Blessings

Today is my first Thanksgiving without either of my parents. There are so many wonderful and warm memories that mean so much, most of which are of the simplest things. I don’t know that I’ve had a dumpling since mama made her last ones several years ago. When I was little, she let me “help” her by rolling out the dough with the rolling pin. I’d float back and forth between the kitchen and the living room where my dad would sit at the end of the couch with his Bible in his lap studying his Sunday sermon before my three sisters and their families arrived. Our house was holiday central and I loved every minute of it.

Things have changed an awful lot over the years and, looking back, I wish I’d paid more attention to all the little things that at the time seemed to be little more than exercises in the mundane. I guess we all do that to one degree or another. Life is brief and it’s unfortunate that we usually don’t consider that until we’re reminded by the passage of many years or tragedies the likes of which our community has experienced this week and, it seems, all too often over the past several months. Though we needn’t grieve without hope, we grieve still. We struggle to embrace a new normal that finds loved ones gone from this earth and relationships that once were, no longer.

My prayer today is that we will hug longer, laugh more heartily, and express our love to our family and friends more openly and passionately while they are still here with us. I firmly believe that if we examine closely all that remains, even as we mourn that which is gone, that God can and will reveal to us blessings that we may have previously overlooked. He loves us more than we can fathom. He proved it when He allowed His Son to suffer on our behalf. He is able to give us a heavenly perspective of hope that transcends the temporal things of this world. That hope exists in the person of Jesus Christ. That is something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.

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A God-Shaped Hole

There are many ways that people seek and find comfort, at least temporarily, during difficult times. One immutable truth I’ve discovered in my life is that when things are the most hopeless, when people can fall no deeper into despair, it is God who they cry out to for help, whether publicly or in the privacy of their own thoughts, and it is God who supernaturally does exactly what He’s promised to do for those who will simply allow Him and that is to love and give comfort beyond human comprehension. It defies logic and is beyond what any human mind could even begin to understand but it is as real as the replica of my mama’s nose that resides in the middle of my face. I have seen it in the lives of friends and family. I have experienced it in my own life more times than I can count. Tonight, I saw it in two fathers and a mother who suddenly and tragically lost their 16 year old sons only 24 short hours ago. I believe that there is, as one Christian musician sang, a God-shaped hole in all of us and when our very souls shudder with fear and burn with pain so intense we wonder if we can live through even one more breath, He fills that hole, maybe even against our will, with peace and love and mercy so great that it is beyond explanation. I don’t know how and I surely don’t know why. I just know He does and for that, I am eternally grateful. He is Jehovah-Shalom.

Justice? Yeah. Right. What a joke. Sharpton in Ferguson

An unarmed 18-year-old young man was gunned down by a police officer. Not that it matters, but the police officer was of a different race than the unarmed teenager. That 18-year-old young man was my cousin, Gil Collar, and he was shot and killed on October 6, 2012, by a University of South Alabama campus police officer. His mother and father were devastated, as was the rest of his family and much of this community. I wish people who shout loudly and frequently for “justice” when a Michael Brown or a Trayvon Martin is killed really wanted justice because if they did, they would have shown up in Mobile two years ago to make sure justice was served.

Al Sharpton and his ilk sicken me. Self-promoting fools who get rich by fostering distrust and outright hate between races ought to be treated with contempt rather than hailed as heroes, regardless of the color of one’s skin. Sharpton and Jessie Jackson aren’t crusaders for black people. They’re opportunists who make a handsome living by capitalizing on the pain and misfortune of others.

While they grandstand and inflame racial tensions in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Sanford, Florida, there are still two grieving parents in Wetumpka, Alabama who are patiently awaiting justice of some sort, whether that justice comes in this life or the next.

Real justice doesn’t care about the color of someone’s skin. It’s a shame that that seems to be the only thing Sharpton cares about.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1958480/

Vladimir Putin: The Rise of Gog and the Prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39

Really interesting piece. Don’t know about the accuracy of the historical places but compelling arguments.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Putin

We may be seeing a biblical prophecy fulfilled in front of our eyes.  Ezekiel 38-39 foretells the coming invasion of Israel from a northern land known as Magog.  The ruler of Magog is said to be Gog, a name that most biblical scholars identify as a title rather than a proper name itself.

The prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 is fascinating because it is so specific in the way it names a coalition of nations that will come up against Israel.  The prophecy foretells this axis of evil that invades Israel will be miraculously destroyed by the hand of God and that Gog, himself, will be killed.   What is remarkable about Gog’s defeat is that the Bible declares he will be buried in Israel and not in his homeland.  This will be a sure sign as to the literal fulfillment of this prophecy.

It is no secret that Israel has her…

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Aside

I have a theory regarding the state of politics on every level. From the tiniest hamlet all the way up to the most powerful position in the land, head football coach of the University of Alabama. Just beneath that position would be the office of President of the United States. My theory is this: When you start seeing elected officials park in the same parking spaces in which the rest of us commoners park, then you’ll start seeing a change in the way our municipalities, counties, wards, beats, commonwealths, states, and, ultimately, our country, are governed.

I’m not sure exactly what happens when someone is elected to public office, but many of them seem to suddenly see themselves as a part of the privileged class, whatever that is. Among the various other benefits they often garner as a result of their ascension into public “service,” they often begin to park their vehicles wherever they wish. They often do this in situations where there is a perfectly good, marked parking space that is just as close or, in some cases I’ve seen, closer and more convenient, than the one they created for themselves which is often not a parking space at all. It may just be a piece of asphalt right next to the building which houses their office or perhaps a grassy area where no one else would even consider parking a vehicle. I contend that this parking snob malady is symptomatic of the sometimes bloated image one might have of oneself after having successfully campaigned for a public office. This is only a theory and I happen to know several successful politicians who park not only in a normal parking space, but further away so that others may have their pick of the more plum spots. Other symptoms include an overwhelming sense of self-importance and an “I’m smarter than you and know more about what you need than you do” attitude. Which brings me to the point of this post…

I had a conversation yesterday on my Facebook page for this blog with Senator Bryan Taylor who represents District 30 in the Alabama Senate, the district in which I reside. The city I live in, Wetumpka, had a bill before the legislature that would’ve given the citizens of Wetumpka an opportunity to vote on whether or not to allow on-premises Sunday alcohol sales as well as draft beer sales. Of the six members of the Alabama legislature who represent Wetumpka (can you say Gerrymander?), Only Senator Taylor was able to find an issue with the bill and apparently only detected the issue in the eleventh hour as the legislative session was about to come to an end. Senator Taylor, in all his infinite wisdom, decided that this would be the proper time to amend the bill to exclude two types of businesses from the bill so that they couldn’t sell alcohol on Sunday. One business is the Creek Casino. I won’t get into my views on the casino and gambling. Suffice it to say that most readers of this blog would likely take issue with them. I’m not a fan of gambling. Senator Taylor, who is also a practicing attorney, happens to represent the Escambia County Commission which is attempting to collect taxes from the Wind Creek Casino in Atmore, Alabama (I actually agree with the commission on that issue). Wind Creek Casino happens to be owned by PCI Gaming, the same tribe that owns the casino in Wetumpka. The other amendment to the bill would’ve prevented any clubs which offer “adult entertainment,” i.e., strip clubs, from selling alcohol on Sunday. You are certainly welcome to draw your own conclusions regarding the amendment dealing with the casino. I would like to think that Senator Taylor wouldn’t kill this bill or any bill, particularly a local one, simply to shove his thumb in the eye of the subject of the litigation he is involved in in Escambia county. A proverbial shot across the bow of the PCI boat is certainly his prerogative but it shouldn’t come at the expense of Wetumpka city officials and residents who ought to be able to decide for themselves what is best for their community. The only thing I’ll say about the amendment regarding the strip clubs is that there is a city ordinance already in place, as it should be, which prohibits such establishments from doing business in Wetumpka. Not to mention the fact that you’d likely have less opposition if you tried to open a toxic waste dump adjacent to the elementary school than you would if you tried to open a strip club. Wetumpka has never been and likely will never be home to any sort of alleged “gentlemen’s club.”

The bottom line as I see it is this: Senator Taylor, based on some of his comments which you can read here, seems to have fallen victim to the parking snob syndrome. Some of his comments lead me to wonder if he doesn’t enjoy his position as Senator a little too much. He’s in a position, because of an antiquated state constitution, to insert himself square in the middle of any legislation the sort of which HB474 and HB475 were. Bills that would’ve affected only the city of Wetumpka. Senator Taylor blamed Senator Quinton Ross of Montgomery as well as our local city officials for the failure of the bill. In fact, he admonished Wetumpka city officials by saying, “Next time, perhaps local officials will do what all other local officials across my district do before introducing a bill — talk to their legislative delegation and work out differences BEFOREhand…” It is my understanding that the other five members who represent Wetumpka in the state legislature had no issues with the bill. Only Senator Taylor.

I don’t know where Senator Taylor parks his vehicle. Maybe he parks far away from the doors of the places he frequents so as to allow others to have the better spaces. What I do know is that it seems, at least in my opinion, that the senator rather enjoys his position of authority, whether real or imagined. I would suppose it to be a quite heady proposition to have local officials across an area be compelled by a billion-page, bloated state constitution to consult with you and gain your approval before they can move forward with something they feel would be beneficial to the city in which they were elected to serve. I suppose we’d all like to find ourselves in the catbird seat from time to time. I’ve found myself in whatever seat is the opposite of the catbird seat more often than not for most of my life. Heck, I might even find myself enjoying the power of that position should I ever find my way there. I like to think I’d try to be more of a servant than a member of some unofficial board of directors who gets to tell everyone what to do. I can promise you this…Should I ever find my way into some sort of public office, be it chief bottle-washer or president or anywhere in between, I’ll park my 2001 Tahoe with 140,000 miles on it in a regular parking spot. You have my word.

You can read David Goodwin’s excellent and informative article on this issue on The Wetumpka Herald’s website.

Local Bill Dies Because of Where Politicians Park?

Confessions of a Fanilow: Mama, Music, and Manilow

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I’ve always loved music. A lot. All sorts of music. But the only music I recall hearing as a young child were the songs from The Baptist Hymnal that my mama would sing between watching the “stories” and handling the general upkeep of the New Home Baptist Church pastorium, the one in Titus. She sang all the time. I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast this morning but I can sing you the first, second, and last verse of half the songs in the 1975 version of the hymnal. Maybe that’s where my love of music and singing was born.

We had a big old console stereo with an FM tuner and a record player. We even had a few records, mostly Elvis and Lawrence Welk, but we couldn’t listen to them because the record player didn’t have a needle. The only time I ever remember it being on is when daddy would crank it up and we’d eat popcorn and listen to Alabama basketball games. In 1981, for my 12th birthday, mama and daddy took me up to Bush’s in Slapout and we made what would be the last payment on a stereo they had put on layaway several weeks earlier. It went in my room and not only did the record player have a needle, but it also had an 8-track player! At any given time you could find me in my room with the door closed, singing along to one of my handful of 8-tracks. Leif Garrett, The Village People, and, of course, Elvis, were among the staples of my collection. The 8-track player actually had a jack where you could plug in a microphone and record right onto the tape itself. Aside from recording the hits directly from Y-102, this feature would serve my two nephews and I well as we pretended to be wrestlers with Jason, 6 years my junior, and I wrestling while his younger brother, Dale, would serve as our own version of Mean Gene Okerlund. It would also lead to the infamous, and I quote here, “And they’re scrappin’ like hell” comment from the 6 year old Dale as our match apparently became so hotly contested that a cuss word was needed to convey the unimaginable excitement he was witnessing. I’m sure it also ended the match as his older brother at that point was likely compelled, once he broke the figure-four leg lock I had clamped on him, to go and tell on Dale for cussing. 

I faced a whole new problem when I became old enough to drive. In 1985, my 16th birthday found us with a green 1972 Ford LTD with only an AM radio. The 1974 and 1976 models that followed over the next 18 months had the same issue. I could occasionally pick up Casey Kasem’s American Top-40 on Sunday afternoons but other than that, AM radio was mostly only good for listening to trucker music out of Metairie, Louisiana at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday nights. Great for a guy driving a K-whopper hauling a lowboy loaded with a Caterpillar backhoe from Birmingham to Houston. Not as great for a 16 year old boy who just wanted to take a girl to a movie and be able to listen to Chicago 17 on the way in the hopes that she’d hold his hand when You’re the Inspiration came on. Slim Whitman’s Indian Love Call just didn’t have the same effect. Then, like the Lone Ranger riding in to save the day, my Aunt Mary drove her 1980 Cutlass Supreme from Bakersfield, California to Slapout, Alabama to live with us. I’m not sure she ever drove the car again due to her severe arthritis but it did anything but sit idle in the driveway. It had AM/FM cassette and CRUISE CONTROL! Not nearly as common in the mid-80s as it is now. It also only had two doors and just like that, I was riding in style! Run DMC, Prince, New Edition, Cinderella, Bon Jovi…I felt like I was living in a movie and these cassettes were the soundtrack of my life. I saved up a little money from my job as a bagboy at Food World and bought some chrome, bullet hole rims from Otasco. I WAS RICH!!!

By that time, my obsession with the music of Barry Manilow had been fully realized and embraced. An obsession that continues today. I’ve always loved Elvis and vividly remember exactly where I was and how sad I felt when I heard that he had died. I’ll do the same when Barry leaves this earth but I’ll be a lot more upset. I used to wonder why all the girls cried when I saw videos of them at an Elvis concert. I saw Barry Manilow in concert for the first time about 10 years ago and I don’t wonder anymore. I didn’t cry but I’ll have to admit to getting a little watery-eyed from excitement. Don’t go spreading that around. I’ve got an image to maintain. I’ve taken a lot, and I mean A LOT of heat over the years for being a hardcore Fanilow. I have a gay friend in Atlanta who made fun of me for being a Fanilow. I don’t mean to stereotype, but I always operated under the assumption that the gay community embraced Barry, especially after his appearance on Will and Grace in 2003. I’m sure there’s never been a time in my life, no matter what season of difficulty or prosperity I happened to be going through at the time, that I couldn’t think of a Barry Manilow song that fit that situation perfectly. If you see me singing while driving, I’m probably belting out, badly, Weekend in New England or maybe Somewhere Down the Road or The Old SongsHe had me at Mandy.

My wife is insanely musically talented. She has the voice of Sandi Patty and plays the piano. She also teaches dance. In college, she was a member of the AU Show Choir or simply Auburn Singers as I’ve come to know them over the years. Every few years, they have a reunion and many of the members from past incarnations of the group join the current members and they put on a show(Yes, they do a Manilow song). They always end with what I’ll refer to as their unofficial theme song. It’s called What Would I Do Without My Music and even though I’ve sometimes made a little fun of the time she spent in the AU Singers, that song moves me. Every time.

Music has played an important role in my life. Some of my earliest and most precious memories are of my mama singing those hymns around the house. There are songs that bring back wonderful childhood memories of Christmases and birthdays and other occasions. There are songs that remind me of young love and first breakups. First kisses and first arguments. Proms and homecoming games. Songs that bring to mind people and places that are no longer. Songs that marked a marriage and songs that comforted through the heartache of divorce. Songs that remind me to be thankful for what I have and usher me into the very presence of God. Songs that remind me of my mama and how she loved to sing and that help me remember that she’s in a perfect place now, Heaven. Most importantly, there are songs that God has inspired and continues to inspire men to write that remind me that even though I said an earthly goodbye to Mama on July 27, 2011, that I’ll get to see her again one day. That my goodbye was not forever

What would I do without my music?

 

“You’re in a better place, I’ve heard a thousand times.And at least a thousand times I’ve rejoiced for you. But the reason why I’m broken, the reason why I cry is how long must I wait to be with you? I close my eyes and I see your face. If home’s where my heart is then I’m out of place. Lord, won’t you give me strength to make it through somehow. I’ve never been more homesick than now.” –Homesick by MercyMe

 

I’m a Lover, Not a Fighter. Neither Really. Especially not a Fighter, Though.

Three years ago today, this is what I was writing about. Enjoy…

Ok. Here it is. The story of my boxing career which began and ended when I was a freshman at Holtville High School. It is not pretty and the faint of heart should use great care in reading it.

Whatever school you went to, you can probably name the person at your school who just couldn’t get along with anyone. For whatever reason they just never seemed to have many friends and more often than not it was because they weren’t all that likable. Harsh, but true. This is the short story of the day that that person at my school decided he would challenge me to a boxing match, gloves and all.

I played on the junior varsity football team that year and everyone on the team was required, during third period, to take athletics as it was called. Just a class where we would lift weights or in my case hide from lifting weights. I was one of the smallest guys in my class up through tenth grade and having a bench press max that was pretty much just the bar itself at 45 lbs. was not something I cared for everyone to know. So I did all I could to keep from lifting weights. Yes, I know it’s difficult to believe that I once was not the strapping young man that I am now. Or that I was ten years ago at least. Anyway, one day someone decided it would be a good idea to bring some boxing gloves to school and many times during break, which was right before athletics, we would hold impromptu boxing matches on the football field in front of the field house.

I had never had particularly pugilistic tendencies and had I lived my whole life without ever donning a pair of boxing gloves I think I could have had a most fulfilled, meaningful life. Fate had other ideas for me.

As we stood and watched two guys flail and swing like broken windmills at one another, the guy who had few friends made his way toward me. In hindsight I think I sort of new what was about to happen. I was about to be called out. The two guys who were boxing finally finished, probably without no clear winner because both of them had probably completely exhausted themselves swinging wildly into the air and landing about .75% of their punches. Those of you who have been lucky enough to have witnessed one of these type bouts know exactly what I mean when I say “wildly.” Friendless guy then, in words that I can’t repeat here, challenges me to a match. Yay. I was very excited.

For those of you who have been or still are “little” guys(this is not you Lee), you know that no matter how big your heart is there are still physical limitations that will usually prevent you from winning too many competitions where size, height, and weight may be a factor. I was smart enough to realize this but was not smart enough to say “no thanks.” That doggone male pride thing. It is second only to trying to impress a woman in causing us to make unwise decisions. Put those two things together and what you have is a recipe for disaster. A perfect storm of sorts which creates in the male species the illusion that one is ten feet tall and bullet-proof as the old adage goes.

So, on go the gloves. In my mind I pictured myself deftly and gracefully moving around the ring, the grass actually, dodging Friendless’s powerful but slow punches. I knew that he was a bit of a bleeder and I’d seen more blood come out of his nose than you would see at a Friday the 13th movie festival. All I had to do was land a punch or two flush on his proboscis and some merciful person would step between us to keep me from doing further, undue damage to the face of this poor soul.

That was in my mind.

In reality, there on that small patch of grass in the middle of that circle of bloodthirsty teenagers, most of them my friends, both male and female, I was absorbing the first of probably five or six blows square to my face. From beginning to end the whole affair lasted maybe fifteen seconds. A long fifteen seconds. And on about blow number six I determined that I had had enough. I may have landed a couple of blows myself. I may not have.

The gloves we used were not the lace-up kind but the kind with elastic around the wrist to keep them from coming off while punching. They didn’t come off when I punched. However, when I raised my hands in surrender and slung them rapidly back to my side and down toward the ground they flew off like a pair of flip-flops would fly off the feet of Chuck Norris while performing one of his lethal roundhouse kicks.

They hit the grass with a thud and as the tears of complete humiliation began to well up in my eyes, I began my long, lonely trek back toward the gym. The first 50 yards were okay. Then I ran into two popular, pretty female friends who asked why I was crying. “Because I just got punched in the face six times” is what I wanted to say. “You’d be crying a little, too!” Now that I think about it, “crying” is probably too strong a term to describe what I was doing. The tears were not leaving my eyes and rolling down my cheeks so technically I wasn’t crying at all. Anyway, what I said to them was more along the lines of, “I’m not” as I hurried on my way.

That day was a bit of an epiphany for me. Just because someone isn’t very likable and may not have as many friends as you do doesn’t mean that they can’t beat you up if they take a notion to even if you were voted “most mischievous” by your classmates. In fact, it may very well serve as a motivational device. If I have picked up another pair of boxing gloves since that fateful day, I don’t remember it.

The good news is this: Because of the abbreviated length of the fight, I was able to get to the snack bar in the gym before it closed and was able to soothe my damaged ego with an Eskimo Pie. Then I thanked the Eskimo Pie for being cold so that it could sooth my damaged head. I hastily called a news conference that was attended only by Julius Farley, the school custodian, and announced my retirement from the boxing profession, effective immediately.