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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why i'm excited that i went bald: Part One

Two punks switching the spark plug wires of a '79 Suzuki GS 550 as a prank.
Jesus telling the rich young ruler to go home, sell all he owns and give it to the poor.
Going bald.

What do these things have in common?


The point was made to me that our fears are fundamentally linked to our idols. i fear confrontation, i fear pain, i fear failure because my god is comfort, security and people thinking well of me. When i perform, it is not just for someone else's benefit. i can't even lead worship without serving the god of praise for myself. That's how sick i am, how entwined with the temple prostitutes i have been. i want people to be wowed by me. i want to be significant. i want people to think i'm special. It's why i have to prove i'm right when i argue and it's why, when i argue, i try and use humor to keep it friendly. i learned to be moral because the people i respected valued that and it kept me out of trouble with my folks and a righteous God who demanded it. Heck, it's why i blog.

Well, that's only partially true. i would do this even if no one read it. But that's a different issue. But it's why i check it every day to see if someone left a comment.

When i was a kid, i was not cool. i'm still not cool but i'm a middle aged, white guy going to seed, and a lot of that pressure is off. But back when being cool was cool, i was not. Nor was i able to figure out what made one cool. When i tried to be cool, i failed miserably and actually became more of a laughing stock. Eventually i moved and thought this would help, no one would know my past, i could reinvent myself. It might have, a little, but nature shows through, a dweeb by any other name still reeks of fail. By stroke of grace, i was taken as a disciple of the Keith. The Keith was cool, you could tell because he had to be bussed to a different school much further away because he'd already been kicked out of ours. The Keith didn't care what people thought of him. This, i learned, was the epitome of cool. i began to stop caring what people thought of me too. i grew my hair long. i got an earring. Cuz that's what us guys that didn't care what you thought of us did.

If your irony sensors are going off it's cuz you are well versed in Greek Tragedy. Yes, i cultivated an entire personality around the disdain for what the world held dear and celebrated my freedom from society and what "they" thought. Only, i did care. i cared what the Keith thought and i cultivated an aura of apathy carefully because i realized i gained a certain amount of respect from it. On senior day, when other sophs were being called out of class to be tormented and hazed, i stalked by, bored scowl, pony tail, knee high moccasins and trenchcoat, unmolested. i was not loved, but i was left alone. It was a runners up prize i would accept because secretly i feared i was not lovable anyhow. Not by those i wanted to be loved by. Many other folk who weren't as cool as they wished thought i was kinda cool. My idol devalued the love i of friends i truly did have and caused me to focus on those who would never accept me as one of theirs so i learned to devalue them. i was worthless, my idol made my own friends worthless and my hurt made everyone else worthless.

Cynicism runs strong in my family.

After i graduated i discovered motorcycles. i became obsessed with the idea of becoming not just a motorcyclist, one who rode a bike, but a biker. It had to be a lifestyle, a personality. The black leather, the two foot long mohawk, saddlebags and a horizon became my dream and i wasted days, months, years on it. Really, i have the sketches to prove it.

i used to have an expression, "God likes to kick out crutches." i formed this idea around the concept that God want's me to lean on Him alone. A crutch is anything that i use instead of Him. While essentially accurate, i think, it is a false portrayal of Him and His motives. When Jesus kicked a crutch, the person walked, not fell down. The ten commandments mention pretty early on that God is a jealous God. He won't tolerate that which is rightfully His being given to another. We often portray this as petty. God is this angry guy who gets tic'd off at being dissed. Or he's some kind of megalomaniac who thinks that it's all about Him. What does He think He is? God? i know, right?

But what if He's a husband who isn't too keen on sharing His wife with her abusive lovers? What if He's a father who doesn't sit idle as his kid takes up a violently destructive and dehumanizing drug habit?

The first thing that had to go was the motorcycles. My first one was sabotaged. After that, i could never spend enough to keep it running for long. My second stayed running just long enough for my brother-in-arms Wayward to earn the right to kick off society's training wheels and then it died too. My third bike is another post altogether. Every time i tried to take step one in fulfilling my dream, they died and i became the dangerous image of a two year old's tantrum in a one hundred and sixty pound monkey frame. Eventually i got the message and one by one they all disappeared from my yard.

Around this time i started noting that my once enviously luxurious mane was becoming a partially shucked corn cob. There weren't enough vines clinging to the pumpkin to merit a rake anymore and eventually i did what every self respecting man ought to do at that point, i got out the clippers and finished the job. It felt weird, it felt naked. i was exposed for what i was: a pencil necked dweeb.

When Jesus told the rich young ruler to go home and sell all his possessions, we are told that he went away sorrowful, for he had many possessions. i had given up what God told me to give up, my freedom, my dream, my identity, both metaphorically in getting married, and physically in getting rid of the bikes. i was obeying, and yet, i went away bitter. i wonder, did any of the disciples follow Jesus around with a bad attitude half the time? One that had given up everything to follow Jesus and was feeling like he'd gotten the short end of the deal?

Probably one, Judas. Fortunately for me, God wasn't done with me yet...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The following are excerpts from the Official Debriefing of the Great Pumpkin Blackout

Saturday, Oct 29, 2011, 0900 hours *: It begins snowing.
1200 hrs: the power goes out in Elwood Station. Several attempts to alert Peco are made between now and 1400 hrs. Most result in curse-laden, one-sided conversations with automated answering system.
1400 hrs: an oak tree with ants in its pants gives up its tenuous grip on life and falls on power lines across the street. Peco is alerted.
1900 hrs: neighbor Brian asks to borrow cell phone to call wife because his house has become an indiscriminate conductor of electricity. Scruffy goes to investigate.
1915 hrs: Observing Poltergeist-like effects of rampant electricity Scruffy dials 911.
1917 hrs: Scruffy evacuates Elwood Station. Fire department arrives for the first time. Peco is alerted that situation may be somewhat more serious than a power outage and if they could find the time, there presence at the scene would be appreciated.
2000 hrs: Nala the Pitbull is evacuated from Elwood Station. All three cottages are believed to be empty. Between now and 2200 coffee is drank, jokes are told, firefighters wander back and forth under downed tree and smoking wires and remark at Peco's lack of presence.
22oo hrs: Peco scout pick-up truck arrives on scene to assess situation. Peco realizes that situation may be somewhat more serious than a power outage and if they could find the time, a bucket truck and larger crew's presence would be appreciated. Fire department gets bored cuz nothing is actually on fire yet and goes home.
2300 hrs: Barely buried Verizon cable in yard in front of neighbor Brian's house begins to arc in dramatic, Chinese New Year sort of way. Witnesses stand around and prepare to leap into postures of helplessness if something catches fire. Two fire departments show up to aid in helpless bystanding. It is realized at this time that neighbor Mike is in a somnolent state in the third cottage and probably had to douse an oven fire sometime earlier in the day. He is evacuated.
2310 hrs: Verizon wire realizes that no one really appreciates it's efforts and gives up fireworks display. Firemen resume postures of boredom and tell anecdotes of how close they were to going to bed before this call went out.
0100 Sunday October 30th: Peco bucket truck arrives on scene.
0110 hrs: Peco has wires isolated and shutdown. Crisis is averted six hours after nick of time. Fire department departs again.
0115 hrs: Peco removes electric meter from Elwood Station
0116 hrs: Scruffy Mynxbane is asleep.
2000 hrs: Eagles play Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Elwood station settles in to watch dramatic fiasco under generator power.
2100 hrs: Peco arrives to fix wires.
2300 hrs: Eagles surprise everyone by winning. Peco surprises everyone by finishing wires and leaving without restoring meter to Elwood Station.
1300 hrs Monday, October 31st: Peco's automated answering system is alerted that Elwood Station is still without power.
1400 hrs: Asplundh tree company comes and removes remains of tree from phone lines.
1200 hrs Tuesday, November 1st: after several less than satisfying conversations with automated answering system, Scruffy attempts to install meter his own dang self.
1201 hrs: Scruffy realizes power is turned off at street.
1700 hrs: Peco Sub-contractor comes to restore power, discovers lock on transformer. Contact is finally made with real, flesh and blood human being at Peco. Real, flesh and blood human notifies the sub-contractor that they will restore power when they receive permission from Fire Marshall. Sub-contractor wishes Frickens luck and leaves.
1730 hrs: Scruffy leaves voicemail for County Fire Marshall since it is after hours.
0800 hrs Wednesday, November 2nd: Beth at County Fire Marshall's office notifies Scruffy that their office knows not of what Peco speaketh. They have nothing to do with Frickens' fire or Frickens' power. Suggests perhaps local code enforcer was party Peco meant.
0801 hrs: Scruffy calls Township Code Enforcer's office and learns that Code Enforcer has been on vacation for last week. Code Enforcer's office wishes Scruffy luck and suggests trying Police department.
0802 hrs: Scruffy calls Hugelberg Police non-emergency line. Learns that local police know not of what Peco speaketh. Police suggest local fire chief. They wish Scruffy luck and give Scruffy cell phone number of Chief Jim.
0803 hrs: Scruffy leaves message for Chief Jim.
0900 hrs: Chief Jim returns Scruffy's call and notifies him that he knows not of what Peco speaketh. Suggests it may have been under chief on scene. Volunteers to make some calls and call back.
1700 hrs: Scruffy gets bored of waiting and calls Chief Jim, leaves message.
2000 hrs: Chief Jim calls Scruffy back and suggests that he get an independent electrician to check wires and call Peco.
2100 hrs: Scruffy secures Dr. Steve and the Electric Mayhem to inspect his wiring following morning at 0800 hrs.
0715 hrs Thursday, November 3rd: Dr. Steve and Electric Mayhem come and inspect wiring. Call in independent Independent Underwriter.
1130 hrs: Independent Underwriter arrives and quickly okays all wiring. Notifies Scruffy that once he turns in work ticket, Peco should get it in mail twenty-four to forty-eight hours from tomorrow. Scruffy expresses sarcastic elation. Independent Underwriter leaves copy of ticket, wishes Scruffy luck and suggests calling Peco again.
1200 hrs: Scruffy calls Peco and is put on hold.
1230 hrs: Scruffy makes contact with what is initially thought to be real, live person at Peco, explains measures taken to enforce safety, explains efforts made to contact Fire Marshall, explains that Fire Marshall has no jurisdiction in situation. Supposed real, live person at Peco mechanically reads note that says they will restore power when they receive call from Fire Marshall and wishes Scruffy good day.
1240 hrs: Alone in Zeke the pick-up truck, Scruffy marvels at madness of modern society.
1241 hrs: Scruffy calls Beth at Fire Marshall's office again. She suggests that Hugelberg must have local Fire Marshall and forwards Scruffy's call.
1242 hrs: Scruffy is put through to Hugelberg Township building, asks for fire marshall and has call forwarded again.
1243 hrs: Beth at County Fire Marshall answers forwarded call. Scruffy and Beth together marvel at madness of modern society. Beth forwards Scruffy to Fire Marshall Nick.
1244 hrs: Fire Marshall Nick patiently explains to Scruffy in terms and pace designed to educate turnip that he has no jurisdiction in case, that Hugelberg has no fire marshall and suggests Scruffy call local chief, begins looking for chief's number. Scruffy supplies number of Chief Jim. Scruffy thanks Fire Marshall Nick for his time to which Fire Marshall Nick says, "well, I didn't want to just wish you luck and hang up." "Why not?" i ask, "everyone else does."
1250 hrs: Scruffy calls Chief Jim again. Explains whole sad saga in four part harmony and things like that. Chief Jim offers to try and call Peco, possibly just to get rid of Scruffy.
1345 hrs: Bubba, who is out by road in front yard cutting up what's left of original offending oak tree's carcass, calls Scruffy inside house to say that there's a Peco truck out front.
1345...still: Scruffy hunts down Peco guy in neighbor Mike's front yard. Peco guy begins to explain that he cannot turn power on without a call from...without formalities or niceties Scruffy displays work ticket from Independent Underwriter. Peco guy examines ticket and says he'll make some calls.
1400 hrs Thursday, November 2nd, 122 hours after losing power: Power is restored to Elwood Station. There is much rejoicing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

More than i ever wanted to know about how my coffee pot works.

The electrical distribution system is not a river. Power doesn't just flow one direction along a line and terminate in your Mr. Coffee with the built in clock as a perfectly heated cup of joe. It is a grid. Power can flow any direction on it from any plant that is producing it to any house tapped into the distribution lines. When the lines in front of your house get severed by a seventy-five year old oak with ants in its pants that decides it can't take it anymore one night in a snowstorm, the power doesn't just stop, it finds ways around the break and keeps on flowing through power lines on the next street over trying to get to your Mr. Coffee with the built in clock. If however those severed distribution lines somehow come in contact with something else that will take the power flowing in them, like say...oh, a ground wire that services three little cottages hidden back off the road, the electricity will say, "this way guys! i found a way out!"

You know ground wires, if you've ever wired an outlet or an overhead lamp or installed a ceiling fan, they're the naked wires next to the black and white ones. They have no insulation so they can catch any rascally stray electricity that has escaped your Mr. Coffee with the built-in clock and before it can do something nasty like cause a fire, the ground wire gives it a better place to go. Specifically an eight foot rod staked into the ground just outside your house. Hence, "grounding" wires.

So let's review. Distribution wires. Severed by oak tree with ants in its pants. Naked ground wires and the last little fun fact of electrical distribution... at any time those wires outside your house have 4000 to 46000 Volts of electricity racing through them. In case you don't know, your house was made to have 240 Volts flow into it. None of which, if things are going well, should be in the ground wires.

i and a score of firemen stood in my driveway two Saturdays ago watching as 4000 to 46000 Volts poured into our little neighborhood through the very wires that were supposed to protect it. Whenever i got too close to the middle house, the one on the shortest wire and therefore taking the brunt of the assault my hands would begin to tingle and hurt. There was so much electricity coursing through the ground itself and the four inches of snow piling up on it that it ran up the metal downspout and lit the Christmas lights on my neighbor's gutter. There was nothing to do. You can't pour water on an electrical fire, unless you want to know what the inside of a lightbulb feels like. You can't just cut the wires because the power has to go somewhere and it's more than happy to go into the ground through you. Peco (the power company) had been called but i guess they were busy on this night of falling trees and skidding cars. At one point around eleven o'clock a buried cable in my neighbor's yard had finally had enough and let go in a geyser of sparks that fused the mud around it into glass. i thought it was the beginning of the end and yet it was quite pretty for all that. It eventually quieted back down and darkness reigned again. My eyes played tricks on me as i strained for the tell-tale glimmer and flicker of the first tongues of a flame. How much more could these highly flammable bundles of sticks take?

Around one in the morning, the Cavalry came in their orange rubber overalls and medieval hardhats and queer amish style beards. i can still say "queer" without meaning "gay" right? Well, i will 'cause it's the right word. They assessed the situation, drove back down to the end of the street and within fifteen minutes, the youngest member of their three man team walked along the street, methodically touching the wires with a long fiberglass pole with a thing-a-ma-bob on the end. Obviously doing the new guy job of "here, take this stick and go touch the wires and tell me if they're dead." He didn't light up or fall down dead so i led a team of the firemen back up the driveway and into the house where they didn't take their boots off at the carpet, shined lights on everything and sniffed in a meaningful way and declared everything "okay." i thanked them profusely and when they were gone, i started getting ready for bed... a task only minutes before i thought i may never do in this house again. The last thing i saw before welcoming the sleep of the exhausted was a man in orange rubbers, a medieval hardhat and a queer little beard taking the electric meter off of my house. "Just a precaution," he assured me. That night, he could have said it was because he was a lab mouse bent on world domination and i would have wished him luck and dropped off before clicking the "k."

The significance of that act would become much more clear over the next five days.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A fricken guide to crisis management: Snowstorms, Tree-falls, Blackouts, Back-feeds and Pit-bulls.

My neighbor had his christmas lights on two days before Halloween. There's a lot of ways one could react to that, disgust, delight, denial. We chose to run around like frickens with our heads cut off and call 911.

It was also snowing that day. Two days before Halloween. You might not like that sort of thing. You might feel it's just wrong. It's far too early for snow. Turns out you would be in good company if you hold that opinion. The Ents don't much care for it either. Y'see, in October, a good many trees still have their leaves. Thick canopies of big, shovel shaped leaves, perfect for catching and holding a sticky, wet snow. As anyone who's ever shoveled early and late snows can attest, that stuff is heavy. There were more disarticulated limbs and trunks scattered around this county last weekend than after a gas explosion at a manikin factory. i actually heard a dead tree snickering at a live one, "welcome to my world, sucker."

One tree that didn't fair too well was a great, red oak at the edge of the road right out in front of Elwood Station. It went down between one and two on Saturday, scythed through the power lines and was caught and held by the phone, tv and internet cables underneath; its body forming a low arch over our road. Side note: apparently our the entertainment industry is far more concerned with you receiving their product than the power companies. We had already lost power an hour or two before and so didn't think much of it other than to remark how dumb the motorists that still drove under it were.

Supposing this outage to be a protracted one, i went and got my folk's generator which i wired directly into my power panel to give us a few lights and keep the fridges and freezer running. Heat was coming from the woodstove on Bubba's side of the station. Dinner came from Vinnie's II pizzeria and we were just settling in for a long winter's evening when there came a frantic knocking at the door.

"Dude,canIborrowaphone,mine'sdeadandIgotasmokesituationinmyhouse,sparksshootingoutofevery outletandmyfrontdoorshockedme!" It was Brian, my next door neighbor. Normally a rather logy fellow. It seemed odd that he would jump the ditch and fight the thorn bushes i'd allowed to grow up between our houses to come see us but that night he seemed particularly energized and when he realized he didn't know his wife's work number he thanked me and ran home. i thought it odd that if a man thought his house was on fire that the first person he wanted to call was his wife so i put some boots on and battled the thorn bushes and hopped the ditch to see what kind of fire wives handle better than fire departments.

That's when i saw the christmas lights. Did i mention our power had been out since midday? It bears repeating, our power had been out since midday. This was seven o'clock at night but there were the christmas lights, glowing faintly on the gutter like something out of Poltergeist. While my neighbor put his kids in his car and started shuttling Rottweiler puppies to them and full grown Rotties yelped and shot out the door like, forgive me, scalded dogs, i followed the sizzling noises to the side of his house where the grounding rod from his power panel was glowing, arcing and smoking. That's when i pushed the panic button.

It might be the second or third time i've called 911. Next time, i gotta remember to take a deep breath first, get the facts in an orderly array in my head and THEN call. Yeah, gotta keep that in mind.

At some point it occurred to me that our two houses were fed off the same pole. So i hopped the ditch and fought the thorn bushes back to Elwood Station. i could hear the hissing-sizzling before i even turned the corner and saw the glow from my own grounding rod. Having already hit my own panic button, hitting it again didn't really do anything satisfactory. So i killed and unplugged the generator, ran upstairs, totally forgetting to take my shoes off before the carpet, and hit my family's panic buttons for them. "GrabsomethingwarmandgetoutofthehouseNOW!!" Totally cool under pressure, that's me.

About this time i remembered Nala. For those who don't know, Elwood Station is a twin so to speak. We live in the new addition and Bubba and the Bubbakins live in the old, original cottage. The Bubbakins were at their mother's. Bubba had gone to help a friend with a tree limb and torso problem so that just left one scared and freaked out pit-bull in the house. Normally she's as sweet and fun loving as the next seventy pound puppy but it was dark, there were men running around her house and pounding on doors and who knows if her senses could pick up the electricity coursing through the ground that night. Have you ever opened up the door to a completely darkened house where you know there's a freaked out pit-bull? i stopped reading Cujo as a kid somewhere in the first chapter, cuz i knew i didn't want to know what that would be like. But there i was, doing just that. With visions of white, shiny teeth and torn flesh i ventured in but she only retreated, growling just enough to let me know not to get too close. She was so scared, i couldn't even coax her out with pizza. Extra sausage and bacon! i know, right? i made several attempts but it was no use. Resolving to just throw wide the doors and let her escape into the night at the first sign of fire, i gave up.

The family was evacuated to the house of friends. Brian had finished de-dogging his own house. Bubba was on his way back to get Nala. Sirens wailed in the night from every direction and a long disused and unhooked dog fence sent plumes of sizzling steam into the snowy night. All that i knew to do had been done. So i stood in my driveway and watched to see if the houses would burn...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Extreme makeover, soul edition

If you've read this or this or even that... on second thought, don't read that. That's depressing as Christmas in Tehran. But if you were already one of the six or seven saps who subjected their sorry psyches to that or this or this then you don't only deserve, desire and demand indemnity but the theme of this thank-you is gonna thump you in the thalamus like a theatric thaumaturge. So buckle up space cadets it's time to go plaid! For everyone else, i am endeavoring to make these posts more than just a quick and quickly forgotten laugh. In all seriousness, you should receive something for your investment of time and so i promise to impart what wisdom has been imparted to me. So buckle up space cadets it's time to go plaid!

i thank God that he sent me here to the Pickyernose mountains to work on this ramshackle shack.

We will pause a moment to allow the saps time to say, "Whut?" and then we'll pause for a moment longer so they may say, "Did he just say what I thought he said??" Everyone caught up? We will continue.

Yes, i said it. i even wrote it. Cuz it's true. i have been brought to the place where i can finally say, this has been a good thing. How can this be? How did this happen? The answer to that cannot be told with anything less than a six pack of Guinness, a campfire and an entire evening but i shall endeavor to sum it up like this...

Renovation. Whilst i was isolated and alone, trying and mostly failing to make something beautiful and new of this poor, dilapidated, neglected, excuse of a house here in the Pennslobovian Northeast, God has been quietly making something beautiful and new of my poor, dilapidated, neglected, excuse of a life. He lifted me up and set me level again where i had gone askew. He has been peeling back the siding and exposing the rot and rodents. He has been pulling out the broken, useless plumbing and fitting me with a working faith that taps into the Living Water and quickly confesses out the crap. He has replaced the dingy paneling with His white righteousness so that i look around my soul now and see Him reflecting off of every surface in the glorious light of His new fixtures.

What can i give you dear reader other than a pick-up truck load of colorful metaphors, amorous analogies and starry eyed similes? The Truth. The main thing that changed, the central focus of all this renovation has been direct, constant and total immersion in His Word. In my case, having no form of entertainment or distraction outside of an ipod and a laptop, i have filled my life with sermons and from them, i have been broken, exposed, healed and learned to start praying more, read the Word more and even to keep a journal. i've come from attacking the Word to get answers to my life and my questions, from study for selfish purposes and to learn about me and my plight, to a place where i study to learn about Him! To my surprise, the more i learn, the more i want to learn! The slaking of my thirst for God has only produced more thirst! i now know the temptation of the monastery. To set oneself apart from the world and live only to study and meditate on the Truth and beauty of the Gospel is an intoxicating drug. But to do that would be to totally betray and ignore everything i'm learning. This joy was meant to be shared. Just as the Old Testament was symbol and story to point to Jesus, the church, Christ's body is here on earth now to be symbol and story pointing not only back to Him and what He's done but ahead to what He's going to do!

And that's where the trial now lays. The roles of refuge and furnace have reversed. Where once i came here in spite and with one foot aimed towards home, i now turn towards my home and my joy is tempered with fear. Fear that i won't measure up, that i'll fall back into my old patterns, that i'll be tempted to give up, that it will be too hard to bring this simple faith to a world so entrenched in rebellion that it calls the Creator a pretender. How will i keep this fragile candle lit in a world that loves darkness?

Turns out you can find the answer to that question in the Word too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pennslobovian Prophet Pulls Plug on Post

Thornhurst, Pa- Few people read it, fewer still will remember it but in the waning days of last summer, a blog written by the unremarkable hack known to some as Scruffy Mynxbane and to at least two pitiable children as "dad," promised special revelation. Indeed, in a post on prophecy that has proven to be less than prophetic, the writer threatened to reveal "What God is Still Telling Us?" As if his temerity was not subject to the safety belts of common sense nor even the DOT approved cranial protection of a good crash helmet, he even went so far as to hint, some say, declare, that the message to the world at large and at present was this, "Not much." Since that time fractions of fearful followers have sat at their computers with bated breath awaiting the promised revelation.
One month.
Another couple of weeks.
Is this some kind of sick joke? Did Scruffy Mynxbane think the world would move on and forget his bold prediction? Did something horrible befall the pathetic prophet? Secretly hoping for the latter, we came to this ramshackle hovel in the woods of eastern Pennslobovia to get the truth, straight from the horse's ass.
We arrived in late evening and after peeking in several windows, let ourselves in. The shower was running and having had that lawsuit before, we took a look around while we waited for a more appropriate time to do the interview. There were tools everywhere. A radio was playing a preacher from Chicago and there was an open laptop computer at a makeshift desk in the kitchen. Since it was already open, our lawyers assured us it wouldn't be illegal to peruse the open windows. As luck would have it, it was open to a new post that apparently Mr. Mynxbane had been writing before we arrived. There was a title and nothing else. The title read, "What God is still telling us?"
Exiting the bathroom in a stolen Motel 6 towel and some wool socks, the dripping blogger appeared surprised and indignant. After explaining our presence and snapping some incriminating photos he reluctantly agreed to answer some questions.

Knot Gnews: How long have you been blogging?
Wet guy in towel: Do i really have to do this?
KG: We'll ask the questions if you please. What makes you an authority on religion?
Wet g.i.t.: Who said i was an authority on anything?
KG: Who's interviewing who here, Mr. Mynxbane?
Wet g.i.t.: Well, i guess you are.
KG: That was rhetorical. Do you claim to have prophetic gifts?
Wet g.i.t.: No.
KG: Does God talk to you?
Wet g.i.t.: Well, sort o...
KG: Does He use words?
Wet g.i.t.: No.
KG: Have you ever done hallucinatory drugs?
Wet g.i.t.: i don't see how that...
KG: What's the capitol of Assyria?
Wet g.i.t.: Ninevah.
KG: Will Andy Reid still have a job this time next year?
Wet g.i.t.: Golly, i hope not.
KG: So you admit you wish ill on weight challenged football coaches?
Wet g.i.t.: Well, that's not really what i...
KG: How do you feel about Mitt Romney's acidic remarks in the recent Republican debate?
Wet g.i.t.: i dunno, what'd he say?
KG: Please stick to easily manipulated soundbites, Mr. Mynxbane. How many times a day do you brush your teeth?
Wet g.i.t.: Once.
KG: Are you aware that nine out of ten dentists suggest brushing after every meal?
Wet g.i.t.: Yes.
KG: Yet you still persist in this wantonly self destructive behavior?
Wet g.i.t.: I wouldn't say it's...
KG: Why haven't you written the blogpost entitled "What God is still telling us?" Mr. Mynxbane?
Wet g.i.t.: Oh, um, well, it's kind of embarrassing.
KG: We were hoping so.
Wet g.i.t.: Well, you see, i never actually wrote down the idea i had other than the title and um, i seem to have forgotten what i was going to write about.
KG: mmhmm.
Wet g.i.t.: yep.
KG: That's it?
Wet g.i.t.: Fraid so.
KG: Are you at this time or at any time in the near future considering a scandalous relationship with Monica Belucci?
Wet g.i.t.: Wow. i hadn't really considered it... um, i guess not. No, not really.

So there it is. The whole sad story in black and white. What was God trying to tell us? Was He trying to tell us anything or was it all in the head of a balding, hallucinating, self loathing, half-wit with a seething hatred of obese professional football coaches? The world may never know. But one thing's for certain: after waging words with this erratic oracle, we need to brush the taste out our mouths.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Know for Certain

“Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

These are words God told Abraham way back in Genesis 15. When one looks backwards at prophecy fulfilled there's not a lot of awe. Our natural reaction is somewhere along the lines of, "duh. I saw the Ten Commandments and/or Prince of Egypt. Who doesn't know that?" What we forget is that, Abraham hadn't seen those movies. He was a little behind with Netflix. He was talking to God and God was telling him what was going to happen in the next four hundred years. Wow. That had to be mind blowing. Too bad God doesn't tell us what's going to happen now, huh? Right?

Only he does. God's always telling us what's going to happen. It's one of the ways He proves He is God, in control and immutable. God never saw something happen and said, "Oh myself! I totally didn't see that coming!" Quite the opposite. He warns us all the time what's coming so that we can be faithful and confident in Him and His power. Setting aside even the prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled, we'll deal with them later, let's go back and look at His words to Abe.

"Why?" you may ask. "This prophecy was fulfilled. There's nothing here for us apart from a bit of history and an object lesson. What can five thousand year old words tell us today?"
  1. First, they tell us that it's pretty freakin' amazing that we have a recorded conversation that occurred five thousand years ago! That's not really my point, it just now hit me how wild that is. Sorry.
  2. This conversation is between God and man. God took some time out of His day to talk to his created child. Don't lose the awe of that! That right there should tell you something vital about His nature. He wants us to know some things. He doesn't want us kept in ignorance. He wants us to know Him and so He talks with us. And what does He say?
  3. "Know for certain..." See, don't wonder, KNOW. I'm gonna tell you.
  4. "...for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there." He knows our plight. Not only that, but He's allowing it...for a while. For you see...
  5. "But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves," He's keeping records and nobody's getting away with anything. You are His and while it may not feel like He's protecting you, He doesn't take lightly anything done to you. Our best guess as to when the Exodus happened was right after Pepi II's reign. A guy named Merenre II, believed to be his son took power for only one year. Archeologists have no idea what happened to him (cause they're not looking on the bottom of the Red Sea) but they know that his reign began something called the First Intermediate Period. A one hundred and fifty year Dark Ages for Egypt that kicked off with famine, plague, looting, chaos, an end of international trade, art and building and civil war. Just the kind of thing you may think would happen after: the Nile turns to blood; having enough of blood, the frogs abandon the Nile for the people's homes; dust becomes gnats all over everyone's faces; God ups the ante and adds flies to the gnats (i'm picturing those freakin greenhead ones that bite you in the center of your back and even draw blood); a disease strikes the Egyptian livestock; boils cover the Egyptians; a hailstorm kills everyone outside; locusts finish off the Egyptian crops; God sends darkness upon the Egyptians, darkness that can be felt (i have no idea what that is but it sounds creepy); all the firstborn who are not protected by the blood of an unspotted, innocent lamb die in one night (remember what i was saying about God telling the same story over and over again?)
  6. "...afterward they will come out with great possessions." God compensates his. That generation, who had known nothing but slavery, oppression and poverty, in one day was free and rich beyond they're dreams.
  7. "You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age." A lot of times, when God really digs you, He spares you from coming tragedy altogether. (Enosh, Noah, Abe, Lot, Elijah, Daniel, the Rapture)
  8. "In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." God's got a plan and a limit. He's merciful. He tolerated the Amorites nonsense for four hundred years until their sin just got so putrid He'd had enough and He wasn't going to let them pollute the rest of the world with it any longer. Many like to paint this as a portrait of God's genocidal nature. Few see it as mercy and justice. What was the final straw for God. How do you know when you've finally pushed Him too far? Seems like a good thing to know right? What is the last recorded act of Pepi II in the Bible? The slaughtering of the Israelite children. What religious rites were the Canaanite's known for? Temple harlotry and child sacrifice. "But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel." (2 Kings 16) "Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?" (Ezek 16) Is it really psychopathic genocide to wipe out a people who kill their own kids? Would you want to live next door to them? Go to school with them? Have them serve on your town council?
As sexual promiscuity and perversion become the norm and abortion statistics become more staggering and sad, one (one being me) wonders how much more of US will God take?

Next post: What is God still telling us? or How the answer to the last post is probably, "Not Much."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Aren't we Archers?

3 Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
(Psalm 127)

If this is true, and that's a rhetorical question, if children are arrows in our hands, then doesn't this mean that it is our responsibility to aim and fire them?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

What is worth doing?

What can a lover of stories
offer the Author of All?
What can a philosopher and crafter of words
give to the Maker of his mouth and mind?
What can a thinker think up
for the All Knowing?
What can the drawer of silly cartoons draw
for the Artist of the skies?
What can one who loves to sit and ponder do
for the One who never stops working, doing and moving?
What can a man who divides his loyalties give
to the God who deserves only pure worship?
What can a man who's sin is always around him
give to the Holy God?
What can a man who loves God but hates life
teach his brother? Teach his sons?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

No Compromise

i had a rambling introduction to this that was longer than some posts i write but deleted it. You should thank me. In its stead and memory i'm going to try an acrobatic maneuver i rarely attempt and should never be performed without a delete button... i'm going to attempt to get right to the point!

Relationships, whether they be political, corporate, nuptial, filial or divine are often full of compromise. That is not the point.

Compromise has two meanings. That is not the point either, but it's operative to the point. The first is for at least two parties to make concessions in order to reach an agreement favorable to both. Or to look at it through ol Ben's spectacles, a compromise is an agreement that leaves both sides equally dissatisfied. This is what most people, i gather, mean when they use the word.

The other meaning is to accept lower standards than are desirable. This, i'm afraid, is what most of us are actually doing. This too is not the point but it is the outstretched arms in which i hope to land the point. There is an alarming span of distance between two people coming together to agree on something and one person avoiding an argument by giving in. Most likely to be followed in true passive-aggressive style, by taking something later on and justifying it as 'owed' to them for being so sacrificial the rest of the time.

Now you may be sitting there thinking, "I don't do this! I'm not like that!" That's because you are the person someone doesn't want to argue with. All jabs aside, it may not be that you are a bully (though i'm not saying you ain't) it could be the compromiser is afraid of the topic or unsure how to broach it. The facts are there could be hundreds of reasons why we just give in and go along and we probably don't fall on just one side of the line or the other, we spend a lot of time on both sides. We may play the potentate at work but live in a congenial shell at home.

So what? We get along. Why should we care? Because if we're accepting lower standards then there must be higher standards in which we Could be living. If i gotta explain that to ya, i won't.

So what closes that alarming gap? What's the crucial difference between the two definitions? How can we stop living lies? How can we explore those higher standards?

Communication. Open. Honest. Communication.

Friday, July 08, 2011

What's in the box?

It's a tad disconcerting when you're working alone in an empty house one hundred miles from home to look up and see other people in the house with you. i should probably have the radio quieter but i believe music should be felt as much as heard. So, while i think i felt the vibration of a knock, it just as easily could have been a base drum riff. So to paraphrase the ancient ditty, "i was taken by surprise, by a pair of ToNY eyes, while working in the house that day."

His girth blocked much of the living room and he talked about as much as most of his people so i almost didn't notice his wife hiding in his shadow. They were as polite as trespassers can be i suppose and didn't seem inclined to mischief so i attempted to be a gracious host. Not the role for which i was created, i assure you.

He kept me occupied with a steady stream of questions, many of which c
oncerned with whether or not the house had been green before i changed the siding. She moved from room to room in a slightly dazed manner that i normally associate with anti-depressants. "This used to be the kids' room," she wistfully said once, almost to herself. She spoke very little but they revealed that the dump i was about half-way through with gutting had formerly belonged to her brother. He had gotten sick apparently and that explained much of the disrepair and neglect the house had experienced. The couple had a mountain house nearby and it was their custom to stop off here on their way there. Apparently they hadn't known it had been sold. They didn't stay long, said their goodbyes and moved into the front yard. There they paused, had a conversation i couldn't hear and eventually drove away.

They hadn't been a nuisance really but all the same i was glad they were gone. i'm not fond of entertaining strangers as i am not naturally entertaining. It's not them, it's me. i'm also not mentally swift. i'm swiftless-ier when taken by surprise. Afterwards i review the event and all sorts of things occur to me that i wish had had the decency to occur to me when i could have acted on them. In this
case, what occurred to me was that this dump i was gutting, that i had exhausted my regular cache of cusses on, that i would charge for the match to burn down, was a monument, a marker to someone grieving a brother. It was one of the last places on earth she could come and remember and see proof that her memories were real, that people who were gone had once been. To this woman, it hadn't been a poorly assembled prefab, it had been a box holding the precious pages of a one of her favorite stories.

And now, thanks to me, the box was nearly empty. The pages torn out, discarded. Burned. We can't keep the people we love and then we can't even keep the things that reminded us of them. All the more proof that we need to put our treasures in Heaven... before someone comes to renovate the joint.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hey Dad, gotta question for you...

Rascal, my youngest son has hit that magical age. It's a special age for a father and son. The age when i can go up into the attic and find all my favorite, old R and PG-13 rated Dvds that i think he's finally mature enough to handle: Last of the Mohicans, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Midnight Run, no Desperado yet. Heck, i'm not mature enough to handle Salma Hayek. But the other night it was the instant classic Michael Mann film that ultimately pitted those two powerhouses Pacino and DeNiro together, Heat.

While sitting there in a nostalgic haze i wondered out loud during the hotel scene, "would they really evacuate an entire hotel just cuz some fool pulled the smoke alarm?" Well, i have now gotten that question answered. No, contrary to what you may think, i did not pull the alarm, i hear there was smoke, also no work of mine. And sure nuff, they evacuated the entire hotel.

Then i come out here to the Coop and there's all these eggs tossed back, fermenting in the afternoon sun. Amazing. Answers are just oozing from the universe today. In that spirit, it seemed a good time to respond to the responses. Especially since so many were very thought provoking in their own right. So without further adoodoo, the general responses:
  • Anonymous R said, i think too much. The pat answer is... too pat. So, the patricia answer to that would be, yes, you're probably right. But i've never really learned to unplug short of cutting the wires and those experiences have left me in near catatonic states so... i think it's safer just to ponder a little too much and force folk to ignore me.
  • Anonymous of the Empirical Mind says, no such thing as the imponderable! i agree. Empiricism however is only as deep as the breadth of experience and powers of observation on the part of the observer.
Now on to the responses to specific questions:
  • Work vs. no work. Two men, two inscrutable fates, one God. What's going on? The Empirical Mind says, the world is effectively random. Well, i can see how it would appear so... to one who only believes what they can see, test and prove.
  • Teenagers. Should we get graded as parents on them? Emp Mind recommends further study into nature vs nurture. i don't think i'm going to be qualified to answer this in any sense until my own two test subjects make it into their twenties.
  • Is society in a decline? Emp Mind had a fun quote here attributed to Cicero and a thought that something more complex than just entropy is happening since the world hasn't ended yet. And yet Cicero lived in a time when arguably, the seeds which birthed the end of the Roman Empire sprouted. Each successive generation of Romans was less than those before until if fell and the Dark Ages began. It wasn't the end of the world but it would take nearly fifteen hundred years to achieve that level of civilization again. The Dark Ages were the Post Apocalypse. Those unwilling to learn from history...
  • What am i teaching my kids? Again Emmind says, faith tends to degrade from generation to generation. This is related to the last one i suppose. i might even say an indicator of why. What my boys are learning and what i may have inadvertently passed on will also probably have to wait until they're older.
  • Which love is truer: love as an extension of feeling or conscious choice to love? The Mind is apparently the only one willing to weigh in on this too... As long as you're in love, does it matter? "In Love," would be the first condition i was suggesting with my question so yes, that's kinda the point... which is truer? "In love" or because i choose to love you. Cause frankly, i've had days that i wake up and i am not "In Love," but i am still married. The Mind also suggests that it may be impossible to tell the difference. i would suggest that is an opinion of either the unexamined life or one that hasn't truly tried loving in a long term sense.
  • Other than as a food source, what is the point of artists/poets in a recession/depression? The Mind says, get better at yer art, carve yer own space. Ah, a true capitalist. i translate this as, it is up to each artist/poet to define their own use. What has been the role of artists and poets through history? Have they ever served any real use? If we all vanished tomorrow, would anyone care?
  • Are Lego-playing adults sick? Crimso says, yes, but it's a good kinda sick. The Mind says, that Sports fans and Republicans are sicker given a few provisos. i say we're all sick but most of us are harmless.
  • Is the internet a real community or an illusory one? The Mind says, possibly but no. Forums and blogs tend to be feudal. i found that to be a delightfully interesting thought and am still chewing on it. Whilst i don't feel like a baron i can see some of what he means. i have power to eject anyone i chose and Blogger can eject me. Though Facebook isn't offering me any military protection and hasn't sent the tax collector to my door yet. And i have truly reconnected in some sense with folk that i had lost touch with, i keep up with their lives or at least the parts of their lives they are willing to share and i don't have to where a silly coif or liripiped hood. This one needs to be fleshed out some more i think.
  • Are we doomed... to become our parents? Anonymous Love Ya says, You are you. Not sure but i think this was directed at me specifically and not in a general sense so, thanks ;) The Mind finishes up their treatise with, We're doomed to be shaped by our parents, and that's bad enough, don't you think? i would. If that was where it ended.
And that's where i'm gonna end this today... Father's day. It's a thought and warning, fathers, you are shaping the next generation. They may be you, they may be less than you but you have a lot of say in it, make every word, deed and corner of your own life count.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fertile ground... but for what?

i'm gonna warn y'all ahead of time. This one gets ugly. Wasn't even going to share it, started it twice and ditched it. But i just read a post in another guy's blog about sharing the good and BAD of your story and while this starts off pretty bad, it got better. So you been warned.

i was driving back to Gehenna for another round of misery, frustration and gnashing of teeth. i was an hour into the drive on a misty-gray day that challenged me to find the right delay setting on the ridiculously useless wipers, a challenge made all the more patience-intesive due to a loose connection somewhere in the switch itself. When out in a soggy field I saw a billboard that said, “Live your Dreams.”

And i wept, for i realized i no longer believe in dreams.

Moments like that, i'm glad i don't pack a gun. i'm far too volatile, far too prone to self-pity. Though strangely, not given to impulsive behavior. i'd rather savor my self-loathing. Feed it like some slimy pet only i could love. i wouldn't put it past me to walk out into the field and put some rounds through the sign though. Somehow i made it the rest of the way up to that lonely outpost on the edge of coaltown blight and settled in to work the labor of the damned. Fully convinced that i was forgotten and forsaken.

Whew! Deep, cleansing breath. In through the nose, ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffp--holdit--holdit--and release it SLOWLY through the mouth... feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwp-p-p-p-blblblbplt. Feel better? Good. That was dark, eh? Yeah. That's what i thought too. But it wasn't until i wrote it down later that night, just like you see it there, that i realized how brain-bugglingly stupidish it was. i looked at it in print and i could see the fallacy as blazingly bright as the sun which never seems to shine here in Pennslobovia anymore. God must have one heck of a highlighter.

First and foremost, that statement, that mood that i allowed myself to descend into walks right up to the cross, right up to Jesus' bloody feet, spits once then looks up with that sneer that only teenagers do right and says, "Yeah? Well what have done for me lately?!" i so often fall into the trap of thinking that because what's going on right now, today, this very minute, because that sucks, God hates me or at the very least, doesn't give a damn. How many times have i even blogged about the very same thing? i know, right? And yet, here i was, doing it again! How many times am i going to have to tell myself that this present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that shall be ours someday? i'm guessing every day until the last one.

The second lie i was believing was that because nothing had happened YET, that it was never going to happen. i mean, really, i'm almost forty, life is obviously over, too late to start something new now. There's nothing for it. Guess i'll just go sit in a corner and slowly decompose for the next thirty to fifty years. Phaugh! A word i so rarely get to write. Pish-posh. At forty, Moses was just getting dumb enough to kill in God's name to jumpstart the revolution. i'll bet he was a Rage Against the Machine fan. God had to cool his heels for forty more years before he was finally broken enough to be useful to God's plan of modeling a humble, Spirit-filled savior for his people. Golly, i hope it don't take me another forty years.

So, what good is all this? You suffered through it, you should take something home. i can't figure out how to pay you each five bucks for your anguish so here's a practical, wrapped for freshness, portable proverb for ya:

When you find yourself in a hole of the spirit, write down what you're thinking. You might be shocked at how much of what upsets you is a lie. Facebook is actually good for this. Have you ever wrote a status and then said, "naw! That's too (depressing, stupid, ignorant, bigoted) even for me."? If you can't do that, try and tell someone, at least say it out loud. Lies breed in dark, closed spaces, bring them into the air and the light and watch them blister and burn. It smells nasty but it feels good. i think this is how some of the Psalms got written.

One last thing though... in order for you to recognize a lie, you gotta know the Truth. If i didn't know Jesus, i wouldn't know salvation, purpose or the Promise of a new Heaven and a new Earth. Without Him i might see the lie and have no reason not to believe it.

So how about it? What lies are you believing? Maybe even based your life on?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A bit o' Spring cleaning.

Whilst work and wabbits weigh heavily on my time. i dare not ignore the frickens out here in the coop. They keep droppin' eggs-istential nonsense whether i collect it or no. Place is beginning to look like a family garage. i bet if i dig deep enough i'll find a thought from when i was five. Tis time to draw out the tried and true industrial strength grief-blower of my strife strewn soul....

the bullet list:
  • Pride goest before the fall. It also goest before getting involved in inane internet arguments with folk who you knew even before the pride got involved would never listen.
  • The guys who wrote the Bible knew what they were talking about. Or they had no idea but the Spirit that guided them did.
  • We spend thousands of dollars on insurance for our lives which give thousands of dollars to other people after we're dead. But for the most part, give no thought to what happens to US after we're dead.
  • We are one day closer to the end of the world and Jesus coming back no matter when that day is.
  • i have never been so ready for it and yet so afraid it will come and leave my loved one's behind as i am now.
  • i really wish becoming a new creation was a quicker process. i'm really bored of asking forgiveness for the same old sins.
  • All of these bullet points sound like ideas for the Rabbit Trails to me.... i may need counseling.
  • Even that last one.
  • In the Praise category, i have found a church again! Now if i could just worship without thinking and analyzing the singing....
  • It's a shame more and more people find believing in the devil as the Bible describes him difficult. The world just makes so much more sense if you do.
  • i love my wife. She looks really cute putting together legos. ;)
  • The more time i spend honing my writing and art, the more i loathe going to my other job.
  • i really hope that someday i get persecuted for following Christ instead of just because i'm a jerk.
Nuff fer now.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Remember to use your indoor voice.

i have screamed at the sky. i have read Ecclesiastes and said, "yep, that's truth." Meaningless, life is meaningless, all chasing after the wind. i have lived almost forty years now and found nothing worth the effort it took to get here. No reward in this life worth the ride. i watch the trail of ants coming out of the walls of the house i built and across the counter of the shiny new kitchen and i see a world that is infested with entropy, decay, filth and i hear the laughing of an evil spirit mocking my attempts to recreate a private Eden. There is no rest or refuge on the earth. i have spent four hours working on a drawing for the Rabbitrails only to have someone tell me it isn't work and not so much as imply that it is a waste of time as make it a declaration of fact. And so i get lost in these dark places where i can't see what the point and movement of history is for. You're born, work at something someone else want's you to do for forty-to sixty years and then if you're lucky, you retire before your back, knees and/or health gives out and you putter around your yard looking for shrews but what you're really doing is hiding from one. This is life in America. Finally having your first child and buying your first house in your mid-thirties and then finding out you have cancer. It's watching your children make the same mistakes you did. Watching your parents walk away from each other and you. It's realizing that optimism is a belief that can only be held by the psychotically insane or the so-far astoundingly lucky. It's never being good enough, smart enough, wealthy or healthy enough. It's working your whole life and having the river or the ocean or a fire or a mean neighbor or a total, mind raping, freak accident take it all away in seconds. There are no guarantees. None. Yes, i have screamed at the sky. Why? What's it all for?

"If you don't love your story then you don't love the author of your story." That was a quote by Dan Allender that i heard one morning on a podcast that i was listening too in my search for the answers to those questions. i dunno if you've screamed at the sky but i can assure you that it rarely gives immediate, discernible answers. And from what i've read, you don't actually want it to. So i went looking the only place available to a guy like me: i Tunes.

Well, sort of. Lemme explain. What i went to was the Word of God. But as the Ethiopian eunuch told Phil, "how can i understand this unless someone explains it to me?" See, wanna guy to be humble enough to ask for directions? Geld him. i don't want anyone to eunuchize me so i try to be humble now. So, taking his example, i also go looking for learned folk who have not only read it but spent considerable time praying and studying it and arguing over what it all means with other folk who've spent considerable time praying and studying it. And then got recorded telling others what they've learned or think they've learned. Some of those recordings are on iTunes. One of these guys is Dan Allender and he's worth a listen or two. For the very reason that he drops bricks like "If you don't love your story then you don't love the author of your story," on you when your spackling a ceiling with your headphones on.

i tell you right now, i had to stop. Spackle knife in hand and ask God to forgive me for hating Him for much of my life. All those curses i had been launching at the air around me, they didn't hit the guy responsible for my curse, the guy laughing at me as i cursed my maker, my author, the lover of my soul. They hit the guy holding my ungrateful fist through it all. Trying to explain it to me. Trying to show me the answers to Why and What for?

i still don't know why or what for? i still ask. But i try to remember that i'm asking the guy in the chair next to me who went to the cross for me and while hanging there asked the sky, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" He died for my stupidity, rose and is sitting in heaven somewhere above the sky, i figure that gives him some interesting and worthwhile perspectives on it all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


A journey of nearly thirty-nine years had led them to a back porch shop in Pennslobovia. One going out of his mind from the struggle to find work and the other cursing the work he had. On the surface, they couldn't be in more different circumstances but they had one very, vital thing in common.

Male pattern baldness.

Well, yes, they had that in common but that wasn't...

They were both standing on the porch in Pennslobovia.

Well, yes, that's technically true too but not germane to the top...

They were both drinking coffee.

No. Haha, gotcha there, the one had finished his already.

They were both coffee drinkers.

Sigh, yes, they both drank coffee. They both had been struck with male pattern baldness, were standing on a porch in Pennslobovia and they both enjoyed a good cup of coffee or four. May i continue now that you've totally derailed my point?


Ahem! Aside from all of those scintillating similarities, they had one other thing in common: they were both. being. poisoned.

Dun-DAH! What? It needed a dramatic emphasis.

Don't you have some traffic you could be playing in? Carrying on. Right. Poisoned. Not physically mind you, though living in Pennslobovia that's always a possibility too. But it's not their corporeal tissue that was effected but the ...

Corporal Who now?

Corporeal Tissue, their physical bodies.

Then why didn't you just say "bodies?"

Because i liked the phrase "corporeal tissue!" It's called a vocabulary.

It's called being a pretentious peckerwood.

Look you!

Are you gonna tell us what was being poisoned or what?

Are you going to stop interrupting?

Are you gonna use real words?

Deep cleansing breath. No, it was not their bodies that were being poisoned. It was their work.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, time out. You said one of them was struggling to look for work.


Now you say his work was being poisoned.

i have.

You're gonna have to explain that to me.

i'm shocked. Work, is a constant. Whatever has been put before you to do at that moment is your work. Changing a baby; building a desk; helping a little, old lady find her taxes; studying for a test; looking for a job; talking to a friend on the phone; drawing a comic strip or writing a blog. It's all the job at hand. Even lying down to rest is the work at hand at that given moment. So, in a sense, work and the present moment are synonyms.

Okay, so work = now.


Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whenever, that's your work.

Um, yes.

The here and now. Present tense. Talking to you, that's my job.

And a smashing one you're doing too.

And these bums on the back porch, their jobs were getting poisoned.

So, i've said.

Not very quickly, you gotta way of getting off point, if you know what i mean. Too easily distracted.

Plotting murder will do that. As i was saying! They were both frustrated and angry, they were both dissatisfied with where their lives were at, what they had become, what they were doing. The one, that he was thirty-eight and had no job or prospects and was studying for a licensing test in a field he wasn't sure would pan out. The other, that he was thirty-eight, wanted to be doing something else but was stuck skinning his knuckles and filling his eyes with sawdust doing something he had no interest in doing. Both had something to do: study for an exam; build a desk but they could not focus on those simple tasks and even disdained them because their minds kept trying to do someone else's job.

Someone else's job? Whose?

God's. You see, they could not focus or enjoy the simple tasks they'd been given because they were trying to do God's job. To force the future into clarity. To predict and even control the outcome of their work. They wanted assurances they did not have instead of letting God be God and trusting Him and His promises.

Hmmm, i think you're reaching on that one, buddy.

It was as if they were given a thought to convey and some rude, unpleasant smelling, voice in their heads kept interrupting and agitating and sabotaging the natural flow.

Yeah, you're gonna need a better analogy.

If only.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The trial of the trails.

"So what's your plan?" said Mynnie.

"Plan? There ain't no "plan!"" answered the Pigkiller.

The first is a quote from my wife at lunch the other day. i was listlessly working my whip upon the dry skeleton of a long dead dray and she was rather appropriately fed up. She wanted to know what i was going to do to get out of my rut.

Well wouldn't we all. That's where one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite genre's comes into play. Mad Max was good for something.

In the meantime, i've decided to put some of my new found coloring gifts to use and have started a daily comic strip. For those three or two of you who didn't already know, it's called the Rabbit Trails. If you did already know, then there's nothing to see here, about your lives citizens. Move along, move along.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Emergency Response Plan

"Is this the end of the world?"

My wife, Mynnie, asked me that when the Towers fell back in the '01. Obviously the world kept spinning. Some Yak herder somewhere woke up on September 12, scratched his butt and made the tea over the dung fire the same way he always did and never heard nor probably cared too much that some fools flew some planes into some buildings on the other side of the ball. But i don't think my wife thought the Towers were going to fall on all of us. She probably meant, is this how the end of the world starts?

A better way of saying it may be, "Is this the end of life as we've known it?" Does this event signal a larger change? It's an understandable question. Folks look at all the natural disasters in the world, the growing power of cyclones and hurricanes, the volcanic, seismic and subversive activity. The growing political unrest in... um...everywhere and they begin to worry that their comfortable little petroleum fueled, latté driven lives might be about to veer off into the bridge abutment of calamity. Time was when Damocles' sword was made of Mutually Assured Nuclear Annihilation. Now it seems that while we were fretting with one eye on the sky, Pestilence, Famine and War were salting the ground under our feet. If one were to open their hearts to fear, it feels as if we're just one economic crisis away from a global meltdown and there doesn't seem to be enough seawater to pour on the rods.

So what do we do? Live in fear? Live in denial? Eat, drink and pinch Mary for tomorrow we die?

i suppose we could and i feel sure many will, just as they did moments before the waters rose around the Ark or the fiery hail fell on the streets of Sodom but i would like to suggest a better emergency preparedness plan:
  1. Pray for guidance, strength and mercy
  2. Trust that you'll get it
  3. Love God with all your heart, mind and soul
  4. Love your neighbor as yourself
i'm told by a fairly reliable source that if you use this plan, even if you die you will find eternal life.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Whuchoo talkin' 'bout, Aunt Linda?

"What a great life you have!!! You keep us all smiling!!!"

This is a quote via Facebook from my Aunt Linda. It made me make that snorting sound you do when you try to laugh at a moment of surprise. Intake and exhalation hit each other in the ol' windpipe and create friction that explodes out the sinuses. An internal thunderstorm of the nose i suppose.

Now i could go one of two directions with this quote. The first would be to point out how the faceless quality of the interwebs allows us to more completely brick up a false front to our true selves. That is, i'm afraid, how i responded immediately on the thread. It's a quick, thoughtless, knee jerk reaction, not without a grain of truth but like a clam strip, it's mostly fat-soaked breading.

For everything meine Tante said was true. Folk really do seem to get a kick out of my blither. i don't claim to understand it but i'd be a liar to pretend to ignore it. What's more, aside from getting people to think a little, mostly about their relationship with God, making them smile is a genuine goal of mine. So gimme the flightsuit and the banner so i can thumbs-up to a big "Mission Accomplished!" Meanwhile, the war goes on.

It's the first part of the quote that shocked me really. Anyone who's subjected themselves to the horror of this blog could attest, just prior to plucking their own eyes out, that i am generally a miserable wretch. Take this random comment from a fellow named Tige:

"Hey there. Came by your post accidentally. Your writing is funny. That's great. You are also a moper. Not so great. "

See, you don't even have to be a follower.

"What a great life you have!!!" Three exclamation points seem to put it over the top but no, it's that true! Aunt Linda is absolutely correct. And what's more, it's true for all of us. God gave us these lives and they are good. That's not to say that the circumstances are always fun or easy or pleasing or even generally-amusing-if-you-squint-at-it-just-right, but that's not what "good" means. i don't actually know what good means but i know it's got more in common with "beautiful" and "loved" than "happy." Circumstances are weather. They are the seas in which we sail, but they have no bearing on whether or not the ship is good. The ship is good! The sea is good. The weather, may suck today and be ideal tomorrow but the sailing is good.

Now, why did the same guy who made the ship, make the weather suck so often? Ahhhh. There's the rub, eh? i have no idea. No, that's not true, i have ideas but lack the hubris to spout them. But i will hint them, i have arrogance enough for that. i don't think i ever learned anything insightful, significant or life changing; i don't believe that the person i am and the person i am becoming would be if my life were smooth sailing through breezy, sunny, summer days. i don't think i would have learned to trust, believe and depend on my savior if i never knew i needed saving. i don't think i would have ever lived if i hadn't shot the rapids and wondered if i was going to die. Our God is a God of resurrection, that's how He works. He brings about new life through death...
...but you gotta die first.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weeds and warts.

So, if you read yesterday's post, you may very well be wondering, "what the flux was that?" And if you haven't read yesterday's post and you continue to read today's, you will definitely be wondering, "what the hole is this???" For those of you who read it though and are sticking with me, i doubt your sanity but i appreciate the company. It is my sincere but dubious desire that this be of some benefit to y'all and not just gratuitous introspection on my part.

For me, it's not enough to identify bad habits and catalog undesirable personality quirks. i have to dig at the reasons for them, the roots if you will. There's an element of compulsion to this that i get from my mother (a topic for another day, foreshadowing!) but there is also a rationality to it. Weeds and warts don't die if you just lop off the tops. They just sprout up again and again. You have to get down to the ugly and the painful. True change don't come easy or without dirt and blood under the fingernails. So roll up the sleeves and cauterize the razor knife, we're going in!

It's well documented, add some nauseum here, about how i hate my work. Many of my frequent bouts of despair come from the pointless toil i find myself about day after day. i don't think i'm unique in this, only in the fell depths of desperation, the dank, dark dungeon of depression over this topic do i find myself often the lone, barely animated corpse chained to the wall. Others seem more adapted to it. More able to cope, to self medicate, to find relief in American Idol, solace in video games, palliation in pubs and live more or less contented lives. Again, the diagnosis of "thinking too much" rears its head. Is this the solution? Do i somehow learn how to turn off my mind? Put a bottle in my head and pull the trigger? (foreshadow again) Are those my only choices, thunkard or drunkard? Is self destruction the only road and the only true choice the mode of transport?

Yes, yes it is. That, in a nutshell, is life as i see it.

But. The shell is a peanut shell. There are two nuts in it. A bleak nut AND a "but" nut. We'll get to the butnut later. i think an explanation for yesterday is in order. That description of my childhood is not all encompassing. i have plenty more of sizzling summer days on the front porch, playing quietly in my room, saturday morning cartoons in feety pajamas that i could cough up upon a cross examiner's pinstripes should the need arise. My life is not a sorry tale of misery and woe, i just play Woe in the upcoming teevee series. i showed you that exhibit because it flashes before my mind often. A smell, a sound or a distinct lack of sound will dredge it up and i'm there again. Trapped. Stifled. Able to see home but not touch it.

That, i think, is a large part of why i hate my existence as i know it. So much of my time is spent in places i don't wanna be, doing things i don't wanna do because i have to, putting off who i want to be because other's expect it, because society as a whole says this is how it is. It may be why i prefer to work outside. It may be why i have to have a radio on while i'm working. Why i love books, fiction only please. Why i can't concentrate on my job. Why i won't concentrate on my job. Why i get so violently angry when someone or something reminds me of it when i'm not there. Why i feel so powerless. Why i love motorcycles and backpacking. Why i love open spaces but my art is confined and small. There are so many sprouts coming out of this one root that i dunno where to begin.

Which brings us back to the butnut. See, left to my own devices, in a world without a loving God who desires not just life for me but fuller life; in a world devoid of the Spirit living and working in me, i would collapse. i would eat a bullet or a bottle because i can see no point to any of this. If all life is, is doing what you have to do to survive and finding a suitable coping mechanism to forget about it afterwards and on weekends, looking forward to the next meal, next drink, next party, next vacation to get you through then thanks but no thanks, check please, forget my coat, i'm out of here. It's all meaningless, vapor, a chasing after the wind.

But. But there is grace. Grace is what unties my stomach. Grace says God don't make no junk. That He will not waste my life. i may waste some time in gratuitous introspection but He'll get me back on track if i let Him. He'll turn my ingrown love and infected gifts, my weeds and warts, into a garden. i don't know how, i just know it's true. Yes, Virginia, there is a resurrection but the Living Water is flowing now. The seed is already in you. God will make it grow. All He asks of you is that you believe.

And many days, that's pretty much all i can handle.