SOMEONE IN THEIR PLACE

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a Christian say how they “put someone in their place”, I’d have a herd of piggy banks, pockets, and a sore back. My ears are just as full and weary from hearing it.

someone in their place

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The “Holier than thou” attitude is melting, but just when I thought it was going the ways of the dinosaurs, it reared its ugly face again… and this time in my own backyard.

My wife has a friend who is a single mom and has had her fair share of struggles. She was surprised when she found out what church we went to, didn’t seem to square with what she knew about my wife and what she had experienced at the church we attend.

When people are hurting they go to different places to find help and answers. My wife’s friend is no different. Instead of searching the honky tonks and bars she decided she’d seek answers and solace at the house of God.

Her son was a little guy at the time so she loaded him up and off to church they went. I don’t know if my wife’s friend even remembers what she heard in the sermon that day. What she does remember is a conversation she had with a stranger, a church member.

The man didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t greet her or her little boy with a “Hi, how are you today?” Nor did he tell her that he was glad she decided to join them. The man told her that the service was not the place for her little boy to be.

My wife’s friend decided that if that church didn’t want her son to be there, then they didn’t want her either… she never went back.

My wife’s friend’s son is in college now and as far as I know that day in church when he was a tyke was the last time he or his mom attended church.

She went to church seeking the comfort that only comes from knowing our Father. What she discovered was a legalist disguised as a Christian.

I don’t know who the man was, but I know the type. They’re always the ones to share with other legalists how they put a sinner in their place, “And I told her ______”… fill in the blanks, we’ve all heard it.

In all the fullness and blindness in that man, he can’t begin to grasp the words of Christ, words he quotes to put someone in their place.

My wife told her friend that she was sorry anyone would ever treat her like that and assured her that wasn’t the norm. She also told her that she is welcome to come with us anytime. I think she might.

Folks don’t want or need to know about the broken rules… until after they learn of the love and broken heart of Jesus Christ.

Putting someone in their place should be smack dab in the middle of His and His chosen’s grace… not on the spot and out the door. Telling them is God’s job… ours is showing them Him.

RUNNING LATE

I wasn’t whistling when I strolled out the front doors of the hotel I’d called my temporary home for three nights in Fort Collins Colorado, but I was feeling pretteeeee good knowing that I wasn’t running late.

I’d done the math backward; flight time minus an hour early = one hour. The drive to the Denver airport = one hour. The excruciatingly dull and slow ride from the rental car drop off to the terminal = one half hour. For good measure and a solid dose of wisdom from experience with missing flights = one hour.

It feels good to win.

Running Late

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I stood in front of the monitor, gave the rushing travelers a condescending glance, then back to the screen to find my flight then gate number. “Flight 639 – to Phoenix – on time – gate C-49. Okey Dokey,” I read and thought to myself. Then I glimpsed the flight time.

If you’ve ever watched a movie or TV show where they use a cinematic feature to show shock, surprise, anxiety, and dread, then you know the “11:30” departure time grew from tiny distant numbers to me standing in front of them, gazing up at them, as tall as the Empire State Building… I thought the flight was at 12:35…

Sheer panic engulfed me and my heart started punching my chest from the inside. I was between a walk and a run when I rounded the corner into the pre-board screening area. It looked like something from downtown Hong Kong.

My hope was my business class boarding status, the line turned out to be fifty deep instead of the one thousand. I checked my phone, less than ten minutes till boarding, standing still in the line of molasses.

I cleared the line only to be stuck behind all the other poor saps loading their personal effects, including shoes, into the trays and onto the conveyor belts. When I finally got through the creepy X-ray scan I hurried to grab my stuff… that’s when I saw them slide my new briefcase into the “Further Assessment” stack. I checked my phone and my flight was boarding.

When they finally released my bag I ran… about a hundred feet to another line for the escalators. Then again to the underground train to all gates. I glanced at the sign, mine being the last. Of course.

As I waited, hanging onto the poles, along with the rest of the mob of travelers, my heart was still rolling thunder and my mouth was a desert, “This isn’t life or death,” I told myself, but there was little change.

The flattened wheel on my rolling suitcase made my run through the terminal sound like a machine gun as I stormed the gate. Folks were still boarding…

I realize that while most of us are better versions of our younger selves, we haven’t arrived spiritually yet. I don’t know the exact date that’s going to happen, but I know that it’s not going to be on this side of heaven.

“Running late – better late than never though,” I told the attendant, handing her my boarding pass that had “A-1” on it… she had no idea what I was really talking about.

EARS TICKLED

“Welcome aboard!” Our ears tickled at the greeting to the herd of humans that boarded first. I grabbed a window seat one row back and a burly man stalking behind me grabbed the aisle seat of the same row. As the herd thinned along with the available seats so did my elbow room to another guy, a good sized kid.

When a bunch of strangers are tossed together like a fresh salad, there’s always a story in the makin’. It’s like playing poker; you never know what kind of card you might draw.

I was in luck; turns out the cards seated all around me weren’t the chatterbox kind… but the flight from Phoenix to Denver was just getting started.

As all of us sat uniformly like sardines in a can, most of us tried to avoid eye contact. Us veterans know that eye contact can lead to a conversation and a conversation with a stranger on an airline flight is only a couple steps up from being water boarded.

The younger fella next to me, with a shaved head and arms, had headphones in and was bouncing slightly to the beat that I could hear emanating from the tiny white speakers buried in his ears. As soon as the jet leveled off, as if on cue, the burly man with lots of chins fell fast asleep.

For those of us that have spent our fairshare of time fighting gravity in a metal tube at about 14,000 feet, we know there’s a lot of fakers; folks that pretend to be asleep, try desperately to find it and usually without success. But the one dead giveaway of a real nap is breathing patterns.

When the big guy’s jaw fell onto his chins and his breathing matched his weight, everyone knew behind those heavy eyelids he’d found the true land of “Z’s”. Then things got ugly…

image courtesy of returnofkings.com

image courtesy of returnofkings.com

As if right out of a movie that you’d critique as being too unrealistic, something very real began to happen. The burly guy started to snore, and not just snore, but bellow. There in not a pig alive today that could snort as powerfully as our airplane sleeping neighbor. A few seconds later he’d inhale a hurricane like Paul Bunyan trying to clear his sinuses.

The early forties gal across the aisle from the supersonic snorer wasn’t avoiding contact anymore. After about ten minutes of snore torture, she was shooting him full of holes with her eyes, but his were hiding safely behind his lids.

The kid next to me yelled over the sound of the super snorer, “You need a pair of these!” pointing to his ears. I nodded, one step ahead of him, reaching for mine.

The senses are an amazing and funny thing; folks only want to use them to hear what they want to hear. And they get downright angry when they hear what they don’t want to or don’t agree with. Most lost folks fit that bill… but so do a ton of Christians who only listen to have their ears tickled.

THE YEAR THE MUSICIANS DIED

The music died February 3, 1959, years before I was born. It was a big deal. Folks were still talking about it, debating it, and writing songs about it by the time the wet was beginning to dry behind my ears.

The power of music to move people to crocodile tears and motivate them to gyrate their bodies like Elvis Presley, then Chubby Checker, then James Brown, then Mick Jagger, then Michael Jackson is common knowledge.

It dawned on me a few days ago that if that winter day in ’59 when Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, (A.K.A The Big Bopper), and Richie Valens, (Valenzuela), died is considered The Day The Music Died, then this year, 2016, is The Year The Musicians Died.

I grew up on potatoes, beans, bologna, milk, country, and rock and roll. Not necessarily in that order. I still know all the words to “Mama Tried”, and “Running Bear”, that I sang along with even before I could pronounce my “R’s”, along with a slew of other Merle Haggard and Sonny James songs. They both parted with their music and beating hearts this year.

By the time I hit high school David Bowie music helped me survive two-a-day football practices in the brutal Augusts in Arizona. Talk about “Suffragette City”… The radio blared in art class my freshman through junior years and the Eagles owned the airwaves. That was back when Glenn Frey did most of the singing.

Bowie had the “Fame” he sang about, but fame doesn’t build a ladder to heaven. And only God knows if Frey had a “Peaceful Easy Feeling” when his soul slipped from this dimension to the everlasting one this year.

I was a young adult when I was wearing out the album titled, “Purple Rain”, by Prince as well as dancing to it in the arms of nameless women when it was the most popular song for “Last Calls” in the night clubs, what the Good Book calls “Dens of Iniquity”.

We’re not even through a third of 2016 and Merle Haggard, Sonny James, David Bowie, Glenn Frey and

The year the musicians died

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Prince Rogers Nelson have died. In addition to those musicians; Maurice White, (founder and leader of Earth Wind and Fire), Keith Emerson, (of Emerson Lake and Palmer), and Paul Kantner, (of Jefferson Airplane and Starship), have also passed this year.

Every one of those musicians that have passed this year left a mark on many lives… NOT ALL OF THEM FOR THE BEST…

I’m reminded that we all have gifts from God. We might not have the musical genius of Prince, who had scads of hits and wrote songs for the Bangles, Sheila E., Sheena Easton, Chaka Khan, The Time, Sinead O’Conner, Patti Labelle, Alicia Keys and more, but we all possess talents that can touch other folk’s lives… for better or worse.

With more than eight months left in the year, there’s a good chance the list of musicians that die this year will grow. A legacy that ends here and the gifts we are endowed with from Above don’t point people that direction, as Solomon said, “is all vanity”.

Only God knows the hearts of His creation, but we mourn for lost souls this year; the year the musicians died.

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…