My entire body hurts.

Actually, it has hurt all over for as long as I can remember. I cannot recall a time when I was not in pain. Don’t feel sorry for me, for the most part, I am fine.

I am thirty-eight years old now, and I am wondering if I have the body of a sixty-year-old. Seriously, this hurts!

As many of you are aware, I am a carpenter, and I am told by many more than one of the same trade that there are no carpenters with any amount of experience who do not hurt greatly. (Did you like that last sentence? I can get even more verbose than that!)

Yet I believe there must be other people in the construction trades who hurt more than I do. Take tile layers for example. Eight to ten hours every day on their knees!! No thank you for me.

Or how about brick layers and masons? All those heavy bricks and blocks, and the repetitive motion of laying the mortar must be death to arms and shoulders. I cannot imagine it.

I can only imagine the pain I am in, and there are times it hurts so bad that I take four to five ibuprofen, and it doesn’t even touch the pain. I know why I hurt…I think.

One of the things I realized just yesterday is that nearly every time I use a tool of any sort, there is a violent impact made on one of my joints; most often my hands. But the elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet all take abuse from these impacts. Strangely, my back rarely hurts.

What kind of pain is this, you might ask? My feet either pound, or are numb, it all depends how much I have to walk. My knees and hips feel stiff all of the time, even when I am sitting down. My thighs are sore to the touch more often than not. My shoulders mostly just have a sharp pain at the front, while my arms also always feel stiff and numb. My hands? They just hurt, there is no way to describe it.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I am alive with joy, hope, and excitement. I am filled with finishing the moment. I am drawn by looking forward to the future. My past doesn’t seem as bad as it did when I actually lived it.

My body is racked with pain almost constantly. My heart feels light, well stretched out, and free. It feels big, and warm, while one of the words I might use fairly often to describe the pain in my joints is “cold”.

How can there be such a contradiction in one man? In one body?

My body will pass away one day. The pain I have now will die with the passing. Somehow, I don’t think the hope, joy, and excitement will ever die. Thank you.



Almost a year ago, I wrote a series of posts regarding the topic of loving our neighbor.

No…I am not going to provide a link back to that series unless someone requests it, because I am too lazy tonight to do it. But I’d like to revisit that topic a bit.

I have mentioned several times these last few days that I want to be affected by love. I guess there are a few ways in which I already have been. My trouble is that I keep judging myself, weighing, measuring, judging to see if there is a change. Honestly, most of the time, I don’t think I see any.

That’s okay, even if what I think I see is true, I know God still loves me. And I know that so long as that is my foundation, so long as I do not try to make “change” the sum of my life, or even a false idol, I’ll be at peace.

Don’t worry, I love myself.

That’s a good place to start.

The main thrust of my series way back whenever was a paraphrase of the actual words “Love your neighbor as yourself” That paraphrase is “Love your neighbor as if he is you.”

That sort of puts things into a different perspective, doesn’t it?

I want to be affected by love.

I am my neighbor, and my neighbor is me.

If I am affected by love, my neighbor will be also. In fact, I think what I have been looking for is how I have been affecting my neighbor. Nothing wrong with that, you might think.

But, what REALLY is my concern? Is it really my neighbor?

I wonder. I have to think about that.

Maybe I’ll be back later to write some more. Take care.



"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.'

"Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." Acts 17:24-31

Several days ago I participated in a discussion with a good blogging friend, and the issue of “need”, and whether God has any came up, and stayed visible throughout the conversation.

Let me state first that I do not believe God has any need; yet I must also then explain that when I talk about God having need, I do so because I am trying to explain what I perceive in a way that I, and people can understand.

So…does God have need?

I included the above sentences from the book of the Acts of the Apostles to show where most people get the idea that God has no need. If you would look at this one section of your bible, you might be forced to state definitively that God certainly then has no need whatsoever.

I would agree with that.

But let’s look at things in a different light, shall we? If we can get to the understanding that God doesn’t “need” anything from us, maybe we can begin to see a little further into God’s love for us, because I am of the opinion that as easily as one can say love has no need, I can say love is full of need.

I think there is trouble with our view of what Jesus came to do. Most focus almost entirely on the cross, and to me, if I had to pick what Jesus came to do, I would have to say He came to rise from the dead. Dying is no special feat, everyone does it. But no man can rise from the dead, save Jesus. So we can focus on His death as the pinnacle of His earthly mission, but I think His resurrection is the reason He came. To do what every man before Him had done would not have required God in the flesh. But to do what no man had ever, or could ever do without Him required God in the flesh.

Does God have need?

Not if you look at “need” from a merely human perspective. What could God possibly need from us? But if you look at the resurrection, do you see need then? I do.

I don’t see God’s need, however. I see our need, yet when I look at the resurrection, I don’t see a normal man being able to fulfill our need; I don’t see any man ever having fulfilled it. When I look at the resurrection, I see God fulfilling our need.

But is that need our need, or is it God’s?

I think I can safely say that God MADE it His own need. I think I can safely conclude that God came not to fulfill His own need, except that need of ours which He took upon Himself as His very own need. If it wasn’t a need He took upon Himself as His own, then sending any man would have done the trick. But scripture shows us time and again that God knew it would be Himself He would send, not just some ordinary man. He would not trust this mission to any of us, even though the need was ours.

So the question isn’t whether God has need, because our need became His need by His choice, so if we have need, is it not safe to say that our need is God’s need, by His choice?

The discussion I joined in ventured into God’s wrath, and I was asked, “What ‘need’ does God have of wrath?” Truly, if all I did was to focus on the cross, and to claim that everything was finished at the cross, I would have to admit that God has no need of wrath. But the lie of the statement “everything was fulfilled on the cross” is proven rapidly when Jesus rose from the dead. For I can ask the same question. “What ‘need’ does God have to rise from the dead, especially if EVERYTHING was accomplished on the cross?”

The issue of God’s need for wrath is too deep to go into today, but I think I will continue this thread the next time I post. Truly, I don’t think God REALLY has any need of wrath, but if you consider that we have needs, and if we consider that God takes our needs upon Himself, who can say that God would then have no need of wrath or justice?

Paul tells us to leave room for God’s wrath; what “need” have we to do that if there is no wrath? Personally, I hate God’s wrath. I hope everyone avoids it. But to me, a God who takes our need upon Himself and dies only to rise again, because that’s what we needed, is also a God who will not shy away from protecting those who are defenseless, against those who would hurt them. That’s a need, and for many, it’s our need. What’s to prevent God from taking that need upon Himself time and time again? Yet what form would that defense take?

Is that “defense” Jesus nailed to a cross? Maybe.

Or is it something far more immediate?

To me, to believe that God no longer gets angry over things seems like a very uncaring, distant God. If I hurt, I want Him to FEEL something. What would He feel if He didn’t feel anger? Maybe pity? Sorry…I don’t want pity. Love? Nah, too undefinable and my point of view is that love includes anger sometimes. I want it to be vivid, descriptive, ALIVE!

If someone hurts my daughter, I feel her pain. If someone hurts my daughter intentionally, not only do I feel her pain, but I also feel anger toward the person who hurt her. I can forgive that person, but I will never leave my daughter unprotected around them again, and that means I will do WHATEVER is necessary to protect her, even if that means the person who hurt her gets hurt by me so that my daughter can be protected.

If God is different than that, then NONE of us was created in His image. But that's just my point of view at this time in my life.



The world.

What do I see in this world?

How about hope?

How about love?

Yep, I see lots. I see people trusting with their hearts, and I see people being trustworthy. I see people genuinely caring for others, even if it is only the same small group of people they care about.

I see many good things. But I also see bad things.

I see people sacrificing the small group of people they love so they won’t have to face or be responsible for what they have done, so they won’t have to admit they were wrong.

I see people without patience, and I see it getting worse as time goes by. I see that lack of patience drives people to do things that aren’t good.

I see lust. And I see greed. Everybody can see these things, they are right out in front, and some are even proud to be as such.

But the one thing I see more than anything else is that people make images of themselves. They create false images everywhere, about many things. I see through most of these images. I am learning to see through my own, which I have created.

What bothers me so much about these images? I think it’s the emptiness behind them. I think for a person to create a false image of himself, it’s got to be almost like an insult to God, and thus, an insult to that same person. I see it everywhere, and I try to wade through the false image, and get to know the real person. It’s not easy, because so much of the false image we create is designed to protect others from seeing the real us.

In my life, I have created many false images. None of them ever did me one bit of good, so far as I can recall. But my heart sometimes bleeds as I watch the people around me create and maintain this world of make-believe where they have everything together, and where “everything’s fine”. I see this in the church as well as in the world, but my experience has shown me that with someone who believes, it is much, much easier to cut through the false image.

If I could do one thing tomorrow, I would help someone I know cut through their false image, to see the real them, and to begin to understand that the real them is lovable too.



Picture a church, if you will. Picture a mega church if you must.

Take Willow Creek, for instance. Or Saddleback Church. Or even my church.

Let’ say things are going well, on the corporate level. The Pastor is a good man or woman, the “leadership board” is honest and willing to listen, and the congregation shares a servant attitude. All these things are good things.

But let’s add some bad things to this scene, and see what happens, shall we?

What happens if that church, be it big or small, begins to experience financial problems? It happens. A church in my area currently has a seven thousand dollar a month shortfall. Seven thousand dollars a month! What, I ask, could a church possibly spend seven thousand dollars every month on? If it was for the poor, then I would say they don’t really have a shortfall, they just aren’t able to help the poor the way they used to. But a financial shortfall, one that means you can’t pay your bills?

Most churches I have seen rarely, if ever, even give seven thousand dollars a month to the poor. So in the case of the church with the seven thousand dollar a month shortfall, I wonder, how much went to the poor?

What will happen if this church declares bankruptcy? What will happen if this church can no longer open its building doors? Will the people meet somewhere else? Will the pastor and paid staff leave to find a church that can afford their “services”?

If that happens, then I say, this was never a church at all. How can “the Church” close it doors? Answer? It can’t, and it won’t.

Our churches spend a lot of money on building projects, and there seems to always be a need to “further God’s Kingdom” through money. But I ask, if the corporate church cannot keep its doors open, was it ever really a church? The answer is a resounding “No!”.

I see it everywhere, I even see signs of it in my own church. There is no warning I can shout, because the people coming through the doors want it this way. That’s okay. I think some good things happen even in places that aren’t really churches. In my church, good things happen every day, but I fear for the ideology of being bigger, and I wonder if some aren't selling out to that god.

But my heart tells me that now, more than ever, it is up to me to be the church; without a building, without a budget, and without a choir. May God be praised in everything I do, and we’ll see what kind of a budget that requires. Frankly, I don’t think it requires any budget at all.

If we are the church, even the least amongst us, the youngest, the weakest, the poorest, it is our privilege to be the church. I don’t know what is going to happen to the people whose church is going to close. Probably, they will be vacuumed up into a different church. I guess my question is; were they ever really even a part of a church? And if they go to a new church, will they still not be a part of a church? Because to me, the test of a church isn’t how successful it is financially, it’s how close the people are, how much they love each other, and how willing they are to welcome everyone, just like Jesus did. You don’t need a budget to do that. All you really need is another person to share it all with.



I left the following as a comment at a good blogging friend’s site.

I was just sitting here in the background, enjoying the comments.

Then, a thought struck me. If you go back and read all of the comments, save for MMM's, you might see what I am about to say.

You see, so long as we point the finger at another, LOVE has not had its way with us. So long as we think we have it mostly right, and let's face it, there wasn't a comment left here that indicated they were wrong about what they believe, we remain mostly unaffected by LOVE.

I know, that's not a very nice thing to say. But go ahead, reread the comments. I am guilty of this nearly everywhere I go, and I want to be affected by LOVE. "They" will never agree with you, and "we" will never agree with them. It's still us and them, do you see it?

I see a superiority gene in all of us, one that doesn't want to act dead. But I have learned a rule in this life, and I think it might be true. I have said it before, and I'll say it again, WE ALL THINK THAT WHAT WE BELIEVE IS THE TRUTH, RIGHT UP UNTIL THE MOMENT WE BELIEVE SOMETHING ELSE. I have found not a single exception to this. That's why I think it might be true. So if we are thus, how are we ever going to understand this about ourselves? We certainly will not understand it by saying, "They teach such and such and such, and we don't".

I don't know the balance between correcting someone's "erroneous" beliefs or teaching, and accepting them. You say they don't accept you. I say you don't accept them. Oh, we all want to say we accept each other, but do we really? It's kind of like a "church" that is only a church so long as the corporation is above water; the second the corporation goes bankrupt, the "church" stops meeting, and people go their own way. I guess you would call such a church not really a church after all, wouldn't you? Well...I would call accepting people based on their beliefs the same thing, as I would call pointing out the way "they" do it wrong as not really accepting them either. Rather, I'd stick my finger up my butt, and try to find the superiority gene, so I could be rid of it once and for all. So long as that gene exists in us, we don't REALLY accept anyone.

Thank God that Jesus didn't exercise His TRUE superiority over us, for none of us would have any hope now.

We think we know the truth, we think we have it down a little better than the next person; right up until the moment we believe something else.

Do you believe this? Do you believe that your "acceptance" of "them" is really only words? I love talking with you, and I love our relationship, what little there is of it because of this medium. But in honesty, so long as I think I know, and so long as I shake my head in pity or whatever it is we feel for those who don't, I don't REALLY accept anyone. I am a bankrupt corporate church which isn't really a church at all, is it?

I want to be affected by LOVE. Currently, there is little in my life that shows me I am. God is going to have to be okay with that, because try as I might, I cannot seem to change anything. Do you REALLY accept me, the way God does?

There is an answer to this conundrum. I want to be affected by LOVE. How in the world is that ever going to happen? Well, I know how it won’t happen.

It won’t happen so long as I give this superiority “gene” in me an ear. I don’t think it is even possible for me to love someone if I think they are “wrong”, and focus on it.

I want the LOVE that is beyond comparison. Beyond comparing beliefs, beyond comparing knowledge, beyond comparing anything before I can love someone else.

You see, it really doesn’t matter what we believe, so long as we remain unaffected by LOVE. It does not matter if we believe Jesus is the redeemer, so long as we are unaffected by love. All we have to give, really, is love. How are we ever going to do that? Maybe that is why Jesus said something once about dying to ourselves. You see, I just don’t think Jesus would have ever gone to that cross had He focused on His truth being the right truth, and ours being wrong. I don’t see how he could have. I know He knew He was the truth, yet as I watch Him in the words of the gospels, I don’t see too much focusing on what He knew, not nearly as much as I see Him emptying Himself upon others, as a servant.

LOVE is the answer, it is the only thing that matters. I have hope that one day, I might love someone like Jesus did. Currently, I love them very little, because I don’t see past my own ego. And you know, there are times when I see it, when I see how a man can not think of himself for the sake of others. I see how a man could die to himself. Trouble is, those types of men don’t think real highly of themselves, and in our generations, that’s not a real welcome message, is it?

Jesus did not lord His authority over others. He could have. He knew it all, and yet I don’t see Him pointing His finger at others, and saying “they” just don’t get it, the way I do.



Praise God!!

Oscar the Oscar ate this morning!

Yes, I know, he is just a fish, but he’s a really big, really cute fish! And…I love him. I think.

You know, unlike a cat or a dog, I can’t give him a big hug, but I can talk to him, and sometimes, he seems far more respondent than any cat or dog I have ever met. He recognizes me, and he gets quite upset if the kitchen (where he resides) is full of people he doesn’t recognize. Most of his major splashes come when the kitchen is full of “strangers”.

Maybe it’s just because he sees someone he’d like to eat?

This morning, when I put the food into the tank, I noticed Oscar was wagging his tail like he used to, and I didn’t really think anything of it, because he had done so recently, and then ignored the food I put into the tank. I tried a few different things, trying to coax him into chasing down food, and then decided to go back to the same food. He ignored it for a week or so again. But this morning, he approached it at the surface, and then gulped it down, and then another, and another, and another. This is quite an appetite for him, as these pieces of food are about one-eighth of an inch thick, and generally an inch long. He swallows them whole.

After he had eaten, he danced around his tank briefly, and then settled into “his corner”, where Blacky the shark once again seems to know that he isn’t welcome. Oscar has taken to chasing Blacky out of the way again. It looks like everything is back to normal for the big guy, and I couldn’t be happier.

Hey…maybe he passed a kidney stone? Ha Ha!!!



Wow! What a couple of weeks these last have been.

I have had three kidney stones pass in less than two weeks time. The last one, this past Friday, left me in the hospital for better than half a day. Ouch!!

But everything is okay. The stones are passed…for now. (I keep waiting for the next one!) Now all I have to do is wade through a weeklong morphine hangover. I hate that stuff and what it does to my stamina.

Poor, Tom. Poor, poor Tom.


No pity party for me. I am on top of the world! When that last stone dropped into the strainer, you couldn’t have made me happier. I wasn’t concerned with the pain, I was only concerned with mastering it, with living beyond it, with not letting it destroy me. God be praised, one five millimeter stone can cause a mountain of pain!

I will attest to this; there is nothing in this world like a kidney stone that focuses my attention on God. The one on Friday (I had just passed another the day before) woke me up at three AM. For one hour and forty-five minutes, I guzzled water, and bore the pain as best I could, vomiting every three minutes or so, bent over, gasping in pain, trying to pass the stone at home. But as five AM approached, I knew I was in trouble. I had consumed almost sixty ounces of water, and was now hurling that water back up almost as soon as I swallowed it. The water wasn’t forcing the issue, and I needed help, fast.

I had been talking with God the entire time, trying to figure out if this stone, which “seemed” to be worse than the others, would pass at home, or if I needed to get going. The pain was so intense that there were moments I almost cried, but each time that moment came, I found myself talking with God, and the tears were held back. Still, I couldn’t pass it, I needed help, and God was content that this pain would not destroy me. I felt at peace, strangely, but I knew if I didn’t get the help of medical people, my body was in trouble.

My daughter cannot drive, but I had to let her know where I was going, so I walked into her bedroom at four-forty-five AM, woke her, and let her know what was going on. Then, I drove myself the eight miles or so to the hospital. That is the one part of this ordeal that I always dread. Twice before this, I have driven myself to the hospital with kidney stones; it is one of the moments I mourn not having someone with me to care for me, to drive me, to make sure I get there safely. It is a lonely time, dark, and my heart wails within me, knowing I have to be good at this, I have to perform, I have to drive well, or I may kill myself or someone else in an accident. Jesus is there, but I can’t see Him, I can only feel Him. While the darkness still surrounds my heart, somehow, I see through the pain, and make it to the hospital alive. I always make it, thank God.

Once I arrived at the hospital, the nurse tried to put me in a wheel chair, and I argued momentarily, telling him it felt better to stand. “That’s not hospital protocol”. I submitted like the good little lemming I am.

It took the nurse about half an hour to get around and through all the other hospital protocols, to the point where she could finally administer some drugs. She gave me one for the “nausea”, and another (not morphine) for the kidney stone pain. Neither did what it was intended to do. I hurled regularly, and doubled over in pain as she asked the doctor whether she should proceed straight to morphine. The answer was yes; PHYSICAL relief was minutes away.

Actually, it took over twenty milligrams of morphine (For morphine, that’s a lot!) to touch the pain. Yet I was never in danger.

I wasn’t in danger mentally or spiritually. Literally, kidney stones can kill if left untreated long enough, and they can cause all other manner of internal problems, the least of which is pneumonia. But I was never in danger, the REAL me was just fine.

My body is still sore from this experience, and I have a morphine stamina hangover that I hope will only last a week. The stone finally passed, and I went home. I was never in danger, and I knew it all along.

But there is a part of this whole experience, one which I have now faced five times, which I hate. It is the morphine, or any other drug given to me to relieve the physical pain.

You see, even though I was doubled over in agony, as if I was being kneed in the groin repeatedly for hours on end, I was with God. The deeper the pain, the more aware of God I was.

But the moment the pain medication arrived, the moment my body felt some relief, I started to lose my awareness of God. This happens every time, and I hate it. I know (my mind does) that God is still there, but that doesn’t change the fact that my senses can no longer pick Him up. In pain, I can almost touch Him, He is that real. On drugs, I can hardly think of Him, He seems so distant. I was never in any danger, and I clung to this as strongly as I could. As my body relaxed, the stone passed, but my grip on God was gone, and all I wanted was to exercise the effects of the drugs away, and meet with God again, in a way I couldn’t under the influence of these drugs.

There are many people who take drugs for many reasons. Drugs usually affect the mind, they do not kill the pain, or at least, they do not kill what is causing the pain. Pain killers are an oxymoron, all the pain killers really do is kill the nerves sensing the pain. To treat the actual symptom, you need to get much more physical than changing the mind’s idea about how much something hurts.

I am left wondering tonight about so many people who take drugs regularly, for anxiety disorders, and such. I have spoken with many people who take such drugs as Paxil and Xanax, and, while to the person, they are thankful for the effects of the drugs, almost to the person, they say they feel “somewhat removed” from reality given a strong enough dose.

I was removed from reality for a brief period on Friday, and I hated it. The pain medication did what it was supposed to, it helped my body to relax, so I could pass the kidney stone. But the reality of the moment was pain, and God was in the pain. When that reality was removed, God seemed very distant. I am sure He was right there, but my perception of Him was distance I wonder…how many other things cause us to feel distance from God. Food? Drink? Sex? Does anything that brings pleasure to the body help us feel God’s closeness? Maybe it does, maybe within its proper place. But we don’t really use things in this world properly all that often. I wonder how often we feel distance from God.

I hated it. On the flip side, even though my body hates pain, I actually liked feeling so close to God within it. I am the real me. My body is not.



My heart hurts.

I have been reading the blogs of the Fish and Crystal for some time now, long before that bitch Katrina hit.

My heart hurts to read the pain, and the displacement of their lives because of this storm. Let’s face it, that’s all Katrina really was…a storm.

They are so far from their city right now, so far from their house, but I want them to know, they are right at home, right now.

To read about their children, which is easy, because they write about these young ones often, is to read about a FAMILY. A REAL family. I feel like they are my next door neighbors sometimes. And my heart hurts for them.

New Orleans is just a city, but wherever the Fish and Crys are, they are the city of New Orleans. You see…a city isn’t place, it’s a people, all molded into one giant conglomerate of persons living together.


We are family, and we are city.

Fish and Crys, in Iowa you may be, but in my heart, you are right here. If there was one thing I could give you guys right now, it would be the biggest group hug the world has ever seen, in the midst of a gentle rain, you Fish, and you Crystal, and your small ones, with me surrounding you all, and whispering, “everything is going to be alright…I promise.”

All of your uncertainty,. I pray God give to me. All of your pain , I pray God place upon me. I cannot bear to know that you feel anything but joy. My heart hurts, and it is you Fish, and you, Crystal, who touch me so. I want to take all of your feelings of removal, displacement, shock, helplessness, bottledupedness, and receive it into myself, so that you don’t have to feel this.

The Fish and Crystal ARE home. Despite the distance from their house, they are home. I ask you all to pray for them, that they would feel at home. I know that being so far away is distance of the body. I want their hearts to feel so close…as if they are ONE…RIGHT NOW. I want you Fish, and you Crystal, to feel so in love, with each other and with your small ones, that this physical distance becomes an afterthought.

May God make His brilliant face to shine upon you, may He fill your hearts with ONE, with FAMILY, with each other, may He shine upon you brighter than the sun, stronger than Katrina, in the midst of the real storm, the one that Katrina left behind for everyone.

Fish and Crystal, I don’t deserve your fellowship. I am a selfish man. I wish I wasn’t so. And as difficult as this is to say because of what happened…I am glad you are New Orleans…otherwise, I would have remained far removed from feeling the pain of the victims of a bitch like Katrina. I am not glad for your loss. I am just thankful that God has used you guys to help me FEEL.

Believe me when I say, feeling is not an easy thing for me to do.

Though I have never met you, I miss you. I don’t know how or why I feel that…I just do. I leave you with my peace, and all these wonderful people praying for you. It’s all I have to give, dear ones. Be dear to me forever, as I know you will be, thank you for gracing the pages of this weblog.



I found an interesting parallel today between my old talks about “discipline”, and the “anarchy” that took place in New Orleans.

Let me start off by saying I do not blame the residents of New Orleans for reacting the way some of them did, even though some of it might have been “criminal”, according to American law.

What occurred, and may still be occurring is the result of something. This “something” is not being talked about on any news station, or by any politician. Why? Because they do not know what the “something” is.

I think I do.

It ties in with spiritual discipline, but not in the way you think. You see, these people who reacted in questionable ways weren’t necessarily intending to become criminal, or even frustrated, for that matter. Most have been peaceful, obedient citizens, even in the face of anarchy. But one thing screams out to me very loudly in all of this. The level of frustration is higher in this region than I have ever seen in my life.

That is to be expected, you might say. If you would say that, I would have to disagree with you.

It shouldn’t be expected. Let me explain.

One hundred years ago or so, a town called Galveston, Texas was devastated by a hurricane of similar power. One hundred years ago, that town was washed over almost completely. In fact, the similarities between what happened in New Orleans, and Galveston are eerie, to say the least. There is one huge difference, however. The people of Galveston didn’t get frustrated, they didn’t cry out and expect the world to help…immediately, if not sooner.

The people left in New Orleans have cried out, as well they should, because they can. The people of Galveston, Texas did not cry out, because they couldn’t, and they knew it.

What is causing this frustration? Any number of things, really. It could be fear, pain, anguish, depression, impatience…

It could be our “way of life”.

If it were fear, or loss, or pain, or death of loved ones, if all that was the actual cause, it would most certainly be understood as the most valid of reasons. But Galveston was destroyed in the same way, and we have that as a witness that pain, fear, loss, or death of loved ones does not necessarily cause frustration. So what is causing this frustration exactly?

I think at the top of the list is a generational inability to cope.

I think that statement isn’t going to be received too well.

You know what, I won’t apologize for telling the truth.

Over a hundred years ago, a town in Texas was devastated, and they coped, with as much loss as New Orleans. Not that New Orleans shouldn’t be helped. I believe we should gather and deliver every bit of help we can muster, exactly because we can muster it at all.

But lost in all of this will be our ability to cope in hard times. You won’t hear about the lost art of joy in the midst of suffering, because right now, in New Orleans, we aren’t hearing about joy at all. Right now, we are hearing about frustration, and we are saying, “that is to be expected”.

I guess my question is, since when did we start expecting to be frustrated? I can understand pain and loss, I have suffered enough of it to last a lifetime. But there is one thing I have going for me that few people have; I have WORKED at discipline, I have begun to train my body to obey me, to accept, and then to cope with hard times.

I have been through hard times, times when I didn’t know how I was even going to feed my daughter; times when I had no money left for two weeks, times when all I had was the charity of a neighbor.

I grieved in frustration at first, because I was not accustomed to suffering. Knowing that my lot was not going to change over night, I began to change the only thing I could; my ability to cope. That is the lost art in America. You won’t be taught how to cope in this nation. Not even our churches will train you how to be punched in the face with an eighteen pound circumstance sledge, and stand up through it without hate or frustration. You can no longer learn how to fend for yourself in the wilderness, or even in the city. Rare is the example of the person down on his “luck” who hasn’t received a handout from the government in poor circumstances.

Am I heartless because I say this? No, I think it is a travesty that we have become so unable to cope without being handed our lives, heck, our very needs from the government.

Now we are seeing the President and the government blamed because help didn’t arrive fast enough. Maybe help could have arrived faster, I cannot judge that. But the people of Galveston, Texas didn’t get fast help, and their plight was no different. What was different was their reaction.

This isn’t a racial issue as I see it. This is a people issue; America has become unable to cope. You see it everywhere. Almost fifty percent of all adults in this nation at one time or other have received medication for some sort of depression or anxiety disorder because we cannot cope. One hundred years ago, the people must have been made of hardier stock; that, or they just coped, made the best they could of bad situations.

Were they hardier? Are people DEVOLVING?

Or are we just trained incorrectly?

Knowing what I have suffered in my life, I feel safe in every circumstance. Knowing how I have learned to be disciplined, learned to go without, learned to cope…I know that a tragedy such as the one left behind Katrina will not affect me as it would some others. That doesn’t make me better than anyone; I know above anyone else the wretch I can be. No, I am just better prepared, and it isn’t something that couldn’t have been done by others.

But in this nation, we are not taught to go without. We are instead taught to be a squeaky wheel. You know what a squeaky wheel does, right? It squeaks until it gets grease, and it doesn’t stop squeaking until it gets enough.

The poor people who lost everything because of Katrina lost more than they know, and they lost it a long time before the storm ever hit. They lost their ability to cope with horrendous tragedy, because America doesn’t teach its citizens to cope, America teaches its citizens to squeak.

If you want to learn how to cope, you can only learn it through discipline. There is no other way. In learning discipline, you will quickly see how empty inside you really are; I know, because I saw how empty I was the first twenty-four hours I went without food. My mind raged against the idea of actually “starving” myself…my God! Who would do something so stupid?

Someone who had no choice…that’s who.

America teaches people that we can be in charge of our own destiny, that we control our surroundings. Katrina just made a big fat liar out of America. What is left in her wake is people utterly defenseless against real hardship.

When you turn off the radio, and are left alone with yourself for the first time, your mind might quickly start trying to make noise, your body will do anything but have to face itself…alone. When you discipline yourself to sit in solitude on a day you’d rather be out partying, your body and mind will try to wrest control away from you, and will constantly try to get you to turn from the path you are on.

Who in their right mind would ever PRACTICE such a thing?

Only someone who wants to learn how to cope with the hardest “troubles” this life can dish out…that’s who.

America won’t teach you this, you’ll have to do it yourself. You won’t change your circumstances; if you are poor, you won’t get paid for meditating. But the peace you’ll have, the assurance you need will all be there when you need it. You will have “food to eat that others know nothing about”. Jesus said that once to His disciples. I have found it to be true in the most amazing and physical way…you’d never believe it even if I told you.

Frustration isn’t a sign of bad circumstances, because people get frustrated every day living in million dollar mansions, driving sixty-thousand dollar cars, and eating to their heart’s content every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Circumstances have nothing to do with frustration. Frustration is a fruit of the inability to cope, even with good things.

So why discipline yourself? Because no one in this country is going to teach you how to cope…you’ll have to do it yourself. And, you won’t learn it through osmosis. The body NEEDS to be trained, Paul called it “buffeting”, to MAKE it do what we command it to do. The mind is no different.

Sure, you may never need to cope with bad circumstances, or with a bitch like Katrina. Then again, just learning how to cope with good things is a full time job for most of us.



I do not usually talk about politics on this blog, as I find the entire subject to be rather…well…boring. But being a history buff, I cannot resist the chance to write a little bit about what I have been observing in our nation lately, and what it might lead to.

Please bear in mind that the statements I make here are all based on what I have observed, and are biased according to my limited perspective. What does that mean? I guess it means that just because I write it doesn’t mean it will happen, or that it is necessarily true. As I said, these are statements made based on my observations from my limited perspective. If you want an error free document, then you need to ask God, who sees so much more than I do.

Everywhere I go, I hear people talk about what our nation is doing, what it is about, and what they think we should do. The number of differing opinions is broad, but strangely, it seems to me that these “differing” opinions are coming nearer to agreement.

For example, the other day I was listening to some fellows discuss the Iraqi war, Hurricane devastation, gasoline prices, the economy, and what we should do about all of this. The two men had differing opinions about the amount of damage the hurricane had done, how high gas prices would soar, whether we should have been in Iraq, and how badly the economy was going to be hit by this latest catastrophe. I see that type of thing often. What I do not see often, but have been seeing quite a bit lately, especially since Katrina hit, is the agreement on what should be done about all of this.

The only area the two men agreed upon was our nation’s next course of action. I quote, “We should take Iraq’s oil, we’re already there; why should we suffer so they don’t have to? Who’s going to stop us?”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard similar “solutions” in the past week.

But this is America, we don’t attack and steal from those we are trying to help, do we?

We haven’t…yet.

Imagine one year from now. What if…

Another Level five hurricane strikes us, say in Florida and then farther north on the Eastern seaboard. It’s possible.

What if…

The terrorists, by sheer luck again, succeed in attacking us in a huge way again. It’s possible.

What if…

None of the above happens. Instead, the American economy, weighed down by revolving credit and over-financed corporations, rapidly deteriorates, to the point where we were in the 1920’s? Possible?

What if…

The average single mother earns $ 6.00 to $8.00 per hour, drives through twenty gallons of gasoline a week, and is having a hard time making ends meet. Consider that at $8.00 per hour, at current gas prices, this single mom spends almost twenty-five percent of her check on gasoline. That is just one facet of the expenses she incurs with her paycheck.

That last statement isn’t really a “what if”, it is currently a reality for millions of Americans.

What if…

The current price increase causes the Christmas shopping season to be an all-time low volume producer? It’s possible.

What if because of the new rise in gas prices, America’s economy forces us to live at less than what we are accustomed to, at lower than the “way of life” we all screamed about on September 11, 2001? What if this latest “blip” is the straw that breaks the American Camel’s back? It’s possible.

Why is it possible? Because most of these “what if” statements are no longer a long shot. Some of them are primed to occur.

If the American economy, driven by consumption, is no longer supported by that consumption because its people can no longer afford to consume up to their past standards, what will happen? Do we have any economics majors in our audience? Come on…what will happen?

Does anyone know the current proportion of poor to middle class citizens in our nation? Is anyone aware that the proportion grows yearly already? What does this mean? To me, it means that our nation is already spiraling downward, and the only remedy anyone has offered is a few nominal tax cuts, and more revolving credit at ungodly interest rates. Not a real solution, obviously.

Can anyone tell me if the two gentlemen I listened to are on to something?

Please understand, I do not condone that type of thinking. In fact, I am totally against it. However, ALL of world history is against us on this one. There has never been a nation who has sacrificed its own citizens for the sake of its “principles”. It has never happened, not even once. And I don’t mean sending a few hundred thousand soldiers to a foreign nation to do battle with an evil enemy. Rather, what I mean is this; no nation has ever idly allowed its own citizens to be destroyed economically so that said nation wouldn’t have to attack its neighbor, or any nation, to steal and plunder what said nation felt it required to survive. In other words, history bears out ALWAYS that when a nation is desperate, “principle” flies out the window. I do not think our nation would be any different.

I am not saying our nation is about to go through a catastrophic economic downfall, or ruin. I think it is possible for us to suffer that, though…very, very possible, and possibly very soon.

The question is, what would our nation do about such a conundrum? Could our nation even do anything? Babylon fell due to decadence. Rome fell the same way. The rise of those two nations, however, was strikingly different than ours. Some nations are built on war, while others are destroyed through it.

Germany is one such example. Faced with no space for its citizens, and an ever dwindling economy, Germany decided to steal what it could not buy, and in today’s world, as ever, there is only one way nations steal; through war.

The two men I listened to are just one example of many I have heard over the last week. In fact, I have never heard so much talk of our nation “stealing” what we cannot buy, with everyday citizens actually suggesting regularly that this is the only course.

Things aren’t even that bad for us yet, and this is what our citizens are discussing openly? Tell me, what would it take for our citizens to demand that kind of action from our government, to openly support such a decision?

Before you answer that with some unheard of catastrophe, or by saying it would never happen, please recall the battle cry of our politicians on the days after September eleventh., 2001. Down to each politician, I heard the same words, almost as though it was “the company line”.

Those words were, and I quote, “America will do WHATEVER is necessary to MAINTAIN our way of life”. I didn’t hear a single American citizen complain about such a statement, and let’s not forget the power of our politicians and the media to paint a much more dreary picture than what reality is. Could the media and our politicians “sell" us on the idea of going to war to maintain “our way of life”?

They already have, twice. Afghanistan, and Iraq. Sure, these are part of the “war on terror”. But just one day before September 11, 2001, how possible was it for America to go into Afghanistan and Iraq, and wage war to maintain our way of life?

My conclusion is that America will do whatever is necessary to maintain our way of life, even if that means stealing what we cannot buy. There has never been a nation who has been able to resist doing such a thing when its own citizens were at great risk. I believe our media and politicians would spin such an event in such a way as to make it sound exactly the way Hitler made his invasion of Poland sound, as if we had been attacked first.

America is a beautiful, wonderful place to live. For a long time, our nation has existed within circumstances that has allowed us to keep our principles. But in the words of Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot, “I am a father, I have children, I can’t afford principles”. Our nation would say the same thing, if it came to it, and I wonder, is it coming to it?