CHECKLISTS

image courtesy of photobucket.com

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I have checklists. Sometimes mental, most times in my barely readable chicken scratch on my legal pad, but always urgent things to do, and clearing the multiplying checklist is my daily priority.

One of the items on my daily checklist was to meet and exchange a preliminary design of a plan and to give a brief overview. My fellow multi-tasker and I devised a scheme to cheat the clock a tad by meeting in a shopping center parking lot right off the loop 101 interstate.

I was on time, she was tardy to the party… not by much, but I count minutes like an inmate does his last sixty… I had my truck backed into a space backward, strategically parked under the shade of a healthy Palo Verde tree. I was making and taking phone calls, devouring my checklist like Pac-man does cookies and cherries.

I spotted a little gold single cab Ford Ranger make its way into the parking lot and move with uncertainty diagonally across the empty rows in the ghostlike parking lot. He stopped two rows across from where I was parked with my windows down and driver’s door open.

I could hear the starter cranking the little engine that didn’t want to until it finally coughed and fired and made it all of across another row of parking spaces when it called it quits for good just across from where I was parked.

I could see the dark complexioned man with the smooth shaved head that sported gold-framed sunglasses that have been reborn from the seventies, lean over his steering wheel as he held the key and ignition twisted in the forward start position.

He continued to crank the little engine that wouldn’t until it was obvious the mini pick-up had taken the rugged-looking young man as far as it was going to in its present condition.

The tall and well-built man took matters into his own hands, legs, and feet. He hopped out and shoved the little floundering truck with ease across one more row of the faded parking lot and spaces, just one space down from me under the next available desert shade tree.

By the time I finally got off the phone he was off his too and back inside his truck, his chin buried in his chest.

“Is it overheated or not getting gas?” I called out to him.

His head snapped in surprise, “Uhh – it’s gas – I’m outta gas,” he answered with chagrin.

“I gotta meeting here any minute now. When I’m done I’ll help you out,” I told him.

His dark eyebrows rose above the gold-framed sunglasses in surprise and question, “You sure?” he asked.

“I’m sure,” I answered, “Soon as I’m done I’ll take you to the gas station.”

As I drove the young man to the gas station we talked about peripheral details that don’t truly matter to total strangers. I told him about the time I ran out of gas eighty miles out into the desert in the middle of the summer. I chuckled at what was once a serious mistake. He smiled with understanding and gratitude.

Sometimes I think we’re not called to be the voice of God… just His heart and hands…

It’s an amazing gift to hear truly genuine thankfulness in another person’s voice. That day I was divinely reminded that sometimes our urgent checklists aren’t quite as pressing as we make them out to be…

DON’T STEP ON THE CRACKS

image courtesy of photobucket.com

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Though we lacked life experience, we were all savvy enough to know that a piano wasn’t going to fall from the sky on our beloved. Sometimes we walked, other times we ran, even skipped on occasion… until we discovered that it wasn’t cool for boys to “Skip-skip-skip-to-muh-loo, skip-skip-skip-to-muh-loo, skip-skip-skip-to-muh-loo, skip-to-muh-loo, my darlin'”.

One thing was a constant, we watched where we were going. It became such a habit as a kid that I’m still conscious of where I step when I’m walking. In majority, I don’t think there is a love on this physical planet that’s more special than that of a mother and child.

If mothers weren’t divinely important the Bible wouldn’t have so much detail about Mary, the physical mother of Jesus.

Although we heard the popular saying nonstop as children, it only took hearing it once to take it to heart, “Don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mother’s back.” I, along with every other kid in the city with sidewalks, that all have expansion joints tooled into them from the day they came into existence, avoided stepping on them at all costs.

Funny, even knowing there was no risk of really breaking our mother’s back, we landed between those lines in the sidewalks with reverence to the one who was rarely present during our walks to and from school.

The children’s rhyme is so ingrained into our society that the ritual of avoiding stepping on the sidewalk cracks continues with the little ones to this day. When our youngest was bound to a car seat and barely able to talk, she’d remind her older sister about the dangers in this life when she was getting dropped off at school;

“Mmmmkwah!” she’d make a kissing sound to her big sister and add, “Luv you, Ali – don’t step on duh kwacks!”

As I was walking through a concrete colonnade a few weeks back the distance of my strides matched perfectly within the tooled sections of concrete. The pattern in the concrete changed and my left foot was readying to step dead center of a sidewalk crack. Without thinking, I stretched my stride to clear the crack.

Peculiar how rituals start with the proper attitude or desire, especially the ones that start with a pure heart and love. With time, we learn to talk the talk, but not necessarily walk the walk. Following rules or laws doesn’t begin to reveal the position of our hearts.

Right after I made a point to not step on the sidewalk cracks, I thought to myself how ridiculous that silly children’s ritual is… the thought of my mom or the condition of her back was an afterthought.

I think it’s that way for many of us as Christians; we trade our passion for a self-imposed list of do’s and don’t’s and before long we struggle to remember the purpose and inspiration of our original actions.

For the record, avoiding those sidewalk cracks didn’t do anything for my own aching back either…

THE LAST CHAPTER

the last chapter

THE LAST CHAPTER

Repost from September 2010

I love a good story or book with a happy ending, who doesn’t? Although, I bet I’m not the only one who gets a little somber after a great last chapter.

There are lots of reasons I drift toward melancholy after a happy ending. First of all I’m going to miss being captivated by the story that has engrossed me. One of the other reasons is that although the story or ending was pleasurable, it sometimes leaves me with the desire for a more perfect world instead of the fallen one we’re trudging through.

The biggest reason for my solemn introspective is the fact that it’s over. Never to be duplicated in exactly the same way. The storyline has been revealed and so has my heart. I know there are more happy endings to be read and lived, but not this one, this one’s finished.

The best books always seem to teach us something more than just the story. The truly great ones teach us something about ourselves. Most of the time the wisdom learned from the story is a painful revelation of our shortcomings.

I’m fascinated with the books all around me. Every person in this world is a living book… I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out what type of book the characters I witness are writing. Their words only tell a small part of the story. A few words from the author and I can tell if it’s non-fiction or fiction. I’ve also learned I don’t have a clue how to figure out their story based on their cover.

Some of my favorite living books are plain ole paperbacks. The actions of these books tell their story. Most often their words aren’t pretty or poetic, but they’re deep in meaning and wisdom.

If you’re not looking for these living books you might miss them. They might just look like people walking around. Make no mistake, they’re more than people walking around, they’re living books telling a story… Some fiction, some non-fiction. Some happy, sad, joyful or full of sorrow. Every one of them writing the chapters of their lives.

I was fortunate early in my life to get a front row seat to the writing of my dad’s life. Although a simple man of few words, his actions, which are significantly more powerful than mere words, spoke volumes. He left the flexible template and outline for me to follow in order to write my own story.

Some of the chapters in my dad’s life weren’t easy. The story line took some twists and turns resulting in difficult physical and financial times. No matter where the writing of his life took him, there was always faith, trust, joy, and peace in his heart with a snap in his step.

He learned to weave every chapter of his life together with God as his inspiration and strength. In my dad’s last chapter, less than two months before God took him home, he had this to say, “Son, you know I don’t want to leave. God’s blessed me here with a great family, but if he chooses to take me, I win either way.”

After reading the great book of my dad’s life, I am left with sadness and joy… The book is closed, but I’m still learning from it. His living book has also revealed to me the many rewrites I need in my life.

I cherished my dad’s living book… It was such an amazing book, I just never, ever wanted it to end…

While writing the book of my life I had and idea how to finish it, but needed some direction and inspiration. I thank God he provided my dad for that purpose.

I am determined to finish with honor, “The Last Chapter”…

PASSIONS DREAMS AND DESIRES

passions dreams and desires

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I’m like Norm from Cheers, I’m a regular, minus the beer drinking part. After years of keeping a low profile, which is just a fancy way of saying keeping my mouth shut, I’ve come to know the waiters and waitresses. With that comes a little bit of the other part of their getting to know me.

Over the years when the hunger pangs need satisfaction and time allows, I’ll park myself in the corner of the usually empty bar portion of the family restaurant and empty my ink cartridge onto my trusty yellow legal pad of paper.

“The egg white omelet – one extra egg white – coffee with cream – no bread, today?” they all ask in a close variation.

“Yes please,” I nod kindly, often peeking over the top of my readers.

I know a little bit about all of them. The one young man in around his mid to late twenties, the one with the well groomed short dark hair and goatee, is going through a divorce… His wife dropped that bomb on him.

The front man who is about six foot two, two hundred and thirty pounds, shaved head, and seats folks, looks more like a bouncer in a nightclub. His wife works there too and they moved to Arizona from Chicago to care for his dad that passed a few years back.

The gal I’ll call “M” is from Columbia. She’s worked hard so her only son could have more, even paid for his college… till he dropped out. Just goes to show kids are kids regardless of their roots. That broke “M’s” heart. You can see it in her kind root beer colored eyes.

The manager is my age and she runs that location of the restaurant chain like it was her very own. Everyone that comes through the door is treated like someone near and dear to their hearts.

Each new day brings the folks through the door that regardless of how well they get treated, they’re gonna bring the hammer down on someone’s day… and usually the ones serving them. I sometimes hear the mean customers treating the help worse than they would bread crumbs.

I recognize all of it… it’s conflict. The thing from which great stories are hatched. Along with a simple narrative from an unpublished wannabe writer.

The host that looks more like a thug from the mean streets of Chicago, despite the conflict in a day and in his life, talked me into trying the new spicy omelet that turned out to taste more like fire than food. His brown eyes twinkled in amusement, “That’ll clean out your sinuses,” he chuckled. I just nodded in agreement, wiping my watering eyes.

“You write books?” he asked me not too long ago. I uncharacteristically hesitated before answering him.

“Uh… yeah… I write books,” I answered with reservation, but quickly added, “But I’m not published. I’m workin’ on it.”

We all have a story and we all have passions dreams and desires. The tragedy isn’t in not getting what we want. The tragedy is letting the day to day conflicts that all of us have regardless of what we do, steal the God given fire in our souls to pursue the passions, dreams, and desires that He placed inside of us.

Conflict is like the bridge washed out ahead. It just takes a little more time to get to where we’re going. And there are gems to be found in the journey of a detour… and in the setting of an egg white omelet.

CONVERSATION FROM HEAVEN

conversation from heaven

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“You’re a cynic,” my friend declared to me not too long ago.
“No I’m not,” I argued, quickly realizing that not only did I sound like a cynic, but argumentative to boot.

I tried to explain to my friend that I was actually what I like to call “a realist”, but my voice began to soften and trail in defeat.

You don’t have to be related to Albert Einstein to deduce in short order that this life isn’t perfect. After being stolen from, lied to, punched in the mouth, both verbally and the good ole fashioned fist type, you begin to grasp the full weight of Adam and Eve’s original sin.

With a world full of folks that break the Ten Commandments with timely conviction, it’s no wonder some of us tend to be cynical.

Unfortunately, the modern church is no stranger to the flaws and tendencies of the flesh. After many lies and scandals, all of us become suspect of others in the church and some of their claims.

With that in mind, I can honestly say that I’ve had more than a few miracles in my life. I’m careful who I share them with and generally believe the actions of our lives should do the talking for us first and foremost.

Telling someone about a miracle or Divine intervention seldom carries as much weight as being the miracle… For those of us that have been called and changed supernaturally, including our ultimate destination, we live in a miracle, but sometimes it’s worth chronicling the additional miracles when we sense the powerful hand of God in our lives.

I was sleeping like Little Boy Blue, minus the hay when I heard a familiar voice. I had no awareness of my surroundings, I couldn’t say if it was bright or dark – that wasn’t the purpose – I was there only to listen.

I immediately knew the voice but knew he wasn’t talking to me… he was talking about me. I wasn’t having a conversation with the physically deceased, I was Divinely appointed to eavesdrop on a dialog from heaven.

I was captivated in wonder by the conversation that was about something I’d written, but more stunned and shocked to hear the voice of my dad again.

Whomever dad was talking with, they were chatting about a manuscript, a family memoir and tribute to the man we called “Daddy”, like many others with Southern roots do.

I was comforted by the conversation I got to hear. I don’t know if their conversation ended or I got to hear what I was supposed to, but it brought me wide awake in shock and contemplation.

It truly doesn’t make a difference to me if the world never gets to read that piece of writing dedicated to my dad… Knowing he’s proud is worth far more than anything I could receive physically in this life.

I didn’t get a glimpse of hereafter, but I’ll never forget the night I got to listen in a conversation from heaven.