TRUE COMFORT IN PRAYER

The two of us at Crackerjax

The two of us at Crackerjax

In the wee hours of the morning, I wrapped my arms around the both of them and prayed. Time brings about drastic changes in the lives of youngsters. After they left, even though it was only three o’clock in the morning, sleep evaded me like a hunt for leprechauns and unicorns.

I thought back to other times in her life when our youngest was anxious, apprehensive, and downright nervous. One in particular I chronicled right here back in August of 2010 – that post, “The First Day Of School”, was precisely that; her first day of junior high school.

I shared how I prayed with her sitting on my knee prior to the bell on her first day of school, back before it wasn’t cool to sit on your dad’s knee. I knew even more difficult days lie ahead for her – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

I also knew instinctively that if they were going to be tough for her, they were gonna be tough for me… It’s hard to have one without the other, that’s like trying to lose your shadow in an Arizona summer.

My wife and little one got up at three, our youngest had to be at the airport at four thirty. I rolled out of the sack for just one reason; to pray with and for my little one. Not just her, but her classmates and all the folks going on the mission trip to Costa Rica.

I prayed for safety, for them being the hands and heart of God, and for fun… It’s tough sending your teenaged daughter into the unknown or uncertain. The snug grip of my daughter’s arm around me as I prayed said it all…

She’s not little anymore. She’s not worried about trivial things like forgetting her locker combination these days. She’s learned that it’s a fallen world and for far more than just the theological point of view taught at her Christian school. She knows this world is ugly and has more that its share of evil.

This is her calling. It’s her turn, it’s her time. Our job is to support and pray.

I knew when I penned that post four and a half years ago that God was preparing her for events like this. He brings all of us along for His good will and purpose. Our job is obedience, and like I shared back when I started this site; that’s easier said than done…

Our youngest will be gone for eight days. That’s a long time for me… I pray it’s not for her.

Our flesh tends to want to make life a cakewalk for our loved ones, but I know at this point in my life that kind of reasoning backed up with actions is a disaster in the making. We’ve all seen that first hand.

I’ve learned that being uncomfortable brings about wisdom and joy in a way that only the ones that have experienced it can grasp… During trying times, I find true comfort in prayer …

And on my knees…

BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU

Bite the hand that feeds image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Bite the hand that feeds
image courtesy of photo bucket.com

I don’t trust him… and for good reason. He’s not remotely aware of the old adage by Bill Shakespeare, “No good deed goes unpunished”, which is just a fancier way of saying, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

There would be little point in trying to explain this concept to him. Even if he did listen he’d never really grasp it. He just wants what he wants – not so different than most of us.

Our relationship is less than the ideal, “Give and take”, type of one. He’s more of a taker. Come to think of it, he gives very little to anybody… and when he takes, he doesn’t mean to, but he doesn’t care who gets hurt.

He’s also a creature of habit, eats the same breakfast every day, and I mean the exact same morning meal three hundred and sixty-five days a year. He never gets fed up with it. He has the same desperate love for it every morning, come rain or shine.

I try to avoid being the one to serve him breakfast. I’m usually out of the house before my wife so she gets the honors, but on occasion, usually weekends, I get stuck with the task.

I take the thin breakfast treat in my hand and before I can turn around he’s on me. He sneezes and pops wheelies, kinda like a wild horse rearing up on his hind legs and jumps around in elation.

Years ago I’d hold the broken off piece of heavenly jerky treat and make him “shake” before I’d give him his breakfast. As carefully as I could, I’d hold the treat within reach and try to avoid his teeth as they snapped in desperation for his first bites of the day.

Turns out, more often than not, I’d be the first bite of his day. My dog Larry tends to bite me… the very hand that feeds him.

After years on top of years of trying to teach Larry how to not snap and break skin while he’s being fed, I’ve given up… I think he’s part snapping turtle.

While I haven’t bitten anyone since childhood now, I’ve taken people for granted. I haven’t broken skin, but I’m certain, like most of us, I’ve hurt others and broken hearts.

Our fallen human condition makes us susceptible to take others for granted, or “Bite the hand that feeds us” as they say. Like my dog Larry, we want what we want and it starts shortly after our first breaths of air.

Not many of us scream, cry, throw fits or pop wheelies like Larry, but that’s not because we aren’t striving to get what we want, we’ve just been trained in the art of civilization by loved ones that understood sacrifice.

Now that the majority of eyes digesting these words have had kids or have lived long enough to grasp our tendencies and nature, we see a little more clearly. As much as we “get” it, I don’t believe the magnitude of our heavenly Father’s love and sacrifice can be grasped on this side of the physical realm. We too tend to bite our Master’s hand…

I don’t yell at Larry anymore when he inadvertently mistakes my fingers for jerky treats from Costco. I just lament, “Awe Lar?”

I’ve given up trying to teach Larry not to bite the hand that feeds him. I now toss treats to him from about a foot away… but he’s an old dog now… and you know what they say about “old dogs and new tricks”…

THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED

image courtesy photo bucket.com

image courtesy photo bucket.com

“The Day The Music Died” had long since been deceased before I knew what it was or even what it meant. Although it was well before I was born, that event in a round-a-bout way influenced my life. Odd how things like that work out.

Sixteen years after “The Day The Music Died” I was in junior high school, just about to rip the lid off the magical days of summer. That was about the time in 1975 my oldest brother began to wear out a Country album along with more than a few needles.

While I was more about Pop and Rock music at the time, being the youngest of four avid music enthusiasts leaves little in the way of taking equal turns spinning your favorite vinyl.

It wouldn’t have been my choice to listen to the outlaw country musician that had clawed his way back up to the top of the charts on his own behalf – and that pushing two decades after “The Day The Music Died”.

I ran a needle over my own copy of the old LP by Waylon Jennings, “Dreaming My Dreams” a while back. It takes me back to the days of, not so much innocence as it was youthful ignorance, what seemed like eternity. That brings the corners of my mouth and soul up at the edges and my foot taps in time.

I don’t recall exactly when I learned the back stories of “The Day The Music Died”, but I ponder it fairly often, along with other seemingly so called “coincidences” in this life.

Most everyone knows by now that Waylon Jennings, who played bass for Buddy Holly, gave up his seat on the fateful flight at the pleading of J.P. Richardson, AKA The Big Bopper, who was fighting a nasty cold.

The trio of stars, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper’s plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3rd, 1959… The Day The Music Died.

Back in 2002 on the other side of the Valley Of The Sun, where I call home, the radio announced that Waylon Jennings had passed away… he was sixty-four years old. It had been forty-three years since he’d done that favor for the Big Bopper that spared him his life.

When you’re twenty-one years old like Waylon was at the time, a lifetime seems like an eternity. It doesn’t take too many decades after that to realize that’s a grave and youthful miscalculation.

The Good Book has plenty of verses that share the wisdom of how quickly this physical life gets behind us. One of my favorite ones regarding the subject is from Psalm; “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”

In the grand scheme of human history and especially eternity, the amount of sunrises and sundowns between our passing from this life is insignificant. In the end it’s not about the songs or books we write, it’s the acknowledgment of the One who gives us the days here as well as the breath and free will.

The family members of Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly testify that, based on their faith, those two will be united once again in the heavenly realms.

Maybe the music didn’t really die on February 3rd 1959… Maybe the band went to the greatest gig ever… and one member arrived a few beats or breaths into the second set…

MISERY LOVES COMPANY

Misery Loves Company image courtesy photo bucket

Misery Loves Company
image courtesy photo bucket

You’ve probably heard it said that “Misery loves company”. Folks in a bad funk do seem to long to have others wallowing in the funk stew with them. Another famous adage I gravitate to is, “It’s better to laugh than to cry”. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it’s most definitely my preference.

That same perspective seems to work in a lot of settings, including scenarios on the lighter side of tears – especially if we have someone to laugh with… Lucky for me I do.

I sent a friend of mine a message steeped in satire, “I try not to toot my own horn, but occasionally find it impossible not to… this happens to be one of those times,” I chuckled, and continued with sarcasm. “I finished the post about the baseball cap… I know, around 600 words in one month. The tip of my pen has that bluish tint on it from the sheer amount of heat. I should probably get a fire extinguisher.”

My friend, the full-fledged writer, didn’t miss a beat and played along, “Wow!- When will it post?”

“I don’t know. I just wanted to share the news of setting a new record low for imagination and efficiency,” I admitted with true disdain for my writers trip through the Sahara Desert of my mind.

“Your pen has caught fire,” he acknowledged my plight.

I think anyone who’s ever tried to create something that uses their imagination understands. It helps to have company and understanding when you’re living in a drought. And all of us live through droughts. So it really comes down to, like all things in this life, our perspectives.

The things that brought frustrations and crocodile tears in our days of youth, we learn to cope with. With enough time and wisdom, we begin to realize just how powerful that gift of free will from God really is.

It doesn’t take too many disappearing decades to come to grips with the fact that “This ain’t no disco”, or the Garden of Eden.

“I’m gonna use that message I sent you about the baseball cap as material for another post,” I told my friend in person. He smiled knowingly and asked, “You mean the one I told you ‘your pen has caught fire'”?

“Yup.. Exactly, I laughed.

I’ve been stuck in days of droughts and ghost towns, creatively speaking, but like so many others, I’ve also been there in the days when the grip of melancholy around my neck makes it hard to breathe.

It’s amazing how a grasp at humor, when a smile feels like five pound weights are tied to both corners of your mouth, can begin to lighten things.

It is a gift when someone else who cares adds to the humor with the right heart and the heaviness is shared… the load gets lighter.

You don’t have to look far in our world to find someone in need of a lift, and little things mean a lot.

I guess misery isn’t the only thing that loves company.

WEARING MY HEART ON MY SLEEVE

Wearing my heart on my sleeve. Image courtesy of photo bucket

Wearing my heart on my sleeve.
Image courtesy of photo bucket

The punishing Arizona sun has taken its toll and left its mark, and I mean literally, on a lot of carcasses including my own. I’m just one of the major majority that has lived here the better part of our lives and have had to have spots burned, scraped, or cut out of this soul cage to beat the skin cancer clock.

I’ve used that fact to justify wearing long sleeved shirts, sweatshirts ninety percent of the time, even in the dead of summer, to cover up the defeated flesh.

But that’s really a partial truth… The rest of the story is that I’m hiding more than tired skin under those long sleeves.

Like a lot of us I suspect, I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve… just hiding it on the inside down by my left wrist.

We learn early in life that not if, but when, we create something, anything, we open ourselves to be judged and to critics… whether we ask for it or not. A quick jaunt down memory boulevard uncovers art projects in school, a couple of science fairs, and a host of opinions, some pleasant, some not so much.

With enough time and creations, we begin to develop thick skin. The process isn’t so different than some of the other actions that started about the same time as the original critics.

It didn’t take too long playing tetherball or even swinging on the monkey bars to realize that soft skin tears and breaks, but with enough perseverance, calluses come to the rescue… But here’s the thing; calluses aren’t bullet proof.

I was reminded just how exposed our hearts really are, even if we try to hide them on the inside of our sleeves.

I never stopped to consider the consequences of what the critics might say about a manuscript with the memoir of my family between the covers. Just like in grade school the untempered opinions began to unload like bullets from a Glock 9mm pistol.. and the Man of Steel doesn’t happen to be a distant relative.

I respect the folks that create things. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a painting, a home, a church, a reputation, or a book… or even a blog. It takes guts to put your creation out there and let the general public or even friends and family take pot shots at the creations that started in our hearts and souls… It’s not for the faint of heart, regardless of where we wear it.

The desires and gifts to create come from God above when He’s the focus of our intentions. It’s my belief that when we do the best we can do with the proper perspective, He’ll plug the holes in our hearts… and the ones on our sleeves.

When the passion to create and build ignite like a fire in our soul and belly, it doesn’t matter if we wear our hearts under our sleeves, we’re called to roll them up.

The heart, where God resides, can be hurt… but never broken…