Good Sunday morning to you, my friends. This site, along with virtually everything else on the planet, has been violated, turned upside-down, and otherwise bothered and bewildered until my hosting entity, SiteGround, was forced to sideline it until we could ferret out the issues.
The great news is that this blogsite is back, and unless WordPress keeps acting up, I’ll plan to be back with you each Monday morning. I have MISSED being with you.
There is nothing more unstable nor frightful than a writer whose ability to connect with readers has been compromised.
Now, I need to focus on this morning’s worship set and participate in the experience with my great extended family in Christ at Wichita’s Woodland Lakes Community Church. Until then? I’ll be working on yet more articles, and more stories of Granger and friends that, perhaps, you’ll be able to wrap yourself up in. Getting lost in a story that speaks to you, even for a few minutes, is a good thing.
I may not always give you exactly what you’re looking for. I will always give you my best.
“Hey, check this out. Now they’re calling us Magi.” Balthazar looked amused.
“Get outta town.” The others exaggerated a visual sweep of their tented camp situated among seemingly endless dunes of desert sand, then glanced over at Melchior. Artemis, their chief of security, chuckled politely. Unabashed, Mel said, “Well, yeah, point taken. But you know what I mean.”
Nodding, Bal sighed. “I know. That last bazaar where we replenished? They were spreading around we’re kings from, I don’t know, somewhere they’ve never heard of.” Shaking his head, he sipped some thick, rich chocolate-infused coffee one of Mel’s companies marketed he’d taken a liking to, then leaned back on the cushions.
He went on. “You’d think everyone with any intelligence would want to be learning, seeking, researching, applying, and adding to what they know. I mean, the gods have blessed me with the understanding of numbers and the ability to acquire gold and precious gems, to trade in oils and other goods, and guide others in doing the same. That gives me the time and freedom to do what we’re doing right now: to search known texts and seek to verify what they contain.”
Gaspar sat quietly listening. Each of the wise men joining this mission from the gods through ancient writings, studying the stars, and guidance of dreams were sensitive to spiritual leadings. Each, through different means, had done much the same. Yet of them all, they acknowledged Gaspar as the true old soul, the mystic among them, a man of solitude and thought. He was a writer of poems and mysteries, the philosopher-counselor of the team whose ear and spirit seemed most attuned to the frequencies of the heavens.
Melchior was the most practical Type A business head of the group, building up his pharmacy into several adjoining city states. He got along best with Chun because of the former’s understanding of herbs and healing arts, a mutual business arrangement turning out to be a lucrative collaboration for them both.
Balthazar spaced out for a few seconds, watching the lamp flames and the fire guttering softly in the night breezes that always moved like desert wraiths among them as they gathered around a firepit following each day’s travel. “By the way, where’s Doc? He usually has his ear to the ground.”
Artemis perked up. “Oh, he turned in already. You know how it is with codgers; they—” From a nearby tent came a reedy, strangely-accented voice: “Have you not heard that one’s honorable ears are last thing to fall asleep? And this codger capable of pulling your nostrils inside-out and making macrame knot.”
Snickering, Bal glanced quickly up at Artemis, then around the circle. It seemed everyone’s eyes were studiously averted, except for Gaspar. He sat as quietly as ever, yet with a sardonic humor in his gaze. No one gathered around the central fire doubted Chun could do it. Easily the oldest of the wise men and the one having traveled the farthest in pursuit of the strange star, even Artemis knew the seemingly ageless, mostly kind, soft-spoken Oriental physician was a good man to leave alone.
After a few seconds of that kind of silence, Bal cleared his throat after another sip of the private-reserve mocha. “So, how much farther d’you suppose is the place where this child-king was born? This is turning out to be quite the trip. I’m guesstimating at least another full moon or more.”
Gaspar: “I, too, estimate another month. According to the ancient scrolls of the Habiru, we are close.” Melchior nodded. “I’m figuring the same, though we might need to do a little sleuthing to find out exactly where he and his parents are right now.”
Gaspar’s eyes lifted and he gazed directly into the three other mens’ eyes in turn. “Herod?” Melchior silently agreed, and Artemis got a bleak look in his eyes. “Yeah, there was something hinky about that dude. While you guys were dining with ‘im at the front table, I slipped out to visit with some of Kingy’s troops . . .”
Mel raised his chin toward the veteran security man. “And?”
“And they can’t stand ‘im. They say they can’t trust–here he made air quotes–“HAY-rod”, that he’s a pathological liar and we shouldn’t believe he’ll do anything other than what he thinks is best for him. He’s power-mad and has anyone killed who he thinks threatens his reign. Including his troops”
Melchior bobbed his head once. “I got the same vibes. You guys?” All in the circle agreed. “Okay, then – that star will have left the bazaar after we’ve delivered our gifts to the little King’s family.”
The men reclined quietly for a few seconds. The rusking of the desert wind across ageless sand, the tinkling of tiny bells on camel halters, the singing, weird whine of the wind across taut rope tie-downs, and the myriad small mutterings and groans of all the beasts as they slept, combined to produce a comforting background of dune music to which the travelers had all become accustomed.
Balchior roused himself. “Hey, Mel, you got any more of that whatchacallit chocolate coffee mixed up?”
“It’s Arabian Mocha Hanani. You bet. How about the rest of you?” As he poured out the savory drink into four of the hammered copper cups he’d brought along from one of his suppliers, Gaspar quietly rose and began serving his fellow travelers, holding the filigreed tray carefully so no one spilled. Sensing eyes on him, he scanned around him and found Artemis observing his actions.
As he bent and offered the hard-bitten veteran security chief his cup of the fragrant, hot coffee, he hesitated, his raised eyebrows asking the silent question. Embarrassed, Artemis gruffly said, “I oughta be serving you, Sir.”
Squatting and adjusting his beautiful robes, Gaspar addressed Artemis as his equal: “The gods have said that he who would be first among you must be your servant.” His statement seemed to ring in the night air. All the others in the circle stared at him.
Melchior quietly remarked, “I’m not real good at that. Where’d you hear that?” Bal agreed: “Yeah. That’s like, deep stuff. C’mon, give.”
Gaspar raised his eyes to look at the starry ceiling, then turned his head to focus on The Star that had led each of these men, first separately, then together, to embark on this journey that was already changing their lives.
He dropped his gaze back to look Artemis in the eye, then rose and returned to where his pillows were stacked. Once again reclining and carefully picking up his cup of Mel’s great brew, he scanned the others, then looked again up at the Star. “Funny you should ask. It was one evening as we were resting from the day’s travel. I was . . . exhausted and, I’m afraid, a bit surly with the camel drivers. I spoke loudly and harshly to them for what I perceived as them being lazy and inattentive.”
Gaspar hesitated, and his voice thickened. “It seemed to me a voice of the gods resonated within me and caused me to look up at the Star. It looked to me as if that Star flickered in even greater brightness as I heard those words — ‘He who would be first among you must be your servant.”
Once again, this proud, wise, knowledgeable man on whose words and counsel so many others depended was quiet, and tears rolled silently as he again spoke. “I got up, walked back to where the camel drivers and tenders were watering their herd and starting to prepare their evening meal. Expecting to be chastened again, they stared as I removed my fine outer robes, laid them aside, and picked up a watering bucket to begin giving both them and their animals a drink.”
The guttering of the fire was all anyone nearby could have heard, for the rest of the stunned circle was silent. Finally, Bal couldn’t stand it any longer. “What’d they say?”
“Nothing. Neither did I, for I was deeply embarrassed, yet purposed I would be the servant which the Star had directed me to become.” Here, Gaspar’s gaze took on the strange, penetrating gleam the others had by now learned to respect. “And, the gods helping me, I shall never again treat any fellow man as one beneath me, nor ever again take advantage of another’s kindness. That Star, my friends, has forever changed me.”
The group sat in empowered silence then, each considering the potent wisdom they’d just shared. They each were thinking of the hundreds of pounds of gifts they’d been carrying with them to offer to the little King and his parents . . .
Balthazar, the Arabian money guy, brought to them gold and precious gems, understanding this young displaced family would need funds to live on until Joseph could return to Nazareth Furniture, Inc. and begin working full time again . . .
Gaspar, the Indian mystic and spiritual guru, brought to them many pounds of his own collected private blend of powdered spices he labeled ‘incense’, which he burned daily in the morning stillness as he sought the wisdom and truth of the gods . . .
Melchior, the Persian businessman, a rich pharmacist brought to them a precious mix of topical ingredients marketed as ‘Myrrh’. Also fragrant, its primary use was to treat wounds, delay sepsis, and as an ointment to prepare the deceased for burial. Considered by some as the merthiolate of its day, it was perhaps the most needful of all the gifts for a young boy growing up around his father’s tools. Oh, yeah, Mary was going to need Mel’s first-aid kit. And Joe, who’d hired on at Bethlehem Furniture? Yep.
And Chun, the mysterious Oriental doctor who knew how to mix all the others’ gifts in the correct proportions and patiently teach young Mary how to do likewise.
It was as if they all knew the Star was guiding them toward a future none of them would ever see, but which would be forever altered because each of them dared to step out of their familiar lives and embark on a journey for all Time and Eternity.
“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of My mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. (Isaiah 55:8-11, MSG)
I sat here, brow furrowed, right eyebrow cocked slightly above the left, hesitating. At 67, I’m learning still to pause when God speaks, making sure I’m listening with the right ears. It’s possible to be hearing spirit words with fleshly ears, assigning human meaning to divine intent.
In the ’70s, almost everyone had CB radios, and it was fun to listen to all the interesting citizen band invites to talk: “How ’bout that one Boogie Fever Man – are ya by? ‘Aye-mmm-Bravo-Foxtrot-Mike, come on back to the Retread King.”
God’s had His own call for millenia: “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.”
So, yeah. I paused. I sipped some piping-hot, fresh-ground organic Guatemala joe. I munched on a sugary, gooey bite of BC’s monkey bread. I wanted to have the right ears on. I sipped and munched a little more, then went back and reread that Isaiah bit. “Okay, God. Where are you going with this first thing this Monday morning?” It didn’t take long.
I got directed to Paul’s counsel about our flesh interacting with God’s Otherness . . .
“Although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, CST)
I sat pondering again. Part of my daily morning ritual is to use waking- and cleaning-up time along with light exercise and workouts to pray my way around my family. My remaining elder siblings are not close to Kansas, so the easiest way to love them is to assign them and their loved ones to God’s care and protection.
Then I add my own family – BC, our kids, grandkids, and great-grands, along with their loved ones. And next come close friends whom God often puts on my heart. The result is a sizeable group of folks into whose lives and experiences it’s my privilege and mission to direct God’s grace, supply, and oversight.
2020 The Year is proving to be the weirdest of most of our lifetimes. Much of what’s been happening physically, spiritually, psychologically, even illegally, is unlike anything in so many of our experiences thus far.
We’ve all paced, ground teeth, shaken heads, and thrown hands up in disgust and unbelief at what’s been happening. More than one of us – maybe all – have said something like, “God, WHAT is going ON? Why aren’t You DOING something about this mess? Surely YOU can see what’s going on, and what to do about it!”
Of course He does. Isaiah the wizened old Hebrew prophet said it. Scroll up and read it again. “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
Yeah, okay, but—-
When the Holy Spirit gives you that LOOK, you feel it. So God’s not only saying, “Listen up.” He’s also penetrating your whirling thoughts, opinions, and righteous pronouncements, bringing it all to a burnt-rubber-stinky halt by saying, “You FEEL Me?”
Friend, the real battles aren’t being waged on physical war grounds. They’re spiritual battles. If you once were allowed to set eyes on the true spiritual wars being waged above and surrounding all the lying, deceitful, crazed, sick, killing, destructive stuff being done in our nation and world, you’d be bleach-white and terrified!
It’s why Paul reminds us: we’re not to be pulled into the mindless grinder of souls Hell wants us to believe is too strong for us to resist. Go check in Ephesians 6 what each of us as Christians have as our load-out of weaponry that doesn’t just repel the forces of wrong and Evil arrayed against God, His church, and His people: they’re designed specifically to DEMOLISH any weapon Hell raises against you – including every one of their high-sounding arguments, along with every proud thing and person who tirelessly raises them.
Nope. It won’t happen as you and I think it should. Won’t happen anywhere near as soon, either. We’re all going to have to remember God doesn’t operate according to Time; He always acts according to what I call His perfect Now. We all are just going to have to accept that part.
In the meantime, you keep those daily prayers for YOUR loved ones and others close to you going out to where God is. Yes, He’s paying attention; He’s keeping perfect records of all of it, and as He knows it’s the right time to act, you can trust Him to make it all happen exactly as it should.
Remember: with God, there’s NO such thing as impossible.
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. “M-kay, that’s weird.” 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 Spri—ngtime 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? That’s . . . that’s 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!” That hadn’t even been written back then! 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. Eyebrows arched, he gave his head a quick shake and 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 answered himself and 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-plus-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, slowly shook his head, 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!
It takes no real talent to tear something or someone down, nor does it take very much time. Anyone can do it. Yet to create something – someone – new takes planning, thought, desire, an eye for detail, and a willing heart. Few do that.
I’ve a classmate friend who does that. She sees design, beauty, and possibilities in old, unwanted, soiled, worn-down and worn-out things, and creates beautiful, unique, often stunning things from them. She takes things others for whatever reason have discarded and gives them new life. She does this with such a loving touch that, even if you knew what they were before and recognize the basic things, the new creations my friend and classmate crafts reflect the hand, eye, mind, and spirit of a master.
At one time I had saved a few pictures of her more amazing artistry. Across the intervening years they’ve been lost to time, but I recall their uniqueness. It seemed to me each new design she came up with had all her focus; it was as if that piece, that object was her sole effort, and all her energy and her creative joy and flow was spent on that one creation.
The application isn’t hard to make, is it? That’s exactly what God does with us. He takes old, unwanted, soiled, worn-down and worn-out lives like ours and creates things in and through us totally new, completely unique, and beautiful.
In my opinion, there’s a little touch of the Divine in anyone like my friend who takes the time and makes the effort to infuse great value in things and people others decide have none.
Being thankful is a choice, and the degree to which you experience gratitude depends on that which most occupies your mind and spirit.
I know you’ve been around whiney types whose attitude seems stuck on NEGATIVE and BACKWARD. It matters little how blessed they’ve been because they don’t see it; you can but they’re blind. They’re not looking for anything positive in their life and all the wonderful things God’s brought into their journey do not register. They could have privilege after privilege, blessing after blessing, to the point anyone looking on would be amazed at how much they have for which to be grateful. It makes no difference. They are focused only on what’s wrong in the moment, and what else may be wrong in the future.
I know you’ve been around the opposite types as well. No matter what life throws at them – regardless of what hard and unpleasant things happen in or to them – they always wear a smile and have something worthwhile and positive to say when asked, “How ya doin’?” When you grin back and search for something encouraging to say to make them feel better, you always walk away feeling better, too, just for having been in their positive gravity.
I know which of the two you would rather hang with.
The former are embittered to the point nothing satisfies, there’s always something wrong, and every response begins with, “But—“ They don’t like themselves; and if they ever get real, they’ve a hard time accepting why anyone else would. Need proof? Look at with whom they surround themselves. It’s a self-defeating downward spiral. You may pity them, may even want to try encouraging them to make some positive changes, yet you know they’ll not only disregard the attempt; they often deride you and ridicule your sunny attitude.
The latter? You just like being around them. The more you know their stories and what life’s been like for them, bouncing off life’s jagged edges just like everybody else, the more you smile and shake your head at what a strong, positive, grateful influence they have and are.
What a cool coincidence that this morning’s quiet time passage includes just such an attitude.
“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess….
“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am….
“You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity.”
~ Philippians 4:10-14, 20, MSG
Thanksliving is an intentional, custom-built habit, just like its opposite. George Washington Carver had a favorite poem written by Edgar A. Guest. Carver often read it to his students to inspire them, and by the time they left his tutelage and went out to make something of themselves, they’d memorized it. I’d like to leave it with you on this Thanksliving weekend.
Figure it out for yourself, my lad, You’ve all the the greatest of men have had; Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes; And a brain to use if you would be wise. With this equipment they all began.
So start for the top and say, “I can”. Look them over, the wise and the great; They take their food from a common plate, And similar knives and forks they use, With similar laces they tie their shoes. The world considers them brave and smart, But you’ve all they had when they made their start.
You can triumph and come to skill; You can be great if only you will. You’re well equipped for what fight you choose; You have legs and arms and a brain to use, And the man who has risen, great deeds to do, Began his life with no more than you.
You are the handicap you must face, You are the one who must choose your place. You must say where you want to go, How much you will study the truth to know. God has equipped you for life, But He lets you decide what you want to be.
Courage must come from the soul within. The man must furnish the will to win. So figure it out for yourself, my lad; You were born with all that the great have had. With your equipment they all began, So get ahold of yourself and say, “I can”.
~ Edgar A. Guest
From me and those I love to you and those you love, may this Thanksgiving weekend nudge you into a greater, more invigorating and satisfactory habit of Thanksliving.
A few years back I wrote this short devotional thought . . .
“You’ve spent a lot of time paying little attention to me and who I really am. You’ve been trying instead to force me into being someone you’ve decided in your own mind I should be. I am me, not your notion of who and what you want me to be.”
2nd Cup of Coffee, 4/11/2013
The last year has been used by other men and women to manipulate and remake my heritage, my lifestyle, and my beliefs. They have attempted by any means they could make work to alter my home, my income, my health and wellness, and therefore my very life.
I don’t appreciate that. Therefore, I am stating here a brief about my personal code; my desire as a man, husband, dad, granddad and Poppy.
Being true to one’s self. Being honorable. Being a man of integrity, setting personal boundaries beyond which I refuse to step without a very good reason.
Living life largely on my own terms, not those of others whose arrogance gives them the mistaken impression they know better how to run my life. I chose long ago to give that responsibility to God. I have never rescinded that order.
Setting the bar high and holding myself accountable daily to leave it there. Learning I either must sheepishly duck under it, or make the effort to clear it, remembering that walking into bars is both painful and a bad habit. Having the decency, the moral code to step up and shape up if it becomes apparent I’ve become more often comfortable doing the limbo instead of making the consistent effort to stay in sufficient shape to clear the bar.
We’re almost through 2021 now. The withering pace of year’s-end holidays with wonderful meals and family visits will disguise the swiftness of Time’s passage until we’ll all awaken and it’s somehow January 4th or 5th. 2021 in so many ways has been one huge adjustment to sift through all the din and dustups of the year before.
Let 2021 go, gently and without trying to retrieve it. Use this waning, cooling-off time of year to reset your inner spirit’s gyros. Get balanced once more.
Accept the worthwhile challenge to reset and keep your bar high.
“Y’know, if you’d done it the way I had it planned out in my script—-“
Unless you’re Biblically challenged, you know the whole Mary and Martha saga when it seemed like Jesus carelessly hung fire until their brother, Lazarus, died. The two sisters were messed up, each in their own way, at this close family friend being so strange and not coming to them immediately at the news his friend was gravely sick.
You saw what I did there. That ‘gravely’ part will figure in this article.
Martha The Reasonable heard Jesus and The Lads were coming, so she headed East on Route 1 to intercept him before the bunch could reach Bethany. It’s a trip of a couple of miles, and on foot it wasn’t a bad side trip. Perhaps there was a C & D service center where Martha and Jesus visited. Whether they did that, or just sauntered along chatting, somewhere along the road from Jerusalem Martha and Jesus had the whole convo mentioned above. You’ll find it in John 11.
It was in the middle of that discussion about dying and living again Jesus dropped the verbal grenade that rearranged Martha’s theological real estate, and forever changed the way EV-rybody would think about him. He said:
“I AM the resurrection . . .”
Jesus of Nazareth said it. From the time he was 30, he’d done some unexpected stuff that made likers and haters squinch their eyebrows. He did things defiant of natural, observable, explainable physical laws. This presented some challenges to the haters.
They knew the Jews were ripe for revolution; all they needed was the right fuse. Talk to any of them and they’d tell you: the lockdown mandated by Rome would be over soon. Freedom was around the corner and life was gonna be great again. “You’ll see!” No one was sure what that would look like. Yet they all agreed: it was their time.
When the haters huddled together watching Jesus do weird stuff like healing terminally sick people and the water into best-vintage wine thing, they knew they had to act. Time for talking was over. Now Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t just teaching and speechifying about things ruinous to the haters’ decades-long scheming. Jesus was doing things with unexplained, effortless power, making people believe he could make a difference in their personal lives.
The haters couldn’t stop it from happening. Though the popular news blabbermouths they controlled tried to explain away Jesus’s miracles, their explanations were so lame and transparent they kept promising to circle back with the crowds – but didn’t because they couldn’t. Jesus of Nazareth had become so destructive to their agenda they knew they had to do something.
The Likers cheered and said their hope had come.
The Haters sneered and said their nemesis had to go.
Jesus of Nazareth blew them all up when he said through Martha to us, “I AM the Resurrection.“
Neither Likers nor Haters could wrap their minds around what to do with that. In this cosmic, intergalactic, world-changing, mind-and-spirit-bending game of Ultimate Plink-O, Jesus of Nazareth’s token wasn’t falling in any of the “right” places.
The Likers did their best to support him – confusedly.
The Haters did their best to export him – permanently.
Neither knew what to do with Jesus of Nazareth. They hadn’t a clue how to take him, and they REALLY weren’t ready for his ‘him’ to transform into “HIM” . . .
A tame Jesus suddenly wasn’t – ISN’T – anymore.
And that’s a problem.
A mere carpenter from Nazareth was nothing. Who’d listen to—-? Well, yeah. It was the stuff He did. He never broke a sweat doing any of it, either. Jesus was almost daily proving his HIMness by what he did, right out there where lampmakers, shepherds, physicians, builders, seamstresses and merchants watched Him do it. The Haters screamed and yelled to distract and try to ‘splain it away, but the common folks were tired of being treated as dummies and were having none of it.
And they had the nerve to sit at HIS feet, instead of auditing the classes of the temple priests and Sanhedrin know-it-alls like good little Jews should. After all, hadn’t they been teaching about the Meshiah for centuries? So who does this . . . this woodworker think he is?
Jesus didn’t leave them hanging. “Resurrection? Tha-a-at would be ME.”
John 11:40ff – Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.” They removed the stone. Jesus raised His eyes to Heaven and prayed… Then He shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out… “Jesus told them, Unwrap him and let him loose.”
Back to the ‘gravely’ part. The 12 Lads and a bunch of others were standing there with lower jaws dragging pavement because they just observed Jesus raise a man from stinky death to vibrant, Old Spice life. You’d think when the Haters impeached Jesus and set him up for death, THIS crowd would be in the vanguard of total-believing Likers, surrounding Jesus. Right?
So where were they?
Ah-ah? Don’t be so quick to judge them. You’ve had at least one Bible that’s choke-full of what we all consider miracles that Jesus has done. And if you’re into your adult years, I’d guess you are the grateful beneficiary of at least one miraculous work the risen and soon-returning Jesus has worked out in your life. So, how are you doing in the “I’ll never deny you, Master?” category?
Here’s the deal: this same Jesus has been spending our Time sitting beside God, interceding for you and me.
Yeah, seriously. Jesus the Christ, 2nd Person of God’s trinity, took up Ultimate Law when He returned to Heaven. Right now, He’s sitting at God’s side in the Court of the Universe, mediating for every one of us who’s accepted His offer of forgiveness and blessing in exchange for our repentance and choice to follow Him. I could give you several references, but it will mean more if you search them out on your own. Look for different forms of ‘intercede’ and ‘mediate’.
Okay, here’s a little taste… “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the Universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from His rule. And not just the the time being, but *forever*. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the Church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” ~ Ephesians 1:20-23, The Message, Eugene Peterson
That’s the Jesus Whose rising from death we will celebrate tomorrow, and whose return we will also consider as we observe our world. I wish for you and yours a safe, wonderful, memorable Easter Sunday.
Lovi—- What? Oh. Right.
Lucinda in Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio reminded me to explain the ‘C & D’ service center.
Avid coffee lovers will instantly get this title. For those less discerning, I’ll explain as I wrap up this post.
Time and effort can get you anything you want, but nothing will bring you more Time.
The best way I know to make something worthwhile, tremendous, and positive to happen is to ignore self and focus your eyes on someone else.
From Proverbs 24, The Passion Translation: “Wise people are builders–they build families, businesses, communities. And through intelligence and insight their enterprises are established and endure” (v. 3); “If you plan to do evil, it’s as wrong as doing it. And everyone detests a troublemaker” (v. 9); “If you say to the guilty, ‘You are innocent” the nation will curse you and the people will revile you… But when you convict the guilty, the people will thank you and reward you with favor” (vv. 24-25).
Runway Rules — Forgetting to lower the undercarriage is not an option.
“The Event” eventually began blurring into a mental fuzz of repetition, the most recent procedure replacing the last . . .” ~ Time Trials
Dangerous thunderstorms and almost-instant torrential rains, a common possibility on America’s great plains, had me on edge until, between angry-cloud onslaughts, I heard the birds singing their way through it all.
I wish coffee got cold slower.
Overheard: “Yesterday I completed a chore I’ve been putting off for over five months. It’s likely I’ll learn nothing from this.”
Reading: You cannot make a man worth any given amount by making it illegal for anyone to offer him less.
Is it not weird that in America, our flag and our culture are so offensive to so many people, yet our benefits are not? One would think eventually they would connect the dots.
Anger is a manifestation of fear, and if you entertain fear, you offer a hiding place for the Adversary.
Read: FOR SALE – I’m selling my white privilege card. It’s just over 68 years old and so far hasn’t done a blessed thing for me. No inheritance, no free college, no free food, no free housing, etc. I don’t know, I might even trade it for a race card, since those seem way more useful and more widely accepted.
“It’s okay to let go of those who couldn’t love you. Those who didn’t know how to. Those who failed to even try. It’s okay to outgrow them, because that means you filled the empty space in you with self love instead. You’re outgrowing them because you’re growing into you. And that’s more than okay–that’s something to celebrate.” – Contemplative Monk
There are always deeper truths, greater awarenesses offering more clarity, and more profound discoveries for you to experience. Don’t let up; keep learning.
Doing things God’s way starts with WISDOM (Proverbs. 9:10). Our way usually doesn’t. Eventually, our great ideas get around to it, but we waste time, energy, and resources trying our ways first. Start with Wisdom and stay there. * Carry on from there in FAITH (Hebrews. 11:33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:3-5). Repeat and keep repeating. * Let both Wisdom and Faith maintain your attitude (Luke 12:12), keeping your emotional, mental, and spiritual bubble pretty much in the middle. * This aids you in adding VALUE to everyone you meet. It’s not something you do consciously or on purpose; it is rather an outflow of your dependency on Wisdom, Faith, and the Value you find in both. You bless all you encounter because of the Value of God’s Wisdom and your applying it by Faith. * Stay brim-full of both of those things, constantly being refueled by the Holy Spirit; then allow Him to pour himself through you into anyone’s day or experience you see (Ephesians 5:18).
A reminder: Our prayers have no expiration date. No matter who you are, how young or old you are, whether you speak well or not, or what kind of education you do or don’t have, you never know when, where, or how God will answer. God says, “Always keep praying.” So do that.
Finally, be cautious if you choose to wear facial hair. Your ear and nose hairs become greatly offended and take it as a challenge.
Hmmph? Oh, the toenail thing. Well, only true coffee lovers take their coffee into the bathroom with them. And it’s usually in the bathroom where most trim (okay, perhaps harvest) their toenails. Toenails are famous for landing just about anywhere – including in your coffee.
Whose brilliant idea was it to give me today off, anyway? Nothing different about today, right? At least I can get out of town and maybe see something different. Keys? License. Coffee money. Yeah . . .
My attitude could ride a skateboard under a snake without tickling it. The snake, not the skateboard. Skateboards don’t feel. Lucky them.
In a word? My attitude? Sucky. Serious vacuum. Yesterday I was trying for the umpteenth time to reorganize the freestanding Valentine card display just inside the entrance to the busy WalMart where I’ve worked for the last, what, 8 years? Something like that.
Some lazy guy had dumped a card there that didn’t belong, so I had to take it and try to find where it came from. On the way to the card section I read it:
“If I buy you a straw, will you go suck the happy out of somebody else’s life?”
Probably realized it didn’t fit the day, so instead of doing the responsible thing and taking it back, he just conveniently dumped it there. Oh, yeah–job security. So funny. Ha-ha.
Men . . . I thought it was a cliché but from what I’ve seen, they really are pretty much all the same. Every one of them comes rushing breathlessly up to check out with their painstakingly-considered perfect gift for the little woman: cut roses and a STUPID cheap heart-shaped box of chocolates. Hey, Studly Vineswinger? I got this great idea: how about we skip all the games and just order in a couple tons of cut roses and those dumb boxes of chocolates you took SO long to choose? It’d save us all a lot of time because we all know you won’t be in here until February 12th at the earliest.
I rapidly wagged my head, as if trying to discourage a gnat wanting to explore my left ear. Driving is not the place to be preoccupied. At least I managed the transfer to the Green Acres Road store. The SuperCenter over on 11th had managed to put the laissez in faire. I just got tired of constantly trying to smooth over customers’ irritation. I guess I have seniority, at least in Eugene, because my request just went right—
You JERK! How about figuring out where your lane is before deciding to try MINE?
Of course it was a guy. Brakes work . . . They should; I just had them fixed on my venerable ’02 Subaru Forrester. I think it knows this trip by braille. The road is a little curvy, just enough to keep things interesting; but it’s beautiful.
Wow. I’m already driving through Mapleton and don’t remember the trip. 46 miles? Well, self? I guess we can stipulate I’m definitely preoccupied. I automatically checked my speed and my mirrors; speeders are a cash crop along 126.
I released a pent-up breath in a sigh. Time to stop in at the Alpha-Bit for some coffee and to regroup. I knew better than to keep driving while distracted. I swung over to Riverside and turned toward—HELlo! Alpha-Bit has a fresh coat of paint: lavender.
At least my eyes are awake. Probably some man’s idea of attractive. Shaking my head, I got out, stretched and went in. I was so preoccupied I remembered at the entrance that I’d forgotten to lock the car. I turned and, holding the door open with my foot, mashed the ‘lock’ button on my key fob. Chirp-chirp.
I always stop just inside the door and scan the interior for changes. I always stop scanning for a couple of ticks to fondly gaze at the huge old wood stove, back-center. I’ve been in here when that old veteran of the mountain wars is glowing cherry-red as it challenges the frigid, moist autumn and winter temps. I always wonder what the servers think of me standing there, gawking at nothing and everything.
“Coffee and a bowl of your tomato veggie.”
They’re slightly odd, these folks who populate Alpha-Bits; an intentional community of organic farmers and hunters – and some of the most tantalizing cooks this side of Alderaan.
“Slumping like at’s bad fer yer back.” At first I thought I was hearing things. I whirled around, seeking the cretin who dared address me in so casual a manner.
“Used ta do thet m’self. Be honest, I still do if’n I ain’t payin’ attention. Stopped a lot of it, howsomever. Back feels a sight better.”
I recognized the storm warnings flying in my own spirit. This isn’t your lucky day, you old— to be honest, I did sit up a little straighter. That ticked me off, too.
Deyr-deyr-deyr, deyr, deyr, deyr, deyr, deyr, deyr . . . Why, oh WHY do they all play Deliverance? I mean, gimme a break, already.
Seated over to one side of the old stove, antique banjo nestled in his gnarled hands, was a rail-thin, hairy coot whose age could have been anywhere between 50 and Methuselah. A faded, long-sleeved flannel shirt struggling to represent its red roots was covered by equally-worn-in denim overalls. The left knee was totally out and the right one was on life support. One shoulder strap had declared its freedom and hung as if embarrassed. Scuffed and rough leather boots dating from the Truman administration completed the ensemble.
Coot. Banjo. Unsought opinions. Perfect. I had both barrels loaded and was earing back the hammers when I realized that wasn’t going to improve my day.
“Would you mind fixing that so I can take it with me?”
Coot acted like he was half asleep, plunking softly on his banjo and slightly rocking and nodding his head.
“I put the soup in a road cup so you can sip it on the way.” She smiled at me. “It’s much better hot than cold.” I thanked her, paid and was at the door when Coot cleared his throat. Something made me turn, though my shoulders were stiff. As I met his gaze, his eyes took on sharper, almost accusing focus.
“We ain’t all the same, Missy. And you’ll find things ain’t what they at first seem. Open your eyes and learn to see what idn’t there. It’s possible you missed somethin’ mighty important back yonder coulda made life a lot differnt fer ya ifn yuh hadn’t been in sech a rush. ” His piercing eyes held mine for a couple more seconds, his skinny, bewhiskered jaw firmly set in clear anger. Then he dropped his head and began the slight nodding as if to a rhythm and tune only he could hear.
I pulled up to The Waterfront Depot in Florence, parked, turned the Forrester off and sat, sipping now-only-warm coffee and frowning, eyes narrowed. That dash is dirty. Add it to the list, right? Who did he think he was talking to, anyway? MEN.
Single-tasking, unimaginative louts . . . my lip curled like bacon over medium heat. Idiots. Self-absorbed idiots – ALL of them. Show ’em a good time in bed, fill their never-satisfied bellies and they’ll follow you around like a—
Yep. That Humane Society flyer was still in the console where I’d grabbed the mail on the way out of town.
Walking aimlessly along the beach south of the lighthouse on the beach side of 101 South, I idly fingered where my ring had been. I let my mind wander, too.
I wonder what that was about? That scrawny beanpole acted like he could see right through me, knew stuff about me that made him mad – but I’ve never seen him in my life.
The crab-encrusted halibut from the Depot was a steal of a meal at $11.00, but she’d overeaten. I wonder how far along here I ought to walk so I don’t gain more weight from that meal? Actually, I wonder why I’m even out here? I’m disillusioned, depressed, my hair looks and feels like the haymow of an abandoned barn, I have on no makeup–shoot, I even managed to tick off that strange hillbilly dude from Alpha-Bits.
I really didn’t know why I’d come, other than it always seemed to calm me and let me appreciate the stark beauty of the place. I didn’t keep track of how far south of the lighthouse I’d walked, so my steps began to slow as I thought about getting back to my trusty metal-and-fiberglass steed and heading back to Eugene and home.
Just as I stopped and began to turn around, a flash of color caught my eye. Looking back toward the South, at first I didn’t see it. As I walked closer, though, a little box took shape. It was in a clear plastic bag to keep the weather off it, and it had a reddish-pink foil heart tied to it, which is what reflected the sun’s waning rays.
Standing and looking down, I saw it was stuck in the folds of some scrub brush growing up along the beach. Somebody must’ve dropped this or laid it down and forgot it. I turned a slow 360, looking for someone – anyone – to whom the box belonged. Nobody there.
My curiosity got one up on my self-consciousness. I bent down and picked up the bag with the box in it. I could see now the foil heart was stuck to a note inside an envelope, which was itself stuck to the box. The envelope was marked below the heart, “Please – open and read.” Looking around again, I untied the little heart and the bag, opened the flap of the envelope and, pulling out the note and unfolding it, began to read . . .
“As you read this, I commend you, for you stuck with your quest long after most gave up and quit. How do I know? I measured the distance from the lighthouse parking lot to here. It’s over a mile, and over terrain few would find fun or worth the trip. That this was still here for you to find means God wanted YOU to find it.
“Whoever you are, I want you to know you’re not alone, not unique. The enclosed gift is for you. I pray it gives you a measure of the joy it brought to my own sagging soul when I most needed it. And no matter what has happened to you to bring you to this place, understand: you can’t go back and undo what’s been done. But with God’s help you can build a new tomorrow by beginning today.
I pray you find peace and what you’re looking for. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
— a friend who cares
Okay, I call strange weirdity. Sliding the note back in the envelope, I could see the little box to which the envelope was stuck had tiny hinges and was meant to be opened. I’m not sure why I stood there motionless for a few seconds. Carefully opening the little box, I could see two tiny figures spring upright, embracing as if dancing. They slowly began to circle as a beautiful melody I’d never before heard began to play.
I played it again. And again. With the sun now low in the western sky over the ocean, I wiped my eyes and began retracing my steps back to where my trusty old Forrester waited.
My troubled thoughts tagged along as I walked and played the song and watched the figures . . . I’m not cool enough to dance with. Nobody ever once asked me. I’d probably feel like a fool because I’m uncoordinated. I don’t even know if I’d want to dance. But I’d sure like somebody to care enough to ask. I feel so alone . . . I need somebody to love me without wanting to control, somebody who wants me, who’ll love me for—
Somehow I drove in this fog of loneliness and self-pity the 26 miles back to Mapleton without meeting a deer up front and personal. Not knowing why, I stopped back in at Alpha-Bits.
“You guys sell music here, too, right?”
“Well, I found this music box while walking along the beach and I’ve never heard the song it plays. I was wondering if you know it.”
Her eyes had widened and she had a strange look on her face. I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to—”
“No-no. It’s not that. I think I’ve seen this before. Please – open it and play it.”
As she saw the miniature couple and heard the first few strains of the music, her face became strangely calm as her eyes rose to meet mine.
“Someone brought this in the first time almost four years ago. I’ve seen it and heard this music eight times between then and now. The most recent time was ten days ago. A man brought it in, asking the same question you did.”
I must have seemed a little simple, just standing there with my mouth gaping.
“So you do know the music?”
“Know it? Oh, yes. After the first time, I made it a point to find the lyrics and title. I also found a YouTube recording of it. Would you like to see the words and listen to it?”
“I–I think so. Yes.”
Here is what I read, and what I heard. As soon as I find the right card – and a small foil heart to reflect the sun – I’m taking this little music box in a fresh, clear plastic bag and placing it right where I found it. I may need a flashlight, but something tells me someone else is going to need to take that same walk and need the same grace I was just given.
To all my wonderful 2nd Cup fans: A memorable Valentines season to you. I hope 2021 finds you close to someone you love, that God has protected you from sickness, and I hope you enjoyed the story. I’d love to hear from you about it.
I love you, and I believe in you. Happy Valentines Day.
If you don’t believe in miracles, I hope by the time you’re done reading this you will.
That’s what happened to me. A full-blown, turbocharged miracle snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking, made a believer out of me, and changed my entire life. I’m praying my account of what happened, and what continues to happen since then, will change yours.
Dying wasn’t on my bucket list, that bright, April morning in 1997. Not intentionally. Death is on everyone’s bucket list by default. Yet I know of no one otherwise healthy who’s added it themselves.
It was right there on mine, though. Big as day. There was no way around it, and even though I wasn’t cordial, I’d at least come to a grudging acceptance I was dying, quite literally by inches.
It didn’t matter that I was sitting in church. On Sunday. I was there, actively participating in corporate worship. Well, as actively as possible for me. I mean, you’d think God might grant a little extra grace to me, since I was being a good egg and being there in that worship moment.
The hard truth is that all but a few inches of my 21-foot-long small intestine had been surgically removed through four separate resection procedures over the span of four years. For the last two, I’d been largely confined to my house, linked by an IV umbilical to large-bore Hickman catheters pumping total parenteral nutrition (TPN) directly into my blood stream 24/7. It didn’t matter, for it was a delaying action at best.
The ugly truth was I was slowly, expensively starving to death.
Nothing could stop it. I weighed myself daily, and though I didn’t really feel any different, there was no ignoring the numbers, ’cause scales don’t lie. Each day or two, I’d be losing a few more precious ounces.
We were trying to delay that event in hopes someone, somewhere would develop something – anything – by way of a new kind of medical intervention. Meanwhile, through the Oley Foundation we were quietly considering my being placed on the GI tract transplant list at the University of Iowa. That procedure was considered medicine’s last-ditch effort, only undertaken by patients actively dying without it. We never went any farther than that, however; the procedure was still in its infancy and too dangerous.
How was I able to be sitting in church, then? No, I didn’t trundle my ungainly IV tower and clunky pump up the aisle. Nothing like begging for attention. I didn’t even use my nifty new backpack-portable, battery-powered pump.
Both of those options meant I had to be actively infusing TPN all that time, and with the incidence of internal infections both at and deep within the catheter sites, neither option was appealing. Each such infection was potentially life-threatening, and one would hit almost like clockwork every 6 weeks or so. Inviting one by being out in public while infusing wasn’t working for me.
What I had done was to ask my terrific doc, Ruth Weber, M.D., if there was any way to escape the (to me) drudgery of being constantly hooked up to that IV infusion process. I asked what were the possibilities of just infusing overnight, and then being free to move around the house during the day. Maybe even to walk outside!
TPN is very rich in all sorts of nutrients and vitamins, and she told me increasing the infusion rate could damage my entire GI system. I did the puppy-eyes. She relented, saying we’d TRY it. So from that point on, Babycakes would come in around 9 PM, saying something benign like, “I am here to POMP (clap, clap) YOU OP!” For 10 hours each night I’d double the infusion rate, refueling like a thirsty F-16. Then the next morning, we’d reverse the process before she left for work, and I. WAS. FREE!
So that, friend, is how I came to be sitting – yes, physically sitting IN church that Sunday morning in February of 2003. Other than the occasional trip to the store or some other activity, I’d not been able to enjoy that, or much else outside our home, for two long years.
Those years were lonely. Brenda and our kids found Weird Wally, a blue sealpoint Siamese that somehow understood I needed companionship. He was all that most male Siamese cats are not: quiet, easygoing, simple to care for, and willing to loll for hours on end watching TV with me or reading over my shoulder. I think God must’ve infused Wally with something extra during our buddyship over those two years; he always seemed to know what kind of support I needed from hour to hour.
He was a great cat. As I recall, when we moved from that house, God helped us find another shut-in who needed exactly what that super little pet could offer.
So I’m sitting in church, on the left side of the pew, on the aisle toward the back in case nausea hit – a common part of my recovery process. The aisle was wide, and I could easily get out if necessary – so I settled back, closing my eyes and drawing within all the multisensory bits and pieces of worship I’d always taken for granted before.
I was sitting like that, head back and eyes closed, when I heard at my left shoulder:
“Do you want to be healed?”
My eyes popped wide open! And, yes, though I knew there was nobody standing there, I involuntarily looked anyway. While doing that, I internally answered, “Yes.” I glanced over at my wife, Brenda, to see if I’d interrupted her worship, and I don’t think right then she even knew anything had happened.
I sure did, though. And it didn’t take me long to let her know what had just occurred.
Go ahead and ask . . .
Yes. Something definitely happened.
Back in 2001-2002 after three resects caused by my small gut suddenly deciding to die, my gastroenterologist assured us all that, even with 24/7 TPN infusion, I could not last more than three years with 5 being the absolute most, because, in his words, “there is not enough small gut remaining to sustain life.”
Please get that. He told us that following the third small bowel resect which left me four feet – 48 inches.
So after Number 4, which left me with only eighteen inches – that’s 18 inches – you can imagine how Brenda and our kids took that news. I was still recovering, dealing with the whole dead-middle thing, the nausea, being NPO for another six weeks, and all that. In other words, I was pretty much out of it, reliving yet another reminder of my impending death.
After all, if I couldn’t stay alive with 48 inches of my small intestine remaining while infusing TPN, what chance did I have with only 18 inches left? You got the picture, right? Every specialist who’d treated me, my all-star surgeon, even my terrific primary care doctor all agreed: Medical intervention could do absolutely nothing more. I would just die sooner.
I hated what all this was doing to my wife and my children. Where we were worshiping, the RN who first cared for me after my third surgery was attending there as well. I could see it in her eyes. Everyone was kind of tippy-toeing around the fact I was literally starving to death. I did my best to put on a game face and show my faith in action, but it wasn’t easy.
So–you have this picture of a fairly emaciated man, sitting with his family in church, thankful to be alive for one more day. If anyone was paying any attention to me, it was out of loving pity. Everyone knew it wouldn’t be long.
That’s when this occurred – when it was obviously, totally impossible to happen in any manner known to human medicine.
“Do you want to be healed?”
Within a day or two, each morning when I’d weigh, I began GAINING a few ounces: something everyone from my own surgeon to my primary care doc, Ruth Weber, to every specialist I’d seen since April of 1997 assured me was medically impossible. That kept happening until I reached 170 pounds. I have maintained between 170 and 177 pounds since then.
Yes – something incredible happened. Through no effort of my own, I became a walking, talking, singing, listening, caring miracle.
I’ve no idea why. Surely God’s got better material with which to work than me. Yet, even though I don’t understand the ‘why’, when it became clear I was going to live, I promised God two things:
I would never bore anyone by forcing my story on them.
I would always take advantage of any open door to tell anyone what He’s done/is doing in me.
I have been faithful in carrying out both of those promises. God granting me continued life, modified though it is, I will never stop telling my story of God’s amazing grace, blessings, and empowerment.
Someone out there needed to hear this. Thank you for listening.
I’ll sign off as I used to do when I first began blogging . . .
Friends are who they are, not who you’d rather they be.
It takes time and patience to grow a real friendship. Our cultural ‘Now’ is impatience: microwave this or that, irritated because Facebook or other social media don’t appear in eye’s blink . . .
Instant everything, right?
It should be no surprise, then, we rarely give each other space and grace to mature into our relationships as the friends we really are – or want and perhaps need to be. It’s quicker and cheaper to demand immature relationships – y’know, like the ones we made every day or two in middle school.
“You’re not being who and what I’d prefer you to be.”
“You don’t think as you’re supposed to.”
“No-no-no… according to my script you should be saying/thinking/doing this and this. See?”
Hey, if you want a puppet show, find somebody else to be your dummy. Do you see strings or rods attached to my hands and feet? Do you see anybody else’s hand up where it doesn’t belong, operating my mouth?
Where’d you get the impression your notions are what I’d choose if I didn’t have a reasonably working brain and heart of my own? See, God’s forever showing me new things about myself, meaning I’m a constant “new & improved” work in progress. Whether it’s steady progress depends upon how willing I am to accept that truth about myself and keep maturing.
You are the same way, friend. Just like me, you are a one-off, specially created being. Totally unique, and spectacularly wonderful.
It seems to me we’d all be better suited by knocking off all self-absorbed expectations of how everybody else should be acting and talking – and focusing entirely on who, what, and how God intends for us each personally to be living our daily lives.
You be and do you, I do and be me. Like that.
It’s as we, you and I, relax our scrutiny of each other and everybody else and keep our eyes on the track God’s laid out for us individually that things just work a lot better.
Sounds like a pretty good way to begin this new year to me.
This, from a once-in-awhile 2nd Cupper, troubled over the task before American Christians in 2021. These responses could easily be from an individual, a group, or a generation. For that reason, there are no identifying features. Shh-hh… We join the conversation in progress . . .
Well, of course there will. Of course you’ll be tested! Hell’s not going to let go of ANYTHING nor anyONE its’ stolen from you without a fight.
“See? SEE? All this turmoil and garbage going on in our nation and world right now? I can’t stand confrontation and bickering and—“
You didn’t let me finish. The Cross of your Savior, Jesus – y’know, Son of God, second Person of The Trinity – GUARANTEES that Hell can never win unless YOU let it.
“But–But the Devil doesn’t fight fair, you know? He cheats, lies, steals, destroys, and—“
Of course; that’s how you can identify his followers. If you can even stand it anymore, all you need to do is follow the news. Pay no attention to their labels, titles, propaganda, or anything else: just watch what they do, because they’re just like him. Satan’s vicious all the time, every time, because HE KNOWS HE’S THE ALL-TIME ULTIMATE LOSER – which means anybody foolish enough to do his dirty work will be, as well. It’s the old cornered-rat deal — and Satan’s the biggest rat of them all.
“Well, I just don’t like all the fighting . . .”
Better get used to it. Look at yourself as one of God’s MMA fighters—only you’re waging a way different war. YOU are a MSA specialist: MIXED (or MAXIMUM) SPIRITUAL ARTS warrior. And the arts you stay busy perfecting every day are praying, studying the Bible, witnessing to God’s grace in your life, honing your listening and counseling skills, and walking moment by moment in Holy Spirit awareness to situations and relationships around you God may at any time ask you to positively impact for Him.
No one understood the sheer magnitude of Christian men’s and women’s personal witnesses in their daily environments like Paul. Here’s the way it used to read . . .
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” [2 Corinthians 10, NKJV]
And since God gifted Gene Peterson to write The Message paraphrase so accurately, listen to how that same passage reads:
3-6 “The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishingthat entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashingwarped philosophies, tearing downbarriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” [Same passage, italics mine, MSG]
“So-o-o, you’re saying whether I want it or not, they’re going to bring the fight to me? Every day? Like no breaks er nothin’?”
What gave you the idea Hell wasn’t doing that all along?
“Wuh–uh! That’s not—-“
Fair? What’s fair about being God’s chief archangel, right there next to The Creator, then igniting an armed insurrection using about 30% of Heaven’s created angels to try to take God The Father down, and out if possible?
“Okay, wait. You mean Satan is actually who Lucifer was? Name change? What?”
There’s no conclusive evidence either way, and the Genesis account says nothing. That is what seems to make the most sense, though . . .
“Satan” is not a name, it’s a description that means “adversary”. He still carries his original name. The Hebrew word śāṭān, meaning “accuser” or “adversary,” occurs several times throughout the Hebrew Bible and refers to enemies both human- and spirit-being alike. When referring to the celestial adversary, the word is typically accompanied by the definite article. He is ha-satan—the Accuser—and it is a job description rather than a proper name.
From this guy’s appearances in both Job and Zechariah, it seems that the job entails calling attention to the unworthiness of mankind–which we, of course, figured out long ago. The Accuser is essentially the prosecuting attorney of the divine court of God The Creator, and part of his job includes collecting evidence to prove his cases. A-and the Devil stays busy digging up all the dirt about all of us he can. Yeah–he gets a LOT of help from way too many humans who ought to know better and mind their own business.
” ‘Kay. Bo–ring. But I’m guessing anywhere around Heaven, it doesn’t mean much any more.”
In one sense, yes. Being the Universe’s Creator, how long do you suppose it took God to replace those spirit beings, along with disgraced Lucifer, if He felt they were needed? But in another sense, the name ‘Lucifer’ equals LOSER to anyone thinking he has any positive value at all.
Remember the movie, The War Room? To quote Miss Clara, “Devil, you just got yo’ butt KICKED! My God is FAITHFUL! My God is POWERFUL! And my God is IN CHARGE! You can’t FIRE ‘im, and He won’t EVER retire!”
“oooh, I remember that movie; I need to see it again. Hey, listen–I gotta be on the clock in 15. I know you’ve always got good, straight stuff to give kinda like, I dunno, a moral or something?”
Sure. Our local, national, and worldwide culture is dangerously close to the tipping point right now. You remember those Maximum Spiritual Arts Warriors I talked about earlier? There’s never been a time in Earth history when you’re more needed than now.
Way too much of the Church is a mile-wide and a couple of inches deep. Christians in name, they rush from one relationship to another, like 8th-grade girls picking each morning’s friends. It dizzies the soul and is an epic fail in expressing one’s true story and witness.
So here’s my suggestion. Stop practicing relational, spiritual misfeasance. Start touching peoples’ lives around you on a deeper level. Who of your younger friends can you take time to invest in paying forward the love, counsel, and Christ’s witness that’s been invested in you? And into whom of your older friends can you set aside time to pour into them your gratitude, love, and esteem so they can enjoy the fruit of their investment of love and counsel all across the years you’ve known one another?
Start there. I think you’ll find it’ll keep you busy and growing.