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Archive for September, 2012

We always try to arrive early for the annual Fourth of July Parade in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It’s a great affair and there’s a lot to see. If you get there late, the choice curbside seats are all gone. Mind you, I don’t have anything against the sweaty bald headed seven-foot guy in front of me. But I hate to miss the vets marching, the firemen doing cartwheels and the Bub family dressed in colonial garb in the fife and drum band.

I recently attended another parade as part of the Founder’s Day celebration in Lee, Massachusetts. I got there early and set up our exhibit table in the town square. New England charm at its best, I thought.

Next, I headed up Main Street and noticed that crowds were coming armed with folding chairs and blankets. I thought, “That’s what I should be doing before all the good seats get taken.”

There was only one small problem with my thinking. I was IN the parade. Details, details.

Occasionally, I catch myself looking at others who have positioned themselves very well so they don’t miss the parade of life marching along. I forget that there is a place for me that’s been assigned by the Organizer of the festivities.

Whenever I get tempted to comparison shop for a spot on life’s Main Street, I’ve just got to relish my place in the parade. 

I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than walking in the parade, seeing the front of the tall guy and bringing a smile to some parents and their kids who still cherish the idea of receiving some free Snickers Bars from a guy who has found his place at Founder’s Day.

BELOW: LEFT, LINING UP IN PARADE. RIGHT: AUTUMN’S FIRST DAY IN NEW ENGLAND.

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The Shutterbug

ImageIn journalism, professors and editors teach that the greatest bang for a photographic buck is either a pic of a kid or an animal, or, to really hit the bonanza, a kid WITH an animal.

Anyone who spends time with children believes that the quintessential shot is just one click away. Drawing from the holster, a smart phone can make even me look pretty smart.

Snap, snap, snap. The little ones are irresistible. Is it because of genetics? Being a proud parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sib or whatever lends itself to shooting from the hip.

As I hung out in the playground with my grandchildren today, I realized that every moment was a photo op. It wasn’t that there would be any particular frame that puts them over the top. I love them. Therefore, there aren’t any bad times, angles or expressions. Well, maybe a few temperamental times. Sigh.

I couldn’t help think of God’s perspective and how He sees His kids. Scripture defines His “children” in this way: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

He’s always with us. What does He see? It’s just one photo op after another. The interesting thing is that children don’t inherently know how much joy they are bringing to their doting admirers. But adults should know what the bible says about us as His children. “He will take great delight in you…He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

He must be quite a shutterbug.

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“Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home.” Hebrews 11:8 (The Message)

Can you say, “Oxymoron?”

For the sake of brevity, let’s tag “unknown place” as “UP.”

Home is supposed to be the cozy-couch, logs-in-the-fireplace, two-cats-in-the-yard, warm bath, kiss-goodnight place. A kingdom so intimate that If a mouse embezzled a crumb, we would miss it.

How could a loving God, who knows our love affair with familiarity and comfort, call us to UP? The Pat answer is that God is our home. What’s the interest rate on Pat’s home?

When I first started writing full-time, I was already acquainted with pens, typewriters, word processors, desktops, laptops, and I Phone’s “Notes.” (No, I don’t date back to quills.) But everything else was unfamiliar. I mean everything. It’s a blank screen versus Lewis and Clarke.

No writing instructor could possibly bring you to or prepare you for UP. In fact, many “teach” that you must first think about your audience before you tap your first key. Loads of integrity there for the writing pilgrim. I thought I signed up for English, not Marketing.

If I’m ever asked to teach a class on writing, I am coming well prepared with a bunch of blank pieces of paper to hand out. That’s about all I know.

I guess UP is all about faith. It’s what the ancients were commended for. They believed, therefore they are (were?).

As a writer, I would have expected God to “write” some directions to UP – whether with a quill or on a stone tablet. Well, if Abraham didn’t get any and still said yes, I suppose I’m down for UP.

PLAQUE ABOVE MY TYPEWRITER, I MEAN LAPTOP. I GUESS I MADE IT…UP

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SEE CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH LIVE SING “OUR HOUSE” WITH TWO CATS IN THE YARD, OF COURSE. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZtJWJe_K_w

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Focus On The Flag

Most of us have seen the flag being torn down on 9/11 at the US embassy in Egypt.

For some, September 11 is a deeply emotional time. Those of us who live near New York City literally reside  in the shadow of that horrific memory.

During election time, some will use this and spin it one way or another. But my purpose is to focus on the flag.

At the edge of most debates about our founding fathers are the claims of deism versus theism or that many were Masons and not committed Christians. I wasn’t there. But the laws, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and many of the writings and speeches of these men give us clear evidence that our country stands for, as does its flag, the principles of Christianity and Judaism. 

To debate that is pure revisionism. 

Getting back to the flag. Why do men, with women and children at home that they deeply love, rush into bullets to raise a flag on the top of the hill? It’s because they believed in something immovable. 

In theology, it’s known as God’s immutability. “He is not a man that He should change His mind” (1 Samuel 15:29).

I have a flagpole outside my house that is fixed in concrete and has withstood every storm. Old Glory represents a resolve that imperfect men and women will relentlessly move toward their Creator’s character. Other countries can tear down a flag near an embassy, but they will never be able to burn or rip up the principles of liberty. And that even goes for deists.

Here’s a song I wrote, coincidentally, on the day before Veteran’s Day last year. I hope to get the music to you soon.

 The Flag Is Your Flag

Copyright, 2011, Robert J. LaCosta

Flags are welcome to blow with popular change

But values bought with blood will not be rearranged

so raise stars and stripes to the top of its sturdy pole

no one will redefine it and try to steal this nation’s soul

CHORUS:

This flag is Your flag dedicated to You

Its pole imbedded in the rock of  truth

Other flags are free to intensely disagree

But here we fly it high on the winds of liberty

 

Since our birth, we’ve followed Your sacrifice

Even their death speaks it was worth the price

I won’t retreat from the source of their views

I’m raising the real Old Glory, how about you?

BRIDGE:

Don’t bring down ideals that reach that high

Raise her toward our Founder’s bluest sky

 

 NOTICE THAT MY FLAGPOLE IS EMBEDDED!

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Your Face Can Shine

I know the “burning” question on your mind right now: “Why did Moses face shine when he came down from the mountain?”

Seriously, I’ve wondered about that. I am a fan of sunrises and every once in a while I will take a self-photo like the one below as I’m looking toward the sunrise. My face literally glows.

Getting back to Moses, the reason he shone was because of who God is, not some vague sense that He had a brush with The Almighty. This is what is recorded as God passed in front of Moses:
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate(A) and gracious God, slow to anger,(B) abounding in love(C) and faithfulness,(D) maintaining love to thousands,(E) and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.(F) Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;(G) he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6,7

That is why Moses glowed. The qualities of God are radiant. We don’t fully appreciate this because we don’t know these qualities 24/7, ad infinitum. Who do you know like that? Most of us would say our mother or some grandparent or some amazing, godly person. But to never, ever, ever skip a beat? No, I don’t know anyone like this.

In Revelation 21 and 22, we read:

  1. The city does noneed the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
  2. Revelation 22:5
    There will be no more night. They will noneed the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Wonder why Jesus is called “The Light of the World” and why we get goosebumps when we light candles during “Silent Night?” It’s because when light shines on us, we truly feel its radiance, even if we squint a bit because we know we aren’t there quite yet. But there is hope from my favorite scripture in the bible: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

And how about this from Proverbs 4:18? “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

You might think such light is reserved for history’s elite. But don’t distance yourself from the brilliance of God just because you’re not Moses. Standing in the glow next to Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration were a few fishermen.

 

BELOW: I’M RED-FACED FROM THE SUNRISE. NEXT PHOTO: YOU’LL NOTICE TWO EMPTY CHAIRS. ONE IS FOR YOU, ONE IS FOR JESUS, JUST WAITING FOR YOU TO SIT NEXT TO HIM EVERY MORNING AND BASK IN THE GLOW.

WHY BOTHER WITH TANNING BOOTHS? 

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Hunched over in my storage crawl space, I was looking for a particular photo amongst the dusty boxes. Achoo! I haven’t decided whether the experience afflicted my back more than my emotions. Like most sentimental ADD-types, I got lost in a world of memories. It was a little troubling and confusing at the same time – and not because I never found the pic I had originally set out to find (although that’s a typical ADD routine).

It’s easy to say that idyllic settings, smiling faces and children’s innocence should bring back all the warm fuzzies. But “fuzzy” was the operative word.

People who have known losses like death or divorce can’t simply edit their photo albums. It’s not that simple. I don’t cut off my arm every time I get a mosquito bite or shoot my car when it breaks down. There’s always a little good in the bad and a little bad in the good. So, we keep most of the photos albums intact.

Perhaps these emotional sneak-attacks are God’s way of getting us to page through our lives one more time. We have to lean on His grace. And to think, it seemed like such an innocent crawl space.

Thankfully, my I Phone is handy. I’ll take a picture of TODAY with no ambiguity.

ImageThis morning’s sunrise. It’s a new day. Below: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.Image

I hope to produce the song listed below that came out of all this. Perhaps, some of you know exactly what I mean. It’s for us that don’t exactly have “photographic memories.”

Pictures Can Whisper Sweet Lies

 Copyright, 2012, Robert J. LaCosta.

 

These photo albums are musty

My memory suddenly dusty

Do I smile, frown or sink with regret

Or be gracious and simply forget?

 

CHORUS:

Life’s not as simple as a photograph

You can cry as quick as you laugh

Something’s fuzzier than my wet eyes

for pictures can whisper sweet lies

 

Turning the pages of sentiment

Wisdom gets sold for a cent

Good and bad swap their clothes

Nobody knows who stole the show

 

BRIDGE:

The best times of my life shouldn’t be bad

Nor framed by a heart now so sad

So courage calls to shoot a new round

Where life’s in focus when these are found

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Tears For Summer’s Loss

I know some feel the breadth of melancholy in late August and early September. Especially in the four-season climates, it’s like a swimming pool that’s a little colder than you want, but you know you must jump in.

Some folks get that same sense on Sunday nights. Monday morning is coming.

Leaving something you prefer or enjoy to embrace something that is clearly not preferred is tough.

I know someone close to me who has a difficult time saying, “Goodbye.” Even the thought of saying bye-bye to the hummingbirds until next spring makes her sad. Ditto on that one. Maybe that’s how “Italian Goodbyes” came about, a paesano tends to be emotional.

For those who are not sentimental, this discussion probably sounds fruitless. But for those of us who use tissues during movies, it’s an issue.

I even experienced it last night cleaning out my emails. Guess what? I only tossed 100 emails because I got swept up into reading them and then deciding I didn’t want them to go into cyber-neverland. What a sap! Seriously, I started remembering old staff meetings, business deals, and personal stuff that I couldn’t let go of.

I know of someone who has Alzheimer’s and it has progressed into the late stages. I don’t know when, but just like September and Sunday nights, it will be time to say “Goodbye.”

I’ve been experiencing some slight pressure in my head, my right shoulder is tender when I raise my arm and I’m walking with a slight detectable limp due to problems with the right sole of my foot. Doctors can only do so much. It all reminds me that a new season has arrived that, to whatever degree is necessary, I have to embrace. My former pastor Steve Lalor used to say that “we either get better or bitter.”

As time’s current transitions to white water, I take some comfort in a favorite scripture: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18

Jesus embraced death to get to life. I guess I can get used to my pool being 72 degrees and the color of leaves signaling the imminent departure of summer.

Whether it’s the maples or the oaks, seasons teach us that we have to “leave” things behind before we can have what’s ahead. But wait! There’s another tree I just visited just around the bend from the maple one that’s dropping the leaves that make their way into my pool skimmer which remind me that I have to close my pool. It’s an apple tree. And as I shook its branches, several delightful products of Autumn almost conked me on the head. My, my, my. Apples are so good right off the tree. I think I’ll put my apron on, get out the pie pans and embrace a slice of this new season.

CLOCKWISE: LEAVES IN MY POOL SKIMMER (sob, sob), APPLE TREE, My RUBBER DUCKY METEOROLOGIST DELIVERS THE BAD NEWS THAT THE POOL WATER IS GETTING COLDER EACH DAY.

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The Beauty of The Changes of Season in a Classic Song:

As a DJ, I used to play the song below a lot. It’s about seasons. Certainly, The Strawbs are one of rock’s most underrated bands. But this particular one is a gem…some say it’s one of the classics of our era. Its ending reminds me of Someone who told me that He’d never leave me, even when it comes time to pass through my final season.

ALBUM VERSION WITH NICE POWERPOINT:

(copy and paste)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKkCKxWiwNM

ACOUSTIC VERSION:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A5DlPFBYZk&feature=related

AUTUMN

By Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert of The Strawbs

I sense Autumn coming on

The mist has hung low all day

Small birds gather on the wing
Preparing to make their way.

The trees begin to show
A trace of brown among the green
Bringing back the memories
That only you and I have seen.

I sense Autumn coming on
The sun sinking red and deep
The fires burning in the fields
As late Summer falls asleep.

The leaves begin to scatter
As the North wind calls their name
Folding gently back into
The silent earth from which they came.

The Winter Long
(Cousins)

Still waters flow
Sea breezes blow
Wild flowers grow
Abundant at your feet.

Soft falling snow
Warm candle glow
Flushed faces show
The pleasure when we meet.

Hold on to me, I’ll hold on to you
The winter long I will always be with you.
Hold on to me, I’ll hold on to you
I will be the one who will always see you through.

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Cheesy Spreads

As You can see from the photo below, we have two hummingbird feeders.Take note of the cheesy little fake flowers between them. Before your disdain invites derision, you might like to know that those little plastic pink flowers have attracted more hummingbirds than you can imagine.

In fact, I’m not sure I understand why they keep going to them first before landing on the real thing next to it even toward the end of their season. You would think they would have picked up on the fact that plastic and nectar are not related. Perhaps they’re just messing with me? “Yeah, check this out hon, I’ll hover around the cheesy plastic stuff just to see if he thinks I’m stupid, or worse yet, cute.” 

Well, if birds are dumb, us humans are dumber still. No species is more inclined to counterfeit and superficiality than humans. It starts out in the Garden of Eve, that’s Eden. “Here honey, I think I found something better than God.”

“Sure, babe,” he says, “and to think all of this time, God was holding back on my V8!” He slaps the side of his head.Image

We are prone to slight-of-hand. I was watching a politician at a convention and he gestured using his hands a lot. The throngs of people hung on every word. The trouble was, most of it was, well, snake oil.

When experts want to know what counterfeit currency looks like, they study the real one, not try to figure out whether the fake one is real.

It’s an old inquiry that even a questionable personality like Pontius Pilate was inclined to ask: “What is truth?” He was staring at it and didn’t know it.

Pilate, voters, Eve, hummingbirds. Cheese Whiz! 

 

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It’s taken me a while to figure this out. What I thought was the Promised Land turned out to be a bit of a desert. Maybe I’m not so unlike the Israelites: can’t tell a resort from a wrong turn in the Sahara.

For the past three years, I’ve felt life slow down. You’ve seen slow-motion for a sports replay and you’ve seen director’s use slow-mo for dramatic effect. Maybe God uses the same techniques. Like why do they call abstaining a “fast” when it goes so slow?

But slow motion for three years? Please!

Well, I’ve been told that I only have two speeds: fast and sleeping. So, in God’s wisdom, He’s decided that I needed a third setting, or should I say, “Setting Aside.”

I know I’m not alone. Also tasting the delicacies of sand on their tongues were Jesus, Moses and St. Paul. The desert is for everyone. That’s why God made it so dang big…so we couldn’t see each other while we’re out there 🙂

In retrospect, I think I was running for so long that it’s tantamount to getting off a treadmill – you still think you’re running. It’s a whole retraining. The race belongs to the slow.

Slowness and deserts go together. Have you ever seen a runner jump in the car to get to the desert just so he can dash along in the 110 degree heat?

It hit me this morning. The desert doesn’t desire my resignation, but my embrace. It’s like binoculars. God uses the desert to bring His face into focus. When there’s no scenery except Him, He’s easier to spot.

I thought about Jesus in the desert with nothing except God’s Word. Both Jesus and His Father kept that.

 

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Life is Funny. Ha, ha.

“Life is funny.” Whoever said that was more of a comedian than a philosopher.

I was in a bit of a fix on Labor Day weekend. I was to attend a party that I thought was to be informal. My sister had forwarded me an email and I missed the “dress-to-impress” part. Not that I am ever in the running as a finalist for GQ’s latest poll, but even I got a bit concerned.

I decided that a navy blue sport coat might get me by. The naysayers all said the mall would be closed on Labor Day, but I labored anyway.

I entered the shopping center in the nick of time, headed straight to Macy’s and found that my quick- buy might turn out to be quick-ruin as the tight side of me plummeted into sticker-shock.

“I never even wear jackets anymore,” I told myself, trying to rationalize my frugality. Finally, I found a price that “suited” me, a nearly-$300 jacket marked down to $109! Well, if I had planned this better, I could have done better at a Goodwill store. So, a hundred bucks was about as good as I was going to get on a holiday.

The friendly salesman said, “It’s Labor Day and I think we can do even better!” Joy! Rapture! Hallelujah! After he had swiped my card for a total of $87, he told me it was a better jacket than some of the others at four times the price. All of sudden, I didn’t feel cheap, I felt well-dressed.

I hopped on the Garden State Parking Lot, I mean Parkway. Oy, vey! Labor Day traffic near the Jersey shore. What did I expect? At this rate, I’ll have paid $87 for a ten-minute affair. But this was my cousin’s daughter’s reception and this big spender was sparing no expense.

Whew! I made it there in plenty of time. The first person I bump into was Jeff Stopper, my old buddy.

“I think I just passed you out on the street,” he blurted. “I had to go back to my car to take my suit jacket off because it was so hot in here.”

I didn’t say a word. I kept my jacket on and borrowed a handkerchief.

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