WHISKEY FOR BREAKFAST

k5928024“Can I get you something to drink to start; coffee? juice?” the animated and bright eyed waitress with the matching uniform like everybody else in the pseudo French restaurant asked.

Sometimes, well, often really, I talk without thinking. The tall brunette waitress happened to be working in the bar area, which I guess makes her the bartender. That area has heavy and dark wood wainscoting with old red brick on the walls above it. It’s the perfect setting I like to contemplate or maybe write if I can steal a few moments in time.

“Uhhhmmmm,” I pondered aloud, looking at her and glancing over her shoulder, “Whiskey – Make it a double – Straight up,” I answered. She looked at me with a question in her friendly and customer service oriented eyes. She was stumped. It was morning and and I was ordering alcohol in what’s really a family restaurant.

She smiled kindly, awkward for a few moments until my smile gave it away. “Coffee and water, please,” I said chuckling, probably a little too amused with my pathetic humor. She told me later that occasionally folks will order alcohol in the mornings. I shared with her I couldn’t drink whiskey, and it didn’t matter what time of day.

Over the next several months I’d stop in now and then after physical therapy for my shoulder and sit in my section and read or scribble while waiting for breakfast. Not always, but on occasion I’m a people person. Each person is a story. Sometimes I learn by watching, but more often from talking.

The young lady wasn’t as young as she looked. She has sons; football players in high school. One of them may be headed to play in college. She’s proud, lights up when she talks about her boys. I get that.

“Whiskey this morning, sir?” she asked me on more than a couple of visits.

“You know, I think I’ll just have coffee today,” I answered once. Another time I told her, “No thanks, I’ve already had a fifth for breakfast,” she laughed.

In time she asked what I was writing, “A book?” with some sarcasm thrown in for good measure. She was surprised when I told her that in fact that’s exactly what I was writing. Eventually I told her about this site, told her if she got herself parked in front of a computer to look it up. I didn’t press her, but during one of my frequent fuel ups she told me, “I really enjoyed your posts!”On another occasion she told me she read a bunch of the archives and so did her friend.

My site isn’t fancy, but it does point to the Almighty and His sovereignty here on planet earth. Not all of us are called to preach, but all of us are called to ministry in one form or another. We’ve all been gifted one way or the other to share the Truth of our faith.

The waitress or bartender still chuckles about the whiskey comment I made.

She told me lemon for my water and the extra cream for their stout coffee were my “training wheels”.

I laughed and told her that was a good one.

It’s hard to imagine all the treasures we miss in life by not learning the stories of the lives put smack in the middle of ours.

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER?

The famous Millers Folly. Courtesy of Kelly Schulte.

The famous Millers Folly. Courtesy of Kelly Schulte.

Brad was busy so I tried to slip out without distracting him. He’s been running the front to that Italian restaurant for so long that he’s either developed a sixth sense or has grown eyes in the back of his head. With the front door quietly opened and me about half way out, thinking I’d slipped out undetected, I heard Brad call out, “See ya, Floyd – Thanks!”

I paused and turned, “Thanks, Brad – see you next week,” I answered.

About half way to my car in the dim lit parking lot I heard a woman’s voice behind me, “Floyd? – Floyd Samons?”

I turned to see her, “Yeah,” I answered as she quickly walked toward me.

“It’s Kelly Schulte!” she announced.

“Kelly Schulte? Are you kiddin’ me?” I asked in complete surprise already knowing full well it was the same girl I’d known pretty near my entire life.

We hugged like long lost family. Funny how people we’ve known almost all of our lives, and the ones that treated us as such, do feel like kin.

“I thought that might be you, and when I heard Brad call your name, I knew it had to be you,” Kelly said. We chatted, trying to give each other the readers digest condensed version of our lives standing in the tiny parking lot if front of and Italian restaurant two hundred miles from where we grew up. The spot we both just happened to be eating at that particular night and at the exact time…

Her big brother, the one famous in our town for his baseball skills, was killed in a car accident… I hadn’t heard…

Kelly had heard about my dad passing. We offered one another sincere condolences.

We talked about the endless days spent on her parents famous boat, “The Millers Folly”, the Mississippi paddle wheel replica boat that was unmistakable and the only one like it on Lake Havasu. I can still remember the bright red wooden slatted wheel slapping the water, engine humming, pushing us slowly across the waters of the Colorado River.

We would jump off the second floor of the good ship, Kelly’s brother throwing a football to us with pinpoint accuracy. They’d feed and water us, their neighbor, my friend Hank and I, like we belonged to them.

I asked how her mom and dad were, where they were, and how they were doing. I told Kelly how special those days were to me when we were young, the warm Arizona days when we hovered around the sixth grade mark for what seemed like a lifetime.

Kelly reminded me how much trouble she and I got into during school. I’d forgotten that… Funny how we see ourselves in hindsight better than other folks do in reality. The alphabetical seating landed our desks smack next to each other in all the classes that we shared.

We talked, passed notes, and broke just about every rule they laid out in front of us, but we weren’t so good at not getting caught at it. There was no one to keep Kelly and me from talking and catching up in the parking lot after a chance meeting at a small Italian restaurant in a city with over four million people.

I’m reminded how much value memories have and how much more valuable the ones we made them with are. But mostly I’m reminded that there are no coincidences in this life…

A COMPROMISING POSITION

k11881857He wasn’t really a king, not even close to royalty really, but he liked the sound of it and what it represented if someone else was hailing him as such. We didn’t announce it willingly, it was forced on us via torture if need be. How the title of royalty came to be was a transformation of sorts, evolution if you will. It started as standard communication, just the bare basics of a traditional surrender.

With my body parts in the right unforgiving position, another, usually my oldest brother, would ask, “You give?” Depending on the day and the amount of pain I’d be enduring, I’d calculate the possibilities of an escape or of the potential pain and possible bone break and I’d answer in a variety of ways.

“No!” was an option, usually short lived, and after more pressure was applied the dreaded words of defeat uttered with regret, “I give…” filled the air and brought about peace… physically anyway.

“I give” morphed into, “Uncle”, which for some reason seemed even more mocking than “I give”, but that didn’t hold a candle to the term my big brother cleverly devised eventually. The new form of admitting defeat took an admirable surrender to a more humiliating level, one that implied a depth below an honorable soldier to one of peasant status.

I muttered the dire words, “King Dean” to my oldest brother more times that I cared to or can even recollect.

With enough years and defeats things began to change ever so slowly. I got bigger and stronger, but more importantly I became more determined not to give in, to surrender my pride any longer. And while I was getting harder, my big brother was getting softer, not physically, but mentally, at least with his little brother.

A grueling battle and much of his furniture in his little apartments destroyed in the process, and on way more than one occasion, it would come down to me being pinned, choked, joint locked, or in some type of pain and compromising position while my big brother commanded me, “Say it!”

I’d said “King Dean” so often in life up to that point that I decided I didn’t want to utter the humble words ever again. I was prepared to let him break whatever he had in his clutch. He squeezed harder. I gritted my teeth, bracing against the pain and the worst of it as he yelled even louder, “Say it!!!”

“Never!” I hollered back with conviction.

Dean didn’t really want to hurt me and he’d eventually let me up, usually mumbling about me being extra stupid. I on the other hand wasn’t quite so forgiving after a childhood of humility. When I got the rare opportunity to have my big brother in a compromising  position, I showed him zero mercy, insisting on the title of royalty post haste.

“Say it! – King Floyd! Say it!” I commanded my subject. He’d try to hold out, but my compassion and mercy were no where to be found, only my pride was present, and if I didn’t hear my royal title in short order… it was bone breaking time…

Most of us though older still desire a title, respect, or recognition, and we’ll go to extremes to get it.

Pride is like a cancer being fed sugar; the more it gets the more it devours… and like a young and dumb kid, it doesn’t care who it hurts…

Trying to fulfill a soul from the outside in this world is kinda like trying to drown a fish…

CHEATING DEATH

k10875429Knowing where I was didn’t stop my soul from almost jumping out of my body when I heard the metallic cough of an M-16 less than a half a click from me. I watched and the enemy returned fire immediately, four rapid shots, a Soviet made AK-47. They were just below the surface of the Middle Eastern sand in a makeshift bunker – not a lot of protection from either ride.

My mind was processing the grim reality playing out right before my eyes so quickly it all seemed to be happening in slow motion. I saw the grenade tossed toward the Marine who opened fire just down and to the right from our God forsaken sandy position. He was crouched behind a burned out dump truck, the stocky smudged faced kid saw it too and was moving post haste toward my position.

The air was filled with ear breaking gun shots and metal as the searing sand danced in close proximity to the soldier who was fast approaching my reporter’s safe zone and bunker.

It’s amazing how fast the mind can generate thoughts, as quickly as the half a dozen plus Islamic soldiers could fire their semi-automatic weapons.

I didn’t blame the kid for running to the next closest shelter, it was the only option he had to save his life, but he was bringing the enemy  fire with him, and my position offered a somewhat questionable grace from the enemy… we were completely unarmed…

I knew my death wouldn’t keep all of those firing their rifles from a good night’s sleep, if it happened by chance or otherwise.

Three more what I think were Marines seemed  to appear like a mirage rising to life up and out of the sand returning fire to help protect their comrade until he reached safety. The grenade ignited the silt and shook the earth with vengeance. An RPG, (rocket propelled grenade) ripped toward the soldier and exploded right beside the head of the youngster… tearing the helmet and skull with fury…

Just as soon as that registered, the haunting sound of the RPG tearing the sky flashed in my direction, and just as the stocky smudged faced Marine landed in the bunker. Instinctually we both moved as hard and fast as we could, each leg pushing against the giving sand trying to outrun death.

I made it out first, but the repercussion slammed me to the sand that suddenly didn’t feel so giving. It sent the Marine airborne the height of a semi-tractor trailer and further in distance.

I got up to run but found my world spinning and  surrounded by the sneering enemy, I had no means of protection as they filled the young Marine with bullets with not a hint of mercy.

I was breathing like a fish out of water, my heart pounding in my ears like gunshots as I woke from my dream…

It didn’t take but a few air gasping minutes of pondering and catching my breath in the dark of night to interpret my dream; I and we often walk voluntarily into harms way spiritually and physically while willfully forfeiting the protection of our Father.

This life is a battle, even if it is unseen to our senses. When we fight it in and of ourselves in this flesh, pain and death is imminent.

Wisdom travels behind the hand and grace of God…

A ONE TON LEAF

k15631996“If some is good, then more is better.” I don’t know who said it, but we’ve all heard it, maybe even subscribed to that philosophy without even knowing it at times in life. Most of us realize how shallow the adage is, but we tend to buy into it with our actions, often slipping over the line into the “More is better” camp without grasping it.

The peculiar thing about pushing for more is that it’s generally valid necessities of life that are good and worthy desires to strive for… until they take the place of wisdom and honor. Even the good things can become idols. Some of us have to fight harder to strike a balance in our lives and I’m no stranger to obsessive behavior.

The twentieth of this month marked my four year anniversary of posting on this site. It’s been amazing. I’ve interacted with others, I’ve learned from others, been encouraged, and have tried to encourage as well. I’ve become part of a world that most of the others in this world don’t even know exists.

I’ve connected with believers, created relationships that have touched my life and soul in ways that only our sovereign Father could orchestrate. In the process we’ve sacrificed time for one another, one of the most precious gifts we’re given in this physical world. I can’t express how much it’s meant to me.

Like most conditions, even the honorable things can be given too much attention and it steals from our loved ones what we’re called to give them if we’re being mindful of our surroundings.

I’ve sacrificed time from my family when it hasn’t been prudent to, from business when it hasn’t been wise to. You’d think this leaf was made of solid steel and ten feet long as hard as I’ve struggled to turn it over, but it’s really the weight of a feather. It’s only the pride and desire that are overweight.

I’ll be cutting back a bit on posting and from reading and commenting at other sites as well. While it doesn’t make sense, I find it difficult to make the change, but then the hardest things are usually the most needed. For those that continue to visit, please don’t feel obligated to leave a comment.

Thank you for all you’ve given of yourself and your wisdom; you, I truly appreciate.

Words are peculiar things… It’s been said that they are more powerful than an atomic bomb. I think that’s true. Proof of that is John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God… and the Word was God.”

May our words bring honor to the Creator of them and all things.

God bless.

LOLA LIES

Larry and Lola. Don't be fooled, you can't trust either one of em'.

Larry and Lola. Don’t be fooled, you can’t trust either one of em’.

She’s not as dumb as she looks and he’s actually pretty smart. It’s hard to admit, but she’s outsmarted me more than once. You might think that just because Lola’a a dog that she can’t lie, but that’s not the case. She tries to pull off some whoppers, and getting caught doesn’t dissuade her a bit.

Lola likes to eat. My wife says Lola will eat anything that doesn’t eat her first, so far she’s right on the money. Lola knows when it’s dinner time and grabs her stuffed animal and starts biting and shaking it violently to ring her own dinner bell. She’ll also jump up and punch me with both paws to move me toward the pantry where her bag of dog food mocks her. It’s all cute and innocent, a daily routine that makes me swear she can tell time.

Now and then I’ll work late and someone else will get the honors to take their turn to be pushed over to the pantry and fulfill the little grey Lhasa Apso’s bidding. When I do show up tardy, and especially if no one else is around, Lola lies. She grabs her stuffed animal, bites and shakes it, and punches me with both paws.

“What does her want?” I ask in the same ritualistic and desperate whisper. She punches me again and I continue with our tradition bringing Larry into the routine, “Her just punched me Lar!” I say as I’m being herded toward the pantry.

More than once my wife has walked in and informed me, “I’ve already fed em’.” Now I can’t trust Lola the same way I can’t trust Larry in the house without a diaper on. “Her tells lies, Lar! – Lola lies!” I told him. Lola knows now when I say that to Lar that she’s not gonna dupe me again… that day anyway.

I wonder how many times I’ve lied without saying a word. The old adage can haunt an honest heart; “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s easy to portray ourselves in a way that will gain us something from someone else. We’re all sales people whether we want to admit it or not, I think.

The best actors and actresses are just sales people too. They earn Oscars and academy awards for selling themselves as believable characters. They get accolades and money usually follows, like extra dinner for Lola.

We tend to sell ourselves sometimes as people we want others to like, to accept, to get praise like we’ve won an Oscar for our role.

Striving to be the person we’re called to be based on Biblical principles is one thing, striving for a pay off is pride, the opposite of humility, it’s dishonesty, like Lola. Maybe not driven by hunger pangs, but the desire of the flesh all the same.

Lola hangs her head and mopes back to her dog bed after she gets stone cold busted. I can’t tell if she’s disappointed for not pulling off the caper or is feeling guilty… I just can’t tell her heart… the same as the rest of us.

Only God knows the heart and our motives… and if we’re acting and telling lies… like Lola.

PEEKING FROM HEAVEN

k14638751I wasn’t sure I could do it… It’s been so long since I’ve participated, I can’t remember if we did it intentionally or it just happened by accident, over and over again.

We played the game day and night, it seemed like a completely different game from darkness to light, but the fun was ever present… somewhere along the way I got too busy or too old to play the game that didn’t cost us a penny, which was often more than we had in the good ole’ days.

Kids do it naturally, even when it doesn’t make sense to. It’s not as enjoyable when it’s hot outside, nor is it when the grass is crawling with critters, especially the ones you can’t see. That’s probably the biggest reason I quit lying in the grass, hands clasped behind our heads, palms cradling our empty noggins, while we watched the show in the sky.

I do recall on more than one occasion being targeted for dinner, jumping up, slapping the ants that were swarming me and my friends, looking like a lunatic to the folks far enough away to think we were trying to slap the demons out of us.

Other times I recall gazing and pondering the great expanse of sky with my head lying right against the grass covered firmament. I remember getting slightly dizzy just lying there taking the grand expanse above in.

Like all the other sunburnt kids taking the rare break from playing, even more rare; lying dead still with our eyes facing toward heaven, we’d look for familiar shapes in the clouds as they drifted and morphed across the stage of the atmosphere, pointing and declaring the shapes, as excited as Christopher Columbus discovering the New World.

As awesome as the sky is during the day and the kaleidoscope of color born new each day in the Arizona sunsets, the crystal clear sky made the nights even more magical. We’d lie and study our personal and brilliant moon, focusing and swearing we’d just caught a glimpse of the man in the moon or the cow jumping over it.

We’d imitate the distant coyotes howling at the beaming ball in the sky until we’d nearly perfected the art. Funny how some games never grow old… even at my age now, I don’t need to be lying on my back in the cool grass to enjoy the game of searching, finding, and pointing out with animation, almost like the first time we’d spotted them; the Big and Little Dipper, or the Milky Way, or a shooting star.

I remember making a wish in the millisecond flight of the falling star, or for those of us who were experts, we knew it was really God sending another angel to earth. We also knew instinctively that the stars were really angels peeking through the floor of heaven, and that the twinkling was really just the angels winking to us.

My wife and I were out of town, the grass was cool in the late afternoon. The park was filled with children, God’s children, young ones and old ones, like us. I pushed the blades of grass aside to get a glimpse of the scalp of earth. The coast was clear.

“Lets lay down,” I suggested. My wife and I relived the days of our youth… the days that in some ways we were instinctively wiser, before the ants and loss of innocence, the days of amazed and bewildered.

It’s amazing how a heartbeat slows as we gaze at the sky and realize our humble place in this world.

THE DEATH OF A SUMMER

k15661733Re-post from August 2012… since school is coming around again.

I know that look on her face; it reads like the big “E” on the eye chart. She’s devastated by what she knew was inevitable. She lived the good life; stayed up late, slept in, went to the mall, the beach, the movies, but mostly she relished the time away from school.

She, like we did, learned year after year that all good things come to an end, including summer. She grieves the time being over, it’s spent, never to be relived again… and the reality weighs on her small frame. She had her funeral face on the day I wrote this, hence the title of the post.

Our youngest is definitely a chip off the ole’ block. I remember celebrating the beginning of summer as if it were an entrance into heaven. In fact, that’s exactly what it felt like. I too mourn the passing of summer as if it were the loss of my best friend. The adage, “All good things come to an end,” while true on this physical earth, never made me feel any better, so I spared her that tradition.

The reality is that I mourn the passing of a summer time too, but for slightly different reasons. I know my little one grieves, they are the same reasons I did, but not what I grieve for now…

The reality that life moves on faster than we can comprehend is what settles in the forefront of my thought. I think about the things I didn’t do with not just her, but all of them. I remember how fast the four years of high school went by for her big sisters.

I also think about the innocence that’s close to being gone forever. I remember summers when they were all home and the trips taken, the memories made. Yeah, I miss the summer and summers just like my little one does.

She’ll settle in, she’ll struggle with adolescent issues, she’ll worry about things that she doesn’t need to at the age like all of us did, but that’s part of life and the age. I’ll struggle too, but for different reasons. I’m old enough to know how fast life gets behind us and yet I squander some of that precious commodity of time too, just not quite as blatantly as I used to.

I’m sympathetic to my daughter, I too feel the death of a summer, but I also know that each day and season is a gift from God. There is redemption, forgiveness, and another chance every time we open our eyes to start a new day, not to mention the memories of each gift of summer that lives with us forever.

“You wanna’ come with me?” I asked.

“No,” she said quietly.

“You’re sad, huh?”

“Yeah.”

I smiled that flat-across-the-face-type of sympathetic smile, then whistled the ten note death march tune…

She laughed.

I think it’s gonna be a good year…

WHAT IF?

Some folks bite their fingernails, some their lips, then there are those that bite other people’s heads off, metaphorically speaking of course. Part of living in this world is that there are worries in this life. The Good Book and Jesus Christ Himself spoke of worry and fear often… and for good reason.

My friend and brother, Caleb Suko just released a book titled “What If – How To Kill Worry And Anxiety Before They Kill You.” Caleb knows first hand about worry, doubt, and fear. He and his wife Christina along with their kids who are all missionaries and headed back to the Ukraine this month are no strangers to struggles in life, all parts, including one story of their son who was diagnosed some time back with cancer and found peace through God in the process that led to his ultimate healing.

Caleb shares his insights and heart in ways that bring real insight into a difficult subject that none of us can hide from. We all get a choice to melt like wax on a hot stove when facing our troubles or to choose the straight and narrow that doesn’t always deliver us from trouble, but marches us through the valleys as the world bares witness to He who gives us life and strength.

I hope you’ll check out Caleb’s book along with his blog and support him and tell your friends about my friend, Caleb. You’ll be glad you did.

Click here to get to Amazon.

Caleb, Christina and the whole Suko clan!

Caleb, Christina and the whole Suko clan!

Click here for Caleb’s site.

THE BEAT GOES ON

TheCarscoverGod only knows what the next generation’s going to turn out like, but I wonder about it all the same. I ponder the significant changes in our society, how they’ll never be able to grasp the world we grew up in, just like we can’t truly grasp theirs.

“Turn that thing down!” I remember my dad telling all of us at one time or another when we were listening to music. Sometimes in the house on the cheap HiFi that was available back then. Other times it was in the cars or trucks, his at first, then eventually ours, but he’d always end the demand with an, “It hurts my ears!”

I never believed it really hurt his ears, I mean not much did hurt him. A piece of sheet metal would always cut him while he was at work, some  all the way to the bone; nasty gashes. He’d use duct tape to pull the separated flesh back together and close the bloody manmade valleys by wrapping the grey tape around a couple of times.

Hearing a ringing in his ears, something he hadn’t experienced in his early life, must have felt like it was doing damage. Course, his hillbilly roots and country persuasion didn’t pair too well with the kind of Rock-N-Roll we were spinning.

My generation, well, relative to our parents generation, we were spoiled, we had things our parents never dreamed of having… like loud stereos, and they just kept on getting louder. My first car was a dinosaur by today’s standards, but back then Craig Powerplays were state of the art stuff.

My parents, especially my dad, couldn’t grasp why our generation liked to listen to music so loud that you couldn’t talk over it. I had a truck back in the nineties that had speakers, all types, big ones, medium ones, and little ones throughout the massive four door crew cab. Behind and under the backseat was stuffed full of more bass speakers and amplifiers to adequately drain both batteries in the powerhouse diesel if I dared to play it without the engine running.

You could hear that truck coming from a mile away, and not because the rattling diesel engine either. It was so loud it rattled brains, teeth, quaked the seats and anyone sitting in them right through to their soul.

There have been plenty of occasions where I’ve cranked up the stereos in my truck and the house and none of my girls liked it, I mean not for a second. They’re different than us, well me anyway, they aren’t enamored with fine sounding stereos that have been a part of their entire lives.They have a different perspective than my generation.

If they have a different perspective for something as simple as the sound of a stereo, there’s no doubt they’re gonna have a different perspective for everything else in their lives as well.

The things we bequeath to the next generation will impact not just their generation, but the ones that follow them. Only God knows what technological advances will follow after us, but the true treasures we pass along won’t be stereos or money. They’ll be the treasures that are worth far more than anything money can buy, things like honesty, character, and the love and truth of God above…

And who knows, maybe an old Cars CD that they’ll crank up in memory of the generation that ruined their hearing… voluntarily…

Then again, looks like they’ll be smarter than that… and me…

 

(By the way. Here’s a Cars tune, just in case you have a stereo and  want to crank one up… for old times sake…)

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