I saw it in passing, like road signs that are already past before it registers what you just read. Uncharacteristically nimble, my mind yanked up on the emergency brake. I stopped and reread the phrase.
“Ephesians 6 streaking”.
Nope. I had not misread it. I sat quietly for ten or fifteen seconds, the burnt-rubber odor of the sudden mental stop wafting through the intersection of my thoughts.
I know Ephesians 6 is about practical Christian living. I also know it’s about living in a world not just alien to Biblical Christianity, but actively opposed to it.
I’m a veteran. I’ve trained with weapons, became skilled in their use, and was in qualification at one time to earn an expert rating. The concept of streaking in connection with warfare was as dissonant as trying to teach love to a colony of fire ants.
This called for coffee. As I sat and sipped, the Bible’s ultimate Author began drawing me pictures.
“It reads, ‘Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (I’ve never gotten in too much trouble by being quiet; I did that.)
God: “You got the streaking part, right? And I know you’ve been wondering at the sanity of all the ‘peaceful demonstrators’ in Portland, half naked, handling things that either slash, crush, explode, stab, or incinerate.” (I nodded. If the quiet thing worked before, why mess with success?)
Right about here is where the little bell went ‘ding’. Ephesians 6 is not a Christian boutique where you pick and choose which items you think will complement your style or color scheme of the day. “Oh, naw, that whole trauma plate thing just doesn’t do it for me, but get a load of those sandals!
‘Full armor’ means business. It means you’re outfitted for all-out war, and leaving ANY piece of that equipment behind, no matter the reason, could mean your death, as well as someone else’s whose life and witness you could have saved.
Along about verse 17, The Message adds: “God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
By now you’re with me. Sometimes the battle calls for aggressive, in-your-face attacks. Other times, the command comes down to hold your position at all costs. Right. As in, “having done ALL, to stand.”
This image caught my eye earlier this morning. Last Thursday I underwent an invasive procedure to remove a few inches of my colon, which was home to a thus-far benign lesion. Considering my medical history and God’s miraculous intervention in my life, it was no big deal; I’m up and around again, with little adverse effects beyond the normal fatigue from general anesthetic.
I’m not whiny, puny, nor lazy. If the weather cooperates, after I’ve rested some today, I’ll do a light workout with weights later today or tomorrow. I believe in keeping myself in the best shape I can, being a good steward of the health and life remaining to me.
This image resembles my mental, spiritual, and physical philosophy as no other I’ve seen. I’ll leave it to you to discern how and why.
I’m wrapping up this post with a few strong words of encouragement.
Matthew 16:27 and Hebrews 11:6 say our rewards come later, because of our firm faith in God and His ability to work in and through us.
What makes you unique is what puts you ahead of the game.
When you upgrade your mindset, people closest to you will either elevate along with you, or disappear. Let them choose which. Your mission is to follow where God is leading you.
Hard days and nights don’t just count — they count double! It’s the struggle that makes you stronger and tougher and better. Make it count — for His Kingdom.
The man’s steps slowed, and he hesitated at the unknown road leading off to the right.
Silver-haired and of normal build, he wore casual, comfortable, neutral-colored clothes, for he usually walked as weather and schedule permitted. He stood for a moment, eyeing the safe, regular, normal route leading straight ahead.
That was his usual route.
Musing, he sipped steaming coffee from the travel mug he always filled before leaving his house. Thoughtfully interested in this lane he’d never before noticed, he chose adventure and discovery over normalcy.
Wonder where this goes? I never noti–I mean, how many times have I walked this road? Might as well check it out. Might be interesting.
Unbidden and subvocally the whisper of Grace said deep within him, “You have no idea . . .” He heard nothing. His subconscious did. His eyebrows briefly met as he hesitated just for a few seconds, slanting his eyes leftward at the road he regularly walked. Shrugging off the strange feeling that washed over him, his left hand lightly brushed the Benchmade folding knife he never went anywhere without as he turned to his right and started along the unknown road.
On the breeze, he thought he heard, faintly, ‘Blessed Assurance’ being played on a piano. Shrugging, he stepped off to the right.
As he walked, jumbled thought-fragments and memory-Post-Its piled haphazardly in Granger’s mind like a miscellaneous load of laundry waiting to come out of the dryer.
The whisking of weeds and the occasional small tree branch against his faded, broken-in cargo pants reminded him of boyhood explorations.
His muscles tensed as a wheat-colored grasshopper approximately big enough for a collar broke cover from the grass and weeds growing between the twin dirt tracks. The bright yellow of its wings reminded him of the big, black, red-winged ones he remembered from childhood – the ones that sounded too much like an irate rattlesnake for comfort.
As he strolled along the dusty road, his mind paralleled its gentle winding contours. His thoughts alternately ambled and gamboled like a curious pup, some–There’s that piano music again . . . “Lookin’ for fun, and feelin’ groo-vy”– specifically pointed and others softly shaded, just as the budding trees dappled his form with sunlight and shadows while he casually watched and walked.
The sight of a half-fallen, rusted barbed-wire fence reminded him of the weathered, broken sections of fence he and his father had taken down, saving the staples in an old Folgers coffee can, and cutting up the greyed, splintered posts for firewood . . . “When It’s Springtime In The Rockies”
He glimpsed the remnants of an old railroad track, weed-overgrown and rust-dulled, which brought memories of the girl for whom he’d registered his heart in Heaven as they one day walked together along the tracks on the way to school . . . “You ask me if there’ll come a time I won’t require you–“
An ancient, cracked bit of pavement staggered off to a diagonal left, generating fond memories of him and his boyhood pals riding their bikes to new adventures wherever unexplored roads led them . . .
The William Tell Overture? Someone is playing a piano out here somewhere. Shaking his head, he walked on.
A huge old weeping willow tree caused a wide grin of recollection as he remembered him and his chums playing for hours in just such a tree (or B-17 bomber or USS Nautilus or Fort Apache or–) in one of their yards . . . There it is again. Seriously? The theme from “12-O’Clock High”?
He saw off in the distance through the trees what looked to be a rambling old barn, weathered and warped, board-bare and leaning to the left. A long-seeing stare settled in his face as he recalled the equally-weathered, massive old wooden church camp tabernacle where he’d driven down some spiritual surveyor’s stakes as he and God came to terms – and where he’d met his lifelong companion.
Speaking of campmeeting, there’s that piano again. That’s–that’s “TOTAL PRAISE!” I’m sure I heard it, but there’s nothing, no one out here. Granger remembered as a teenager, sitting and plunking on that old, rough upright grand piano that seemed to have grown into the wooden platform . . .
He was so pleasantly rapt in the richness, the reliving color and vibrancy of his memories that he didn’t at first notice the dual symmetry and wide opening of the overgrown gate. Giving his head a quick shake, he stood for a minute, looking at the brickwork. Someone who was very good at it laid these bricks.
“They sure did.” It took a split second for him to realize he’d spoken out loud, which made him chuff softly through his nose. Those who spend long hours in solitude often find themselves speaking inner thoughts aloud. He grinned at the idea of him vocally agreeing with his usual quiet self.
His eyes swept the inlaid metal embellishments, hinges, and imposing gates, equally overgrown with weeds and vines, yawning open. Their weathered gray-green patina and vacant openness was an eloquent shrug. “Come in if you wish.”
He grinned again at his immediate response when he looked up beyond the gate and saw the old house. “Oh, I wish!” —And a little clearer now, he heard “Come On In, There’s Still Room In The Family” by Gold City. He thought again, Okay, somebody can really play the piano! Where in the world there’d be one out here, though . . .
He walked slowly along a winding lane. His steps automatically faltered as he took in what was once a lovely two-storied home with an imposing tower on its right side, emerging from the shrubs and decorative trees that had shielded it from view.
Granger’s imagination began to unconsciously list scenarios, poignant vignettes of who once lived there, what they were like, what they did. In his high school days, he’d taken architectural drafting, so he admired the lines, the enriching detail that spoke of a loving, exacting hand.
The colors of sidings, shingles, and beautifully-mitered and trimmed window frames had faded across time into a gentle soft-edged camouflage that shifted as he walked closer. This was one gorgeous house in its day. Once again, the subvocal words of Grace quietly purred: “I was more than a beautiful house; I was home to some truly amazing people.”
Granger stood still, listening with spirit ears. There were no further words, no sound at all — except for what sounded like a little child playing Chopsticks on a piano. Yet how can that be? Then there was nothing more, yet the silence was comfortable, companionable – as if the stillness was a lovingly-woven welcome mat.
Stepping carefully up the four risers to an expansive veranda, he probed cautiously for loose or rotten boards, dodging around a hole and ducking the magnificent web of a beautifully-made-up garden spider. Admiring her, he said, “Enjoy your breakfast, old girl. You’ve worked hard and earned the meal.”
Granger stood at the threshold, looking through the door into the dust-carpeted entryway. Other than the slender legs of a broken chair over in a corner, and wind-swept leaves and assorted plant life, the rooms he could see from the doorway were bare. Glancing to his left, he admired the beautifully-faceted glass panes of the sagging door. He stepped inside, once again sensing a thrill, an unsettled yet warm feeling. Old buildings have stories . . .
Standing quietly just inside the wide, carved front door, Granger let his mind and spirit do a scan, sweeping slowly through what was once such a lovely home. By habit, he silently thought, “Lord, what joys and laughter lived here? What enriching relationships happened in these rooms? Who were the amazing men and women who made this stunning building their home?”
Curious, he walked quietly on into what must have been a welcoming room, for an even larger room opened off to the left, beneath one side of a sweeping staircase. To the right, a doorway led to what must have been for it’s day a gourmet kitchen. He started to step inside when he heard Claire de Lune being softly played on a piano.
I knew I heard a piano! But how— Where? I’ve never seen this place before, never knew it existed, and it’s obvious nobody’s lived here for—well, ever.
Backing out of the kitchen, he stepped across into what he figured was once the formal living room. His eyes swept the room, seeing large multi-paned casement windows, mostly unbroken, that flooded the huge room with light. Again, Granger mused at the social events that once made this place ring with laughter and excited talk and—
There it was. Toward the back of the immense room, standing alone, was a exquisitely carved old grand piano. It was hard to tell what its original color was under all the accumulated dust and debris, but it seemed to have been a rich chocolate color. Dust, dirt, and assorted wind-borne stuff covered the keys. There was no bench.
Granger stood reverently. He remembered every time in his life when God seamlessly wove Time and Timelessness into an unforgettable encounter, either by himself, or through him to someone else. Every time one of those strange melds happened, he felt his faith surge. He felt his will to live on as God’s man more empowered.
There hasn’t been any water or electricity to this place for at least, I don’t know, forty years? Fifty? A hundred? And there’s nothing else out here that could explain the piano music I heard on my way here. As unlikely – okay, impossible – as it seems, the music I heard, both sacred and secular, came from . . .
Granger looked around to his left, refocusing his eyes on the dirty, scuffed, dinged old piano.
. . . That.
Turning to check the rest of the old house, he glanced at his watch. He’d spent almost four hours immersing himself in what he was sure was a piece of history; it was past time for him to be getting back to his office.
Outside again, he turned once he was out in the lane far enough, took his phone out, and got a couple of pictures of the house. He figured he could get pics of the interior – and especially the piano – when he came back. And, oh yes, he was definitely coming back.
Once seated in his chair, Granger decided to ask Sparks, his cop friend, about the property where the old house stood. Firing up his laptop, he pulled up his phone’s picture gallery to transfer the two pictures of the house onto his compu—
Okay, that’s odd. Where are those two pictures? Weird.
He called Sparks and asked him about the property. The deputy was silent for a few seconds, then asked, “Property? That’s county land as far as I know. And I’ve never heard of the road you’re talking about. Tell ya what, I’m just getting off shift, so why don’t I swing by and pick you up, and you can show me where you were.”
Sparks drove them out to where Granger usually walked, and they stopped and got out. Granger said, “See, right over there is that road I—” Baffled, he cast his eyes all around, seeing nothing but weeds and rotten fenceposts.
Sparks stood watching. He’d been with Granger a time or two when things nobody could rationally explain had happened; he knew better than to rib his older friend. The deputy understood: Granger had some very close, unusual ties with God – and when things like this happened, there was always a reason, even when the explanation was delayed.
On the way back to Granger’s office, Sparks respected his mentor’s silence as he processed the day’s events. Pulling his patrol Charger up in front of Granger’s building, he sat and waited. Granger soon looked up.
“People of every era believe theirs to be both the best and worst. In both ways, they’re right. What distinguishes them during their own lifetimes is which outlook occupies most of their thoughts. Those who see nothing but life’s worst only build temporary things, hold temporary jobs, leave nothing of value in their wake, and generally die unhappy.”
He waited to see if Sparks was following, then continued.
“It’s the others who build houses like the one I saw, who live and love and laugh in those amazing rooms I was admiring – and who make majestic instruments like that stunning grand piano. They always leave things that outlive them, and their lives while here are full of music, of creativity, and packed with blessings – because they choose to look for those values.”
Sparks sat there, absorbing Granger’s analysis. “Okay. That’s some heavy stuff, there, pardner. But how do you explain all the piano music you heard?”
Granger looked into his friend’s eyes, then his expanded into Middle Space as he half smiled and answered,” I haven’t a clue. Some things God holds close to His chest.”
Long after Granger went inside and closed the door, the young deputy sheriff sat there thinking. After ten minutes had passed, he was no closer to figuring it out than before. Still quiet, he shifted his ride into “D” and headed into what was turning out to be one of the most lovely sunsets he’d ever noticed.
My Valentine and I have been holding hearts for over 45 years, and we’ve managed it in the same way any of us walk with Jesus: by grace and through faith.
It has been neither simple nor easy. We’ve literally known each other all our lives, so we sort of knew what we were getting.
She’s the one whose sentences I can usually finish . . .
She often as not mirrors my thoughts . . .
We could likely keep a doctor’s appointment for each other . . .
We’re able to enjoy our separate pastimes, either in the same room or in the same house, without bugging the other.
Exactly alike? Nope. In some ways, we’re complete opposites.
She’s numbers — rational, logical, blunt, undemonstrative, and explosive.
I’m words — creative, thoughtful, intuitive, diplomatic, passionate, and smoldering.
Babycakes is an instinctive, terrific cook; I survive. She’s Math and facts; I’m creativity and ideas. She’s into love stories; I prefer history, war, crime drama, or action movies. She stays inside, despising housework; I do all the outside work, loving the fresh air, greenery, and plants.
We have two different offices for a reason. Mine is zen shades of green, including mood lighting, with aircraft pictures on the wall and coffeemaker and several roasts of whole bean coffee bagged up on a shelf.
Hers is in shades of lavender and light grape, with accounting books and office stuff. We respect the other’s privacy, always waiting and knocking, even if the door is open. Well, except for Ray. If our doors are even the slightest crack open, he lowers his head, does the linebacker’s deal, and invites himself in.
We’ve managed to keep holding hearts for all these years because we hold a mutual respect toward each other; we are true friends beyond all else. Sharing a fierce love that bears the scars of long decades of assaults that would have lacerated most marriages, we choose to recognize our differences, and celebrate them.
Perfect couple? Not hardly. I’m an Intuitive introvert, and she’s NOT. We have spirited discussions about our opinions, yet we’ve both learned – again, by grace and through faith – to make time to understand the other’s point of view. It enables us to realize and even come to appreciate our separate likes and dislikes.
So, yeah–I’ve been holding hearts with Babycakes for a whole lot of years. During that time, we’ve both kept learning to ask that time-honored 4th grade question: “Will you still be my Valentine?”
And every time I think of where we’ve been, the lyric plays again in my mind . . .
On my own I’m only Half of what I could be I can’t do without you We are stitched together And what love has tethered I pray we never undo
‘Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs God gave me you for the days of doubt And for when I think I lost my way There are no words here left to say, It’s true God gave me you, gave me you He gave me you
~~~from album Red River Blue, written by Dave Barnes, sung by Blake Shelton
I originally came across this great little story in August of 2007. Approaching Valentines Day, it seems to me with the national psyche and popular culture at its current state, it’s time to revisit the subject. I want to share it and some time-modified comments with you as Valentine’s Day 2020 approaches. Please–read on. . .
Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived: Happiness, Sadness, Knowledge, and all of the others–including Love. One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all repaired their boats and left.
Love wanted to persevere until the last possible moment. When the island was almost sinking, Love decided to ask for help. Richness was passing by Love in History Supreme, the most expensive yacht on Earth. Love said, “Richness, can you take me with you?” Richness answered, “Oh, no, I’m sorry, but I can’t. I’ve got a bunch of silver and gold and goodies aboard, and… well, I know you understand. I just don’t have any room for you.”
Love decided to ask Vanity who was also passing by in Earth’s biggest yacht, Azzam: “Vanity, may I ride with you?”
“I can’t help you, Love. You are all wet, and this IS a Leoni interior.” Vanity answered.
Sadness was close by so Love asked for help: “Sadness, I know you’ll let me go with you, right?”
“Oh, dear…. Love, I—You’ve been there so often for me; but right now, I’m so sad that I just really need to be by myself!”
Happiness passed by too on a party yacht, but she was so giddy and preoccupied with the party, and the music was so loud that she didn’t even hear when Love called her.
Suddenly, there was a calm voice: “Come, Love, I will take you.” It was an elder. Love felt so blessed and overjoyed that he forgot to ask the elder his name. The craft in which they rode together was plain and nondescript among the opulence of all whom Love had always thought were his friends, yet it was strongly built and had seen much good use. When they arrived at dry land, the elder quietly went his own way.
Love realized how much he owed the elder and asked another elder, Knowledge, who was unloading belongings and supplies: “Who was that who helped me?”
“That was Time,”Knowledge answered. “Time?” asked Love. “But why did Time help me when no one else would?” Knowledge stopped working, straightened, smiled, and with deep wisdom answered, “Because only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
You’ve read it before: Unless they know you real well, people will forget a lot of what you say; and people will forget most of what you do—but people won’t forget how you made them feel. And therein lies the magic of this 2nd Cup I originally shared in February of 2007.
Thirteen years have passed since then . . . Thirteen.
Love takes time to mature. Think of Knowledge’s potent words: “. . . only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.” If over the passage of years what you feel towards another has shifted from Gotta-Be-Around-Em-24/7 to Hide-Me-It’s-Him/Her-Again, that might not be Love, love. It’s entirely possible that’s just gas.
Around 7 minutes is the average time between TV commercials, even the ones about love and marriage. We know 7 minutes does not a marriage make; and 7 years is just getting started.
You may have grown up believing it normal to dissolve any non-thriving relationship. Guess what? All relationships occasionally hit a patch of maintenance and coasting. It’s normal to the ebb and flow of any human interaction. Nevertheless, quitting isn’t the norm. Perseverance is.
Love takes time to mature. If over the passage of years what you feel towards another has shifted from mild appreciation to a dawning awareness that to lose personal contact with that person would carve a huge hole in your heart–well, now that there’s LUV, love. It’s the real deal, on-purpose, Time-proven; the stuff of great friendships and terrific marriages.
“. . . only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
I wonder how long it took Love, standing there with eyes unfocused, to understand what a huge compliment the brilliantly-influential Time had paid him? Do you understand? Given the choice to be Love or Time, most would choose Love. What’s not to love about Love? Everybody loves to be loved. “How sweet it is to be loved by you… “I need your love— I need your love— God speed your love to me.” Less by far are those who choose over time to create Lovers in their wake. . .
That’s what Time was doing.
Time isn’t an elder by virtue of age. Time’s an elder because he has established his own niche: Time is a creator of champion lovers. Wherever Time goes and whatever else may be his task, he is forever and always alert, watching for those into whose lives he can pour some of himself and his own ever-widening dimensions of love for others.
And Time’s focus is precise. His intent is to create an extension of himself within the hearts of any who will pay attention to who and what he is .
How often do you need to hear someone tell you they believe in you before you begin believing in yourself again? There is no easy answer, for some never do believe in themselves to the point they climb above where they’ve been and begin moving toward personal and spiritual excellence.
And how often do you need to hear “I love you” before you start loving yourself again? Once more, not an easy thing. Some never do escape their own loveless gravity and allow the love of someone else in until they can shock their own into beating again.
No guarantees accrue. You are the sum of your own choices. It can be disarmingly easy to bury landmines, calibrate laser tripwires, install infrared sensors and keep everyone at attitude’s-length. It is possible to live an entire lifetime convinced that your perpetual loneliness and surface-deep friendships comprise the way you always intended to live. It also will eventually push away the very ones that Time will reveal were your best allies.
Time is a creator of champion lovers. Time softens locked jaws and impacted notions. Time reveals that things are rarely what they seem. Like a laser, it will soon sear straight through nonsense and popular opinion. Time is a creator of champion lovers, because “only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
If you’re like me, this will take awhile to soak down into the richness of the kind of Love for ourselves and for others that far too many have given up ever experiencing again.
Seek Wisdom as you let that happen. Loving people who are not always lovely is no simple task. It can be overdone or underdone, and often both. Sometimes your best won’t work and your worst will, and only Time and prayer will ever make a difference.
And sometimes people choose to walk away from God, and your best isn’t enough, and “Good-bye” is forever. That doesn’t mean loving others doesn’t work. Sometimes the most loving thing you’ll ever do is to watch them go and never call them back.
I encourage you to love anyway. Become a creator of champion lovers–men and women who dare to run counter to the vapid, lip-deep, politically-advantageous and cynical “love” tossed around by the world and way too much of the Church.
How? Ask God to help you love others more like He does.
I did that. I asked Him to help me with that. Oh, boy. . .
To do that, He began revealing things about others to me, little by little, which made me at times back away–and every time He gently said, “Remember? You want to love others more like I do. I remind you: I know EVERYTHING about you and I love you with everything there is in Me.” Well, there is that. God brought to mind this verse:
Oh, how can I give you up …? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you …My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows… for I am God and not a mere mortal.
(Hosea 11:8-9 NLT)
Valentine’s Day, huh? I’d rather love those who love me back. I, like most people, heartily dislike rejection. It is way too easy to mentally write off those who cut-and-slash. But if I am serious about loving like God does, I can’t do that. Neither can you.
So, I challenge you–work to become a creator of champion lovers by being one yourself, patterned after the greatest Lover of all eternity. And while there’s Time? Well. . .
“Only Time is capable of understanding how great Love is.”
What you’re experiencing right now is the residual effect of your past thinking. Memories, past events, old relationships, and especially your own thoughts regarding them all? They’re influencing where you are right here, right now, today.
It’s not the things. It’s your thoughts about them that are driving you.
Or holding you back.
What determines who and what you become is the difference between your hopes and your fears. Everything in your life revolves around whether you focus on what you want and like, or what you don’t want and don’t like.
You’ve encountered hardships and rotten treatment in life. You’ve been used and taken advantage of. Had your heart broken and figured you needed your head examined.
Big deal. So has everyone else. You can focus on all that, wanting to be exonerated and setting everything right.
Or you can shrug it off and let it all go, and focus instead on what you really want throughout the remainder of this life.
It’s your choice. Yet you must choose; you cannot do both. As I once read, retribution and self-fulfillment are rarely served on the same plate.
I often have Pandora’s ‘Relaxation Radio’ playing softly in the background while working here at my desk. One piece I always enjoy is a smooth, thoughtful accoustic guitar styling of ‘Let It Be Me’. At some point I must’ve hit the ‘thumbs-up’ icon, because it’s a rare week I don’t hear it at least once.
Half-listening to it yesterday, some new thoughts began emerging. “I bless the day I found You, I want to stay around You . . .” The other half of my brain kicked in about then, remembering “I Miss My Time With You” . . . “I need to be with you each day, and it hurts Me when you say you’re too busy–busy tryin’ to serve Me! But how can you serve Me, when your spirit’s empty? There’s a longing in My heart, wanting just to be a part of you, it’s true—– I miss My time with you.”
Needless to say, I got a little quiet for a minute or two.
“Lord, if there’s someone You can use to lift and encourage another today?
Let it be me.
Let me be that one . . .
—who cares when others don’t or won’t.
—who prays, then in a few days follows up on it.
—who remains a loyal friend, no matter what.
—who cheers and encourages.
—who looks for the praiseworthy in others.
—who dares to love fiercely.
—who is passionate even while being patient.
—who always wants God’s best for you.
I could keep adding to the list, but you get the point. In a culture fractured by self-interest and ambivalent toward anyone else, God still issues the challenge, “Who will go for our side? Whom do I send?”
I don’t – won’t – speak for you. I do believe our crazed American social scene will most effectively be healed in one way: you and I being God’s best kids, impacting others one by one in ways that lift them and please Him.
Saying that, I make no case for laying yourself open to hurt, abuse, and being used by those who’ve made a lifestyle – even built careers – out of squeezing the hearts of good people. Part of the passionate patience to which I refer above is learning to wait on God’s timing; and listening to His prompting.
Oh, yeah. And maybe the next time you hear “Let It Be Me”, it’ll make the message a little more special.
Why I write: because creating something that didn’t exist before is as close to magic as I’ll ever get.
I wander through fiction to find the truth.
Sometimes you can’t calm the storm, so it’s best to stop trying. What you can do is to calm yourself. The storm, no matter how violent, will pass.
Your life will get better when you realize it’s better to be alone than to chase people who don’t really care about you.
Real strength, empowerment, and inner peace begin with the ability to let go. Then focus on living in the moment according to what genuinely pleases you, instead of trying to look good to others in order to earn their favor.
Lazy is such an unpleasant word. I like to call it ‘selective participation’.
underneath my outside face / there’s a face that none can see / a little less smiley, a little less sure / but a whole lot more like me
Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.
Well, my friends, that’s enough for now. It is my hope something herein, either the words themselves, or some thoughts and impressions of your own that snuck quietly from between the lines, will generate an idea of your own.
We are together a formidable force when we forego letting others speak for us, instead being our own advocates and building our speech and conversations on the product of our own reasoning, guided by God’s wisdom and grace.
It read, “Make sure everyone in your boat is rowing and not drilling holes in the bottom.”
Since almost this blog site’s birthing, I’ve had to wrestle with the hosting entity. I thought once I’d paid my dues, I could settle down and focus only on writing. The hosting folks would have my back.
As it turns out, they mostly had their own back. It seemed every time I got my writing groove on and encountered a site issue, their response was, “Sure, we can help with that–for only $_____.”
I’m slow on the uptake sometimes because I don’t like confrontation, nor have I ever liked those who use me. I did, however, finally tumble to the fact they were busily drilling holes in the bottom of the boat when I wasn’t looking. I confess to real disappointment, often bordering on discouragement, for it felt as if everything was aligned against my working on the manuscript for Time Trials – my healing story. Anyway, it got expensive, and I began searching for a new 3 Hour Tour.
I found one. The transferring of my domain to the new hosting site will take a few more days. It’s already paying for itself, saving me irritation and heart burn – and laying my groove down, man. The creative juices will soon be flowing from my fingertips, through my trusty laptop keyboard, onto the screens of devices everywhere.
IF, that is, you dial up my blog address, www.2ndcupofcoffee.com. Hint: my new hosting site has some smooth electronic whozits that alert me when peeps are clicking and reading. It also keeps track of how many, on which days, even preferred posts.
So. My blog since 2013, 2nd Cup of Coffee, has a new host. It’s still sponsored by WordPress, so nothing will look different to you. It’s all going to be different, though; definitely upscale and better than ever.
I’m looking forward to li—- What? Oh. Sure.
Granger says he’s got something special in the works as a Christmas gift.
Humility is one of those things we may find confusing to define, but I believe we all agree what humility’s absence looks like.
I recently read that almost everyone you meet claims to be humble. Yet even while making that claim, they have their eye on the Trinity just in case there’s a vacancy.
QTMs is my own shorthand for Quiet Time Musings. At one time I sent at least one such post each morning, and its practice became more habitual than enjoyable. That’s one of the reasons I stopped writing them. Two others are that I’m continuing work on the manuscript for my first book, which takes time. The second is that I’ve been forced by my web hosting site to switch to new servers. There’s more to that than meets the checkbook, so suffice it to say I’ve been slowed down and distracted. Frustrated, evUN. (Some of you read that in Snagglepuss’s voice. I heard you.)
No matter where I’m reading during each morning’s quiet time, I always find good, worthy counsel in Psalms and Proverbs. This year I’ve been reading out of the English Standard Version, and the subtle differences are always instructive. I love to learn new ways of understanding and applying what the Bible has to say.
This morning some things Psalm 25 has to say about humility’s link with learning grabbed my attention. My habit is to point out what I’m learning, rather than to bore you quoting Scripture. The section of my focus, however, is verses 8 through 14. Get yourself a refill of java and let’s think together.
God “instructs sinners in the way”. Okay, we sort of expect that. It’s what follows that interests me. He “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way”.
Yeah? So? Repetitive, right?
Nope. Only one who is teachable can be led. Only one who wants to learn can be taught. Note the difference between “God instructs sinners” and “He leads and teaches the humble”. There’s a stark difference between, “Okay, goofoffs, listen up!” and “Come on over here and take a load off; I’ve something to share with you.”
I just read this morning of a Port St. Lucie, FL 8th grade teacher who was fired because she refused to give lazy, impudent students at least 50% for not handing in their required work. They weren’t interested in being either led or taught, so she was restricted to only instructing them.
This passage reminds that in times when these Scriptures were written, teachers often walked along, speaking as they walked. Those wanting to learn from them walked along with them, both to hear and to bounce questions off them.
It reads that “all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness” toward those wanting to follow after Him. That implies a close, growing relationship between teacher and learners.
Think back. Who were your favorite teachers in school? Your favorite profs in college or grad school? What made them so?
This Psalm says those same things apply, albeit perfectly, to God’s desired relationship with you. Weren’t some of your most memorable times with friends those times when you walked along together, sharing thoughts and ideas? The promises here indicate that kind of closeness between God and anyone humble enough to want to read (hear) what He has to teach.
Your humility – remaining curious and teachable – is your pathway to excellence.
Granger was fed up with the glut of political flyers in his mailbox and inboxes. Tossing on his desk the garishly colored hit piece in yoga pants by a former state senator, he swung around and gazed unfocused out the window at a grayish, cotton-streaked sky with bruise-blue accents. Chuffing through his nose, he thought, “Even the sky’s puzzled by it all.”
Bemused, he reached for his “Coffee Made Me Do It” mug. Just before he got it to his mouth, he noticed the “fun-size” Butterfinger laying on his desk; it had been hidden by the big black mug. Glancing over at the glass bowl full of assorted Halloween-sized candy, he saw many other bars identical to the one huddled behind his coffee. You won’t get away from me-e-e . . .
Amused at the desire-borne moisture in his mouth, he glommed onto the familiar yellow-orange-gold wrapper. Granger actually licked his lips as he tore the wrapper lengthwise.
Opening the wrapper, he grimaced in disgust. Really? Instead of the neat, compact one-by-two-inch chocolate-covered nougat he expected to find, a sharded mess of odd-shaped pieces had fallen onto his black crew-neck tee and khaki pants.
Irritated, he started to grouse about something more to clean up when he suddenly got quiet.
I know people like that, he reasoned. Brightly packaged, looking like others in The Bowl, like they’ve got it all together–until the wrapper comes off. Unwrapped, they’re a ragged, jagged collection of misshapen pieces just waiting to fall all over the place.
Yeah, I know people like that. I’ve been like that.
As these thoughts jostled each other in his mind, he glanced again at the phrase off the discarded voting flyer: “Truth In Advertising”.
Granger’s eyes blurred and his voice thickened as he spoke aloud, a habit of those who spend most of their time alone. “Oh, yeah. Many’s the time that, had my wrapper torn, all my hidden insecurities, my personal misgivings, self-doubt, all those questions about myself would be laying all over in a huge, untidy mess just like–” here he made a rueful face as he surveyed the slightly-sticky, sweet mess he’d dumped on his clothes– “my ill-fated little candy bar buddy, may it rest in pieces.”
Later, wearing a comfortable black-and-red shirt with the sleeves rolled half up and a soft pair of old jeans, he stood with mug in left hand and coffee carafe in right, thinking about the recent experience. Shaking his head as if to wake up, Granger poured a fresh, fragrant cup of Community Golden Caramel, returned to his desk chair and sat pondering.
Is it wrong to present a public appearance that’s attractive, appropriate to one’s task? Does that not reflect good self-image and -respect?
Is it deceptive to present an outward persona that’s positive and uplifting, even when one’s interior landscape more resembles a barren wasteland? As a Christ-follower, isn’t being winsome and attractive kind of necessary?
Sipping thoughtfully at the semi-sweet, smooth coffee, he answered his own question.
Deception is willful. Wearing a mask is intended to hide, to frustrate and conceal. If those are the reasons for the wrapper, then the advertising is dishonest and disingenuous.
If one’s desire is to be a consistent positive, encouraging and Christlike witness to one’s own world, then God can be trusted to know how to tenderly deal with the internal brokenness. To fit the nonfitting. To create beauty and symmetry just as perfectly as He did at The Original Event.
Rising to refill his mug, Granger thoughtfully nabbed another of the sweet, chocolaty morsels from the Halloween bowl. Grinning as he softly checked that this one was whole, he admitted to himself, I don’t have this here “for the kids” since none ever come up here. I have this here for me. And I’m lovin’ it!
Good morning, friend. Come on in, and since I’ve been at this for several hours, you have an unusual gift this morning: two different types of coffee to enjoy while we visit.
The coffeemaker has some fresh Grizzly Peak blend from a Montana roaster, and the silver carafe with the black top has some great Columbian Supremo dark roast. Feel free to help yourself; the cups are right over there on a converted bookshelf, and there’s sugar and creamer for those who ruin their first cup. Yeah, I’m kidding; somewhere about the fourth cup, I often add both real cream and sugar, along with a dollop of smooth caramel syrup. G’head. Help yourself while I find the right thread to pull . . .
Sure. Unless you can’t stand it, you’ve eaten that. What’s usually in it is whatever’s handy. Right?
Super. I’m already seeing your knowing glances, at least those of you who are seasoned 2nd Cuppers. Good-good. Those of you who aren’t? Ask one near you who is. Or just keep reading.
Usually I have a good idea as to my writing subject. One seems to, ah, trump the others. I jot notes for the also-rans down for another time, focus on the winner, and soon emerges another blog post.
This morning, I woke to all sorts of tidbits – not to be confused with chunks – along with snippets of this or that idea. The more I tried to adjust my mental reticle, the more they all scampered away, laughing like kid cousins at a summer family cookout. By the way, watch the one in the green paisley shorts. He’ll kype your hot d–
from an old friend ~ “If some people would be a little more careful about where they step, those who follow them would not stumble so much.”
“Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which is out of the will of God.” (His personal note: ‘You get nothing that Daddy doesn’t approve of! Simple and straightforward.)
“Any honest examination of the national life proves how far we are from the standard of human freedom with which we began. The recovery of this standard demands of everyone who loves this country a hard look at himself, for the greatest achievements must begin somewhere, and they always begin with the person. If we are not capable of this examination, we may yet become one of the most distinguished and monumental failures in the history of nations.” ~ James Baldwin (1924 – 1987, American author)
from a new adopted daughter ~ “Due to the coin shortage, I will no longer be accepting people’s 2 cents!”
“If you have the will to win, you’ve achieved half your success. If you don’t, you’ve achieved half your failure.” ~ David Ambrose
Organizations and relationships are built on trust. When betrayed, that trust is never the same, though you spend a lifetime attempting to rebuild it. Old wounds have long memories. A glare, a comment, even the tone of voice can needle old scars; and anyone who’s had someone poking around scar tissue can tell you it hurts. Betrayal and rejection never completely goes away. Ever. ~ 2nd Cup files
There’s an island off the Australian coast where a pair of trained Maremma sheep dogs were placed to protect a colony of tiny penguins so foxes wouldn’t wipe them out. None of the penguins have been killed by foxes since that program began. The penguin population on the island has increased from fewer than 10 to nearly 200.
To be responsible, keep your promises to others. To be a man or woman of excellence, keep your promises to yourself. ~ 2nd Cup files
Psalm 133 ~
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
I’m including this in response to watching and listening to everyone from Rev. Franklin Graham to Nancy Pelosi quoting Scripture in support of their views relative to the whole CoVid-19 “pandemic” hoo-ha, and how it affects our upcoming election – and, by association, what America will turn out to be afterwards.
No preaching. Just a few salient observations.
The term used is unity – not uniformity. God’s okay with us being different; after all, He created us that way. Strangely enough, all the screaming, spit-spewing ‘protesters’ claiming solidarity and oneness are only further dividing and splitting.
Aaron was God’s choice for the Israelites’ first high priest. Such special appointments were publicly celebrated by anointing them with highly-fragrant oil. That anointing wasn’t a polite dipping of one’s finger in the oil and touching the person’s forehead. That oil – more like pricey cologne – was poured over the person’s head so it ran down over their face, into their beard, and down over their clothing. Nobody within smelling range had any doubt who’d been so honored!
That is how special and important God sees you and I living, working, serving, and worshiping together: in UNITY. And this Psalm says He blesses it, too!
So the whole point here is that since God blesses unity, all this rhetoric about Him being on OUR side by amoral, conscienceless political types and their Socialist minions/handlers isn’t worth the breath needed to make that claim. All they’ve been doing is attempting to tear down the thing God says He always blesses: our unity.
So. What’s the answer to the destruction, mayhem, looting, burning, killing, and Congress spending our tax dollars doing little but hurling misused and abused Biblical texts at each other?
You and I, American brother and sister, pushing aside all further attempts to drive and keep us apart and narrowing our eyes at one another. It’s linking arms with one another, celebrating the differences that history’s proven to be an unbeatable force. The answer is for all America’s citizens to once again stand up as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It’s past time to reestablish who is in charge – and it’s NOT anyone else but American citizens, being responsible to show up, speak up, and when the time comes, to proudly cast our votes according to our conscience and knowledge.
Well, 2nd Cup friends. that’s more than enough goulash for now. It’s time to make the weekly foray into grocery and essentials shopping for the week.
It’s always great to—- ungh?
Kype? I’m smiling, for those of you who are younger likely never heard the term.
Here’s an idea. If you know, drop me a reply and tell me what it means. I need to go get publicly presentable.
“The time’s comin’ that’s gonna separate the men from the boys.”
My father-in-law reminded me of that bromide almost every time we were able to spend time together. At the time, I chalked it up to his advancing years causing forgetfulness, so I did my best to ignore what I believed to be repitition. Little did I know.
I’ve never held my in-laws to be anything but family. My father was always ‘Daddy’, and Dad was, well, ‘Dad’. And so on, and like that. My brothers and sisters in law? It was just simpler for me, especially as a boy growing up, to receive them all as my elder siblings.
Hence, upon his ‘retirement’, Dad and I spent many a wonderful, lazy hour on Oregon’s Detroit Lake, tricking some of those leery lake trout into joining us for dinner that evening. That’s usually where I heard it again.
“The time’s comin’ that’s gonna separate the men from the boys.”
After awhile, even I begin to pick up on the obvious. We who are educated beyond good sense tend to aim with our noses those of lesser smarts. Dad graduated high school, then began farming. That’s what you did in central Indiana. Farmed.
Dad farmed. He farmed so well Taylor University tapped him to operate their farm, which he did well during the war years. I know that because when he tried to enlist, the government informed him he was too vital in producing food to be wasted behind a rifle. He stayed in charge of Taylor’s farm operations until he felt a call from God to preach and teach Christ.
Years passed as he was faithful to that call. Local pastor, district superintendent, confidante of general superintendents–and a disarmingly casual philosopher.
And, as it turns out, a modern-day prophet.
Dad wasn’t being forgetful as he reminded me how our Times would one day require we males of the species to step up and man up. He was imprinting that fateful truth in my mind.
Why’d he choose me? Dad had three sons of his own, each talented and able. Though I’d never asked them, I wondered while listening to the relaxing, rhythmic lapping of the lake’s inviting waters against the boat’s hull why Dad Meeks spent so much time engraving that statement on my mind and spirit.
It’s almost like he knew I’d one day be tapped by God to begin writing this blog, sending out Facebook memes, and working as a pastor and hospital chaplain. I preached, taught, and counseled it too, without any idea as to the when, where, or how of it. Looking back, I’m thinking I bored to tears anyone willing to listen with that same prescience.
“The time’s comin’ that’s gonna separate the men from the boys.”
Well, my 2nd Cup friends, we’re there. You’re now staring down the days and nights that will indeed separate the men from the little boys, the spoiled, impudent, undisciplined, morally-vacuous, lazy miscreants whom the world’s Marxist adults have spent decades indoctrinating.
To those of you, especially my own children, who have heard me say the same thing as Dad spent long decades saying to me, here’s the deal.
You may have heard it as a dire caveat, a troubled warning. It is both of those things. Yet for the men thus indicated, it is a beckoning to serve. It is a positive, powerful call to man up, and an invitation to join God’s men across our city, state, nation, and world as we each individually, and all together, recognize the true scope of the spiritual threat now being openly forced upon us and those we love.
Brothers, I don’t know what this means to you. Sisters, I’ve no clue how this all plays out for the men in your lives. I do know this: the godlessness and lawlessness, even in the halls of our own government, requires us men to accept the Holy Spirit’s inspection. This time that’s going to separate the men from the boys? It has nothing to do with physical prowess or the ability to take up weapons and wage actual war – though those things may at some point be required.
No. This coming time calls for us to first be God’s men: spiritual warriors who both know and practice intercession – yeah, real praying – for everyone and everything precious to us. It’s the kind of Ephesians 6 praying that bludgeons Hell, and won’t let up. The Adversary doesn’t like that. Hell can’t stand it, or, to quote my great-grandson, “I DON’ WIKE IT!” In other words, it’s the kind of spiritual gut-check that will instantly reveal the true nature of your inner spiritual life.
Get this. Witches Came out of the Woodwork
11-12 God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul’s skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole.
13-16 Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul’s “game.” They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!” The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man when the evil spirit talked back: “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” Then the possessed man went berserk—jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes. Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could.
17-20 It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus. Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Someone estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins. In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus. (Acts 19:11-20, The Message)
You’re getting this, right? Hell’s always known the most damaging way to mess up God’s good work on Earth is to counterfeit it. And Satan’s most effective when he can co-opt Christians – yeah, even priest’s and pastor’s kids – to cause the most embarrassment and hurt.
Friends, look at this morning’s news broadcasts, if your stomach can take any more. Can you not see how the thugs and lawless elements have inserted themselves, taking the place of thus-far-peaceful protesters, and even dressing like them? Have you noticed there are now Islamist ‘police’ patrols in American cities, some dressed just like NYPD police, and driving cars looking very much like radio cars of New York’s finest?
Do you think this is by mistake? You have to know better. Take a good look at how every enemy of all that’s good, right, and decent in America, including the ultra-Leftists who now control the U.S. House and part of the Senate, spends so much time looking, sounding, and acting as close like their opponents – even in their talking points and claims about what they’ve accomplished.
Why? To confuse you and me, befuddle our minds, and make us question whether those actually trying to do what’s right really are.
One more time: “The time’s comin’ that’s gonna separate the men from the boys.”
My 2nd Cup friends, you are staring right down the barrel of a bunch of liars, cheats, thieves, amoral and totally corrupt politicians, and their Antifa and supposed-BLM criminals whose uber-wealthy overlords continue to think they’re controlling.
Names of international types with very deep pockets may come to mind, along with social media and tech tyrants. Guess what? They are mere mortals, and when in the shower they look pathetic and even ridiculous.
They’re not ultimately in control even of themselves. The Adversary, Satan, is. There’s only one kind of force that will always beat him back, and will always win.
So. Dad? You were right. You couldn’t know how or when it would happen, but your insistence made me start telling the next generation the same thing.
That time is here. It is now. Yes, there are physical enemies now trying to usurp real estate and entities that are in no way theirs. Yes, we may need to physically stand them up and force them to admit they’ve stepped in the middle of our American freedoms once too often.
But beyond all that bluster and criminal activity, there’s a much more vital, powerful battle being waged that calls for men and women of real spiritual muscle and training to take up solid positions on the front lines.
Either you’re ready and already in that fight, or you’re nowhere near ready to meet Hell’s minions in spiritual warfare, and need to get back into your personal quiet time and reestablish Whose you are.
Whichever it is, be honest, and get the lead out. You’re either ready or you’re not, and those already on the front lines could use your help. Your city, state, and nation needs all God’s veterans on the wire, because this offensive isn’t child’s play, and the Enemy won’t leave quietly.
Yep. One last time . . .
“The time has come that’s gonna separate the men from the boys.”
Even our use of the word shows how fickle happiness is. ‘Happy’ can derive from two candy bars dropping from the vending machine. It can disappear just as fast when one gets hung up and you get nothing.
Henri Frederic Amiel wrote, “To live we must conquer incessantly, we must have the courage to be happy.” Interesting, no? Yet in considering what it takes to be happy, to keep hunting for happy refills, it often does require more courage than if one simply allows amiable, contented joy to gradually replace it.
I hear many angst-charged conversations about what comes next. If asked, few seem able to recall their experiences from New Year’s Day 2020 until the questionable events in March and April, and the subsequent being ordered about by this or that expert. They all assert they were not happy.
Occasionally, however, I encounter individuals who have chosen to exchange the constant roiling search for ‘happy’ for the calm reason Joy brings with it.
“So, what do you think is going to happen next?”
“Oh, I think I’ll get up as the sun’s yawning awake, pour myself some just-ground, fresh, hot coffee, grab my Bible and writing pad, and indulge myself in some great quiet time.”
“Naw, I mean what-do-you-think-is gonna-happen-NE-HE-HEXT?”
“Oh, I think I’ll get up as the sun’s yawning awake, pour myself some just-ground, fresh, hot coffee, grab . . .”
Happy depends on outside forces, others’ actions and attitudes. If you opt for ‘Happy’, you’re forever at the mercy of others. Good luck with that one.
Joy, on the other hand, flows from within. Let me tell you what I mean.
I could sit in the exact same spot–same chair, same clothes. Choosing Door #1 – HAPPINESS – I’d be on edge, troubled in spirit at all that’s been happening in my neighborhood, city, state, region, nation, and world. Ire would be just beneath the surface. I’d find it hard to concentrate, and even harder to write.
Choosing Door #2 – JOY – I’d be relaxed in body, mind, and spirit, knowing beyond protecting those I love and care about, there’s little I can do to alter the outcome.
That little includes some powerful things Joy helps create in me: prayers of intercession, protection, and sustenance for any and all whose situations call for it; recognition of God’s ultimate sovereignty and the willingness to let Him be God and me be Dan; and the privilege of offering both active listening and words of counsel and reassurance for any needing such.
Joy leaves room for appreciation – probably its finest attribute.
Joy let me notice the stunning display of yellow and red canna lilies popping their summer blooms. It let me spend a few quiet moments with the adolescent rabbit getting a drink from my sprinkler and checking out the salad fixin’s. It reminded me of having once again found a finer store selling a man’s fragrance I’ve long preferred yet went years without – Lagerfeld.
And Joy has allowed me to receive news of a colon tumor; spend days with loved ones discussing and deciding how to proceed if malignant; then days later finding out it is not only benign, but there is a specialist who has perfected an endoscopic procedure which may even make further surgery unnecessary.
Where ‘Happy’ flies into little emotional shards, Joy steadily moves on with the same recognition of God’s overwatch, design, and will.
“Oh, get real! I’m sure you’re tellin’ me enjoying a visit with a wild rabbit and the possibility of colon cancer give you the same warm fuzzies?”
Of course not. I am telling you that no matter what each day brings, I choose Joy over ‘Happy’, hands down. I get along better that way.
You’ve read this before. You’ve seen it displayed in Facebook memes. It’s been shared often enough that it seems by now to be old hat – kind of like those old uniforms all modern veterans think so quaint and plain . . .
“A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.”
It is unfortunate that war can be exotic and interesting in its ugliness. Citizens stand along the curb during parades, applauding crippled and maimed vets and elevating their plights and life challenges to a heroic status they themselves are often embarrassed to accept.
Veterans deserve that honor.
All of them.
This is a note showing appreciation for several generations of American men and women who wrote the blank check made payable to the USA who seldom if ever are recognized for their service. Yet if they had let down their guard even once during their enlistments, things in our nation would look and feel much different now.
They are the Cold Warriors who quietly, efficiently served America during the years following World War 2 until the Berlin Wall was removed in 1991.
Some of those postings were nice; most were not. America’s Cold Warriors served in isolated, remote places all over the world; though they requested preferred stations, they got wherever their career field was needed most. They left wives and children behind, boarded a plane, and went wherever they were told to go.
Tin City . . . Kotzebue . . . Keflavik . . . Cape Romanzof . . . Thule . . . Tatalina . . . Cold Bay . . . Havre . . . Reykyavik . . . Shemya . . . Fortuna . . . and hundreds of icy, wind-ravaged spots around our continental borders. Those lonely outposts were leftovers, mostly from WW2-era materials and buildings. Because of their harsh environments, they were cobbled together, interconnected, and upgraded only as necessary to continue their mission.
Many of those places no longer exist. Cold Warriors served during what was technically called ‘peacetime’, even though wars like Vietnam raged all around them. Therefore, they received little or no recognition and any skill upgrades were usually ignored and paperwork may or may not have been forwarded. Rank was excruciatingly slow.
I could go on. Generations of these quiet professionals lived and died with no fanfare other than a small flag on their gravesite during weekends like this one. Therefore, I’m offering for each of them something no one ever thought to give any of us. Medals of America now offer both medals and ribbons, and certificates are available.
Fellow Cold Warriors, now dead? I salute your service and your memory, for I know firsthand what your service was like, and how good you all were at your specialties. I’m glad I knew you, and had the privilege of serving during a war that stretched on for roughly 50 years of American history.
Rest well. Those of us still able wear these proudly in your honor.
I’m saving this so I can remember. The original source is unknown – Dan
So we don’t forget….
Today is Friday, May 1, 2020.
– We are at 53 days of social isolation.
– Schools have been closed since mid-March and are teaching remotely on-line. Proms and graduation ceremonies are virtual.
– Employees who can work from home are doing so.
– Non-essential stores are closed since late March. Hobby Lobby tried to fight this and was ordered to cease and desist. Kohl’s is closed.
– There are lines / tapes inside the stores to keep people 6 feet apart. Office Depot, Aldi’s, Meijer, Kroger, Lowe’s and Menards are all open with early closure for cleaning & disinfection.
– Bars and restaurants open only for home delivery & pick-up. Starbucks has been closed for more than a month now.
– Parks, beaches and walk-in places are not accessible to the public at this time. They have taped off playgrounds.
– KY Derby has been postponed…1st time since 1945.
– All sports competitions have been cancelled. There was no March Madness.
– All festivals and entertainment events have been banned.
– Weddings, family celebrations and birthdays have been cancelled. Funerals limited to 10 people.
-Zoom, which was a business application, is being widely used by everyone to gather groups of people virtually – socializing, funerals, weddings, religious activities are being scheduled on Zoom.
– People are doing drive-by parades to celebrate birthdays!
– People are doing drive-by baby showers by dropping gifts off at end of driveway.
– Young kids can’t understand why they can only see grandparents & other extended family and friends on a screen or thru a window if someone visits in person.
– Hugs and kisses are not given.
-Airplanes are flying but majority of flights are canceled and only a handful of people per flight.
– The churches are closed. Online mostly. Some drive-thru.
– We have to stay away from each other; 6 feet separation recommended.
– Primary voting will be done via mail-in votes.
– Shortage of masks and gloves in hospitals & other medical facilities.
– There are fewer ventilators than there should be. *** Edit: Early models showed a need for more ventilators. Auto companies were converted over to manufacture more. Now we have too many due to less people needing them than expected.
– People are wearing masks. Some places even REQUIRE that you wear them to enter! People are even making their own masks for sale or donation to medical facilities!
– Absolutely NO visitors allowed in hospitals, nursing homes, senior living, etc. If you go to the ER, you must enter alone, unless you’re the parent (or guardian) or caregiver.
– Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and anything Lysol or Clorox is in short supply and limited per person…. IF you can even find them.
– Flour and yeast are also nearly impossible to find.
– Meat producers ordered to stay open regardless of how many sick employees they have. Shortage of meat on grocery shelves.
– Freezers nearly impossible to find.
– As of today, gas prices range from $.99- $1.69
– Stores are closing early to disinfect everything. (24 hour stores are even closing by 9pm)
– Store check outs, pharmacies and even fast food drive thru windows have added plexiglass between employee and customer. Patrons have to reach around or under to pay!
– Only 1 family member per cart in stores. Most stores are only allowing ages 16 and up inside.
– You can’t find isopropyl alcohol easily, and supply per person is limited.
– Banks only open using drive-thru.
– Moving has been limited or banned in many places.
– Australia, USA and Europe have closed their borders, along with many others.
– Western Australia has been divided into 9 territories & an instant $1,500 fine issued for crossing the border without a valid reason. (Transport workers, Essential services etc)
– No one is travelling for leisure. Airports empty. Tourism has the worst crisis in history.
– Hair salons are closed. Some people are cutting or coloring their own hair who never have before.
Why do I post this?
Next year & then every year after, this status will appear in my Facebook memories feed. And it will be an annual reminder that life is precious & that nothing should be taken for granted. We are where we are with what we have. Let’s be grateful.
This text is anonymous, it’s not mine, but I copied because I want to remember.
Reverend James Ogden braved a nasty storm to drive twenty-three miles and have the heat and lights on in the country church building that Sunday morning. He sat listening to some praise and worship music while waiting for the sanctuary to warm up, and for the local folks from surrounding farms to arrive.
He checked the clock on his phone again. He knew it was time to start, and he’d learned that, even though country life can’t always be scheduled, the church congregation was punctual about attending worship.
Ten minutes past. Hmm. Well, there’s no point leaving lights and heat on. I knew when I accepted this parish there might be times like this. I know I prayed and prepared the message I knew God placed on my heart, and I’m glad I did. ‘S good truth.
He got up, turned off the music, and was reaching to adjust the thermostat when he heard a vehicle pull up outside. Standing, he waited until the wizened old rancher pulled the door closed behind him, stomping the water and mud off his boots. Hat in hand, he walked over and offered a calloused hand.
“G’mornin’, uh—Charlie, isn’t it?” The old man nodded. “I was just about to shut everything down, because I know you all are careful about being to church on time, and I didn’t want to waste power or gas. Have a seat, and I’ll play the song I chose to go with this message.”
While the 4Him song played, the young minister looked at his sole parishioner . . .
"We were boyhood pals, the best of friends
And time was on our side
And we thought the world was in our hands
We were young and full of lifeBut in the twinkling of a moment
Before a chance to say "So long"
You were taken from our world
And now you're goneBut I'll see you when I get Home
In the sweet by and by
And we'll walk along the streets of gold
With angels by our sideAnd time will have no meaning there
In a land of no goodbyes
Oh, it's good to know
I'll see you when I get Home . . .
He was dressed in Country Sensible, a staple of which is almost always faded Levi’s or Lee Premiums and western boots of one type or another. Weekdays called for broadcloth workshirts; yet on Sundays, the men always wore one of their “dressy, go-to-meetin’ ” western snap button shirts. This morning, Charlie’s was a bright yellow.
The minister was surprised, as his eyes traveled up and focused on the old farmer’s face, to see twin rivulets coursing down the sun-creased cheeks and dripping off his chin. Wow… Lord, no wonder You kept reminding me of that song.
Oh, what a celebration
I hope you all will come
Oh, the Father now is waiting
And soon He'll take us HomeAnd I'll see you when I get Home
In the sweet by and by
And we'll walk along the streets of gold
With angels by our sideAnd time will have no meaning there
In a land of no goodbyes
Oh, it's good to know
So good to know, it's good to know
I'll see you when I get Home
Turning from shutting off the player, Pastor Ogden was stopped by the sight of Charlie bent over, face in his hands, weeping as only a grown man can do. His shoulders shook with great, gasping sobs, and it seemed like five minutes passed before the old man could catch his breath, loudly blowing his nose on the old red bandanna pulled from his right hip pocket.
Seminary never covered this . . . Closing his Bible and laying it on the small pulpit, he stepped down from platform to check on the distraught man. “Can I get you some water or something, Charlie?”
The grizzled, white-haired man took a deep breath as he shook his head. Pausing a few seconds, he directed a level gaze at his young pastor. “James, I’ve said from the first sermon you preached here you were one of the best we’ve ever had. But I ain’t – haven’t – been real welcoming to yuh, an’ I’m fixin’ tuh work on that.”
“See, I heard all kinds of preachers claim to be hearin’ from God. But I haven’t heard one yet who’s convinced me of that until the message you just preached to me.”
With raised eyebrows, Pastor Ogden began, “What? But I nev—” Charlie interrupted him. “Yeah, you did. You just didn’t know it. Every other preacher I’ve ever knowed – known – woulda kept his Bible open and commenced tuh speakin’ forth. You didn’t. You heard from God to play that—that . . .” Here the old man’s voice got husky again. “That song. There’s no way you could’ve known how I needed to hear that message, but God shore did.
“See, there’ve been some things stuck sideways in my craw I ain’t – haven’t – wanted to do anything about. I knew they was wrong, that they was keeping me away from God and those I said I loved. But I didn’t wanna do nothin’ about ’em. Fact is, I kinda liked being a pain in everybody’s butt. I don’t want to go into it with you right now, ’cause I gotta do that with God first, and I have a hunch I’m gonna get beat down, some.”
“I wanna thank yuh. An’ if you have time this week, I’d like to meet you at Annie’s, buy yuh breakfast, and tell you the story behind the best sermon you never preached.”
Long after the sounds of Charlie’s old Dodge farm truck faded, James sat there.
“Lord, what this boils down to is that this ministry thing isn’t about me at all. It’s about You, about Your Word, Your power to change events and lives.”
In his dusty 12-year-old Nissan, he couldn’t help himself. He kept glancing in his rearview mirror, watching the church building recede into the distance until even the spire had disappeared. Sure, it’d be nice to land a pastoral charge at a big, city church with all the trimmings. He’d always secretly envied the guys who always seemed to get them. Yet something told him few times like this morning would happen there.
Given the choice? If he was honest, he would like to have more such times of seeing God move, of feeling, sensing the Holy Spirit wo-o-oshing His personal presence like that.
After he’d pulled into his driveway and shut the car off, he pulled out his phone, clicked on the calendar, and for Monday morning he typed, “Call Charlie RE breakfast and The Story.”
Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once told me, “You grow when you can’t go on, but you refuse to quit!”
I took what he said to heart, because I know he lived that philosophy. I’d read after him for years, and finally got the chance to meet him. I patiently stood in line for 8 months. When I stood before him, he was seated; so I did the automatic thing I’d learned as a hospital chaplain, and knelt to be at eye-level.
He was over 80 years old, a cancer survivor. The disease had ravaged his body and taken one of his eyes, for which he wore a black ‘pirate’ patch. I’m unsure what I expected as I offered my hand, but before I could speak, he strongly gripped my hand, scanned my face, looked me in the eye, and with a knowing, thoughtful look spoke his first words to me . . .
“Oh, you’re one of us, aren’t you?”
Somehow, my own health journey from certain death to life registered, and he knew it. He sensed it. I said yes, I am, and mumbled something semi-coherent about it being my honor to meet him after having spent so long reading his wisdom and amazing great attitude and wit. I started to stand, respecting the long line of others wanting to meet him.
He wasn’t having any of it. His face broke into a brilliant smile and said, “No-no-no, the honor is mine, and had we time I’d love to hear YOUR story.” He didn’t let go of my hand, but pulled me close, opening his other arm and embracing me. Being a believer in hug therapy, I welcomed it and carefully hugged him back. It was during that memorable moment he spoke in my ear those unforgettable words:
“You grow when you can’t go on, but you refuse to quit!”
I don’t remember much from the rest of that weekend business conference, for my spirit kept returning me in a glorious racetrack holding pattern to Charlie’s last words to me. I never saw him again before he was freed from this life to the Next.
I imagine him, excitedly exchanging human life episodes of amazing grace with hundreds of thousands of other ‘miracle’ survivors, uproariously laughing at the sheer audacity of God’s stunning interventions and the jaw-dropping awe they left in their wake.
When I one day join that merry band, I hope I can recall something I just read on a friend’s Facebook post this morning during quiet time, because I want to tell Charlie.
Being a recovering perfectionist, as a kid I rarely ever practiced my trumpet nor my voice outside of band, stage band, or choir. See, I couldn’t stand the thought of anyone – especially my parents – hearing me flub and frack notes. So I just didn’t practice at home, combining it instead with actual time in each of those classes.
I did okay, depending on natural musical ability to carry me. Point? I may have snookered the choir teacher, but I know John Sheeley, our band teacher, wasn’t fooled. I managed to keep enough chops to maintain my spot as 3rd Trumpet in Stage Band, and 2nd Section (I think, and mercifully so) in Band.
I could have been so much better . . .
Oh–you’re wanting to know what my friend, a gifted music teacher, posted?
You practice FOR rehearsal, NOT DURING rehearsal.
Wow. That’s for those who somehow get the notion life is a dry run, a dress rehearsal. We all know better. Youth foxes us with ideas of forever youngness – and suddenly here is my graduating class from 1970 prepping for our 50th class reunion this coming August.
My teacher friend’s trenchant directive sounds just like something Charlie’d say.
In all the excitement of being Home one day, I hope I remember to tell ‘im. And thanks, Karen, for the great reminder. It’s not hard to see why you’re the teacher you are.