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Archive for August, 2014

Daffodils, wisteria and apple blossoms can really make Spring feel like it has sprung. But this year’s harsh Winter and Spring must have caused these poor plants to lose their courage in what turned out to be the most disappointing display ever.

Just as I was getting ready to mourn my beloved suitors of Summer, Mother Nature decided to give us the best lawn in remembrance. Of course, that came with a lot of rain. Nevertheless, I have never seen a greener August.

We also indulged in a fair amount of mulberries, and, when able to stop the ATV just long enough to grab a low-hanging branch, came back home with purple hands. I was with the little ones so I got away with it as we went from riding to crayons.

Our gardens also started perking up all around us and before long, July and August were showing off wild raspberries and blackberries like we had never witnessed. Needless, not seedless, to say, my breakfast cereal has been decorated by record amounts of these luscious additions.

I long for wisteria – especially toward the end of Winter. Yet, there have been some nice trade-offs.

Recently, I was mourning some mis-steps in my life. Some were very expensive financially and some were just as costly in time and ego.

Yet, a wise friend reminded me that I still had relatively good health, a good amount of family and friends and a beautiful roof over my head. Faux slate, to be exact.

There’s a chance that next Spring will serve up something different in my gardens or my bank accounts.

Sometimes you get purple wisteria. Sometimes you get purple hands.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

BELOW: OLE MAN WINTER OVERSTAYING HIS WELCOME ON MY DAFFODIL PATCH; “YELLOW FEVER” VISITED THIS PO CRITTER; OUR LONE WIMPY WISTERIA; LILACS GAVE US SOME HOPE FINALLY, THEN THE GARDENS TOOK OVER AND BEFORE LONG, THE BLACKBERRIES MADE THEIR ENTRANCE. “YOU GIVE AND TAKE AWAY.” [second to last photo]P.S. A lone wisteria waited until mid-August, just after I wrote this piece. 
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Two veterans were talking in the aisle at the national convention of The American Legion. From their discourse, body language, signature Legion hats decorated with a multitude of pins and their age, it was clear that they had a lot in common. About the only thing noticeably different between the two was the color of their skin.

One man was black and the other was white. They were laughing together over one of the aforementioned similarities: aging. The elderly black man had just commented to the other, “That’s how it is when you get to our age.”

Their camaraderie and chuckles were as natural as it gets. Yet, this scene was a bit poignant because the country was in the midst of heated controversy over the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was shot by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. Most media reports note that blame is assigned according to the color of the person assigning it.

It has become a black and white issue. But is it?

 There was a time when I was working in an inner city area when I noticed that color was beautifully blurred where Christian ministries intersected. But when presidential elections and politics were brought up, the lines were drawn with a thicker pen.

When we truly have something in common, that which is the unifier is greater than the lesser “things.” In the case of ministries, I would always hope that Christ is infinitely higher in ranking than skin pigment. The Apostle Paul writes that loyalty to Jesus must always be the greater thing: And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that IN EVERYTHING he might be preeminent.” Colossians 1:18 (Emphasis mine)

What this really comes down to is truth. Jesus also claimed to be “The Truth.” So, in all matters, we must lay things at Jesus’s feet in that He is both preeminent and The Truth, worthy of our total allegiance no matter what the subject.

It seems the real issue is whether whites and blacks are rooting for the truth or whether they are cheering for their black and white narrative.

We can only pray that past hurts and injustices won’t “color” the investigation of this particular tragedy. That won’t serve the officer or the family of the deceased. In the old television series, “Dragnet,” Detective Joe Friday coined the memorable phrase, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Facts are truth and must be faced by both parties.

Especially in this case, truth is a black and white issue…and it better not be buried with the deceased.

 

 

 

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Robin Williams was hard not to like. But somehow, he ended up not liking himself or his life very much.

There have been plenty of pieces for people to purposely put that puzzle together. Financial stress, over-the-hill stuff and Parkinson’s could make anyone blow a line and turn from a comic hero into a tragic one. Is it really all that simple?

I know there are some folks that seem to make it into their eighties and nineties and leave nothing behind but good things for their family and friends to say about them at their funeral. However, my guess is that there are a lot more ragamuffins like Robin who, like the ultra-obese Bonnie in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, tell us that they never intended to end up like this.

I can vouch for falling into the latter category, although I won’t roll over in my grave if you say something nice about me before putting me into it.

Life comes with “issues.” And it comes with the heartbreak hills that Robin must have pedaled up as bicycle enthusiast in Marin County where they are so steep and regular that I once burned out some car brakes traveling them. Somehow, he hit one of those hills he couldn’t get a laugh out of.

My one question is: “What’s next?” This is not said in bad taste and I’m not tongue-in-cheeking an encore from the poor soul. I mean it. There is so much speculation as to what happened and very little musing about what happens next. Without an ounce of judgement, I believe it’s really important to face that question before we face our Maker. You may not believe in God, but, as they say, He believes in you. Before I get any nasty mail, I want to reiterate: I am not judging the man. It’s not my right. But it is my duty to get us thinking about “What’s next?”

The best portrayal of coming to the end of ourselves is Jimmy Stewart in his role as George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life. Clutching his life insurance policy, he is convinced that the “What’s Next?” isn’t as important as the cash from the insurance company. Most of us can relate to the feeling that it just can’t get any worse. In the same breadth, we are convinced it will never get any better. That’s a contradiction of sorts as life doesn’t stagnate. That’s why it’s said that we “hit” bottom, not linger there.

If you’re stuck near that bottom, it’s OK to let yourself hit. You will bounce back up as it will cause you to look up as it says in The Good Book: “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him…The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” Psalm 34:6,7,17-19

I can only hope, that as an actor, he memorized those lines.

Because if he didn’t, it’s not funny.

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I was writing a friend and mentioning some things about where he was at this point in his life. His responsibilities are many and all very complicated. It demands balance.

This made me think of the semicircular canals which are appropriately part and parcel of our hearing. Why would hearing and balance go together?

Spiritually, it’s an easier dynamic to discover than to master.

If we don’t “hear” God on a moment-by-moment basis, it’s pretty certain we will trip over the curbs in life. Worse yet, over a period of time , we can drift slowly or quickly from God and this can cause a spiritual vertigo that could make physical dizziness seem like a cakewalk – and anyone who has experienced dizziness will tell you it’s a horrible sensation.

The semicircular canals have built-in checks and balances depending on which way you move (i.e. to the right or left, up or down, etc.).

What are the checks and balances for us as spiritual beings? I have to go to the “Main Man” on this one: Jesus.

Jesus’ sense of centering was always His Dad. He said He did what His Father did and He only spoke what He heard His Papa say. (John 5:19, John 12:49)

I think that’s why He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

God is our primary centering. A predetermined point like the North Star can be a sure reference point for an old-time ship captain.

But balance for balance sake is for the birds. If you’re fixed point of reference is off, your spiritual semicircular canals can get confused and cause a lot worse damage than tripping over a curb.

People have admirably tried to keep their lives in balance through a regimen of physical, mental, relational and sometimes spiritual juggling.

But if God and the people He’s put in your life to love and serve are not the center of your universe, you’re going to see stars.
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This Little Piggy

The dogs didn’t even need to bark. “Hot dogs ‘ere” would have been superfluous. The only place missing hot dogging was on the baseball diamond where the home-team Valley Cats were getting shut-out at the Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, New York.

It was billed as the “50-Cent Hot Dog Night.” As we entered, we were almost run over by a guy pushing a six-foot-high rack of the same packages of buns that got Steve Martin thrown into jail in “Father of The Bride.”

There were more people in line for the cheap treat than were in the stands watching the game. I was one of them. I don’t normally touch those tubey things. But there I was, a sucker for a deal.

Being married to a vegetarian, I did have to figure out an alternative for my bride. No, Helmbold’s doesn’t make soy dogs.

As I’m chomping my first – for everybody buys at least two when they are fifty cents – I discover a healthy alternative food stand. It was like a mirage; too good to be true. I figured some token menu item would be their offer. To my surprise, the woman is making to-order spinach wraps and salads. All of a sudden, the dog slushing around in my mouth is starting to taste just like a cheap hot dog.

What was interesting was that there was no waiting for the good food. I glanced back at the long wiener line and at the crowds pressing around the contestants competing at the “Hot Dog Eating Contest.” You don’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out which line should have been the lengthier of the two.

The power of something being offered inexpensively and the power of suggestion through that subsequent popularity still amazes me.

It got me thinking about the following:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Matthew 7:13

The road was indeed very broad to the wiener cart and to the dozens “woofing” down their dogs at the contest.

Irony of ironies, Helmbold’s uses a smiling pig on their logo. The symbolism couldn’t escape me: “This little piggy went to market.” 

BELOW (CLOCKWISE):THE DEVILISH PIGGY WELCOMES THE NEXT VICTIM CONTRASTED WITH THE ABSENCE OF CUSTOMERS ON THE “NARROW ROAD,” THE LONG LINE AND ONE OF THE DOG-EAT-DOG CONTESTANTS.

 

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