DREAMS

REPOST FROM MARCH 2011

I’ve had some dreams in my life… Some good, some not so much. I’m fascinated with the human brain and the overall make up that allows humans to imagine, reason, and create. I don’t know of one human that after accomplishing something, whether significant or simple, hasn’t felt some sense of gratification.

The dreams of humans have made significant changes in our world, some good, ugly. Dreams rarely seem to take into consideration the rough spots in the road leading to that fulfillment of our dreams, but I suppose there would be little to no gratification or sense of accomplishment without some obstacles to overcome along the way.

Some dreams happen when we’re asleep – subconsciously, or God given visions, other dreams happen consciously with our eyes wide open seeing the opportunity or need. The reason or purpose behind our dreams or inspirations speak volumes about who we are and where we’re at in our life.

My wife and I were sitting in a bookstore a while back drinking coffee. Across from our table was the “Inspiration” section of the store, at the end of the isle facing us were some of the bestsellers. There was a book by a peculiar looking guy with wild hair and glasses sitting in a simple chair flanked by metal middle eastern statues of guard dogs. His legs were crossed, the side of his right ankle sitting on top of his left thigh, he had a tan business suit on with an orange tie and orange socks. The subtitle of his book was “Billionaire So and So Tells You,” (I forgot his name, and had never heard of him before) then the title of the book in bold letters right above and below his picture. “HOW TO GET RICH,” I read some of those type of books when I was younger.

It’s been my experience in life that if it’s a persons main goal or dream in life to be rich then that person is living a shallow, sad, and unfulfilled life. However, if a person pursues a specific dream or goal with passion for the fulfillment of that dream when it has benefits not just for that person, but others as well, they will find a life of purpose and true fulfillment, in my opinion.

Interestingly enough, it’s also been my observation that the people who live their lives with passion and purpose with a proper moral perspective have enough financial means and some even get rich. I’m left in awe and inspiration by some people who lived their lives and in some cases actually gave up their own life trying to fulfill their dreams or goals.

Mother Theresa comes to mind and how she gave up a life of comfort to care for people less privileged than herself. I’m also mindful of Martin Luther King Jr. and his life of sacrifice for what he believed God called him for. In a world of hate he consistently spoke of the need for forgiveness, this for the people who hated him.

I consider George Washington along with all of our forefathers who risked their lives and wealth to form a nation with the goal of religious freedom, no royal class and equal rights for all men. I think about all the people who sacrificed their lives in order to protect yours and mine, I’m emotionally moved by their dreams to protect, serve, and sacrifice for the benefit of us.

I believe it’s good to dream and have goals, I also believe the process of striving for the good dreams and goals gratifies our nature regardless of the ultimate outcome in most cases.

God’s in the business of dreams, He’s calling His chosen to dream like children and set about to make those dreams reality with the wisdom we’ve gained along the way. I’ve had some dreams in my life… still do…

k9963834How bout’ you?

A GOOD DUST OFF

k9135906Hope this post finds you well and rested. I’ll be out of pocket for a few days trying to do just that, I’ll catch up later in the week. God bless.

I didn’t get any say in the matter, about as much say as I had in what my name would be. There are things that happen to us in our lives we just don’t get a say in, and where we’re born is one of them. My mom didn’t want my sister and I to be born in Arkansas, but somethings we don’t have control over, even as adults.

I”ve always been a little proud of the fact that I was born in the same state as my dad, and his daddy before him. Yeah, “daddy” is what hillbillies call their dad, my oldest brother still refers to our dad with that term of endearment.

It’s my belief that God is sovereign. Even to the point of knowing where we’ll be born and sometimes His purpose behind it. My mom, while from humble origins, not near as humble as my dad, but humble by societies standards at the time, was a bit more sophisticated. She’d been taught manners, etiquette, poise, and hospitality, practiced it daily. Even made us learn it and practice it. Lazy kids don’t appreciate it, especially when it came to help cleaning up, just didn’t make sense to dirty two forks…

My mom tried hard to distance her family from our hillbilly roots, ties, and inclinations, but as they say, “You can take the boy out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the boy.” We don’t choose our heritage and it plays into our lives and how we perceive things. We all get some good traits and some not so good ones to boot.

One of the traits passed down through my southern roots is fierce independence, got that natural from both sides. We were born with the need for independence from manmade rules, and none of us are still willing to trade security for freedom.

Our security comes from our belief and living a life where we have “Fear of the Lord”, although it doesn’t seem like many in my family fear much of anything, especially other folks, and the thick headed side of us, and me, forget to fear God more often than is reasonable and prudent.

As old as I am, that crazy gene of recklessness that I think is gone, tamed, or just plum tuckered, raises like Godzilla inside me from out of nowhere and drives every other lick-uh-sense and wisdom right outta my head through my ears. That’s the ugly side of the otherwise more often than not a decent character.

Like all of us, I ask “why” about such matters as where we were born and our strengths and weaknesses. It’s taken me a long time to come up with what I believe is the answer.

For all that I’ve done to distance myself from my heritage, including looking and acting like the opposite of the stereo typical hillbilly, I’ve learned that one of the traits of my heritage is humility. It just took a while to find the wisdom from God while I was scaling the mountain of pride.

After a good dust off from the fall I find that nothing fits a child of God better than a suit of humility… I’m reminded of that by where my Father chose to bear me physically and spiritually.

THE IN-BETWEEN

k8008526We come from humble origins. The type of humble that conjures up a vision of a whiskered chin resting tight against a frail chest, a folded hat, white knuckle gripped at the waist, no eye contact dared. While that mental picture could point to my southern heritage, the “we” I was referring to wasn’t just me, it is us…

We all come from humble origins, the humblest. We don’t have a say if or when our faces sweat in the sun of this planet, or teeth chatter in chill on the other side of it, at least for a time. We don’t choose our parents or siblings, and we are dependent on someone to care for us when we can’t; all of us when we’re young, some of us when we’re grey.

The in-between is an illusion…

“You were too dumb or crazy to be scared,” I told him with a chuckle, “But I was scared,” I admitted to my older brother. He laughed as he pondered my thoughts, I could tell by the style of his laugh he was opting for the “crazy’ category, instead of the “dumb” one. He’s right of course, he’s not dumb, which only leaves one option… Better to laugh I suppose.

“We just didn’t know any better, it’s all we knew,” he explained. It was our world, we were like fireflies caught in a jar, captured by something bigger than us. We weren’t quite as delicate or pretty as the lightning bugs, but almost every bit as subject to the masters of our world… for a time.

It was the late sixties and there were places where violence was a way of life. We lived in one of those places. While racial tension and violence was real, it was only part or the story. The truth is there was violence everywhere and the color of skin or hair, even if it was the same as another person’s, didn’t seem to bring peace. I’ve noticed it still doesn’t.

I didn’t realize at the time we were a unique part of this country’s evolution. I wasn’t old enough to realize that we were a part of the gathering, all members and descendants of the trek by the first few generations of poor folks flocking to urban areas, trying to make a better way for their families.

In hindsight it’s easy to see it was like speeding cars racing for a one lane finish line. The independent people with the attitude that made this country great would struggle to fall into a civilized set of rules that didn’t match the ones they’d lived for generations by in the thickets.

Violence was part of life and real men didn’t run from it. No matter the color of your skin, we had more in common than most folks could know at the time… my dad knew. As a sharecropper he’d worked with and around all kinds of other folks with different colored skin, his dad being half Cherokee may have had something to do with his perspective.

A lot of folks back then were like fighting dogs and roosters, bred to fight and tossed into a cage… that’s when ugly shows up.

Regardless if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or a shovel in their hand, we all have choices to make during our in-between. Where we’re born and how we’re reared we can’t change and it will have some impact on our lives one way or the other.

The gift of free will is used to choose our destination. I often wonder if those of us who were born with less… were given more? Sometimes crazy is the closest thing to sane…

MEMORIAL THANKS

k16014061REPOST  from May of 2012.

I hated being the Private when I was a kid… My older brother Bobby was usually the Captain, he appointed my sister Sergeant, and me private. I hated taking orders from them, especially when they ordered me to eat dirt. I recall the day I mentally snapped from the orders and physically attacked the Sergeant, my sister, with a piece of rubber hose… A piece of cut hose hanging around the house for the often needed practice of siphoning gas says a lot about the folks there.

I’m not sure what title our dad would have had in the make believe scenario, I guess the General, but I didn’t even know he was home… I wasn’t given any time in the stockade, but I did get a few lashings for my actions… whatever his title, my dad wasn’t having anything to do with his only daughter getting whipped by an out of control son of his.

I can’t recall the times as a kid we played “Army Man.” It was the favorite game for the neighborhood boys when we were young. We all had some type of inborn nature to want to be heroes. To pretend to die for a good cause; saving people with our courage and sacrifice.

Like most dreams of childhood, they slip away except for only a small group, the strong, the gifted. The ones who went on to serve our country are a special group of people. Whatever the reason or scenario, I think the ones called to the service of others are a group that can only be called true heroes.

The history of the world is written by God and the ones He’s called for the service of others. We admire the strong people in this life, but none more than the ones who are willing to lay down their lives for the good of others. Jesus Christ spelled it out perfectly, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

It’s funny we don’t associate service, bravery, and courage with love, but that’s exactly what it is. A person who is willing to put themselves last in selfless service is the epitome of love from a Biblical perspective.

I hope we all appreciate and remember the ones who’ve shown us, the people they didn’t even know, the love we didn’t earn. I pray we honor the ones who paid the price of pure love to protect their loved ones and our way of life this Memorial Day.

May God bless the families of the ones who went before us and may He bless the ones serving now. May He keep them from harms way and bring them home quickly and safely. May we remember the blessings and the foundation upon which this country was built, and honor the One who is our ultimate protection. May He raise up all of us to stand for that which He’s called us.

May we serve in the capacity He’s called us for with the same honor as the other men and women who’ve gone before us with the higher calling to serve this country. May God bless our troops… and may God bless America. Happy Memorial Day.

MOUNT PRIDE

k14368049I don’t know of one single person in my life that hasn’t been given a second chance. For some of us the amount of chances we’ve gotten number so many we’d be hard pressed to count that high, me for sure. My good friend and brother Bill, who happens to be a pastor, posts at Cycle Guy’s Spin. He is doing a series on second chances and knows me well enough to know I’ve been given lots of second chances in my life and has asked me to do a guest post at his place.

If you don’t know Bill, you need to. And once you do, you’ll know why it’s such an honor for me to hang out at his place and share a story. Bill has one of the most interactive blogs I’ve seen and I’m proud to be a small part of it. Check out the Cycle Guy and make his place a stop on your weekly rides… you’ll be glad you did.

As you can guess by the title, pride is that thing that happens before a fall. You can see where I landed over at Bill’s place. Hope to see you there! Click here for the shuttle.

A BAD HABIT

It was a ghastly habit, that’s what I was told, but it got their attention. Maybe that’s why I hung onto it like a little boy does a sling shot, but that’s far to innocent a comparison to try and peddle. I was a bad man, and not for just this habit, but the attitude in which I lived my life.

Truth is, I was caught between two worlds. The lure of bad can feel good. Stretch the truth, bend a rule, break an oath, and one day I woke up and the fine line I’d crossed may as well have been in China. The exact time and place I crossed over couldn’t be found or recalled.

It’s not so much the act as it is the attitude or perspective. I’ll admit a big part of the reason kids start bad habits is them trying to exercise their independence, show the world they’ve arrived so to speak. To young people it’s all about image, and to mature folks that lack wisdom or who are haunted by a habit that they started by barely inching over the line, with a smirk of mischief on their face.

As a youngster I was disgusted by the habit. I remember my grandpa, my mom’s dad, when visiting would borrow an empty can out of the garbage and line it neatly with a paper towel or napkin, the edges folded over the top of the can. He’d leave it sitting around with the brown stains of tobacco spit turning the innocent white paper towel into a repulsive sight… Only my mom’s dad could have gotten away with that in her house.

By the time I was in high school, my football coach’s tobacco stained mouth had little impact on me. I was used to a world that treated boys like men and wasn’t shy about telling them if they were coming up short.

“Where’s the powder puff twins?” He’d yell for the two smallest kids who didn’t have an ounce of aggression in them for the hamburger drill. I recall the the tidal wave of tobacco juice that preceded his disgusted tone and words to the timid hearted boys.

You’d think that would have been enough to turn me off from that ugly habit. But I sought the rough and tumble coach’s approval. The smatterings of tobacco rain that flew from his mouth in praise when I’d sacrifice my body to lay someone out was music to my eyes… and my ears as the one note ring played at full volume between my ears.

I wasn’t as blatant when I coached high school lacrosse, but a wad of Redman was usual evident in the bugle in my cheek if someone was paying close attention. I can’t recall how long it’s been since I’ve had a chew of tobacco, maybe two years now.

When the weather is just right and I’m outside, a breeze hits me in a particular way, I find myself reaching for my left pocket. There’s nothing there… there can’t be. If there was a pouch of tobacco there I’d almost certainly fail.

Isn’t that what happens once we cross a fine line and pollute our bodies? Once we compromise or breach the line it becomes like the weak link in our chain. The chain doesn’t keep us in bondage, it keeps us from it.

Funny how this world has that concept backward… No wonder the lines are so easily  broken and so many of us live in bondage.

k6535547“And the Truth will set you free.”

FORD OR CHEVY?

imagesSome folks are more than willing to share their perspective and opinion, and given the chance, they’ll share it with the conviction and flair of a good ole’ southern preacher. Seems that it’s a learned habit, happens over time, adopting other’s opinions, traditions, experiences, and becomes part of us.

Funny how people come to an opinion or belief in something and their minds get set like stone, not willing to yield an ounce. The sermons or debates just depend on our circle.

I’ve heard hunters who swore their hunting dogs were the best and gave ten good reasons to back it up, or why their brand of dog food was better than yours. Just ask a blue collar fella if he’s a Ford or Chevy man and what the best motor ever built was. You’ll get an earful with passion and facts… rarely checked of course.

I’ve heard women speak with the same passion over ingredients in a cake, casserole, or stew. I’ve also been enlightened as to the best way to cook a steak, chicken, fish, and vegetables, along with the best techniques, herbs, spices, and choicest of brands, just in case you don’t get time to grow them on your own, or the birds or dogs eat em’. They all sound right t0 me.

If the everyday subjects of life bring about passion and prejudice, then I’m not quite sure what to call what politics and religion bring… Intensity is just the tip of the iceberg, and I don’t mean lettuce…  Many folks want to believe they’re intelligent, that they have the tools of reasoning, but rarely let facts get in the way of their emotions.

It’s an art or a gift to get others to listen to our beliefs and opinions, some call it charisma. It’s hard to sell truth to a world that cherishes fantasy and fairy tales though. It feels like many of the people of position have bought into the “if you can’t beat em’, join em” mentality.

I spent the majority of my life trying to convince others of my beliefs and opinions with passion and conviction, even with irrefutable facts for good measure, but rarely is a heart changed by mere words. It took some time to figure out in my heart the words of Christ, “Do unto others as you’ve have them do unto you.” Those words truly are golden when grasped by the heart and not just the mind.

Those words were spoken with love and compassion to some of the people our Savior knew would hate and betray Him. Seeking to understand the hearts behind the scared eyes of those who adopt opinions or religions based on their free will and fear is the beginning of being able to really communicate with others. Not just argue and preach truth, but live truth, breathe it into the lives that so desperately need it.

“And the Truth will set you free.”

I suppose as long as either the Ford or the Chevy get you there, it’s all good.

Know what I mean?

CASTLES, BIRDHOUSES, AND MEMORIES

ImageI knew it wasn’t forever, few keepsakes that big ever make it long… especially around our house. Once or twice a year I’d see it, smile inside, my youngest would smile on the outside, my wife will smile later. It was a school project around the time our daughter was in fifth or sixth grade.

Even though my little one was young, she already knew she was dreading having to rely on my help. I could tell my wife felt sorry for her too… shucks, even I felt sorry for her. My wife, she, her sisters, and I, knew it was going to be a task. I don’t have the “that’s good enough” mentality. I admit it. Like most of the eyes reading, I’m an all or nothing type of person.

The mission: build a castle. Now being a builder left me little choice but to live up to my title. I mean how bad would it be for me to build something inferior to the doctor, the lawyer, or anybody for that matter! During the process of buying the materials and beginning to put the castle together… with tools I wouldn’t let a young adult touch, much less and elementary school kid… I remembered.

I remembered standing in front of the class beside my birdhouse, beaming with pride as if I’d built it myself. In truth I barely touched it, but I did watch a good part of the process as my dad built it, I helped with some finishing touches. It’s good for a kid to taste pride and victory I think, to be part of something successful even if only in title.

After the castle structure was built, glued in  place by the little messy hands of my daughter, I directed the imitation slate grey tiles to be cut by my daughter and her classmate and glued in place at my direction. It’s hard to watch someone do things we know could be better, but a powerful way to learn. They glued the chains, windows, the people, the animals, and sprinkled sand over the freshly painted on glue for the interior of the grand castle.

“Dad! It was the best castle by far! I got an A+!” my daughter told me afterward.

I smiled, “You guys did a great job, babe,” I answered.

“Thanks, dad! she beamed.

I wonder what my life would look like if I put that much pride and energy into defending my title of “Christian”? How much more would be gained by all of my family members? I suppose the line between selfish pride and teaching my daughter proper work ethic is too fine a line for me to measure, but trying to is a just cause.

“It’s time to throw the castle out,” my wife said. I agreed. The little one did not. She put up a fight, but in the end stood over the trash can helping me tear it apart so as to fit in the trashcan.

“Doesn’t it make you feel bad to tear it apart, dad?” she asked.

“We have the memory of building it, babe. That’s always the best part,” I answered.

I had her take a picture of her castle above with the camera she got for Christmas… she knew I’d make sure our memory and lesson lived on in cyberspace. Not so different than the sweet memory of my dad and that birdhouse gently easing my mind.

CHIVALRY… REST IN PEACE…

woman-pushing-car“We’re not in Arizona anymore,” I thought to myself. It didn’t happen overnight, but it sure does seem like it. It was mid afternoon, Waffle House, the waitresses and cooks were changing shifts and I was in desperate need of sustenance from the old fashioned coffee joint.

There were only five customers in the place that seats around thirty folks when I strolled in, all men. I sat with my back to the south so I could see the street and parking lot out the almost completely glass front and sides that sits atop an old white speckled ceramic tile about three feet off the ground.

The guy closest to me was around my age, looking out from under his silver glasses as he relished the single waffle he was obviously accustomed to. A kid, probably early twenties, sat at the tiny bar in a swivel chair, his back to the street. He sported designer shades pushed back on his head, a hairstyle and beard stolen from Justin Timberlake. The kid also had the ever popular rings stretching his earlobes that you could pass a rope through.

Two other guys, probably late sixties sat opposite me by the tiny bathrooms, both wearing cowboy hats and work shirts that spoke to a fashion and generation all but gone. I like those types, they usually don’t like me, but I appreciate their value system, generally speaking.

The older fella’s with hair growing like wild flowers out of their noses and ears gave me the stink eye glance on my way to the restroom. Gym clothes, pony tail. I don’t blame them. They looked away quickly, they didn’t want trouble. They’ve lived long enough to know it’s better to gamble with dollars that you’re own hide.

After my quick trip to the restroom, my water and coffee greeting me kindly, I was the last one to spot the waitresses in outside who just finished their shift. One lady I’d guess was mid twenties, the other mid sixties. They were wrestling with a little yellow car in the parking lot.

“Can you watch my bag?” I asked my waitress pointing to my briefcase as I headed for the door.

“Sure,” she answered.

“What are you doing?” I asked the relieved waitresses.

“The reverse is out on my girlfriend’s car,” the elder of the two announced.

I pushed the little car backward up the slight grade with a, “There you go!”

“Thank you so much!” they both called back.

The fresh shift looked at me with appreciation, although surprise. The men pretended like they’d not seen a thing, everything short of the guilty whistle while looking the other way, except the kid, he looked at me like I wasn’t human. As if he was trying to figure out what in the world would possess a human being to help out another.

I’m not sure when society forgot how to help out a stranger. That’s the kind of help you’d offer anyone regardless of gender if needed. The fact that not one man in the place had the automatic instinct to help was disturbing to me. The act isn’t even a matter of Christian values – it’s just plain ole’ manners!

Our new society is missing out on one of the greatest gifts created by God Himself; the act of giving and helping.

I wonder how many folks look in the mirror and avoid eye contact with who they see in the reflection these days…

WHISKEY COLORED EYES

They saw things differently than us. I didn’t pay it much mind as a kid… wish I could have. Most of those eyes are resting now. I remember them though, how they looked at things, how their tired eyes took a deep drink of a cotton field. They saw it in a way only eyes that have worked it, looked at it up close and over a lifetime can.

They seemed drawn to it, although they cussed it regularly. Eyes flanked by deep lines, worn by perpetual squinting in the punishing sun, scanning right to left – left to right slowly. Then up, always up, and back and forth. They mumbled about the weather, but it looked to me like there were looking for a sign from God, a miracle.

The miracle was that their families didn’t starve to death.

How many years did those eyes tear from the smoke and clouds of a year’s crop being burned? There was always work, hard work, that was a guarantee… getting paid for it wasn’t. Surviving on close to nothing most of your life has a way of making a person strong, hard, faithful. For some, like my grandpa, the faith misplaced.

I could be wrong, but it didn’t look like peace or joy of the desert farm fields that reflected in those eyes. I couldn’t grasp at the time that behind that tough as nails exterior, those eyes hid sadness mixed with fear. I don’t guess he gave a lot of thought to faith across the better part of his life.

I didn’t know him when he pulled the cotton sack behind him along with dad and uncles. By the time I knew him the days of share cropping in Arkansas were a distant memory for him. He was old then, but he still did the only thing he ever knew how to; pick cotton. He drove the machines across the dusty southwest for miles and years.

Troy’s days of running moonshine to help put the clothes on the backs and shoes on the feet, at least for winter time, of his nine offspring he rarely talked about. Old habits die hard, the fifth he carried in his dusty coat pocket when he drove cotton pickers spoke to that fact.

Those half Cherokee brown eyes had little compassion or sympathy for others, seemed even less so after my grandma died too young. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say she was the best part of him.

I suppose he did the best he could do. I recall a few times his eyes didn’t look cross with anger or impatience. He seemed more content when smoking catfish he caught from the irrigation ditch out back of his trailer that was smack in the middle of a farm field and nowhere. After a few beers he’d play his harmonica so long and hard he’s huff and puff like he’d sprinted a marathon.

My car broke down the day of his funeral. I never told my dad I was a little relieved. I was just going out of respect for him anyway. I think about him sometimes when I’m sad for no good reason. I’m told he did find his faith in God at the end. I suspect he knew that truth all along, probably explains why he was the way he was…

Sometimes the lessons and examples along the path of life aren’t wrapped in fine silk…

f07-177789Some have whiskey colored eyes… and breath.

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