Another Friday Afternoon…

143/365:DiaryCreative Commons License Magic Madzik via Compfight

Afternoons seem to be the worst times, and even more so lately. Especially Fridays. Today in particular, for some reason. So rather than waste a lonely afternoon, I thought I’d try to add to the regular challenge of writing something, anything, in the hope that something good or thoughtful or productive might work its way to the top. Here goes…

  • It’s Saint Patrick’s Day. That means it’s time to wear the traditional color and display the time-honored symbol of Ireland. You know…blue and the harp. You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Well, of course not, because everyone knows the color is supposed to be green – emerald, specifically – and the the symbol is the shamrock. Right? Except, of course, the color most associated with Saint Patrick is blue and the harp is the universal sigil (see Guinness, for instance).
  • Nightnoise is providing the soundtrack for this lonely Friday afternoon of Irishness. Playing right at this moment is the classic At the End of the Evening.
  • And don’t you wish Nightnoise and Windham Hill were still around?
  • From my Moleskine: “Sometimes I feel like I have some of the sensibilities of an artist (substitute creator, designer, whatever floats your boat), but none of the skill.”
  • That Nightnoise album is from 1988. Serendipitously, I watched two movies from that year last night: Working Girl and Big. Iconic and cliché 80s flicks, but still enjoyable, and still a couple of my favorite diversions.

Random Thoughts, 03.12.17…

marielinden4 via Compfight

Some random smatterings from my Moleskine, via my head and my heart and my reading this weekend. No particular order, no particular subject, no particular plan or process, just words, such as they are…

  • Now closer to sixty than fifty, he felt the burden of the years piling up. Everything was the same from day to day. Which is to say, everything seemed pointless-er and hopeless-er every day.
  • It’s quiet, eerie quiet. Restless quiet. Unsettling quiet. Weird quiet.
  • (From Frederick Buechner) “The magic of words is that they have power to do more than convey meaning; not only do they have the power to make things clear, they make things happen.”
  • For me, the real adventure is in creating the adventure, in my head, in my heart, in my words – to tell the story as though it really happened, whether or not it really did.
  • Slowly, deliberately, he fit the pencil neatly into the crease of the book, and slid it away from him on the floor. The pencil and blank lines seemed to take a life of their own, and they were whispering, calling, beckoning him to enter into their world. These inanimate objects now fairly pulsed with life, and they called to him, and at the same time, chastened him, mocking and taunting because he was unable to pick them up, and yet unable to turn away.
  • We’re doing good, but we’re not doing so well.
  • We lost the hour this morning to the dreaded Daylight Saving Time transition, and every time I’ve stopped today, I’ve nodded off. Now, all of a sudden, I have that second wind and I can’t turn off my mind.
  • Twenty more words to three hundred. Now thirteen. Only 211 more to the mythical 500! Now seven.
  • The desire is there, but not the talent or the skill.
  • He whisked the sugar, strong, dark, and sweet, into the scalded milk. The coffee would come later, and the sugary milk was now almost as dark as the coffee itself would be. There really wasn’t enough coffee left in the grinder from two days before, but the grinder was too noisy to use after she had gone to bed. So, he imagined, the dark sweetness of the sugar would make up for the weaker brew. “Not sweet enough,” he thought after the first sip. “Coffee that is neither sweet enough nor strong enough is not fit to drink.”

A Little Ditty About Generosity…

Image: Taylor’s Acre Barn, via Lori Grieg https://flic.kr/p/7mic5V

When you’re in a rut, and down in a dump,
There’s a little trick that will make your heart jump:
Find something to give, and give it away –
You’ll make magic in someone’s day.

Give from your heart, no matter the cost;
You’ll find you’ll gain much more than you’ve lost.
The smile on their face, and the joy in their heart –
These are the generous giver’s art.

 

And So We Write…

When the words won’t find their way from our hearts to our voices, we write.

When the storms brew and the thunder booms, and we worry once again about the damage the storms may cause, we write.

When the months outlast the money, and we see no path to catching up, we write.

When injustice seems to hide the face of all that is good, great, and beautiful, we write.

When our deepest secrets are too deep for others to handle, we write.

When we lose our way amid the clamor of the ever-hostile and confusing world, we write.

When we don’t know what else to do, or where else to turn, we write.

When we have words that need to get out, but no one who hears, we write.

When we long for someone to listen, but no one cares, we write.

5 Items They Left Off the List of “Things to Do on MLK Day in Atlanta”…

The local rag published a list of Things to Do on MLK Day in Atlanta, but they forgot to include several actual activities. Here’s a snarky, albeit honest list that reminds us of the the real meaning of this holiday, which ostensibly honors the vision and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but has become an excuse for all kinds of ultra-liberal agenda advancement.

  • Distort Dr. King’s words about light driving out the darkness of hate to deepen the darkness of hate instead of driving it out by love, unity, and brotherhood.
  • Denigrate all those who disagree with you.
  • Blame white folks – especially white men, even those of good will – for all the problems in the whole wide world.
  • Use your civil rights icon status to act like a spoiled brat.
  • Take every opportunity to spew vitriolic hatred toward the President-elect.

So, there you have it. Watch for these actual events while you’re honoring the legacy of a  great American in your own way today.

The Richest Man in Canton, Georgia…

Krakow Matúš Benian via Compfight

(I originally posted this on my Facebook page, November 9. The guy in the picture is NOT the man in this story.)

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about my other interesting encounter dark and early on election day.

I parked at the Y for the dark and early shift, and I noticed a guy with a walker stumbling through the parking lot. I asked him if he was OK, did he need anything, etc. (Yeah, I’m a sucker like that.)

“Do you have a penny to spare?” he asked. “All I need is a penny.”

“A penny? Why do you need a penny?”

“I want to get a cup of coffee at Hardee’s. Their senior coffee is 35 cents, and all I have is 34. I don’t need anything else right now. I’ve got a place to stay, and I’m gettin’ paid this afternoon. I just need a cup of coffee.”

Well, I didn’t have a penny on me. But I remembered my son had left a boatload of change in the truck ashtray before he handed it up. So I went back, emptied the container, and offered it to the guy.

“I don’t know how much is here,” I said. “But go ahead and take it and get yourself a biscuit while you’re at it.”

He reached into the pile of coins in my hand and plucked out one penny.

“That’s all I need right there,” he said. “God bless you, brother.”

Leaders and Ambition…

debat-trump-clinton-et-si-les-deux-candidats-avaient-gagne

I read yesterday where someone wrote that we are penalizing Hillary Clinton for being ambitious. The writer says a person must have ambition to even want to run for President. Up until now, the author argues, that has been a positive trait.

I would agree, to a certain extent. We do want our Presidents to be ambitious: ambitious enough to lead well, to faithfully execute their office, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, to make the tough decisions on our behalf, and to represent our nation to the best of their ability. After all, that’s what they swear to do when they assume the office. We want them to live up to their word.

But we also expect our leaders to temper their ambition with humility. We give them a lot of leeway to do the job we elected them to do. We give them the benefit of the doubt most of the time, because we presume that they know things we don’t know, that they are privy to information we don’t have, and that they really do have the best interests of the nation at heart.

We want our leaders to be servant leaders. Until recently, we never elected Presidents to rule over us. We elected them to serve us. We want them to be shining, noble examples of all that is good and right. All the while, we know they are flawed, imperfect humans. We want them to remember that, and act accordingly.

We want them to have bold ideas, dream big dreams, and do big things. But when they fail – as they all do – we want them to acknowledge it and take responsibility for it. We don’t want them to blame their predecessors or external factors. We don’t want them to cover up their flaws and foibles with misdirection or outright lies.

We want them to be ambitious, sure. But we expect their ambition to be directed toward the greater good, not their personal agendas or power or gain. We want them to recognize and navigate the tension between personal preference and public responsibility. We trust them to keep our national ideals and preserve the things we cherish, not to sacrifice them on the altar of momentary political expediency.

We want our leaders to value the great privilege we entrust to them. And we want them to live in the awareness of the awesome responsibility that comes with such privilege.

We want them to lift us up, not beat us down. We want them to bring us together around noble purposes, not tear us apart into selfish factions. We want them to put the nation’s good ahead of their own.

We don’t want them to blame us when their ideas fail. We want them to be people of their word. We want them to demonstrate honesty, integrity, and character. We don’t want them to have one face in public and another in private. Although we don’t really know them, we want to perceive them as familiar faces, intimate friends, and effective leaders who bring out the best our nation has to offer.

When they fall, or when they fail, we give them a great deal of grace. We offer our forgiveness. When they are threatened, we want to unite behind them. When they speak, we hope they speak for us. We hope they don’t apologize for the things that make our nation our nation. When they die, we mourn as one people.

All we ask in return is that they do the best they can, so help them God, to faithfully lead.

And so, back to the premise of yesterday’s article.

Let’s be brutally honest here: these two major candidates for the highest office in the land are perhaps the least popular ever to be nominated for the Presidency. Much of that they have brought upon themselves, and much has been foisted upon them by media and our own sense of expectation. A disinterested observer might note that these people are driven by ambition. That same observer might also discern theirs is a personal ambition: for power, for fame, for notoriety. And that observer might conclude that ambition is not the kind that best suits the leaders we want for the present and future of our Republic.

I refuse to concede the original writer’s premise. It’s not Mrs. Clinton’s ambition we fear. It’s that her ambition seems to be wholly aimed at her personal power and the advancement of her personal agenda. And some think that ambition comes at great cost to our identity as a nation.

From this observer’s vantage point, no one is penalizing Mrs. Clinton for her ambition. Rather, it appears her ambition is the only factor that matters to a less-than-skeptical press. We want better from those who presume to lead us. We’d rather she – or anyone whose ambition is to lead this great nation – put our interests first. We’d rather be confident that they are shooting straight with us, and that when they speak, we can trust what they say.

It’s not her ambition we don’t like. It’s that it’s her ambition above anything else.

And that deserves to be scrutinized and eliminated. It would be better if she realized it and fixed it before it gets the best of her and those she intends to serve.

October Blur…

Blurry Beijing: Lots of LoadCreative Commons License Alexander Mueller via Compfight

October has been a blur so far. I need to land a moment, to step away from the rush, to breathe, to touch base with reality, so I don’t lose touch. The best way I know to do that is to dump what’s in my mind. Here goes…

  • This is the week I’ve dreaded, ever since taking on one, two, three side gigs. This is the week that all the gigs seem to collide. I don’t know about you, dear readers (all two of you), but I must have skipped class the day they taught How To Be In More Than One Place At One Time. Because I need to do that, and I’m discovering again that I can’t manage to do that.
  • This song made it into the predawn jaunt playlist this morning. Who knows, indeed.
  • Oh, and in case you missed the lyrics
  • Speaking of the power of music, this story about Helen Keller “listening” to the great Beethoven Ninth Symphony grabbed my heart today.
  • I’m preaching about leaving a lasting legacy during our worship times this month. This week, we’ll talking about being a person of hope, and I sure hope I get something out of it. One of my Facebook memories from a couple of years ago reminded me I’m sure glad there’s a future and a hope, because the present is killing me.
  • I hate to be such a Debbie Downer, but the truth is, reality is just so real some times. Just putting it out there.

Back to the blur. I’ll see you when I can step out again. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Peace.

Questions…

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Tom Simpson via Compfight

This morning, I’m asking a lot of questions and not finding many answers. Questions like…

  • Am I just being lazy?
  • Am I due for a much needed break?
  • Am I avoiding responsibility?
  • Is there anything I’m missing?
  • Is there something I need to do next? Now? What is it?
  • What different things do I need to do?
  • What do I need to stop doing?
  • How can I improve my attitude?
  • Is the Cynical Old Coot the real me or is it a mask I once put on and can’t get off?
  • What if my best days are indeed behind me?
  • What do I do now?
  • How can I change my trajectory?
  • If I quit one of the side gigs, what would we do without the income?
  • Is the income from the side gigs worth the anxiety?
  • Is giving up the side gig income worth a different kind of anxiety?

Frederick Buechner says we often build castles to protect ourselves from others and the outside world. But we soon find those castles become the prisons of our own making, that hold us captive and restrict our freedom to function as we were intended and designed. He goes on to say that the simple words, “Help me” are the keys that open those gates, and release us to our better selves.

If that’s the case, then the questions may help us get to the place of asking for that help.

My Blessed Day…

Happy BollardCreative Commons License Jori Samonen via Compfight

What started out as a mundane Thursday turned out, before it was over, to be one of the best days I’ve had in a long time! Let me tell you about it…

I met a real! live! fireman! Yep, and not just any fireman. No sirree! It was Captain Tim Stowers of the Alpharetta Fire Department. He went out of his way to help me out of a sticky situation. I’m blessed Captain Stowers took the time to help.

Then I got to spend a little time with a new brother in Christ, named Joey. We had an interesting discussion about politics, salvation, the Bible, and African-American preacher heroes. I’m blessed I got to ride with Joey.

It didn’t stop there, because Joey took me to a place where I saw one of the most positive and inspiring people I know. Only this time, I saw her in a different environment than normal. She was her usual encouraging self, and I’m blessed because of her generosity.

While that might be enough to make any other day a blessed day, mine wasn’t done yet. I  met the next great veterinarian in the world. OK, not yet, but Ferdinand…I mean…DOCTOR Ferdinand is going to take Kennesaw State University by storm, and all the sick little exotic animals will one day be OK because he will be practicing his passion. Oh, and he had enough patience to act like he was listening to this old coot tell stories from his long distant past. I’m blessed because Dr. Ferdinand gave me a ride.

Ferdinand’s supervisor was a young man named Blake. Blake just got engaged to the love of his life, and he’s not planning to spend a lot of money on his wedding because he wants to take his princess on an amazing honeymoon and establish a great home for her.  I know all this because I got to share with Blake Life Axiom #3: Everybody and everything but the bride are props. I’m blessed because Blake did a great job at his job.

I met Kenny, who runs his shop like a pro.

I met a guy who was driving to take his special needs daughter (I think?) on a trip, partly for fun, but mostly for some specialized medical treatment.

And I met a guy who – according to Blake – had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and who was checking off the items on his bucket list just as fast and with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. His bucket list was starting with Chick-Fil-A nuggets and sweet tea. I’m blessed because I got to walk in these people’s lives, for a few minutes at least.

Now here’s the best part. I wouldn’t have had the blessed day I had today had everything gone smoothly as planned. See, this all started when my car – the one with 316,000+ miles on it – suddenly stopped as I was driving down the road. Just stopped. Dead. In traffic, on a busy road.

Captain Stowers was behind me. I met him when he stopped to help and we pushed my car out of the road to a wide, flat place. Traffic kept moving and there was no big scene. He tried to jump start my car, with no success. After I assured him I had someone on the way, he left. But he blessed my life today.

Joey was the tow truck driver that changed his schedule so he could give me a hand,  a ride, and a break. Joey blessed my life today.

Clara Mae runs AAMCO with her husband, Gus. I see them about three mornings a week at one of my side gigs. They are great people, they do good work, and are patient and gracious with their time and energy. Clara Mae blessed my life today. Again.

Ferdinand was the young driver who picked me up and carried me to the car rental place so I could get home. He told me about his dream of going to school as a biology major so he could become a veterinarian specializing in exotic animals. He listened to my tales of my own rental car career, which included a Sunday morning encounter with then-heavyweight champion of the world, Leon Spinks. Ferdinand blessed my life today.

Blake ran the counter at the car rental outfit. And he seemed to be really good at his job. Kenny was the manager of the place and he led his team with effectiveness and efficiency. And they blessed my life today.

The bucket list guy blessed my life because someone else told me his story. His enthusiasm and energy were contagious. And they were made more so by the “rest of his  story,” cancer and all that.

Someone – OK, a lot of someones – said that life is not what happens to us; it’s how we respond to what happens to us. For some reason, today was different because I chose to be blessed in the middle of a difficult afternoon. I hope I’ve learned my lesson. I hope the  choice to see the blessing, even in difficulty stays with me for a long time.