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

image courtesy of pennlive.com

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…

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

image courtesy of simplejustice.us

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…