoted entirely to sports - 60 inch TV's - comfortable chairs and the like. I asked if I could check-in ... only half-facetiously. Amy asked too...for her, not me.

Erik is considering becoming a Salvation Army "soldier" - meaning he'd go through the program and then attend two years of "in house" schooling in what is the Salvation Army equivalent of Divinity school, becoming an "officer" committed to devoting his life to the "Army." Certainly a noble ambition...and one I don't want to dissuade whatsoever.

However, Erik and I discussed this some via emails earlier in the week and I admittedly tried to steer him into not making any additional life changing commitments at this point - again, not discouraging him, but wanting him to give God time to work in his life. Today he said he decided he was staying enrolled on a tract that will allow him to take that step to becoming an Army officer if he decides to, but also gives him the flexibility to choose another course if he hears God calling him in a different direction.

Erik is making decisions about his life...I don't think I have the words to express how huge that is for a young man who has really been avoiding decisions for far too long.

It was good to see...very good.

As we were leaving, Amy and I were trying to set up a time to take him out for a "family Thanksgiving" in the next week or so. He was anxious for that to happen, but when it came down to picking out a day he said, "Well, let's not decide this now. Let me make sure of my schedule and we'll 'take it one day at a time'"

Yeah, Erik's doing well. I am very proud and I expect he's going to make us even prouder in the weeks and months ahead.

I shouldn't be surprised...after all, Erik's not making these changes alone, and certainly it's not Amy and me...this is a true God thing.

God never fails to astound me how quickly He'll mold us, when only we allow Him to handle the clay.

Your grace still amazes me
Your love is still a mystery
Each day I fall on my knees
Your grace still amazes me

Phillips, Craig & Dean

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Random Updates, Snakes And Stuff

Yeah, I know...I'm still not writing here much. I've been preoccupied a bit partially in the land of bizarro, and partially by some slight reconfiguration of my work duties which require me to rejigger my schedule.

Anyway, I figured I'd give a rambling update of some recent events.

Today I stopped by the Salvation Army Rehab Center where Erik has pitched his tent and future hopes for the next six months. I stuffed a little money and some other sundries in his "account." He's now able to email us - hence the pitch for cash - and we'll be able to visit him Sunday for a couple of hours I think. He's seemingly doing well and working through some of his issues...hopefully we'll have a better read on the situation after Sunday.

It appears we're going to have a completely "empty nest" very soon. We're taking Thao out for a "birthday lunch" - a couple days late - shortly. She just told me she thinks she's going to be moving out tomorrow! We knew she was leaving within the next week or so, but apparently the new job she's going to attempt is going to start sooner rather than later. We're going to miss her, but I suspect we'll keep in touch. Anyway, that bit of news, along with other things has Amy in a bit of a frenzy.

Amy had already starting hunting for new "Upper Room" ministry guests, but I asked her to hold off on that for a bit. Maybe we can use this time to get our Upper Rooms a little more orderly...I'm speaking both literally and metaphorically.

I sort of want some time with "just us." Plus, it would be nice to have a little while when I know I can walk out of our bedroom in my underwear without worrying that I'm going to gross out the cat. That's a family expression, we don't actually have a cat but you get the picture.

Speaking of pictures, I noticed this story today about a guy in Central Texas who has set the world record for sitting in a "bathtub" full of rattlesnakes.

I'm not sure what the record was before, or who held it...more importantly I'm not sure why anyone would want to hold it...or a rattlesnake. However I couldn't resist putting up a picture of a guy in a bathtub full of rattlesnakes.

I was hoping to find another photo...of a guy I received a letter from today. He's running for President. His name is Daniel Kingery.

His letter reads in part:

I am a Presidential candidate. As much as I would like to be with you and as I would like to take the time to speak personally with every citizen in these United States to answer each of their concerns.

Apparently, he decided to stop that thought rather than risk a run-on sentence.

The quickest way I can reach the most people, while I sell my laundry business to help fund my campaign, is to do telephone interviews at all hours of the day and night.

I haven't done an interview with him, although I might because he does sound intriguing and he sent me his phone numbers.

He also enclosed two newspaper articles, one from a New Hampshire paper and one from an Arizona newspaper. One mentions that he "turned a junkyard into a makeshift outdoor strip club, and that he was a frequent litigant in the region's (N.H) judicial system, donning kangaroo and clown costumes (sometimes simultaneously) in court proceedings."

He does sound intriguing...doesn't he?

His letter goes on to direct me to his website - with the explanation that the site was originally set up for the publishing company he was starting when "the need for me to run for President became clear."

No sense wasting a good website - he must be a fiscal conservative - although I suspect is probably still available if and when his campaign really takes off.

Apparently he's already written a book - hence the publishing company - since the other article mentions it. The title is: How I Became President in 2008.

A fiscal conservative and obviously an optimist - with the bonus that he occasionally dresses up in clown and/or kangaroo costumes.

Yeah, he's winning me over quick.

There is some fascinating stuff on the site though, including his proposed re-write of the U.S. Constitution - well actually he says, "The need for this re-(w)righting our Constitution is long past due." Especially because of,"Past Abusses." Presumably, that doesn't include past abuses of the English language.

Who am I to judge? He's a former Marine, who says he used to work on Presidential helicopters - okay, let's not dwell on that...

Alas, I can't find a picture of him anywhere..., but at least you know you have some other choices out there....some way, way out there.

If I do find a photo, I'll make sure and post it.

I mean after all, anyone who volunteers to run for President amid the nuts already running, certainly deserves as much space here as some guy in a bathtub full of rattlesnakes.

In truth, they probably have a lot in common.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Goodness knows we've had all sorts of leaders with bad habits/character traits.

This video is of Kevin Rudd, the likely next Prime Minister of Australia. The video is some six years old, but thanks to YouTube it's come back to life.

Further explanation is unnecessary...but it is somewhat comforting to know American's aren't alone in knowing how to pick 'em.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm Still Here

I am not missing in action. I've just been spending a lot of time in prayer and doing some house cleaning while Amy is out of town visiting various relations.

I've been getting rid of clutter in our house, in my mind, and at least temporarily on this blog.

Right now we need to tidy up some things...on all levels.

I'll be less cryptic before long I hope...but writing has fallen to a lower priority right now...talking to God has taken a larger role.

Prayers for wisdom, discernment and patience...if you can spare 'em, we can use 'em :)

Bless you all...I promise the 9 or 10 people who still read this blog that I'll be back to bore you before long.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nightmare On Aisle Four

I'm not a big fan of Halloween, but I've never been against kids taking part in the activities, and I certainly made the rounds when I was a kid, although it was a prerequisite in our household to collect for UNICEF if we were going to go enlist the neighbors help in rotting our teeth.

Although I've come to dislike the entire concept of sending kids door to door begging for candy, the reason in recent years I have opted to turn off our porch light, and draw the shades on Halloween, is that I don't like having our dogs go nuts barking each time the door bell rings, and sometimes I have this wild idea I might like to sleep instead of being barraged by trick or treaters.

Still, we never prevented our kids from taking part in Halloween, although as they grew older they often opted to take part in organized activities with their various church youth groups as part of "Fall festivals" or other euphemisms designed - I suppose - to clearly show they weren't taking part in events associated with the devil, or witchcraft, etc.

Our kids values were instilled 365 days a year, I don't think we ever gave any thought to the idea that one night of dressing up and acting goofy was going to turn them into the spawn of Satan. Still when our kids did "trick or treat" they didn't dress up as anything gory, and the extent of our home Halloween decorations - if we had any - was a pumpkin which usually no one ever got around to carving into a jack-o-lantern.

It was the same way when I was a kid...I remember dressing up as a "hobo" a lot, and I think the most sinister looking costume I ever had was when I dressed up as pirate.

Even with the skull on the pirate's cap and the little dangling pirate on the costume's vest...I wasn't going to frighten a lot of folks, although I find the image a little disturbing now only because I appear far more "chunky" than I ever recall being.

Our kids dressed up for years as M&M's in costumes that Amy made for them. There's a certain odd irony to that, dressing up like candy to go beg for candy.

Anyway, these days it's a different world. We have neighbors who put a lot of effort into decorating their houses for Halloween, far more than they do for Christmas.

To each his contribution is I haven't gotten around to mowing the yard, so our house looks a bit haunted.

I was in a store the other day killing time and I wandered into the "Halloween aisle."

I was literally stunned. Almost the entire aisle was overflowing with gore and blood and very graphic creepy stuff. The Halloween candy was in another part of the store.

I'm not talking spiders or even skeletons...I mean the aisle was stuffed to the rafters with masks of decapitated heads with spears or swords sticking into, out of, or through them. Simulated blood was on everything...there were eyeballs, and coffins, and one of my favorites, a "bloody hand candle" that once lit, dripped what appeared to be blood rather than wax, and carried the guarantee that once the fingers burned off there would be realistic "stumps of bone" behind.


It's not like I was offended, I was more intrigued. I wondered if there was a Superman costume, or a fairy princess, or well anything that wasn't dead which a parent could choose for their kid to dress up in and anything that didn't scream, howl or bleed with which someone could decorate their home. The short answer: not really.

Finally, and I mean by this point I was digging around, moving stuff out of the way as the latest Halloween gizmos were wailing and screaming apparently set off by my movements, trying to find anything that didn't seem to have been inspired by the indigestion of Wes Craven.

Finally, I managed to spy something that appeared to be fairly tame. A mask that didn't have blood dripping from it, or eyeballs dangling from the sockets. There was no sword, hatchet, or spear protruding from its skull.

Still, I couldn't help but think, "This is the only choice?"

A mask promoting Burger King?

I'll be turning out the lights this Halloween and drawing the shades...not so much because I don't want to hear the dogs bark or that I need sleep.

I'm afraid every time I answer the door I'll be greeted by another nightmare...from Walgreen's.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Something In Our Erik

In my Father's house there are many, many rooms
In my Father's house there are many, many rooms
And I'm going up there now to prepare a place for you
That where I am, there you may also be...

- Rich Mullins

Things didn't go as planned with Erik, whom we thought would be a well entrenched member of our "Upper Room" family by now.

We were set to least on our end - well, we hadn't gone into a mad cleaning frenzy like we might have done...eventually - but there were some delays in Erik being able to leave where he had been staying and soon Amy and I both started having some reservations. Something wasn't right.

Amy and I talked, and prayed...we prayed for wisdom, we didn't want to jump to conclusions but we also wanted to make sure we understood God's intended role for us in Erik's life.

In one of our initial conversations, I had told Erik that he had to be honest with us and himself if this was going to work. I also said he had to respect our home and respect himself.

Amy reinforced that message quite a bit as well, and I think it was gnawing on Erik a bit.

Last night Erik was finally honest.

After I told him that we felt like his "story" didn't always add up and that maybe he needed more help than we could provide, he called Amy to tell her he knew we couldn't let him move in with us but he had made a decision. He also detailed the demons he had been denying.

After work this morning, I picked up Erik and his few belongings, took him out for coffee and we talked about opportunities and accountability. My talk was intended to encourage him to utilize all the resources that would soon be available to him.

I gave him the advice I have given a lot of people: No matter your situation, what you get out of it will depend on what you put into it.

We talked for a good while, I didn't want to rush him. Before too long though it became apparent he was ready to take the next step so we took it together.

About 15 minutes later, I walked with him through the doors of the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. I stayed as he filled out paper work and was "evaluated." Then I was told I could go, in fact I had to go, Erik would be staying.

We said goodbye too quickly but they were serving lunch and time was running out...right after lunch Erik will be put to work. He will work 40 hours a week in a safe, clean, regimented and Christian environment. If things go as hoped he'll keep up that schedule, along with meetings, counseling sessions and classes for six months.

We'll be very much a part of his life during that time - after a required period of isolation passes.

His routine will be strictly monitored, as will his breath, and some bodily fluids...and he will be steeped in the word of God.

It's a good place and a good program where thousands of men have started their lives anew.

I can make no promises because I don't know what our lives will be like in six months. Erik can't make any promises now either - he knows he must take things day at a time.

However Amy and I have both told Erik that he now has "family" who will stand by him, and if he stays true to his stated intentions and the rules of his new home, there may very well be a room in our house for him one day.

We are certain God wants us in Erik's life.

It just took a little while to realize it wasn't a room in our house He wanted us to was room in Erik's heart.

What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! I've always longed to live in a place like this, Always dreamed of a room in your house, where I could sing for joy to God-alive!-Psalm 84:1 (MSG)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Enter Erik The Fresh

Admittedly, Amy and I needed a break when it came to our "Upper Room Ministry" after Shell happened and especially after "all Shell broke loose."

Thao is still living here, and we'd adopt her if she'd let us, but she's got an adventurous soul. We might have convinced her to stick around a little longer, but I suspect the wanderlust of a soon to be 23 year old whose desire is to explore the world may win out over our selfishness. We'll love seeing her soar into a new season if and when that time comes...but we'll pray she always remembers that she has "family" here.

No matter what, we have unused space and soon some of that room is going to be occupied by a young man named Erik, with whom we've been talking for several weeks. Erik has been through a lot, much of which parallels struggles I have faced. He hit rock bottom in California, and then got up and got out, but his demons are far from conquered. In truth, they're still nipping very close to his heels and he knows it.

Erik is 28...but due to tragic circumstances he was essentially left to find his way alone in the world at 18 and like many people, myself included, took refuge in some dark but easy to find places...for too long. I don't think it would be unfair to say that his life "stalled out" and then sank.

He's not going to be low maintenance...he's broke, unemployed, has no car, no driver's license - in fact I'm now thinking he may not know how to drive.

On the upside...he does have a puppy...a pit bull.

I met with Erik this morning to get him to a job interview. We did a little makeover on the way with stops at Goodwill, Amy's ironing board, and my clothes closet. He looked quite respectable by the time I dropped him off and Monday he'll find out if he got the job.

If not, there are other jobs...and there's plenty he can work on (including our yard if need be - he's a big guy with a back that doesn't ache) until the right opportunity arrives. Amy and I have bounced around some other possibilities we may explore with friends and neighbors, especially until I can teach him to drive and he gets a license.

There's no questioning the fact that with Erik we're stepping out of the boat. He is genuinely in need of stability which is what Amy and I have vowed to God we would try to provide to people truly in need. However, although our desire is to give such folks a foundation upon which they can rebuild their lives, we also have learned - sometimes the hard way - that we can become enablers far more easily than saviors if we're not careful to draw boundaries.

We also know we can't "fix" people. That's up to them...and God.

Erik needs a fresh start, so on Monday or Tuesday I'll "help him move" when I get off work. Before dropping him off today I asked how much "stuff" he needed to move and he said, "Well I left the clothes you bought at your house, me, my backpack...and a puppy"

Can't get much fresher than that...

I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. - 2 John 1:5

Monday, October 08, 2007


At the hour I drive to work I'm used to seeing all sorts of things many drivers do not experience or at least hope they don't.

For example, I assume everyone else on the road is drunk because I've seen a bunch of drunks over the years, a couple coming at me driving the wrong way on the freeway.

I also see a lot of road construction which is done in the dark of night to minimize the impact on most drivers...the drunks and I don't count.

I mention that only because earlier this week I vowed to get back onto a "personal" road which I believe will be better for both Amy and myself in the long run. Quite honestly, so far that was easier to type than to do.

It's alright, I have become used to pushing my timetables aside when more important matters conflict with them.

The young man I mentioned in the previous post and the family now caring for him certainly qualify as a higher priority.

My not so regular "regular schedule" is already out of whack...and until we have a firm grasp on how best to shepherd our friends through this time my "idealized" schedule is going to have to be implemented incrementally it seems.

I probably should have realized there might be a few bumps in my mental route to a semblance of normalcy when I groggily drove into work on Monday and saw a flashing highway sign alerting drivers - me and the drunks - to upcoming construction.

I almost turned around to get a camera from home because I found it so funny at the time.

Now I'm thinking it was more poignant than humorous.

The sign read: "Construction ahead. Use open lane."

Like there's some other option?

I will get my routine in order soon, but right now my path is being dictated by situations over which I have little control...and callings I can not deny.

I will be patient.

I will follow the signs I see from God knowing that they will always lead to the "open lane."

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. - Ecclesiastes 11:5

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Walking Back To The Truth I Know

I lead a very disciplined life in some ways...and an amazingly undisciplined life in others. At work, I am a linear thinker, I know what time it is at all times because I have regular deadlines which have to be met...usually there are several deadlines an hour.

I am completely undisciplined regarding sleep, exercise, laundry...well, let's not go too far down that road.

In any case, one of the things I am disciplined about outside of work is caring for Amy. We've made great strides with her health, but there are still things that are very overwhelming for her, and I try to be disciplined in being of some help keeping those things at bay.

One way I'm convinced will help her, and she agrees, is to get her to adhere to a regular schedule as much as possible.

Amy has good days and bad days and then there are days when life gets in the way of everyone's schedule. However on some good days, I think Amy may try to overcompensate for the previous bad days. The result is a cycle that doesn't work...I think we've both come to terms with the reality of that, but it's hard for her to change that pattern nonetheless.

My nagging her certainly doesn't help, and worrying about her makes her worry about me and then we're into this no one sleeps, everyone's worried thing which is truly comical.

So to cut to the chase, I haven't been as successful as I wish in helping Amy get disciplined about sticking to a schedule...or at least more of a schedule.

Over the past several weeks, heck maybe a couple of months now, this has been weighing on me a lot. I've done a lot of praying...a lot of talking to God.

In the past week or so though I decided I need to try something else.

I need to get "me" on a schedule.

So I've been prepping myself (we've had a few distractions this week which admittedly slowed me down) to return to the path that has always been the most successful for me.

That path includes walking every day, and a form of fasting - although it's really more adhering to a strict, yet simple menu of foods that has some Biblical basis - I'd mention its inspiration but I've been down that path too, and I still get emails from people who think I'm an expert and that would only be another distraction.

I usually adhere to these disciplines during the Lenten season, but I've come to believe I need to apply them to this season of my life.

Although I have been mentally prepping for this change, because it will be somewhat radical at first, in truth about the only real step I've taken is to put a new collection of songs on my tiny mp3 player which usually accompanies me on my walks.

I read a post from my friend Chuck this morning, which seemed almost like affirmation and it also reminded me of a time some years ago when Chuck was in a different season, and we exchanged a few emails sparked by something I wrote.

A lot of things have changed since then, but one thing hasn' need to always rely on God first.

I think I'm due for a refresher course.

So, I'm going to take the first steps this afternoon on what was once a very familiar path in hopes it will keep me a bit more disciplined in all things, including how best to love and care for my wife.

Oh, I'll still be talking to God, but I think I'm going to spend a lot more time listening to Him now...even if my little mp3 player is blaring away at the same time.

"Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." - Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Death In The Air

He died a slow it wasn't unexpected.

Still I mourn a little today.

I mean I knew it was coming, I saw it years ago. He died from a variety of causes including technology, lies, other people's incompetence, and wounds inflicted as he was stepped upon by the feet of small minded people with big heads. In the end he outlasted most of those people, but the damage they did to him on their way to oblivion ruined any real chance of survival.

My apathy toward his well-being also played a large part. I had several chances to play the game a different way, make demands and make sure he received proper recognition. Some folks took notice anyway and made offers which might have given him more life, a bigger life, and certainly more money. However I would have had to follow him, and those offers were never timed quite right. They had great potential, but also would have required great sacrifices. I wasn't in a place to take a gamble, so I turned those offers down for him. I let him live in the background because I could afford to do that and he had no ego. I don't really regret that, except maybe just a little bit today.

He was only supposed to live for a week anyway.

Who knew he'd fly for the better part of 20 years?

In the end Corporate Cookie Cutters with their own career agendas controlled his fate. He outlasted most of them but not before they had gutted and devalued him.

Today he said his final words and no one noticed...he had become a soulless voice long ago.

I noticed. I couldn't help but notice.

So long Chris Michaels...I know you're as happy as I am that you've finally been put out of the misery imposing shackles of the unimaginative.

It was a pretty stupid pseudonym after all...and it sure lasted longer than I ever expected.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I've Gone Mascot Mad!

I've become infatuated.

Not to worry...I've become infatuated with a website called Prep Sportswear.

I wasn't a big fan of sports in high school or college...and the only teams I really keep track of now are the Cowboys (hey, I paid my dues) and the Spurs with whom my fanaticism is well documented.

I went to R.L. Turner High in Carollton, which is right outside of Dallas. Turner had the "Fighting Lions" which is not exactly a team name that appears to have taken a great deal of thought.

The last thing I need on earth is another t-shirt, however at Prep Sportswear I could get a "Turner Fighting Lions" t-shirt if I did want one.

But there are plenty of other high schools around the country that have certainly more thought provoking team names.

Oh, hang on...I've only started and I had to stop myself because I was having too much fun.
Too twisted to be a Pretzel? Maybe Beetdiggers make you blush. Not to worry....the choices are endless..

Maybe you want a high school t-shirt or sweatshirt that's more dignified, something that better befits your image in society.

Not a problem.

I could go on and on.....Okay, I will but only for a few more I promise.
I don't even want to consider how one cheers on the "Cheesemakers."

Those questions are for more thoughtful minds than mine....

Personally, after spending WAY too much time looking around at the various high school mascot names, I think I've decided on the one that at least is realistic, doesn't pump kids up with false self-esteem, and gives them a goal that they can likely achieve.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Another Waxing About Waynes...

There are few things I can take credit for, including the following link, my friend Kim sent it to me.

I did try to see if I could get the code for the embedded video, but as is the wise thinking of many media companies, the site has made it very difficult to make a "viral video" out of something they've produced.

I'm familiar with this logic...believe me. You certainly wouldn't want to have thousands of people spreading your videos and publicizing you all over the Internet...goodness, what would happen then?

Anyway, although I don't claim to be the only person to have had some thoughts about people named "Wayne" - I will point out that this guy is only now catching up with a well proven and documented "axiom." Although he is doing so at a very rapid rate which should be applauded.

Oh, and don't worry...he has a nose.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Engaging God's Perspective

My life has been out of balance lately.

Actually I had started writing some quasi-introspective thoughts about having too many things on my mental plate between my career job, Amy's health, our future plans, and the possibility of adding a couple more people (and maybe a kitten and puppy) to our "Upper Room" ministry.

As I was writing I started thinking (yes, those two things do not always occur simultaneously) that maybe I needed a little time "in the desert." Not really the desert, but away from everything and everyone. Just me and the Lord...hombre al Dios.

I had picked up the phone to see if I might be able to make a last minute reservation at a little retreat house for tomorrow night and Saturday to get away from everything and spend a day or two in prayer and fasting. Before I could leave a message, Amy asked if I could hang up so she could tie me in on a three-way call.

It seemed sort of ironic to me...I'm too busy to plan for prayer.

However it was an important call from Joey, our son. Not that I got a word in, but I was able to at least glean that he was telling us he had proposed to his longtime girlfriend Sarah and for reasons still somewhat of a mystery to me she said,"Yes."

Amy is still talking...I think she's already given them several complete plans for the wedding...and is now picking out names for grandchildren. I'm sure Joey and Sarah's eyes are glazing over and that magical marital ESP thing is already starting...I'll wager both are thinking the same thing by now, "ELOPE!"

I'm being facetious....or maybe semi-facetious. Truthfully, if Amy, Sarah, and Joey were all to be put in a police-like line up at this exact moment and a stranger on the other side of the glass was asked to pick out the person who was the most ecstatic, my money would be on Amy. She's over the moon and may be in orbit long after her cell phone battery goes dead.

Still, it was perfect timing.

I don't have too much on my plate, the things on my plate are simply out of proper perspective...or at least they were...until Amy's phone rang.

I don't think I need to get away to spend more time with God.

I only need to listen more closely...I mean apparently He has us on speed dial.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's Time To Kill The Blog

Gosh, I hate using teaser titles like that...although it's a way.

Last May, I decided it was sort of silly to have which was for the most part stagnant, and have my blog at So I moved the blog to the main page - pardon the pun.

I also redirected the old site to this one so folks could make the transition. I just assumed they eventually would.

That move alone cut the blog's readership by about 50 least I'm hoping it was that and not my extended period of whining.

Let's not debate that point okay, I'm in kind of a pissy mood already :)

I'm really not concerned about web hits, I'm not a stat freak. As selfish as it sounds, I've always said I write this for me...not you...although I'm glad those of you who aren't staring at blinking words come along for the ride. I don't know what I'd do without the support and fellowship of the blog community.

I am a little stunned you read some of this stuff...but there's no accounting for taste.

I also sort of assumed that people...even really procrastinating people...would eventually get annoyed by being redirected and would make that "transition." You know, change their bookmarks, blogrolls, etc... put this delicately, some a lot of you are really lazy. When I started this little rant I thought I'd just call out one or two folks by name **fake sneeze Gordon** however after running down "my blogroll" and checking the links of folks who link to me...there actually are more people who still have the old address listed on their sites than have the new one.

It has been more than four months...I'm just sayin'.

So anyway, today I stopped the redirection which means presumably a lot of you won't read this anyway, instead you get to stare at a really annoying page that blinks.

I'm going to give that a week or two...and then I'm going to delete it entirely. Yes, sometime in October the "old blog" dies.

This is really not entirely because people are still linked to it, but also because of an archive issue which is rooted in the way I originally set up the blog. For some reason Blogger won't direct permalinks to some of my really old posts to go anywhere except to those really old posts, which don't have the proper extension - yeah I know this is geeky stuff...and I don't really think a lot of folks go back into the archives anyway. But I do...and it's annoying. Just FYI if you do go to a permalink and it comes up looking like a bunch of code all you have to do is type .htm at the end of the address that comes up in your browser's address bar and it will work.

I've tried lots of things to fix the permalink deal...wasted enormous amounts of time.

I've deleted all the archives, republished them with proper extensions. I've deleted the entire blog (you weren't looking...maybe you were staring at the blinky thing) and then republished only the files I luck. I'm fairly certain I'll have to go through each post and manually edit them. I've found a way to do that fairly quickly, but it's still a pain.

And there's always the possibility the "old blog" is re-archiving that, that gives me another reason to want it dead.

I'll likely still be frustrated...but at least I'll have killed something which I'm thinking may give me some type of primitive satisfaction.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The DNA Of Doubt

I have this memory from when I was a child. Considering the things I did to my mind during later years that in itself is something of a miracle.

I was at Jones beach in New York with my best buddy at the time, Todd Thomas, and his family. We were probably 10 years old or so, although that's a guess. Todd and I were walking along a fairly isolated area of the beach...which makes me think it had to have been in the fall or winter, because Jones beach was always crowded.

We were doing the typical stuff kids do when they can't swim because the water is too cold, we were throwing things in the water, looking for junk and dead things on the beach and at one point we started writing stuff in the sand.

I vividly remember writing out in BIG letters, presumably so the message could be seen by its intended recipient, "IF GOD IS ALIVE LET HIM SPEAK!"

I'm pretty sure Todd punched me in the arm and said something like, "Why the heck did you write that?"

Honestly, I don't know. I wasn't religious as a kid. I have this vague memory that there was some type of TV commercial or Public Service Announcement or something that was airing around that time which essentially said the same thing, even spelling it out in the sands of a beach. I don't remember the intent of the commercial - presumably it wasn't sponsored by an atheist group - and I've tried searching the Internet to see if I could find a reference to it without any luck. I tend to doubt though that my ten-year old brain was suddenly struck by this notion to write a message to God all on its own so I'm fairly certain I plagiarized the entire scenario from somewhere and since I was parked in front of the TV most days that seems the logical place.

Where I stole the idea from really doesn't matter - I'm not giving open permission to plagiarize, I'm just saying it doesn't matter when it comes to the point I'm eventually hoping to make...although I'm beginning to have doubts about that prospect.

I remembered that boyhood incident recently while mulling over this concept of "doubt" when it comes to matters of "faith."

I know lots of people who have doubted the existence or who still do doubt the existence of God. I meet lots of non-believers, however I meet very few true committed atheists. I meet a lot of people who say they are "spiritual" or "believe in a Higher Power," but I've only met one or two fervent my entire life.

Lots of folks don't believe in "church." Some folks don't believe the Bible is the "literal word of God." Plus I've certainly met, and shared my home with, people who practice faiths other than mine. Personally, all this is above my pay grade. I willingly invite anyone I can to come to church or to conversation and when I see an opportunity to tell "my story" about becoming a Christian I do. The rest, I leave up to God.

This concept of doubt however has been rushing through my mind a lot recently due to the newly published book about Mother Teresa, which is being hawked by highlighting "shocking revelations" that Mother Teresa at times had "doubts" about God's existence. It's a good way to sell a book about Mother Teresa, it's not like people are snatching those up at every opportunity anyway. The author and the publicity folks found a "hook" and latched onto it. I applaud them for not stooping to "nude pictures" of the woman.

Okay, I'll give you a moment to get that image out of your mind.

In any case, their approach worked I suppose, in that it sold more books.

It's also prompted a handful of letters to the editor in newspapers I read from self-professed atheists essentially saying, "Nah, nah I told you so! If Mother Teresa doubted God it PROVES God is a creation of man...blah blah blah.."

I know a lot of Christians...committed Christians...faithful, devoted, church-going Christians. I know a number of very devout folks of the Jewish faith as well. I know very few who never in their "spiritual lives" experienced nights or even seasons of darkness, times of doubt, fears that all they have put their faith in is fantasy.

So what?

That doesn't diminish their faith or God's existence at all to me. Why? Because of one word: human.

That's an important word - especially if you're going to try to continue following my logic...hey, no one dragged you into my head, I at least have the excuse of having no choice.

How about we all take a moment and say that word,"Human" out loud?

Think of it as a way of honoring Marcel Marceau - it does seem kind of silly to honor a mime with a moment of silence after all.

Alright...all together now! "HUMAN."

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"

Those are the final words of Jesus Christ said out loud which we translate: "My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?

Stick with me...I really do have a point to this besides somehow squeezing in a reference to Marcel Marceau.

Did Jesus doubt God?

I've actually used that passage of scripture to defend Christian friends who have openly expressed uncertainty about God, their faith, and in some instances, the entirety of their lives.

When the Mother Teresa stuff started flying I suppose I had a sort of "come to Jesus" party in my head (yeah, sometimes it can get crowded in there) about using that example.

My conclusion? It stinks.

At least it stinks without further explanation.

I'm not saying people of faith are somehow diminished in their beliefs because of occasional or even lingering feelings of doubt. I'm saying using Jesus to justify their doubt, at least without driving home a very specific and critical point is poor judgment on my part.

I hope I can state this in a way that makes sense other than inside my crowded head, forgive me if I fail, but I'm going to try.

Travel back with me if you will to that time when Christ was beaten, berated, spat upon and then nailed and hoisted upon a cross. There He was be mocked and scorned...left to die.

And in His final moments He said aloud," My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"

That sure sounds like doubt.

In fact I believe it was doubt.

It's what Jesus was doubting that needs further least I need to explain it further and this is my dang blog so I can do what I want. I mean all you have to do is hit a mouse button and my ramblings can be replaced with the latest news on Britney Spears.

Sorry, I'm not providing a link, that would make it too easy.

I do not believe Jesus was doubting God...doubting God's existence, doubting God's faithfulness, or doubting He was the very Son of God.

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"

What are these words then?

These are words that need to be kept in any other words.

We have to remember that Jesus Christ was dying...for our sin. Note that's not "sins" that's "sin." Christ was dying to erase the core of that which separates us from God...the soupy glop which spawns ALL sins. The molecular, atomic particles - however you want to think of it - the root, the very seed of sin.

Was He doubting God? Was He doubting His ability to overcome death?

I don't think so.

At least not if I remember something important.

It's the word we all said aloud a moment ago - you participated right? I mean you may hate mimes but it's not Marcel Marceau's fault there were so many copy-cats, who knew?

So I do believe Jesus was expressing doubt in that moment, it's what He was expressing uncertainty about that I feel compelled to clarify.

That's why that word I wanted to stress is so important.

Remember Christ came to live among us not as a God, but as a person...a baby, then a boy, then a man, and a prophet. He lived the life of a regular person, albeit a sinless life.

So what doubt is Christ expressing?

I believe He was doubting He could die for our a HUMAN.

Can you blame Him?

In that context these words make so much more sense to me...

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"

Also all this bunk about Mother Teresa's faith is put in a proper perspective.

Perhaps none of this makes any sense to you...maybe my logic doesn't add up. If so, sorry for wasting your time.

Maybe I didn't express it clearly.

Forgive me.

I am after all only human, thank God.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track
. - Proverbs 3:5-7 (MSG)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Spiritual Steps, Spit and No Nose Wayne

I've been mulling over this concept of "doubt" recently and have something formulating I want to write however I'm going to hold off a day or so primarily because I think that needs to stand alone and not intermingled with assorted other stuff like the story of "No Nose Wayne."

Hold your horses, I'll get to "No Nose" in a moment and in truth you really shouldn't be in a rush because odds are you're going to wish you never heard the story. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I've got some other blog flotsam I wanted to clear out of my mental inbox too.

A co-worker pointed me to an interesting blog undertaking the other day called "LiveGentle." A writer named Matthew J. Dowd, the author of a book I found very interesting called "Applebee's America" is off on a spiritual trek...literally. Over a several week period he is traveling through Israel, India, Nepal, Turkey and elsewhere to, in his words, "walk in the paths of the major spiritual movements." He's blogging along the way. At this writing I don't think he's achieved enlightenment but he's only just begun.

I think it'll be interesting to follow him along his way.

There's some other spiritual fodder which I've neglected to mention lately like the "Healing tree" in Rio Grande City, Texas.

PHOTO CREDIT: Delcia Lopez

In short, a 92 year old woman died recently in that deep South Texas town and shortly thereafter some "ice like" stuff formed in the branches of an acacia tree in her yard. It drips what appears to be water and some folks think it's a sign from God.

I'm not one to argue. God has been less subtle in my life, but there's no telling how many more gentle things He attempted before giving me a swift kick. I would note that tree and bug "experts" scoff at the whole thing saying it's probably a "spittlebug" nest.

Yes, I had to find out about spittlebugs, although I had a pretty good idea how they got that name.

Apparently there are more than 20,000 types of spittlebugs, and most are real tiny.


And yes, they get their name because of the glop they excrete to make their nests which...well, it looks like spit.


If spittlebug spirituality leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you do have some other options which made the news lately, most notably the "Mother Mary Lemon."

PHOTO CREDIT: Ian McVea - Fort Worth Star Telegram

Yeah, I don't really see it either, but apparently a pool hall owner and his son in the North Texas town of Watauga were slicing lemons and his son saw that red spot and thought it looked like the Virgin Mary. Again, who am I to judge? It wouldn't be the first time God's message was delivered with a twist.

The Fort Worth newspaper's article on the lemon does have a precious quote from the pool hall proprietor, a Methodist married to a Baptist, who was asked what he might do with this possible fruit of the spirit, "Some people sell that stuff on eBay," he said. "It's a lemon slice, for God's sake."

Last I heard he stuck it in his freezer which I suppose might prove to be a good move should it actually be a message from God and he opted to ignore it. A frozen lemon slice might provide some momentary relief should God decide to seek retribution...and if Hell has its own form of eBay then I would think a frozen lemon slice of any form could really fetch a bundle.

Oh my, this is rambling on and I promised myself that I would take Amy out tonight so I better wrap this up.


Yeah, I don't want to leave you hanging in regards to "No Nose" Wayne, although remember I warned you it might not be pleasant.

First off, if you aren't familiar with my "Wayne Axiom" - note this used to be the "Wayne Theory" but I was convinced by my eldest child that axiom was a more appropriate term - you'll have to use the search function on the sidebar, but in a nutshell, I believe "most" people named Wayne are predestined to become criminals...usually serial killers. Again, I said "most" - there is an exception to every rule and or axiom - and if you want to know more use the search tool, I've got a "date."

So, in Lake Elsinore, California this week several men were arrested on charges that last month they kidnapped and beat up a woman before dumping her in Mexico. It's a story that is worthy of a very bad b-movie. The gist of it is that this woman's boyfriend, Donald Darcy Turk - really, I couldn't make this up if I tried - apparently got sick of dealing with her so he and his buddies came up with this plan to ditch her in Mexico. The scheme apparently wasn't fleshed out real well, but all the guys agreed at least on one point, the woman was a nag.

There's some dispute if she was actually kidnapped or if they all simply went to Mexico and got drunk and then the guys decided they'd leave her there. She says she was abducted and dumped, then convinced the police to drive her to the U.S. border and convinced a cab driver to take her home where she confronted Turk. He then left for a birthday party but not before writing a check to the cabbie.

One of the three guys has already confessed, but Turk and his other "buddy" are fighting the charges. Yes, the other buddy is "No Nose Wayne."

Actually his nickname is "No Nose." His real name is Robert "Wayne" Gardner.

How'd he get the nickname?

You really shouldn't have asked that...apparently R. Wayne Gardner had a run-in with someone else some time back who took great offense...and shot him.

And, um...after that the nickname was sort of inevitable.

PHOTO CREDIT: No one wanted to claim it

Hey, I warned you!

It's not like I didn't give you plenty of opportunities to avoid seeing him!

Heck, you could have taken off on a spiritual trek long ago. Instead you waded through spit and lemons to get here.

It's okay, we're all a bit nosy at times...sticking our noses where they don't time we'll nose better.

I'll stop now...I promise.

Have I ever given you a reason to doubt me?