DANCING ON THE RAGGED EDGE OF CRAZY

He was emotionally charged – moved in his soul. He told me about two ladies and this guy, his breaking heart was spilling into his eye sockets. I nodded with compassion and understanding. Been there, done that… Hiding in private what most people wouldn’t understand.

He’s my friend and we share much in common, including, an artistic side, the love of rigorous exercise, and more than a slight dose of harsh sarcasm.

“I get it,” I told him, “but most people would think you’re dancing on the ragged edge of crazy,” I chuckled.

“I know,” he admitted, reining in his emotions. “That’s a great saying,” he said.

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

The guy and two ladies my friend was telling me about are in what they call in literature a “love triangle”… I guess they call it that in real life too, but this wasn’t real life… those three people don’t actually exist. They only exist in my friend’s mind and now in an incomplete screenplay.

That’s the thing about fiction – it’s fueled by non-fiction events in people’s real lives that give them experiences to draw from. Broken bones and hearts aren’t easily forgotten.

From a left brain perspective, a person that makes up a story in great detail, to the point that the story and characters bring real emotion, seems a bit on the off side… maybe even dancing on the ragged edge of crazy.

But from a right brain perspective, it doesn’t seem so crazy. If someone is going to write a story that resurrects emotions in other people, it makes sense that the first person it should touch is the one telling the story. If they aren’t moved, good chance no on else will be either.

I believe that being made in the image of God means, in part, that we’re designed, some more than others, to create.

We can’t speak life into existence, but we can create. That includes creating stories that tell about other people’s lives, some real, some pretend, that inspire, encourage, and remind other people, as well as ourselves, to live their lives to bring truth and honor to our Maker, families, and ourselves.

In the long haul, the Biblical principle expounded upon by English author Edward Lytton, “The pen is mightier than the sword”, is true – God’s word has proved it throughout the history of this world.

God only knows where the fine line is between sanity and crazy is in each of us. I’m certain, like most lines, many of us cross over the line more than we know… or want to.

But if dancing on the ragged edge of crazy inside our minds to tell stories that inspire and encourage others? I say dance, my friend.

THE TIME MOM MET HITLER, FROST CAME to DINNER, and I HEARD the GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD: A MEMOIR

“The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir,” I mumbled to myself as I reached for the front copy of the book on the shelf in the frigid airport in Austin Texas.

That’s the beauty of this life, we never know when ours is going to be enhanced. We don’t always know when we’re going to learn a lesson or be reminded in a different way of The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Dikkon Eberhart tells the sometimes fun, sometimes painful, but always fascinating story of his famous family, their lives, and the crushing weight that comes with trying to measure up in this flesh.

The time mom met hitler, frost came to dinner, and I heard the greatest story ever told

Courtesy of Dikkon Eberhart

Dikkon is the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning and former United States Poet Laureate, Richard Eberhart. His grandparents on the other side were pioneers in the floor wax industry.

As the title of Dikkon’s book suggests, his mom did really meet Adolf Hilter. Robert Frost did come to his house for dinner and helped him with his homework for English class. But the most important part of this memoir, how Dikkon came to know the truth of God.

Dikkon’s colorful memoir is also a history lesson about the social consciousness of this country and how it evolved. And how at least a portion of that evolution took place in Eberhart’s humble living room with him feigning sleep upstairs.

There are countless colorful characters recollected in Dikkon’s book that dropped into the Eberhart’s living room and lives. One of my personal favorites is the times Dylan Thomas read Dikkon bedtime stories with booze on his breath. Another favorite is Margaret Hamilton, the actress that played the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz.

The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and the Greatest Story Ever Told doesn’t just tell the glamorous side of a well-known family. Dikkon is forthright about his mistakes and shares intimately and honestly with his struggles, the very thing we all have in common… and why this memoir is so relatable.

Dikkon doesn’t tell this story in a prideful manner. His story feels like he’s sitting beside you and sharing his life story with you, inviting you in to learn what he’s learned along the way.

I contacted Mr. Eberhart and asked for his permission to write this post about his book. In the course of our correspondence, I found Dikkon to be the same gentle and humble person who penned this masterful memoir.

“The Time My Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and the Greatest Story Ever Told: A Memoir” has found a special place in the short stack of books that I consider my favorites. I hope you’ll take the time to sit down with Dikkon and be reminded that we all have struggles, but we know The Author of the Greatest Story Ever Told.

You can pick up Dikkon’s book at the bookstore, Amazon, Dikkon’s site, or at the airport in Austin. Stop by and say hi to a brother and friend you didn’t know you had.

LEARNING THE ROPES

Kids are taught the proper way to conduct themselves in all kinds of scenarios, learning the ropes so to speak. We’re educated on the insider secrets about what, from the exterior, looks like just another chore or responsibility, but the truly great ones make the tricks, secrets, dealing with people and not getting fleeced exceptional.

I recall my mom showing my sister just how big a splash of leftover coffee to use in a brown sauce. Not so different than my wife reminding the girls how many hot yellow peppers to add to the pot of red sauce that’s big enough to bathe the dog. (not kidding… but Larry is a Shih Tzu)

The little things can make all the difference.

While there was a myriad of things to learn as a boy on the bumpy road to manhood, one of them, though now obsolete and just a memory, was even better than a first trip to Disneyland; shopping for cars.

Sure you could use the same formula for work trucks or basic family transportation, but using the car shopping technique for cool cars, muscle cars, turned a chore into a labor of love.

In those days it started with a newspaper, but not just any newspaper. The real experienced folks knew to start with the Sunday paper. That’s how a boy learns he’s fast becoming a man; when you tore apart a newspaper and discarded everything, including the funny papers, to begin searching the classifieds.

Then there was the local Auto Trader, worth every cent of the fifty it cost. The veteran car shopper knew the publication came out on Tuesdays, ’cause in the used car business, it’s “first come first serve”.

I was taught to “dog ear” the pages and circle the potential motored treasure, sit by the landline getting addresses and directions, then plot a course around the city with approximate meeting times.

I learned fast that the best used car shopper does more than just kick a few tires, he crawls on his back and belly to look for things underneath the V-8 sporting muscle that the outside alone could hide.

One of the standards was pulling the dipstick to look for traces of water or gasoline in the oil. Another was checking the color of the exhaust to let you know if the engine was tired and burning oil, and on and on.

Time spins by like the obsolete spinning top and we’ve gotten more sophisticated. We’re less and less subject to the whim of some fella maybe trying to off a lemon.

I’m reminded that avoiding interactions with others can keep us from getting burned, but that’s not the point of our lives. It is a fallen world, but that doesn’t mean we have to become cynical. That was the Truth behind learning the ropes…

There’s value in interactions with people. In the end, that’s what it’s going to be mostly about, I think.

Which sorta makes it my duty to look for that perfect Plymouth Barracuda. Or maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention when I was learning the ropes of justification…!

HAPPY NEW YEAR

An edited Happy New Year repost from 2011. I’m taking some time away from blog land and spending it with family over the holidays.

Happy New Year

image courtesy of photobucket.com

The years are beginning to look like dashed lines on the highway peering down at 85 miles per hour. As Commander Cody states so eloquently, especially for us of Southern descent, “The lines on the road just look like spots.” The years are ripping by at a speed that’s hard to fathom.

What’s not hard to fathom is that we, like the Hot Rod Lincoln from that old song, can’t last forever. Like the car being pushed past its limits, we wear out, break down, or just plain run out of gas. The time for traveling down the highway of life comes to an end.

Our bodies and lives aren’t so different than the cars in the song either. I remember when my soul ride was the latest model…for a very short time. Like all things in this world, the physical world trapped in the time allotted by God begins to falter. Time takes its toll.

Many of us see an old vintage model vehicle and appreciate it for what it is, and what it was. Some of us are economy cars, some high performance, off-road, work vehicles, or family sedans, but each of us with beauty all our own, designed by God for a specific purpose. Only He knows how many miles we’ll make it before we head to our final resting spot.

The old song ends with the kid being thrown in the clink. “They arrested me and they threw me in jail, n’ they called my Pappy to go my bail and he said son you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ in you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot – Rod – Lincoln.”

The choices we make driving through this life will determine where we’ll end up; in jail, or paradise…

None of us know when we’ll run out of gas or break down permanently. When it comes time to call the tow truck, we’ll all be hopin’ the one with the angelic wings shows up. For those of us who acknowledge the One who made us, that hope is confidence.

I pray a blessed ride through this next year and beyond. May we all feel the blessing of being granted a life and honor God and ourselves by the decisions we make. May we feel the wind in our hair and appreciate the simple gifts first. I also pray for health for our families and friends.

Lets remind one another and not forget to pull off and take some time now and then, after all it’s not a race. There are only two destinations… I suggest the Northern route.

Enjoy the ride, I’ll be striving to be cruising in the slow lane this next year. If I see you I’ll give a wave… If I don’t, I’ll see you, one of these days… at home, drive safe.

God bless your 2017.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

SILENT NIGHT

silent night Repost from December 2012

I suppose you can grow fond of a tradition, but my hunch is that there’s more to the story… In fact, it is the story. The story and truth that changed heaven and earth. I listened faintly as a child, even felt like I endured the story and tradition associated with it sometimes, but it’s different now.

I remember sitting on the back of the long flatbed of the pickup surrounded by stacked up bales of hay. There were people all around. Some were standing, some sitting, some kneeling, but I was sitting next to my big brother who was probably all of twelve, at the very rear, legs dangling dangerously off the back of the truck.

We were swinging our legs wildly and comfortably as the truck pulled us slowly through the chilly December air. This wasn’t a volunteer activity for my brother or me, but we made the most of it. We mostly laughed quietly, elbowing each other gently in the ribs to indicate the signal for laughter.

The other people were more serious. They sang earnestly as we drove through the night. Even though we were embarrassed, sometimes we’d join in and sing a little when the songs we knew well would be repeated. As crazy as it seems, every time our fellow Christmas carolers would break into Silent Night, it turned into a, well,  silent night. Even my brother and I would become more reverent.

The world seems to stand still when that song is sung. The words describing the story act in some supernatural way to bring about reverence… even to the irreverent.

Our pastor shared with us how he’d listened to a story of a country singer named Travis Tritt, recalling his early days playing honky tonks and violent bars where rednecks and bikers would frequent. When the inevitable bar room brawl would break out, Tritt would lead his band in the old Christmas favorite, Silent Night. It never failed to bring immediate peace to some of the rowdiest and irreverent folks this society knows.

I sat in the dim lit den watching the end of a pretty ridiculous Christmas movie while my wife lay sleeping next to me. Immediately when Silent Night began playing with the rolling credits, a side of me rarely seen appeared in the edges of my eyes.

I sat in silent reverence of the story of love. The story of sacrifice. The story of death. The story of redemption… and the story of life everlasting provided by God through our Savior, Jesus Christ. I pray that all the ones we’re praying for this season might one day…

“Sleep in heavenly peace…”