That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

Paper Tiger

wow. So another known figure has to admit to “transgressions.” What is new?

A. Rod, Michael Jordan, Brad Pitt and his vampire, Ali., any politician, King DAVID and Bathsheba, every rock star, Meg Ryan, the wife from the Sopranos, Ted Haggard, Madonna, Jesse Jackson, O.J., Bill Cosby, Jamal Harrison-Bryant, Anne Heche, plus billions of other people.

It is a common occurrence, and while it doesn’t anymore surprise me, it still sickens me. I proclaim that I will never cheat on my wife, that there are too many steps involved — any one of which provides me the chance to stop and think…

So, what makes it so prevalent? Aside from the fact that the urge was designed to be as strong as it is in order that multiplied billions of us are reproduced? We are all sinners! Given time and opportunity, all of us have done what we shouldn’t have at one time or another. For me, absent an all-seeing God who taps me on the shoulder constantly, I would go, too.

The confidence I have is not that I am great — or even GOOD — but that God can’t die and won’t cast me over the side (a problem those who don’t believe in the perseverance of the saints must reconcile).

My lack of shock at Tiger’s confession does not mean that I am jaded and resigned to the plummet of morality. I happen to think that a God who can see the whole future KNEW that we would do what we do when He set down the Law millennia ago! And my disappointment is not that I thought him perfect. I’m just tired of seeing brilliant people be so doggone STOOPID! I’m tired of things like this giving man-haters seeming validation for their points of view.

Yes, men cheat. They cheat with women! Women cheat. People cheat. It’s not as though there is a lost continent somewhere where all the sluts are, and that that’s where rich guys go when they tell their wives that they have a conference in Toledo.

I’m sick of press gatherings and pubic apologies and beleaguered wives and feeding frenzies.

Maybe it’s because I was never a guy who had women chasing me around the room, but I can’t see how folk can be so monumentally dumb as to leave text message trails and voice mails on the cell phone of women with the moral depravity to have sex with somebody’s husband!!!

How can you be a genius on the golf course, and a buffoon in the battle of the sexes? Why did he get mixed up with hostesses and waitresses? I’m sure there were homewreckers out there with as much to lose as he who were willing to lay up and shut up!

I do have an occupation which provides me with ample opportunity to do what I want and get away with it. I see guys doing it all the time. (And I sometimes see them get caught!) I have a wife burdened down with children, so I don’t have to worry about her popping up on me unexpectedly. I get looks occasionally, and sometimes more than just looks. But aside from love and fidelity, fear would keep me in check. Fear of the whooping God would lay on me if I did that! And fear of not raising my kids, and of having my wife hate me. Fear of public shame and ridicule. Fear of having people throw this blog in my face and calling me a hypocrite. And fear of the ramifications of the damage to my Christian efforts.

A few years ago, a  married woman slashed the tires on my sister’s car. She worked with my sister and told her that her husband was a mechanic (a big, greezy dude). She saw the car in her driveway and lost it.  My parents wanted to meet with her and her husband, and I wanted to be there, too!

The woman apologized profusely, saying that it happened at the spur of the moment. When everybody else was through talking, I said what I had to. I told her husband that if ANYthing happened to my sister, since I would go to jail for beating up a woman, I would come to HIM, and that his best move was to make sure his wife acted rationally because his wife wasn’t the only one who could go crazy!

But my main point of attack was at her assertion that it was a spur of the moment act. I told her that that was not true. She had to look out the window, see the car, get angry, go into the drawer and get a knife, unlock the door and go outside, stab one tire, and walk allll the way around to the other side and stab another one!

At any point, I told her, she could have stopped herself. She could have realized that the car would be stuck in her driveway. And that she would have to pay for the tires, not being able to lie about who did it. And that she would still have to face my sister at work. AND THAT SHE WAS THE ONE WHO TOLD MY SISTER ABOUT HER HUSBAND BEING A MECHANIC IN THE FIRST PLACE!

she agreed.

I tell this story to emphasize the fact that there are many steps to adultery. There are countless chances to let the heat of lust die down and gather the senses — and the loins. You have to meet a person, have a conversation, get a number, DIAL the number, erase the number, drive to the meet-up, get the room, and do all the rest. An affair has even more steps. One has to really be unhitched from the conscience to do all that. And that is scary!

And simply getting caught — which is what always causes the confession — doesn’t automatically switch on what was shut off.

When I go to work at the nightclub, or most other gigs, I always take my palm pilot. I spend my breaks playing Scrabble. I know the guys think I’m this dull church boy, but I don’t care. That thing keeps my mind occupied. They don’t know me the way I know me! I see the women — can’t help it — but I don’t dwell on it.

My philosophy has always been to keep myself out of tough situations. It’s easier to get out of a puddle than a pool! When I was single, all I did was think about how fine this woman or that one was, and how I could break past the shyness to win one. But even then, I tried to keep myself from getting into debauchery. I know that was God, and while I usually listened to His voice, the times when I didn’t always led to pain.

To this day, I can’t see how guys do what they do out in the open, but I can’t go around moralizing. What I do do is take the opportunities presented to me to tell them about my methods and reasoning. It’s a lot more fun to not have to feel like Tiger feels now than to roll in the sack and lie about it and get caught and get cussed out by the wife and hire a lawyer and give half a billion dollars, the houses and cars and KIDS to her for some other dude to enjoy!

 But Tiger didn’t ask me.

It’s a lot more fun to win a Scrabble game than to feel like the stuff on the bottom of the oven on the inside because you messed up again.

It feels a lot better to envision a bright future than to spend your time wishing your arms were long enough to grab and change the past…

This is why I idolize God. I know I won’t ever have to worry about TMZ coming up with photos of Jesus and some random harlot drunk frolicking in the back of a Tahoe, or a voice mail of Him asking said harlot to erase her name from her phone. Jesus won’t ever have to “release a statement.” Only a Testament.

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December 2, 2009 Posted by | A. Rod, Adultery, Advice, Christ, Christian Life, Fidelity, Integrity, Tiger Woods | 9 Comments

Saying “I’m wrong,” is All Right

Until you admit you are wrong when you are wrong, everything you try to do is going to fail. You don’t get to admit error in an arrogant, falsely modest, condescending, passive-aggressive way — I’m just a peon, all of you are really better at this than I am — while still continuing  the same course of action that caused the division in the first place. Sugary words mean nothing when accompanied by harmful actions.

I am speaking of a person in particular, but the principle is universally applicable. I can’t stand to be around people who are never wrong. (And Jesus ain’t just “PEOPLE”)

The reason I can have a continuously harmonious relationship with my wife is that we choose not to play these games with each other. If I am wrong — and she convinces me of it (chuckle) — I have no problem admitting it. How is it respectful toward her to KNOW she is right, but deny it because I don’t want to lose the high ground? All this will do is embitter her.

She shows me the grace to do the same thing. There have been times when I have had an issue or another with her and thought, “Oh, Lord, help me in this! I know she’s gonna push back hard, and we’re gonna have to rassle!” But invariably she will sit there silent after I’ve laid out my case. I’m thinking, “Here we go! She’s HOT!” and she will say, “You know what? You’re right. I was wrong” Just like that.

And what that does for me is make me more secure in the relationship! I grow to love her more because I know that no one likes to be wrong in a sincerely held belief, and to change a thought process is a huge thing. That she does that for me means that she really does love me for the long run!

Friendship is the same way. We all miss the mark. We all are selfish at times. We all shade the truth from time to time. We all simply make mistakes. But YOU, Dude to Remain Nameless, are never wrong. To pretend perfection only frustrates fellowship. I have friends who USED to be that way, and I USED to be friends with people who ARE that way.

What ends up happening is that you alienate those who seek to build a relationship. The fact that it is always the next man’s fault makes the next man take a hike.

When YOU play a wrong note, or show up late, or cancel an engagement, or miss a practice unexcused, there is always a reason. When someone else does it, it is a dearth of dedication or a lack of reverence for you or your endeavor.

What your feigned infallibility says to me is that you think I am either intellectually inferior or not important enough, worthy enough, to warrant the truth. The fact that you can lie to my face about the contents of a conversation that only you and I had, says to me that you respect me less than you would a slug sliding on the ground! It says that you think of your associates as women to be manipulated and that you are a player a la Bill Bellamy, just playing mind games to show your superior smoothness. Men don’t like that. Stop doing it. Real life is not a game of cat and mouse. Or dog and cat… Don’t try to play me like I’m some woman you’re trying to hit up in a club somewhere.

It takes strength to admit wrong. The strength to swallow all that pride and just say, “My bad,” and shut up and keep moving. Not the phoney, self-aggrandizing, “my only sin is that I care too much” kind of stuff you shovel out.

Do you know how angry you make people when you do that? You have “Proverbs” smeared all over you.

And if you drag God’s name through it, you commit the sin of trying to make Him an accomplice to your crimes. Don’t say you are doing His work if you treat His people like the dirt on your shoes. That’s just another player move. “I can get more followers if I say I am doing the Father’s bidding.”

As I said, this stems from a conversation I already tried to have with a guy I know. But we all know folk like him. If you don’t — then, it is YOU!

We would all benefit by learning to admit wrong, and to forgive wrong. I think that a lot of the problem lies in the fact that we often think that if we are found to be wrong in some way, people will think less of us or love us less, or cast us aside.

So, logically, if our friends develop the confidence of knowing that they will be sincerely forgiven, harmony will result. Nameless Friend, however… In the words of Celie, “…till you do right by me…”

And, no, I’m not talking about Stephen A. Smith. Although…

September 22, 2009 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Common Sense, Food for Thought, Friendship, Marriage, Rant, Stephen A. Smith, Stuff I Hate | 2 Comments

More MAXims

The REALLY young don’t think they are.

This is to those who seek to hide their bad behavior behind youth, when what they actually do is reveal the cleverness it takes to make the excuse.

“I’m young. I’m only 23. I’m gonna make mistakes.”

If you have enough sense to say that, you have enough sense not to do what you did!

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Life, Life Lessons, Maxims, Proverbs, Sin, Words, Words of Wisdom, Youth | 2 Comments

MAXims

Those who can, do.

Those who CAN’T, criticize those who can.

Those who can’t yet, keep trying.

For the jazz snobs.

(“All he’s playing is a pentatonic scale…” “That’s not jazz. That’s just the blues scale.” “He’s just a scale player.” “Anybody can play that. It’s just a bunch of patterns.”)

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Jealousy, Life, Life Lessons, Maxims, Music | 1 Comment

The Squeaky Wheel Gets FIRED! *edit

I still blog, but I’ve been busy. Partly, dealing with the following:

Unfair treatment is often a sign of Salvation.

I used to play in this Christian jazz band but the leader let me go in a shady, dishonorable way.

While I was extremely angry at first, it was not for being fired, but for the lies that clouded the firing.

I had many issues with his leadership, and told him so on a number of occasions.

And because I work on ONE of our TWO rehearsal nights — and thought I would have to quit because I suspected that he would not be willing to accommodate me — he made moves (unbeknownst to me) to replace me, rehearsing my replacement while I thought I still played the one time a month gig.

After many heated words and seething anger, I have let it go. I am much clearer of mind not having to deal with the stress of learning so many tunes to only play only once a month. And I don’t have to any longer be bothered with trying to deal with subpar leadership and untruths.

 I have learned great lessons, chiefly that all that glitters is not necessarily Christian, and that God works His wonders through our suffering.

I am further motivated to win — to let fulfillment of potential supplant righteous vengeance. To let achievement be the counter-punch to that slap in the face.

While my desire is to name names and point fingers and give details, God has allowed me — through the THIRD version of this post — to just state the silhouette and move along.

THAT’S what I’ve been doing.

Oh, and I got my new horn!

My Horn

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Advice, Christianity, Life, Life Lessons, Live Music, Music, Work | 7 Comments

New Adage

Life is just a bad neighborhood I have to go through to get home.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, God, Jesus, Wisdom, Words, Words of Wisdom | 9 Comments

More Time, and Righteousness, Credited to My Account

I’m not supposed to be here.

I’m not supposed to be typing, and double-checking, and breathing right now.

Saturday night, Kathy went to the store to get us something to eat. The line being too long, she left without it. Sam’s Club has these really big oranges in this really big bag for a really low price, and I had to have some, so I jumped in the car to go get them.

I am a lead-footed driver, and I like D’angelo. I was indulging in both. The expressway is about a half mile from our house, and I was on it quickly and and moving swiftly, about eighty or ninety, weaving past those without 265 horsepower at their disposal. The music was blasting and I was feeling pretty good, having spent a whole week with my wife and my babies. Being a husband and a father with so much now to lose, I don’t drive like I used to, but this was such a short trip…

I was in and out of the store in ten minutes. The off ramp where I get off does not merge for those — like me — going left. There is a two-lane stop. As I approached, I saw that an suv, a Tahoe, as in the left lane, and that the right lane was empty. I took the right lane so that when the light turned green, I could jump out quickly and beat the Tahoe on my left. I was racing the whole world and winning.

The music enveloped me — “…she’s alwayyys in my hair, my haiiiiir!” — and I was focused on that red light like a drag racer, ready to launch!

The light turned green! Ready… Set…

For some reason now, I didn’t hit the gas. There was no voice that spoke.

I couldn’t see around the hulking Tahoe from my Maxima, but I noticed that the Tahoe didn’t move either. I’m talking about a span of about one second.

Whoooooosh!! From the left, an eighteen wheeler, carrying death and dismemberment, barrelled through the intersection doing about sixty miles an hour!

Everything changed right then. I sat there at that light in the night at the tail end of a short meaningless trip and shook my head soaking in all that that momentary hesitation meant.

I pulled off slowly, and made my left turn, loing to the Tahoe, and like the aftermath of throwing a giant stone into a pond, the water of my whole life flooded in on me and overwhelmed me.

I thought about Kathy, who waited confidently for me to get back home not ever thinking that I was a pureed mass being poured into a body bag a half mile — and an eternity — away. I thought of how torn to pieces she would be for who knows how long.

I thought about Max, who loves me so absolutely right now, who calls ME every day when he awakes, who yells for ME at night when he has a nightmare, who needs ME to teach him all this stuff I can’t wait to teach him.

I thought about Diana, who smiles so wide at me when the cobwebs clear from her eyes at three o’clock every AM when I feed her, making sure she gets that extra meal she slept through earlier. I though about how she stops crying when I pick her up. I thought about telling her about boys and God.

I thought about how many times I have fed them and changed them and comforted them and taught them and loved them and watched them love me back. And I thought about the fact that no matter how much they love me, one small push on the gas pedal a few SECONDS ago would mean that They would only see me through pictures.

Max would ask, “Where’s Daddy? When’s Daddy coming back?” for days, weeks, and maybe even months, but with each passing second he and his sister would forget me a little bit more until in a short while they would remember me no more. Not at all. All the lessons and laughs would go unfulfilled.

I thought about my parents. I am the oldest and the only son. Gone. With just the slightest release of the brake pedal. I know how much they have loved me.

I thought about my three sisters.

And my few close friends. My church family who would have to hear the news on Sunday morning. I thought about all my musician friends…

My life didn’t flash before me. An alternate future played before me like a dvd on 3x. I saw my body crushed amid broken glass, twisted steel and torn rubber on the street while everyone I loved went on obliviously until the phone rang. I thanked God so much and so many times in that half mile ride.

I am supposed to be dead right now. That is not an overstatement. I am supposed to be as dead as someone mauled by a bear, or crashed in a plane. Based on the way I was driving and jamming — I’ve done it many times before — I was supposed to press that pedal, and no one but God stopped me. I should be sloshing around in a bag in a drawer. But I am not.

I walked into the house, put the oranges down, sat in a chair in front of my family, and cried. Hard.

Tears of  joy and sorrow. Boiling water and ice cubes in the same glass.

Shortly after I began to process everything, I thought about the biggest point of all:

As graphic a picture as the Lord had stapled in my brain, as close a call as I had, as surely as He had saved my life, He did MUCH more than that on a hill, far away!

The picture of eternity in hell is infinitely more horrible than a broken body and crying loved ones. Yes, He surely saved me — and my whole network of family and friends — from an excruciating circumstance, but it all becomes translucent in the face of that from which He ultimately saved me.

And everything I do from here out should be in light of that fact. I have the picture. I have the time. What will I do with it?

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Advice, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Death, Driving, Irony, Near Misses, Salvation, Second Chances | 16 Comments

What’s so Amazing about “Amazing?”

Why do some people use that word so much? Especially in reality shows like “The Real World,” “The Bachelor,” “Rock of Love,” and any other show where people who don’t know each other and are thrust together for the sole purpose of hooking up while we voyeuristically watch? Celebrities wear it out, too! “The director was amazing.” “This movie was an  amazing experience!” “Angelina was just so amazing that I just had to leave my first wife — who used to be amazing. Not so much now…

Overkill indeed! And it’s always spoken with three “a’s” in the middle of it for emphasis and extra amaaazingness. “I had an amaaazing time.” “You’re an amaaazing woman.” “Your body is amaaazing!” You would think they were juggling chainsaws and baking a cake while breastfeeding twins and bathing a cocker spaniel while looking super-hot! Now THAT would be amaaazing!

It is so awkwardly obvious what is going on. It is the verbal equivalent of buying a woman a drink in a club. As subtle as renting a porno movie.

They can’t ALL be amaaazing, can they? If they are, why are they lined up to do reality shows? If they are all amaaazing, where are the regular people? If every thing, situation, and blonde, and brunette is so amaaazing, why is the world so jacked up? If every parent, every child (mine are!) and every relationship is amaaazing, what do we say when we see a nine-month-old who can read, or a savant who can’t speak but can play Chopin, or Stevie Wonder, or Ben Carson, or that father who pushed his paraplegic son through an entire marathon because of a prior wish? Nope. Can’t call it amaaazing because you guys totally, literally diluted the uniquity — if you will — of that term to make some floozy think you were intense!

Save the superfluous superlatives for superlative situations. (I had to sit back and admire that one! Sorry.)

That goes for “miracle,” and “genius,” too!

January 7, 2009 Posted by | Advice, Celebrities, Celebrity, Culture, Current Events, Food for Thought, Humor, Hyperbole, Language, Relationships, Sex, Sexuality, Shallow People, Show Business, Stuff I Hate, Television, Things That Make You Go Hmmm, Words | 3 Comments

What They Taught Me

Boys love their fathers. I am no exception. No one loves his father more than I love mine.

But my mother is equally as excellent in my eyes. They taught me so much — they still do — and now that I am a parent, I want to be the same thing and show the same things to mine.

I know that in this age, it is not as vogue or common to have parents or be parents. If that is you, feel free to change the trend and use my example. There are many more, but these are the ones I can recall.

1 Tough it out. My folks never quit anything. They got up and went to work well or sick every day. I didn’t miss more than a dozen days of school in twelve years.

2 “Don’t let nobody hit you and you not hit ’em back!” My MOTHER told me that before my father got the chance to! Life doesn’t put up with cowards.

3 “Burn the midnight oil.” Ma drilled this into my head. And I saw her raise four kids five and a half years apart from top to bottom while teaching school in the daytime, night school at night, and getting her Master’s degree!

4 Share. Daddy was tight with his Tang (remember Tang?), but to this day, I can’t say, “Ma! That waffle iron is great!” without her trying to give it to me! And when I needed eye surgery in my late twenties and didn’t have the money (I was just starting out as a road musician), my pop paid for it out of his pocket.

5 Know how to fix stuff. My daddy showed me how to work with tools, fix faucets and change alternators. Even though he didn’t have a father to show HIM.

6 Don’t procrastinate. My mother would scold me to death on those perpetual Sunday nights as I wrote my term papers and handed the pages to her to type at three and four in the morning.

7 Be helpful. Be willing to give until it hurts.See number six.

8 Don’t ever hit a girl. I had three big-mouthed sisters. I failed at times, but I got it before it became crucial.

9 Know the answers. My folks stressed education. Bad grades were met with pain, and later with disappointment.

10 Sit up front and shut up unless you have a question. “I’m sendin’ you to school to learn, not to be no clown!” The night before my first day of school.

11 Read. Read everything.

12 Do YOUR job. No matter if no one is looking. Don’t let the next man have to carry your load. Got that from Ma.

13 The worst thing in the world is a thief, and a liar is the second. Ma.

14 Don’t kiss behinds. (I cleaned that one up) Yep. Ma.

15 Family sticks together. If your family member is in a fight, I don’t care if he’s winnin’, you pick up the biggest stick you can find a knock the…Nosy neighbor, Mrs. Burrell to my mother: “Allie, high come I jus’ saw yo’ kids walkin’ up tha street carr’n sticks an’ thangs’?”  I was in a fight up the street.

16 Stay married. No matter what. December 23, 1963 and counting…

17 Don’t argue in front of the kids. Don’t yell. They never did.

18 Don’t be weak. Don’t show fear.

19 Speak up! I still hear my father saying this in my ear!

20 If something’s on your mind, get it off. And be through with it. I get this from my mother. It kills Kathy, but she knows it is a good thing.

21 Nobody’s better than you. But treat them like they are.

22 Don’t half-do a job. (Cleaned that one up, too.)

23 God knows your max. “The Lord doesn’t put more on us than we can bear.” Ma says this to me every time something bad happens. I can’t stand to hear it, but I know she is right.

24 Choose wisely. There was a family that lived on the corner when I was a kid. The husband was always beating his wife up. He would beat her, she would leave him, and every time, she would return. He shot her. She left him, and returned. I remember overhearing the grown folk saying that he was going to kill her one day.

One summer day — I was watching my sisters since my folks were at work on their summer jobs — I was outside on the driveway when I saw the oldest daughter, Cynthia, run out of the house in her night clothes shouting, “He killin’ her! He killin’ her!” She ran across the street to her best friend, Bridget’s house.

Sure enough, there he was, in the living room (the front door was open) stabbing her to death. I was about eleven. I saw it happen. When the police came and got him — he didn’t try to run — he had on white painter’s overalls that were now more red than white.

When my folks got home, my father sat us all down and told us to choose our mates and our friends wisely or else the same thing could happen to us. It’s a cold, hard world.

25 Be loyal, even if they are not. My folks seem to go to a funeral a month now. And when my mother’s rather, I’ll say… “elitist” co-worker got sick, my mother went and served her like a slave, only to have her continue to treat Mom like she was less-than. Ma was confident that SHE did the right thing.

26 Don’t raise brats. My father saw a young child acting bratty and resolved to not let that be the way his kids would act! I can’t stand a brat!!

27 Dance. Be social. If you’re shy, fake it.

28 Don’t let an unlearned lesson come around and hit you in the back of the head. Learn from the past. My mother was abused as a child. She vowed not to treat her children that way, even though that is how the pattern regenerates itself.

29 Fat meat is greazy! Ask your black friends.

30 If you’re gonna fight, don’t talk about it. Do it. In my ninth grade summer, my sisters and I were made to walk, every day, to the park that my father oversaw as his summer job. It was in the serious hood! Kids from all around went there in order to stay out of trouble. My sisters and I were Fauntleroys compared to these kids! It was ROUGH!

In me, they smelled raw meat! I was bullied every day in front of my own father. Being who he was, he must have been thoroughly ashamed of me. It wasn’t that I was scared, I just hated to fight. One kid in particular, Tyrone (his name WOULD be Tyrone, hunh?), made it his mission to build a reputation off of me.

Nothing he did got me to fight. (He never hit me) One day, though, my baby sister was riding a skateboard down a steep hill, and purely to provoke me, he pushed Kim off the board.

Every kid in the park ran up the hill to tell me what happened and to see the fight they knew was coming.

My pops, whose JOB was to keep order, leaned calmly on the monkey bars and watched…

“Yeah, I did it!” Tyrone proudly proclaimed. This was it. Everybody was looking, and I was nearly blind with rage. I put up my guard as daddy had shown me years ago.

Tyrone started swaying confidently, back and forth. “You ain’ gone do nuthin’, punk,” smiling.

Left hook — POW! The world seemed to stop. Tyrone was in the dirt, getting up.

Left hook — POW! He went down again, rubbing his right jaw and blinking back tears. He got up slower this time. He wouldn’t swing. He just stood there with his hands up.

From behind me, I heard a familiar adult voice, “HIT him again! H*ll, HIT him. If you gone fight da**it FIGHT!” His exact words. I turned and looked at my father, the keeper of the peace, urging me on to beat this kid up. “Aw, h*ll! He waved his hand and walked away in disgust.

My heart wasn’t in it, and Tyrone’s heart was in my pocket. It was over. I had won, and hadn’t even taken a lick! I heard the kids who had taunted me all summer consoling Tyrone, ” Man, he didn’t even wanna fight you.”

I thought they would hate me, but they didn’t.

Talking to my father years later revealed that he, in all his ruthlessness, wanted me to beat the brakes off that kid to make up for all that stuff I took all summer. He was proud of me, though.

I had learned: Keep your mouth shut, and don’t put your dukes up until you know you gotta fight. And those who do the most talking often have to eat the most words.

31 Protect your home. I was never more secure than when at home because I knew Daddy was the baddest beast in the forest.

32 Work hard. Don’t make yourself look bad.

33 “Keep your name clean like it was when you got it!” Ma PREACHED that!

34 Don’t bring home no dumb girls. First thing they ever told me about girls.

34 Show love. That’s all they did, and all I try to do.

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Boys, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Kids, Life, Life Lessons, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Proverbs, Quips | 4 Comments

In Fidelity

You can’t fix an old car by driving another one.

Work on your own.

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Cheating, Christian Life, Christianity, Fidelity, Marriage | 1 Comment

Be Married Every Day. Every Day.

Marriage ain’t got a motor! You gotta push it for it to work.

Marriage is like a plant. An indoor plant that needs water every day. You can miss one day, and it’ll be fine. You can miss two days. But if you go a week, the leaves will start to brown around the edges. Before you know it, it’s dead, leaves like corn flakes all over the floor to be divided up by judges and lawyers.

I push my wife. Lovingly. Sometimes it irritates her, I’m sure, but I have seen relationships slowly turn into bland cardboard facsimilies, and I am bound to not let that happen to me! I don’t want to wake up one day and have my wife look at me (or not) like a stranger on an elevator. I tell her how I feel probably hourly. If I don’t say it, I show it. She doesn’t always feel like talking about where we are and what needs to be repaired. Why the Lord would give me someone who is not excessively expressive I don’t know… But I refuse to let her take a day off from being married to me. I won’t let her coast through our relationship.

Some people might call this too much. But I have witnessed too many relationships — of all kind — fizzle and falter because someone thought they were in a comfortable place.

Before I got married I NEVER turned down a gig! Never. That was a commonly-known thing about me. I was single for a long time, but when I got married, Kathy showed me how I needed to take time to do things with her now and then which made me have to miss work. Even though we couldn’t afford it. I realized that little things like going to a movie, or going out of town to visit her family kept the marriage-ball rolling.

I ask her often to tell me how she feels about me, not out of insecurity, but partly to help us both stay aware of who we are to each other. I tell her that we should have periodic, “State of the Marriage” meetings so that we don’t let the moss of discontent build up over time. I have seen what a miserable wife looks like. And I have too many friends and co-workers who think they have it made at the house while their wives are mentally already gone. If mine leaves me, it durn sho* won’t be because I didn’t let her know how I felt. Or that I cheated on her on my gig and somehow rationalized that that was different than being in a relationship!

You can’t fix your leaky roof by shingling somebody else’s!

Over time, the list of wrongs committed can grow long and bitter. At some point we have to just stop.

And start from scratch. Wipe the slate clean and forget about pointed fingers and “you did this, so I did that,” and “you stopped doing this, so I went somewhere else and got that.” We have to go back to square one, forget the hurt and remember the love and the pledge, and just listen.

Pain is a circle with no beginning. There is always a reason for why who did what to whom. The Devil does actually do his job. He wants discord. Those things don’t matter. What matters is restoring a bent and broken relationship. Stop trying to win. The only way you win is to both reach the finish line together.

When I feel a need to bring up something uncomfortable, even though I know it may cause trouble, I do it. I can’t help it. My mother gave me that. I refuse to let a minor irritant grow into poison ivy.

The beauty of this all is that she lets me do this where others have chastised me. Sometimes you have to be the right person to find the right person…

These are things that most of us know. I’m no guru. Far be it from me to give advice with all MY flaws! But even though I make mistakes, I at least know what the answers are.

We know these things, but we just choose not to do them. We’d rather not pick the lock on a closed door than walk through an open one.

 

 *Certainly

April 30, 2008 Posted by | Advice, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Marriage | , | 4 Comments

A Porpoise-Driven Life

Are you like me? Do you sometimes find that you live your life like a dolphin, holding your breath the overwhelming percentage of the time waiting for trouble to come?

I have to constantly tell myself that my Faith is the engine that drives me, and that God will see me through whatever disaster awaits me at the surface. I often am not able to enjoy even long periods of peace for holding my breath dreading the next calamity.

“Max might get sick.” “Diana might get bitten by the giant Great Dane that lives next door.” “My parents might die soon.” “Kathy or I may get fired.”

Things could happen. Things will happen. Bad things will happen. The point is that they will happen whether we shy away or stand there.

I am telling myself and you that it is okay to live in the face of the wind. God is able to transport us through what travails may come, and if we spend our time flinching from a blow that may or may not be on the way, we will miss the joys of life; watching kids grow and become independent, seeing parents become grandparents, relying on the Lord for sustenance when men cut you loose. “Fight back,” my daddy used to say, “They gone hit you anyway, whether you flinch or not!”  You might as well get some licks in.

Life is so much more good than bad, even for the most unfortunate of us, when we have an Eternal Point of View that sees through pain and around obstacles. Life is so much more Florida than Seattle.

All is not lost for the Christian even at the point of death. But you only die once. You live forever. Trust God. He is hurt when you don’t. I have to tell myself this from time to time, so I figured I’d tell you, too.

Come up for air.

April 24, 2008 Posted by | Advice, Christian Life, Christianity, Death, Depression, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fear, God, Life | 3 Comments

Life is Jazz is Life

Jazz is life.

In jazz, you take accumulated technique, knowledge, and skill, and create art in an instant. You prepare, by practice and experience and learning, to take circumstances– chords, rhythms, emotion– and create the best possible way (for you) to maneuver through a situation.

You don’t necessarily know what will happen or how it will turn out. The bass player might go somewhere else, the piano player might play minor instead of major, or the drummer may switch up the rhythm, and your prior preparation will give you the vocabulary to tie it all together and make art.

Life is jazz.

No one knows the future, but our experiences– mistakes and successes– give us the chance to deal with it. Our parents give us training and discipline, as do teachers, friends, bullies, stray dogs, and hot stoves. We take our ups and downs and use them to color the coarse sackcloth that is life’s canvas.

Bad news from doctors, poor drivers, shadowy figures, financial straits, and unrequited loves give us all the opportunity to artfully dodge catastrophe and emerge from a given situation successfully.

In both cases we use what we know to get through what we don’t know.

Life is Jazz is life.

November 25, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Analogy, Art, Axioms, Jazz, Life, Life Lessons, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Swimming Lessons.

My good-hearted 16-month-old son, Max, stands tottering on the shore of an ocean of sorrows. He has what appears to be the most friendly personality of any child in the world. He beams at the sight of other kids, never fights over toys, and when he smiles, he does so with his whole body! He loves to have fun, and possesses a wide-open heart. Life and this World are gonna KILL him!  Beat him to oatmeal! Waiting for him is a sea of sharks, jellyfish, and other predators seeking to drag him under and rip from him all the innocent, uncorrupted joy he now possesses.

Though I could bail him out and be a vessel by which he could navigate this ocean, I can only guide him while he swims alongside. It is with great sadness that I realize this. I have swum this way before, only barely making it without being consumed by rage, hatred, and selfishness. I didn’t know if I would make it, and I don’t know if Max will.

But God knows.

It is He who has given me the map by which I will lead my son. It is He who will instruct me as to what to say when the waves roll high and threaten to swallow him.

”Don’t let Life win, Son.

“Don’t let situations cause you to give up and become that which seeks to destroy you. Don’t be led by those unworthy. Make God your conscience. Know the right answers. USE them. 

“Every girl won’t like you. Some will hurt you. On purpose. Be nice anyway. Don’t let matters of the heart submerge you.

“Pain passes. Laugh when you need to. Cry when you have to. Keep swimming!

“Don’t let people be the riptide, the undertow that pulls you in an unGodly direction.

“Sit up front. Don’t back down. Don’t sell your friend out. You won’t have many.

“Life is hard. Often unfair. God is the prize. Know Him truly.

“Have your fun, but put in your work first. Stand flat-footed on your word.

“When you get tired, God will buoy you by the Spirit-shaped float inside you. 

“Keep this joy you have, only coat it with a veneer of strength with which to defend yourself. With this, you will be able to brush off the arrows hurled by those who will hate your love.” Daddy.

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Childhood, Christian Life, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Words of Wisdom | 2 Comments

Oh! I’m Sorry, God. Was That YOUR Sandwich?

How do you expect to spend eternity in

Someone’s house and not bother to get to know HIM?

Get to know the real God you claim.

September 12, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Bible, Christianity, Evangelism, Faith, God, Humor, Intelligent Design, Monotheism, Polytheism, Quips, Religion, Salvation, The Bible, Truth | Leave a comment

“This is Gonna Sting a Little…”

They Don’t Hate You.Coaches.Fathers.

Teachers.

Drill Instructors.

I used to think they hated me. They were so mean. Making me do stuff I couldn’t do. Didn’t want to do. Pushing me. Frowning. Yelling.

They never told me they were trying to make me better, stronger, smarter, tougher. They never said that the purpose was to make a man out of me. I didn’t know the true purpose until years later. I just thought at the time that they wanted to win at whatever the game was, and that I was simultaneously failing and causing them to fail. I thought they were trying to live through me, or to get a raise or promotion.

Had I known, I might have tried harder at more things and not given up a little inside. Maybe then, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to realize I wasn’t a loser that nobody liked. I wouldn’t have had to find out for myself.

This, however, is not about self-pity.

It is about my son. My children.

And perhaps yours.

“Max, the world is hard, and soft things get crushed. Those who can’t take it get taken.

This world sniffs out weakness and devours it, and you will be strong. Some people will try to take advantage of you. I will try to teach you to discern friends from abusers. But learning takes effort. Soft muscles become hard under pressure.

The first time you try to throw a ball, shoot a basketball, or ride a bike you will fail. No athletic endeavor is perfected without hours of dedicated practice.

You will have to wash dishes, wash cars, cut yards, mop floors, learn manners, eat things you don’t like, and not ask ‘why.’ You will at times think me mean, but I will not be swayed by that. It is not my first desire to be your friend, but your parent. You will be a citizen. You will improve this world, not burden it. We can be friends when YOU have kids and understand why I did what I did.

The first, even the tenth, math problem you encounter will be difficult to solve. Your first sentence will sound funny. Repetition is what will bring you understanding. You don’t get to give up. You will learn.

You will learn when to laugh, when to cry, when to fight, and when to listen. You will know when to comfort, how to be loyal, how to treat a woman, and how to pick a friend. You will know the Lord, and show the Lord. Above all else.

We will have a lot of fun in life, but I’m going to push you sometimes. There will be things that I will make you do that you will not want to do. You will fail a little now so as not to become a failure. Just understand that I do it- they do it- not out of hatred, but out of a desire, a responsibility, to make you more than you can become on your own. A knife needs a stone to become sharp. A sword needs fire to be shaped.

Daddy loves you.”

September 6, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Childhood, Discipline, Fathers and Sons, Life, Life Lessons, Love, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Personal Responsibility | 1 Comment