image courtesy of photo

image courtesy of photo

I didn’t give it a lot of thought as a kid, thinking at the time was, well… an afterthought, but the majority of our relatives, as well as us, lived within walkin’ distance of a major freeway. Looking back, I think Southern transplants felt a little more secure knowing the road home was close by.

Along with those major interstates, like the I-10, we lived less than a country mile from. Not more than a Southern style spit away from that freeway was the concrete, steel, and black top’s companion; the steel rails that the Arlo Guthrie song prophesied would disappear.

Guthrie was wrong about the railroad disappearing, but he was on the money about them not hauling passengers.

Those worn steel tracks spiked to the tired timbers buried in the dirt aren’t overly impressive at a glance, but humility leaps into the middle of your soul and belly when the massive engines rumble by plowing the air and rattling the earth, your bones, and teeth.

It was a rare sight for me as a kid to see a train up close. My parents forbade us being anywhere near the train, and not just for the danger of getting hit by one. Those were the days of hobos, and finding hobos gutted by other presumed hobos wasn’t uncommon.

Between the bums, hobos, and reputation of folks on the other side of those railroad tracks, I wasn’t in an all fired hurry to cross em’… but I knew they were there.

When living in close proximity to the interstate and railroad tracks, there’s one thing you can count on like a sunrise and a sunset, and that was what Johnny Cash called “That Lonesome Whistle”.

I’m not sure I agree with Mr. Cash’s description of a whistle – sounds more like a bellowing horn to me. But the “Lonesome” Cash calls that honking horn, I do get. The haunting sound of the trains call to warn folks up the track of impending danger from the massive steel centipede, plucks a chord within many hearts of melancholy.

A few nights ago while in California a distant train’s one note song rode up from the tracks and onto the damp ocean night air, up the bluff, through the open windows, and landed gently in my ears.

It was the exact same song I’d heard as a kid so many nighttimes ago. It’s impossible to be taken on a journey back in time and not reflect on a life. The fear, the mistakes, the troubles, the pride that caused most of them… and the humility learned, one way or the other.

I believe God can use anything in His creation to help us remember. Not only our shortcomings and how quickly this life escapes us, but also His sovereignty and grace that has us covered more completely than salt water does the ocean floor.

The trains aren’t disappearing and neither are the whistles, nor is this fallen world
through which we travel.

The melancholy blues that show up now and then riding on a lonesome whistle or memory can’t choke the life and joy out of a heart where God resides.



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Repost from 3/3/11
It’s easy to get aggravated and short with younger people. Sometimes when youngsters are being blatantly disrespectful our anger can have some merit, but when they’re just being their age and living youthful exuberance I think it’s another matter. Kids know how to laugh.

I could write endless editions sharing stories of my younger days being funny, silly, disrespectful, ignorant, and just plain stupid. Most adults can…especially men.

I’ve come to realize the people that can no longer interact with younger people without becoming negative usually are insecure and sometimes scared people who have forgotten how to laugh at themselves.

Let’s face it, all of us say and do dumb things sometimes, young people say and do dumb things more often than some of us who’ve been there and done that. The great thing about young people saying and doing dumb things is that sometimes they’re thinking, talking, getting reaction, learning, and laughing.

Many of the older generations have given up and are scared to push the envelope, scared of saying or doing something stupid and looking foolish.

A long time ago a bunch of the guys I was working with got “rained out”, so we went to have breakfast and hopefully wait out the rain. Sure enough, the sun started winning the wrestling match with the clouds and we headed back to work.

The restaurant had things like crayons, paper, and masks to keep little kids occupied. It just so happened they occupied young men too… well, the masks anyway. The waitresses were about our age so were more than willing to go along with some immature behavior for a laugh.

There must have been at least 6 or 8 of us who walked out of the restaurant with “Cap’n Tug-Boat” masks on. You may have already figured out that we drove back to work disguised as Cap’n Tug-boat.

Yes… Of Course, we waved at people in adjacent cars at stop lights… Please stop asking obvious questions so I can get to the point!!!

Some of us who didn’t know when to say “enough” decided to work with our Cap’n Tug-Boat masks on. None of us expected our boss to show up on a rainy day, he didn’t seem to share our brand of humor…

“What the H- – L are you doing?!” he asked in an aggravated tone. I pushed my mask to the top of my head, smiled an awkward smile and embarrassingly admitted, “Pretending to be Cap’n Tug-Boat,” as I started to laugh at the moment.

He reluctantly smiled, shook his head and announced, “You goofy b- – – ard.” While a young man acting like a kid while doing his job isn’t earth shattering, the idea of having fun, listening to music, being happy, and producing well is the point.

I didn’t then, and I still don’t comprehend how people acting grim, solemn, mean, or serious makes anyone think they’re more of a professional or should somehow be taken more seriously.

Some people even carry that persona with them after work, trying to look mature and be accepted by others as such. There is plenty of time for being serious in this life and I’m not suggesting anyone should bury their head in the sand and ignore the serious side of life.

We can find something to be sad about every day, that’s easy. The challenge is to find joy, happiness, peace, and even laughter during good and bad times. Life is a gift, it should be opened and enjoyed like one. The gift is from God and no two people have the same one.

When the kids were little, I rode their skateboards, did my stint on the pogo-sticks, and more often than not hit the ground laughing.

Someday when I have grandkids, you can bet that I’ll be wearing their Cap’n Tug-Boat masks… laughing.


image courtesy of

image courtesy of

It doesn’t take but a second or two to pass on a tradition or bad habit, and it’s a whole lot easier than handing off a baton in a relay race. When I was a lad in the first few years of elementary school I began to learn some school traditions… for better or worse.

In those days, the drinking fountains were bulky, a chalky white color, and served more than one kid at a time with individual big metal levers right in front of the corroded metal water spouts. The one outside Mrs. Bockem’s first-grade classroom watered four slurping kids at a time.

In the good ole’ days, there wasn’t a chiller motor housed inside a stainless steel housing to ensure cold water. Those were the days when the drinking water temperature was eerily similar to the season of the year. Kinda the exact opposite than what a body yearned for.

It didn’t matter when you got a drink from that old fountain, there was always a convenient classmate flanking the drinking fountain to announce to the rest of the world or those within earshot, the title of the pretend beverage coming from each specific of the four fountains.

There was no particular order in which to announce – it all depended on who you were trying to tease or who the announcer didn’t like. On occasion the obnoxious kid doing the announcing would be standing in front of one of the drinking fountains declaring the pretend beverages just before he or she held their lips in a way a person does when they say “Who?” and start sucking in the precious essence of life.

Of the four pretend beverages there was really only one that you absolutely would not drink. For me there was only one of the make believe drinks I truly loved, but rarely got.

On occasion, and usually when someone violated my drinking fountain by claiming I was drinking the vilest of the four liquids, I’d bark back, “Nuh-uh!!!”, then rename the pretend drinks and order to suit my fancy and throw the teasing back in their face.

The five words worked out pretty well for me, since none of those words had an “R” in them, which I couldn’t say to save my life at the time, I bellowed back while pointing to different drinking fountains with each word, “Coffee – Tea – Soda-pop – PEE!!!”

Of course, my fountain would always be the “Soda-pop” and the urine I’d save for the one who dubbed my fountain the same thing first.

Traditions are funny things. They make up a whole lot of our society. Take a handshake, for instance; the tradition to show an enemy that you were unarmed has morphed into the traditional act of greeting… but that’s the good side of a tradition…

In the church, there are more traditions than you can shake a stick at. What’s worse is how we let them divide us… then conquer us… not so different than the traditions we were taught in elementary school…

Get the picture?


the wind blows

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The breeze smacked me in the face as it flew by me on its voyage east, fresh off the grey Pacific. I stood gazing from the green bluff about a mile up, the morning sun sneaking up behind me. I pulled the top and bottom of my eyelids together for shelter from the mischievous gusts… It’s not hard to figure which way the wind blows.

Medium sized black birds rode the wind like surfers in wet suits did the waves in the icy drink. I spotted another kind of bird riding the ridge of a nearby house… that bird wasn’t going anywhere.

I’d seen birds like that a lot when my years on this planet were more like the sum of my elementary math class equations. That type of fowl was chic in less complicated times, I even owned one once myself, but it was more by chance; it came with an old house I bought. My bird came up missing. Someone must have hoisted it because I know it didn’t just up and fly away.

It’s odd how when you grow up with things like that rooster, we seldom stop to ask why or how it became so popular and what a metal rooster on top of an arrow, that’s pivoting on top of the perfect cross that points to the four compass points of the earth, has to do with the wind.

The rooster never made sense to me – and that was even before I heard the song by Bob Dylan with the line, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

I completely get the windsocks at airports. Knowing the direction and strength of a cross breeze while landing a plane is pretty important… especially if you want to walk on the earth when you’re done flying above it.

I suppose the elders that went before us took for granted the rooster pointing the direction of the wind on top of the church steeples. They probably figured if it was good enough for the church, it was good enough for their house.

I recall an old gold colored lamp in our living room, it was a wind vane rooster too… the only time he ever changed directions is when my mom would rearrange the furniture or when we moved.

I just recently learned that folk history points to the rooster as being symbolic of Peter’s denial of Christ those three times before the crowing and the subsequent melting of Peter’s heart.

I once pondered the need for a metal bird pointing the direction the wind blows. Today I reflect on how they’ve all but disappeared. I can use a constant reminder of how weak my flesh is and how I’m prone to wander… Lord I feel it…

It seems we’re not so different than those metal roosters. We get tossed about by life’s storms and winds and our physical life points to where we’re headed.

Only God knows the exact origin and timing of when the wind blows. When we’re pointing to His will in our lives it isn’t a horizontal point on this globe we call earth, it’s up, up and away… From the hearts where He dwells as well as to heaven where He waits… Holding the last storm in His left hand.

My guess is that you won’t need a metal rooster to tell you the direction it will be coming from…


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…