“THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT”

the devil made me do it

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Kids love cartoons, and I was no different as a youngster. As a child, I was most amused by the tiny exact miniatures of the main character that were positioned on both shoulders of the main character.

One shoulder held the good or angelic version of the main character, the other the bad or devilish character. They both had equal access to the star of the cartoon’s ears. The tiny character who represented the “good” side of the conscience would urge the actual character to do the right thing by encouraging him and telling him how good he was going to feel afterward.

The tiny character who represented the “bad” side of the conscience would do just the opposite. Sometimes the little devilish character would say something like, “What does he know, he never has any fun!–Don’t you wanna’ have fun?– What’s it gonna hurt just one time?– C’mon, you deserve this!”

I always enjoyed the entertainment and the way all three characters who represented the same character were portrayed. Even at a young age I understood perfectly the point and humor in the portrayal of our free will. The battle that rages inside every human head and heart.

As I got older I realized even more the genius of whoever the original writer was. It was so clever that almost all the other cartoons on TV copied it for at least one episode.

As I interact with different people in the course of my life it becomes evident to me which conscience had the metaphorical “ear” of the person I’m talking with. They seem to have similar traits to the ones portrayed in the cartoons when I was a kid. The “bad”, the one that thinks “the devil made me do it” seems to be a little more prevalent and certainly easier to spot.

While I still am amused to see some of those old cartoons, I’m left with a hollow spot for the world who literally thinks “free will” is a cartoon or a joke. We never get away from the battle inside our brain while living as ourselves, the main character in our real life cartoon.

The origin of the battle in our conscience can be from the civilized laws handed to us by authority figures as we grow and participate in society, or it can be from God himself calling from within the heart and brain.

Everyone has to make a choice and there is only one side or the other. The choice isn’t just about wrong or right, good or bad, it’s about understanding the mysteries of the universe. It is about learning that while the cartoon is amusing, it may just have been designed to make light of what is very real.

There are opposing forces in this world. One is not a small cartoon figure, HE is the power that created the sun, earth, and all the cosmos. He is the very power that sustains it at this very second. He is a billion light years away and simultaneously He is all around us. For those of us who used that “free will” to believe, He is also inside our soul which resides temporarily inside this physical body.

Him within us is the power provided to take us up with Him when we have passed our short time here. The other power is not a cute cartoon figurine either. He is the author of selfishness, the root cause of all bad things in this world and all evil things start with that.

That root spreads like poison to jealousy, hate, and ends with the murder and eternal capture of the soul. He Satan, is the father of lies, and like that little guy on the shoulder in the cartoon will say the exact same things. He knows our weak points, he targets our senses and selfishness.

The consequences of that choice is no laughing matter…Even if the cartoons are.

A LONELY RIDE HOME

a lonely ride home

image courtesy of photobucket.com

An obituary the week of July 7th, 1953 read:

SERVICES FOR ERVIL SAMONS

Funeral services for Ervil Samons were held Saturday afternoon at the First Baptist Church of Blythe, and burial was in the Palo Verde cemetery. Ervil, son of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Samons of Midland, was killed in a car accident in Texas last Tuesday. His brother, Harley injured in the same accident, was able to return to California with his brothers remains, and will be in Midland for a while. Other Midland relatives are a sister, Mrs. Duane Stallard.

That was the obituary for my uncle I never got to meet. The fatal car crash was Tuesday June 30th,  1953 in Caldwell Texas. Nine years before I was born and a little more than two years before my dad married my mom. The surviving brother mentioned in the obituary was my dad.

It’s interesting to read a story, but never know the story inside the story or the details. My dad came from a family with nine children, of which he landed smack in the middle. Ervil was the oldest and by everyone’s account in my life, siblings in large numbers pair off, so it was with my dad and his big brother Ervil.

The obituary mentioned that my dad although injured was able to return to California with his brother’s remains. It didn’t mention  the mode of transportation for my dad and his hero’s body was via the railroad… In a box car.

I wonder what my dad was thinking about during a two day ride in a boxcar with his brothers body. I’m sure he was glad to have permission to ride for free even if it was in the “hobo” section of the railcar.

I wonder how he felt losing more than a best friend, he lost his brother, the leader of all his siblings. The one who guided, directed, and protected them in a much less forgiving world.

I guess sad, although overtly simple probably sums up the atmosphere to help define a lonely ride home in a boxcar. Heartbroken would better describe my grandma’s reaction to her oldest son’s death.

I’m not sure heartbroken or grieving to the point of death could describe how my dad might have felt when his mom told him she wished it could have been my dad who died instead of her favorite son.

God used an event like that in ways that are beyond my comprehension. To say at that time in my dad’s life must have been difficult is an understatement, but God also used it to begin to mold a humble man and steer his life in the ways of wisdom.

The reason I have to wonder what my dad thought and how he felt is due to the fact that he never told us. He didn’t use the events in his life to paint himself as a martyr or victim. We didn’t even find out the way his mom had treated him when Ervil died until after her death when I was in grade school, and it wasn’t from him.

I marveled at a man in my dad who sat at his mother’s bedside caring for and praying with her. My dad held her hand right up to her last breath. To find out the words that escaped her mouth in an emotional time before I was born and see the actions of my dad in spite of those words, was a good lesson for me to say the least.

My dad showed forgiveness and love in a situation where he could have been bitter and weak. Those are the actions of a strong person because God is in us.

God took my dad home May 7th of last year, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him and the lessons I’ve learned from him.

When the harsh southwest sun in its summer strength flash brilliant light on a train towing box cars, pushing its way westward, I think of my dad and his long ride home in a boxcar during the year 1953.

Although deeply saddened by that event I’m proud and have joy in the life my dad lived.

I’m honored by God to have that example and I’m satisfied by knowing where my dad now rests.

It’s truly a happy ending to a great story, but this side of heaven, happy endings don’t always make you smile…

NOTES

notes

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Sometimes we use notes at our house to communicate important messages to one another. A couple years ago my wife came to the conclusion that everyone in the house was talking to each other a bit too harshly.

My wife’s answer to the problem in part was to leave us a note that was directed toward the kids with good reason. How in the world those kids came to tease, sometimes torment one another is certainly a mystery to me… Speaking exactly what’s on their mind? I am stumped indeed!

The note was actually intended for all of us including my wife and me, it appeared one morning on the refrigerator without warning. (the refrigerator is a sure-fire way to make sure everyone sees the note) No explanation, no To: or From: Just the note that read;

Proverbs 16:24

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Believe it or not it actually worked, everyone in the house started being a little more gentle with one another.

We’re pretty big on notes, for each other and sometimes to ourselves. I leave sticky pad notes on my computer or sometimes the coffeemaker to remind myself of an important meeting or event. I’ve learned to communicate with myself like that because occasionally I still have the attention span of a 1st grader.

My wife used to leave special notes in the kids school lunches as a surprise for them when they opened their lunch at school. I was reminded of these notes tonight as I sat down at my desk to write.

A yellow sticky note is posted to my desktop. The kids know this is like my personal refrigerator, if they want me to see something and spend time considering it, they leave it on my desk. The note is from Ali left here when she was home from college over Christmas break.

Ali has a Christian devotional she reads every day, this one she shared with me.

“Human life is made of brightness and gloom, shadows and sunshine, and dark clouds followed by brilliant days of light. Yet through it all, God’s divine justice is accomplishing His plan, affecting and disciplining each individual soul.”       Streams In The Desert.

How impressive is it for a 19-year-old student in the prime of what is usually a person’s most self-centered years, taking the time to encourage her family? I am encouraged, not just by the note, but more importantly her actions.

I received a new fangled note via text message from the oldest a couple days ago, Kenz showed up in person to collect on her request to cover the shortfall. She collected as much money as she could from her sisters, the other broke college student and the 7th grader who I’ve forgotten to give an allowance to for at least the last three months.

The kids are spending time, energy, and money, trying to do the best they can for their mom’s birthday which is this weekend. They’ve picked something really nice that their mom will love, she’ll love even more the intimate notes all three will write inside her cards.

On the other side of my desk is not really a note, but it’s meant for me to “take note”! It is Gurm’s (nickname) report card that she studied endlessly to be able to use for such an occasion as this. I’m proud in heart, not just for the objects, but their heart’s behind the motives for action.

I guess we talk quite a bit and as if that’s not enough we write each other notes, even I leave notes once on a while. My wife has a note I wrote her about 15 years ago. It’s a very short note, but she seems to like it a lot.

My wife insists that the note gets buried with her when it’s her time to go home, you’d think the note was gold plated or something, it is exactly the opposite. The note was written on a scrap piece of paper, torn into a triangular shape by chance, wrinkled and curled with age, up from the point of the triangle at the bottom of the note.

The note is only three words long, under the note is a line, kind of in the shape of a soft number seven with a squiggly tail. It’s hard to imagine an old note on a scrap piece of paper could mean so much to someone.

On  another personal “note,” Happy Birthday Girl!!!

I guess writing notes kinda runs in the family.

Somehow most of those old notes get saved and stored away for posterity. I hope this one does too.

For the “slower” readers, the three words on that scrap piece of paper that make up that old note?

I love you

HAUNTED

haunted

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Repost from last year

Right before Christmas it was cold and foggy. My wife had gone to bed and my little one and me watched the movie, “A River Runs Through It.” After I put her to bed I used the inspiration of the last line of that movie to pen this. It’s a little different, but I hope you like it just the same.—–

I remember as a child looking out at distant lights. I recall the misty haze bathing those lights making them appear as representatives of their owners on dark foggy nights.

I can now with ample time to have considered them, understand that it was just the moisture and fog in the air smothering the struggling light. The moist air and fog made the lights less bright, less brilliant. My eyes drank up the hazy moonlit night, gazing out at what excited and scared me simultaneously, right down to my bones.

It was the unknown, flashing from current reality to future hope. I knew bad things were happening in the dew filled darkness. I also knew one day I’d have to face that darkness one way or the other, as a scared little boy grown up, or as a man without any trace of fear.

At the time, I couldn’t consider the fact that both could coexist. I couldn’t fathom who I was going to be regardless of time. I would be forever just me as I traveled through the days and sometimes damp nights of my life.

I assumed I would become a man without fear. The silly child with childish thoughts would be gone, not even a memory was expected to remain.

My assumption was that I would be a courageous man without a hint of fear. Fear, I presumed, was to be left to the weak. The weak and the young.

I carefully watched as fearless men marched toward harms way with a smile on their face. I knew with the passage of enough magical time I too would become that fearless man of courage.

The actions of these men spoke to my heart like a song written for my soul. I would miraculously one day become the man walking this earth, facing the worst of human creation without a fear residing in my heart.

I considered my older cousins when they were called off to war. They never cried or appeared to be scared, they laughed, joked, and carried their honor in the center of their chest and on the shoulders of their uniforms.

I learned additional true life experiences at the time due to where we grew up. I looked from behind my dad’s big chair as my mom nursed the wounds of my big brothers. I counted the number of links in the chain, the marks left embedded into the skin of my brother’s face and bodies.

I was old enough to read the brands of shoes worn by the person or persons who stomped and or kicked them in the head as well. These were also the days of metal taps applied to the soles of the then stylish shoes.

I knew my brothers had graduated past the point from when God turns scared lads into fearless machines. I couldn’t wait for my turn, for the day to scoff at the dreaded shadows and walk as the power of the sun.

I rode in the back of the pickup truck, gripping the pipe in my hand. I hadn’t passed the “magic” line from boy to man as of yet, but we didn’t have time for the graduation ceremony. How could I have known this dark damp night would be that ceremony?

Andy was in trouble and everybody would be needed for his rescue. My brother coached me on how to respond when confronted with my new weapon to make up for the amount of people in the “gang.”

I didn’t know I was learning what it takes sometimes in the process of living through this life, in spite of fear. There is no metamorphosis, there is only wisdom gained through real life experiences.

God calls us to “gird our loins,” to “answer Him like a man.” He designed us to walk directly toward our fears whatever they might be, big or small. Sometimes our hurdles are bigger than others.

I did eventually break beyond the barrier that separates not boy from man, but a boy searching for understanding, into a man beginning to figure it out. It’s not a physical barrier, it is a mental barrier.

As a man with the understanding from God, “Whom shall I fear”? No physical death can kill us, only a wrong mindset can accomplish that.

Today there was a dense fog, a serious moisture in the air tonight looks like the days of my bygone youth. I look out on the lights of the city washed in the cool damp air.

I’ve grown to cherish these kinds of nights… The weather and human nature out there are the same, only my perspective has changed.

I am that same person I was as a child, the memories of time have brought me to this place. In that old fear, I find myself, and I am comforted.

Halos around lights in the cool damp night air puzzle me.

They calm me.

They beckon me.

I am haunted by them…..

A DESTINATION

a destination

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I rarely sit still for too long. I’m not very good at it, but I was in a different part of town waiting to meet someone. There I sat in my truck waiting for my appointment to show up, as I sat, I watched.

In this neighborhood there were a lot of pedestrians, people walking all over the place. I did my share of walking when I was young, but it was a different time then. I hitchhiked a bit, many people did, people were more willing to help in those days. In fairness to the generous in society, it just became too risky to help.

When I got older I picked up my fair share of hitchhikers. As I sat and watched all the people walking I remembered some of the hitchhikers I picked up along the way.

There was Arthur, he was old… I recall how nice and sincere he was. After I gave him a few bucks and whatever food I had with me, I wondered if he wasn’t sent by God. I seriously thought then and even now if he might have been an angel from God.

I remember the guy I picked up driving from Texas back to Arizona one time. He was from Pensacola Florida, on his way to California. He certainly helped break up some of the long monotonous drive. He even bought me some lunch and I enjoyed my time with this experienced traveler.

Everyone working their way to toward their desired destination… I wondered about these people, past and present, what is their ultimate destination? The one you set your target for in your heart. The one place we can’t visit while in this flesh.

I’ve come to understand the places we’re going on this earth are all temporary. Like a mirage, they will all one day vanish. I’ve also come to believe that all the people who cross our paths in this life aren’t a coincidence.

I watched a couple kids coming from behind me in my rearview mirror. One looked about 12 years old, the other I guessed about 10 years old. Both boys, maybe brothers. The younger one walked with a distinct limp, looked like a handicap from birth, he was controlling the wheelchair the older one was riding in.

The older was significantly more handicapped, his head was set to one side of his body and his hands were curled up unable to control his wheelchair. The young one was doing all the talking as he navigated his friend or brother.

Their destination was to the corner strip mall, maybe to the grocery store, Goodwill, or one of the small shops. I was certain the destinations in both of their lives would never be as easy for them to get to as the ones most of us will choose.

My hope and prayer is that their destination, the only one that really matters in this world is the same as the one I’ve got my sights set on.

I felt like God wanted me to do something for those kids, so I set out to do whatever God had in mind. I thought I might follow them and have them buy something for their mom… I didn’t know.

I reached down, pulled out my wallet, opened it up to see what God might have for me to help them with. Almost nothing… I didn’t even have enough to buy them lunch. Certainly God had me see these boys for a reason? Nothing happens by chance.

I watched them move along toward a destination, people walking back and forth, no one even noticed them. I watched the younger one navigate up the rolled curb getting into the parking lot, they were experienced, this wasn’t the first time they’d made this trip.

My heart broke for those young pedestrians. I’ve been short of compassion many times in my life, but this day wasn’t one of them. I wanted to give them a ride or help, but they weren’t hitchhiking or asking. They were more self-sufficient than I’d been many times at their age.

Where ever they were going on foot I’m confident they arrived, maybe I’ll see them again someday.

If not in that old neighborhood, maybe when we all get home…