LIPS THAT DON’T LIE

k1086979I’ve been too busy to get a post out, but thought I’d share a piece of the manuscript I’m currently working on with you… Happy Fourth of July! God bless you and His nation.

My Uncle Buck’s smile wasn’t to express joy, his was more like a sneer, and it promised good ole’ fashioned pain for some poor soul, once he could get his mind good and numbed from drinkin’. It wasn’t always just another man he was looking to punish, he was hunting for the one without a soul, the enemy of God; the devil himself.

If you believe in that sort of thing, then you know it was that lust for vengeance that the ole’ devil used to lure Buck closer to him, so close to satisfying his desire, and yet just out of reach, but he swore by God that he could wup that ole’ devil given the chance, even sparred him for practice in his sleep. Buck looked high and low for him, searched darn near every bar from Missouri to Arkansas to California, and he doubled back more than a few times to make sure he didn’t miss him in one of the honky tonks.

 

Most of the nine kids were born with that same smile, but the majority of them learned it like they did their names, and that expression with the mouth, raised on one side, eyes squinting, spelled danger. Funny things about folks who’ve got nothing, and aren’t in jeopardy of losing what they ain’t got, sometimes seem to smile as much or even more than the ones who are fretting about the finer things in life that they could lose.

 

My dad’s smile was different. I thought about it that day at my house, a special day, a day I’d never known in over forty years, how his could be so gentle after the life that forbid it still baffled me. Kindness was mistaken for weakness in his world and tears were designed, by God, for women and children. It might have been the new world, in the new South, but they weren’t of any kind of new mind to square the first part of the Good Book with the second.

 

* * * * *

 

My dad smiled the kind of smile that let you know it’s genuine, from the heart, and if you were looking close, you could catch a glimpse of his soul through those soft green eyes. But there was something different about it that day, unique, one I hadn’t seen another one of his exactly like it. It was strained, but happy, beaming with pride, not for himself. That wasn’t his style—it was pride and appreciation. I was proud too, but that’s been something that’s come far too easily for me. It didn’t matter that I was forty-four years old. I was still his youngest son, and it felt like cool green grass under my feet on the perfect spring day when he was proud of me, and told me so.

 

For the life of me I can’t imagine why I hated it when he, or anyone else for that matter, tussled my hair in affection, back when I was young enough for another person to actually be willing to show their emotion. I had no idea how rare it was, otherwise I might have cherished it, but I was the son of strong men, hard men. I knew that before I could speak, before the rest of the world laughed at the kid who couldn’t pronounce an ‘R’ to save my life. My dad never laughed.

 

The strained smile looked almost sad. That’s when I spotted it. I’d seen every different type of emotion on my dad’s face over my lifetime, caused every one of them at one time or another, but it had been too long since I’d seen something close to that one. That day I’d remember all the days of my life… and his.

THE HOKEY POKEY

x25131763“You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out, you put your left foot in and you shake it all about, do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around – that’s what’s all about!” I’m not sure what body part the Hokey Pokey dance is is supposed to start with, but it covered just about every body part… including shaking your noggin’ like an imbecile.

Little kids love the Hokey Pokey… they even lured some of us older kids to do the Hokey Pokey at the skating rink, putting your let foot in with a heavy roles skate attached and shaking it like a lunatic took some serious balance. Probably half the show off skaters ended up on the seat of their pants… I know one for sure.

Before long we were a little too cool to be doing the Hokey Pokey, we were older, mature, slightly distinguished. Yes sir, we’d graduated from the Hokey Pokey and Duck, Duck, Goose. It was time to be grown, mature, time to show the world we’d come of age… We’d earned our way to be inducted into the world of the L.A. Shuffle.

Steps forward, (the exact count I couldn’t begin to remember) another so many steps to the right, leaning with your upper body before following with the lower half for effect, then the ever so clever clap, in time with all the other cool participants. Even the bad student could remember the lyrics to that song, and we shouted along with the choirs, “Do the Shuffle!”

Days rolled into years, tennis shoes were swapped for dress shoes, Levi’s 501’s for pleated dress pants, fine long sleeved shirts, and matching belts and ties added for effect. The Hokey Pokey rolled into Rock-N’-Pop, disco balls into strobe lights and curfews into all nighters.

Funny how our perspectives change, and not always for the better. I remember thinking as a child the silly things like the Hokey Pokey were for children. Then somehow I believed that I looked mature, cool, as I moved my body to more refined tunes.

To put away childish things, as Paul wrote about, we miss the point sometimes. It’s not the form of dance, be it the Hokey Pokey, the Shuffle, the Twist, the Swim, or the dance of the King of Israel. It’s the understanding of the motivation behind the moves.

If it’s to teach children their body parts and to help form coordination, I say good deal. If it’s to move in joy and celebration and acknowledgment and worship to and for God, even better.

Dressing in slick duds and hairstyles because we’re older and can, doesn’t makes us any wiser than the pre-schoolers doing the Hokey Pokey… and not nearly as cute.

Putting away childish ways is about how we think, and how we think will show in what we do… It shows in my wife…

She wants to take ballroom dance lessons… the Hokey Pokey isn’t looking so bad after all…

A CHRISTMAS PRESENT IN JUNE

u26401554It was like a scene out of a comedic drama, one that makes you cringe, even if it’s not happening to you. The old saying, “Truth is stranger that fiction” is a hard reality on occasion. Coincidences stacked on top of one another begin to convince a fella’ that the Divine Power loves a good story and definitely has a sense of humor.

It was Christmas Eve last year and Walmart was hoppin’. It was a mob scene taken right out of the ringing of the classic seasonal song that talks about “shoppers rushing home with their treasures”. Well, some of them would get to rush home…

There were four of us on a mission; get as many sleeping bags as possible for my family to hand out the next day when Ali got to town for Christmas. We were also collecting scads of socks and some rubber bands to roll them in for convenient hand outs.

My wife, the oldest, the youngest, and I all had a heaping basket plus one more we managed to caravan as we moved like a lanky worm through the crowds toward the check out.

Kenz, the oldest, is a natural born leader and was blazing the trail.

“There’s one right here!” she called back to us while she maneuvered the way with us in tow, me now pushing one basket and pulling the last behind like a caboose.

It was like God was on our side to get an open lane at the busiest store on the busiest day… that’s what good livin’ will do for you…

The cashier was a bit overwhelmed as we kept loading items on the conveyor then reloading baskets on the other side. We quickly developed a system just about the time we figured out the reason for our good fortune… we were in the express lane and over two or three times the “fifteen item limit” in each basket…

The other shoppers with the proper number of items were filing in behind us and beginning to grumble. “Sorry – we didn’t realize this was the express lane,” my wife apologized in embarrassment. We got loaded as quickly as possible and the cashier was kind.

I apologized to her again as I swiped my credit card so we could get our five full baskets that were clogging the entire area out of the way. “I”m sorry, sir, your card’s been declined,” she alerted me.

“Seriously?” I asked, already knowing full well she was.

I pulled my phone out of  my pocket and began dialing as my wife read me the number on the card written in the fine print that I struggled to see without my reading glasses. The line behind us by that time was beginning to growl as my cell phone dropped the call.

“Would you like me to cancel the order?” the cashier asked.

“No! – Do not cancel it – We just spent ten minutes checking out – I’ll make the call outside,” I told her, and off I went… the light’s better outside anyhow.

My wife and daughters would have been in serious trouble if Walmart sold pitchforks…

By the time I got things straightened out with the overly cautious bank and back in the store to re-run the card, we’d become enemy number ones… all of us.

My wife quickly grabbed the frail woman’s groceries who was right behind us and the mob’s ring leader while she sat barking from her motorized wheel chair, “Let us get these for you, I’m so sorry!” my wife said with sincerity… You’d have thought we’d just saved her cat from a tree or something…

Once we broke outside our red faces began to cool, “Oh my gosh, how embarrassing!- That was the worst thing ever!” Kenz said. A figure of speech for a girl who works in the ICU.

Sometimes the moments that seem to last the longest end up meaning the most… and are the ones we never forget…

MAN OVERBOARD!

k0134435Ever so often someone will ask a tough question. My friend and brother, Bernard Haynes, whose blogs over at his site titled Lead To Impact, did just that to me when he asked me to write a guest post on “vision”. I struggled through it and come up with what I hope is worthy of your time and energy.

For those of you that don’t know Bernard, you need to! He’s got a great passion and is very gifted at encouraging and stirring the mind and heart. I’ve never once read anything he’s posted and not been lifted up by his words of wisdom and encouragement. Follow me over and make a note of his address, you’re gonna want to make it a regular stop in your schedule!

Jump on here for a ride over.

GAME FACE

k1510581My friend Ceil wrote a post not too long ago about dealing with people that had their “game faces on”. Ceil had a great point, “No one likes to deal with people who are cold and care nothing about who they’re dealing with and are only trying to get through the day or trying to accomplish a specific task.

Ceil’s post hit close to home… actually a direct hit. I pondered my game face and how often I sport it. The game face came to me in the same way it come to most folks; it starts as a kid focusing and concentrating to succeed at our endeavors.

The business world took my game face to a whole new level of stone. I didn’t realize as a kid I was the “new” generation of management. I couldn’t begin to fathom at the time that my ambition and drive painted me into the role of a hatchet man in a world where a game face wasn’t a facade, it was ready for the worst. It was real life… dealing with real lives, and some men struggling to make ends meet would get down right emotional.

In that mans’ world, emotions didn’t bring tears, they brought anger, threats, and occasionally a fist fight.

There’s no way I could begin to recall all the people I’ve hired and fired or laid off over the years. A few colorful characters do stand  out. If someone cheated on their time cards or had no pride of workmanship, my game face was stone as the axe fell.

When times were slow and the man or crew of men didn’t deserve to be let go, just forced to by economics, my heart broke… I still sported the game face, but was honest with them.

I remember the look in the green eyes of the man I was made to let go that not too long before had been my boss. He was a giant of a man and I’d mocked him in jest when he was my boss… I was shocked he didn’t crush me as I gave him the bad news with my game face on.

He just nodded, said he’d be happy to take the truck back to the yard and asked about his and his men’s checks. I pulled the stack of yellow colored checks from my back pocket. He nodded again as I handed them to him.

That’s been a lifetime of game faces ago… Even now occasionally when a manager that I haven’t even hired is deemed to be dangerous, a loose cannon and physical risk, I’ll wear the calloused game face and do the honors, just in case.

I suppose I could be considered a hypocrite in some ways. I do business with many people who don’t know the writer side of my life, not that I go out of my way to hide it, it just doesn’t come up when I’ve got my game face on…

It occurs to me I need to bring those two world closer together and let my game face fade into compassion, though I recognize the world in general tends to mistake kindness for weakness.

How transparent is your life?

Do you have a game face?

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.

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