YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE DANCING

the youngest wearing me out at Kenz and Dean's  wedding

the youngest wearing me out at Kenz and Dean’s wedding

Some folks just seem to love music. I’m one of them. And while the word “love” is surely overexposed in our society, I can assure you this time it is most definitely not.

It didn’t even matter that most of the music we heard as kids came via AM radio and a single lo-fidelity ancient car dashboard speaker. It sounded like heaven.

As kids, we got our ears filled up with a variety of music. When my dad was sinking the driver’s seat it was country, and I mean as hillbilly as he could get it. When my mom was captain of the steering wheel it was pop. My siblings and me, we loved all of it, memorized songs without trying.

It didn’t take long to figure out that music had a massive effect on our emotions, even before we knew what they were. We quickly learned that music could inspire like few other things in life.

Some of the catchiest tunes were the ones that inspired folks, usually young ones, to dance. The real good ones ushered in the newest dance craze. I even enjoyed the ones that were hatched before I was.

I wasn’t into dancing as a kid, but even I would do “The Twist” as directed by Chubby Checker in the privacy home offered. I didn’t know how to do the “Locomotion” that was introduced by Little Eva, but it must have been easy to learn, Eva said it was “easier than learnin’ your A-B-C’s”.

While I still wasn’t into dancing by the time Grand Funk Railroad hit the charts with that same song, I skated around the roller rink like Evil Knievel, keeping double time with my loaner skates.

By the time junior high and the song “Do The Hustle” had folks steppin’ in time, I and almost every other red-blooded American male around that age were content to stand and watch the girls do the line dance called The Hustle from the sidelines.

With enough time and pressure from “the chicks”, that’s what we called girls in those days, some of us would reluctantly agree to embarrass and humiliate ourselves moving awkwardly to the beat.

By the time high school rolled around not a whole lot had changed. When Leo Sayer came out with “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”, there wasn’t any girl that was having that effect on me.

It’s not often at our age now that an opportunity to dance comes our way, usually at weddings.

To be completely honest, I don’t do The Twist or any other kind of dance in the privacy of my home, and I’m not dying to… but I realize with each passing year that the “chance to dance and make romance” with my wife is disappearing like rabbits at a magicians convention. Even more rare is the chance to dance with my girls.

Many of you know that Kenz got hitched last December… We danced like kids. Between my wife, the aerobics and spinning instructor, and my youngest, they liked to nearly killed me… what a way to go.

I understand better now the feeling of that old song, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” … along with that other song that was popular about ten years back that said, “If you get the chance… I hope you dance…”

PROPER PERSPECTIVE

9159056-child-wearing-head-scarf-due-to-hair-los-from-chemotherapy-treatment-due-to-cancerThere are a few conditions in this life that have a way of changing your focus and perspective immediately. They’re the type of scenarios that instantly put this delicate life in its proper perspective.

I’ve written about these kinds of soul rattling awakenings more than a few times here. Some years back in the days my mind was consumed with coaching, I was pulling out of my street, deep in thought about that day’s game and strategy, when movement snatched my eyes.

It was a blind girl on her way to school tapping curbs with her stick… her dad was about twenty feet behind her. He was trying to prepare his beloved for a vicious world that one day she’d have to navigate without him. My spirit was crushed and my perspective corrected.

I’ve also shared about the little girl named Danielle whose dad had left her and her mom. She was living at her grandparents humble home with her mom. One Christmas we went to pay them a visit and do some personalized Christmas caroling, despite the fact that I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Danielle had cancer… and I’ll never forget the look of the youngster that wasn’t but a few years past being a toddler. She was close to the same age as my youngest. Seeing a beautiful little princess with no hair from chemotherapy side effects has a way of changing a person’s perspective… no matter how calloused.

That was Danielle’s last Christmas… I think of Danielle often – usually around Christmas. I consider her mom’s life now… I ponder our fallen world along with the pain that accompanies it.

I spotted the little girl toward the back of the coffee shop before anything else when I walked through the door. I quickly glanced making sure not to stare. She had a knee length thin white with a light patterned pink dress on – tennis shoes to match. She was beautiful despite only short light brown hairs that circled the back of her scalp, bald on top.

That’s a hairstyle for old men that have lived long lives, not seven or eight-year-old little girls.

I’ve donated my hair seven times now, this next one will be number eight, which means I will have donated around eight feet of hair to companies that make wigs for kids with cancer.

Make no mistake; this cost me nothing… Hair grows, but usually only for awhile. I don’t share this for personal accolades, I didn’t make my hair grow. I have no authority over it, God does, but it’s coming to an end.

If your hair grows, I’ll be the first to tell that it’s easy to give a gift that costs you nothing… but it can make a small difference in the life of a child and a mom and dad who are suffering in silence.

If you can’t wrap your arms around a young child of God… your hair is the next best thing.

THE LOTTERY

the lottery

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

I don’t play the lottery. Oh I’ve bought tickets a few times, but that was a long time ago. I didn’t have a clue what a lottery was until I watched a film in grade school titled, you guessed it, The Lottery. Funny how a memory can be so vivid after so many decades.

The star of the short film was a lady with dark hair to match her eyes and wore it pulled back behind her ears. She had a typical house dress on with a sweater over it to keep her comfortable in the dreary morning air.

She was excited, animated by the events of the day in her not so small town. In the fictional film that was designed to make kids think, not an easy task for some of us, the town had The Lottery to help control the population. Winning in that scenario meant being the only loser.

The star was thrilled to take part in the lottery, and for good reason: the mathematical chances of her lottery ticket being picked were slim at best… not so different than the real life lottery.

I’ve wondered if the author of the best-selling books and now movie, Hunger Games, ever saw the short film that I did as a kid… They’re eerily similar.

When the announcer called her name everything changed. All the friendly banter with friends were gone with the wind. She screamed in horror for mercy as the town folks picked up rocks and began to stone her to death.

I think about things like the odds of me dying based on my actions. In life, what we do is a lot like playing the lottery with our lives. For many of us that figured we cheated death during the “all in” games we dared to play when younger, we have learned we didn’t cheat anybody or anything – We got a pass.

If we live long enough we figure out that with those passes or divine interventions, comes wisdom.

When I air up the tires on my bike, fill up the water bottles, and strap on that helmet, I know the forthcoming bicycle ride increases my chances of meeting St. Peter at the golden gate sooner than later.

There’s a reason the life insurance salesman asks questions like, “Do you skydive?” They might grasp the sovereignty of God… but they could also know like we should, that free will while mind boggling, can be a double-edged sword.

We’re not called to live this life in fear, but I don’t think we’re called to necessarily play Russian roulette either.

It’s a fine line between trusting in God and testing Him. That line could very well be in different places for all of us and maybe even drift a bit over the course of our lives.

I once treated the gift of this life like a lottery ticket from the old film I watched in grade school, but seeking and time have a way of opening our eyes to see beyond the surface.

I can tell you this: Along with all the prep work to get my bike ready to ride and more importantly the safety equipment I use, is the prayer I say before I go.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com


Christian Inspiration

“Cigarette ashes with your cream cheese anyone?” The young man working at the bike shop asked in sarcasm and a chuckle from inside the store looking out the front window. The bike shop doesn’t officially open for business until ten o’clock on Saturday mornings, but they sponsor an early morning serious bicycle ride just after the crack of dawn.

The high-end bike shop lays out a breakfast spread for anybody needing to fuel up before the break-neck-speed-ride. That means bagels with an assortment of spreads, including cream cheese of course.

If you’ve ever eaten at an outside cafe that serves good sized portions and lends itself to having leftover food, especially toast or bagels that sits more than a few moments without being cleaned up, then you’ve witnessed the assortment of birds that swarm like something from an Alfred Hitchcock movie… That’s what free food on Saturday mornings does for the homeless.

The man looked like a Steven King character. His clothes do double time as his pajamas and the wrinkles proved it. The earth is his bed and the ground-in stains confirmed it. The homeless man’s grey hair and teeth left little doubt that he was also brushless.

The man who looked to be in his sixties had a bird feather stuck in the back of his matted hair. It wasn’t for style, he couldn’t have known it was there, not that he would’ve cared anyway. The only thing the homeless fella was caring about on that beautiful Saturday morning was food.

While the man that has been dubbed “a bum” had little, he did have a couple of things – important things to him. One was in his mouth as he dug deep into to the pearly white cream cheese to slather a generous amount on his bagel that was intended for someone else.

His tired and over exposed skin pulled toward his eyes as he leaned over the table preparing his breakfast, the cigarette smoke billowing into them. There are no ashtrays in places where it’s against the law to smoke and the homeless man wasn’t paying attention to the one inch plus of ashes that was quickly losing the war with gravity and right over the free cream cheese.

The other important thing was the old guy’s friend with him. The disheveled man was giving his pal his opinion, and maybe someone else’s, cause he had more than just a few words to share with passion.

His friend was the type just to take it all in and not talk back… he couldn’t… he didn’t exist.

The folks at the secular high-end bike shop laughed off the ashes falling in their cream cheese that they’d bought for their potential customers and let the homeless man have as much as he wanted. No questions asked. No catch.

My hat is off to anyone or organization that serves the homeless, Christian or otherwise. Of all the “fishers of men”, who tend to use “different bait for different fish”, I wonder if different bait may sometimes be no bait at all. No strings attached, no expectations.

There are still some organizations that act like the time share salesman; they’ll give you a gift, but you gotta hear the pitch first.

There’s more to a difficult subject than can be covered in less than six hundred words… but sometimes my soul flinches when I see non-Christians acting more like Christians than the Christians.

THE MAN NAMED JOHN

John and Karen Still

John and Karen Still

When I heard the news, my heart sank… not too much time lapsed and I thought of my mom. The two of them didn’t have a whole lot in common other than they both worked for the same company. Although it’s been a longer than four decades since my mom pulled the night shift at the convenience store… and she’s still alive.

The Circle K convenience store and gas station is on the northwest corner of two main roads just west of the Deer Valley airport and about a mile and a half from my office.

The truth is I avoid that mini-market like the plague – it’s hard to get into and often even harder to get out of. If there was any saving grace in the frustrations of the comings and goings for in-a-hurry-patrons, it was the guy behind the counter, the man named John.

While the market is part of the neighborhood, it was John that made it personal. The block walls, glass, freezers, gas pumps, and cash register make it a place of business – John and the regulars made it a community.

It’s a comforting thing, community. We come to count on the folks in our everyday walks of life almost as much as we do the essential products or services they provide. The interaction we share over time enriches our lives and turns strangers into acquaintances and sometimes even friends.

There can be treasures in the day to day transactions that most of us take for granted… and a broken heart when the treasure is stolen. That’s what I sensed in the eyes and words of some of my friends that knew John well.

The gift and treasure of John’s life was snatched by a customer that didn’t want friendship or friendly banter… he wanted cash… and shot John multiple times to take whatever green pieces of paper were in the cash register.

The man arrested for John’s murder wasn’t thinking about John. He never stopped to consider or take that time to find out about John’s disabled wife. The robber didn’t try to learn that John was the sole caregiver for his wheelchair-bound wife… or the fact that John worked at the store to support them and wouldn’t have the luxury of a life insurance policy.

The only thing the person who pulled the trigger had on his mind was himself. He was looking for a shortcut in life at someone else’s expense. It didn’t matter if it was a mega corporation or a workin’ man’s life.

It doesn’t take a detective to figure out that this is a fallen world we live in. We’re all weak in different ways in this flesh. I won’t be surprised when we find out that the killer was on drugs. A weakness made even weaker…

The common denominator for all of our weaknesses is the feeding of our selfish nature. God help us – literally, and may He lift up John’s family.

This is an opportunity to learn from the example of John Still’s life, to engage in other folks lives like he did… and a little less in our obsessions.

John’s friends have set up a fund to help care for Karen, John’s widow. Click here if you feel led, and please send up a prayer on her behalf.