BEYOND LUCK

My wife's bike

My wife’s bike

Image 1My prayer wasn’t really an after thought. It was actually the second one I’d sent toward heaven; asking for the same thing that I had asked for not less than five minutes after I’d silently uttered the first one.

My wife and I were out of town on our bicycles riding out toward Pacific Coast Highway when I offered up the second prayer with an uneasy feeling in my gut.

We were around the twelve mile mark when we lost each other in heavy traffic on 101. I went straight and she took a turn toward the wharf in Oceanside. After waiting for several minutes at a stop light, I knew the platinum finishing Tour De Tucson participant who also teaches spinning a the health club was long gone.

I figured it best to head south to where we started and try to catch her on the way, not that it would have been remotely possible if she thought she was trying to catch me.

When I got back my wife wasn’t there, so I called her on my cell that I was strongly regretting not having had with me earlier.

“I’m still in Oceanside waiting for you,” she told me.

I waited for her, got a snack to hold me over until she got back and answered some emails. One email in particular stood out like divine words wrapped in the light from the other realm.

My friend Lynn Morrissey, author of the “Love Letters To God”, asked if she could pray for my family and me out of the blue. Now I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I’ve figured out that when someone “feels” like they should pray for my family or me, I humbly and thankfully accept.

I took note of the time, did a quick math calculation and knew my wife would be rolling up any minute. Then I did something that I’ve never done before; I went outside to look for her, but she wasn’t anywhere in sight.

That’s when my phone rang… sometimes in our modern world, you know it’s not gonna be good news when the phone rings… It’s usually an inconvenience. My first thought was, “She’s got a flat tire.”

“Hey, babe?” I answered my phone. The next words will echo in my mind as long as mine still functions…

“I’ve been hit by a car! I need you to come get me!”

There are no laws of physical nature to explain what happened, but more importantly, what didn’t happen.

It is a fifty miles per hour speed limit on the frontage road to Interstate 5, where the elderly lady in a Toyota Prius hit my wife… Which means that the car still had to be traveling thirty-five to forty-five miles per hour after the short skid when her car struck my wife.

The eyewitness told me that my wife did a three hundred and sixty degree spin on her bike as it sailed through the air before she crashed down and skidded across the intersection on her back, knee, hip, elbow, and head…

On top of the early morning prayers for safety and Lynn’s prompting and praying for my family and wife, the driver of the car that hit my wife immediately asked her if she cold pray for her…

The half dollar sized skid marks on my wife’s elbow, knee, and back, and the fact that she walked away and was back teaching at the gym two days later, is proof that something or Someone protected her.

That nasty scenario is the kind where some people are maimed for life and some lose theirs altogether. Some folks call it a coincidence, some call it lucky… I call it beyond luck…

I call it the hand of God.

 

PARKING LOT PERDITION

Parking Lot Perdition

Parking Lot Perdition

I’m not at my best in crowds. On top of that, I loathe jam-packed parking lots, but it’s hard to avoid them in this fast growing world. Bloated parking lots and scads of people are a lot like the old adage, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” If one is there, the other is a given.

When the opportunity presents itself, I try to outsmart the occasion. But that takes teamwork to strive and save in order to get more of the precious commodity we all took for granted at some point in our life; time.

I grimaced at the thought of braving the crowds of people on a Sunday afternoon at Costco; the mega wholesale warehouse. You have to be a member to get past the Gestapo and the line forms outside while everyone flashes their identification cards to get in… I don’t have one… but they let me tag along with my wife or daughters that do.

It’s the perfect store to buy in bulk. And I mean the kind of bulk that could fulfill many basic needs for a season, some for a lifetime. If a person ate that much peanut butter in one season, it would likely be their last.

“We’re never gonna find a parking space,” I groaned to my wife who’d pulled the classic bait and switch on me. I thought our destinations were only going to be Home Depot and Sprouts… til she added the human sardine store and parking lot to our agenda. Then again, it was my idea to have steak.

“Just pull up and drop me off and you can drive around then pick me back up,” my wife gave me a pass in our trip to parking lot perdition.

“Okay,” I agreed greedily and drove off thinking to myself, “One outta two ain’t bad… that woman is good to me.”

I drove around the packed parking lot with zero pressure of having to find a space, whistling would have been apropos. I just softly sang along to a song on the radio. It felt good. I could see desperation in the eyes of the other driving sardines, but not mine… because I’m a pretty swell guy. Not to mention the fact that God likes me.

I wasn’t too surprised when a space was opening up as close to the front door as possible – without it being a handicapped space. I sat back in the seat with my signal on, feeling pretty smug and a bit above the other commoners, while I waited for the young girl in a BMW to pull out and clear my divinely appointed parking space.

I smiled, waved kindly, as she pulled out of the space and past me. Just as I was pulling into God’s space, a kid in a little red four banger cut me off moving at light speed, smiling, and almost skidded to a stop… in my space!

A good Christian may have driven on, chalking it up to the ways of the fallen world. A less than mature Christian may have shaken their head in disgust. The next down the ladder to levels in heaven may have called the smiling punk a “Jerk”.

Me? I pulled my car within inches behind the kid’s and was out of my car and at his rolled down window before he could say, “Finders keepers – losers weepers!'”

“Not happ-nin!!! I been sittin’ there with my signal on waiting!”

The punk’s clever smile was gone like the dinosaurs when the suddenly humble kid meekly asked, “Would you like me to move?”

“Yes!!! … Please!” The ‘please’ I added at about half the decibels of the ‘yes’.

I backed up and let him pull out as I pulled back into the space… not feeling nearly as favored by God and the blood still pumping in the veins of my neck and forehead.

I wonder how often we hoard the same grace extended to us from God Himself.

Math was never my strong suit… but I suspect I can’t count that high…

 

THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR

k7274728I’m not much of a sailor, except for that one time in junior high school I stole that sailboat, but I savvy the sailing lingo fairly well. Sometimes a few words can sum up what a picture or a thousand words can’t, no matter the time spent trying. It’s remarkable how well a simple adage can describe perfectly what we’re trying to express, like the lucky folks who buy the right vowel on Wheel Of Fortune.

“You nailed it”, or “You hit the nail on the head”, are carpentry terms that have come to mean far more than the accurate swing of a hammer. No one needs to be a fisherman to savvy the phrase, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea”. You get the idea.

Back to my seafaring thoughts: For the better part of six years I’ve been writing, pushing, learning, and have written hundreds of thousands of words in the form of this blog, writing assignments, and three and a half manuscripts. But sometimes life… get ready for it… “Knocks the wind out of your sails”…

I’ve come up empty. And while that isn’t entirely new, the desire that always seems to summon a fresh breeze has gone missing. That is new for me. My desire must have fallen in the deep waters when I blinked at the emotional strike delivered to the core of my soul…

This life is full of surprises and not all of them have the intentions or effect of a surprise birthday party. All of us know that people will let you down in this fallen world, yet we all get “Blindsided” once in awhile. Yeah, another overused analogy. No wonder it’s so popular; it describes the synopsis perfectly.

Sooner or later every one of us gets crushed by another that has a soul cage wrapped around them and we respond typically in our flesh – What we know instinctively.

Our first reaction is grief, but it doesn’t take too long for the wicked desire of revenge to explode from our heart like a snarling and fire breathing dragon. We retaliate sometimes and the fire used to pay back those that hurt us blown with vengeance from our hurting and twisted mouths, leaves us singed by our own poison.

Betrayal is grisly. As repulsive as it is, and we’re all quick to condemn the trespassers, we rarely stop to consider the monster in the mirror…

There’s another old saying that has some merit, “I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us…” While the quote isn’t fully accurate in that we’re duped by the real enemy of our souls, it makes the razor sharp point that we’re all fallen, even if that wasn’t the intent when that famous southern fella’ wrote it the first time.

We betray our Father daily with each sin. Maybe they’re not all out lies or deceit, but we’re deceiving ourselves if we think we’re above anybody else or our righteousness earns us a seat on a different boat… we’re all in the same one.

As our Father forgives betrayal, we too are called to forgive. If He forgives us, how can we not extend that trait that points to and proves we have His true love in us?

I don’t know when, but one of these days I believe the wind will return… and my sail and heart will be filled again. I pray yours will too…

 

ONCE AGAIN

once againRepost, edited from August of 2010

I tend to load my days like some folks do their luggage, you know, the kind you really need two suitcases for but are determined to get it all in one.

I was on the on the back edge of my schedule and slipping as I made my stops in between business calls and sometimes during them. I didn’t really have time in my schedule to eat, but I was “Starvin like Marvin.” Once again…

I went into a fast sit down greasy spoon right next to a gas station, both conveniently close to the interstate. I inhaled my food and headed for the door, on the phone, of course. I was putting out fires and setting sparks for new ones. Once again…

In the truck, down the road, headed to see my mom. You see, yesterday was her birthday. She lives in a not-as-small-as-it-used-to-be town where I grew up that is around 200 miles away from where we live now.

I was still on the phone when an unfamiliar alarm sounded… I’d never heard this sound before, but instinctively knew instantly what it was. It was the sound of regret… It was the sound of humiliation… It was the sound of the “low-level fuel alarm.”

With a new focus and a wildfire from nowhere, I put all my attention now on one thing, being rescued. Funny how priorities change so quickly in life… Once again…

My fast paced world would come to a complete stop in about 15 miles and 45 miles from the next small town and closest gas station, and yeah, the thought of the one beside the restaurant didn’t make it easier on my mind. There I sat, all four windows down, both passenger doors open to allow some cross breeze, feeling like a dumb kid… Once again…

Three hours is a long time to sit in the Arizona August sun, a fella can do some serious thinking in that amount of time. And it’s not like I would be catching any “Z’s” in the sweltering triple digit weather and with eighteen wheelers roaring and sending wind through the cab at hurricane speeds.

You might say this is an ugly place to be; surrounded by danger, civilization on one side that allow no mistakes at 75 miles per hour or more. Where the black top ends and the desert starts is what feels like “no man”s land,” my new home for three hours. About 15 feet from the black top is thick brush that graduates into trees. This is where the vicious and poisonous animals along with some varmints that the Southwest is famous for.

God has his ways of slowing us down. Although, I find those loaded semi’s and speeding cars on one side with the poisonous snakes and wild animals on the other, isn’t near as dangerous as trying to navigate this life without God’s guidance. Sometimes He uses those dangers in life to get our attention. He got mine. Once again…

I made a new schedule, one that started with a prayer. I watched a one foot long lizard-hunting for an early dinner before I spotted some big branches for targets in the trees and threw rocks trying to revive an old pastime. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, it felt pretty good. Once again…

After my overdue rescue, I was off, but not like before. God gave me a new perspective on my day and it didn’t include setting the cruise control to 10 over the legal limit or pass everything in sight.

The sun on those purple mountains on the other side of the lake are beautiful just before sunset. It was good to see them. Once again…

I made it to town just in time to take my mom and some of the family to dinner in celebration of her birthday.

After dinner, my mom and I talked, reminisced, and laughed. Once again…

It was good to slow down and catch up with my mom, the perfect ending to a perfect day. Funny how a perspective needs to be reset. Once again…

AMUSING ANGELS

Amusing AngelsEvery so often a mundane task becomes a fight against what seems like the impossible, like fighting unseen forces in the other realm. Like our mere existence is simply amusing angels. I figure I’ve been trudging the face of this planet long enough to know what I’m talkin’ about. For example; I’ve witnessed what looks like the wind toying with us mere mortals.

I know I’m not the only soul to have seen the poor sap bending at the waist to pick up the treasured piece of paper the wind snatched from them. Just as their fingers get a clamp on the page the perfect gust of wind pushes  it, usually ten to twenty yards away.

The wind never seems to carry it so far that all hope is lost and the quest to recover the thin treasure abandoned. It’s just close enough to encourage hot pursuit. The determined person sometimes walks swiftly, others jog, still some sprint toward the helpless paper. Then as they reach the rescue point the wind just happens to gust again sending their page up, up, and away.

The chase continues over and over until the desperate retriever begins to try to outwit the invisible foe. The next dash toward success ends with a stomp to the earth from the pursuit artist in hopes of pinning the paper before it’s stripped out of reach yet again.

I’ve watched this event too many times in life to recount. In fact, I’ve been the participant more times than I can recall to boot. I can tell you first hand that cursing the wind doesn’t help the situation at all… not to mention it really looks bad…

This morning I fought another invisible force as I dispensed, well, tried to dispense anyway, my vitamins. The tiny and perfectly round vitamin D capsules that are clear and golden in color decided to mess with me… or someone or something did.

I’ve been rolling vitamins out of their containers for so many decades that I’ve made an art out of it. A process of simplistic beauty and art in motion. One slight tip, the perfect snap and pulling back of the bottle and the little gem rolls out and into my hand alongside the other healthy participants in my boring game and ritual.

This morning I tipped, snapped, and two vitamins rolled out, “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. I rolled them back into the bottle and gave it another go. A repeat performance, “I’ll be?” I thought to myself and repeated the process only to have two more taunt me. Admitting defeat and fighting the clock, I tried to roll just one back into the bottle while clasping the others with my fingers pressed against my palm. Both golden balls rolled back into the bottle…

I stood there for another half a minute failing to retrieve one vitamin D over and over. “What the?” I mumbled out loud to myself.

I’m convinced of a few things, one; God gives His angels that watch over us some free rein in how they deal with us in this sometimes unexplainable life. Two; some angels get the short straws so to speak, take mine, for instance. And three; God has a sense of humor… or I didn’t really need a D vitamin that day…