Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On freedom and giving up that plunder.

     The book of Exodus tells us that, God, Moses and the work of that wooden staff freed his people from dreary bondage and slavery under the Egyptians. Moses says to his peeps, we're outta here and while we're leaving what do you say we do a little plundering, like all that ill-gotten and perverted worldly gold that Pharoah and his boys have gained at the expense of our 400 hundred years in the mudpits. "Sounds good to us Mo." say the Israelites, just as the Egyptians come begging saying... "yes, yes, take anything you want, take the gold, just go...before another plague sets in". The Israelites high step it on out with great worldly wealth, but seeing how they are primitive camping in the desert, all that gold ain't all that valuable.... water and a meal would be better. Then God says, how about all you who I've given a heart to do so, give up the loot and watch me restore it and refine it into something so incredibly fine, intricate and pure that I could live there with you. (ie- the tabernacle). And so they do, so much so that Moses has to tell them to stop giving it up, God's got enough for what he wants to do.
     Great old testament story, except what's it got to do with dog fence guy....and then it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, there's an allegorical lesson here as always seems to be the case with the Old Testament if you think of it in a spiritual, mystical, narrative kind of way.
     My loving Father, Jesus, and the work of the wooden cross freed me from the dreary bondage and slavery of my disobedience that puts me under the oppression of Evil. Jesus says, Freddy my man, we are outta here and while we go what do you say we do a little plundering and take back all those sweet treasures like love, intimacy, patience and kindness that you had before you fell and that the big evil one grabbed from you and perverted in his worldly way. "Sounds good to me Jeshua", just as the evil minions chime in pleading, "yes, yes, please take them, take anything you want, just go, before the light gets any brighter in here".
     So, here in the desert of life I've got all this love, kindness and patience, but it's tainted by the world and whenever I try to give it to somebody, it always whispers in my ear, "but what's in it for us?" The Father turns around and says, Freddo, since I've given you the Spirit, how about you just give me all that tainted love, intimacy, patience and kindness and watch me restore it and refine it into something so incredibly fine and intricate that I could live there with you. (ie. my heart) And so I try everyday to do just that because I know that I am loved with the perfect love of the Father that never ends nor stops.......and it is that untainted love that transforms we who believe and are giving up the world's gold, in exchange for a real and mystical union with Him. And it is that love from the Absolute Lover of our souls, that makes commitment and obedience to Him and only Him no burden at all but rather an all consuming and wonderful desire.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Just mending fences.....

Very often in the morning as Beth and I are getting ready to start the day she'll ask, "so what's your day like today?" My answer,..... "mending fences, babe." Often I will give it no more thought or I'll still chuckle inside at the double meaning of it. Having installed over a thousand hidden pet fences now, I spend a lot of time repairing them and such is life in being called by Jesus to never stop mending relational fences. The other day as I gave my pat answer, I got to thinking about Spike, the true author of my response.

     When I was a student at Wake Forest many years ago, there was a gentleman whom we simply knew as Spike. He was a slightly built elderly man well worn by his years who wore a burlap sack around his slumped shoulder and walked the campus each day with a simple stick and spike on one end, thus the nickname. Spike's job was to pick up the trash that we students thoughtlessly discarded anywhere. 
     As he made his way around campus it had become a requirement that when you saw him, you greeted him by yelling, "Hey Spike, how's business?" To which he would dutifully but cheerfully reply, "oh it's pick'in up, boys, it's pick'in up!" We would laugh, he would laugh as he probably had 50 times already that day and we would continue in our opposite directions. We continued on our way with a certain sense of superiority as cocky students headed for law school, med school, or business ownership one day. Picking up trash at age 55 was Spike's sad lot in life.....glad it would never be mine. Humility? It's tough to be humble at 19 nor to be expected when as Wake Forest students we simply knew we were predestined for a better life than Spike. Dear Old Wake Forest, that institution that we paid a lot of money to had told us so, and confirmed to us with each passing class that we were the crème of the crop by our mere acceptance there.
We graduated with diplomas in hand, having successfully made our first installment on becoming the doctors, lawyers and business owners we were simply drawn by greater powers to be. The next installment was reality.
     For those of us led by our superior intelligence to become doctors, that nice new white coat and stethoscope were feeling pretty fine until we were met by, "So, you wanna be a doctor eh? Well, let us show you how to digitally check a man's prostate, there see?....now you give it a try."....."Hey Doc, how's business?"
     Those of us foreordained since birth to be lawyers went off to law school, where we quickly came to understand that a lot of lawyering basically came down to this;....find a couple of kids butting heads about something. Walk up to whichever one you think has the most to gain and tell him that if he will give you one of his tootsie pops you'll help him win his gripe and get what he wants from the kid he's arguing with. What's more, you tell him there's a good chance you can work it out so the other kid will be so scared that you won't even have to go tell on him to his Dad! .... Hmm... but wait, you mean if I can't find a fight to settle, no tootsie pop?   How's business, counselor?"
     And for me, I went off to run that business. Since my Dad was a music teacher, I realized real quick that if I wanted to run a company, I'd have to start my own. This, I came to know, meant pounding the streets trying to sell something of value to someone at a higher price than what I  paid for it. And once I've sold it, I had better make sure it keeps working to their satisfaction if I want to keep selling it to more people and stay in business. And so now, many of my days are spent walking yards with a spool of wire and a spade over my shoulder, looking for a wire buried in the ground that has been cut. How's business, Mr. CEO? ... "Oh, it's mending fences, Spike, it's mending fences!" and yes, I love it! It is just the job for a Wake Forest graduate.
     So here's to you Spike, Senior WFU facilities sanitation manager. May God rest your soul. You taught me a lesson only realized many years later, that doctoring may just be about loving everyone you meet each day with care, a smile and a joke, in hopes that it just might heal not only the body but a weary soul or maybe change an arrogant one. You taught me that being a good lawyer starts with coming to know that there is a greater justice than what the world can offer and that it begins with love. And that running a business isn't always about the bottom line, but providing something  that makes the world a better place for those you meet along the way. Those are lessons that simply weren't taught by all the Phd's in those Wake Forest classrooms and that all that tuition money just couldn't buy. I wonder what I would have learned if I had only thought to register for Life 201 from Professor Spike, out on the quad..........

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lessons along the running road.

      I went for my regular Saturday run this morning to strengthen my body and empty my mind.
     Along the way I saw my shadow running next to me and was reminded that I am not a runner because I run..... I run because I am a runner. Likewise, I am not a child of my Father in heaven because of what I do..... but rather what I do is because I am a child of my Father.
     Sadly, I saw a dead bluebird. It is my favorite bird. No bird lifts my heart like the flash of a bluebird across the sky. I was reminded that happiness is but a fleeting emotion and is no substitute for the joy of life that comes from being freed from the things of this world that oppress.
     I saw a smashed turtle. In the words of a little zombie boy on a youtube video, "I like turtles." Having saved one a few days ago from a similar fate, I was reminded that acts of kindness are beautiful in the moment, but are only glimpses of the kingdom of heaven that is truly here but so elusive. I was reminded that slow and steady doesn't always win the race nor does fast and erratic, because it's not a race to begin with but a journey to be taken at my pace so that I might pick up some pearls along the way.
     I saw an empty condom box and was reminded that real love isn't found there, but was reminded that my bride, my lover, my best friend returns tomorrow from loving little ones in Swaziland, Africa for the Father's kingdom. I can't wait to tell her I've missed her, sit with her, hold her hand and hear of her great adventure.
     I saw an empty pack of cigarettes and was reminded of the things of this world that I have not only overcome, but more importantly simply transcended.
     I ran past a line of little flags in a front yard, still standing proudly two days after our great Independence Day celebration. I was reminded that it is ok to take pride in my country and its contributions to the world, but I must also not be blind to the evil it has done.
     A cyclist passed by me and was the first to smile, wave, and wish me a "good morning". I was taken aback, and reminded not to stereotype certain people into groups as unfriendly when they generally don't acknowledge you as they pass.
     I ran past a discarded little flag laying in the dirt from our great Independence Day celebration and was reminded that nationalism and patriotic pride are but a fleeting substitute for citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. I was reminded that Jesus wasn't an American and that the American way is not His truth and way.
     I passed an old gentleman out walking, with whom I had a very interesting and personal conversation with a few months ago. As I waved and said hello, he did the same, but I knew he didn't recognize me as anyone but a passerby. I was reminded that we are each others angels whether our clouded and aged minds remember each other or not. Some things are shared by our souls and possibly never forgotten.   
     I passed by the Grapevine Baptist cemetery and was reminded sadly that soon enough I will take the route of the bluebird and turtle. I was then filled with the joy of knowing that one day I will soar on to incredible and wonderful journeys beyond my ability to imagine.
     I went for my regular Saturday morning run today and returned with even more than what I hoped for.
                  "But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view and
                    we'll live a long life.
                    So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
                   'Cause oh they gave me such a fright.
                    But I will hold as long as you like
                    Just promise me we'll be alright.
                                              "Ghosts that We Knew.", Mumford and Sons.


Monday, May 27, 2013

2013 Memorial Day thoughts...

My Dad fought on the front lines in WWII, which included action in the famous battle of the bulge. He was one of three GI's from his original platoon that made it home alive. Growing up, he never thought of himself as a hero and believed that the idea of fighting for God and country were only pondered from the safety of one's lazyboy long after the war was over. Scared kid that he was, jumping from foxhole to foxhole and dodging mortar shells, all he ever wanted was to make it through another day and get home to his Mom, Dad, and his bride to be, my Mom. He never spoke of the war, until toward the end of his life when the stories that he had kept inside for so long came pouring out. Many made me cry and marvel not only at his courage during the war, but for the 50 years he kept them inside and went about trying to live a "normal" life following such horror. I think he would have said "Amen" to this article by Derek Flood. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/derek-flood/veteran-suicides_b_2134685.html
Also, on this Memorial Day, remembering Erik Rudziak. He was my kind hearted, big, next door neighbor in Carlisle, Pa., when I was a kid. He played high school football and took the time to play backyard football with a little shaver like me when I was 7 or 8. I will never forget the day we received word that he was killed in Vietnam. It was January of 1969 and he never saw his 20th birthday. Rest in peace, buddy, you are not forgotten. We will meet again one fine day.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring's eternal awakening.

    The first hint of spring has arrived in North Carolina and with it comes the renewal of little league baseball when young boys drift off into dreams of going deep in the whole at short, backhanding a ground ball and gunning down that swift footed lead-off hitter zipping down the first baseline .......or visions of game-winning home runs drilled on a rope to dead centerfield off the flagpole!
But a vision of this magnitude can only come into reality if Dad, (that would be me), will  spring for a new bat for one future Oriole shortstop. (that would be son Sam). Of course not just any bat will do to achieve Southwest Forsyth Little League hall of fame status. It must be none other than the Easton Brigade BBCOR S-1 fully composite (handle and barrel) with a drop of -13, measuring 32-19, this is the quintessential work of baseball batting beauty. Oh believe me, the less expensive XL1, 2, or 3 will not do, nor will the S2 or S3 be suitable. No, these are simply wanna be half composite or fully aluminum, garishly yellow, mutant sticks with grotesque extra long barrels. It is only the thoroughbred Easton S-1 that could ever be worthy of becoming Sam's precious. C'mon now, these are just the basics a Dad must know prior to the start of any season.
    Playing out in our home has been a remake of the movie, "A Christmas Story". Just substitute "Red Rider BB gun" with "Easton brigade", set the scene at Easter instead of Christmas and settle in with some popcorn, the movie has just begun. (an aside, there is no substitute for Dad's "fraj-ee-lay" leg lamp prominently displayed in the front window, still a thing of beauty if you ask me.)
    This script has taken me back to my own sweet days of little league when real boys used Louisville slugger all wood bats. We got them at Woolworth's for $5.49 after saving our 25 cent allowance for weeks. Of course, they cracked if you hit them on the handle, a frequent little league occurance, so we always had a wide assortment of various colored duct taped bats lined up vying for our next at bat. Oh, the simpler days........but then I got to thinking how my Dad of the WWII, depression era probably looked at all our "expensive" bats back then and relived his cherished days of playing stick ball in the streets of Wilson Township, Pa., when real kids grabbed the broom their Mom had just discarded and fashioned that broomstick into the best bat a kid could ever have. They didn't need any organized league either.
     And so it goes.....it seems the earthly tools that produce our sweet boyhood memories change from father to son, but the memories themselves remain essentially the same among us all. Young Sam's obsession with the "wonder bat" pales only in comparison to my own laser-like focus on the worldly items I myopically believe are required to awaken me to the knowledge of who I am in my Father's kingdom. It is, oh, so easy here in the imperfect of time and space to become infatuated with the objects that merely point us to a greater spiritual relationship. There is a Buddhist saying that speaks of making sure you never mistake the finger pointing to the moon for the moon.
    Likewise I would do well not to make sacred those things that simply point me to a deeper understanding of the kingdom of heaven and my Father's love for me..... Scripture, other ancient writings, books, family, friends, church, art, a Vivaldi violin concerto, a meaningful Mumford and Sons lyric, a great run on a Saturday morning are really only fingers pointing to the sweet understanding that I am indeed a spark of the divine, awakened and born of spirit, deeply loved, cherished, and most importantly one for whom the bridal price has been paid. The knowledge that I am spoken for produces in me an eternal springtime as I prepare for that ineffable summer wedding day!
     Now then...let's get to playing ball and life, with a childlike joy and just maybe a new bat too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A brighter shadow.

While running with my shadow today it occurred to me that maybe just maybe one fine glorious day our bodies will not take the light and cast darkness, but rather take the light received and make it brighter. Then it occurred to me that I really always have that option!.....Liv'in in the now......

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dad, me, and dog fence wire.


I love what I do. For eight years now, I haven't had a job, but  a daily joy that just so happens to provide an income. I love meeting people, playing with dogs, and installing hidden dog fences that I know folks will love. I know that I am blessed by God to be self-employed and enjoy so much what I do. I am also blessed by those who have gone before me and paved the way......... which brings me to my Dad, me, and dog fence wire.

The look back...


     School has started and with it comes the daily morning drive with my 11 year old son Sam to the loading zone for his car pool ride to school. It's a good time for father and son as I get about 15 minutes with just him at the start of each day. Sometimes we say nothing and that's ok, (it's a guy thing) and sometimes we talk of the day to come. Sometimes we sing along with the radio and sometimes we yell at the radio at the latest stupid thing we're hearing o
n the morning news report.

Back to that same old spot.......

    Hang with me, there just might be a life lesson here.

    One of the biggest reasons that hidden pet fences are so effective is because they play on the fact that our beloved pups are such creatures of habit. Often I tell pet owners that the training in the beginning is not so much a matter of the dog walking into the correction zone but instilling in them the habit of what to do once they hear the beep and feel the correction sensation. By having them on the leash in the beginning, you pull them back toward the house and the correction stops, thus they become conditioned that turning back toward the house is the way to make it stop. Trained properly, they just never figure out that if they simply kept going another 10-12 feet the correction would stop also, and they could be on their merry way chasing that squirrel down the street!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Houston, do you copy?"

      Upon re-entering earth's atmosphere, there is 3 minute period at the end of each space shuttle flight when Houston control loses radio contact with the crew. It has to do with ionized air not playing well with radio transmission. This loss of contact comes at a perilous time when the space craft could easily burn up and disintegrate if the well rehearsed angle of entry is not achieved. Houston control knows when the blackout is coming and informs the shuttle crew prior to it. Last minute instructions are given and then comes the silence..... and the waiting...... and the clock watching, as the all important 3 minutes count down. Finally after what seems like an eternity, the voice of the shuttle pilot pierces the silence saying.... "Houston...re-establishing communication" ....and Houston control takes a collective sigh of relief.