THE HAZARDS OF SPRINGTIME

image courtesy of photo bucket

image courtesy of photo bucket

The resounding “thud” startled me. Only sheer force slamming an object can produce that kind of ruckus. My brain quickly caught up and it dawned on me that the sound had to come from one of the windows in our bedroom.

It’s springtime outside I reasoned and somebody was trying to be cool, impress the chicks was my educated guess. I glanced at the windows to see if there were any marks or clues, no luck, too dirty.

I scanned the backyard looking for a perpetrator or cause of the noise. Windows don’t groan on their own after all. Over on the west side of the yard I spotted him – under the violet bougainvillea in the rocks sitting as still as a headstone, but eyes wide and alert.

A rattled but very much alive dove was trying to recover, not just his conscience, but maybe his pride as well. “You idiot!” I called to him from the open window with sincere sympathy.

“Springtime”, I thought to myself. It’s amazing how this season affects nature – all of it, but especially youngsters. As I pondered springtime and the idiotic actions it tends to evoke in folks, especially of the male persuasion, I remembered a day in school; P.E. class to be exact, my freshman year in high school.

Coach Berach, the P.E. teacher, was also the track coach and had me slated to run the 440-yard hurdles that year. This happened to be during a co-ed P.E. class that would last a couple of days. That was back in the days when P.E. was a required class. We didn’t know that he was secretly looking for talent to fill out his team.

We moved from event to event, girls and boys, and springtime was in the air… It’s truly amazing how dumb kids act, especially boys.

When we came to the low hurdles coach Berach called me out to demonstrate to the girls the proper technique for clearing the hurdle as efficiently as possible. I didn’t mind the spotlight, especially during springtime with a class full of girls, my chance to stand out from the crowd.

I backed up about ten yards from the sample hurdle, in a hurry and in the grass instead of the track. Confidence was high… I sprinted with determination and threw my left leg out in front of me.

The key is to barely clear the top of the hurdle and lower your torso over your lead leg as low as possible, simultaneously pulling your trailing leg so that after your lead foot hits the ground, the trailing foot strides forward so that it’s really just like a big step.

I’d cleared hurdles so often it was like instinct… except for the grass… and the chicks… I hadn’t quite hit full speed when I launched and my lead foot hit the hurdle and I toppled to ground in a heap. All hope of looking cool was gone… only laughter… What a dope… That’s how I know how the dove feels.

Our actions aren’t always pure and are often motivated by the wrong desires. I’d heard the verse from Philippians, but it wouldn’t even begin to register for years after that, “Don’t be selfish; don’t’ try to impress others…”, (partial NLT for effect).

I’m still learning that lesson and the hazards of springtime… me and the dumb dove that lives in my backyard with the dent on his head.

CREATURES OF HABIT

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

People are creatures of habit – and I’m no exception to that rule. It’s natural to get into a routine and when we do we bump into others and their routines in the process.

Brad and I meet, or try to meet, every other Saturday for our Bible study; one weekend the in-depth study, the next to share and compare. We see a lot of the same folks at the Starbucks we meet at and have been for over a year now.

There’s Joe and his gang of bikers, the bicycle kind. They want me to ride with them on their seventy-mile route… I’ve done that once. I’m not sure I’ll be taking him up on his offer anytime soon. Any ride close to seventy miles can be seen in the grimace on my face afterwards. When those guys are finished they look like they just rode across the street.

There’s the retired guy that looks like Art Carney’s brother who refuses to go anywhere without his mini shepherd, but not his leash. I’ve come to realize he’s a better master than I am… I almost treasure my time away from my dog Larry.

There’s the girl with long brown hair, I think her name is Laura, who burps with her mouth open… a lot. Of course, there are always new faces… and I keep an eye out for folks, cause each one of them is a story in the making.

I don’t stare – I swipe glances. The man sitting at the round two-person table next to us, behind Brad, looked like a blue-collar guy at first glance. Ball cap, distinguished grey whiskers and a red and white lined flannel shirt.

The man was carrying a McDonald’s plastic bag that was knotted at the two handles for easier carrying – that’s what raised my left detective eye like a red flag; there’s no McDonald’s close to the Starbucks Brad and I meet at.

The man slipped inside without catching my attention, but he wouldn’t on his way back. I heard him coming behind me – sounded like a limp or a shuffle. “Good mornin!” he greeted Brad with a warm voice and genuine nod.

“Mornin,” Brad replied.

I didn’t move my head but glanced toward the ground as he passed by me. He was sporting old leather slippers that at one time had that orangish kind of hue to them. His were mostly black and the fine texture an ancient memory.

He had on blue socks. The kind of sky blue socks that screamed he’d gotten them for free. I saw how the shuffling sound was made before I heard it again. The man lifted his right knee high, high enough to drag the sole of his slipper that was only attached to about even with the arch of his foot.

The man kicked the floppy sole out in front of him so that it landed on the concrete before his sky blue stocking foot could. The man eased himself back into a metal chair again… with water… the free kind in the plastic cup.

We’re all creatures of habits and all of us carry some good ones and some bad ones. I have the habit of doing whatever it takes to have food, shelter, and clothing for my family and myself. Although I have a hunch that it has more to do with the amazing grace of God than it does me.

The homeless man sat sideways, leaning against the metal railing, his ear toward us… timing in this life is never by chance.

If the blue socked homeless man becomes a regular, I’ll look forward to learning his story, each soul has one.

I’ll keep you posted. And don’t be too surprised if you see me in my black sport socks hoofin’ it across the Starbucks parking lot.

THE HIDDEN TREASURE

the hidden treasure

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Repost from September 2011

He was weary from the journey, the unforgiving desert seemed never ending. He couldn’t decide which was worse, the long flat dirt stretches mixed with a smattering of occasional cactus and creosote bush, or the rocky treacherous hills.

The topping of each hill or mountain felt like a little victory in itself but was short lived, only to discover another one following the last. He knew out there on the other side of the hottest stretch of dirt on earth was what he considered the promised land. He remembered the land transformed into it’s most unforgiving point right before the magical place.

After what seemed a lifetime, he finally reached the hidden treasure. The four thousand foot mountain range. He could see for endless miles west from that vantage point. He knew his destination was in reach as he braced himself and slowly made the descent back and forth, cautiously down the mountain. The drop off in spots was several hundred-foot sheer cliffs. One wrong move would mean certain death.

He smelled it before could see it. After a treacherous journey, he could feel the air begin to cool. He could almost taste the cold water as he swallowed, his dry mouth beginning to water in anticipation.

He crested one last hill, not knowing for sure if that was the last one, but alas he found himself looking at the most beautiful place on earth. His aching back and legs now couldn’t be felt.

He beheld the beauty first. Right out of nowhere it looked like his personal Garden Of Eden had sprung up. The vivid green leaves of the well watered cottonwoods formed a tall barrier hiding the treasure below that sustained them.

Below that, deep rich green bushes and vegetation among the cottonwoods spread out and up from the valley. Across the canyon, he glanced a high mesa, “If this were my land that’s where I’d build my home,” he mumbled in a low, barely audible voice as he talked to himself.

He envisioned looking out over the valley from that mesa in the late Fall afternoon. He could picture in his mind the beauty enriched by the long shadows across his perfect canyon.

He suspected a place that beautiful would likely have some dangers. He thought about the serpent in the Garden Of Eden he learned of as a child. His head locked straight ahead, eyes squinting at half mast, trying to focus as he searched for any movement. Even more troublesome would be the two-legged animal. He’d come to realize it was easier to guess what a wild animal might do than it was a desperate human.

As he slowly continued along the far ridge, he caught sight of the very source of life that turned that place into an oasis. Making its way through the golden crust and sand, he spotted glimpses between a few cottonwoods of the dark blue shimmering water. He could see the sun brilliantly reflect off some of the bigger partially wet boulders flanking the creek.

He’d seen the beauty many times… He got close so often but never got to touch or drink the cool water or sit in the shade of the heavy cottonwoods with his toes buried in the golden sand.

He was moving too fast… He had a schedule to keep, he had responsibilities. He was caught on the hamster wheel just like a rodent… He could only look at the beauty and study it by slowing down to 70 miles per hour as he passed by on the interstate.

Those were the dreams of his youth… Those were the dreams of yesteryears…

The road to the big city was the on-ramp to life in the fast lane.

He remembered the verse from the Bible, “Be still and know that I Am God”….

He wasn’t very good at that one…

He is me…

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.