image courtesy of photo

image courtesy of photo

I’ve heard it said that there are different ways to skin a cat. I was never too interested in finding out any details in the matter. Truth is, I like cats. I get the point, always did. There can be different steps or processes taken to achieve the same, or at least similar results.

Since the long gone days of youth and innocence have deserted me I’ve come to apply that simple truth to my thought process and perspective as well. It doesn’t come naturally to me even after all this time though.

In one of the battles with the heart and soul, as usual, the flesh took the first shot. We were out of town and for some unknown reason another adage rears its ugly ole head; “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.”

I got a call from the attorney to let me know that after all the documents I’d signed the day before… there was just one more… That was also the day that business personnel ran off the rails… And our youngest called me in tears with a school emergency. The long weekend we’d planned to celebrate our anniversary, the one I thought I had all the contingencies in place to cover, was coming unwound at the seams.

The flesh claims victory. It’s what comes to it naturally. I can almost see the virile monster of the flesh with one big boot on the neck of a seemingly groggy soul and spirit. The too timid soul struggles to awake to the reality of this fallen world.

I’m pretty sure God doesn’t use the analogy “to skin a cat”, but He does use different ways to get our attention. Sometimes it takes using our senses to see the reality of this world and to bring a less emotional response to ebbs and flows of a day in the life.

I hung up the phone yet again. My flesh clearly in control. Then I spotted her. That’s when my soul and spirit awoke from the haze and assault of the flesh.

She was old. Her grey shoulder-length locks curled naturally at the edges from under her faded brown derby. The skin on her shriveled face was cooked dark brown by the sun. She was sitting at the outside edge of an outdoor food court. The homeless woman had everything she owned with her in her borrowed shopping cart. Her thick ankles and severely swollen and discolored feet spoke to her serious circulation issue.

As my heart melted for this woman, somebody’s daughter at one time, so did my flesh.

The good and even admirable things of this life can be so easily used against us. It’s easy to get wound up with ourselves and all of our own issues and problems, most of which is usually created by us.

God has a way of getting our attention and bringing us back to a better perspective in a host of ways. Of all the different ways He could use to skin a cat so to speak, using the gifts of our senses to control our emotions seems pretty gentle.


image courtesy of photo

image courtesy of photo

“You know there are kids starving in Africa right now?” It was posed to me as a question, but I knew from past experience it was really a statement, a declaration if you will. That’s when the short battle of wills and the testing of one of my parent’s patience ensued.

While I didn’t know any kids personally that were starving at the time, I knew my parents weren’t lying to me. I knew they were trying to make a point for me to finish my meal, but moreover to be grateful for what I had. It’s hard for kids to see the value in vegetables, especially green peas.

I usually mumbled something to the effect of “rather starving to death than eating peas”, but it didn’t have any effect on getting me out of forcing them down my hatch. One time, when we had a rare dessert for after dinner, my sister tried to hide her potatoes under her plate… and they weren’t mashed. But that’s a story for another time.

One dinner my parents didn’t have to work too hard to get me to consume like swine was Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, ham, baked beans, with bacon, of course, and gravy to name a few. Then followed by dessert that included fruit salad swimming in whip cream and pumpkin pie that was right up my alley.

It didn’t matter if we were with scads of extended family or just the six of us at Thanksgiving. When it came to dinner time my dad was always the one called on to give thanks to God for the meal we were about to devour.

My dad didn’t just thank God for the food, he’d cover every facet of our lives and make it a point to count every blessing and name them one by one. He was truly grateful. I listened to him then, but I was more focused on calming the hunger pangs… it would take decades to hear him…

I think it’s a lot like that for most of us; we know in our minds the good things we have, but it takes time and wisdom to catch up to us for us to realize deep in our souls the truth of that fact.

I’m thankful for so much. I can’t begin to grasp the depths of our Father’s grace, mercy, and love. His protection and provision are astounding to me and I’m thankful from the depths of my soul. I don’t have to be reminded that others in this life have tribulation for the likes of which staggers my mind.

I’m thankful to God for a path set before me by my Father that he allowed my mom and dad to plow before me. I’m thankful for all the things I was forced to learn, for all the things I wanted but never got. For wisdom from God through my dad.

Thanksgiving changes but the heart behind it never will. Since my dad’s passing my mom calls on me to say a blessing to God over our Thanksgiving dinner. I recount our gifts and give thanks to God above for His blessings on all of us. I’m honored to give thanks to He who gives graciously.

I pray for blessings upon you and your families too, friends.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.


image courtesy of

image courtesy of

When we first left I was riding high, but before long I felt like a fish out of water. Not only because I was smack in the middle of a scenario I’d never been in before, but also due to the fact that my body and lungs were almost as useless as a flopping fish.

My wife is the cyclist, I just took it up about a year ago to hang out with her and drop some lbs. She’s pushed me pretty hard, thought I was gonna puke a few times, but I somehow found some inner strength… no doubt the reserve tank of pride and ego, to finish each ride.

Of all the times we’ve ridden I’ve never been first unless you count the downhill parts only, but I’ve never been dead last.

I found myself in California early on a Sunday morning straddling an ole and heavy bicycle, relatively speaking, and having not been on one in months. We planned for a short ride with an older group of riders that promised to be a leisurely jaunt, what those in the bicycle world refer to as “a recovery ride”.

The group had about thirty riders, fit folks, that were humming south along Pacific Coast Highway around twenty-three miles an hour between red lights. Then we turned left… We were about fifteen miles out when I realized I was in trouble.

You don’t have to get too far due east of the Pacific Ocean before you run into what they called “hills”. I’m no geography expert, but I know the difference between hill and mountains. Those were straight up mountains… and yes, pun and sarcasm intended.

The ride that by this time left me feeling like I’d been trapped in an evil plot had one catch in my favor; it was also what those lunatic bikers called “a no drop ride”. That means once they get a fool who has no business being out in the middle of nowhere on a bicycle they won’t just leave them to the vultures.

By the time we were beside the beautiful mountain lake and climbing the other riders, including my wife, had gone from moving dots on the horizon to having disappeared like the dinosaurs. My arms were tingling and the burn from lactic acid had seared my legs. I was gasping the thin mountain air in chunks. Riding high was a memory.

By the time I reached the graded turnout on the two-lane mountain road the entire group had finished their snacks and were waiting for me; the last rider on their “no drop ride”. Some of them tossed me angry looks like a pitcher does a fastball.

I’ve strived to be first all my life, have a few times, but that day in Southern California was the first time I’d been dead last…

The verse from Matthew “Who is last will be first and who is first will be last” rolled around my head faster than my wheels were spinning. It’s harder to lose than to win. Pride comes far easier than humility, yet we can’t begin to please our Father until we can grasp true humility.

“I’m sorry”, I grunted to the leader of the ride who had circled back to ride and literally push me up the hills.

“No worries, just try to enjoy the ride – I got you,” he said without a hint of irritation or pride.

That guy doesn’t grasp the depth of the lesson he reminded me of during this ride of humility.

“Thank you,” I huffed with pure sincerity.


image courtesy of photo

image courtesy of photo

“Why-did-the-queen-go-to-the-dentist?” the tender girl with the bright red hair asked, obviously practicing the newly learned art of reading. “I don’t know,” the mother responded in a subdued tone. “Because-she-wanted-to-get-a-crown-on-her-tooth!” the little one revealed entirely too loudly for the setting.

Back in August of this year I listened from directly behind the child while we sat sweltering in the commercial jet on the Phoenix taxiway while waiting to be air and Texas bound. “What-do-you-get-when-you-cross-a-tiger-and-a-snowman?” the animated youngster asked her patient mom again.

The engines finally roared, creeping us down the taxiway and burying the answer I knew would leave the mother as well as yours truly completely stumped.

Like that kid in front of me, I always did appreciate a good riddle. I don’t know why I’ve always struggled to remember them. As we taxied up to the flight line about the same speed as a desert tortoise the freckled face kid kept up her steady riddle reading.


“Ah-hah!” I thought to myself. I finally know one of the riddles. The red covered book that belonged to my aunt Norma Jean, the one that I must have read a thousand times, popped into my mind like a Jack-in-the-box clown. “Jimmy wanted to see time fly,” I said to myself in silence. I confess I was slightly proud of myself for having finally known one of the answers to the riddles I’d been forced to listen to.

I thought about that book, the cover; a cartoon picture of a young boy holding onto a door handle with a red, white, and blue spinning cylinder just adjacent to the door.

The riddle read; “When is a boy not a boy?” A flip of the cover revealed the same thin and yellow haired kid’s backside. The punchline just below read, “When he turns into a barber shop.” I grasped the play on words, but never cared for that one… probably the only reason I still remember it.

I still appreciate a good riddle and am almost always stumped when presented with one. This life is filled with things we can’t explain, mysteries beyond comprehension, but we have the incredible gift as humans that sets us apart from animals with merely instinct.

We call it free will. The lost world refers to it as enlightenment. We choose to believe eyewitness accounts recorded from history. The lost choose speculation and theories from their contemporaries that change with every generation.

The freckle-faced girl tossed out another riddle, but this time it didn’t sound like the choppy reading I’d become accustomed to, “Who was the Man not born of Man?”

“Did I hear her right?” I thought to myself.

“Jesus!” she exclaimed without reading.

The grandest riddle of all, “The mysteries of the universe” have been revealed to that little girl.

“Good one,” I thought to myself as the jet lifted toward the heavens… along with my soul.


image courtesy of photo

image courtesy of photo

The eerie tune from the Twilight Zone TV show was drifting faintly through my head. It felt like I’d stepped into a different dimension, what Rod Serling summed up as, “You’ve just crossed over… into the Twilight Zone…”

I avoid downtown like Superman does kryptonite, especially when there’s an event in town. During the dog days of summer I was informed by the G-man that if I was going to recover the machine gun that had been stolen from me some two decades prior I’d have to drive down to the part of the city where the buildings scrape the heavens and a lot of folks talk to themselves.

Now I’m no criminal, but I’ve figured out that it helps not to look like one… especially when you’re going to retrieve a stolen machine gun. I dropped by the house and threw on some respectable type clothes and conned my youngest into going with me.

Traffic was brutal. It didn’t add up since there was no baseball game until we finally reached the one-way streets. If downtown puts me on red alert naturally, then the color to describe my state of consciousness, being there smack in the middle of Comic-con, would have to be something beyond Technicolor.

It was like grown up Halloween on steroids down there. It would have felt more like a city in a Star Wars universe if it weren’t for the lack of parking spaces and overpriced parking meters flanking ancient sidewalks.

When we finally reached the skyscraper we were sweating like horses on the last lap at Belmont. I searched the kiosk for the government agency that the G-man told me he represented to no avail. When I asked the two ladies behind the massive desk if they knew where that particular government office was, their demeanor changed like summer does to winter, only instantly.

The third degree began; Who was I? Who is it I was trying to reach? Did I have an appointment? Finally, I was ordered to wait while the lady with the brown eyes that had me covered like a double-barreled shot-gun talked to someone on the phone.

I’m not one for waiting, especially under those circumstances, so I called the G-man myself on his cell and asked him if he’d given me the wrong address. A few minutes later the middle set of elevators opened and amidst the herd of folks was a stocky Asian man casually dressed and a shaved-headed young man with tattoos covering every inch of his body. His shifty eyes gave me the creeps as I moved my daughter behind me.

Just like a bad movie, it was those two that flashed me their badges. They made sure that we, including my barely seventeen-year-old daughter, weren’t carrying any deadly weapons before ascending back up the elevators to get locked inside a room to show ID, sign papers, and finally retrieve my gun.

I tend to forget how fallen and dangerous this world really is and how much grace I continuously receive under the protective hand of God. Those young men have been trained for the ugly side of this world that goes largely unseen by the majority of us.

We walked briskly with the white box labeled “Fresno Police Gun Box” turned in toward my side until we reached the expired parking meter, my eyes still shifting like the tainted G-man.

“That was weird, huh, dad?” my daughter asked.

“Sure was, babe… like something right out of The Twilight Zone,” I answered.