Tuesday, August 29, 2017

To Kook, with Love

My earliest memories of life in this world include Kook.

Throughout the 60's and most of the 70's, he was my best friend. 

Kook lived two doors up the street from us and was a fixture at the Smith's house, as was I at his house. We played together, ate together, rode bikes together, spent the night together, fished together, got in trouble together... we grew up together. He even went on vacation with me and my family when we were kids. Friends? No, we were best friends. 

His name was Charles, but his dad nick-named him "Kook" because of the "Kooky" things that he did when he was very small. The name stuck. So, he was known by all in the neighborhood as Kook or Kooky. In the late 60's, he had long hair and his dad gave him a new nickname, "Charlie, the Hippie." Eventually, he just became known by his real name, Charles.

Today, Charles passed away. Instantaneously. Heart Attack.

I am writing this at 3:00 in the morning. I can't sleep. My own way of grieving, I guess.

Upon hearing the sobering news earlier today, I have been flooded with memories of days gone by... A suburban childhood in the Sixties -- the vast majority of which was spent with Charles.  Memories such as, walking down to Toshi's Market and getting a 16oz bottle of Strawberry Nesbitt's or RC Cola and a Carnation Vanilla Malt (with attached wooden spoon) for .25 cents. Playing War or Cowboys & Indians. Watching Jonny Quest on Saturday mornings. Catching tadpoles in Coffee cans. Trick-or-Treating together as long and late as we could go on Halloween, filling up our pillow cases with candy and treats. Dumpster diving throughout the neighborhood apartments for the new -- and valuable -- Aluminum Cans that we could recycle for cash. Playing catch or over-the-line at the school across the street. As teens, fishing at King Harbor in our inflatable rafts. 

The list is long and goes on and on.

In our adult lives, we went our separate ways. However, we remained friends. Unfortunately, he ended up in prison. I wrote to him, sent him a Bible with Bible Studies and tried to encourage him. He rededicated his life to God while in there. Upon his release, he came to church -- albeit sporadically.

I saw Charles a couple of months ago -- ran into him at the grocery store. We talked. We reminisced. We laughed. It was great to see him and spend time with him. Little did I realize that it would be the last time I would see him.

I am fortunate.

I'm fortunate to have the childhood that I did. 

I'm fortunate to be blessed with good friends and family.

I'm fortunate to have so many wonderful memories of simpler times. 

I'm fortunate that I grew up with Kook, Charlie the Hippie, and Charles -- my best friend.


I miss him already.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I'm Back!

It is January 21st, 2016. My birthday. I turned 55 today. Yep, you read it right, 55. It's late at night and kind of sinking in.  Which is making me a bit introspective. Maybe a lot introspective. So here I am, typing away at the keypad again, sharing thoughts and feelings again, bangin' out the blog again.

Much has happened in the 2 & 1/2 years that I have been away from my blog. I think I will share some of that soon. But for now, it's about aarp and me! Dealing with the double nickels and living life to its fullest, while it is yet day.

More to come...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Death of a Deacon

Yesterday's news of the passing of Deacon Jones, the Hall-of-Fame defensive end of the Los Angeles Rams, brought back several memories to my mind. Deacon Jones was a bookend of the legendary Rams defensive line from the 1960's known as the "Fearsome Foursome" (that also included Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, and Rosey Grier). Deacon actually coined the football term "sack" and probably had more quarterback sacks than anyone in NFL history, including modern-day players, had they kept such records back in the days when he played.

My introduction to professional football came on my 10th birthday. My father purchased us tickets to the first NFC vs. AFC Pro Bowl, Which would be played a few days later, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Which, in retrospect, was quite a feat for my father, who was a pastor and had to sandwich taking me to the afternoon football game in-between Church Services on Sunday morning and Sunday evening.

That Pro Bowl was historic, not that I knew it at the time, for the AFL had just merged into the NFL and it was their first all-star game. I wasn't overly impressed at the time. The game at the half-empty Coliseum was actually pretty boring, until the fourth quarter when Mel Renfro (Dallas Cowboys) took two punts back for touchdowns. In fact, the highlight of the game for me was the halftime show that featured Evel Knievel -- who was a bigger deal than the NFL in 1971 -- riding 100-yard wheelies, both sitting and standing on his motorcycle. Though I remember being kind of bummed that he didn't jump anything.

In spite of the lame game, I did become a Rams fan after meeting a very cool Jack Snow (Wide Receiver, '65-'75) and remained one until the day they moved to Saint Louis.

The "Fearsome Foursome" is now down to one... The Preacher, Rosey Grier. Lamar, Merlin, and now the Deacon are all gone. However, the memories I have -- of sport, childhood, my father and days gone by -- still remain. They live on, forever with me in the annals of my mind.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Leading or Following?

Last night, my son, Zac, and I went for a walk with our dog, Roxy. Roxy is a miniature Dachshund -- with a mind of her own. Considering Roxy, we could really use a visit from Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. Truth be told, we don't really walk Roxy, but she walks us. 

Roxy likes being in the front, leading the way. The only problem is, she doesn't know where her Master is taking her -- so she makes many directional mistakes. Therefore, she is constantly being urged -- by her Master -- to re-adjust her route, in order to get her back on the right path. She expends a lot of needless energy, pulling at her harness and straining to get ahead when it would be a much-easier, and less-stressful, journey if she would just get in step and follow.

I think that many Christians, including myself at times, have the same attitude as Roxy. However, the truth of the matter is that being a "Christian" means that we are to "follow" Christ. Jesus called his disciples, saying, "Follow me." We are called to follow His word, His will, and His way. We get ourselves into trouble, when we get out of position -- going where we want to go, instead of going where Jesus wants to takes us.

Let me encourage you today to take a look at who you are and where you are right now. If you are out-of-position, out-of-sorts, and out-of-step, take the time today to re-adjust your walk. Remember that Jesus wants to lead you to a better place -- let Him.

I have to remind myself that I was called to follow Christ, not the other way around. He is the ultimate leader and knows the direction that I need to go in. To get where I need to be, I need to follow the Way -- and Jesus is the Way.

Hopefully, on my journey, I will have more of a teachable spirit than Roxy does.

 Psalm 37:23

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives."

Friday, October 5, 2012

But, I Prayed About It!

Prayer's Overlooked Partner

In Prayer, we release our cares TO God, and receive answers FROM God. Simply put, prayer is the dialogue that a person has with God.

But there is a difference between praying individually by ourselves and praying corporately as a body -- and both are important.

1) Individual prayer is an acknowledgment of God's   
    Authority in our lives and our Dependence on Him. 
    This type of prayer is private and personal.

2) Corporate Prayer, in Church, is public and demonstrates 
    a thing called "Humility."
    Bringing our requests and petitions to the Lord, openly 
    before others, really tends to slam our ego and pride -- 
    which is a good thing.

Why is this important?  Prayer is the vehicle, but Humility is the avenue by which we release our cares to God and receive His grace. You may have a nice car, but unless you're on the right road, it won't take you where you need to go.

Notice what the Scriptures teach about humility and prayer going hand-in-hand:

2 Chronicles 7:14; "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

1 Peter 5:5-7; "...all of  you  be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him,
for He cares for you."

Also, Jesus made this very clear in His teachings. Specifically, when He spoke of the prayers of two men, a Publican and a Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)

Prayer is never about how good I am, but always about how good God is. Humility is truly a great reality-check for us. That's basically what the great revivalist, Charles Spurgeon, meant when he wrote, "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self."  Pastor and Author, Rick Warren said it this way, "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."

This is the attitude we must bring, when we come before The Lord in prayer. it is necessary that we come humbly before our God. I believe that Jesus was reminding us of this in the closing line of "The Lord's Prayer" -- which is really a pattern for us to pray by -- that HIS "is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory."

James wrote that we need to be careful, because we can pray wrongly (James 4:3). When our attitude is wrong, our prayers tend to be wrong also. By the way, those prayers do not get answered. We simply need to remember that it's less about us and more about the great God with whom we are communicating.

Finally, I believe that the following is a good, scriptural attitude-checker: "...the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).  We need to follow Micah's advice, simple as that.

Just a thought today to remind us to keep it real and keep praying. 

Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healer in the House!

The pain was excruciating and I doubled-over because of it…

After a busy week of graduations, celebrations and parties, I was actually looking forward to having a guest speaker in for Father’s Day at Cornerstone – I felt like I needed the break. It had been a long and stressful, but fun and successful week. I was just spent. Done. So, it was really exciting to have our first-time guest, John Morgan in to speak to the church (and to me) and we truly ended up having a great day at C3 – of which I was thankful.

Monday morning arrived and my daughter needed help with her car, so I went with her to the Auto Repair to have her car checked out and the oil changed. As they were servicing the car, I took Tara next door to the Boba Shop to get a drink.  She got an Oreo Boba Milkshake and I got a Strawberry-Banana Smoothie. For some reason, it seemed to take forever to get the drinks. So after standing around the Boba shop for what-seemed-to-be forever, I told Tara I was going back to the Auto Repair and she could bring my drink to me -- if we ever get it.

Before long, Tara brought my Smoothie to me and as I was finishing it, I was jolted by a sharp pain in my chest. The pain was excruciating and I doubled-over because of it, which freaked-out my daughter. The car was about finished and soon Tara was driving me home as quickly as she could. I had a difficult time getting out of the car because of the intense pain. Tara helped me into the house and over to the couch. Karlene asked what was going-on and so I told her of my chest pain. She quickly got me some aspirin, some antacid and had me lay down on the couch.

When she came back into the living room a few minutes later, she said “I’m taking you to the Hospital!”  By that time, my face was contorted and as white as a sheet. My left hand was numb, also. She put me in the car and rushed me to ER.

I must not have looked too good, because upon arrival at the Emergency Room, they immediately took me back and hooked me up to an EKG. Then they took my vital signs and drew several vials of blood. The next thing I know is they carted me off and put me in my own room.

I was blessed to have a great team of nurses, doctors and specialists taking care of me.  I was poked, prodded, hooked up, x-rayed, phlebotomized, tested and re-tested. Around mid-afternoon, the doctor told me that, depending on the test results, I could be going home around 10:00pm or so. He actually wrote a diagramed timeline (on my bedsheet) while explaining everything to Karlene and I.

Karlene had been with me the whole time. She was in constant contact with friends and family, giving updates and requesting prayer. I'm blessed to have an amazing wife. I understand that people were praying for me all around the world. That knowledge is humbling and encouraging at the same time. Richard and Darlene Welling came to the hospital to pray for me. My Mother did also. I appreciate all the prayers and believe that they truly made the difference. The pain in my chest had subsided dramatically.

At around 6:30 in the evening, I told Karlene to go and get herself some dinner. The Cafeteria was near the ER, so she didn’t have to go very far. Karlene wasn’t gone 5 minutes when another Doctor popped in to my room and asked me how I was doing.  She was the Chief and she started ordering the nurses to do this and that. She checked my test results, examined me, called for another EKG, etc.  Then she stated, rather matter-of-factly, “You didn’t have a heart attack. In fact, according to what I can see from the test results, your heart is fine.”  She then told me, “You don’t need to be here, you just need to go home and rest.” The next thing I know is that they were disconnecting and discharging me.

Still waiting for Karlene to return, I took my time getting dressed and then I thanked all the nurses and staff for their excellent care before heading to the exit. A bit after 7:00pm, I headed out, looking for Karlene, who was quite surprised to see me walking about. She actually couldn't believe it -- she had a funny look on her face when she saw me. Then we both gave God the glory! 

I am now home resting – per Doctor’s Orders – trying to take it easy.

There is much more to this story – the prognosis going from bad to good, the differing opinions of the doctors, and other things.

One thing I do know is that God has touched me! I went from Heart Issue to NO Heart Issue whatsoever, in a matter of hours. I am extremely thankful for the Lord's healing virtue and great grace in my body and my life. 

Yes, God is Good… All the time! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Tale of the ZAX

The Zax = by Dr. Seuss
One day making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.
And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped. There they stood.
Foot to foot. Face to face.

“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said, “I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!”

“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax.
“I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you’re in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove.”
Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
“I never,” he said, “take a step to one side.
And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!”
“And I’ll prove to YOU,” yelled the South-Going Zax,
“That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That’s my rule. Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
I’ll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!”
Of course the world didn’t stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.