Harvest Moon

October 5th, 2016

moon-p134987767-4I hope you took some time to pause for a few minutes to just soak in last month’s incredibly brilliant Harvest Moon which, for believers, was an occasion for silent worship one on one with your very Creator God. I cannot understand how anyone who caught a glimpse of that moon rising over our city could not believe in God.  I don’t see how that is possible, but that is just me. You know the Bible more or less says the same thing. In Romans 1 Paul says that folks have no excuse for not believing in God because all they need to do is open their eyes. Seeing that magnificent moon again got me to thinking about how I take God and His creation for granted.

Have you ever stopped to really think about the moon? I figure that there was a lot of behind the scenes work done to hang it up there. How did God come up with the moon?  How did He arrive at its design, its distance from the sun and the earth, its effect on the tides, its orbit? Did he design it from scratch or reach down and grab a hand full of earth and suspend it to become the Moon.

I mean even for God the sun and the moon and the stars and galaxies and black holes, whatever they are, — how did He come up with all that?  Wonder if He drew it all out first on a napkin or perhaps built a scale model? Did he plan for the moon to be so beautiful or did that happen by accident?  As I looked at that moon, I wondered if it was by His design that it would have that incredible orange hue or is that just pollution? I’m not sure about that. But the moon is pretty incredible and so God must be too!

The story of my  journey to wholeness in my free book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

A Couple of Old Ladies

September 21st, 2016

old-woman-imagesBoth elderly widows lived at the same assisted living facility so obviously they had much in common. Each appeared to be about the same age and seemed to me to have more or less equal health and mobility.   Both sat in their favorite chairs with a blanket covering their legs watching TV.  Even though it was in the seventies outside, both rooms felt like the sauna at the “Y”. Not a hair was out of place on either head. Obviously they had recently returned from their weekly hair appointments. The décors of their rooms were essentially the same. Pictures of loved ones, past and present, adorned the walls; both had land-line telephones, chairs for visitors, goodies for snacking and a box of Kleenex within easy reach.

But the inhabitants of those two rooms could not have been greater contrasts. One was all smiles and answered my knock on the door with a cheerful, “Hello, please come in”. The entire time of our visit there was an aura of a positive and contagious force field around the sweet lady with a huge smile. Her demeanor testified to the delight my visit had brought her. As we talked, I recalled thinking, “Hope I can be this content when I move in this place”.  I came away uplifted and thankful for such pleasant experience with a truly amiable lady.

When I knocked on the other door, I heard a moan-like “It’s open”. When I cracked the door, the woman looked like she had just returned from a funeral. Alas, nothing had changed since my last visit! As we talked, I wondered how long it had been since she had actually smiled. The lady never said one positive thing during our thirty minute “ain’t it bad” conversation. It was all about her pains, her lack of bowel movements, how bad the food is and the lackluster staff.  I came away from her room wanting to shoot myself!

Walking to my car, I tried to analyze the contrast between those two women. I came to the conclusion that the quality of our lives is pretty much an internal thing. Simply put, it is dependent on the daily choice we make before our feet hit the floor.

The story of my  journey to wholeness in my free book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Hole to Whole

September 14th, 2016

6a00d83451df4569e201b8d0ce078b970cToday is one of my favorite days because it is September 14. It is my yearly day of personal reflection and thanksgiving to my “Big G God” for a new life. It ranks up there with the day I was born, got married, son was born and the day that I found a personal relationship with Jesus. So on this day, I can see that I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.  Eleven years ago this date, I was on an airplane to the unknown, as I flew to Tucson, Arizona  to begin  rehab in the Trauma and Abuse Program at Sierra Tucson (http://www.sierratucson.com). I was an emotional basket case. I re-felt the same fear that a terrified fourteen-year boy had felt when he was afraid people were going to “find out”. Yet, I knew the awful secret, that I had kept tucked away in the darkest recesses of my being, was the reason that I was on that flight.

Undoubtedly, things were going to be different from now on; but I was horrified of what was ahead and what was going to happen to me in the process.  But most of all, I feared what people would think about me. I was terrified that people would stop loving me; very few did. That was the exact fear I had experienced 45 years earlier. Now, suddenly the secret was out; everything had changed, while nothing had changed. In a real sense, the fear, pain, and remorse of the next several weeks that would stretch into the spring of the new year, would be nearly more than I would be able to bear.

Yet, all along the way God, in his mercy and love, strategically placed people who loved me, people who took my hand and walked with me, when I could not walk on my own. I have quite a list; they know who they are.  During my rehab and the months that followed, I cried several lifetimes of tears. It was not easy; I thought I would never smile again, but I have. Today, I smile quite a bit in fact.  The truth is, since the day Cathy put me on that Southwest plane, I have been, more and more, seeing life and myself with a brand new set of eyes. For most of my life, I had a “hole” in me; today I am able to see that I am “whole”. That is why September 14, is such a notable day in my life.  On this day I will pray for folks who are still carrying emotionally crippling secrets.  God wants you to be blessed too. Remember, doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results is the very definition of insanity. The greatest regret I have is that it took me so long to choose sanity.

More about my journey to wholeness in my free book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Spinning It

September 8th, 2016

Louise Brown walks down King Street during a Black Lives Matter march, Saturday, June 20, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. The event honored the Emanuel AME Church shooting victims. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

I hope you are not as tired of the marathon 2015 -16 presidential campaign as me. Just when I think it can’t get any worse it does.  How many times in one hour can the talking heads repeat the same thought or can Anderson Cooper and Sean Hannity analyze again what they’ve already vastly over analyzed? How  did we survive all those years without the seemingly infinite lineup of  experts on CNN, Fox News and the other cable news networks telling us what to think or what may or may not happen next?  How in the world did our parents and grandparents make up their minds on which candidates would get their votes? Enough of my cynicism! Indulge me as I shift gears to share something significant that I have noticed about this run for the White House.  Completely missed by the talking heads is that apparently all the candidates are believing the Bible when it says, “…all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Apparently, “all things” includes getting beat like a drum.

How else can we explain the fact that when all the other wanta bees dropped out they stood before their supporters with beaming smiles and sparkling, bleached-white teeth claiming that everything is still wonderful. In all my years watching sports, I have never seen losing coaches put a positive spin of coming in second. But political candidates do it all the time. It is just one more lie. Perhaps there is a clue for the rest of us in all this political hoop la.  Defeat is seldom as bad as it seems, is not final as long as you are still breathing and is only as bad as you allow it to make you feel. Take away: Next time things don’t go your way, spin it like a candidate.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Faulty Image

August 31st, 2016

faulty-cause-effect-propaganda_454f953115eacc50A while back, I got a call from a man who was bent out of shape because he had just been stopped on the freeway and awarded not one, but two tickets — one for speeding and one for not having his correct address on his license — total fine $278! He could not understand it because he was just speeding a “little bit” and the ticket for the address deal was just because the “Trooper was unfair and was just waiting to catch him”.  Been there; done that.

If we are really honest about how we view God, sometimes our notion of Him is that of a spiritual cop hiding behind a bush, radar gun in hand, just waiting for us to screw up so he can sock it to us. Unfortunately, because of that viewpoint many of us tend to distance ourselves from Him.  It is faulty image of God, but it is an image that I carried with me for the first 39 years of my life. That idea drove me away from Him for 20+ years. The false portrait was painted by the church of my childhood.  Shame on the people who perpetrated that image then and now; it is a lie of the worse kind! It is the same one that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were peddling and the Neo-Pharisees continue to spread. The truth is that the big “G” in God does not stand for “Got you” it stands for “Grace”

1 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives,2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his  finger.7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11 (NLT)

Why would any thinking person believe that the God, who loved you enough to die for you, would have any use for a ticket book?

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again


August 24th, 2016

6a00d8341c652b53ef01b7c7610e21970b-800wiFriday past Timothy Batts, the dad who shot and killed his little girl by mistake a few weeks ago, who was out on bail which was raised by many supporters, failed a drug test. Part of his bail agreement was that he would not use drugs. Now he has let many people down and is heading back behind bars. On the pain of regret!

A few Sundays back after church I visited a man in ICU at St. Thomas West who was in critical condition and not expected to live. I am not sure he knew I was there. I then attended a visitation for a dear friend’s brother. As I drove home I thought about the two men. I wondered what were their chief regrets in life? I thought about mine. I have a few, but thankfully not many.

What are your chief regrets? Do not most of them kindle feelings of shame, embarrassment, grief, anger, remorse or hurt? Those are the primary emotions that are debilitating to a healthy life. We have all screwed up. Regrets are inevitable, but unfortunately many people choose to live in self-constructed prisons of regret. If you want a life without regret, perhaps you need to do things differently. Talk them out and let them go!

Several years ago we built our first church facility. Whenever I would go to the jobsite there were two places I could park. One was an area right up close where most of the workers parked. It was mostly dirt, mud and at least two nails. Then there was another spot farther away that was mostly gravel and no nails. It took me awhile, but after a couple of flats, I finally figured out that I was better off if I parked in the other spot and walked a little bit. That is a metaphor for how life often works out. If you want to keep sticking nails in your life, keep doing what you have been doing. If you don’t, start doing things differently. I have found that it works!

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

It Ain’t Right

August 16th, 2016

poop-babyfaceFor the most part, I keep my personal opinions under control. Believe me this presidential race has put my control to the test. So far so good. After witnessing what I consider a ghastly misuse of perhaps the most overused adjective in the history of the world, I am speaking up. This morning at McDonald’s I overheard a conversation from the next booth. In a nutshell here is what took place: A young couple and their very cute baby boy, that I would guess to be about six months, were eating breakfast. Suddenly, I heard the guy say, to his wife that he thought the baby had “done a job in his diaper”. Mom took a whiff and off to the changing station she and baby disappeared. When she and junior returned, she laughingly said, “Justin that was the most amazing load I have ever seen”. Folks that was the final straw! I am taking my stand. What could possibly be amazing about a diaper full of crap? “Amazing” used to mean “so extraordinary or wonderful as to be barely believable”. It was a word seldom used, because few, if any, mundane things are in fact amazing. Now, it is used to describe everything from a bottle of beer to a diaper full of mess. That ain’t right!

It seems to me that we have taken a word that used to pack quite a punch and turned it into nothing more than a meaningless and misused adjective for the non-amazing. There are some truly amazing things: God is amazing in all of His attributes. Occasionally, sunsets are amazing. Unconditional love is always amazing. A few people are amazing, but a mess in a diaper is not even close! The bottom line is that few things are truly amazing and that is the very reason that they are.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again


August 10th, 2016

Girl drawing smiley face on to a wall

After a noticeable bounce, the elevator doors slowly opened.  Mr. Herman Thomas Jones, who was accompanied by his sixty-something daughter, shuffled out and began his slow but determined journey down the corridor toward room 215, which would become his new home. His wife of 70 years had recently passed away, making his move to the nursing home necessary. Hunkered over, Mr. Jones slowly scooted his walker atop the highly polished beige and white floor tiles, his beaming eyes darting from side to side with the enthusiasm of an eight-year old attending his first circus.  Suddenly, he turned to his daughter and, with his trademark, perpetual smile, said, “Honey, I am going to love this place”.  She replied, “Daddy, you haven’t even seen your room yet”.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it”, he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged or the color of the paint, it is how I choose to arrange my mind. I have already decided to love it. It is a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend each day recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or I be thankful for the ones that still do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account.  You withdraw from what you have put in. So, my advice to you, Missy, would be to deposit a lot of happiness into your bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filing my memory bank. I am still depositing.”

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1…Free your heart from hatred.

2…Free your mind from worries.

3…Live simply.

4…Give more.

5…Expect less

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Doesn’t Seem Right

August 2nd, 2016

bullet_hole_PNG6063With all the horrible shootings of all stripes recently I though back to the day a few years back when out of the blue I was nearly shot. Cathy and I were driving in a very upscale area of Williamson County, Tennessee admiring the gorgeous homes and rolls of golden hay scatted like precious jewels about the lush, green pastures off Del Rio Pike. Suddenly, the tranquility of the moment was shattered when something hit the passenger side door, where I was sitting, with such force that I reflexively shouted, “That felt like a bullet”.  Since we were on our way to eat dinner, naturally we kept driving. Actually we did not really believe that it was a bullet, but probably a rock striking the side of the car.  By the time we made it to the restaurant, we had other priorities and forgot to check it out.  A few days later, as I was walking to the car, I was shocked to discover a bullet “hole” in the door about 18 inches below where my head had been stationed that evening. When I saw it a shiver went down my spine and I was flooded with numerous notions.

There may be some folks who want to shoot me, but that was not the case this time. The theory is that it was a stray 22 caliber bullet fired from a great distance or possibly a ricochet because it did not completely penetrate the door. From the impact point, the lay of the land and the fact that nobody had a clue we would be driving that road, it was apparent that it was not an “attempted hit”. Yet, having said that, judging from the sound of the impact and the damage to the door, there is no doubt that I would have been seriously injured or perhaps killed had the projectile struck my head.

Later, as I reflected on the incident, I had many thoughts. Here are a couple of them: First, never assume that you will get where you are going. Life hangs by a thread in the best of circumstances.  Second, had I been killed it would have been the lead story on all the local news.  Yet, when someone is shot dead in the “hood” it hardly merits a mention. Since I believe that God loves, values and grieves for us all, that doesn’t  seem right.

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Nothing Much Left

July 28th, 2016

tornado-damage-wisconsin-110414-02My grandson Hudson and I were boxing up some old books and I came across “The Winners Manual (For The Game of Life)” written by former Ohio State Football Coach Jim Tressel.  After I had read it several years back, I was so impressed by Coach Tressel’s book that I gave several copies to family and friends. If you keep up with college football you know he was fired a few years after the book was published. Bottom line is that Jim Tressel got caught lying to the NCCA and it cost him his job — sad ending to an incredible career.

I reflected on some of the lies I have told in my life. Like Tressel’s lies, nearly all of mine were told to cover my rear end too. Like the time at the University of Tennessee, when a RA happened to walk by my room and saw a can of PBR (beer) on my desk. When he later confronted me, I willfully chose to lie. I got away with it, but I have never forgotten it. I avoided him for the remained of my junior year. He knew I was lying, but could not prove it. At the time, I thought I was really cool. Interestingly, I do not feel that way as I type.

Here is what I’ve learned about lying. Folks can often get away with lying even when they lie compulsively — for a while. Yet, in this media age when leaders lie they seldom get away with it, because they usually have to keep lying to cover the original lie. This seems to happen with time table regularity with preachers, politicians and  coaches. Somewhere along the way, the wires seem to always get crossed up and often lead to the leader’s disgraceful downfall. Coach Tressel  lost one of the best jobs in football not because he broke the rules, but because of the lie he told to cover up. He is not the first coach to be proved a liar.

Closer to home we have essentially the same situation that cost Bruce Pearl his job at the University of Tennessee. The score will always be settled sooner or later. In life we all make mistakes, but ounce for ounce lies may be the most personally damaging. When you lose your honesty there is not much left is there?

My book for free @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again