MASKS

PRESS HERE FOR BILLY JOEL \”THE STRANGER\”

ALBUM COVER "THE STRANGER" BILLY JOEL

We learn early in life to hide how we feel and who we really are. It’s like preparing our children to play the game of life as if it were Poker.

Like our parents before us, we do it to protect our children. It’s common knowledge that the world is made up of a lot of people that will prey on who they perceive as weak.

This is true not only in physical predators that live among us, but sometimes also the ones closest to us. Certainly everyone else that falls in between.

Before our oldest two daughters went to college they spent some time in self-defense classes, learning how first to avoid an attack by being aware of potential dangers and looking the danger squarely in the eyes. Secondly, in the event of an attack how to turn the predator into the prey.

The mask worn in this scenario is a mask of courage. Put on to portray a strong confident person ready and willing to fight.

I read a book back in the 80’s by one of the pioneers of the secular “self-help” authors and speakers. In his book, he explained in detail how to act to get what you wanted in life. I recall one of his techniques was called “mirroring.”

This technique basically was to slowly do what the person you were trying to sell or persuade was doing. If the person crossed their legs, you would eventually cross yours. Thereby copying or “mirroring” the person being persuaded.

Subconsciously the person being persuaded would naturally become drawn to the seller, by seeing in the salesman the same characteristics as themselves. I guess we could call this form of manipulation the “mirror mask.”

Many times the most popular masks are the ones we wear in front of our spouse and family. There was a song in the 70’s by Billy Joel. This was the title track of the album that put him on the charts so to speak. The song is titled “The Stranger.”

The song was about a couple who wore masks around each other and never revealed themselves or the truth. My favorite line in the song wasn’t the chorus. It was the climax of the song-story. It went, “When I pressed her for the reason, she refused to even answer, it was then I felt the stranger kick me right between the eyes.”

At home should be the last place to wear a mask. Even The Lone Ranger and Batman didn’t wear their masks at home! If someone’s has to wear a mask at home, it can’t be a happy one.

When I’m in church, although hesitant to admit it, I fear there are more masks there than anywhere else. These are the Christian masks. The world accepts masks as part of our culture everywhere except there in God’s house, where truth is to be the foundation.

The masks that are worn there are usually supernaturally stripped away to reveal by their actions the hypocrite. God’s house isn’t a masquerade party and the Host frowns upon mockery.

“The truth will set you free.” If we have to walk around  with a mask on to “act” the part, by implication of this verse, we are slaves.

Truth is freedom. Masks are slavery to the flesh.

When I was young I heard my dad say more than once, “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.” My dad was a wise man. He knew and taught us what human nature looked like. Even though humans tend to take advantage of the weaker in our world, he never fell into the temptation to put on a mask. He was secure with himself and he knew who he was to God.

Some people would occasionally mistake his kindness for weakness, but not for long. It’s amazing how quickly weaker people wearing a “strong mask,” when confronted with the truth and power of “no mask” scatter like rats.

To write honestly takes removing my mask. I’ve noticed as my mask slowly comes down from my face, it reveals receding hair, moles, wrinkles, scars, my eyes, graying whiskers, and finally me.

Since I’ve done that, I see people around me as we speak, lowering their masks as well. The truth of who we are is much more masculine or beautiful than the ugly masks we were hiding behind.

Behind or without a mask we are all more alike than we are different.

For those reading from behind the mask of your computer screen, do me and everyone else a favor. Subscribe, comment, and pass it on to friends family and even the ones who might not know who’s behind your mask. It’s time to show them.

The mask we sometimes hide behind is choking the joy and life out of us..

Real life… Is sharing all of it, the good, bad, and the ugly.

“AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YE FREE”…

MAN EATING LADYBUGS

A MAN-EATING-LADYBUG

It’s getting close to the time when I plant winter flowers in the pots in our backyard. We all enjoy the sharp color and contrast of the Annuals, especially in a cooling air.

This is like “The Little Red Hen” child’s story with an outdoor setting. Everyone enjoys the beautiful flowers, but no one wants to help plant them. I have to include myself in that category sometimes…

To be fair, I’m a little like the lazy animals in that children’s story, wanting to reap what I haven’t sewn inside the house as well, but then I’ve always been pretty good at eating!

I can still bribe my little one to hang out with me and help with the outdoor work occasionally. A few years back I bribed her into helping again. While we were flower shopping at the local do-it-yourself-mega-store, we found at the check out line, thin bags of sheer material. Inside those bags were what looked like hundreds of ladybugs, I wondered out loud, “Ladybugs in a bag?” “What’ll they think of next?”

This was a first for us, “Can we get some Dad”? My little one asked. “Sure, I’m all for them eating whatever it is that’s eating our flowers and shrubs”! I answered. We bought two for good measure.

Of course, when we got home the first thing my daughter wanted to do was to release the ladybugs. Oh No, my help and company would have been long gone. First things first, we removed the old dead flowers from all the pots, then we added water and remixed the mulch as needed.

We quickly developed a system, she handed me the little cubed roots of flowers and I’d secure them into their new more permanent homes. Hours and much work later, it was time to unleash our temporarily jailed aphid eaters.

Being a new experience for the both of us, we weren’t quite sure how to go about releasing them. I opened up the first bag and held it out in front of me… Nothing. These must have been the lazy ladybugs who were easy to catch. I shook the bag a little… Still nothing.

I reached my hand into the bag to gently grab some of the ladybugs and release them into the wonderland they had been born for. As I was reaching in the bag, I quickly stopped, looked wild-eyed at my daughter and yelled, “AAAAHHHHH”!!!— “THEY’RE EATING MY FLESH”!!!—“OH NO”!!—“THEY’RE MAN EATING LADYBUGS”!!!—“AAAAHHHHH”!!!

My daughter was frozen with fear for a couple of seconds, then she said, “NUH, UH”!!! It was as much a question as it was a statement. I still had a wild look in my eyes, but the fun of the moment got the best of me as I started to grin. “THEY ARE NOT DAD”!!! She declared, having solved the mystery.

We laughed for five minutes straight. She took her turn reaching into the bag and repeated our new found fun. “Ahh”! “Man Eating Ladybugs”! An instant family classic, the kind that happen out of the blue but define part of a childhood and will be recalled forever.

Since that Sunday afternoon, I’ve never looked upon a ladybug in the same light. I always think of our “Man-Eating-Ladybugs,” and the special time we spent working together to create something more special than just the random occasion.

It seems to always require effort to “create” something of lasting importance, especially fond memories, even if it’s just the menial tasks of responsibility coupled with the right perspective.

Looking back over my life so far, some of the best memories I have are of things that didn’t come easy, the tasks that required self-discipline and perseverance. I’ve heard it said, “In this life, for everything you get, you have to give up something.”

I recall that day and the simple ladybug memory. Whatever football game was on that day was worth giving up to gain the memories of a child and what a little thing, on a simple Sunday, would mean to her for the rest of her life. I think sometimes God is even bigger in the little things of this life.

Self-sacrifice, however, difficult at the any given time, is the cornerstone of any lasting gratification and a great way to teach a child the possibilities in even the smallest things in life.

The most treasured things gained can rarely be measured using a number. A person can spend time and energy filling their pockets with what can be measured by counting.

A life spent measuring happiness by a number, will come up short every time…

I pray my daughter will remember that lesson from her childhood… And, of course, the Man Eating Ladybugs…

SPIT IT OUT!

WHERE I "SPIT IT OUT" FROM

Back in the 70’s the most popular show on TV was Happy Days. It was so popular that now even youngsters who weren’t born are familiar with it or have at least heard about it.

The biggest draw to the show was the “Hood” turned celebrity character of Fonzie. He was cool. He rode the cool bike and got all the girls. He was so cool, in fact, he could tap the jukebox or Coke machine with the side of his fist using the perfect amount of pressure to get a free play or drink.

At the beginning of the show during the credits, he walked into the bathroom at Arnold’s, the local hangout, to comb his slicked back hair. Right before he started to touch the comb to his scalp he hesitated, did a double take into the mirror, then smiled wide and held his arms out to his sides. As if to say, “I look so good, it couldn’t get any better than this”!

A few episodes portrayed Fonzie after having made a mistake, not be able to admit it. When he tried to say the word “wrong” he couldn’t spit it out. He’d say, “I was RRRRR”! “I was RRR, uuhhmm, RRRRR”!

I know a lot of people like that. Maybe that’s why it was so funny? The world’s full of people who don’t like to admit they’re wrong. I can’t say I’m guilt free in this area of self-development my darn self.

In my opinion, this trait is the purest example of insecurity at its ugliest. No one likes to be wrong, but we all get to take our turn. It’s difficult to be completely honest with ourselves and admit we’re not perfect. Even though that’s exactly what we should do, we have a hard time spitting it out.

In a similar way, we eat our words and don’t spit them out when they can and should be used to lift up others. There are different reasons to speak up. Sometimes we don’t want to be involved due to timing issues, dealing with what we perceive as more “drama” in our lives.

Other times we can’t spit it out because we have a fear of what someone might think about us and or ideas. It seems as though many of us in the world are walking through life biting our tongues. It usually is the people that aren’t saying anything that have the most to say.

In doing so, we leave the air open for people who shouldn’t be talking to fill it. If you’ve read much of this post, you know I prefer actions over talk. Sometimes words are the end of the action. The actions of walking over, picking up a phone or computer to ask, “Are you OK, what can I do to help”?

A friend and pastor Rick Efrid said this years ago, and I’ll never forget it. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I find that very insightful. This takes spitting it out in words and deeds.

I think most people will agree that the person who can’t say they’re “RRRR,” uuhhmm, Wrong,” show their insecurity and lose all credibility. On the other hand the ones who can freely admit their mistakes gain credibility.

The people that can voice their opinion with respect, even when it’s contrary to the popular opinion gain respect. Maybe not popularity votes, but were not trying to be popular, just honest.

The ones who speak up and reach out to the hurting are heroes.

I struggled for a year before starting this simple little blog. For those who know me, know I’m a very private person. I like living my life in anonymity. The wrestling match with God over this issue again ended with me “tapping out.”

When you come back to visit, this is where you’ll find me…”Spittin it out”!

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

PRESS HERE FOR LOUIE LIVE

LOUIE (SATCHMO) ARMSTRONG

REPOST-

I really enjoy the song “What A Wonderful World” performed by Louie Armstrong. The authors of the song describe the good and beautiful in our world. The day and night, rainbows, friends, and children.

It’s interesting that Armstrong would have accepted the invitation to sing a song with those type of lyrics in 1968, the climax of America’s racial conflicts.

My guess is, by the age of 68 he had enough wisdom to know that the only true change in people would start in their hearts.

A changed heart is a changed perspective and a changed perspective is a changed way of thinking. I think of all the nasty things Armstrong must have witnessed in his life. The oppression, segregation, and hate. Yet in spite of all he knew about human nature, he knew there was hope.

We all know that pain and suffering is part of this world. We know that death is inevitable for all of us. Everyone has witnessed or lived through difficult times, some obviously more than others.

My sister-in-law has a friend who’s eight-year-old daughter died of Cystic Fibrosis. She was at her friends house when the little girls ten-year-old brother offered to carry his little sisters emaciated body to the ambulance. She watched him carry her out with tears in his eyes.

That family will never be the same.

There is a popular Christian singer/songwriter who shortly after he released a song about his adopted daughter, was accidently killed by another family member. How does one cope with that in this life?

We see pictures of little kids in various parts of the world who are dying of hunger and disease. There isn’t anything wonderful for the eyes to find in those circumstances.

Maybe you’ve heard someone say something like, “If there is a God, how come He allows so much pain and suffering”?

I marvel at the life of Louie Armstrong, his dad left him and his mom for another woman. His mom ended up as a prostitute and Louie lived part of his life on the streets. He picked up the desire to play the Cornet from listening to the live music in downtown New Orleans.

What if he’d been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, say in California? Do you think he would have had the same determination and spirit that motivated him to perform non-stop right up until his death in 1971?

I consider the verse in 2nd Corinthians 5:8. “We are confident I say and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

Those children previously mentioned, according to this scripture are at their real home.

What if the old adage has some deeper meaning than first meets the ear. “Only the good die young.” What if our human perspective is relegated to a brain born in this flesh, with less comprehension of the other dimension where God’s word tells us our souls live forever?

In those horrific things that happen in the flesh, what if God is showing mercy to the flesh? What if God is showing mercy to the ones He calls home?

What if an omnipotent God can use those negative things in our lives to bring about wonderful things in the lives of others?

What if God could use a simple song by a man who had been oppressed, and yet put forgiveness in that man’s heart?

Maybe that little song would give people a better understanding of how we’re to treat one another, regardless of what we look like?

Hmmmmm….. “I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

 

http://theregoi.com/

INVISIBLE LINES

invisible lines

CLEARLY OVER THE LINE

As kids playing at the lake or on the playground, we would take turns dragging our heels backward in the sand to create “a line.” We would proceed to dare the other guys or group of guys to cross “the line”.

It was fun and someone would always cross the line, and the scuffle was on!

As we got older the lines became more precise. The chalk of the first and third base lines in baseball. The chalk of the out of bounds lines and the ten yard markers in football. The circular track lines to represent running lanes in track, and the painted lines of the basketball court.

These were the easiest lines to follow. It was fair or foul, an ample number of yards were gained or you were forced to punt. You crossed the finish line first or you didn’t. If someone stepped out of bounds or was in the paint for three seconds it was a turnover.

The invisible lines in life are a little more difficult to navigate. It started in school. No talking allowed, but they didn’t really mean no talking, just almost no talking. Then again, even that depended on the teacher and his or her mood for the day.

Then the invisible lines got even more difficult. So difficult in fact that if we danced too close to the lines we couldn’t even know if or when we crossed over them. If we didn’t know for sure, who could?

These invisible lines are measured through the heart or what some might call our soul. At the moment of infraction, we might not see or feel it, but God does.

It sometimes takes running the “instant replay” over and over in our mind until our heart finally “sees” it.

As a Lacrosse coach, there’ve been a few times I crossed over the line in our training regimen. I know I had to get very close to that line in order to get the girls in the best possible shape physically and mentally. It didn’t happen very often, I never meant any of my girls harm. I thought I was doing my best for them. Most of the times I did, but on a few occasions I went over “the line.”

That’s how invisible the lines are.

At which bite of food does eating become gluttony?

What action or thought turns ambition into greed?

When does admiration become lust?

At what point does proper discipline of children become abuse?

Is speeding in a car breaking the “law of the land”?

How many times can a person look in the mirror until it becomes vanity?

There are invisible lines that we can address in every aspect of our life. This list is just the tip of the iceberg.

The wisdom or talent to spot these lines in our lives come from our heavenly Father. That’s not to say we’ll ever be perfect at staying within them, but we bring Him honor when we try.

I’m encouraged by the people around me who strive to live within the lines or boundaries set by God. I’m even more encouraged when some of us who can’t see as well step outside the lines and are guided back inside the lines by the wise ones among us.

There will always be something or someone daring us to, “STEP OVER THAT LINE”!

We need to be watching through the eyes of our heart very closely, because… It’s a mighty fine line.