REPOST from August 2011

At the age I am now, right or wrong, I generally figure I’ve pretty much seen it all. Things rarely happen in my life that take me by surprise. When the unexpected happens, I react without too much emotion. I’ve usually been there, done that, bought the hat…

No win situation

image courtesy wikipedia

Occasionally though, I get thrown the metaphorical curveball or changeup. Even then, with years of practical experience dealing with surprises, I’m rarely left struggling with what the right course of action to take might be.

That was not the rare case this particular Sunday. It was a no win situation. While out of town we found a friendly little church a few years back while on vacation. We try to make it a point to attend if we have time between travels even now.

We were sitting about four rows back on the south side of the church closest to the front door, which is typically my style. There were only a couple of rows behind us. Several minutes after the service started a very elderly man shuffled into the church, having a more legitimate use for a cane than anybody I’ve witnessed.

As the latecomer eyed the seat directly in front of me, he hobbled, lost a bit of balance and bumped into me, helping to keep him upright. The elderly gentleman settled into the seat directly in front of me.

I knew that my new neighbor wasn’t going to be doing any standing for praying or singing… The old guy knew everyone. When the worship leader invited everyone to greet one another, I think every single person in the church came by to greet him.

Though frail, I can’t remember a person singing with as much enthusiasm as the old timer. I’m not sure if the old guy knew he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket or not. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have mattered to him one way or the other. Just one of the gifts of being very elderly, I’ve heard.

The old fella had long, past his shoulders scraggly hair extending from the sides of his head with a worn, sun-spotted, round, bald spot on top. When I shook his hand during the greeting portion of the service I found he lacked no grip strength.

During the middle of the service, while glancing either down or up, to or from my Bible, something caught my eye on the old guy’s faded black windbreaker. I first thought it was a fly. It quickly crawled from under his collar, just above his left shoulder, and as I saw it- then did a double take, it moved quickly around the top of the old guy’s back and over his right shoulder, where it disappeared from my view.

After it was out of sight I realized what it was… It was black, about a size and a half bigger than a horse-fly with short, quick, legs. It was hard to spot immediately due to its color and my mind not expecting it… It was a black spider…

There I was, at a loss for what to do or how to react. It was a foreign feeling to me now. I knew the spider wasn’t a black widow, but I wasn’t completely positive it wasn’t poisonous.

In a church where no one knows me, I’m not sure how they would have reacted if I’d gotten up and announced something like, “OK – TIME OUT – I’ve spotted a black spider on the old guy in front of me! – I think you’ll find the culprit hiding under his collar!”

Their first thought would possibly have been that I was some kind of demon-possessed weirdo. What if they searched and the spider had got away? They certainly would have asked me to leave with my family…

I thought about using my bulletin as a spider swatter, but what if I slapped a little too hard and broke a bone on the old guy? No – That wouldn’t do. Even if I slapped at him to shoo the spider away it may have startled the old guy and caused him to have a heart attack!

This was a no-win proposition. What did I do? … I didn’t do anything except keep an eye out for the church going spider…

Then I prayed for the old man’s protection…

It’s all I could think of. Maybe that’s the problem with many of us…

We wait until there’s nothing else to do, but pray…


“Are you kiddin’ me?” I asked myself the rhetorical question. I knew good and well the answer to the question; it was a resounding “No!” Not a major event, I was more aggravated than anything else. Sometimes being agitated with ourselves is worse than with others.

As I took the Bluetooth out of my ear, before I stashed it and my phone out of the sight of bad folks, I remembered that I’d forgotten my I-Pod… yet again.

I’d been out of town and had tucked my tiny jukebox in my briefcase, but I’d been back in town for almost a week. That was my third trip to the gym musicless.

The crazy part is that it is a big deal for me to have music when I workout – monumental actually. But once I’m done, my priorities fade like a vapor.

I sat in my truck, an older version of my younger self, so much time, so different, so much more wisdom… and yet so much still the same kid, just added pounds and wrinkles.

I flashed back to high school, the first year of it, P.E. class. Showering was mandatory and the P.E. coach stood guard to enforce the rule. At the time, I couldn’t imagine such a horrid job. Over three decades later and the job seems even worse.

Are You Kiddin' Me

image courtesy of Amazon.com

I developed a habit back then when it comes to showering. Not the showering part, the drying off part.

It didn’t take too long for me to forget my towel. I didn’t need one for football practice, they handed them out, but P.E. was a different story.

It was usually when I was getting dressed out for P.E. when I would realize I’d forgotten my towel yet again. It was a massive inconvenience to shower without the advantage of a towel to dry off. I was sure I’d remember the towel that night for the next day… which rarely happened.

Because I forgot my towel so often when I was a kid, I still use my hands like a squeegee on my torso, arms, and legs to wring off the excess water when I shower now. Those years of trying to pull dry clothes over a wet body have stuck with me.

We learn, for the most part, to get around our weaknesses and tendencies. If I don’t want to forget something, I put it in front of door so I’ll trip over it. We create systems to outwit ourselves and to make life easier on us, as well as make us more efficient.

I’ve learned with the aggravating weaknesses we possess, we also have the flip side of that which is our strengths, or the gift’s were given.

We get the occasional setback to remind us where we came from. And with enough time we learn our strengths can become our weaknesses and our weaknesses our strengths.

It could be that when we pose the question, “Are you kiddin’ me?” To ourselves, It’s God reminding us of who we are… and Who He is.


“Play hit the wode, Jack, again,” she squealed from the backseat of my truck. She was young, real young, before she could say her “R’s”. My youngest meant “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles. I’d press the back button on the CD player, yet again, and we’d sing it together, “No more, no more, no more, no more, Hit The Road Jack, and don’t you come back no mooooooooooore.”

She’s not so different than her dad when it comes to music. She’s always loved it. At that age, she had her favorites. Along with that Ray Charles song, she loved “Me and you a Dog Named Boo”, by Lobo, the best.

image courtesy of kat45.com

Of course, that time in our lives sailed by like an Amtrak train at full speed, us more than the kids. All the girls taste in music has changed. They’re not so different than all of us that have grown up in the Rock-N-Roll decades.

The older girls have mellowed much quicker than I did. The youngest still likes her music with an edge… not sure where she gets that…

Everything changes because we change. One of the many ignorant declarations I made in my youth was that I’d never own a four-door car. I was young enough that the kids never heard it.

Admittedly, cars with four doors have come a long way from the days of stations wagons, Pontiac Catalina’s, and Chevy Caprices… What hasn’t changed is my passion for stylish cars. Even if they do have four doors.

We are who we are; the tastes, passions, and desires God born us with.

The oldest has a thing for sporty cars, stylish ones. Although now as a mother of two her motherly instincts have taken over. Proof of that was when she sent her Mustang packing and rounded up an SUV. Our middle daughter is more practical, always has been. She prefers her hybrid car… hard to grasp…
The youngest like cars too, but her taste is for most things nostalgic. She has dibs on my old muscle car.

The things we love or the things we crave, and it can be anything, not just cars or music, can be used against our weak flesh. When the things of this earth become more dear to us than the One who caused or allowed them, a wake up call is coming. I know. My neck hurts from being snapped back to attention.

Our youngest and I compare music, usually when she’s home from college. I wasn’t at all surprised when I found out she was going to be the DJ on Friday afternoons at the college radio station.

Music is one of her passions. In time I think her tastes will change, but till then I’ll tune in.

You can catch her online too at ASU, “The Blaze”, Fridays from 3:oo to 4:00 pm.

I’ll admit I was proud to hear her sweet voice over the airwaves. Maybe if you too request it, we can get her to play “Hit The Road Jack”. She smiles every time she hears it… always will.


Some people call it “Old School”. Some dub the actions “Old Fashioned”. Still, others use adjectives like “Stupid” to describe things like I did a couple weeks back.

I’m no stranger to the dreaded sound and feel of flapping and lifeless rubber. I’ve had my share of flats and blowouts. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it always seems to happen in the summertime.

Being out of water and starvin’ like Marvin, I had one continuous thought in my head before my tire gave up the ghost, “I can’t wait to get home”. Isn’t that just how it goes?

I limped my truck backward into a parking space to assess the damage. The big ole chrome rim was resting on the asphalt with only the rubber between the two. I shook my head and grimaced. The tires were almost brand new… and they don’t offer any blue light specials on those tires.

Did I mention that I was hot, tired, and thirsty? I had to make a decision; call someone to come out and slap my spare tire on, which could take awhile. Or, get my hands dirty and do it myself.

I’m not sure if it was my thirst and hunger that drove my thought process or it was my cynical worldview that knows when someone says, “They’ll be right there”, can mean two hours.

What I know for sure is that people forget things. We lose perspective about the details in our memory.

I didn’t give a thought to still being affected by a back surgery gone south earlier this year. It didn’t take long to remember just how cumbersome it is to change a tire. Starting with playing hide and seek with the pieces bolted all over the vehicle. I didn’t use the answer book called “The Owners’ Manual” to locate the jack, the lug wrench, accessories, including the special adapter key sockets for the custom lug nuts and locking nut to keep bad folks honest.

after the ordeal

Why is it smart engineers can’t figure out how to keep all the pieces in one place? Or why Google videos are wrong? Or why I can’t stand to see a dirty Owners’ Manual?

With sweat blinding me and dropping like rain on the August Arizona asphalt, I asked myself in silence, “Who really needs a rim this wide or a tire this tall?”

By the time I finally had the truck jacked up, had wrestled the gargantuan tire out of the way, hoisted the spare off the back and was grunting to get it up onto the lugs, all the time fighting the sweat and pain in my back, I had regret.

A millennium later, after I had put all the pieces back in their random hiding places, it came time to deadlift and sling the bulky two hundred pound tire up into the back of the truck. I confirmed with myself that I wasn’t old school. I was stupid.

Generally speaking, God gives people wisdom with age. In some instances, “Old School” is a fancy way of saying that a person either doesn’t use that wisdom or doesn’t have it…


There’s something magical about all tools. It’s not just the innovation or convenience of a tool, there’s more to it. It’s fascinating how with much time, diligence, and practice with a tool, they become extensions of the user. A person that masters a tool is a sight and or sound to behold.

A tool, regardless of the type, has a distinct look in the hands of someone who has mastered it. And a tool, at least the way I define it, isn’t always made for building or fixing something.

My dad took up golfing later in life, but that didn’t keep him from becoming proficient with the tools of that trade. He golfed his age more than once in his early seventies. I wasn’t as good with the tools of golf clubs. I was better at using the putter like a pick axe and the driver like a non-returning boomerang.

It goes without saying, but tools can be abused and used in ways they were never intended.

My good friend’s dad was a mason. He could make mortar magic with his trowel. It was mesmerizing to watch him work and he could nearly crush rocks with his left hand from gripping 8x8x16’s his whole life.

all tools

At home in my hand

Even after decades removed from using it regularly, there’s still something that feels like home to me when I grip a rugged framing hammer. I couldn’t begin to count the number of thumb and finger nails lost in the quest to master that most basic of tools; my hammer.

There are no shortcuts in mastering a tool that is an extension of our body – when it’s used for its intended purpose.

Like most of you reading, I like the feel of a pen or pencil in my hand. A pencil for designing homes and a pen for writing. I also don’t mind the feel of this keyboard, when my typing and mind isn’t in a funk.

I’m not sure I’ll ever master anything quite as well as I did that framing hammer, but there’s honor in trying – provided the tools are being used for their intended means.

The problem with all tools is that they’re in the hands of folks that live in a fallen world.

I was barely in double digits when I started being taught how to drive. It’s a culture thing for folks that hail from the South. Driving was more than aiming a car down the road. You had to be able to take off uphill, with a clutch, and not roll backward an inch. We also had to be able to handle a car in a power slide on a curved dirt road. (It’s a hillbilly thing).

A car is a great tool, but a dangerous one. Like all tools, the automobile gets misused. I’m guilty. I speed way more than I should… but I never used my hammer for a weapon. Like cowards are now using cars to kill people.

All tools in the hands and minds of wicked people can be used as weapons. God help us.