Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Welcome 2020

Is it a sunrise or a sunset? It all depends where you are looking.
For 2020, I want to maintain my focus where it needs to be. My brother-in-law made an astute observation. In Spanish, hope and wait are the same word. For too long I’ve endured not hoping or waiting. For 2020, I want to hope and wait.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Miss You Amal

I still have problems with this silly blog. Just know Ali misses Amal and hopes she is safe and well.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A Nice Quote Doesn’t Change Things

I suppose this post, and the tone it has, will seem strange for this holiday season. However, I’ve had a convergence of thoughts and events and I need to clear my mind.  Writing often helps me sort my thoughts. 

This blog and Instagram are my only social media platforms.  One thing I’ve seen the last few years in social media is the proliferation of uplifting quotes.  Frankly, I’m annoyed by them.  Please understand, I believe in the power of positive thinking.  However, there are circumstances that come up in life that positive thoughts will not change. 

My grandma Phillips was forever changed after living through the Great Depression.  She often spoke of the trials she and grandpa endured and the hopelessness people felt.  They were willing to work, and work hard, but no jobs were available. 

There is a refugee center near us and we hear their stories.  They escaped with their lives and the clothes they wore.  Too many had to bury, or didn’t have time to bury, loved ones.  Now they are shell shocked and simply move forward.  That’s all they know to do. 

Every year around Christmas time, I listen to the song “Christmas At Denny’s” by Randy Stonehill.  It reminds me of the dire situations some people have and the level of desperation they feel.  If you’ve never known hopelessness, you can’t feel the weight of these lyrics:

oh when I was a boy
I believed in Christmas
miracle season to make a new start
I don't need no miracle, sweet baby Jesus
just help me find
some kind of hope in my heart

Can you feel that desperation?

What causes hopelessness?  It happens when you’ve used the last of your money, you have no food in your house, your kids are hungry and crying, and your car just broke down.  You know what?  There are people more desperate than that.  Hopelessness comes when you’ve hoped and tried for years for something to improve or change but it never does.  Every effort you make doesn’t make things any better. 

What about the people who are so poor they have no car or home.  Some people literally live on the streets.  I worked in Mumbai, India about 15 years ago and I remember seeing people sleeping on sidewalks.  I thought to myself the lucky ones had mosquito nets.

I also watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” during the Christmas season.  In this movie, George Bailey dreams of doing big things.  He wants to design tall buildings and great bridges but is stuck in his dreary hometown working the family business.  It is a daily grind that continually wears him down. 

The job I had before my current one was like that.  Have you ever had a job you hated but couldn’t leave?  Well, I could have left that job but I didn’t have another one.  Believe me, I tried to find different jobs.  I tried for many years.  In all that time, only one job was offered to me.  Since it paid substantially less, I couldn’t consider it.  We already struggled to make ends meet.  Therefore, just quitting my job was not an option.  I have a wife and kids.  I was resolved to work there until I retired or died.  Whichever came first, I was committed. 

For nearly nine and a half years, I worked that job that was a pit of negativity.  I gave up believing I would ever get out.  I believed God wanted me there.  I don’t know why but it seemed I was paying a price for something.  I was without hope.

Have you ever struggled unceasingly with something day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day but never overcome?  After years of beating your head against a wall, is it any wonder people give up?  Nothing changes.  You can never get what you want.  No matter what you do, it-never-happens. 

This brings me to my comment about positive thoughts.  When you are in despair and without hope, positive thought quotes and memes fall on deaf ears.  It is like showing a man dying of thirst a photo of a tall glass of refreshing water.  Since it isn’t real, it doesn’t matter.  If you want help someone without hope, you must demonstrate to them you care.  Words can be part of it but you better back it up with action. 

Normally, I want to leave things on a positive note but life isn’t always like that.  We’ve watched too many movies and TV shows that ended with the hero winning again.  We live in a fantasy world.  Life isn’t a pretty present wrapped in a bow and all you have to do is open it.  Life is best described as chasing that present when it continually moves and is never where it is supposed to be when they say it will be there. 

When you open your eyes, you will see life is messy and often not pretty.  That is where we must live.  Life is between now and not yet and we must experience the despair and hungry of that. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Armchair Spaceman

As a former Google+ member, I appreciate the people I befriended.  I say friend because I still feel a genuine connection with many I connected with.  The Armchair Spaceman, aka Tom in Space and Thomas Craig Muir, is one of them. 

With a keen mind for outstanding and thought provoking poetry, Tom also is a master at creating techno music.  Actually, his music is a blend of styles and I'm happy to listen to his music.  It never ceases to capture me and I find my self toe-tapping to the beat of getting into the groove. 

You can find his music at Choon and Soundcloud.  Give him a listen.  You'll be happy you did. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

This Morning’s Dream

It was an odd one but they seem to be the ones I remember anymore.  Here it goes….

I dreamed my alarm didn’t go off and I awoke to see the time.  I couldn’t read the clock so I grabbed my phone to check the time.  I couldn’t see the time on it either.  Then I noticed it wasn’t the phone I currently use.  (iPhone 8 Plus)  It was an iPhone 4S. 

I got out of bed with the phone in my hand.  By this point, I somehow knew it was about 20 minutes before my shift started.  I went to take a shower.  My wife and daughter renovated the shower, (I don’t know how I knew that.  When did they get those skills?) but the shower curtain was missing.  I decided to skip bathing and left for work. 

I guess it is good I remembered to put on clothes.  I’ve had dreams before where I didn’t do that. 

While driving to work I have car problems and I go to a place to get it worked on.  By this time, I’m late for work but I haven’t notified anyone yet.  Something happened while I was at the shop with the car but I don’t remember.  I decide to call work to advise I would be late.  P answered the phone and I tell him what was happening.  (He was at work today and I told him my dream.  He laughed.)

I start walking around outside and I see Amal (if you don’t know, she is a character from a book I published).  I knew I missed her and wanted to talk with her.  While talking, a large group of children start walking around.  It was like school let out.  Somehow I knew they were all foreign kids.  Then two walked up to us and started speaking Spanish.  I replied and asked them something. 

Then the alarm woke me.  Too bad Amal and I couldn’t finish our conversation. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

Welcome to Our World

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long awaited Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

Songwriters: CHRIS RICE

© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Shorties: 72

Andy’s baptism by fire was a blurred mix of adrenaline, fear, and exhaustion.  Events of the day were a never ending nightmare of scenes he couldn’t block out.  The replays tried to interject themselves as Andy and Chip Wilson dug into the unforgiving earth to make their foxhole.  With ears ringing after a day of firing his weapon and explosions near and far, Andy’s body rebelled.  After being hyped for the whole day, his body was shutting down and every movement took supreme effort.  He felt emptied and spent. 

Finally, the hole was deep enough and wide enough for both to fit.  Chip took first watch and Andy settled down to sleep.  After adjusting his position for the second time, Andy fell immediately into slumber. 

For his whole life, Andrew Barnes was simply Andy Barnes.  To look at him elicited no thought he was special.  He was a good friend but he wasn’t particularly athletic or intelligent.  The girls in his school never swooned when he arrived.  Even Andy never thought himself important in any way.  However, there was one unique thing about Andy.  He was quite unlucky.  For the whole of his formative years, event after event never turned out in Andy’s favor.  Nothing lucky ever happened to him until he was drafted into the Army.  After many years of pondering this aberration of life, Andy clearly saw the irony but never could understand why. 

It was with an overwhelming sense of doom; Andy boarded the bus to boot camp.  The country was at war and Andy just knew he would be cannon fodder.  To have a horrible death or be terribly maimed were certain fates.  Of this Andy was sure but he couldn’t decide which was most unlucky.  Consequently, great dread filled Andy. 

He met all the minimum standards and finished boot camp.  He arrived home on leave as Private First Class Andrew P. Barnes.  It was during this leave Andy had an insight.  Since he would die or be maimed early in his combat experience, he should make peace with that fate here and now.  Living in fear wouldn’t serve him or his fellow combatants.  By the time Andy returned to base, he was at peace with his terrible destiny. 

Destiny, his destiny, was in the movies of death and destruction filling the eyes of his subconscious.  Andy relived again Dean Burke getting hit in the elbow.  Writhing in pain and shocked at the flow of blood, Dean whimpered and moaned when Andy reached him.  The lower half of the arm remained attached by a small thread of skin.  The forearm bounced to and fro as Andy pulled and drug Dean to safety. 

Andy wasn’t being heroic.  He was certain he was next to die or get wounded and wanted to complete his destiny.  Instead, he found himself reliving the day.  It was a day he wanted to forget.  One by one, tragic events paraded before him in a mockery of destiny.  His resolve weakened.  Andy was no longer sure of his destiny.  Icy panic gripped him.  Dean heard a deep groan of despair vibrate from Andy and turned to see him in the cool darkness. 

Dean hoped Andy would stop.  He was fighting demons of his own and feared those waiting to pounce while he slept.  Little by little, Andy stirred more as specters cast their spells upon him.  Slowly, Dean leaned closer, careful not to touch his comrade.  Then he softly but clearly whispered, “Andy.  Andy.  Andy.”

Andy looked down and saw Dean’s blood on his hands and wiped them onto some grass nearby and then onto a pant leg.  Then he heard a whisper calling his name, “Andy.”  He turned around and noticed an army boot sitting upright with the jagged edges of bones sticking out.  Andy winced.  Again, he heard his name, “Andy.” 

Slowly, he traversed down a long corridor of reality (“Andy”) and entered the realm of consciousness.  He jumped with a start and glared wildly at Dean, but it wasn’t Dean.  The vision faded to reality and Andy saw Chip.  Chip whispered, “It’s ok.  You’re ok.  It was just a dream.”

Fully awake now, Andy wanted to cry.  He wasn’t sure which was worse, dream land or real life.  Then with the deepest of convictions, Andy whispered back, “Today’s the day I die.”

A Time of Need

The last time he saw his mom, Paul spoke the words he had to say.   He recognized her discomfort as she shifted on the bed and redirected he...