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Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

Daily I’m reminded of this fact.

My soul’s three enemies:

The World

The Flesh

The Devil

The one I most constantly battle is The Flesh and its three agents:

Me

Myself

I

Try as I might, I am weak in the flesh.

Rom 7: (KJV)

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Romans 8:1-39 ESV — There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a promise!

God is Faithful! Even when we aren’t.

We sing about it:

🎶Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father

There is no shadow of turning with Thee

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me🎶

We talk about the faithfulness of God. But do we grasp it, and understand it and trust in Him as we ought? I’m guilty of forgetting and turning away from what I know of God’s nature. I too often look inward instead of remembering it is he that holds me, and not me who holds him. I have no power in myself to hold on… The Lord has all power (And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”)

Lamentations 3:21-24 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

God is faithful when we are not. 

Christian, God gave his only son in order to fulfill the Father’s perfect requirements for the redemption from sin in order that by his Grace we who are being saved can be called sons and daughters, in Christ Jesus.

Every day I need to be reminded of this.

The Gospel is not just a means to an end, it’s not merely the means of salvation, but it is the very essence of life in Christ. It is the foundation of life in Christ Jesus, and there is no life without it. 

We need to remind ourselves and one another of this truth daily, and worship El ’emunah, the Holy one who is Faithful.

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Anyone else like me?

I know whose I am but I often do not live like it. Take for instance, Life.

What is life? Is it just the living, the breathing, and being conscious? Yes, those are necessary in order to sustain life. 

But what is life?

Is life what we do? 

Is life who we are?

What is life?

When I was a younger man I didn’t think of these things. I took them for granted. I was…  therefore I was alive. And if alive then I had life. I never questioned what life actually was/is. So what is life? 

Genesis 1:26-27

¶Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

¶So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:7

…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

So…

All these years I have misunderstood what life was. I was under the delusion that life is about me. It’s actually about God. Just as I have misunderstood the Bible. It’s not the story of man but of God. Man is secondary. Man is the result of the will of God. Life is the result of the will of God. 

John 1:1-4

¶In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Are you beginning to see as I see?

Life is a gift of God. When one speaks of the sanctity of life this is what they are talking about. Life is not man’s to give and therefore it is not man’s to take unless according to God’s Law. 

Obviously I have much to learn about life.

At this point I see my learning is sorely lacking as to what life is and how I should regard it. I have only seen life as a series of circumstances and how they affect me personally. My life has been based on my reactions to the events of life and I haven’t stopped to think on what life is, and where life comes from. Right now I see through a cloudy, dimly lit, out of focus glass. I pray I will grow, mature and begin to see with more, and more clarity. 

Yesterday at church, Pastor Kyle mentioned that when we are in distress and need clarity (at least this is what I got from what he said) we should give thanks in everything, and for everything be thankful. That caused me to think of the most basic thing of all,”Life.” 

Now as scripture says, “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” we see life is literally, God breathed.

Later, in the Garden of Eden, man disobeyed God’s one command and became spiritually dead, becoming separated from Adonai through his sin. Thus Death entered the world. 

And so death reigns from then until now on the physical body. But God had, before creation, prepared for us a sacrificial lamb, without spot to take away our sin and restore us to himself: his son, Jesus, the Christ. 

John 14: 6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the LIFE*. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

(*Emphasis mine)

All of John 14 is Jesus’ witness to the Truth, of himself, and of the Father. 

Our restored life is in Jesus Christ, who is in the Father. 

Again, “life” is a gift from God.

Yet how lightly we esteem it. How flippantly we care for it… how often we neglect and abuse it as if it were our own. 

Anyone else with me?

Do you see what I see?

Do you understand what I’m trying to say?

God has to deal with me in degrees, as with an infant. I have to learn to crawl, and then walk before I can run. In this case I have a small taste of the truth and small understanding about life now. 

So here is something I was given earlier as I was thinking about all of this. How do I start my morning? What is the first thing I do when I wake up?

I reach for my phone.

I check in on the world before I recognize the very one I claim is Sovereign Lord over all Creation, Adonai.

What if I change that?

What if instead of reaching for my phone I would recognize Adonai first and as Kyle said, give thanks. What if a prayer of Thanksgiving was the first thing I do every morning?? How would that affect my day? How would that change my life? My approach to life?

I found this Prayer

Morning Prayer

I give thanks unto You, Adonai, that, in mercy, You have restored my soul within me. Endless is Your compassion; great is Your faithfulness. I thank You, Adonai, for the rest You have given me through the night and for the breath that renews my body and spirit. May I renew my soul with faith in You, Source of all Healing. Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who renews daily the work of creation.

Maybe seeing life as less about me, I will appreciate the life I have more… because I will see it for what it really is a gift from God. 

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So tonight I was looking over some of the things that Liz is having to go through to prepare for college now at my Alma Mater, UNCG.

Of course my brain started wandering down through the halls of time dragging up memories. And I really tried, but I don’t have any really good memories. One or two half decent ones but it’s mostly just a blur. I have a few good Memories of Little League Baseball. But even they are overshadowed by the bad ones and my failures both on and off the field. Sports in general were not good to me. I did have a perfect record going in wrestling in highschool but then I won one.  (Actually it was a forfeit) Eventually I did legitimately win a match.  It was a bitter victory because it hit me that there was a bigger loser than me out there.  I kept thinking, “how bad do you have to be in order to be beaten by me??”

For the life of me I can’t dredge up more than a handful of good memories. Fishing and hunting with Bill Harris are a few. Camping out in the woods, eating Beanie Weenies and farting all night with the four guys I grew up with, (two sets of brothers and me an only child… Keith and Greg, Bill and Craig) too bad we drifted apart. Rather I drifted away. 

I was always so busy trying to get to the next stage in life… I never really lived life to the fullest where I was at.  Now, as the song says:

“The friends I made all seemed somehow to drift away

And only I am left on stage to end the play”

My children are all adults now. Yes, 18 is young but she’s still an adult and I’ll treat her as such. I have found people tend to rise (or fall) to the expectations you set for them. Treat them as adults they will be adults. Treat them as weak victims…they will become weak victims. 

Reminds me of another song:

“Where do we go from here now that all of the children have grown up

And how do we spend our time knowin’ nobody gives us a damn”

Socrates at his trial said, 

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

I would also include the life that has been examined and found wanting is also not worth living. It’s merely an existence to be endured. 

So, as I look back, all I can see are the pot holes, the overgrowth, the failures, and nothing of worth. I never knew how to live so I’m saddled with a current mediocre existence bent on the necessary before the good, and the immediate rather than the best. 

And before I get sermonized, I get it. See, this is my lot in life. This is where I am, where I’m supposed to be. And I am trying to come to terms with my place in life. 

Yes, I know who I am “in Christ Jesus,” that does not change who I am, and where I’m at in life. One is spiritual, the other is in the flesh or physical. My salvation does not change my past, put rose colored glasses on my past or improve my past. The facts of my past, and my rembrance of my past remain unchanged.

So tonight I waded through the wastelands of my memories hoping to find a few good memories to salvage and all I can come up with are counting the weenies in the beanies and all night farting contests. That’s about par for my life. 

C’est la vie, c’est la guerre

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I’ve told the story “Tears Unbidden” regarding the death of my father, this is the story about Mom’s passing.

Mom passed on Friday, July 21st, 2006. This is the story that led up to her home going.

After dad died in ’77 mom grieved hard, very hard. There were days, that to tell the truth, I don’t know what kept her going. For the better part of the following year, every day I would come in from school and would find her sitting at the dining room table crying her eyes out. I had lost my dad and in some respects I had lost my mom there for a while. Often she would tell me that the only thing that kept her going was me …that if it wasn’t for me that she would just as soon die and leave this world so she could be with my dad and with Jesus, her savior, in heaven. I know that she was trying to give me comfort or something, but the way that she presented it was pretty rough to deal with at that time. So for at least a year it was very sad existence.

She finally decided that she needed to go to work and do something to get her mind off of her grief, because the way she was going was not healthy. She had the skills to work in the office, because that’s what she did before she got married and became a housewife and stay at home mother, but she chose to take on physical work so that she could work herself numb to where she could just come home and collapse. More than once she told me that she chose to do physical labor in the school cafeteria as a way to work herself to exhaustion so that when she came home she would be too tired to grieve. Unfortunately that’s not the way that it worked out she was exhausted and she continued to grieve.

In the meantime, I graduated high school, went on to college, went in the Marine Corps, and got married. The last year of my enlistment I got a call from mom saying that they had found cancer and she was going to have to have treatments. In 1991 the Marine Corps gave me a humanitarian transfer closer to home so that I could be near to help get her to her treatments and doctor visits. That was a fairly rough year on all of us. We didn’t realize the consequences of the treatment that she took and how that would affect her there at the end. The radiation treatments caused arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, from about the middle of her stomach down through her pelvis and down to just above the knee on both legs. She had surgerical replacement of the damaged arteries that would come into play at the end.

Thankfully she beat that round of cancer and was around for many years… so we fast forward to about 2003-2004. This time the diagnosis was lung cancer. Surgery was performed and they took out about half of her right lung in order to get the cancer. Things looked pretty good for a while. Unfortunately lung cancer is a b**** and you may beat it in the lung but it has a tendency to either go up into the brain or down into other vital organs. In Mom’s case it settled in the adrenal gland at the kidneys. Mom quickly developed renal failure and was put on dialysis. I can tell you with out reservation, because mom made it very clear, how much she detested being on dialysis. She got to the point where she actually made me promise her that if things got worse that I would not let her die at dialysis if it was at all possible. She begged me to not let her die at dialysis.

As the cancer progressed, and the renal failure took its toll she began having other complications, namely, that just below the arterial replacement on the left leg her own artery collapsed and her left leg was dying on her. If you have never seen that happen to a person you cannot imagine the amount of pain that they have, because the blood supply is no longer getting to where it should, we literally watched as her foot begin withering and dying on her. By this time hospice and palliative care had been called in to give us a hand but Mom was a very independent woman and she absolutely refused to go into hospice care at their facility. Another conversation that mom had with me was that I was not to allow them to carry her to the hospital or there to hospice care because she wanted to die at home. She did not want to die in a hospital, she did not want to die at dialysis, she wanted to die at home. And to the best of my ability I saw that her wishes were carried out.

After much pleading with the doctors regarding pain management of her left leg the doctors finally scheduled a surgery to put a stint in to open the artery back up so that she would have blood flow restored to that leg. At the time the doctors were not sure that she would even survive surgery but the pain was so bad that surgery was the only option. Mom was given the option of either the stint (the doctor gave it less than 50% chance of success) or they could do an amputation and take the leg off but she would probably still have phantom pain even if they took the leg off. The doctors had serious reservations about her even surviving that surgery. At the time I did not fully understand why they were not helping her more, but looking back I now understand that they just didn’t want to tell me that she was that close to death. The stint surgery went well and she pulled through and did much better with pain management after that. Unfortunately, she had some recovery problems and was in the ICU for a while and that was always fun with mom because she did not do well on high-powered pain medications especially if they were opioids and caused hallucinations …we had some interesting evenings with the ICU staff and Mom.

Eventually, she was well enough to come home and the pain was manageable, she was no longer in that awful moment by moment pain that she had before. But she took constant care, I had already been living over there at night and Tammy was dropping the kids off at school and coming over and helping her out until time to go get the kids from school and then we passed in the evenings and she went home to take care of the kids as I got off work and took care of Mom. That’s just the way mom wanted it… she didn’t want non-family taking care of her… that’s just the way she was. And when she would talk to other family members she was very chipper and she played her pain and her her problems very close to the chest, if you just talked to her on the phone you wouldn’t know that she was in the pain that she was in, and… you wouldn’t have known that she was as close to death as she was.

Which brings us to the evening of Wednesday June the 19th. The hospice nurses had told us that week, if Mom did not want to go to dialysis that was fine, because it was her choice and that she shouldn’t be made to go to dialysis if she didn’t want to. We didn’t realize things were so close to the end. I did not read between the lines and understand they were saying things were really close now.

That Wednesday evening mom spilled her drink sitting on the couch and got it all over herself and the floor, I knew something was up. Looking back I’m fairly certain that she had a stroke. We cleaned her up and we were able to get her back to bed and let her get some rest and sleep. The next morning she didn’t wake up normally and as we were talking to the hospice nurses they said that it’s time to call the family in. So I started making phone calls to let everyone know that if they wanted to say goodbye to Mom they probably needed to get here. Kasey and Daniel were on a church youth trip and we got a hold of the youth pastor and let him know that they needed to be brought back home as soon as possible. They made it back that afternoon of the 20th. The friends and family there on that Thursday got to see her rally. Sometime after noon, when everyone was in the room, she woke up. The kids were there and she was telling everybody that she loved them and it seemed like she was in good spirits but the hospice nurse told me on the side, that this is a rally …this is her saying goodbye to her loved ones. In fact she was in such good spirits that everyone left that evening thinking that there would be more time.

About 1:00 in the morning the hospice nurse came in and woke me up. She said that it was about time, that mom was having a very hard time breathing, her heart rate was all over the place, she was very agitated, very labored, and if I had anything I wanted to say I should say it.

The hearing is the last thing that we lose just before death, no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise. I went into the room and her breathing was very labored and she was fighting …you could tell she was fighting, so I started talking to her and knowing that her favorite song was, “Amazing Grace” I began singing it to her. The hospice nurse joined in and we sang “Amazing Grace” to Mom.

(Whew, this is tough to get through, I can’t see the keyboard)

By the time we got to the third verse, mom’s breathing changed, it was much less labored and she was no longer fighting. We sang it again along with several more songs that I knew she loved (I can’t remember what they were now but we just had Church right there that evening.) The Spirit of God with there in that room, that’s the only way I can explain it. That evening I was able to say everything that I needed to say to my mama, there were no shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. One of the last things I told her was that she could go ahead, it was time to let go, there was nothing holding her here and she can let go of this world with all the pain, all the suffering, all the heartache… and she could go home. That no matter how long I had left on this Earth, I’d be along directly. That I would do everything I could to make sure her grandchildren came along as well. At that moment I knew she had peace. I gave her a kiss, and told her I loved her. It was about 3:00 in the morning and I was wore out so I went and laid back down for a little while, then about 6:00am the nurse came back in and woke me back up, telling me, “your mom is gone.”

Mom had gone home to be with her Lord and Savior. For those who didn’t live that last year with mom, especially those last six months, you could never understand my reaction to Mom passing. I was glad for her! She was beyond the pain, the suffering, and the hurt of this world. Yes, I was rejoicing about her home going because I knew what it meant. I couldn’t cry then. That moment she passed from this world she was truly alive… More alive than she’d ever been in her life and I could not grieve that. She went home and I celebrated that. My tears flow freely now, but even now the tears of joy out number the tears of my loss.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

(if you want to know more about this peace, this joy, and the reason I celebrate my mom’s passing with joy I’d be happy to talk to you about it. It’s all about the Good News found in Jesus, the Christ. )

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As a young child growing up in the 60s there were things that excited me.
The drive-in theaters, car hops, Christmas (yes Ebeneezer Grinch was excited by Christmas as a child), Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving (in fact all the holidays), my birthdays, School, summer vacation , Vacation Bible School, Ice Cream trucks, Baseball games at Ernie Shore Field, The Dixie Classic Fair, and just riding in the car with my family, while perched on the “hump,” elbows on the back of the front seat, and watching the world go by through the front windshield.  (back before the government found the revenue stream in  mandatory seat-belt laws)  Times were simpler and there was still a little wonder and awe left in the world.

This was back in the day before the lawyers and licensing fees killed using nationally recognized characters in local advertising runs.  You can see a nod to that in the movie, “A Christmas Story” where the “Wonderful World of OZ” characters get in a tiff with Mickey Mouse and Disney Characters in the Parade.   In the 60s you could see plenty of it in local advertising. It was a tit-for-tat where the local guy got some recognition from using a nationally known character and the parent company got free publicity for their characters which they re-released every eight or nine years.   Which brings us to the item at hand.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was re-released in 1967.  I was 4 years old at the time and I don’t remember if I saw it at the Drive-in or the indoor theater.  But it was about that time that the houses, and plywood cut-outs of Snow White and the Dwarfs showed up in a clearing at the corner of Silas Creek Pkwy and Reynolda Rd. I remember I would get so excited to see them when we drove out that way.  Eventually  it became a yearly Christmas tradition for our family to go drive by and see the little houses decked out for Christmas.  There was a Blue house, a Yellow house, I believe a Red on and a Green one?? or maybe one of them was white?  Any-who, it was a landmark in Winston-Salem in the late 60s – early 70s.

This past fall I caught a glimpse of  them one day when driving down Reynolda Road and told myself I needed to stop in and document what I could before they were torn down or completely rotted away. Today I made it a point to stop and go take some pics.  I parked over in Reynolda Village and crossed Reynolda Road at one of the busiest times of the day but it didn’t matter,  I was on a mission to visit a piece of my childhood 46 years after the fact.

 

It was surreal as I stood there looking at the little houses that had so fascinated me as a little boy.  As I took photos the memories of those drive by encounters with the houses and  characters I had seen as a child kept flooding my memories. Now, here I was visiting them for the first time almost a half century later.  I was a bit shocked, and excited to see one lone character still keeping guard over the little buildings, a Christmas choir boy.  It was as if live wire was laid across my memories recharging them and given them new life.  There he was, just as I remembered the Christmas scene from so long ago.  I did not disturb him.  I merely captured him for posterity.

 

These days, I find myself reminiscing more and more.  I have more days behind me than I do ahead and my mind seeks refuge from the  storms of modernity.  I know I can’t go back but I find comfort in the past… my past.  Times were just a bad, but our response to them was different.  I wasn’t old enough at the time to  understand Viet Nam, the Civil Rights movement, and the sexual revolution.  I only knew my family and the good times we shared in taking a simple drive every so often to view and to share in the  art of someone’s handiwork, who had created a visual fantasy that a small boy found joy in seeing… and an old man enjoyed finally meeting face to face.

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Tonight I did something I’ve never done before on social media, I lost it and went off on a rant. I’m so tired of the selective memory and selective outrage from everyone about everything.  And I’m afraid that is what the social engineers are hoping for in order to further divide and tear down our society.   I fear the damage is already done and we are on the edge of the collapse of American culture.

For years we have been pitted against one another, black on white on brown on red on yellow … male v female, old v young, haves v have-nots, Republicans v Democrats, Atheists v Christian, Muslim v Christian,   everyone v Christian.  Christian v Christian.  You name it, if you can put a label on it then they are against someone or someone is against them.  And we just sat back and let it happen. We as a people were more worried about our comfort, our ease or our entertainment, our statuses, our … mundane crap.  We let it happen to us.

Edward Bernays pegged it right in his book “Propaganda“:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
      We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

That’s hard to hear but one only need look at our society these days.   Social media has already been caught experimenting with the social media networks so it is not some conspiracy theory or theoretical fantasy. We have all fallen victim of our own personal biases and with the ubiquitous tool of social media we want to proselytize as many other to our way of thinking as we possibly can.  Of course each of us believe that we are in the right and that we are the open minded ones… therefore we cannot be wrong.

I feel it may be time to leave social media for an extended sabbatical.  I can see that I have been affected by the constant barrage of social network activism from both sides.

The war is upon us.

We have met the enemy

…and he is us.

 

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It was like going back in time, that’s only the 2nd time I’ve been back there in 38 years.  The memories were so thick I couldn’t process it all, I was overwhelmed. Standing there on the soil that had shaped so much of my childhood.   I could hear the sounds of days gone by, smell the hot dogs cooking at the snack bar, hear the banter on the fields, feel my cleats digging in at the plate, the pitch, the swing, the ring of my favorite old red, aluminum bat as it made contact,  the feel of it, knowing I got all of that one as I head down the line towards first.  So many Saturdays were spent on those fields. I got choked up seeing they honored my old coach, Bob Dalton, by naming the complex after him.

So many memories both good and bad flood my head.  The feelings that accompany those memories are coming at me to fast to process.   I stand there under the now giant oak trees and remember they were only saplings back then.   My dad stood along the fence over there and…  I have to leave before I start crying.  Everyone knows there’s no crying in baseball.  phillips-bridgeIt’s all I can do to choke back the memories, and the emotions that accompany them.

To my son, I apologize for being so damned selfish, and disguising it as righteous holier-than-thou religious bullshit in not allowing you to have the memories I have from playing baseball. I hope you can forgive such a selfish old man.

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Ever have an epiphany?
I just did, I had a freaking crap storm of them.
It just dawned on me that in my youth I never expected to live to see my 35th Birthday so I never planned on anything after that. Nothing.
Zip, ziltch, nada.
No financial plan, no career plan, no retirement plan. Just work until I die… so, according to my original calculations I should have not made it to 35. Then my adjusted calculations said I’d never make 45 since my dad died at 44. Yeah, that came and went as well. The final calculations begin this year when I hit 54, the same as as my Grandfather when he died. (and please, nobody give me the whole “it’s in God’s hands” spiel. I know it as well as anyone because I’m still freaking here)
Yep, here I am. Here I am…indeed.
Funny how life doesn’t go according to plan eh?
Epiphany #2 is this: If things are never going to change.. why waste the effort in attempting to make a change? (and please spare me the the self-help, self actualizing crap about, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” philosophy. Nope, don’t believe that any longer either.)
Time is not on my side, there is more behind me now than there is in front of me, and all the best is in the rear view. There may be some good days here and there in what’s ahead but, it will be neither quantity nor quality and that’s just the facts. That’s not pity talking, it is reality. And that was Epiphany #3.

So, here’s to the days ahead. I know not what they bring. I’ll face them one at a time, and make the most of what is left, with what I have left. A job (yeah ,yeah, yeah… I’m thankful for it… but I hate it) that sucks the joy out of me. A neglected body that will probably never recover from the damage done to this point. And an attitude (and PLEASE don’t lecture me about attitude and how I can change it! I’ve lived with it this long so I’m f-ing comfortable with it.) I tried to reprogram for the past four years and I’m just tired of trying. Life’s too short to eat crab legs… too much effort and not enough reward. Just do what is comfortable and hope for the best.

And that’s it for now.  I’m just weary, bone freaking weary.

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While recuperating I am trying to return to reading more and getting back to learning.
I am finding that reading is a discipline akin to working out. It requires a concerted effort to guide my mind back into “reading mode.” Much like returning to running after years of non-running where my body had forgotten “how to” run, I find my mind has grown fat and lazy.  It prefers the junk food found in social media rather than the solid nutrition found in literature, art, and story.  So then, my “exercise” regime is to ease my mind back into reading.
I find my mind is hungry for substance, for ideas, for things that will cause me to grow rather than waste away on the junk food found in our technological cornucopia of social media and instant infotainment.  I find myself wondering if I have waited too long to get back to learning?  Am I too old?  Is it too late?  No!
No.  It is a matter of discipline.  It will take work, and it will not be easy.  There are many distractions in this day of instant internet and entertainment access.  It was an epiphany to realize that I had allowed myself to become seduced by easy technology, to be ensnared by the entertainment at my fingertips in the device I now carry with me everywhere I go.  My mind has become addicted to soundbite, to bumper sticker snippets and click-bait headlines.  All fluff and no substance.
  I have therefore decided to impose some self discipline and require myself to read for at least one hour each day.   In practicing that today, my mind realized the shallowness  of what I have been consuming for far too long and it realized the emptiness of time wasted in cheap entertainment pursuits with which I have intoxicated myself. Cheap entertainment pursuits that require no thought have left my mind numb and in desperate need of more nourishing substance.  
I hope to incorporate more classical literature in my routine as well as my mind training progresses.  I just know that at this moment my mind is starving for something more that the mind numbing dribble that I’ve been feeding it for the past several years.  It’s not too late to begin again and learn.  It’s not too late to feed my mind and soul.

In the words of one of my favorite movies I offer this quote:
“…while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.”
So, I begin… again.

On tap for now:

“On Writing Well”  William Zinsser
“Wabi Sabi for Writers”   Richard R Powell
“The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense”   Suzette Haden Elgin
“Finding your Perfect Work”    Paul and Sarah Edwards
“Pierre or, The Ambiguities”  Herman Melville
“Brain Power: practical ways to boost your memory, creativity and thinking capacity”   Laureli Blyth
“30 Steps to Becoming a Writer and Getting Published”   Scott Edelstein
“The Bible”   ESV study translation

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My story would begin in darkness though not total darkness but not romantic moonlit darkness either.   It would be more the darkness that accompanies a storm.   The kind that diffuses the the light and casts strange shadows across the land.  The kind that causes the street lamps to come on at mid-day.
I stand at the gate looking out at the road that lies before me, uncertain which direction to go from here.  Do I open the gate and step through?   Or do I run back  to the porch and ride out the storm in the relative comfort of  the crumbling structure I am  seeking to escape?   Do I stay until the bitter end?
I stand at the gate and look back.  Indecision has me paralyzed and the storm is increasing in intensity.   I feel the  wind at my back and it causes me to shiver.  I adjust my collar and huddle down to make myself a smaller target for the chill breeze and once again turn to look at the road before me just a step beyond the gate.
I stand at the gate and my eyes search for any sign of direction.   Off in the distance I see rays of sunlight that quickly retreat into shadow as I watch, teasing me with hope that is transient and elusive.    I’m too old to go chasing after “maybes” and “what-ifs.”  I need a sure thing.  Yet I realize how unreasonable and unrealistic that standard is.  There are no “sure things” and to make that a requirement will only keep me paralyzed with indecision.
I stand at the gate…

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