PARKING LOT PERDITION

Me? I pulled my car within inches behind the kid’s and was out of my car and at his rolled down window before he could say, “Finders keepers – losers weepers!'”

THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR

k7274728I’m not much of a sailor, except for that one time in junior high school I stole that sailboat, but I savvy the sailing lingo fairly well. Sometimes a few words can sum up what a picture or a thousand words can’t, no matter the time spent trying. It’s remarkable how well a simple adage can describe perfectly what we’re trying to express, like the lucky folks who buy the right vowel on Wheel Of Fortune.

“You nailed it”, or “You hit the nail on the head”, are carpentry terms that have come to mean far more than the accurate swing of a hammer. No one needs to be a fisherman to savvy the phrase, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea”. You get the idea.

Back to my seafaring thoughts: For the better part of six years I’ve been writing, pushing, learning, and have written hundreds of thousands of words in the form of this blog, writing assignments, and three and a half manuscripts. But sometimes life… get ready for it… “Knocks the wind out of your sails”…

I’ve come up empty. And while that isn’t entirely new, the desire that always seems to summon a fresh breeze has gone missing. That is new for me. My desire must have fallen in the deep waters when I blinked at the emotional strike delivered to the core of my soul…

This life is full of surprises and not all of them have the intentions or effect of a surprise birthday party. All of us know that people will let you down in this fallen world, yet we all get “Blindsided” once in awhile. Yeah, another overused analogy. No wonder it’s so popular; it describes the synopsis perfectly.

Sooner or later everyone of us gets crushed by another that has a soul cage wrapped around them and we respond typically in our flesh – What we know instinctively.

Our first reaction is grief, but it doesn’t take too long for the wicked desire of revenge to explode from our heart like a snarling and fire breathing dragon. We retaliate sometimes and the fire used to payback those that hurt us blown with vengeance from our hurting and twisted mouths, leaves us singed by our own poison.

Betrayal is grisly. As repulsive as it is, and we’re all quick to condemn the trespassers, we rarely stop to consider the monster in the mirror…

There’s another old saying that has some merit, “I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us…” While the quote isn’t fully accurate in that we’re duped by the real enemy of our souls, it makes the razor sharp point that we’re all fallen, even if that wasn’t the intent when that famous southern fella’ wrote it the first time.

We betray our Father daily with each sin. Maybe there’re not all out lies or deceit, but we’re deceiving ourselves if we think we’re above anybody else or our righteousness earns us a seat on a different boat… we’re all in the same one.

As our Father forgives betrayal, we too are called to forgive. If He forgives us, how can we not extend that trait that points to and proves we have His true love in us?

I don’t know when, but one of these days I believe the wind will return… and my sail and heart will be filled again. I pray yours will too…

 

ONCE AGAIN

42-19622194Repost, edited from August of 2010

I tend to load my days like some folks do their luggage, you know, the kind you really need two suitcases for, but are determined to get it all in one.

I was on the on the back edge of my schedule and slipping as I made my stops in between business calls and sometimes during them. I didn’t really have time in my schedule to eat, but I was “Starvin like Marvin.” Once again…

I went into a fast sit down greasy spoon right next to a gas station, both conveniently close to the interstate. I inhaled my food and headed for the door, on the phone of course. I was putting out fires and setting sparks for new ones. Once again…

In the truck, down the road, headed to see my mom. You see, yesterday was her birthday. She lives in a not-as-small-as-it-used-to-be town where I grew up that is around 200 miles away from where we live now.

I was still on the phone when an unfamiliar alarm sounded… I’d never heard this sound before, but instinctively new instantly what it was. It was the sound of regret… It was the sound of humiliation… It was the sound of the “low level fuel alarm.”

With a new focus and a wildfire from no where, I put all my attention now on one thing, being rescued. Funny how priorities change so quickly in life… Once again…

My fast paced world would come to a complete stop in about 15 miles and 45 miles from the next small town and closest gas station, and yeah, the thought of the one beside the restaurant didn’t make it easier on my mind. There I sat, all four windows down, both passenger doors open to allow some cross breeze, feeling like a dumb kid… Once again…

Three hours is a long time to sit in the Arizona August sun, a fella can do some serious thinking in that amount of time. And it’s not like I would be catching any “Z’s” in the sweltering triple digit weather and with eighteen wheelers roaring and sending wind through the cab at hurricane speeds.

You might say this is an ugly place to be; surrounded by danger, civilization on one side that allow no mistakes at 75 miles per hour or more. Where the black top ends and the desert starts is what feels like “no man”s land,” my new home for three hours. About 15 feet from the black top is thick brush that graduates into trees. This is where the vicious and poisonous animals along with some varmints that the Southwest is famous for.

God has his ways of slowing us down. Although, I find those loaded semi’s and speeding cars on one side with the poisonous snakes and wild animals on the other, isn’t near as dangerous as trying to navigate this life without God’s guidance. Sometimes He uses those dangers in life to get our attention. He got mine. Once again…

I made a new schedule, one that started with a prayer. I watched a one foot long lizard hunting for an early dinner before I spotted some big branches for targets in the trees and threw rocks trying to revive an old pastime. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, it felt pretty good. Once again…

After my overdue rescue, I was off, but not like before. God gave me a knew perspective on my day and it didn’t include setting the cruise control to 10 over the legal limit or pass everything in sight.

The sun on those purple mountains on the other side of the lake are beautiful just before sunset. It was good to see them. Once again…

I made it to town just in time to take my mom and some of the family to dinner in celebration of her birthday.

After dinner my mom and I talked, reminisced, and laughed. Once again…

It was good to slow down and catch up with my mom, the perfect ending to a perfect day. Funny how a perspective needs to be reset. Once again…

AMUSING ANGELS

1167681-Cartoon-Of-A-Cloud-Mascot-Blowing-Wind-Royalty-Free-Vector-ClipartEvery so often a mundane task becomes a fight against what seems like the impossible, like fighting unseen forces in the other realm. I figure I’ve been trudging the face of this planet long enough to know what I’m talkin’ about. For example; I’ve witnessed what looks like the wind toying with us mere mortals.

I know I’m not the only soul to have seen the poor sap bending at the waist to pick up the treasured piece of paper the wind snatched from them. Just as their fingers get a clamp on the page the perfect gust of wind pushes  it, usually ten to twenty yards away.

The wind never seems to carry it so far that all hope is lost and the quest to recover the thin treasure abandoned. It’s just close enough to encourage hot pursuit. The determined person sometimes walks swiftly, others jog, still some sprint toward the helpless paper. Then as they reach the rescue point the wind just happens to gust again sending their page up, up, and away.

The chase continues over and over until the desperate retriever begins to try to outwit the invisible foe. The next dash toward success ends with a stomp to the earth from the pursuit artist in hopes of pinning the paper before it’s stripped out of reach yet again.

I’ve watched this event too many times in life to recount. In fact, I’ve been the participant more times than I can recall to boot. I can tell you first hand that cursing the wind doesn’t help the situation at all… not to mention it really looks bad…

This morning I fought another invisible force as I dispensed, well, tried to dispense anyway, my vitamins. The tiny and perfectly round vitamin D capsules that are clear and golden in color decided to mess with me… or someone or something did.

I’ve been rolling vitamins out of their containers for so many decades that I’ve made an art out of it. A process of simplistic beauty and art in motion. One slight tip, the perfect snap and pulling back of the bottle and the little gem rolls out and into my hand along side the other healthy participants in my boring game and ritual.

This morning I tipped, snapped, and two vitamins rolled out, “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. I rolled them back in to the bottle and gave it another go. A repeat performance, “I’ll be?” I thought to myself and repeated the process only to have two more taunt me. Admitting defeat and fighting the clock, I tried to roll just one back into the bottle while clasping the others with my fingers pressed against my palm. Both golden balls rolled back into the bottle…

I stood there for another half a minute failing to retrieve one vitamin D over and over. “What the?” I mumbled out loud to myself.

I’m convinced of a few things, one; God gives His angels that watch over us some free rein in how they deal with us in this sometimes unexplainable life. Two; some angels get the short straws so to speak, take mine for instance. And three; God has a sense of humor… or I didn’t really need a D vitamin that day…

TAMING THE MONSTER

k9457916Things are often not exactly as they seem… or so it seems… It was something right out of a movie. It felt almost like heaven, or at least what I imagine heaven  might be… The Pacific Ocean breeze tickled the sizzling skin as it danced by in rhythm with the towering and crashing waves.

The waves collided with the golden beach – spreading out flat and low as it reached for the toes of the scads of folks soaking up the famous Southern California rays. Small children frolicked in the shallows, getting pummeled by the innocent looking surf. They’d squeal in delight and get back up for the next round… only to get knocked off their tiny feet again and again.

About twenty yards out, around the area in the ocean where the waves reach their crest, just before their denouement, the boogie boarders ride the untamed water speeding toward the shore and strive to steer around the wee ones there. All this while the seagulls are undeterred a few feet above the uneven surface in search of lunch.

Beyond them, between the end of the earth and the distant ships on whiskey colored horizon are the surfers. They don’t ride the sea swells, they catch the monster waves by the tail then crawl up their backs and stand on top of the monster waves as conquering kings and queens of the sea.

The bravest of the surfers swing around the front side of the monster wave’s head and dance just in front of it’s mouth, taunting the sea as they race for the safety of the sand.

The scene looks serene, peaceful. The manmade floating devices being pushed by the power of the sea toward rest and safety. No wonder the place was so packed… like a sardine can.

Against my better judgment, I decided to join the seaside soiree. The water was colder than I expected – made me shiver as the sweat on my spine turned to ice. The bottom of my feet found a sharp rock that almost dropped me… No turning back. I pushed and fought my way out into the surf as the waves blasted me and my boogie board with body shots. I quickly remembered to hold the board over head and turn sideways to lessen that blows and setbacks toward shore.

When I did finally get far enough out to tame the monster I paddled toward land like a train robber gallops toward a caboose, grabbed both sides of the front of my board and rode the monster in. It spit me toward shore like I was Jonah. My legs and feet hanging off the undersized board scraped rocks and sand leaving skin in the sea as payment for it’s use along with a twisting dump that had me struggling to hang on to the board.

I finally trudged out of the surf in defeat, salt running from my sand packed sinuses… the monster unfazed and far from tamed.

That’s how many things are in this life. Things look fun, easy, and innocent, and we believe that we have the means to tame the creation… kinda like roping the wind… We jump in head first, believing or wishing for the best… The bruises, sometimes physically, sometimes spiritually, we carry with us for a time – the memories forever.

Like this newly torn rotator cuff that should be a good reminder for a while to come. Me getting a grasp on the horns of wisdom is a little like taming that monster wave…

Maybe next time… Getting another chance to do things right is a gift from the hand of the Almighty, don’t you think?

If I can’t get a handle on the wave… there’s zero chance I’m going to get one on the grace of God…

 

THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLE

is09a65cfIt’s different down there; in a way that doesn’t make sense, but things rarely do in this upside down world. It’s downtown and it’s old. People down there have a different lifestyle, a simpler one. One of the oldest bicycle stores in the city is down there and it just happened to have the only women’s bike that my wife had been looking for in the entire city. A bike shop in that community didn’t make sense to me… at first glance anyway.

The single silver aluminum framed glass front door jingled as it opened into world that was timeless. It was like stepping through the window of time back into the sixties. The cement floor was worn smooth by foot traffic over the decades and the low ceiling that at one time had been white was now tinted yellow by Father time and cigarettes when they were legal inside a public building.

“Afternoon!” one of the five men working called from behind the splintered paneling flanked counter. The white formica top was black in spots along the edges where all the elbows from all the generations leaning there had stolen the finish little by little unknowingly.

While the tired building reflected a past all but gone, the young men working there reminded me that I hadn’t slipped into the Twilight Zone by their dress and accessories; namely the earrings in their spreading earlobes that you could fit a penny through. They weren’t the only ones – the customers matched and made us look like the outsiders.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes to realize that my assumption about the little bicycle shop being over staffed was dead wrong. Although there was only one other vehicle besides ours in the tiny parking lot that was just a thin sidewalk and a curb from the glass front faced shop, the place was hopping with business.

I had plenty of time to observe the folks and the interactions while my wife test drove bikes, helmet, and jerseys. I learned it cost twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, with tax, to get a flat tire fixed with the the heavy duty thorn resistant tube.

I also noticed that those people that live with far less than the ones in my neighborhood, minus the tattoos and earrings, are in better shape. But the main thing I noticed was how friendly, mannerly, and genuinely happy they seemed.

“How’d you pop it?” I asked the mid thirties man that was built like a linebacker and had the face and aura of the perfect TV show serial killer.

“A pothole,” he chuckled.

“Bummer,” I shook my head.

“Yeah, it was four thirty this morning on my way to work and I just didn’t see it,” he lamented and added, “It’s my fourth one in two months.”

The kid fixed his bike and gave him the “That’ll be twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, please,” line that I’d become accustomed to. The burly bicyclist counted out the exact change and graciously thanked the kid for his help. He then turned to me and offered with a genuine smile and nod of his close shaved head, “Have a great day, sir.”

“I will, thank you… and you too,” I told him. He thanked me and told me that he would. “And watch out for those potholes, huh?” I called to him.

He laughed, nodded, and answered, “I’ll try!” as he exited the silver door with the year round Christmas bell on the handle.

We tend to strive for so much, we forget how much we already have.

We use words like, “please”, “thank you”, and “love” so often out of habit that they’re stripped of their true definitions and heart…. until you hear and see someone use them with magical simplicity and power that we’ve forgotten how to.

 

THE BLIND MIRROR

k8155973We have a fair amount of mirrors in our home, but I don’t spend a lot of time in front of any of them. It’s probably for the best that my eyes aren’t as spry as they used to be. I do spend enough time to see myself, what I look like anyway. What I see in the reflection of a mirror is what I strive for my reflection to be, and it goes far beyond the lines around the eyes that look back through me and into my soul.

The mirror can’t see beyond flesh and it reflects the lies we feed it.

We all tend to judge others we meet on a daily basis by what we see and precisely what the mirror shows, but that can’t begin to tell the story of a life that we can only grasp with our senses. Those senses, while miraculous, can be to easily fooled. We learn to be masters of portrayal over the course of our lives… but it only lasts as long as our tongue and actions are hidden from the light.

“Watch Bill over there, he can be a bit nasty,” I said in jest. The couple of people around chuckled, I could tell they were feeling a little bad for Bill who’d been standing innocently close by when I drug him into the sarcastic foray.

Bill’s a good natured guy and just laughed and played along, “Yeah, that’s me – it’s just part of being in this rowdy crowd,” he agreed.

We all smiled or laughed at the light humor of the day. As I was leaving I took aim and tossed one more sarcastic grenade. I motioned in Bill’s direction, “Well keep an eye on him, he’s tough, not near as kind or gentle as me,” I chuckled at my humor.

While I appreciate bringing smiles to other people’s faces as well as an occasional laugh, I was taken back by the gut bustin’ laughter that exploded from the targets at whom I’d lobbed the sarcastic laced grenade. I’d meant the comment to be amusing, even funny, but not hilarious.

If I were a comedian I might have been gratified. “See you guys tomorrow,” I said smiling and exchanging pleasantries. I thought about the response as I strolled away, the smile replaced by a pinched brow. It’s funny how the perception we have of ourselves, the ones we work so hard to represent, don’t always match up with the perceptions that others have of us after they get past our front cover; the mirror…

While I wouldn’t use the term “gentle” to describe myself, I feel like I have somewhat of a gentle spirit. But what we are on the inside tends to speak for us and make up the true image that the mirror can’t hide. Beautiful, handsome, fine, none of those things can be seen in the mirror… Those attributes are measured from the inside.

The mirror is blind…

 

A WOBBLY WEEKEND

k9401564I didn’t want to drive… but my wife insisted on driving over to the coast so she could take her bicycle to peddle up and down Highways 1. She left on a Thursday and I flew to catch up with her the following Saturday. When she picked me up from the airport she asked me, “Can you hear that sound?” while turning down the radio. Those are code words for big trouble. If she can hear something on a vehicle, it’s much too, too late.

“Yeah,” I answered, “That’s bad – real bad… That’s metal on metal and means the rotors are shot and we shouldn’t be driving this.” My wife told me the youngest, who’s been driving the SUV, mentioned something to her about the brakes a while back… I told her I wish someone would have mentioned it to me…

We found a mechanic shop and drove straight there. Out of state plates with an emergency… not a good hand of cards to be dealt. The owner of the shop with his thick black mustache and accent chuckled like a professional poker player. It’s never good when strangers in that scenario refer to you as their “Buddy”.

We took a cab back to the house and decided to boogie board on the biggest waves of the year in the Pacific. The other old SUV that is officially referred to as “mine” was waiting for me with problems of his own; a low tire. Really low, but I’ve come to expect the unexpected and was prepared.

I wrestled the compressor, air hose, air chuck, and electrical cord away from the spiders and filled up the tired tire. All the while I was spitting cobwebs from my mouth and pawing them off my face and head like a clumsy bear.

I didn’t think much about my shoulder just six months out of major surgery until after I’d been knocked down and arm barred by the tag team of wicked Pacific waves. I was nursing the cuts on my ankles from the collision with the shoreline before I realized we were running behind in our race with the clock and the closing of a Fedex office I’d never been to… No fear, I’ve never been shy of using all the available horse power to cheat time…

According to my wife’s cell phone I knew we were close to the Fedex office with about five minutes before the big hand struck twelve and the little one covered up the five. I gunned the big V-10 off a red light to get over into the right turn lane ahead when I heard the old familiar sound of a tired tire giving up the ghost.

I slowed as the oversized SUV loped on the blown rear driver’s side tire. I made the turn and kept creeping forward until the rim and pavement chewed through the rubber. I wheeled it over tight to the curb, hit the flashers and we started jogging toward the Fedex office.

On the way home the highway patrolman just the Arizona side of the Colorado River and border finished crossing the “T’s” and dotting the “I’s” on my punching bag of a weekend with a speeding ticket…

There are days we call “good” and days we refer to as “bad”. Sometimes it takes really hard days to put things into a proper perspective.

There was a time I’d have cussed a day or weekend like that and swore it was a plan hatched in the devil’s kitchen…I’ve had enough real life days in this fallen world to know that it was a taxing and expensive weekend… but not a bad one.

Each day is a gift… I just forget and need to be reminded sometimes…

It was a wobbly weekend, but a good one to be sure…

 

AN AUGUST NIGHT

x12537277My memory serves me fairly well, like most of us I’d say, but sometimes I need a reminder. I got one during a chameleon August night this year.

It rained cats and dogs when I was a kid, not often, but when it did, the tears from heaven were unleashed with fury on the dusty desert floor.

It’s easy to forget that the desolate washes, or what some folks in the Southwest call “arroyos”, are there for a reason. Tender footed folks chuckle at the street signs that say, “Do not cross when flooded.” I don’t blame em’, it seems harmless.

I’ve seen cars taken by the raging rivers in the middle of a normally dry desert and washed along like a leaf in a tornado. I’ve also witnessed eighteen wheeled trucks treated like Tonka Toys, but that was a long time ago.

We sat on the back patio deep into the normally punishing Arizona August night, that doesn’t happen too often, but then neither does the torrential and cool summer rain visit us like it did when I was still a kid.

August in Arizona is the peak of summer time and the blues that accompany it, but not that particular August night. That night was magical. The lightening lit the sky for an instant on and off all night like a young angel in heaven was playing with the light switch. The thunder shook the house and rattled the ground like a stampede of heavenly cattle being herded across the sky just the other side of the snarling rain clouds.

The place we call home is often referred to as “The devil’s bedroom,” where the temperatures can hover around the triple digit mark even after the sun clocks out for the day. That night God brought Oregon south for a visit.  The temperature was in the sixties. It was so cool that my wife asked me to fetch her a blanket.

The torrential waters falling from above seemed more like it was being shot from a heavenly sized water cannon. We watched in wonder and awe, enjoying the show and evening. The constant and steady patter of the damaging rain eventually rocked my wife to sleep, despite the record setting amount of rain fall in the relatively flat Valley Of The Sun.

My wife was fast asleep, curled up in the chair, swaddled in the blanket, sleeping in comfort and safety that is  promised from the One that designed the world in which we walk.

The miracles that we witness over and over in our lives we tend to take for granted. It would be easy to explain a cold August night in Arizona scientifically, but that won’t explain where the wind originates or the Power behind the perpetual motion that protects our delicate world.

The earth does indeed “Declare His majesty” and sovereignty over what belongs to God… including a cold and rainy August night in the Arizona desert. Along with the His loved ones sleeping through it.

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.

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