A Facebook Story

Ludlow

The Amazing Utility of Facebook

Night in the Mojave requires layering. This becomes extremely important when movement stops. Inserting with the always excellent assistance from the Nightstalkers south of ludlow, a tiny way-station along I-40 in the Mojave Desert. The Stalkers left us in the low foothills along Bagdad Chase road and we walked towards the lights. Zero Dark Thirty looks like this no matter where you are. Cold, lonely, and usually filled with things to stumble over in the dark. Thank goodness for night vision.
NSA intercepted telephone communications which placed nameless faceless terrorists approaching Ludlow from the east. The scenario of Jihadi’s inserting along the U.S. Mexico border – anticipated for years – was now so commonplace Special Activities Division and SoCom assigned a team permanently to the southwest region. So here we are, humping into an afterthought of a place to live to intercept professional “haters” somewhere far from civilization. The thought being that out here, there would be minimal collateral damage.
My name is Captain Terry Gentry, on loan from Seal Team Four. our SOG connection, Master Gunny Devin O’Kirk walked next to me listening to the Commando Solo ELINT Aircraft keeping us updated on the progress the targets were making traveling west on I-40. Quietly pacing measured steps behind Gunny O’Kirk was Sergeant Enrique Llona Falconi. Enrique scared Terry sometimes, but was Devin’s favorite. Born of Ecuadorian ex-patriots living in Fresno California, Enrique served as their point man and navigator. Enrique’s favorite movie was the Adam Sandler version of the classic film Mr. Deeds. Everyone on the team felt that it was spookily appropriate that his favorite character was John Turturro’s character Emilio Lopez. After all he could recite almost all of his lines. But, by far his best imitation was his ability to sneak up on you like Emilio did in the movie. One moment you were alone, the next, there was Enrique, smiling at you saying, “I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness, sir!” It was unanimous that Enrique be point man.
Corporal Sammy Samson – Comms Tech – carrying the team’s iPad and signals jamming equipment, and Staff Sergeant Haliburton James – Burt – team sniper filling in behind made up the rest of the team. Burt standing a full six foot seven, cradling his Socom PSR with TrackingPoint scope, reminded Terry of a very mean Blake Griffin. Sammy didn’t remind Terry of anyone. Sammy was the ghost of the group. Urban ops especially. Sammy looked so generic, Terry swore he could stand in a store window and mimic a manikin and spend all day without being discovered.
Tonight promised to be an interesting exercise in communications cooperation between SOAR, NSA, and the team. As controversial as the news was making it, the communications intercepts value had proven themselves at an increasing rate the more illegal immigrants infiltrated into the desert southwest. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California were rapidly becoming one gigantic – and deadly – hide and seek playground. So the intercepts rivaled gold in value…in Terry’s opinion. So tonight the relay looked like this; NSA relaying to the Solo, then downlinking to Samson and Gunny O’Kirk. The trick would be getting into Ludlow before the bad guys.

Driving all night from Texas is not an easy task. But, driving at night can make it easier. Less traffic and cooler temperatures. Jim Thibodeau and his daughter Wendy O’Neil – a little road weary – anticipating stopping for sleep in Barstow, pulled into Ludlow looking for gas. The map showed both a Chevron and the Ludlow 76. Hopefully, one of them would be open at close to 1AM. The Advocare convention still fresh in their minds, had occupied much of the conversation since leaving Texas. Jim’s weight loss fired up the enthusiasm in his retired years as well as his daughters incredible energy propelling the entire trip.
Jim faced a little bit of a dilemma with his weight loss. Really it came down to realistic priorities. This thought always caused Jim to chuckle. Jim looked in the rearview mirror to see a thinning mirror image of Santa Claus. A graduate of the International School of Santa’s, his Santa pictures reflected the spirit of Norman Rockwell’s picture of the Jolly One. Never was there a better Santa. But, now health dictated weight loss and daughter Wendy turned dad onto Advocare. The weight fell off quickly and Jim became a disciple.
Wendy, a devoted follower of Jesus and missionary to Ireland, formed the other half of her husband Erin and together they had built a joyful family. Erin and Wendy, both dark haired and handsome young adults looked Irish and had the name to prove it. Their love for the island tinged all of their thoughts of eventually returning to pick up their ministry work. But, this week was father daughter. Wendy, very tired from a days worth of driving urgently looked forward to the gas station’s restroom. It would be her turn to drive the rest of the way into Barstow – hopefully they could find a room.
“There’s the Gas Station Wendy.” Jim sighed with his own sense of relief coming through. “You go while I fill up. Then I will go. You want anything from the Mini-Mart?”
“No Dad, I just want to get going? We still have some of the Gorp if I get hungry I will munch on that.” Wendy yawned.
“Ok.” Jim yawned back. “You sure you don’t want some coffee or something?”
Wendy just stretched, pushing her hands against the ceiling of the car. “Nah, I’m good. I just gotta use the restroom really bad.”
Jim just smiled and pulled into the station, the only car at the pumps.
Wendy, quickly sprinted to the restroom as Jim ran the credit card through the card reader and began to pump gas.

“Weasle One, target leaving I-40.” Squawked the voice in Gunny O’Kirk’s ear piece. “Looks like they are heading for the Chevron Station there on the corner.”
“Roger Stryper One.” Devin replied. “We can see them coming down Cucero. We are in position. There is one other vehicle in the station. Looks like a man and a woman. Is this a go. Potential collateral damage situation here.”
“Wait one Weasle.” came the answer.
The team, hidden in the trees and in the outbuildings across the street at the closed Ludlow Cafe, watched as the target van pulled up to the pumps next to the other vehicle. Terry glanced over at Devin as if to convey his nervousness with the situation.
“Weasle One, Stryper One. Over” The anticipated answer came through the cold desert air. “Prosecute, take down. Capture if you can. But, do not take chances. Targets are considered armed with AK’s and RPG’s.”
Terry and Devin, just motioned go to the team. Shadows separated themselves from the desert flora and converged on the gas station. Terry tapped Burt on the shoulder and the PSR coughed a suppressed bolt of metallic phlegm, into the engine block of the van, disabling it. Gunny O’Kirk sprinted from the back of the Cafe across the street, him M-4 leading the way. Samson and Enrique, advanced from the eastern corner of the intersection from their hide in a stand of trees. Speed and extreme surprising violence would be the key to this take down.

Standing in the cold night air helped clear Jim’s foggy mind. Even here under the lights of the gas station, “I can see so many stars! So amazing what God has made. Just think, there are more stars out there than there are grains of sand in the ocean! If that doesn’t blow your mind nothing will.”
The nozzle on the hose of the pump Jim had ended up with didn’t have a clip to hold the nozzle. So Jim had to stand there holding the nozzle as it filled the tank. The annoyance not enough to interrupt the rapture of the stars Jim held onto. But, standing there he noticed classic white dodge van pull in across the pump island from him. It was being driven by hispanic farm workers, it seemed. But, then Jim noticed the men beginning to file out of the van. They looked different. They looked middle eastern.
BANG!
Jim heard an extremely loud noise come from the van. As if someone had hit the van with a sledgehammer. Things began to move in slow motion from that point. Jim noticed the guns coming out of the van. Those were AK-47’s. He had seen enough movies to recognize their distinctive shape. Standing there holding onto the nozzle Jim saw three of the men drop immediately, blood spurting from multiple gunshot wounds. But, there was no noise. Until, one of the middle easterners managed to get his gun firing. That was when Jim noticed the men running from across the street. Obviously, American special forces warriors, they were firing as they advanced. The difference between the middle easterner firing his AK randomly in desperation and the fast and silent professionalism of the operators readily apparent as Jim’s mind took the entire scene in.
Then one of the middle easterners ran around the front of the van and firing to east towards the two operators maneuvering past a row of short ornamental trees, was backing down towards Jim. And, Jim could see that the operators were not firing, because of Jim standing there.
So Jim took the nozzle out of the car’s fuel intake and smashed the middle easterner in the head gas spewing all over the side of the car and over the now unconscious jihadi. And, as quick as it started the fight was over. Out of six jihadi’s, four died, one was wounded by a carefully placed round from Gunny O’Kirk and the last concussed by Jim “Santa Claus” Thibodeau was alive and being carried to a Black Hawk Helicopter in the middle of the intersection.

Wendy opened the door from the restroom to see her father standing with a group of soldiers who seemed to be clapping him on the back like old friends.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Wendy asked.
Jim just turned to his daughter and smiled.
“It’s a guy thing Wendy. Just a guy thing.”
The Team looked at the puzzled look on Wendy’s face and laughed. The tension of another successful operation draining off with the implausible ending to the night.
Jim and Wendy talked well into the night.

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The Swasey Drive Fire of 1973

Firefighting

 

 

August 1973 was my third season of fighting fire in the mountains, foothills, and grasslands of Northern California. The California Division of Forestry – as it was known in the seventies – hired lots of high school graduates and college students for the summer fire season. It was what I called a “Primo” summer job and paid well enough to cover most of my costs for college. At the same time, however, it was a difficult job. Beyond the normal understanding that fire fighting is dangerous, the physical demands required substantial endurance conditioning. Each summer after the final semester, my job at CDF Fire Station Fawn Lodge would be waiting for me. But, after nine months of studying – and partying – it took a couple of weeks to get my conditioning back, so I could survive the brutal physical demands of fighting fire in triple digit temperature. 

 

Fawn Lodge sits in a natural bowl in the surrounding mountains of eastern trinity county. It is planted right on highway 299 on the road from Eureka and Redding. For a self-proclaimed wild man who liked to party hard, it was the perfect station.  Situated far enough from headquarters in Redding, Fawn Lodge – and Trinity County mostly – enjoyed a certain amount of isolation. Life slowed down once the conditioning came back and the CDF routine settled in. Still, each summer had its “white knuckle” moments and the summer of 1973, our trucks saw plenty of action.

 

June and July of 1973 came and went with relative ease.  But, by the final week of July and the first two weeks of August, fire conditions reached extreme levels. And, the second week of August –the week of the Swasey Drive fire – turned into a tiring series of sleepless nights and days of sequential fires.

 

In the middle of Wednesday night the larger of our two trucks deployed to a reserve position at headquarters in Redding. A rash of grass and brush fires occupied the Redding trucks requiring us to fill the standby slot. The trip down Buckhorn Summit snakes down towards Whiskeytown lake and normally I would have enjoyed the ride. But, after two and a half seasons of driving on mountain roads on the back of a fire truck, the trip to Redding at o’ dark thirty in the morning barely registered. My sleep interrupted, I determined to not miss any and buckling my self in with both seat belts to the thin foam seat pad, I wedged myself between the bulkheads of the truck and slept like a baby.

 

We never made it to headquarters. Headquarters diverted us to a fire south of Anderson California to help mop up a 500 acre brush fire. The sleep on the back of the truck was the last sleep I would get for the next 3 days.

 

Time passed quickly with us hopping from fire to fire, stopping only long enough to pump water and fuel into the truck, or to eat. Three days passed with little sleep, and when we did sleep it consisted of quick naps on the back of the truck or on tarp on the burnt out ground. Most of our activities consisted mopping up contained fires or watching for flare ups. Making sure that a fire stayed “Put-Out”. Although the night could be peaceful and allowed for a measure of rest at times, the requirement to remain alert eliminated any actual slumber. Night time on a fire forms a kind of alien landscape smelling of burnt grass. A surreal landscape only punctuated by the creeping movement of our truck patrolling the perimeter looking for smoldering embers.

 

The morning of the third day the fire incidents slowed down long enough for us to come into headquarters for showers and sleep. It was lunchtime, we all longed for the joy of a hot meal without the smell of smoke. We almost made it when the alarm on the radio sounded within view of the headquarters building, dashing our hopes of rest.  

 

A major wind-driven forest fire ignited to the south of highway 299 west of Redding in foothills covered with heat dried grasses, stands of manzanita, Live Oak, Valley Oak and Digger Pines.  With winds pushing 20 to 30 miles per hour the fire escalated from a small grass fire to a major fast-moving forest fire jumping from tree to tree. It burnt southwest into an area dotted with expensive homes, small ranches and an elementary school. The dry conditions of the long Northern California summer had created the perfect conditions for an explosive fire. The growth of the fire quickly escalated its status to that of a potential disaster. Fire fighting resources began moving towards the fire with a measured professional urgency. Trucks from all over the county and inmates from the California Department of Corrections raced to the fire. By the time headquarters diverted us, the complexity and speed of the fire caused the decision makers to overlook the fact that our truck had not been replenished with fuel or water since the day before. To be fair, our own sense of immediacy short circuited any practical common sense understanding that our truck would be useless in its current condition. Thus, our exhausted crew and empty truck – sirens on, adrenaline pumping, sleep forgotten – responded as trained.

 

Our Captain Bob Schepe – a consummate professional firefighter – recognized the serious nature of the situation in the level of excitement in the voices of the dispatchers, and by the number and speed of resources being allocated. That excitement contagiously raised the level of excitement in the truck. Driving through the heart of a city sirens blasting is a unique experience. The – “This is what I always wanted to do-ness” – that every boy experiences the first time a bright red fire truck screams past, kicked in for me every time we used the lights and sirens. But, Captain Bob’s stress coping mechanism was chain-smoking and Captain Bob was furiously coping. Each nervous drag creating our own smoke trail down highway 299 on the way to the fire.

 

We arrived on scene and the on scene commander positioned our truck – another asset on the chessboard – in a long line of fire trucks on Lower Springs Road which intersected with Swasey Drive about half a mile ahead. Captain Bob told me to drive. Then, grabbing the backfire torch began backfiring the south side of Lower Springs road, one of the other firefighters following behind with the hose mopping up the fire closest to the road. The dangerously low-level of water in the tank still not evident as we approached the main body of the fire.

 

It never occurred to me what kind of problem one hundred and ten in the shade, the heat from a raging fire, and chain-smoking could create for the human physiology. But, Captain Bob found they are ingredients capable of stopping a strong man in his tracks. Captain Bob swinging the backfire torch made it about a quarter of a mile to the intersection of Lower Springs Road and Swasey Drive before falling unconscious in the road. It would be determined later he had experienced a heat stroke. Before I had time to react a CDF Helicopter descended and carried Captain Bob away to the hospital. This left me temporarily…and apprehensively…in command of the truck. But, within a few minutes an Engineer from another truck jumped on board and took command.

 

As we turned onto Swasey Drive the full extent of what we were facing became evident – our truck was first in line. There laid out in front of our truck shimmering in the heat roared the largest fire I had ever seen. For a moment it seemed like I was a spectator watching a disaster movie. The road sloped up a gentle hill for perhaps a mile partially hidden by the swirling smoke permeating the air. The fire – for the moment – contained to the east side of the road had jumped from the brush to the tops of the digger pines and was racing towards the giant steel towers of the power lines flowing downhill from Whiskeytown Dam. Overhead, fire suppression air-tankers positioned themselves to drop their loads, while hundreds of inmates shuffled along the side of the road strung out in a long weary line, carrying brush hooks, pulaski’s, and shovels ready to keep the fire from jumping over Swasey Drive. to the west.

 

Our improvised leader responding to the orders of the on scene commander on the radio pulled out of line and gunned the truck up the road. Directed to race ahead of the fire to catch spotfires jumping the road, we raced past the inmates to our right and the fire – now well over a hundred feet high – to our left. The fire, moving faster than the inmates could walk, was escaping the boundaries of the road. 

 

Our truck raced past the head of the fire. The wind now driving it forward faster than a man could run. The sight of the fire only a number of yards from our truck raised the adrenaline – and fear – level on our truck to the maximum. So much so that when we pulled up to the spot fires on the right side of the road – spreading quickly in a rapidly growing circle of burning dry grass – my fingers fumbled to get the fire pump started. The engineer took over and directed me to take the hard-line from the hose reel and attack the spot fire. Jumping the barbed wire fence I ran towards the growing grass fire. Hearing the pump light off I opened the nozzle…no water. The urgency of the day had finally caught up with our truck. And, now the consequences of that urgency were upon us.

 

I looked up from the now useless hose – a desperate question on my face – to see the engineer pointing at the approaching fire on the other side of the road. He was backlit by a fifty foot wall of roaring raging fire! Fear began screaming in my ears sounding like a locomotive racing through a tunnel at full speed. The fire caught up with us faster than we could react. Smoke from the fire shut out the sun creating an eerie noisy and choking twilight in the middle of the day. It pounced on us like a supernatural carnivorous being.

 

“Get back on the Truck!” Screamed the engineer. “Get back here or we are all going to die!” He was attempting to reel the hose back to the truck. 

 

As we jumped back over the barbed wire fence I realized that my uniform shirt was catching fire from the sparks falling from the superheated air. Grabbing the hand hold to climb into the back compartment I noticed the paint on the truck beginning to bubble. Breathing became painful.

 

Once on board, the engineer accelerated through the fire and smoke in a desperate dash to life, dragging the hose behinds us the nozzle bouncing on the road adding its own sparks to those falling from the sky.

 

Within a few minutes we managed to drive to a safe zone, in a temporary fire camp. I sat in the back of the truck watching the activity around me moving in slow motion for what seemed like a long time. An EMT brought us a number of water bottles – I poured one over my head – and checked us out. He told me I was in shock and took me to a tented area to rest.

 

I was given a week off to rest up after that ordeal and during that week decided that there were safer ways to pay for college and resigned the following day.

 

 

 

 

 

The Payback

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The Payback

by Derek Hastings

My name is Zachary Tankersly. I’m a habitual practical joker. My wife tells me it’s one of my bad habits and I really need to stop devising and playing practical jokes. However, she still laughs when a particularly well planned scheme comes to its intended conclusion. Still, I know she’s right, because, sometimes the consequences take on an unintended life – an unexpected trajectory – of their own.

Today, however, practical joking is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m standing in the crowd of hopeful workers at the Baltimore Docks hoping and praying to hear my name called for a day’s work. Two years into what the newspapers are calling a depression, finding work mostly means daily frustration and a continual gnawing hunger.

Desperate men standing in the cold dirty air each as hungry as I are crowding the dock…it’s the same every day. Some appear to be almost dead from malnutrition rather than alive. They present a dilemma for the shipping companies and labor unions. If they sign these men to work, will they finish the day? Will they give a full day’s work without dying? I know some of the men waiting for work, having grown up in the same neighborhoods. There, two rows ahead, I spot Jeremy Brooks, the neighborhood bully. The one person I spent the most time figuring out how to avoid on the way to and from school. Bully took on a new shade of black with Jeremy. Forming a phalanx around him stood his current cadre of drinking buddies everyone of them, crude, brutal, and amoral wharf-rats. Off to my left – unsuccessfully trying not to be noticed – stands Tyree Henderson, a gloriously black human being.

Tyree’s father and my father, Gene Tankersly, worked together for years. My father drove a garbage truck for the City of Baltimore. Tyree’s father, Samson Henderson, managed the Can-Handlers for my father’s truck. So Tyree and I grew up around each other. Tyree went to a different school and church than I did, but, on weekends our fathers, and our families, would gather to barbeque and listen to the Orioles game on the radio.

Tyree has a special place in my heart, firmly cemented one cold October afternoon. After high school let out, I had arranged an elaborate prank to catch Tyree unawares. Tyree was difficult to fool. He was strong as two grown men by the time we were seniors in high school, and as difficult to surprise as a wild fox. Not much got past Tyree. So it had become my special challenge to catch Tyree in a glorious prank – and live to tell the story. Unfortunately, Jeremy Brooks fell into the trap. Instead of a good-humored Tyree responding with surprise and laughter, Jeremy’s legendary temper exploded. The first person Jeremy saw was my horrified face. All I could see was a pain-filled future as I prepared myself for the beating of my life.

Frantically looking around, all of my senses were heightened, straining to find the quickest escape route away from the situation. I was trapped with my back to the brick wall of the alley where I had positioned myself to view my masterpiece of a prank. Slowly I sidled out of the alley eyes focused on Jeremy – and by now his gang of bully wannabe’s – and began to back down the street. Jeremy’s face blazed bright red with the embarrassment of being caught in one of the “cockroaches” tricks, the need for revenge written all over his face. But, for some reason Jeremy just stood and glared at me. Then silently Jeremy and his gang backed away and disappeared into the alley I had just vacated.

Puzzled I turned around. There stood Tyree, his father, and his two older brothers.

“I see your pranksterism almost got the better of you this time” Samson smoothly chastised. “Perhaps now you will think twice about your constant scheming. I hate to think what those boys would have done to you if we had not come along when we did Zach. I think it would be a very good idea for you to come along with us the rest of the way to your house.” Mr. Henderson had that way about him. You never argued. And, given the circumstances at that moment, arguing was out of the question. My gratitude towards Tyree and his family was stamped upon my soul that afternoon.

Now I stand watching my friend – both of us grown and with families to feed – worrying and fretting about feeding his wife and kids. The odds of being chosen are less than ten percent with the number of jobs available compared to the number of men standing here on the docks. The odds far worse for a black man on the Irish controlled docks. Tyree is actually the only black man to consistently show up expecting to be chosen. I think it has to do with his pride. It’s Tyree’s way of saying, “I’m the problem that’s never going away! So you best be picking me and get it over with!” Sometimes I visualize Tyree being chosen, and then turning them down, just to make a point. Standing there dancing in place— like everyone else— to stay warm, I realized that that would be a great prank for Tyree to pull over the shipping company.

Still, I know his need for work has become more a matter of survival. There is a new Tyree in the family. Food equals life for the newborn now. Acts of defiance will not feed a family.

So I began praying a desperate prayer, “Jesus, pick Tyree! Convict their hearts to pick Tyree, Lord. The man is stronger than any three of us standing here right now! How can they not see this? How can you, Lord, let this injustice go on!”

My indignation over the unfairness of the situation causing my prayer to take the form of a challenge to The God I had heard could do miracles. Over the shuffling and grumbling of the crowd a quiet voice began speaking, “Ok, challenge accepted. I will use your prayer…and I will use you! Listen and believe!”

Not a second went by, before I heard a different voice calling my name. The Boss-Man was calling my name!

Realizing what The Lord had meant about using me, I push forward and grabbing my work chit, I turn to find Tyree. He is turning to leave. Head down, dejected, Tyree begins to shuffle slowly away from the Dock Yard. Running to him I grab his arm and pull him down to my level whispering, “You once saved my bacon when I least deserved it or expected it. Now I get to pay you back!” Shoving the chit into Tyree’s hand, and ignoring the look of shock on the big man’s face, I turn to go before he can refuse me. But, Tyree snags my collar in his grappling hook hands and starts to mumble something about not being able to accept the chit. About how I needed it as much as he did. Looking him right in the eyes I threaten him, “You take that chit! Or, I promise I will make your life miserable with the pranks I will foist on you!!”

The threat birthed a smile on the strong man I knew and he laughed at me, “I’d like to see you try…but, it’s a deal white boy!” Reaching out Tyree shakes my hand and gets in the line of workers heading through the gate. None of the other workers in line daring to challenge the big black man.

That was Tyree’s first day of continual work. He proved himself so capable that he earned a permanent position on the docks and eventually Tyree leveraged me onto his crew. We both stayed employed throughout the remainder of the depression. Sometimes it pays to challenge The Creator of the Universe.

Angel at the Bus

HISTORICAL PABT PHOTOS AND CONSTRUCTION

I wrote this a number of years ago for a book on angels by Jerry Orthner, “Angels: Friends in High Places”

January 5, 1980, dawned cold and cloudy, snow gently falling on the empty street. Only a few days earlier I had publicly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And today I was to catch a city bus that would take me to the Port Authority in New York City and on to coast guard training in Yorktown. Nancy and I moved slowly, trying not to think of the four months we would be apart.

Finally, with my duffel bag, a carry-on and my new Bible in the car, we headed for the bus station. About five minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive, I realized I had left my uniform hat back at the house. Nancy jumped in the car and drove back to get it, leaving me to wait for the bus. By the time she returned, I had missed the bus that would have allowed me to make connections in New York.

I finally boarded the next “86” and arrived at the Port Authority precisely at 10:30. I jumped off in a panic, my mind swimming with images of showing up late for Officer Candidate School.

Once inside, I found the ticket area, got in line and bought my ticket. My bus, they said, was leaving from Gate 36. I ran the full length of the building before I saw a sign that indicated that Gate 36 was downstairs and all the way back at the other end.

I glanced down at my watch. It was 10:45 and there were no people waiting in line! I crashed into the metal door with all the weight of my body and luggage. There sat the bus, engine idling.

Is this the bus to Baltimore?” I asked breathlessly as the driver opened the door.

Yes, it is,” he replied.

The man climbed down from his seat and proceeded to the cargo compartment to stow my bag. He was a big man, over six feet tall with broad shoulders, a big smile and white hair. As I turned to climb into the bus, he asked, “What’s that book you have there?”

It’s my new Bible,” I replied. “I just bought it last weekend.”

The driver smiled.

Read Psalm 91:11 and you will see why I waited for you.”

What?” I exclaimed, exhausted from the excitement.

Read Psalm 91:11 and you will see why I waited for you.”

I climbed on board, found a seat on the let side about halfway back near the window and opened my Bible. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

I looked up. The driver was watching me in the large rearview mirror.

Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said as our eyes met.

Sometime later, in Baltimore, I watched as the bus pulled out of the station and stopped at a traffic signal a short distance down the road. The driver turned, locked eyes with me and, with another big smile, waved. Amazed, I waved back.

When I finally reached the motel, I called Nancy and told her about the incident on the bus.

Maybe the man was your guardian angel,” she suggested.

As first such a thing was difficult to believe, but when I thought about it, I realized that I had not pre-purchased my tickets and no one knew I was coming. Although I arrived almost fifteen minutes past the departure time, the driver said he had specifically waited just for me! And, what’s more, he had waited because God had commanded His angel to guard me along my way.

Throughout the years I have held on to this memory as a very personal and special gift from my Heavenly Father. I believe the Lord sent His angel to establish in my heart whose child I had become.

Moonfire

spiral-moonfire-lm-fractal-wallpaper-art

Turnips the dog snapped at the flies buzzing around his head, circled three times and settled into the straw bed near the shoeing stool. Evening brought the onslaught of skeeters swarming around the water trough and under the weeping willow trees. Light from outside the blacksmith shop was dimming enough that the glow from the brazier seemed brighter by contrast. Turnips sighed a lazy huff and lowered his shaggy head onto his paws.

 

Around the side of the low ramshackle smithy, two lethargic Clydesdales ambled by, pulling firewood from the foothills into town. October was almost over bringing the first frosty mornings, but the afternoons still suffocated in a summer that refused to go away. The dust from the yard desperately needed a good rainstorm to settle it down.

 

Turnips lay in filthy contentment in the cooler air closer to the floor. His day had been epic, as far as dog days go.  The morning was full of exploration and rolling in fun-smelling dead and flattened bullfrog. The afternoon had been spent wandering the streets of Turnips’ own town, Trinity Hollow. Now it was time for dinner after the master finished his work.

 

From inside the shack, a steady sound of the bellows created a rhythm for the pounding of the hammer on the anvil, which lulled Turnips to sleep.

 

On a short stool at the bellows sat Henry, a boy of twelve who looked forward to someday having his own smith shop. He was covered in sweat and soot, but his smile grew brighter as each blast of air urged the coals to the proper intensity of heat.

 

Prentice, the blacksmith, hovered over the anvil, carefully swinging his hammer to the rhythm of the bellows. Prentice was a short man, but powerfully built. His arms stuck out from his chest like cranes from a ship, long and powerful from a lifetime of working iron into useful tools and works of art. Sweating in the golden glow of the brazier, Prentice considered himself lucky to have the shop at such a young age. The shop had been his father’s — until he died — and now was his. Prentice was determined to continue the proud legacy his father had created: “To do him proud” Prentice would say to his neighbors. His happiness and his commitment to sustain his father’s excellent reputation brought him a lot of business. It also helped that Prentice was the only blacksmith in thirty miles.

 

Henry liked Prentice. He looked up to him. And, it is safe to say that Prentice was everything Henry wanted to be when he grew up. Henry liked that Prentice  was young, independent, strong, and a good storyteller. He came to help Prentice whenever he could and would often stay to listen to the corny jokes Prentice would share with his customers.

 

“Excuse me, Mister Hart,” called a figure in the doorway. There stood Henry’s father. It was time for Henry to come home.

 

“Howdy, Mr. Turner, Come for Henry, eh?” Prentice asked, watching the boy dunking his head in the cooling barrel.

 

Prentice handed Henry a towel and asked, “You be back tomorrow, Hercules?”

 

Mr. Turner looked at Henry and asked. “Hercules?!?”

 

“Yep, the boy’s getting pretty strong . . .  almost wrestled a bone away from Turnips today! Sometimes even I find it hard to do that!”

 

“Well,” Mr. Turner sighed. “I have a load of brick for the foundation of Mrs. Turner’s Teahouse, and Henry’s new found strength is going to be needed to get the brick from the front yard to the back. But, he’ll be back when he’s done, probably this weekend at the latest, Prentice.”

 

Prentice smiled and jokingly chided. “Well, I don’t know Mr. Turner. I’d hate to ask Turnips there to run the bellows tomorrow instead; he’s kind of on vacation this month.” Then, chuckling, Prentice reached into his pocket and pulled out two bits and handed it to Henry.

 

Prentice grabbed a clean hand towel and said, “I was about to lay off for the evening anyway; Turnips is giving me the ol’ evil eye.”

 

Prentice watched as Henry and his father disappeared down the road, laughing at Prentice’s joke about “Hercules Henry.” Then he turned to Turnips, and as he put the cover on the brazier, began to talk to his best friend and companion.

 

“You ready for dinner, Nips? Yeah? Right then, let’s eat.”

 

Night found Prentice sitting on his wood pile. He shifted a little so his shoulder blade would be more comfortable. The noise woke Turnips, who sat up and began to study his master. Prentice was deep in thought and had sat deep into the night on more than one occasion. Faraway thoughts rambled around his mind. Prentice was a blacksmith, but not a simple man. His prayers reached the Creator throughout the day, but especially at night. Lately, many a thankful prayer for God’s overwhelming provision had shot up like fireworks from the woodpile. Now he was watching the moon slip away into the higher branches of the willow trees. It might have looked as if he were a lonely man, but for the smile of contentment on his face. If you asked him if he thought he was lonely Prentice would probably have laughed and said something like, “Lonely? No sir! Now, if I was lonely I’d probably be off somewhere else doing something about it.”

 

“This is the life, Nips!” Prentice said, as he grappled with a handful of dirty floppy ear. “No one to bother. I live like I want, and have all I want of good eatin’. Nope, I wouldn’t exchange my life for nothin’ Nips. Look at that moon there. You couldn’t find a prettier picture anywhere — darn skeeters!” Prentice slapped a big one on his now clean bicep. “Only these darn skeeters to bother me. But, I suppose they gotta live somewhere too, huh Nips?”

 

Soon the moon was very high and full in the sky. Moon shadows painted the ground a pleasing contrast of light and dark, making the smithy’s front yard look like an abstract checkers board.

 

“There’s something about this here moon, I’m not too sure about, Turnips. I mean, here I am and there it is — the way it usually is — but there’s something different up there now. It’s like it’s alive and breathin’. Can ya feel it Nips?” Prentice leaned forward and grabbed the big dog by the neck, startling him out of his sleep.  Oh, sleepin,’ eh? Wake up! I’m talkin’ at ya!” Prentice laughed, and pointed Turnips’ head towards the moon. “Look at that moon. Will ya? Ain’t it somethin’ else? Just like it was starin’ down at me the same way I’m starin’ up at it, all shimmery and brighter than ever before! Kinda spooky if ya ask me.”

 

But, Nips wasn’t listening to Prentice this time. His sensitive ears had picked up a sound he had never heard before, shrill and wavering but definitely melodic. So melodic that Nips got up and started to wander slowly into the moonlight. Tilting his head back and forth, Nips began to whimper.

 

Turnips had never acted this way before. Curiosity mixed with apprehension caused the hairs to stand up on Prentice’s neck. “You hear that too, Nips?” he asked as he stepped down from the wood pile. Standing in the shadows looking into the moonlight, the sound of his breathing mingled with the melodic warbling that seemed to come from the moonlight. Slowly walking into the light, Prentice turned to look across the road.

 

Standing in the dry grass on the other side of the fence across the road, and under a giant overgrown willow tree, stood a girl, or rather a very young woman. A bright pool of moonlight shone down around the woman, highlighting her silvery hair and the glittering sky blue gown she wore. But, it was her eyes that Prentice noticed first.

 

Set close together in an extremely petite face, the woman’s eyes looked as if they were on fire — a deep scintillating blue fire. She smiled at Prentice, revealing rows of even, small, white teeth. Prentice stood stunned in the yard. Nothing like this had ever happened in Trinity Hollow. “No one dresses like that around here.” Prentice absent-mindedly mumbled, “Nips, I don’t think that woman is from around here . . .” Prentice could not take his eyes off the woman.

 

The woman was staring back at Prentice and began to smile. An audible trilling sound similar to the sound that had frightened Nips began to fill the air. The sound seemed to come not only from the woman, but also from the surrounding area. It was like a dozen canaries singing in harmony — in their sleep. Prentice stood in the middle of the road, every sense brought to attention. The branches on the willows remained motionless in the still air; the moonlight outlined every detail in the grain of the wood of the fence. Each dust particle in the road seemed to stand out, and the night air expanded and contracted with each thunderous breath Prentice took. Heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat . . .

 

Frightened by the strange noise, Turnips suddenly came to life and began to bark at the woman. Instantly, the woman turned and fled with the speed of a pleasant dream upon waking, the pool of moonlight pointing her out as she flitted through the trees.

 

Prentice watched until the woman had disappeared into the trees. Then he sat back down on his woodpile holding Turnips, overwhelmed, speechless, and incredibly wide awake. He sat there until the moon had fallen below the trees. Who was she? Where did she come from? If only Turnips hadn’t barked! The thoughts and questions cascading through his mind would not let him sleep.

 

The next day, Prentice struggled to keep his mind on his work. So, he closed up early and took Turnips for a long walk out of town to do some fishing. His thoughts replayed the previous night’s events over and over. Later, after a dinner of trout and baked potato – and being the kind of man that talks to animals – he sat down to reason with Turnips to not scare the woman away again. Something was telling Prentice that she would be back.

 

The moon couldn’t rise fast enough that night. Unable to sit on the woodpile, Prentice paced around the yard praying for God to bring the woman back. A couple of times clouds skimmed the face of the moon as it was rising, causing Prentice to anxiously glance at the sky. He didn’t know what was happening; all he knew was that he wanted to see the woman again. She was beautiful, and exciting, like no one he had ever encountered. And, it did something to his heart. A longing was growing inside of him that he hadn’t known was there, and it was kind of scary. Part of him was stirring, coming to life. The emotions were unexpected and he didn’t know how to deal with them. All Prentice could think of was that he wanted to see the woman again.

 

When the trilling sound came, Prentice had just taken the precaution of tying Turnips to the water pump in the yard. It came so suddenly Prentice almost tripped over Turnips and had to grab the pump handle to keep from falling. Slowly, he walked over to the fence, his short stocky legs wobbly with expectation. “Will she talk to me?” Prentice whispered.

 

Prentice stopped in the road a few yards from the fence, his heart in his throat. Her eyes were even more enchanting up close, and it took Prentice some time to muster the courage to talk.

 

“What is your name?” asked Prentice, smiling like a little boy.

 

The woman just smiled back, through that moonlit aura.

 

That was when the midnight stagecoach came rumbling up the road almost running Prentice over. After it passed, Prentice looked up and the woman was gone, a bare glimmer of moonlight receding through the trees as she did the night before.

 

Prentice stood there leaning on the fence until the sky began to turn orange as the sun rose over his blacksmith shop.

 

Prentice did not sleep that day. Instead, he walked into town and with his life savings bought as much silver as he could afford. The woman behind the counter stood stunned by the amount of money the blacksmith spent. Then he walked as fast as he could back to his shop.

 

Prentice hurried to his shop and began to work on an idea that had grown out of the sleeplessness. He worked through the day creating a mold for the surprise he had in mind for the woman he was now calling Moonfire. The mold was finished after a hasty lunch, eaten under the baleful stare of Turnips, who was still tied up to the water pump. Melting the silver quickly followed to prepare it for pouring in the mold. When darkness came he worked on cleaning up his messy blacksmith shop while the silver cooled.

 

Finally, as the sun was beginning to drop past the fence across the street, Prentice began the process of removing the silver from the mold. As he carefully chipped the mold away, a silver tiara came forth in the light of the brazier. With a piece of steel wool and a soft cloth, the silver began to shine. A work of love was revealed.

 

Prentice had convinced himself that this woman, Moonfire, was someone the Good Lord had sent to him. Moonfire was special and the last two nights had convinced Prentice that it wasn’t good for him to be alone anymore. The time had come to deal with that, and also that this was an obvious sign from God. So now he was going to do something about it. Although Prentice knew he wasn’t a beautiful man– short, stocky and probably smelly– he knew how to create beauty and was sure that this skill would help him convince this gift from God that he was worthy of her.

 

The time weighed on Prentice, increasing his anxiety. His eyes were trying to pierce the darkness outside of the shop, and his ears were sifting through the millions of night sounds. But, he didn’t go outside. He stayed inside polishing the tiara.

 

Soon the moon arrived over the shop lighting the yard, the road, and the fence across the road . . . and then the trilling began. Prentice and Turnips both stood and looked for Moonfire. But, instead of running to the fence, Prentice sat down on his shoeing stool, holding the tiara and waiting in the dark, hoping to draw Moonfire into the shop. Prentice figured that he could limit the interruptions in his own shop.

 

Slowly the sound came closer, until a bright silvery glow edged around the door. Standing apprehensively by the door, peering into the darkness of the room, stood Moonfire. Curiosity overcame her animal-like skittishness. She was acting like a deer carefully approaching a salt lick, wary of being ambushed.

 

At first, Moonfire wouldn’t come any closer than the door. But, when Prentice stood and beckoned her into the room she blushed and slowly walked into the room. Soon, she was standing right in front of Prentice, closer than she had come before, and it looked as though she was trying to say something to him. Prentice thought perhaps if she saw the gift he had for her she would say something, so Prentice brought it out into the light of the brazier and presented it to her.

 

“Please take this. I . . . I don’t know you. But, I think you are the most beautiful person I have ever seen. Please, I made this for you. I made it so that you might feel like talking to me. I really don’t have anyone here to talk to, except old Turnips. I made it for you. I hope you like it. It’s real silver, you know.”

 

When she made no move towards taking the tiara, Prentice slowly reached out and put the tiara on her head and leaned forward to kiss her.

 

The woman smiled but placed her hand gently on Prentice’s lips to stop him. “Thank you Prentice, but this is not for me.” I am merely a messenger sent by your Father in Heaven. I have been sent to bring you a message from Him. He wants you to know that He loves you and will take care of what you need. He created your heart, hears every one of your prayers, and knows you are lonely. Only you must understand that I cannot stay with you. As much as I would like to, I am an angel and I must return to Heaven. My name is Arendal, and I watch over you always.” Arendal reached up, took the tiara, and placed it back into Prentice’s’ hands.

 

“An angel?” Prentice thought. God sent me an angel? “You watch over me?” Prentice asked.

 

“Yes,” Arendal replied. “I am your guardian angel. I have watched over you since you were first born. Your heart is strong and your love for the Father and His Son is praised around the throne. You are not alone, Prentice, never alone when the King of All is your Father.”

 

With that, Arendal disappeared and left Prentice standing in the light of the brazier holding the silver tiara.

 

Later the next morning – Prentice prepared to return to his routine. Still pondering what had happened the night before, the tiara sat on the shoeing stool, watched closely by Turnips. Prentice was tying his apron around his waist and pulling his heavy hammering gloves onto his hammer-shaped hands, when he heard someone approaching, the sound of a horse being led by someone, a horse that had thrown a shoe. He thought more work . . . then turned to look at who was coming.

 

Standing in the doorway was a young woman, the woman who had sold him the silver from town the day before leading a beautiful coal black mare and a horseshoe. She looked down and saw the tiara sitting on the stool, then looked at Prentice.

 

“So that’s what you did with all that silver!” she exclaimed. “It’s beautiful!! I see that you are more than a blacksmith; you are an incredible artist! What do you plan to do with it?”

 

Prentice’s mouth fell open. She was the spitting image of Arendal! He had not noticed her the day before. But, there she stood, plain as day, the answer to Arendal’s reminder that God knew what he needed. Here was the Hand of God demonstrated in a tangible way. Arendal was as sure a sign as any.

 

Prentice stepped forward, took the reins of the horse, and as he checked the hoof said, “I have not figured out what to do with it yet. It is for someone special.” He looked up at the woman and their eyes met and Prentice felt his soul soar with the love he saw staring back at him.

 

“What is your name?” Prentice asked.

 

“Nancy,” she replied, as she joyfully reached out to shake Prentice’s hand.

 

 

 

The CliffHanger

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The CliffHanger

I like to read . . . alot. My mother would take me to the Shasta County Library in Redding at a very young age. Some of my oldest memories are of these times when she would take me to the library and read to me. Or, I would sit and listen as volunteers would read to a group of us. Because of this environment I learned to read at a very early age. And, mom made sure that I had a library card and taught me how to use it. I never read any of the Hardy Boys stuff though. Really the very first books that I can actually remember was a series by Joseph Altsheler. He was a prolific writer of young adult historical fiction. My favorite was the Young Trailers series and the French and Indian War series. Don’t ask me to remember the names of the characters though, because I can’t. I just remember how exciting the books were.

As I got older, I read science fiction. One of my favorite things, however was the Doc Savage series. Yep, plain old pulp. Doc and his gang would get into all kinds of trouble solving mysteries and right down to the end you would be kept in suspense until Doc saved the day. Just great fun reading where Doc would always win. But, the fun was in how the writer kept you in suspense all the way until the end.

There is a strategy here that can best be explained by a question. Would you read the book if you knew how it would end before you started reading? I know; some of you are saying, “Well, if Doc always wins? How much fun would that be? You in essence already know how it will end. Doc Wins!” There is some truth to that matter. But, it’s not all about the ending. It’s about Heroes and the adventure. It’s about vicariously living an adventure — as fantastic as it was written — that you will never practically be capable of living. It’s just fun to imagine that someone like Doc could do the things he does. It’s about the journey through that imaginary world. Even if it only exists for the 3 or 4 hours it would take me to read one of those pulp novels.

Living with Christ is much the same way. Life is — or should be — an Epic Adventure with Jesus and The Holy Spirit! And, there will be all kinds of “CliffHanger” moments as you travel through life with Them.

Yes, I know. We know how it all turns out. Jesus comes back and kicks booty and takes His Kingdom. And those that Love Him will be with Him where He is. The Resurrection is an amazing thing to look forward to. But, that is not what life is all about.

Life is a journey, an adventure, set before you as a challenge. Jesus as The Word, spoke Creation into existence. Some say He SANG it into existence. It was a Love Song! The Creation is so glorious, immense and endless and — quite frankly — beyond our capabilities as finite beings to understand. And, there is a purpose to it. God wants to share this with us. God is into adventure, boundless joy, huge belly laughs, infinite compassion, and in contrast to that, an amazing peaceful love that rules everything else. He is extending an incredible invitation to explore all that with HIM. That is, after all what we were created for.

So God is the ultimate author. He is writing countless stories in the lives of His Creation. He wants to write an amazing roller-coaster ride of a story in your life. One filled with passion, and adventure. One where He will be right there beside you the entire way. Leading you through the obstacle course of life. You just have to trust that He knows the way through. After all, we know how the story ends, right? So why not enjoy the CliffHangers of Life?

I have heard that Faith can be best described by the word RISK.

Are we willing to risk this life in the bubble of time to gain what Faith and The Word tell us is the true reality? Are we going to live in that prayer, Thy Kingdom Come Thy Will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven?

Yes, many of our lives today resemble tragedies. At times there seems to be no way out. We are tied up and on the tracks of life and the locomotive of disaster — whatever that looks like for you — is bearing down on you. If you know The Heart of Jesus, you know He is way better than Dudley-Do-Right at saving people. And, satan has less power over you than that animated character Snidely Whiplash.

So let Jesus rewrite your story. The next time the Holy Spirit whispers something over the top in your ear, that can only be accomplished by Him. Take Him up on it. Step out and take the risk. He won’t disappoint you.

Trust me comfort is not all it cracks up to be.

The Same Old Same Old

hourglass

My father used to tell me how time seemed to go faster the older he became. Which, from my perspective at the time, didn’t make sense as I wanted to get to drinking age as quick as possible. Time couldn’t go fast enough for me.

I’m 59, will be 60 in July. My perspective now agrees with my father’s from way back then. Frequently I caught myself wishing time would slow down over the years. More, frequently now. And, I recognized something when I remembered my father’s voice as he talked about time. I could hear a sense of nostalgic regret in his tone. As he remarked how time was running away. As I sit here typing I can hear the echoes of his apprehension. This apprehension dwells under the ground, behind the hedges, around the corner, just out of reach and out of sight. But, it’s there, and the older I get it persists in reminding me to acknowledge its presence.

My father is still alive. Probably if I were to ask him about this he would join me in a mutual dissatisfaction with the way time disappears.

I realize it’s just a matter of perception. Kind of like the old saying, “Time Flies”. My mind, however, convinces me otherwise. At times I know I am becoming borderline compulsive with this. It’s something I have grown into the more time passed me by. So much time have I spent cogitating on this, I have developed an — I think — interesting, and somewhat plausible explanation for all this. I wanted to keep it to myself, because the answer — the explanation — is not one of those warm and fuzzy ones. It’s actually very prickly, and brutally matter of fact.

Actually, the understanding came slowly. Wrapped up in the everyday routines — the same old same old things — that outlined my life. Wake up, talk to God, exercise, shower, eat, go to office, come home eat lunch, back to office, home for dinner, feed dogs, T. V. , brush teeth, sleep, . . . repeat, repeat, repeat.
One day — actually it was late evening — taking the garbage cans to the street, I saw myself trundling the can just a few steps ahead of me. There I was, last week, walking the same path with same can, setting it in the exact same old place. It felt like I had just set the can there a moment ago. My mind said “That was last thursday!” but, my eyes and my knower saw it otherwise. I watched as I set the can down and walked back up the driveway, right past where I was standing. The other me didn’t even acknowledge my presence

“What’s going on here!?” My knower shouted. “Is this some kind of Hyper Delusional Deja Vu?”

I suppose if I had the energy, I could find and read, volume upon volume of philosophical and scientific (some not so scientific) treatises, that would explain what time is all about. But, I have found it simple really. Time is a created construct. It forms a kind of temporary reality in which humankind learns to love and live with the Creator of all things. This construct of reality is surrounded by the never changing true reality that has no limitations. This one, the one I live in, and you also, is subject to the finite hourglass of God.

For each of us, time ends at some point we cannot know. My mother’s end came like running headlong into an invisible brick wall. Sudden and final. For others the brick wall is raised slowly brick by brick. The body slowly wasting away until there is only a wisp of breath barely escaping into the atmosphere. Until the body’s metronome ticks it’s last tick, as the last brick in the wall clicks into place. As selfish as it is, part of me wants to run head long into the brick wall. The other part of me wants to hide the bricks from the Holy Brick Mason.

Here is the point. Time is a commodity. And, the HBM (Holy Brick Mason) is standing there with his pile of bricks watching us. Watching how we handle the time we have been given. He can see the hourglass, we can’t. I think there is a certain amount of mercy attached to that. I can’t imagine the anxiety issues that would come with knowing when the end was to come. My mind conjures up this image of an hourglass that hovers in the upper right corner of my vision every waking moment. Kind of like the health meter in a computer game that shows how much health you have left on the current life. There to remind me of how quickly I am wasting the moments. Of course it wouldn’t just be a visual of an hourglass, there would have to be a sound effect as well. Time ticking by? Nah, it’s an hourglass, so there would be this barely perceptible sound of sand sliding over glass. A soft shuffling sound that never changes and is always there underneath your conversations, underlining the movie you were watching, accenting your dreams in the night.

The scary thing about all of this is this. Routines are comfortable. We spend so much of our time creating comfortable routines. Routines that we are in control of. Building our boxes so that no one can mess up what’s inside. But, routines require very little imagination to construct and they are subject to fear. Fear that someone or something will actually disrupt that comfortableness. Routines then turn into ruts, which make us behave more like rats in a maze than living breathing receptacles for the Holy Spirit.

The danger of ruts is that time despises them. The more ruts in your life the faster time disappears from your hourglass. Matthew 13:12 says, “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” This verse works for this Hyper Delusional Deja Vu thing. The more you try to keep the time for yourself, the more it disappears. The more your life models a same old same old tired rut, the more the HBM begins to ready his trowel.

Like I said, I have spent a lot of time pondering this. Someone might ask, why would God design a system like that? I don’t know exactly. But, I have my suspicions. All I can do is put myself in His Shoes. If you created a world and a someone you thought you could live a life of love with. Wouldn’t you want that person to actually love you?

Mind you now, we are talking about the God of a Creation so large we still cannot see the edges of it. Even with the best tools human minds have conceived. We are talking about the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. He has always been alive and will always be alive. He has no beginning and no end. If you were suddenly faced with such a person, what wouldn’t you say or do to get Him on your side. To reap the benefits of being “Best Buddies” with such an individual. This is somewhat the same problem a young billionaire bachelor or bachelorette faces when they want to find a “REAL” relationship. Does my date like me for who I am or for my money?

So if you were God how would you find that “REAL” relationship? Put an ad in the paper? EHarmony?

Do you see the dilemma? So maybe you can look at time as a kind of “Dating Service Questionnaire”. Yes that’s kind of a hard truth. You are being tested. You are being measured. Your loyalty is being put to the test. And, you only have so much sand in the hourglass until your test is graded. But, before we go any further let me ‘splain something here. Someone has already taken your test for you and passed. That would, be Jesus.

Wait! You probably have connected the dots here. If I have already passed the test through Jesus, then why does the hourglass keep running. Why do the Deja Vu loops keep injecting themselves into my day? Can’t we just get this whole TIME thing over with? Life here on this planet can be difficult. Can’t we just get to the good part?

Then Jesus asks, “Sure, but do you Love Me? Do you really Love me?”

It comes down to this. Have you accepted His Lordship into your life? Claimed the destiny that Father God designed for you from before Creation was created, and intentionally, radically, started walking in that? Then you will be with Him in Paradise when the Brick Wall meets your face. But, there is one thing that comes with using your time wisely. Not only do you seem to get more time to spread His Love and Live the destiny He built for you, but you get rewarded.

Now don’t get me wrong. Those rewards are saved up for you where you cannot see them. They are on the other side of the Brick Wall.

You see, it’s all about perspective. “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. May your Kingdom come and Your Will be done, Here on Earth as it is in Heaven.” That’s all about perspective. His perspective. Jesus gives us access to the perspective of heaven. Our reward is there in the Real Reality. Remember, what I said about the temporary reality where time rules? Where would you want your reward to be stored? Here where you are only going to waste it on your Rut? Building more protection into your comfortable routine? Embellishing your Rut?

Ok, back to perspective . . . well maybe perception . . . your perception. What is real to you? Time based routine? Or, perhaps The Kingdom of Heaven? If you love Him, do you believe Him? Do you believe that He exists? Do you really believe Heaven is waiting? There is another test. He is testing your perception. Calling you to a different perspective. And, the wonderful thing is, when you change your perspective to His, Time slows down.

If you could see him, the HBM is now smiling and he has laid his trowel down. He is chuckling to himself and pointing you out to the Lover of your soul. When you love with His Love, you are using your time wisely. The more time you give away to someone the more you get back. Like I said, Time is a commodity just like money or anything else with value.

But, back to the scary part. What would you do if you could see everyone’s hourglass but yours? Would you ignore them? Would you run and hide?

The last time I had the Hyper Delusional Deja Vu happen, I was getting ready for bed. Finished with brushing my teeth I walked into my room and there I was already asleep. Sleeping in my same old same old bed at the tail end of my day’s rut. I wanted to kick me out of my bed! What are you doing there?!? Why are you sleeping? I could feel the approach. Something was coming. Standing there in my room, shivering in the cold, painfully desiring to be under the covers blissfully asleep, I realized that something basic had changed. Something had shifted. It was my room, but it wasn’t, it was different. And, the other me was not listening! He was the me in the rut!

In situations like this I like to write. I try to describe the moment. Sometimes Father God or the Holy Spirit gives me stories to write. Thoughts to implant into the world. But, I had no words for this. I don’t think there are words to describe what I could only wonder at.

I climbed into the bed and sleep came quickly. My mind tried to work it’s way around what I had just encountered, but sleep gratefully slammed the door on it.

The morning came and the rut began. Normal breakfast, Email, dressed for the office, garage door up, out into the sunshine, rut running straight and true. I backed down the driveway into the world.

The first one I noticed came at me in an approaching car. A young mother returning from her workout, starbucks in hand heading home to gather the kids for school. There it was, the hourglass! Then she was past me. I tried to turn to look, but she disappeared up the road into the subdivision. I saw the hourglass 4 more times by the time I got to the office. The hourglasses were hard to catch as cars flashed by in the opposite lane. But, I was still able to distinguish the shape through the windshields. In full freak out stage by the time I got out of my car at the office I stood there watching the cars file past me into the parking lot. Every car had an hourglass! I couldn’t see how full any of them were as the hourglasses were in the vehicle with the person they were attached to.

Eventually, I made it into my office and attempted to restart my rut . . . with no success. I was well and completely undone. And, when one of my co workers walked past my office I could see the hourglass in detail. In relationship to his head it was about a quarter the size. It was gorgeous! It looked as though it were made of crystal and gold. Solidly built and projecting a gleaming supernatural quality! The hourglass seemed like a heavenly appendage protruding into time. Maybe the hourglass was time itself. “Does time have personality?” I thought. If I asked the hourglass a question would it answer me?

As I sat there in my leather chair, waiting for my computer to boot, my mind began to toy with all the suggestions that popped like kernels of corn into that internal popcorn popper of possibilities. I think I am like any other curious guy that encounters the supernatural. There is an excitement that comes with it. A sense of importance that attends the advent of the supernatural into the life of the beholder. After all, I must be important in some way to be blessed to witness this. Right?

But, then my analytical side spoke up. “Yeah, it’s supernatural, and way cool! But, what does it mean?”

I imagined my impulsive side answering. “Mean? Who cares what it means? That’s the Hourglass of Heaven! And, God is letting us see it! It’s kind of like getting to witness the angelic interacting with the world!”

Then the analytic one, true to his name, points out, “Yeah, very cool! But, you didn’t answer my question. What does it mean? Why can we see that particular thing? Take a second and remember what the Hourglass is all about! Interacting with the supernatural in this world always has a purpose. Even if that purpose is just the exchange of a loving expression of comfort or confidence. So, Mr. Impulsive, what does it mean?”

I got up from my chair and stood where I could observe my friend across the hall. There it was hovering just above and to the right of his head. And, I could hear it! I could hear the sand falling! The sand glittered and shone as it fell down into the bottom chamber of the glass. It was almost empty! My heart wanted to break…..

How!? Why!? What do I do with this!? Why me!? Lord Help!

The questions began to come faster than I could arrange them into intelligent requests. I was stumbling inside, emotionally tripping over what I was seeing. I needed to see more. I thought that perhaps the more hourglasses I found, I would get an answer. So I walked around the office and everyone had an hourglass. Some were full, some not so full. Some were dangerously close to empty. I probably came off as very strange that morning as I doubt I answered anyone’s hello good morning.

Here we were in the midst of a beautiful Northern California brisk early spring morning. The sun was pouring in through the windows and life was in full swing as far as the rest of them realized, their ruts were safe and well stocked with everything needed to keep life comfortable. No terrorists in Chico, and the knifings and rapes only happen in collegetown or near the areas the gangs hang out. I have my Rut and life is comfortable, thank you.

Back in my office the realization came in like the sun through the slats in the blinds. God is allowing me to see His perspective. He can see the hourglasses over the heads of His Creation. Time is transparent to Him. I realized right then that the pain in my heart when I saw an empty hourglass, was the pain in His Heart. The thought came into my head, “When those hourglasses run out, they will die, and it will be ALL your fault! Why else would He show them to you?” I panicked! Was this all my fault? Was I expected to save them all? How many people are on the earth at this moment? Good old Google . . . over 7 Billion and growing by 80 Million a year . . . NO that’s impossible! How could I warn that many people before millions of those hourglasses ran out?!?

I heard, “You can’t. But, I can.”

“Lord? Is that you?” I blurted.

“Yep, tis I.” He said with a smile. “Pay no attention to the sourpuss with the colorful lies. He just wants someone to wallow in his misery with him. We know you can’t tell all the people what you see. Most of them won’t believe you, even if you tried. So, there must be another reason for showing you the hourglasses. Right?”

“I suppose so, Lord. I just know that the pain I feel when I see the time running out on someone is unbearable. And, right now I just want to run and hide. The responsibility of knowing is just too much. How do you handle it? How do you handle the pain of watching your creation kill itself off? How do you handle the pain we inflict on each other every day?” My tears were overflowing and running down my face. “So, what is the reason Lord? Why have you shown me this?” My question echoed in my ears.

“I don’t expect you to talk to all 7 Billion, but I expect you to try to reach the ones you can reach. My confidence in you is only surpassed by how much I love you. All I have ever asked of anyone is to step out and try. That is all I need to move in power and change a world. The hourglasses are a symbol of urgency, designed for this time in human history. Never has there been as many of you alive at one moment. Great and epic stories will be told throughout eternity about this time. You alone cannot do much. But, filled with my Spirit we can do the impossible. We can do Kingdom sized projects. We can refill the hourglasses of those that catch a glimpse of Me. Together we can Dance the Kingdom Dance and thumb our noses at Mr. Liar Liar Pants on Fire. We can live like the Kingdom Rules here in the land of the Hourglasses and Party till Kingdom Comes! How does that sound my Son?!?” With that last statement I caught a glimpse of One like the Son of Man dressed like it describes in Revelation Chapter 1. But, He wasn’t just standing there. He was dancing a jig!

So that was my Hourglass encounter. And, if I ever do anything ever again, the first thing I want to do is take a revolver to the head of the ruts in my life. They are going to go the way of the DoDo down the greased road to extinction!

Haiti in 1984 — Travels Aboard USCG Cutter Lipan

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Haiti, the smell drifted across the water as our ship, Cutter Lipan, maneuvered to the pier slicing through the humidity and haze that filtered the scintillating heat of the sun. The crew was ready for some time ashore, away from the current drug patrol. Being the Duty Officer I would stay aboard for the first watch while the rest of the crew went sight-seeing.

The brutal smell of Port-au-Prince in the summer of 1984 was only second to the reality of life on its streets. The poverty, heat, and disorder suffocate the senses. I stood on the signal deck of the ship during that first afternoon and scanned the city through the “Big Eyes” (large binoculars). As Port-au-Prince sits in a half bowl that funnels the city down to the port, there is much to see. Just like the old city it is, the higher up the hills you ascend the better the homes and living conditions. The poorest of poor live close to the water.

One of the more potent images left in my mind, is of a man walking the shoreline casting a net hoping to catch a fish. I followed his progress through the big eyes, only to witness the man drop his pants and defecate there on the shoreline in full view of everyone around him.

I planned to visit a missionary that lived in Port-au-Prince, and formed a small exploration party with two like-minded believers from the crew. I didn’t know the missionary, but I had heard of them from Officer Christian Fellowship and wanted to visit and be a blessing in any way I could. Immediately upon leaving the ship we were accosted by vendors selling the ubiquitous carved wooden figurines. We negotiated with a hyperactive boy to guide us to our destination. Which it turned out, he wasn’t very familiar with. Our circuitous route took us into the heart of downtown, and as we were attempting to track our route on a map, we realized that our guide had gotten us lost.

Once we realized this we tried to explain this to the guide. Eventually, he understood where it was that we wanted to go and pointed the way and we were off. He said we were going through the Port-au-Prince market. It was down hill from where we were.

As we approached the market the smells began to amplify, until as we walked into the market they became overwhelming. This market, in any other city, would be “The Dump”. Hundreds of people crowded into perhaps one half square mile, contesting over piles of steaming garbage. Dump trucks were weaving in and out of stalls hastily erected by desperate entrepreneurs  trying to find a place to dump their loads. Children, scrabbled over the tops of decaying piles of refuse looking for something to sell. Some, no older than 5 or 6 years old were standing by the dirty garbage encrusted road selling 2 or 3 coke bottles. Chaos reigned in that place.

The sense of poverty was thick and inescapable. America could not have been farther away at that moment than Alpha Centauri. I know I felt as though I were from a different planet.

Eventually, we wound our way through the market, and found our way up the hill to the Mission. True to the relative position the mission held higher up in the hills, the mission — and the surrounding neighborhood — stood on larger lot than the buildings down towards the port. It was a large whitewashed home with red tile for a roof. Shaded from the heat by eucalyptus trees, the mission sat encased in a quiet shabbiness. Here the noise of the city was forgotten and the neighborhood almost seemed deserted compared to where we had ascended from.

There was no answer at the front door of the parsonage, so we walked around back to where we found a playground. There surrounded by children, some obviously her own, was the missionary’s wife. It was evident that something was wrong. As we approached the children stopped to look at us and acknowledged our presence. But, when we stopped and introduced ourselves to the woman, we were presented with a blank almost catatonic stare. She never responded to us in any way, just kept staring out beyond the road, over the hill towards the harbor. I occurred to us that she was in shock. Later, as I thought about this, I realized that she was most likely suffering from culture shock.

We moved back to the street, took a quiet moment to pray for her. Then returned to the ship. The day had been a day of learning and a time of questioning. I know I  spent time asking God what had happened to the missionary’s wife. Questions piled on questions as I attempted to reconcile my heart with my mind. This wasn’t the first time I had seen poverty. I had seen it in parts of Mexico on a trip I took after graduation from College. But, Port au Prince was different. There was and I imagine there still is — although I have heard it is getting better — an under current, a spiritual layer of hopelessness.

Later, that week we left Port au Prince and continued our patrol on the north side of the island, eventually anchoring in the harbor at Cap Haitien for another shore break. Cap Haitien is smaller that Port au Prince and much cleaner. At least it was in 1984. It looks like a small mediterranean town. White washed homes brilliant in the hot sun, clean streets that rise up from the waters edge, following the smaller homes to the mansions on the higher elevations.

Here again our small band of believers went in search of a missionary, a local independent baptist missionary. In this case the family had been there awhile. There was no catatonic missionary’s wife in this home, but a healthy family in a beautiful home well established in the community. They invited our small band for dinner and they made us feel at home. It turned out that we were the ones being ministered to. The homemade cherry ice cream was fantastic.

But, that night, after the sun went down it was time to return to the pier where we could catch the zodiac back to the Lipan. Ten blocks straight downhill to the pier. From the missionary’s house we could see the Lipan at anchor in the harbor, her deck lights reflecting off of the water. The heat of the day was gone, replaced by a cool but humid breeze. The only smells evident were the enticing smells of dinners being cooked in the homes of the neighborhood. The stars were brilliant overhead and framed the picture of a beautiful caribbean city. The end of a joyful and satisfying evening.

However, what we experienced on our way down hill reminded us that even when things look beautiful, there can be an undercurrent of evil that is hidden just under the surface. Many of the homes in Cap Haitien have stucco covered brick walls that surround the yards. So the walk downhill felt as though we were walking through man made stucco canyons in an abandoned city. We were the only people on the streets, which after Port au Prince seemed ghostly. The silence of Cap Haitien is much different than Port au Prince . . . at least until the voodoo ceremonies begin.

As we walked down to the zodiac, the drums and chanting began. First on our left, behind the wall we were passing, then coming from many other directions. The eerie sense of otherworldliness settled upon us and our pace quickened. As we progressed down the hill, the ceremonies multiplied. I don’t know if we just happened upon the “Voodoo Hour”, the designated time for the evening rites. Or, if what we experienced was the normal evening event for Cap Haitien. I just know that it has an indelible place in my mind.

Was I shocked by these experiences? More like saddened. Cultures around the world, were given to man by The Creator. Each is different and carries a significant seed of Creator’s destiny buried deep within the history of that people and their culture. As a believer I am saddened by how men and their cultures have drifted from the knowledge of The Creator. Thankfully, we have a Saviour Jesus Christ that will set all this right. Our job is to go and be His instruments of Love.