ICE CREAM CASTLES IN THE AIR

I’ve heard the words “ice cream” more than I could begin to guess in this lifetime. In fact, I know for sure that I’ve used the delicious words with family members more than a few times in the past ten years or so in a monotone voice, “Lieutenant, Daaaane – Ice creeeeam.” It was funny the first ten times…

But those words, “ice cream”, uttered at our family Sunday dinner table a couple weeks back stirred

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

up the murky waters lying dormant in the shallow waters of my mind. “Ice Cream Castles In The Air”, I mumbled adding less than zero and a touch of confusion to the conversation.

I fell backward into my mind.

I grabbed my wife’s cell phone and dialed up the tune from yesteryear, back to the days when I was learning to read and write. The year was 1969, a year dominated by Woodstock and the artists that played the famous outdoor iconic rock concert, along with the super groups that hailed from jolly ole England.

It was written by Joni Mitchell, but made famous by Collins and Ole Blue Eyes for the older crowds. The plinking piano, the heavy base contrasted by Judy Collins innocence stripped voice captured my melancholy heart. The whimsical lyrics about the reality of this fallen world fell comfortably over a seeking heart.

I pondered with Collins the complexities of clouds. How beautiful they were, how unpredictable, and just how little I knew and would ever know about them.

I considered love along with her too. I accepted her take on it. How could a person ever really grasp something that was invisible?

I contemplated life and wrestled with the truth in her words, “Something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day.” A day of life is a gift that brings us one day closer to our last.

As the song built like a cresting wave, the orchestra diminishing, the bass and Collins’ haunting voice climbed up to the climax of the chorus, stretching hearts and hopes in soprano. She then delivered the painful joy in a forlorn alto, “I really don’t know life… at all.”

I still love that old tune and I confess it does still weigh on my soul in a wistful way. It is in that state that my mind volleys between what I can ponder with my senses and what I know in my soul.

This life and the beauty of creation declares God’s majesty.

The clouds that look like ice cream castles in the air are gifts from God. And if we don’t know love… then we don’t know God. And if we don’t know God… we don’t know love.

While something is lost and something is gained in living every day, the ultimate loss is a lifetime lived without gaining the knowledge and love of the One who made it.

For those of us that belong to Him, know that one day we’ll stroll, with Him, through those ice cream castles in the air.(link to song)

I’ve looked at life from both sides now…

ALL IS NOT LOST

The OCD world that I stumble through was ripped to shreds earlier this week, but I have nobody to blame but my own darn self… All of us experience loss and none of us ever quite get used to it. We fight tooth and nail to hang onto everyone and everything, but the losses come, whether we want them to or not… but all is not lost.

Some time after the initial loss and nausea I remembered, back about eight years ago or so, the hollow feeling in the pit of my gut as I searched the sparse parking lot frantically, not knowing that my truck was already well on its way to Mexico.

The churning in a belly boils like poison from the noxious flame of violation when something we love or cherish is replaced by loss…

Not only had my truck been stolen, but all the valuables inside it. Funny how when anything is taken from us, it’s always the things inside them that we miss the most… by a long shot.

I pondered my latest loss. Devastation and disbelief smothered me… for a time. Life, time, and God have a way of altering a perspective.

My briefcase was a bit tattered from nearly daily use. It wasn’t a thing of beauty and one couldn’t tell what might be inside it just by looking at it. In a hurry, I left my briefcase sitting on the

all is not lost

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ledge of the cashier’s stand.

Whoever walked out with it must have been sorely disappointed to find a few loose coins mixed with the clutter at the bottom of the case. An Apple computer charger wouldn’t get them much either. Nor would a WiFi device from Verizon that would be useless without the password that still sits in my wallet that never leaves my front pocket… a lesson learned from a previous loss…

The three yellow legal pads with my scribbling inside would mean even less to the fortune seekers. To extinguish the OCD fire breathing dragon within, I’m always about two or three months ahead on my blog posts… but not anymore…

One of the three yellow pads carried the words to my latest manuscript… about four months worth of work.

After a couple days of feeling sorry for myself for being a cone head, I thought of greater losses. I thought about how it felt and still feels to lose my dad… He was just another man to the world. Like my tired briefcase; you couldn’t tell at a glance what my dad carried inside himself.

God was inside my dad. That’s what made him humble… and no words I ever pen or type can measure up to the beauty that Lived inside my dad, which was God Himself.

I wish I had my words back… but that loss in the grand scheme of things means little… compared to the wisdom gained in the lesson that is priceless.

So, as they say, “All is not lost”.

“THERE SHE GOES”

“She’s not stopping,” I said with shock in my voice. A few minutes later she sailed past us again and I stated the obvious – slathering my words in irritation and sarcasm, “There she goes.”

Parking is a big deal downtown when the Suns or Diamondbacks are playing. If you get caught in traffic, it’s a nightmare you never forget or ever want to relive.

image courtesy of talking stick arena .com

image courtesy of talking stick arena .com

With that in mind, we got dropped off at the Suns game. My wife and I both had to work the next day so come the beginning of the fourth quarter we made for the exits. My wife summoned our driver via her cell phone.

“She’s right around the corner,” my wife said. I was feeling pretty smug over the fact that we’d finally learned how to outsmart the system and traffic… til our driver passed right by us obeying the traffic signs.

After an eternity, my wife reported to me, “She’s coming up First Street.” I glanced at my wife’s phone and GPS, “No – She’s on First Avenue,” I grumbled.

After another ten minutes, the crowds started filing out around us. “There she is!” my wife proclaimed as we watched her glide on by yet again…

I spewed poison while we waited till the game was over and it was wall to wall people, “Just tell her to stop next time she passes by,” I demanded.

The cop that was less than twenty feet from us started blowing his whistle and yelling, “Hey! Stop!! You can’t do that!!!”

After a lifetime of fighting to stay within the narrow confines of following the rules and laws, I realize I’ve failed a lot.

Some consider these things to be in the “Just bending the rules” category. There are not many things less appealing than a so-called “Christian” breaking the laws they use to police other people’s lives by… except for them trying to justify their own actions.

I grimaced knowing my willful trespass and my experience in it. My wife’s immediate response was to stop, “Don’t turn around – just keep walking,” I coached my wife… and there she goes…

It’s a pretty shallow feeling to willfully break the law. It’s much worse when you use your God-given influence to get others to follow you…

THE LAST PRAYER

To say I didn’t like church service as a kid would be a drastic understatement, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the pastor. When the preacher would finally call on a “Brother” followed by his last name to say the last prayer my soul and body would jump for joy on the inside.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it wasn’t a miracle how Pastor Young magically appeared at the front door of our little church to shake hands with every person as they made their way out.

Even though it was illegal, not to mention flirting with a trip straight to hell, with all the good

image courtesy of all posters.com

image courtesy of all posters.com

God-fearing folks praying with their eyes closed, I peeked. Usually, I’d just peek with one eye, that way it seemed like only half a sin I’d have to answer for on judgment day.

While Pastor Young spoke of judgment with authority and the right Biblical perspective, not all the flock took note. Some of them took to judging like a duck does to water.

I watched our beloved preacher stride silently in those long black wing tips with his head bent in reverence. Being a seasoned veteran of church services, and an expert in the sport of church exiting, I always tried to snag a pew closest to the door.

Pastor Young was always there waiting to shake my hand as well as the other boys my age that had the same species of ants in our pants. Our preacher knew all of us regulars by name and knew us well enough to always ask how we were doing with whatever sport or hobby we were into at the time.

Back in the seventies, there was no shortage of people still caught in the sixties with clothes and hairstyles to prove it. It didn’t matter to Tom Young what they looked or smelled like, he’d give each person a hearty handshake and a sincere welcome.

Unfortunately, like our small town church, our mega church today still has some of those folks that believe they have the mind and right to judge another’s heart using their eyes.

“Before you’re seated, please take a minute to greet those standing around you,” the preacher urged. It’s never my favorite part of the service, but I obliged and turned to shake the hands of the folks behind us.

There were two men, probably in their mid to late sixties. I smiled and stretched my open hand toward the man directly behind me. He held his arm at his side and turned his head away. I offered my hand to the man next to him and he accepted looking a bit embarrassed. Then the man who had refused to shake my hand shook everyone else’s.

I’m not exactly sure how or why I offended the man. It could have been a number of things; from my untucked shirt, designer jeans my wife got for me or my shoulder length hair that he couldn’t know used to be half way down my back.

What shocked me the most about the incident was my response. There was a time when I would have misquoted scripture to justify my anger and reprisal… but how can I know the paths that led that man to where he stood behind me?

Maybe that man kept his eyes closed in church during the last prayer… and didn’t have a man like Tom Young to show him the heart of God.

COLLECTORS ITEMS

I admire collectors. It takes a lot of desire, determination, passion, and perseverance to search out and keep collectors items. Some are better than others…

When I was a kid I’d collect aluminum can tabs. That was back in the day when the tab would lift and peel all the way off of the can. We’d use the end opposite the ring, the end that looked like an aluminum tongue, and wrap it around the ring of another top. In time, we’d have an aluminum semi-flexible chain as long as our driveway.

I was also like a slew of other all-American kids that played Little League baseball and chewing bubble gum came with the territory. While Bazooka Joe was the preferred bubble gum of choice, not

collectors items

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in any small part due to the cartoon strips folded up inside each block of bubble gum, but we connoisseurs would sacrifice the good stuff for the brick thin sticks of bubble gum with the baseball cards stacked next to them in the wrapper like a deck of cards.

With time, my passion waned for those stacks of baseball cards, which included Johnny Bench and Hank Aaron long before he broke the Babe’s home run record. I either gave them away or lined the bottom of a trash can with them when I was retiring my youth and everything that was remotely associated with it.

Like most of us, I’ve had a few hobbies and or collections as an adult. I’ve bought and sold a herd of pinball machines and some muscle cars. Lost my passion again… and always usually right before the market ran the prices up that would have given me braggin’ rights.

I resigned myself over time to the fact that I’m just not the collectors item type-uh-hoss. It never dawned on me that I have more than my fair share of books, some printed in the 1800’s. Maybe we’re more of the collector’s items kinda folks than we realize?

I organize my home office three or four times a year. It takes more than a wee-bit-uh-time to sort through business documents as well as the personal papers, not to mention the thousands of papers with my notes and scribbles associated with writing.

After about an hour of sorting and shuffling, my office looking more like something from that hoarder show on TV, I stumbled upon a certain stack of papers I’d temporarily forgotten about. I’m not fixated with this growing stack of papers like I once was, but I’m not about to toss them out with the rest of the trash either.

Sitting at my desk I skimmed through my collector’s items. I read details I’d forgotten, but remembered them exactly and the feeling I had the day I collected each piece and added to my growing collection.

Collecting items for the right reasons and with a proper perspective isn’t a bad thing, as long as our collections don’t define us and become idols and or obsessions.

I smiled at my collector’s items, tapped the page edges on two sides against my desk to align all the papers neatly. Then I stacked my rejection letters from literary agents gently and neatly back into my desk drawer.