The Dash

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”:  While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down;…
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well.  Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.  “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.”… 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  14 For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.    Ecclesiastes 12, selected verses

If you read yesterday’s article, you know my sister died this past week.  It’s been a bit tougher than I thought it would be for all the reasons I listed yesterday.  I re-read it today, and something struck me.  Writing a basic summary of her life was a whole lot easier than her living it.  She was an addict and lived very close to death for years.

It reminded me of something I heard when I was young.  Maybe you’ve heard it too.  It’s about the dash on the tombstone.  Here lies Paula, 1964-2021.  The dash was chiseled into the stone easily enough.  Getting through it was a whole other thing.

Isn’t that true for us all?  Figuratively speaking, your tombstone and mine have a starting year and a dash that grows in microns as we live and bring it to completion.  The dash is filled with warmed hearts and broken ones; triumph, tragedy, and indifference.

You and I only ever see the dash.  God sees everything that made it.  At some point He’s going to want to talk with us about every bit of it.

Solomon is warning us about that in Ecclesiastes.  He’s admonishing us to get tight with God while young and it’s easier.  If we wait until we’re old, we might never get there.  Build the foundation of that relationship before you’re too worn down to start on it.  Don’t let the vanities, the foolishness of the world blind you to what really needs to be done.  Those crazy things will vanish, leaving you with a moon and stars that give no light.  Build your life on God before the days on earth make you too weary to find pleasure in them.  Live a life, start to finish, that clings to God for satisfaction and pleasure.

Make your dash count for something more than just having been here.

How do we do that?  Fear God and keep His commandments.  What does that look like?

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’    Matthew 22:37

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.    James 1:27

My sister did none of this.  Hers was a life of sorrows, bad mental health and a crack addiction.  It was at times living on the streets with her small kids.  But given all that, I know she was back in Jesus’ fold at the end.  Despite a life not unspotted from the world, she was still washed clean in Jesus’ blood.

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”    Matthew 19:25-26

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.    Ephesians 2:8-9

So…the dash.  How’s yours looking so far?  Long or short?  Something to be OK with or something you’ll have to answer for?  A lot.  For the good times, Jesus will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

For the bad times that will be brought to judgement, Jesus will take the punishment and wash you clean of every spot with His most loving blood.  All it takes is saying “Yes” to Him while the dash is still alive!

Death Comes

The end of a thing is better than its beginning.    Ecclesiastes 7:8

I don’t normally write about personal tragedy, but today I will.  Part of me wants the release.  Part of me hopes that someone will learn something from it. Honestly, I’m not sure which part is bigger.

My sister died Friday morning.  Truth be told, she died Thursday, but she was comatose and on a ventilator since then.  Her husband called me Friday morning to say that they decided it was time to turn it off.  Her organs were failing, and there was no hope.

But let’s back up for a moment.  For one thing, you might wonder at my choice if Bible verse.  I’ll explain, but it’s going to take a little bit.

One of my nephews from my other sister called me Thursday morning at 5:00.  When I looked at my phone and saw his name, I figured it had to be bad news.  He told me that she had had open heart surgery several days prior.  After an initial good recovery, she began to have internal bleeding.  Things didn’t look good, because she was too weak for them to operate again.

I asked him where she was.  I wasn’t asking what hospital, although that eventually came.  No, I wondered where in the country she was.  Was she still in Las Vegas?  He didn’t know where she was after she left Vegas years ago.  He said he would try to find out and get back to me.  All he knew was that her husband had contacted his mom, my other sister, with the news.

Paula had a shit life.  No two ways about it.  It started with bad genes, a hyper thyroid, and the attending mental health issues that go along with it.  She married right out of high school.  Her husband joined the Navy but was later dishonorably discharged for drug use.  He got Paula hooked when he came back.  After having three kids together, they divorced, and he moved on.  Paula was addicted to crack cocaine.  Some of the stories she told me after she got clean chilled me to the bone.

The worst was when her supplier threatened to shoot her over missing money.  She grabbed his hand and pulled the gun to her head and screamed at him to go ahead.  Her son was there.

I tried to help her when I could, but she would invariably piss away whatever I tried to do for her and disappear for years at a time.  I wasn’t mad at her so much as frustrated.  For what little detail I know of her life, she made very few good decisions and never learned from the bad ones.

As odd as it might sound, I am grieving for someone I barely knew as an adult.  I have some fond childhood memories, but even by high school she kept getting herself into tight spots.

The question I ask myself as why I’m crying over someone I haven’t seen or heard from in over ten years.  I’m not crying for having now lost her.  I’m crying for the normal relationship we never had.  I’m crying for decades of her pain.  I’m crying because no matter how futile the hope of having a normal sibling relationship with her was, it was still alive as long as she was alive.

That door closed Friday morning.

The end of a thing is better than it’s beginning.  Her pain is ended.  Her troubles have ended.  It’s better now.

Your obvious question is what makes me think a former crackhead who left family for years on end can end up in heaven.  My nephew told me that he knew his mom and Paula spoke about God a few times last few years.  She “came home” to Jesus.  She fell asleep in her body and awoke in Jesus’ loving arms.

What’s especially comforting about this is a conversation I had last year with someone who died, met Jesus and came back.  You can read my article Perfect Love for some detail, but here’s the gist of it.

Jason met Jesus in heaven surrounded by angels he described as being huge and indescribably powerful.  He felt Jesus’ power also.  I asked him if he wasn’t even a bit nervous about being in the presence of the Son of God.  He smiled and said no.  Jesus’ love emanated from Him like a physical force.  The power and intensity of Jesus’ love made everything else pale in comparison.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.    1 John 4:18

That’s where my sister is now.  She’s with Jesus and feeling His love that casts out everything else.  She is in a place where God promised to wipe away every tear.

I’m not going to the funeral.  The family situation is…well, it’s ugly.  It’s better if I stay away.  We were, after all, the poster family for dysfunction.  There’s nothing to be gained by playing the entire soap opera here.

However, writing this has helped me work through my emotions.  I hope it’s given you some sort of perspective if you’re dealing with a death now.  If you’re not dealing with a death right now, trust me – you will.  Just please remember that you can try to do the right thing and get punished for it.  You can’t make other people behave.

You can pray for them, try to help, be understanding, and, in the end, take comfort that God will take care of things.

Hard to Love

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”    John 13:34-35

We find some people easy to love.  We find other to more challenging…but doable.  Then there are those that we just don’t see how.  Not that we hate them, but…

All societies have some sort of caste system.  It isn’t as defined and rigid as India’s, but every country has one.  I see it everywhere I go in my job, meeting many different people from various walks of life.  I manage to get along with most, although I wouldn’t care to spend time with them socially.  We’re just from different backgrounds.  We don’t communicate on the same wavelength.

There was a time when I looked down on some people.  They were crude, uncouth, uneducated, and not the sort I grew up around.  Let’s just acknowledge that there are different cultures – caste levels – in every society.

I deal with a lot of “worker bee” types; road builders, mechanics, farmers, and more.  Many didn’t get past high school, but they are far from stupid.  Some of these people can rebuild a diesel engine on a truck while I sometimes find screwing a nut and bolt together challenging.  There are guys who can take a piece of sheet steel and turn it into a custom trailer and extend a small apartment onto the back of a big rig.  They are intelligent, skilled, and I’m not always very comfortable around them.

Topics that elude me: NASCAR, hunting, fishing, college sports, etc.

When there’s a Kroger less than a mile from my house, why would I ever go into the wild where there are bugs, and larger critters might be eyeing me for dinner while I’m hunting my own?  No, sir!  Give me three pounds of ground chuck on a Styrofoam plate and wrapped in cellophane.  I can take it from there.

Some people dig or harvest the raw materials for civilization from the earth.  Others take that stuff and turn it into cars and buildings and heavy equipment.  I’m someone in between.  I’m neither ingenious enough to run and maintain the equipment to do the digging or harvesting, nor am I educated enough to know what to do with it.  I just facilitate the exchange of products between groups so they can go about their respective tasks in civilization.

The people closer to the earth are just as valuable in our society as those who wield corporations.  Neither can function without the other.  Yet, they remain apart with nothing in common but the economy.  They all deserve respect for their contributions to civilization whether we care to have them over for dinner or not.

That’s the practical side of this topic.  The spiritual side is that God loves them all equally.  He sacrificed His Son, Jesus for all of them.  It is for none of us to look down on one who occupies humble place or denigrate those who do their work farther from the earth.

It is not for me to think poorly of someone who’s intelligence comes out in a way different than mine.  I have no right to accuse others who are more gifted than me of snobbery.  We all contribute.  We are all loved by the same God.  We all need to practice love toward each other regardless of what culture we occupy within our larger society.  No matter the occupation, the social norms that differ between cultures or personal talents we are to love each other as best we can.

It’s only right!

More Support for the Old-Fashioned Ways

Just a couple weeks ago I wrote Brains Rewired?.  It was about recent studies that show how too much use of digital media actually “rewires” our brains to perceive the world differently.  I made mention of how I learned using books.  You know – the old-fashioned way.

I read all my college textbooks three times, minimum.  First, I read every word and used pencil or pen to bracket key portions.  Second, I’d go through again and highlight a short selection within those brackets to serve as triggers to remember the rest.  Third, I’d go through the whole thing again, only allowing myself to focus on those highlighted triggers to see how much detail I could remember.

It must have worked, because, although I’m no genius, I finished my freshman year with a 4.0 spring grade point, giving me a cumulative GP of 3.8.

Like I said – process, not brains.

I’ve heard the arguments that you can digitally “mark up” digital books, insert page markers, etc.  I still maintain that without left and right pages to see things on, you lose a lot.

This article tells of a recent study in Japan which discovered that hand-writing notes increase knowledge retention much better than digital notes.  From the article:

  • Researchers from Japan asked 48 student volunteers to take notes of a schedule
  • The students did this either using a pen and paper, with a tablet, or on a phone
  • They found those who took written notes did so faster than those on devices
  • Moreover, later recall was accompanied by enhanced brain activity, scans found
  • This appeared in brain regions linked to memory, language and navigation
  • Writing gives the brain extra spatial and tactile info to help recall, the team said

They also found that notetaking was done faster on paper than digitally!

Again, from the article:

‘Paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall,’ said study author and neuroscientist Kuniyoshi Sakai of the University of Tokyo.

‘Our take-home message is to use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorize,’ he explained.

Researchers used EEGs to evaluate brain activity and discovered pen and paper users to have greater brain activity than those using digital tablets or phones.

That’s it.  No spiritual lesson here today.  Just taking the opportunity to say to those who spurn the old-fashioned ways of doing things…

I TOLD YOU SO!!!

Not Always Number 1

“Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?”  Isaiah 45:9

When I was an actor, I always had a lot more fun being in the starring role.  As we go through our lives, we sure would rather be the star in our own production.

Being the most important person in every situation is often our goal.  We want to believe that everything would be just a bit worse if we weren’t there.  We want to know that every situation is one that God ordained with us at the center.  “All things work together for good for those that love God.”  See?  It’s always about me!

Many modern, mega-churches draw their membership with assurances that God’s Word promises comfort and wealth.  These modern churches preach a gospel of prosperity and success.  Earthly prosperity and success, that is.

We should, however, recall that Jesus warned His disciples that they should expect troubles.  If the world persecuted Him, they should expect no less.  Christianity means having a big target on your back…for Satan.  He works harder for what he does not have.  Christians should be quite happy when things are going well for them.  Likewise, they should be even more prayerful and even joyful, as the scriptures tell us, in adversity.  Adversity produces character and hope, if we rely on God and persevere through our troubles.

That being said, we are always crossing the paths of other people.  Sometimes our lives are intertwined with others’.  Sometimes we simply glance off someone else’s life, never to be seen again.  And who’s to say who is the star of that scene?  Are they there at a pivotal moment to move our lives along, or did God put us up against them to help them?  Who’s the star and who’s the extra?

For many years I was in a leadership role, both at work and at church.  I held an enviable training position at a Fortune 100 company, and I was able to help a lot of people improve their lives.  I ran management classes myself, plus I managed three degree programs my company had running with three different colleges and universities.  I was the man!

I was very active at church, conducting the liturgy at one of our three services every Sunday morning.  Years of daily bible study had me in a position to make a lot of contributions in Sunday bible classes, which people generally reacted well to.  Again, I was the man!

I was a star in both my private and professional lives.  And I was benefitting many people in the process.  That felt pretty good.

Then the economy tanked, and I lost my job.  I also lost a lot more.  Depression and stress ensued to a degree that had me wondering what would become of me and my family.  After several years I began to feel that I didn’t have more than 1-2 years left to live.  The stress was that bad.

During that time, our new pastor came and asked me to run for president of the congregation.  He said he’d gotten my name from a number of members who thought I’d make a good choice.  I originally declined.  I just didn’t see how I could do it.  But a week later, it was as if God put a burden on my heart to accept, so I did.  I was narrowly elected.

I was an utter failure.  I didn’t have the energy for it and I didn’t have the emotional stability to endure the unavoidable politics.  After just over a year, I could go no further.  I asked God why He gave me the call to do it but took away the abilities I had had to do it.  I was distraught and resigned.

In stepped the vice president.  He chaired the next voter’s meeting, which was contentious and fraught with land mines.  He steered the meeting with a skill I could only wish for on my best day!  He was the star!  He has gone on to get a lot of problems solved that I was unable to tackle.  I realized that God just wanted me to keep the seat warm until it was his time.

I was definitely the extra in this chain of events.  It was about just being the warm body needed to hold the chair until the star took the stage.  Kind of humbling, huh?  But I ended up being OK with that.  Even relieved.  Now I know why things happened the way they did.  That in itself is a gift.  I’ve experienced other situations where I don’t think I’ll ever understand what happened.  Faith is the only answer.

Will the pot complain to the Potter about how it’s made or what is put in it?  Probably not the best idea.  Just keep on living.  Keep on moving.  I like to say that, because He gave us free will, not even God can steer a car that’s not rolling.  We need to keep going.  Let God have the wheel.  Know that God does make everything work together for those that love Him.

Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes you’re nothing more than the proverbial spear-chucker.  But…

“…I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”  Psalm 84:10

Pain & Distance – A Jeff Tale

Driving to our favorite Saturday morning café date, a Bee Gees song started playing.  I chuckled as I remembered my heart surgery 17 years ago.  Yeah, that long. As one doctor told me recently, “Well, you’re pretty well out of your warranty period!”

How is it that a double bypass could possibly be funny?  It has to do with pain and distance.  That’s my favorite theory on humor from my college literary criticism class; Pain + distance = humor.  It’s a useful equation when you realize that it can be rearranged to help you with pain.  Observe:

Pain + humor = distance

So.  Double bypass.  Knowing my family history, I fully expected to eventually find myself on an operating table counting backwards from 100…and not getting very far.  I just wasn’t expecting it to be on business trip in Ft. Wayne, IN during a winter storm in January.  Not even close.  Everyone I knew was back home in Toledo, and I was alone!

Realizing my chest pain was not a pulled muscle, I asked my work colleagues to get me to an emergency room kinda quick-like, if they didn’t mind.  It’s amazing how quickly you get rocketed to the head of the line when you tell the admitting staff that you think you’re on the verge of having a heart attack.  I was suddenly the Man of the Hour with all these medical professionals at my beck and call,

I didn’t even have to fill out any forms first!  Once they figured out I hadn’t had a coronary just yet and got me on blood thinners, they put me in a room and scheduled me for a heart catheterization first thing in the morning.  I was going to be number one on the runway!

When I arrived in the cath lab on my gurney, they gave me a shot to relax me for the procedure.  It worked.  The staff was bustling about getting things going for their first patient of the day.

“Mr. King?  Do you mind if we play a little music?”

I didn’t care.

They started throwing some artist names around, and one guy said, “How about some bee Gees?”  That met with approval, and he put in the CD.  The first cut?  Staying Alive.

Me, being all relaxed, just giggled at the irony.

Yup, that’s what I heard on the radio this morning – Staying Alive.  That song really takes me back, as they say.

Angioplasty is for Sissies!

During my stay at Lutheran Hospital in Ft. Wayne I had episodes of fear and crying.  I also used humor when I could to help me get through it.  I had been a work-out fiend for years and was in great shape – not including my heart.  After surgery, a nurse stood gingerly at my door as the staff was tucking me into my bed and arranging all of the stuff that was attached to me.

“Mr. King?  We’re going to have someone come up to help you walk around the unit this afternoon.  Just one lap.  But, if you could do two, that would be great.  And maybe even try doing that twice a day.”

She obviously had gotten a lot of blowback from patients, hence her tentative nature.  I just looked at her and said, “Two laps?  Screw that!  What’s the record?”  Whatever it was, I broke it and then some.  They told me I was “the walkingest patient they’d ever had.”

I would joke with staff whenever I could.  Yeah, there were a few down times, but I worked at keeping my humor to create distance from the very real pain of heart surgery.  Lots of pain.  Pain and fear.

I was petrified of my incision.  It seemed like some alien thing that had attached itself to me.  Taking a shower was my personal horror show, terrified that washing my chest would weaken it, causing my chest to burst open.

Once I got over that, I took a shower one day and came back to the telemetry station that monitored everyone’s hearts to get my monitor reattached.  Pointing to my flat-lined screen I exclaimed, “Holy shit!  I’m dead!”

OK.  That one didn’t go over as well.  I mean, she smiled, but it was a smile that said, “don’t ever do that again.  Or I’ll kill you with my bare hands, enjoying the feeling of your bones cracking under my fingers.”

Overall, humor and cooperation made me a staff favorite.  I never complained.  I always worked and tried to laugh.  I got hugs when I left.  Not too bad for emergency surgery hours from home.

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.    Proverbs 15:13

A Jeff Tale…

…‘cause I don’t feel like writing about the current state of affairs.

I haven’t posted a Jeff Tale for a while, and I could certainly use a little levity.  Let everyone else join the throng of disgusted, disappointed people saying essentially the same thing about the DC riot.  I prefer to attempt to give you a smile today.

Let’s go back to college.  I had just transferred to Heidelberg College (now university) in Tiffin, OH from the University if Toledo.  I was completely new on campus, two years behind my peers in the junior class.  It was here that I hoped to really dig deeply into acting and perhaps make a mark.

The first play that fall was Macbeth.  I was shocked when the Director, Mr. Austin, offered me the lead role!  I had never done Shakespeare before, let alone any role that large.  Perhaps foolishly, I turned him down and explained why.  That’s how I ended up as Macduff.

I’m the heroic-looking guy on the left

If you know the play, Macduff is the hero despite being a much smaller role than Macbeth.  You see, Macduff kills Macbeth at the end in a huge sword fight, saving the kingdom.

Toward the end of the fight, Macbeth is kicking some serous Macduff butt.  We were choreographed to break apart so Macbeth could gloat, “Thou losest labor!”  Macbeth goes on to say that the witches had prophesied to him that no man born of a woman could ever defeat him.

Macduff exults that he will defeat Macbeth, because he was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped!”

He was a Caesarean baby, not born in the usual sense.  Yeah, it’s sort of a technicality, but on such fine points turn the plots of even the greatest plays.

It’s like when my wife and I are watching a movie, and she can’t believe someone did something like…I don’t know…went down the basement stairs to check out the sound of a revving chain saw.  In the dark.  My stock reply for the last 35.5 years has been and will continue to be –

“It’s in the script.”  She still asks.  Such is married life.

It’s the same for Macduff and his technicality; it’s in the script.  Get over it.

After I informed Macbeth that I was gonna start carving him up, I charged him with a flurry of attacks, driving him off stage and into the wings.  In the next scene I came out with a plaster cast of Macbeth’s head on my sword and declared that good has triumphed over evil.

Well, Mac and I decided to mix it up a little on closing night.  We met secretly one evening in the theatre to rechoreograph the fight juuuust a tad.  Instead of him simply driving me back a few steps and then disengaging to gloat, “Thou losest labor!” we had him come at me with two overhead chops.

The way to block a head chop is to hold your sword just in front of and above your own head with the tip pointing down behind you.  You intercept the attack and let your opponent’s sword ride down the length of yours, falling harmlessly away.  You have to point your sword slightly right or left so it goes past you.

With the audience to my left, I took Mac’s first chop to my left.  He quickly cycled for another one, which I took down my right side.  I used the force of it to launch myself away from him and onto the stage floor.  I managed to skid about 10-15 feet on my back.  Mac would then stand over me, pointing his sword at my chest to gloat that I was losing.

We’d deliver our lines with me telling him that, no, I think I’m gonna kick a little of his butt.  I knocked his sword out of the way, got up, and drove him off stage.

We thought we had given the fight a serious upgrade and couldn’t wait to see everyone freak out when I went skidding across the stage!

Closing night it all went as planned.  We learned later that the stage manager in the booth in the back of the theatre did indeed freak out and broadcast to backstage, “Holy shit!  King is down!  KING IS DOWN!!”  I had everyone waiting in the wings to see if I was OK.

It was like that scene from Jurassic park when Dr. Grant pretends to be electrocuted on a fence in front of the two kids.  Lex wasn’t amused, but her brother, Tim, started laughing.  “That was awesome!”

After the curtain call Mr. Austin came backstage.

Um…

His smile said he got it.  What he said was, “Don’t ever do that again.”

That, my friends, is today’s Jeff Tale.  I hope you found at least just diverting enough!  If you’d like to read some more Jeff Tales, just select that category at the bottom.  Some funny, some serious, but all true!

Permission to Touch

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.    Genesis 2:7

Last Sunday’s article about hugging reminded me of instances as an actor that involved kissing an actress.  One time stands out for me.

I asked Ann to play the French Princess Catherine opposite me in the wooing scene from Shakespeare’s Henry V for my master’s recital.  It’s a beautiful scene between Henry and Catherine as they play cat and mouse with each other and their as yet unprofessed love.  I had asked Ann to do this because I had seen her in another role in which she spoke French, and there is some French in the wooing scene.  The scene ends with a kiss as she agrees to marry him.

Did I mention that she was married to another actor in my graduate program?

Um…

I hadn’t really thought about kissing her till we did our first walk-through.  The moment of the kiss came, and I bailed.

“Scene!”

What had I gotten myself into?

After several rehearsals and me bailing on each kiss, Ann took matters into her own her own…lips.  She reached out, took ahold, and planted a big one on me. A Really Big One.  When she let me go, I was in such shock that, well, let’s just say I was an idiot.

But guess what; after that the kiss was no longer a big deal.  I kissed her every time afterward with no qualms or hesitations, and I started trying to figure out why.

It was about permission and our ability to process it.  This is why a first hug with someone is somewhat exhilarating.  That’s true in spades for kisses.

On Approach…

Ann had agreed to play that role for me.  She knew the scene.  Obviously, she was OK with it and so was her husband.  Still, such intimacy is a little scary.  Even when you’re “on approach” there’s still this nervousness that permission to touch lips may not be there.  Only when you make contact does that permission become real.  That is the excitement; the thrill of risking rejection to be rewarded with acceptance.

Last Sunday I wrote how hugs are perhaps our souls wanting to be one in community with each other.  Getting their bodies together in an embrace is as close to touching as our souls as can get.

What, then, is kissing?  Maybe part of the answer lies in today’s verse: And the Lord God…breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life.

It was a kiss of life.  It was a joining between God and man, sharing, transferring life between beings.

Kissing is, once again, souls wanting to be one with each other.  Sometimes the kiss is exclusive, and sometimes it is for community.  But touching with the mouth – to me – harkens back to the first kiss of life between God and man.

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.    1 Thessalonians 5:26

St. Paul used this expression five times in his epistles.  Kissing was permission to be in a close community with others.  Kissing a lover is the desire to be in exclusive community with each other.

Risking rejection to be so intimate produces the thrill of acceptance!

How do we apply this perspective to our relationship with God?  God kissed us first.  After that, God literally asks for our permission to touch us, to become one with us once again.  He risks rejection for the thrill of His love being accepted by us!

Think on it!  God asks our permission to “kiss” us!  God humbly, lovingly, asks for our permission to “come and make His dwelling” with us.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.    John 14:23

We look forward to a hug, a kiss from someone we are fond of.  Do we look forward to a hug and kiss from our Creator to touch our very souls with life?

This has been my little exercise revolving around why we touch, how we touch, and the importance of it all.  I hope it has given you some food for thought.  I would be happy to hear your reaction!

Who Do You Trust?

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.    Psalm 20:7

It’s hard to know what to trust these days.  One news source slants things one way.  Another source predictably trumpets a different perspective.  Headlines and colored graphs try to instill fear in us so we come back to them for more information.

I remember trying to get home from Dallas, TX when America Airlines employees went on strike in the late 90’s.  There were 4-5 connections before I finally got home, but I made it.  One memory burned into my mind was being in one of the countless lines snaking around the terminal when this beautiful woman came striding along, microphone in hand and cameraman in tow.  Raising her microphone like a beacon, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Who’s pissed off and wants to be on TV??”

Apparently, she was out sick the day they taught journalism at journalism school.

News isn’t news.  It’s entertainment at best.  At worst, it’s propaganda to get as many people as possible to follow their tune.  Oh, some self-deluded souls might think they are serious reporters, but they haven’t smelled the coffee yet for all the Kool-Aid they’ve drunk.

There are decent sources around, but you really need to read around and not take everything you see/hear/read as undiluted truth.  Think critically.  Ask questions about how information X could be slanted. Hopefully you read my recent article How to Lie with Statistics.

Some put their trust in CNBC, some in Fox.  Some sit before their favorite source for information like peeping birds, mouths agape, waiting for another worm to be delivered.

We should do our best to understand the world around us; we live here, after all.  Plus, the one news source that is unimpeachable – the Bible – has given us veiled glimpses into the future.  We need to be alert and watch as Jesus instructed us to recognize the signs He gave us.

People are overly fixated on “666.”  Daniel’s prophecies tell us that one will come who will be a world leader and even broker peace in the Middle East, a seven-year treaty with Israel.  But the treaty will be broken halfway into that treaty, beginning the Apocalypse.

Daniel provides the first “rough draft” of end times prophecy.  Jesus gave us something more refined in Matthew 34, often referred to as The Olivet Discourse.  Finally, we have Revelation, which definitely pegs the weirdness meter and is virtually opaque.  How much is supposed to be literal?  How much is symbolic language?  That debate has raged for centuries!

But let’s study it all anyway.  We might not understand it, but of we know it we can recognize it when it happens!

For example, one of Daniel’s prophecies concerned a goat that would race quickly across the world and conquer all.  Daniel asked the angel what it meant and was told it was not for him to understand, just record.

Centuries later came Alexander the Great.  He was the goat.  No, not the Greatest Of All Time.  Did you know Greece’s national animal is the goat?  Not unlike our bald eagle.  You’ve heard of the Aegean Sea?  It’s Greek for the Goat Sea.

One could know Daniel’s prophecies without understanding them…until they happened!

See Daniel; The Ram and the Goat and Daniel; The Ram and the Goat, Continued.

So…where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Some trust in CNN, some in Fox, some in Twitter, but let’s all keep our heads during the turmoil of our times. Let’s all trust in the Lord, our God, the best news source since the invention of writing.

Keep reading Him, studying Him…and trusting Him!!

Gordon Lightfoot & Me

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.    John 14:2

I’m having trouble sleeping tonight.  I often lay on the couch and drift off with a movie buzzing softly in the background.  Tonight I’m in my office on the computer watching YouTube videos.  I’ve come across Gordon Lightfoot videos; original recordings from the 70’s with collages of pictures as well as live performances as late as 2016.  He’s in his 80’s now and still giving concerts.

Around the 70’s

All the Lovely Ladies is playing, a bittersweet ballad.  Earlier was Don Quixote, The House You Live In, and what is arguably his greatest song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Fitz went down in a winter storm in Lake Superior in the 70’s.  Lightfoot was fan of the Great Lakes and sailing.  He wrote the ballad for the Fitz just for himself, really.  At six minutes, he knew it was too long too ever get radio play, but it was such a great song it forced its way onto the airwaves and into the culture.

I saw the Edmund Fitzgerald tour when he came to Toledo, OH.  It was a very special night.  The Fitz’s captain was from Toledo, and his family were Lightfoot’s special guests that night.

You could hear the “wind in the wire make a tattletale sound” on the slide guitar and the drums breaking “waves over the railing.”

In Recent Years

I see pictures of the powerful musician and balladeer from then and the slight man the years have made.  I’m reminded of my own time of strength and the wear of four decades since.

I get this way sometimes; maudlin, teary, wishing I had one more shot at my prime, to do something better with it perhaps.  I’m told it’s a common thing for bypass patients like me to come to easy tears.  Indulge me…it’s after midnight.

What hope do I have now that I’m much closer to death than I was when Gordon mourned The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Toledo over 40 years ago?

Jesus.  I know that when this body finally calls it quits, when the pump can no longer by repaired, and the surgeons can’t pull one last life-saving operation out of the operating theatre…I will be young again.  I’ll be clothed with my perfect body and moving into the mansion Jesus promised to make for all of us.  Tonight’s tears of memory and regrets are turning to tears of hope and longing.

Someday in the ever-closer future, there will be one more period of tears.  Then an eternal period of joy!

If you’re wondering what you’re going to do when your body’s time ends, whether from age or accident, call out to Jesus.  He’s always around, listening for anyone who wants to talk.