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We survived Hurricane Gustav with only inconvenience. Only two houses in my family were lost or substantially damaged. At one point this week only two parishes in Louisiana had 100% power restored. As of today, over 800,000 people/businesses still have no power, a little less than half of the population. In addition to power outages local municipalities sustained significant damage to infrastructure. Many communities as far north as Central Louisiana where I live had no public water supply following the hurricane for days.

Two days after Gustav made landfall and passed through Central Louisiana the city of Alexandria sustained widespread flash flooding. Entire neighborhoods that have never seen flooding were under water. Those families lost automobiles and sustained major damage to their homes, many of which had no flood insurance. By some accounts this was either a 50 or 100 year storm for this area. My house is the highest on my street and saw no water accumulate in the street, so I’d like to think we wouldn’t flood.

It should not be understated that at least 18 people lost their lives in Louisiana this week as a result of the hurricane. One of the saddest I hear of is that the Sheriff of Moss Bluff and his wife died in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning from their generator outside their home. Supposedly there was only a crack in the door for the extension cord coming into the house, but it was enough to draw in the exhaust fumes and kill them while they slept on their couches in the living room with a window A/C unit running. Still others died when trees fell on their homes and crushed them. It’s just sad.

Louisianians learned many lessons following hurricane’s Katrina and Rita. Governor Bobby Jindal deserves much of the credit for the preparedness and implementation of hurricane plans for the state. It was a monumental difference from the last time. We witnessed perhaps the fastest exodus of the largest amount of people in history this past week as nearly 2 million fled south Louisiana in a four day time span, including moving thousands of hospital and nursing home patients by airlift. Those same evacuees are returning home now to find widespread shortages of food and fuel. The impact of the storm is far from over.

The national news coverage leading up to the storm was pitiful. The “story” was all about New Orleans, whether there would be a repeat of Katrina, and how this would impact the Republican National Convention. For those preparing for one of the worst storms to possibly hit Louisiana only the local news media was helpful in making decisions and preparations. I was very angry to tune in to the national news three days after landfall to find that the story was that New Orleans missed the big one and that it wasn’t that bad. The damage from Gustav far exceeded the area hardest hit by Hurricane Rita and Katrina. While we’re all very grateful that New Orleans did not flood again, it does nothing to minimize the impact felt by families all across Louisiana.

We lost power Monday afternoon. I didn’t expect to see it restored till at least this weekend, but we were suprised to have it back on Wednesday evening. Our water supply was never interrupted. During the outage we had record levels of humidity that only added to everyone’s misery. We didn’t complain and didn’t expect power right away, but after two days the need to get ice was becoming critical. The American Red Cross manned shelters across the area, but they were reserved for evacuees from south La only. Once Central Louisiana became part of the impact area, local high schools were opened for local residents as well. Basic supplies like bottled water, ice, and food were not readily available for several days following the storm.

There will be more lessons learned from this storm as well. I’ll keep more batteries on hand now. I’ll also freeze blocks of my own ice in my freezer for the days leading up to landfall, because we won’t be able to count on anyone else. Aside from a few idiots who always show themselves during times of crisis, the people of Louisiana are decent and resilient. We’ll get thru this one too. We always do.

The funniest girl I ever knew
had hair as orange as Halloween
The bluest eyes that saw right through
all the b.s. in everything
She was an artist from the start
and she always sang from the bottom of her heart

And though her road was so long
she finally made her way back home
yeah she finally made her way back home

The loneliest kid I ever saw
owned an old man’s callused hands
sitting barefoot in front of an dime store
in a place some called the promised land
He had hollow sunken eyes
but he was smiling big like he’d won some kinda prize
He was ragged, he was rolling like a stone
in the dirty city streets that he called home
yeah the dirty city streets that he called home

Hobos, tramps and troubadours
don’t ride in boxcars like they did before
Seems like most of my heroes
just ain’t around no more

I know I’m lucky to sing my songs
and if you want to, you can sing along
We’ve been on this road so long
Won’t you help me find my way back home?
Help me find my way back home

– “Home” by Shawn Mullins from songlyrics.com

“Home” is the latest in a long list of songs that have resonated with me very personally. Shawn Mullins is a great singer/songwriter, and this song from his album Honeydew from Vanguard Records is a great example why. I’ve always been impressed by people who can paint pictures in your mind with nothing but their words or music. I realize that music, like books and all forms of art, speak differently to each of us. I like to write about all things that move me, books, movies, wine, and music especially.

I work on the road. I’m a traveling salesman so-to-speak. I pay the bills as a marketing rep in healthcare and travel a pretty large statewide sales territory and beyond. I get road weary quite often, but then again, when I’ve been home too long, I enjoy heading out. Miles have a way of really wearing you down but also a way of teaching you about life and yourself. There isn’t much about my job or my daily life that is as romantic as a troubadour riding a boxcar across America, but I like to think there are some similarities.

Mullins sings as one who’s seen the road. He knows people. He watches them, listens to them, learns from them. I like to think his eyes and mind are open when he describes the “funniest girl” and the “loneliest kid” he’s ever seen.

The orange-haired singer he croons about reminds me of many different free spirits and artistic types I’ve known. It’s pretty typical of those I know to go far from home, whether in body or in spirit. No matter how far any of us go we always carry a piece of home with us, whether we want to or not.

When I hear about the “loneliest kid” sitting in front of the dime store, I can’t help but think of hundreds of kids I saw and met in the Philippines who lived in conditions that we aren’t allowed to subject our dogs to in the U.S. but had huge glowing smiles brightening their dirty faces and ragged clothes. From them we learn that home is not a 3 bedroom brick in the burbs and happiness is not a balance in our checkbook.

“Hobos, tramps, and troubadours don’t ride in boxcars like they did before.” In a strange way that many of us may not ever understand the road is home to all the characters Mullins sings about. This one line marks a bygone era of Americana that many may find hard to imagine. Security is the buzz of the decade, and we have yet to fully realize the price we have paid for even the illusion of it. We share an acute sense of loss that may be conveyed best by our poets.

“Most of my heroes just ain’t around no more.” Times, they are a changing… without a doubt. A huge part of that change and sense of loss is the failure of leadership we’ve seen in every part of our culture. Personally, I never had all that many heroes growing up. I loved movies and toys but never to the point of idolizing or believing in them. If I could say I had one hero in the first 20 years of my life, it would have to be my paternal grandfather. In recent years that man who was larger than life for me has become very human, frail, and flawed. I don’t judge. I love yet I grieve.

Going home then isn’t so much about going back to a place, though pilgrimages have been significant in our lives. Going home is more about going back to something we feel we’ve lost… to something we wish we had. It is an ideal worth believing in, but a trip we realize we can’t take alone. For that reason we’re invited to sing along… to take the trip together.

I’ve been working in and around New Orleans for a few weeks now. I do twice a year. After a couple weeks the family came back with me last week. It’s a sort of working vacation. Money’s low, gas is high. Don’t know if there will be a real vacation this summer, but I don’t know that it could be anymore fun than this one.

In years past my trips to NOLA were limited to in and out, do what you came to do and go. I was always intimidated by big cities and far too judgemental in the past to enjoy the Big Easy. Not so anymore. I think I’ve finally managed to learn my way around including public transit. I feel accomplished, lol.

I’ve always been a student of people and places. There’s no greater classroom for that than this city. Having my family here has been a lot of fun. I’ll never forget the look of my four year-old sitting in the sunshine leaning on the window sill of a trolley on Canal Street taking it all in or my six year old asking a million questions on the Algiers Ferry. It’s been a blast.

For all the big box stores, fast food drive thrus and expressways we live with, it’s nice to come to a place that is unique unto itself and comfortable in it’s own two shoes, even if the soles are worn out. This is a melting pot of people like no other. Millionaires mingling with paupers and grit mixed with glitter. An out of the way trolley ride took us out of the tourist traps and our comfort zones. We saw the destruction and blight up close and personal. We also met people who had “salt in their character,” a lot of salt. They were good people.. helpful, friendly, and not so different than you and me.

The days have been blistering hot. The nights have been heavy and thick. The bourbon sweet. The smiles and laughs… unforgettable. For all, thru all, in spite of all.. I am thankful.

I would have never thought of mixing fresh fruit into a green salad until I tried this recipe this weekend at a rehearsal dinner. It’s a great cool, crisp, light salad for the summer. It’s very very easy and delicious.

Fruity Green Salad

Ingredients:

  • Chopped Lettuce
  • Sliced Strawberries
  • Pineapple Chunks
  • Chopped Walnuts
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Chop your lettuce, slice fresh strawberries, and drain a can of pineapple chunks (fresh sliced pineapple works best). Mix in the fruit and walnuts and toss with a little Balsamic Vingerette dressing to taste (less is more). Proportions are up to you, but it’s best with more lettuce and less fruit. It doesn’t take much fruit to give it a nice sweet kick.

The key to making it best is to only mix what you intend to eat for that meal. After sitting in the fridge even for the afternoon, the fruit juices and dressing will make the lettuce soggy. It’s not good without being crisp. I recommend keeping the ingredients separate, so you can toss a fresh salad whenever your ready. Enjoy!

Exploding starAt the moment the consensus in the scientific community is that the universe originated in a “Big Bang.” While that may be hotly contested by the religious community, there are certain facts that make the theory hard to easily dispell. One of those facts is that astronomers can observe the visible universe moving further and further away at increasing speed in all directions (and no we are not at the center of the universe.)

Some of the questions raised by those opposed to the theory are “what happened to cause the Big Bang, and where did all that stuff come from?” Just such a question was mentioned by John, a 15 year old also struggling with matters of faith and reason, who recently commented on my post “Branding an Adolescent Mind” at de-conversion.com:

Although, i speak to anyone willing to try to convert me but i have never heard anything that really made me wonder about the truthfullness of their beliefs. The one line that i really couldn’t answer was, ‘despite from the big bang and any of those scientific beliefs, where did all that matter come from?’ My only answer i could give to that christian crusader was, ‘Who are you to say that it all began from a superior being or entity, for some reason, deciding this should be and made it happen?’

Before I make an amateur attempt to answer that question, I want to say that science isn’t about having the one right answer. The thing I that I have come to admire most about science is the pursuit to ask better questions and find better answers. Many times throughout history science operated based on the best answers they had to work from at the time. When better evidence came along, those answers were set aside in light of what they later learned to be true. Nothing is sacred. Even what we consider to be scientific fact is really the best possible answer to a given problem at the moment. Although there are “laws” of physics, there are places where those basic laws break down and do not hold to be true, such as extreme environments like super massive black holes or the very early stages of expansion immediately after the Big Bang. I believe that whenever scientists hold their answers to be “infallible and inerrant,” they cease to be scientists and become religious zealots. I say all of that to say that I don’t have the definative answers to these big questions either. However, I do have better answers that I used to have, and I’m learning to ask better questions.

The simple answer to “where did all that stuff come from?” is a theory which says it came from a singularity, in which all of the matter in the universe was compressed into a space smaller than an atom. The better question that we are asking now is “what happened before the Big Bang?” Truthfully, no one knows. That’s why they call it theoretical physics, but as you would expect there are a number of evolving theories.

I tend to think that the answer to where it came from is the same as where it is going. The problem we have as humans is that we think of time as a linear concept, starting at point A in the past and moving toward point B in the future at a constant rate. Einstein’s theories show that time is indeed a relative thing. I wonder if time isn’t more circular. Can you find the beginning of a circle? Can you show me it’s end? It’s a senseless question. For us to keep asking where it all came from and where is it going may be just as senseless, because it may be that there was no beginning and there will be no end. Sounds strangely divine doesn’t it?

There are two prevailing theories as to how the universe will end that help us to answer how it began. One is that it will end in “fire and brimstone,” known as the Big Crunch. The other is that it will end in ice, known as the Big Chill. Again, this is my best amateur explanation of these ideas. The Big Crunch says that at some point the attractional force of gravity will slow down the expansion of the universe until a point that it begins to collapse back onto itself, eventually all the way back to a singularity once more. In this theory of the end of everything you also have the beginning of everything. This expanding/collapsing pattern repeats itself literally to “worlds without end.” On the other hand, the Big Chill says that the universe will continue expanding at an ever increasing rate of speed such that gravity is not strong enough to overcome the expansion. As matter in the universe continues to move further and further apart, stars will eventually die from a lack of fuel. The fate of this universe is a cold, dark and silent death. You can almost see how religious fundamentalists would appreciate the Big Crunch theory, if not for the the circular pattern of unlimited worlds and lives without end part. However, more of the scientific community is leaning towards the Big Chill theory as being more plausible.

I have enjoyed Stephen Hawking’s books immensely, especially his work on super massive black holes and Parallel Universes. My simple understanding of them is that it’s possible that an immense amount of gravity is compressed within a super massive black hole into a singularity, similar to what originated the Big Bang. At those extremes the fundamental laws of physics break down and theoretical physics steps in to fill in the gaps. In the theory of parallel universes it is possible that the compressed matter and energy of super massive black holes may actually result in a Big Bang of its own, resulting in a completely new and different universe from our own. If in fact it’s possible that super massive black holes result in a parallel universe, there would be an infinite number of parallel universes possible, not of all of which operate under the same laws of physics as ours. After 30 years of research Hawking reversed his theory on parallel universes and says now that after an immense amount of time super massive black holes die and eject their matter/energy back into the universe in an unrecognizable form from the original. Proving yet again that science like ourselves is a work in progress.

I share all of that to say that there is no one answer, at least not yet. We just have better answers and better questions than we used to have. The reality is that our average human lifetime is infinitely small in comparison to the life cycle of even this one known universe that we are in. No amount of science or religion will change the fact that each of us, everyone of us, will one day die. We will cease to be, at least in the linear concept of time that we live with. We are the children of stardust. Our bodies are literally comprised of elements derived from the stars. Given enough time, we will return to our source, whenever and wherever that may be. With those thoughts in mind I am far more inclined to believe in past lifetimes and future lifetimes than I am the Rapture. I am far more inclined to believe in the interconnectedness of all life. I am far more inclined to want to take care of the world we live in, and I am far more inclined to appreciate life, every life, for the wonderful rare and beautiful gift that it is. Good luck on your journey.

John Kerry photo opI’ve got to give two big thumbs up for Hillary on this one, and that’s a hard thing to do for this lifelong Republican voting for Obama.

After a weekend spent making direct appeals to gun owners and church goers, Hillary Clinton said Sunday a query about the last time she fired a gun or attended church services “is not a relevant question in this debate” over Barack Obama’s recent comments on small town Americans. (CNNpolitics.com)

I could care less about how often our political leaders go to church or where they go, as long as it’s not the FLDS compound in Texas. All these made-for-TV photo ops at the gun range are just as ridiculous. What matters is what you say you believe and do your actions bear that out. It’s been a long hard fought campaign, and as much as I hate to confess it, my admiration and respect for Hillary has gone up significantly, although I am still pulling for Obama. 

My fear of another Bush-like Republican in the White House has gone up as well. If you remember, W. did not run as a hard right wing conservative. He ran as “a uniter not a divider” on the promise of “a new day in Washington,” where Democrats and Republicans could work together. He had such a track record in Texas. All of that sounds very McCain-ish to me, and aside from the “Bush tax cuts” and the Cheney/Rumsfeld warmongering, he’s been a very moderate Republican president. I’ve had more than enough of the hawks in the hen house. The days of saber-rattling must come to an end. It’s the 21st century by the way. At least Hillary has had the courage to realize it, at least for today.

Do you ever stop and think about how politically incorrect our childhood’s were? It was nothing to see your favorite Saturday morning cartoon character smoking a cigarette. How many of our teachers played hangman on the chalkboard to teach spelling to their classes? Hangman, for crying out loud! Have you ever stopped to think about that? I realize that I grew up in the deep south and racism wasn’t always subtle, but it’s astonishing to think that for years children were taught to spell using a game that demonstrates how thousands of people in the South were terrorized and summarily executed for being black. It seemed innocent at the time when we were kids. Never in a million years did I consciously associate the game with death nor racism, but we now live in a time that the mere mention of the word ‘noose’ is enough to have TV pundits fired even without any intent of malice or prejudice.

My wife was playing the game with my six year old the other day, never thinking the first thing about it. She was just doing what we all did as kids, playing a stick-figure game on paper. I pointed out to her what the game was demonstrating, and all of a sudden it didn’t look so innocent anymore. I don’t think it would warp my son’s psyche, because it didn’t mine either, but we live in a time in which we at least need to be considerate of how our words and actions will be perceived by others irregardless of our intent.

As dramatic as this video is, it actually happened to me in a much smaller plane minus the wingtip scraping the runway. A couple years ago, shortly after receiving my private pilot’s license I flew a Cessna Skyhawk 172sp from Central Louisiana into a smaller airport on the west side of Houston. There was a strong gusting crosswind coming out of the west and the only available runway ran north/south. As hard as it is to imagine in Houston, the landscape west of the airfield was barren into the distance, no trees, no buildings, which only made the winds that much stronger.

I was set up for a northbound crosswind landing, coming in banked to the left to compensate. Moments before touchdown a sudden gust blew from the west and pushed the plane sideways across the runway and within seconds I was looking down at the grass just a few feet in the air. Already in a steep bank to the left with no way to get the plane back over the runway, I hit full throttle and instinctively raised the flaps to go around and try again, only I raised ALL the flaps by mistake rather than gradually taking them up. Instantly I was not only being pushed further away from the field over the grass, but I also lost lift from being impulsive and a newbie. I immediately put most of the flaps back in. Luckily, they had not fully retracted before I realized my mistake.

Once I managed to regain lift, I kept a steep crosswind correction as I climbed out for a go around. Making the pattern was even difficult due to the ridiculous winds, but I came around for another try. Remembering my trainer’s repetitive warnings, I remembered to ‘land it like a jet,’ use less flaps and come in faster. This time I lined up a little to the left of center on approach, using only 10 degrees on flaps and 10 knots faster. I also kept a harder crosswind correction coming down. We were being tossed around pretty good, but I made my mind up that no matter what we were landing this time. True to crosswind-landing form, we landed on just the left rear wheel then eased over onto both wheels as we slowed down. Nose wheel down, braking hard, yoke all the way left.. we stopped.

I was shaking, but surprisingly my passengers (my aunt and cousin) seemed to be relatively unphased. Aside from taking up too much flaps too quickly, I think I did it by the book or at least the book my trainer gave me. LOL. It was scary but amazing how so much of your training kicks in right when needed most. Thanks, Ryan.

I think many people are very excited about Obama’s candidacy, as much as for what it is as for what it is not. I don’t think Obama has painted himself as a Messianic figure, but I do think that people have invested their hopes of what could be into his campaign. I don’t doubt that some people are overly passionate, but that’s the case in every campaign. Because millions support you, doesn’t follow that you support every one of those millions’ personal behavior and ideology. I think the whole Messiah, cult-following rhetoric is more political spin in an attempt to divert undecided voters and discredit the legitimacy of his candidacy.

Being relatively new on the national political scene, Obama is a sort of political enigma that is difficult for people to label and pigeonhole in attack ads. About the best argument they can make is that he is all talk and no substance, and that is supporters are brain dead. That’s really a weak argument when you think about it. I know too many intelligent educated people supporting his candidacy.

Part of the disillusion that I share with so many Republicans is that we were supposed to be the party of ideas, reason, and common sense. The Democrats were supposed to be the party driven by emotion and opinion polls. The Bush presidency has been short on ideas and reason, and it’s a card from the old playbook to label all liberals as brain dead followers driven by feelings.

I like Barack Obama’s personality and character. We haven’t had a president behaving presidential since Bush 41 and Reagan. Bush 43 can’t even speak in public and his policies have not only been unpopular but have also proven to be failures. Clinton disgraced the office of the president, perhaps for a generation. People are starving for leadership, and if they see even the possibility of it, they will flock to it in droves. I grew up as a small child with Reagan as president. He defined in my mind what presidents are supposed to be and do. We went to school hearing about people like John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, and it seems like Ronald Reagan may be the last of the giants that we may see again. Has the American presidency been bought and paid for by special interests, turned by the best political spin machine, craving the best 3 second sound-byte of the day? We hope not.

I’ll be blogging more about Obama’s ideas in posts to come. I keep coming back to this but John Mayer’s song “Waiting on the World to Change” embodies the sentiments of my generation with regards to assuming the mantle of leadership in this country. This may well prove to be the election that engages those in the process who’ve been sitting on the sidelines complaining. I for one would love to see an election where more than 30% of the electorate gets out and votes, no matter who they support. Let everyone make their case and may the best candidate win.

Barack ObamaMy wife observed that I’ve been watching MSBNC and CNN more than Fox News lately. I used to only watch Fox. I told her Fox doesn’t even try to hide their bias anymore. I can’t take it. Apparently, my religious views aren’t the only thing that’s changed in the last few years. I have always been a Republican and have only voted for Democrats in local and state races where personal integrity was more important to me than political branding. For the record President Bush has been an enormous disappointment to me, although I believe he has been much better than the alternative of Al Gore or John Kerry. Aside from the early Bush tax cuts and the pastoral duties he pulled after 9/11, the rest of his administration has been a joke to me. It pisses me off that we could have a Ivy League graduate for president that can’t speak the English language. What? Did he cliff note his way through college? In hindsight we got more of the conservative agenda passed with Bill Clinton as president than we have with George W. Bush.

Having said that the field of Republican candidates has been a joke. Is this the best they can come up with? Early on I liked Thompson until he came out, if you will. Talk about a ‘thud.’ You have to wish someone would stick a live 110 volt wire up his ass just to see if he would jump while at the podium. Totally lifeless. Taking all the right positions in an campaign means nothing anymore. It’s just spin. G.W. did the same and look where it got us. He’s effectively destroyed the Republican party.

So, I liked Huckabee when I heard him. He’s smart and witty. He seems to make sense and be saying what a lot of normal people I know think. The whole pastoral thing didn’t bother me much because I followed him a little bit as Governor of Arkansas. I was really pulling for him until I saw him stumping from pulpits. Then he started saying wierd stuff about the ‘Word of God’ being more important than the Constitution and how the Constitution should be changed to line up with the ‘Word of God’ and not the other way around. Stop the presses! That’s a whole lot of fundamentalism coming from a supposedly populist/moderate candidate. Even if he’s just placating to the evangelical base, it still scares me. I’ve had more than enough of G.W.’s Christianity being espoused from the White House. He’s done as much damage to the image of Christ followers in the world as he has to Republicans. So, I think I’m done with Huckabee.

I never liked Guiliani despite his 9/11 rant and lead in national polls all of last year. He effectively imploded. You can blame his Florida-only strategy all you want. It was him that was the problem. Something just bugged me about him as a person, and no, it wasn’t his multiple marriages or social positions. Romney? I’ve got to be honest. I cannot get past the fact that he’s a Mormon. Most people in the South can’t either. I know it’s religious bigotry or something, but as hard as it has been for me to take evangelicals seriously since I’ve deconverted, it is impossible for me to take Mormons seriously in their magic underwear. On top of all the Jude0-Christian spin we’re supposed to take literally, Mormons believe Jesus showed up in America in the 1800’s, and golden plates descended from heaven to Joseph Smith with the book of Mormon on them? Can’t go there. I have a general knee-jerk reaction to anyone who wears their religion on their shirt sleeve. G.W. may have used the Texas Air National Guard to get out of Vietnam, but Romney was a Mormon missionary during that time! I’ve had enough of religious nuts in the White House. Sorry. Not to mention Romney looks as fake as a daytime soap star. He has changed his positions depending on whether he was trying to get elected the Governor of Massachusetts or POTUS. It’s just more spin.

Everyone wants to pay homage to McCain’s POW years and that’s respectable. I even gave money to him the first time he ran against G.W. in 2000, but this is not the same McCain. He’s waffled on so many things. He’s sold out the party on more than one occasion and now expects the party to fall in line behind him. He’s been playing to ‘his friends’ in the Senate for the last 8 years. Let them put him in the White House if they want to. I don’t like his temper. I agree with him on pork spending, but he wants to keep us in Iraq indefinately. What the hell? Time to pack up and hit the road.

I think the best thing for the Republican party is to lose. They can have a gut check and get with the program if they want to win again. Once they got power they did the same things the Democrats did. Spend, spend, spend, and increase the size and power of the federal government.

There is nothing in me that will allow me to pull a lever for Hillary. If Bill were running right now, I’d vote for him again in a heartbeat, but not her. Her claim to fame is that she is his wife. She’s been in the Senate for a term and a half. That’s it. No other elected office. I don’t like her personally or politically. Now, Obama. I really like him. It may be a generational thing, but he resonates with me. I can find plenty to pick apart with him on policies, but I think the country has swung way too far to the right. It’s past time for a correction. V for Vendetta illustrates well the extremes of the far right if left unchecked. It’s not really all fiction. Obama has tapped into the pulse of the country. I can’t really pick anything he’s said that I whole heartedly disagree with. Give driver’s licenses to illegals! I really don’t care. They’re driving anyway aren’t they? If people would just build a damn fence from Texas to California and deport any that commit crimes, I could care less if the rest of them stay here or not. Can you imagine the humanitarian crisis of a massive forced expulsion of millions of people? Could we possible retain our humanity and heard millions like cattle? I digress. I’ll be blogging more about Obama and the race later. Suffice it to say for now, that I have to pull the lever Saturday for a Republican because we have a closed primary system in Louisiana, so I’ll probably pull it for Huckabee because he’s not Romney and won’t win anyway. In the general election I’ll pull for Obama. If he’s not on the ballot, I’ll be ticked. If Hillary’s the nominee, I may have to pull for McCain and live with it. What a sad day it will be if we miss the opportunity to put Obama in the White House. I think John Mayer’s song “Waitin’ on the World to Change” embodies the sentiment of so many. Obama said that ‘we are the change that we’ve been waiting for.’ I believe that, and I hope he is too.

Yeah, I know. I haven’t been around much lately. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t had anything to write about or maybe too much to write about. Life happens. I haven’t felt like writing. It’s felt like an exercise, and I’ve been slack on that too for the last few weeks. There has been work, lots of work. There’s been sickness. Between the four of us somebody’s always passing something around. There’s been lots of family time, for which I’m very grateful, and there’s also been death. My grandmother ended her struggle with Alzheimer’s three weeks ago.

I never really expected to be affected by her passing as much as I was. I thought that I had dealt with this already. She started going downhill a few years ago, and for the last two rarely knew most of us. I don’t know that I fully grieved the loss a few years ago, or maybe it was a slow constant awareness of things lost. My feelings on the subject had degraded to indifference. Then she died.

I have been very fortunate in my life to have known all of my great grandparents during my childhood and also to have never lost an immediate family member in my now 31 years of life. I have had my share of death in the pastorate. It’s part and parcel with the trade. I spent many hours going through prolonged terminal illness with several people. You cannot help but become emotionally invested in others during such ordeals, but this was different.

Not only had we lost our grandmother, but in manys ways her passing closed a door on a huge portion of my life. Growing up as a child in south Louisiana is long since past and will not be again. Although myself and my cousins have grown up and are trying to find our way in the world, I believe each of us are those same little kids at Maw-Maw’s house. We may look like we’ve got it together, but in many ways we all still battle our same childhood insecurities. We just think when we’re kids that the grown ups have their act together. Ignorance is bliss, right? All sorts of family drama have not made handling any of this any easier.

My grandmother asked me a few years ago to preach her funeral. I agreed. Little did I know that I would no longer be pastoring churches and seldom preaching when the time came. The task is hard enough in and of itself, but so much of my belief system has radically changed. There are more things that I do not know than I used to know. Gone is the dogmatism. I live in the tension of mystery and paradox. I ended up spending most of my time ulogizing her and speaking briefly about her faith, which was also my faith. It didn’t help matters that her funeral fell on my birthday, but we move on, although walking slowly.

Do not hurry
As you walk with grief,
It does not help the journey.

Walk slowly,
Pausing often:
Do not hurry
As you walk with grief.

Be not disturbed
By memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive;
And let Christ speak for you unspoken words
Unfinished conversation
Will be be resolved in Him.
Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one
Who walks with grief,
If it is you,
Be gentle with yourself.

Swiftly forgive;
Walk slowly
Pausing often.

Take time,
be gentle
As you walk with grief.

– From Celtic Daily Prayer by the Northumbria Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about death the last few weeks. Morbid, I know, but someone has to do it. I don’t know what happens when you die. I know all the lines about heaven and hell and what gets you where. I don’t think it works quite the way we’ve been told. The whole system is too conveniently construed to give power to those who want power and peace of mind to those who need peace of mind. Truthfully, I don’t think anything happens when you die. That really sucks when you think about it. Even hell seems preferable to nothing.

Listening to “Last Request (acoustic)” by Paolo Nutini a few days ago really brought home the gravity of the moment of our death and sums up my feelings about nothingness:

Slow down, lie down
Remember it’s just you and me
Don’t sell out, bow out
Remember how this used to be
I just want you to know something, is that alright?
Baby let’s get closer, tonight

[chorus]
Grant my last request and just let me hold you, don’t shrug your shoulders
Lay down beside me
Sure I can accept that we’re going nowhere
But one last time let’s go there
Lay down beside me, ohhh

I’ve found that I’m bound to wander down that long way road, ohhh
And I realise all about your lies,
But I’m no wiser than the fool that I was before.
I just want you to know something, is that alright?
Baby let’s get closer, tonight.

[chorus repeat]

Baby, baby, baby
Tell me how can, how can this be wrong?

[chorus repeat 2x]

Ooohhhh wohhhhohhh, yeah
Lay down beside me
One last time let’s go there,
Lay down beside me.

When you think about dying, it makes every day of living that much more precious. I don’t really know how long we have on this earth. Even if it were 80 years, it would not be enough. What matters most isn’t how much money you made and the stuff you’ve bought. What matters most is those you loved and the time you spent with each of them, which makes grieving over a death or loss of relationship all the more difficult.

Grief is a strange and unwelcome guest that you just don’t know what to do with and can’t wait to get rid of. I’ve been grieving in a way over leaving pastoral ministry. Not that I miss it, but that I get angry thinking of how I was used and tossed aside. Learning the painful truth that relationships were a means to an end for most people. They were friends with my position but not with me. I grieve over time wasted but find a measure of comfort in knowing it led me to where I am now. I also grieve over the loss of my childhood, the loss of innocence. Many people that I’ve talked to who have deprogrammed from ministry and from church go through a process of grieving with all of its stages. I’m somewhere in the mix… not where I was but not where I’m going. I’m just trying to take one day at a time and be myself. I’m not qualified to be more than that.

I’ve been working a lot the last few weeks, which is a good thing. I’m trying to get back on track making up for lost time, which has been a needed distraction. I’ve been able to be home a lot but not as much as I’d like. I’m looking forward to down time for the holidays and a change of pace come January. Something’s got to give. If you don’t mind, you might not hear from me again until 2008. Silence is therapeutic, and I’m overdue.

Happy holidays to all of you. I’ll drink a spiked egg nog in your honor and put 2007 to rest.

Satisfied
by Darden Smith / JD Martin

If I could love you like Elvis
Elvis back in ‘62
Hips on fire, full of desire
It wouldn’t be good enough for you
And if you could love me like Marilyn
In the Garden back in ‘63
Singing ‘Happy Birthday, Baby’
It wouldn’t be good enough for me

‘Cause that stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

A raindrop falls on the mountain
Slowly rolling to the sea
And it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream
And the difference in between

That other stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

I have a weakness for acoustic/folk songwriters. Recently I stumbled upon Darden Smith, just such a character from Texas nonetheless. There’s something about west Texas that has such a magic about it, but it may be from reading too many Robert James Waller books. This guy is good. I like the grit in his voice and the heart in his songs.

There’s a certain awkwardness in writing about music. It’s sort of like trying to describe art. It’s something you just have to experience for yourself to appreciate, nonetheless I’m going to take a shot at it from time to time when I hear songs or artists that make an impression on me. This particular song, “Satisfied,” really grabbed my attention. At first reading the lyrics about Elvis and Marilyn threw me, until I heard the song. (You can hear and download it on Darden’s myspace page.) I’ve listened to it a number of times now and can’t get it out of my head.

Sometimes love songs can be over the top, you know, sensational and dramatic. Many people often feel disheartened for never having felt that way about someone or for not having someone feel that way in return. At other times that feeling is elusive and fleeting. We find moments in our relationships where those sentiments resonate with us, but in between there’s life with bills, kids, work, and stuff. This song strikes me about married love or at least the nature of love over time.

This song talks about the simplicity of love, “lying with you in the dark,” and the maturity of love, “it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream and the difference in between.” Over time we come to know what love is by learning what it’s not, as much as what it is. It is a feeling, but much more than that it is a choice. Feelings are fickle and subject to circumstances. Real love transcends circumstances. I think this song captures that sentiment beautifully.

I think a lot of people aren’t “satisfied,” neither with love nor with life. Maybe it’s because we sit around waiting to feel satisfied, for all the stuff in our life to line up just right. That’s chasing after the wind. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” Philippians 4:11. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. Being content or satisfied is something that you learn, although you may never master. The first step is to choose to be satisfied, to embrace every circumstance, every person, and every moment in your life for what they are and not for what you want them to be. If we spend our lives wanting to be in another place in another time down the road, we may or may not ever get there but will have wasted years and precious moments in between.

Hope you enjoy the song.

“When I grow up, I want to sell advertising.” No, not quite. Far from it, but that’s where I find myself today. I don’t remember really what it was that I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought flying planes would be cool. I got my private pilot’s license a few years ago fulfilling that childhood dream, but I’d never want to fly commercially. Advertising? I can’t imagine many kids listing that as their lifelong ambition. My five year old’s career wishes change with the hour most days.

I certainly never hoped to grow up and become a preacher either, but that I did too. A relative I hadn’t seen in years asked me last week at a funeral I preached, “Why of all the things that you could be did you decide to be a preacher?” My immediate, knee-jerk answer was, “I have no clue. I wonder that myself some days.” These days I’m only a moonlighting preacher and sell advertising for a living.

When I was in high school, I settled on the idea of becoming an engineer. In fact I took college prep courses for that purpose. I got full paid scholarships for it. I made the Dean’s list my freshman year majoring in Electrical Engineering. I transferred after that first year to another school and graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion with a minor in History. Eight years of pastoral ministry later, and I’m out.

If you ask me if selling advertising is really what I want to do for a living, I guess my answer is “no,” but I love what I do and wouldn’t want to do anything else. I want to be myself and enjoy life for a living. If selling advertising pays the bills and enables me to pursue my passions, then I’ll gladly sell advertising. I think what most people mean is “Wouldn’t you want to do what you love and get paid for it?” Well, sure. I guess, but I do enjoy what I do.

I would have never in a million years told you I’d end up in sales, because I was so introverted as a kid. I didn’t like meeting new people and making new friends. I was all too content to be alone. Pastoring churches changed a lot of that. This job continaully challenges me. It’s not an intellectual challenge nor a physical one, other than the many miles I put on my vehicle and my body. It is mostly a challenge of will and perseverance. It requires an enormous amount of self-motivation and self-discipline. I’m addicted to the reward also. It pays good. As hard as the challenge can be at times, especially when bills are piling up and money is low, it is a huge high to finish a job and know you did it.

Advertising is a means to an end for me. I don’t consider myself to be contributing to the betterment of mankind from what I do for a living. I really see myself more as a “grease man” in a big corporate machine. I’m definately expendable, but I don’t care. I don’t allow people or the business to use me. Subversively, I’m the one exploiting the machine. I don’t live for work. I work so I can live. If this thing ever comes to a close, which isn’t likely in the healthcare industry, I’ll find another nitch to slide into, but what I do for a living will never change. I choose to live for a living. I never want to become my job or my title. It’s a matter of priorities.

One day when the kids are grown, I plan to use my job travels to see the country and be a vagabond for a while. I’d love to save up enough cash on the side to open a little coffee shop one day, if all it ever does is break even and be a cool place for people to hang out. Maybe a few rental properties would be a good steady income too. In the end it doesn’t really make a difference to me. It won’t change who I am. I refuse to let it.

More than 35,000 take to the streets in Burma to march

One monk said: “The protest is not merely for the wellbeing of people, but also for monks struggling for democracy and for people to have an opportunity to determine their own future.”

I’ve always been amused by nodding heads during church. I’ve never had a problem with church-napping, but, then again, I was usually the pastor. You know your sermon is bad when you’re falling asleep while preaching it.

After noticing the lady in front of me bobbing her head this morning, I started to look around to see just how many others were asleep. I counted at least six. That’s surprising because I thought this was above average preaching.

I learned a long time ago not to be offended by those who took advantage of my 20 minute sermon to catch up on their rest. I figured they must have needed it. Some people are biologically wired so that they can’t be still without crashing.

If that’s your problem I guess there’s no use in being ashamed, right? I remember one church I preached at that several ladies had their own personal pillows that they left at church to mark their place on the pew.  A church we visited a while back had baskets of blankets at the end of each row of seats. It reminds me of when I used to spend the night at a childhood friend’s house. His family was ultra-charismatic, and we would be at church on Friday or Saturday night until 11pm or later, so we brought blankets and sleeping bags. Whenever we had enough, we’d make pallets on the floor and crash while they kept raising the roof until late into the night. Now that I’m old enough to know better, “what’s the point?”

For all the hype we hear about what we need in life to be happy, content, healthy, wealthy, and wise, perhaps what many need most is just a good nap. Maybe they should take Jesus literally when He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I for one would rather practice this spiritual discipline in the comfort of my own bed.

My 3 year old Andrew crawled up in my lap during the football game tonight and told me, “Daddy, I love you. You’re my boy.” We tell each other this all the time mostly as a whispered secret when he passes by.

“I love you too, Andrew.”

“I love you to the moon,” he said.

“Well, I love you to the stars, Andrew.”

He paused for a second then said, “I love you more than Dr. Pepper.”

Never a greater compliment has been given.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Luke 14:1-14

I doubt that Jesus ever turned down an invitation to dinner. While reading through the Gospels, you’re as likely to find Him at a table as you are on a dusty road, and He didn’t appear to be all that concerned with who the host might be. On any given day you might see Jesus eating on paper plates with the riff-raff of society or on the fine china of the well-to-do. By His own account His freedom of association apparently fostered an ugly smear campaign, “Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Luke 7:34 NKJV.

Meal sharing was an important social event of the day that reminded everyone just where they were in the pecking order of the community. To be invited was a great honor, and to sit at the head of the table was a double honor. This is the sixth time that Luke records Jesus being the special guest of religous leaders. You have to wonder why He kept accepting the invitations after being repeatedly set up and exploited. Then again, why did they keep inviting Him? Jesus had a knack for working His way through their philosophical mine fields and often left them choking on their own hypocrisy, but the establishment was determined to undermine His ministry and disgrace Him publicly.

On this day Jesus was not the only invited guest for dinner. Another guest who showed up was a man suffering from a medical condition, known as “dropsy,” which caused fluid to accumulate in his body and swell his legs, most likely the result of a heart or kidney problem but often regarded as a curse for sin. The trap was sprung pubicly for all to witness. Do you heal him or not? If you don’t heal him, you’re cold-hearted and have no compassion, but if you heal him, you’re disregarding the Sabbath and have no morals.

It’s a techincal gray area for what’s permissible behavior on the Sabbath. So in His wisdom and wit Jesus deferred to the ruling of the experts, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” They would not answer, so Jesus healed the man and sent him away. Then he asked them “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” The different sects actually had writings that set precedent for just such a scenario. One group believed it was ok. The other said they should stay in the well till tomorrow. Now, they could not answer without exposing their own hypocrisy.

If people were superstitious enough to believe that dropsy was caused by sin, in their minds Jesus didn’t just heal him physically. He was actually removing the consequence of sinfulness… guilt and shame. Neither was Jesus satisfied with just silencing His hosts. He went on to tell a parable that revealed that they suffered from an accumulation of self-righteousness that was no doubt caused by a spiritual issue of the heart.

As you read the rest of the passage, it appears to be a simple lesson in social etiquette and graces, but it actually threatens to undermine a religious system that endures to this day. Luke makes a special point to say that this is a parable, which implies that there is subtext and meaning of spiritual signifigance.

When I was young we had a family tradition on Sundays that we would all go to my grandparents’ house for lunch after church where my aunts, uncles, and cousins would all get together. My grandparents had a really big dinner table where all the food was spread out like a feast, but it was still only large enough to seat the grown-ups. So there was a smaller table in the kitchen for the big kids and lap trays on the floor for the little ones. I’ll never forget when I was older in high school that one day I was promoted to sit at the big table. I thought that I had made it, but it would be several more years before I had fully arrived and was allowed to join the adults at the table for coffee in the afternoon.

The seat you sit in often says a lot about your place in the world. Just last week it was reported that an assitant high school principal in our area sent out an email to her faculty requiring teachers to sit the black boys in the front row of the class to keep a closer eye on them. While African-Americans have struggled for fifty years to move to the front row, I doubt this is why they wanted to be sitting there. Although the principal quickly recended the order and reprimanded the assistant, it’s shameful and painful to see discrimination and prejudice limping along in our day.

I have no doubt that you have also witnessed situations in life, where things just seemed out of balance. Often times, we don’t have a choice in the seats we take. We do what we must and look to a day when the scales will be even again. In Luke’s day there were enormous socio-economic gaps between the wealthy and the poor, between men and women, between the insiders and the outsiders, and those who had power and those who suffered at its hands. By the time this Gospel was written it had been several years since the death and resurrection of Christ, and many people began to question whether or not Jesus would return in their lifetime and exactly what that meant for Him to return. So there was a growing divide between those that believed and those that questioned. It was tempting to believe that injustice would prevail and the score was fixed, but Jesus told this subversive parable that counters the imbalance in the world. See vs. 7-11.

We learn in the parable immediately following this one that the kind of banquet that God plans comes with an open invitation to everyone. In that parable just like in Jesus’ day the religious leaders and the self-righteous scoffed at attending such a banquet where just anybody would be sitting next to them. Instead they scampered to be on the A-list to the members only parties where they would “see and be seen.”

If we understand this idea that God invites everybody, that puts us all on equal footing. No one is better or more deserving in attendance than the next person. A friend of mine who is a Southern Gospel singer/songwriter wrote a song called “The Ground is Level at Calvary.” The same goes for the religous leaders of Jesus’ day as well as our own. Our preachers, deacons, and missionaries must lead through service and humility and not from the power of a position and notoriety. We live in a strange modern era where many Christian leaders are operating and being treated like CEO’s and rock stars, which is just a post-modern upgrade to “touch not the Lord’s annointed.”

I remember attending a Pastor’s school at Beeson Divinity School several years ago, and Alistair Begg was the featured Bible teacher for the daily services that week. I was amazed by the way he handled the Gospel of Luke that week and the personal humilty that came through his message. Immediately after the service we were all gathered in air-conditioned tents on the lawn for lunch. I looked up to see him seated just a few tables over from my wife and I. It was strange because no one was sitting with him at first until the other tables began to fill up. I guess it was kind of like when Moses came down from the mountain and his face was glowing.  His message was just powerful that morning. I was struck that he was eating a sandwich and chips on a styrofoam plate like the rest of us. That may sound silly, but I imagine he could have been smoozing with the other speakers at a nice restaurant. I never saw any of the others in the lunch tent that week. He could have retreated back to his hotel room until the next service, but he didn’t. He ate with us, which I remember today even more than the message that he preached.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV.

We all have friends and family members that we love to spend time with and enjoy their company. Jesus set that example for us in his life, so he’s not condemning that kind of fellowship. I think in these last verses he’s condemning exclusive fellowship and challenging us to be intentional about who we include.

I have greatly enjoyed using Celtic Daily Prayer of the Northumbria Community in England as a devotional guide for my prayers and scripture readings. They adapt a form of family prayer for meals based on the Jewish prayers for Shabbat. When giving thanks before sharing a meal they mention the importance of leaving an empty seat at the table with an extra place setting:

“To welcome the Christ who comes in the guise of a stranger or ‘unexpected’ visitor. [To] remind us that we long for the coming of Christ – His returning – and yet honour his presence with us. Also, it teaches us to treat with honour whoever may come and be given the place prepared as His.”

It’s required of us to make outsiders feel like insiders and as insiders to be humble and gracious hosts. Back when I was in college and recently married, I met an older couple through a want ad in the paper who needed some help. I learned that the husband was completely blind and the wife was legally blind. They really wanted to go to church but had no way to attend. Although I was traveling about 30 minutes to serve as worship leader, I offered to bring them with my wife and I. We had seemingly nothing in common and regardless of their disabilities they were just a bit peculiar.

I remember helping them from their house to the car that first Sunday morning. The wife ran back into the house as we were leaving because she had forgotten her tambourine. I was in a panic. I knew they would stick out like tambourine players in a church full of white Southern Baptists, and I knew that my pastor absolutely loathed the tambourine playing in the services we did at the state prison. I sweated the whole way to church not knowing how to handle the situation.

When we arrived at church, I helped them out of the car, and when the wife went to pick up her tambourine I politely told her that I didn’t think she would need it. That didn’t matter, because she “wanted” it. Of course you would know that they wanted to sit on the second row in front of the pulpit. I remember leading worship and those two carrying on up front with their tambourine, while everyone was looking around to see where they came from. I felt like timidly raising my hand with a red face and announcing from the pulpit, “they’re with me,” but I didn’t want to single them out anymore than they were already. They came to church with us for several weeks before they decided to go elsewhere.

I say that to say that the people that we often have an opportunity to include may be very different from us. They may not have good hygiene or proper clothes. They may be uneducated or hungry. They not believe anything remotely close to the way we do, but still when we make room for them, we make room for Christ.

I sat at the big table as a pastor for several years. These days I feel like I’m back in the kitchen again on the floor with my Snoopy lap tray. I seem to make a mess of things often enough. From time to time I even flick a macaroni at my cousin and spill my juice, but for the first time in a long time I feel like Jesus is sitting on the floor with me, and it’s ok to be me. From Celtic Daily Prayer:

Bless, O Lord,
this food we are about to eat;
and we pray you, O God,
that it may be good
for our body and soul;
and, if there is any poor creature
hungry or thirsty walking the road,
may God send them in to us
so that we can share the food with them,
just as Christ share His gifts
with all of us.
Amen.

It never ceases to amaze me to hear what my kids come up with. My five-year old Timothy and I stopped by Sonic a few days ago to pick up a couple happy meals for he and his younger brother Andrew.  The attendant said the total was $6.08 and would be out shortly. I pulled out six $1 bills, dug in my console for loose change, and found a dime. I asked Timothy if he knew what a dime was, but he didn’t. I told him it was the same as 10 pennies. He laughed and said, “you’re so silly, Daddy.”

“No, I’m serious. It’s just like giving somebody 10 pennies,” I told him. Thinking I might quiz him while we were waiting, I asked him, “They said it costs $6 and 8 cents. So if I give her six dollars and 10 cents, how much change will she give me back?”

Without hesitation he said, “two pennies.”

Wow! That’s pretty cool. I know they didn’t talk much about money in Pre-K last year. I thought it was amazing that he did basic math in his head without any visual aids to play with. I decided to try again, “If it costs $6 and I gave her a $10 bill, how much change would she give me back?”

“Four dollars,” he spit out laughing.

Well, I’ll be dang. “You’re just too smart, Timothy. You’re gonna be the smartest kindergartner ever.”

“Yeah, I know,” he grinned all over himself.

I asked him a couple other math questions because it took forever to get our order, but the game quickly broke down because he was tired of it. When the attendant finally brought our happy meals, I gave her my $6 and my dime. She fumbled around with her change dispenser and her money apron. I really wasn’t sure if she didn’t know how much change to give me or was fresh out of pennies. She said, “I’ll be right back.”

I kind of laughed, “No, really I don’t need it. Keep the change.”

Kids can be a lot of fun. They can also be a lot of work and quite a challenge at times, but overall they’re a blast. My boys are at such a fun age and fairly independent. Even Andrew who’s 3 has the whole potty training thing down, can get his own snacks, and dress himself too. He’s even mastering the remote like his brother and his daddy. The boys even play really well together most of the time. Often when it’s really good, I wish I could just freeze time and keep them at this age forever. Who needs acne, girls, and graduation? You can keep the change.

Because they’re my kids, they don’t have to do anything to make me love them and can’t do anything to make me stop, but some things they do just really get me. I thought a lot about what makes them such a joy. I think more than anything I can see myself in them and relive parts of my childhood through them, but the greatest joy is seeing them do new things, learning, and growing. Everyday there’s something new to be amazed by. I guess I can’t imagine keeping them the same. I don’t want china dolls on the shelf.

I think they’re growing up way too fast, and I know it will only get faster. As much as I love these moments, I don’t really want to freeze time. I want to make each moment count, even if it is only two cents. On second thought, I’ll take the change.

Today is Thursday, August 27. I slept hard and late. Groggy and half asleep I walked outside to get the paper. Walking up the driveway it hit me. It’s a nice day. It’s cooler than usual but still sunny. The humidity is lower. There’s a breeze. No, it couldn’t be. It’s only August. Don’t think like that, man. You live in Louisiana.

I don’t care. It might just be. What if? Don’t ruin it. Enjoy it while you can. So I sat on the porch to read the paper, while I finished waking to the day.

Hunger brought me inside. Email, news, and work kept me there. After lunch I told Timothy, “it looks cloudy outside.” I went to brush my teeth and grab a book. He found me first, “Daddy, I want to go outside to ride my bike.” That’s amazing, “I was thinking the same thing, except I want to read.”

Wait a minute, I swear it’s cooler than before or maybe just as cool, which is cooler in the South. The breeze is blowing. Wow. Maybe it is. A strong breeze picked up as I looked across the street. Two leaves and pine needles floated gracefully to the ground. Somebody is messing with me. They know how much I love Fall.

Of all the seasons it is my favorite, I think, because I long for it most. The summer can be sweltering and thick. The fall brings mercy.

I finished another chapter. Deepak Chopra has a way of lowering my blood pressure. I smile. “I knew it!” Faint thunder rolls through the pines. Timothy announces from the yard, “I felt a rain drop!” That’s ok. I don’t care. I’m going to enjoy it in spite of the almanac.

This may not be the first day of Fall after all, but maybe it’s the first day of the end of Summer. Four rain drops later the sun came out again. Neither will it rain. This is a day full of half truths and hope. A bright yellow butterfly flies over the hedges and across the street. Birds begin singing. More leaves fall to the ground. It’s warmer now, but the breeze is still blowing. That’s ok. I know it’s coming. I’ve felt it. It won’t be long. The butterfly is back again.