“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

 

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[This week’s Words of Wisdom and Quote of the Week are given in tribute to the third President of The United States, Thomas Jefferson, on his birthday (13 April 1743)]

“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truth without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.” — Thomas Jefferson

 

Prayer Request

The Soloist_TX PaintbrushFriends, I’m going to level with you.  I started this blog with every intention of remaining steadfast in producing consistent, uplifting content, in glorifying God.  That said, I would be lying if I told you anything other than this has become increasingly difficult.  It would appear satan – little “s” – has once again taken to delighting in his attacks upon me.  The attacks did not begin with the inception of this blog, but they have certainly intensified.

What you don’t know, because I haven’t shared it, is I am currently unemployed.  I lost my job – a good one – just after Christmas, this past year.  At first, I had high hopes of quickly landing another position.  “I have years of experience,” I thought.  “Someone out there needs what I have to offer.”  In addition, I believed then, and still do, God closed that door intentionally.  Like I said, it was a good job (i.e. it more than paid the bills), but truth be told, I was miserable.  He knew that.  He also knew I would never quit.  So, He intervened.  And, while I know He has opened another door, I have yet to see it – so far as I know.  I am just not sure what it is He wants me to do.  He knows what I want to do – serve Him and others all the remaining days of my life.

Consequently, I have spent much time in prayer and searching for jobs.  But… I think I may be spending too much time working on my dream, and not fulfilling my responsibilities.

So, while I remain here/there for you – and I mean that very sincerely – you may not see as much output from me for a while.  No, I will not relent, and you are still among my top priorities, but I think I need to focus more intently on finding meaningful and gainful employment.

If you need me for anything, please do not hesitate to reach out.  I love you and will keep you in prayer, and I will always make time for you.  I would just ask that you pray for me, as well – for my job search, yes, and a number of  other tumultuous disturbances which have emerged of late.

Oh, I’m not going anywhere – just changing gears for a bit.

Remember:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)

The Epiphany

Okay, so here it is (O-dark-thirty) – 0226, or 2:26 AM to be exact, and here I am typing, as opposed to sleeping, on a project that was never intended – well, at least I didn’t intend on it.  God?  Now, that is a distinct possibility.  In fact, I so believe it is God inspiring me to be up at this hour, typing this message, that I am actually doing it.  Trust me, the selfish side is yearning for sleep, but I shall not cave.  What’s it called?  Obedience?  Yes, indeed.  So, I know you must be asking, “What is it that is so important it can’t wait until tomorrow?”  Well, my friends, I had an epiphany.  Epiph-a-what!?!  Epiphany!  Yes, of course, I fully intend to explain.  Why else would I be up at this Godly hour?  God said jump.  I didn’t ask “How high?”  I just started jumping.

This all started sometime last evening – yeah, let’s see, that would be Friday night, ’cause this is now Saturday.  So, I was on Twitter – I don’t remember what time it was – but I ran across this ‘retweet’ [aka re-shared, or forwarded message – for those of you who aren’t Twitter(ers)].  The original tweet was from controversial author and political commentator Ann Coulter.  I know; I know.  Haven’t we been down this road before, Kevin?  Put down the politics and back away.  Yeah, well, another epic fail was imminent.  I won’t go into the petty details.  Let’s just say, I took the bait in addressing her provocative rhetoric.  Why do I let these people get under my skin?  Why!?!

Now, again, I did not use profanity, cuss her, etc.  I didn’t attack her, per se.  HowEver… I might have suggested she was behaving in a “despicable” manner.  In fact, I can’t say for sure – it’s kind of fuzzy and all – but I might have actually called her despicable.  Yes… I… did.  But, listen, you should have read what she… no, never mind.  It doesn’t matter.  Did she write about and perpetuate a provocative and utterly ridiculous narrative?  Yes she did.  That said, she wasn’t talking to me.  She doesn’t even know me.  She was simply doing – right or wrong – what political commentators do.  She’s not responsible for how I react, or don’t.  I am responsible for my own actions.  I cannot, and will not, blame her.  Besides, at the time I tweeted my response, I was feeling rather justified.  That bully, Coulter, wasn’t going to bully people around – not if I can stop her.  Someone had to put her in her place!

Alllllll-righty-then…

So, having successfully given her – Coulter – the “What for…” I wound myself back down, went to bed, and drifted off to sleep.

Bleep, bleep… buzzerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Yeah, that would be the annoying message-received notification on my cell phone… the one I forgot to silence when I went to bed.  Oh, goody, I got a reply from Jeannie Ortega (at 12:24 AM, no less).  “Jeannie Ortega?” you ask.  Yeah, I don’t know much about her, but I know she just debuted a new song I listened to last night.  I know that I really liked it.  And, I know that I tweeter her – earlier in the evening, when people were still awake in certain parts of the world – to tell her I thought her voice, the song, and the song’s message were beautiful.  How nice of her to thank me – at 12:24 AM.  Do I sound bitter?  You know, I actually was not – am not – at all bitter.  In fact, this is where the story gets good, interesting, whatever.

Miss Ortega’s song, Never Been Hurt, really – as I shared with her – struck a chord with me.  The message is clear.  She wants to “love” like Jesus.  Despite being hurt and scarred, she wants to move beyond the pain, and love, unconditionally, like Jesus did.  She wants to know and share the same love Jesus had for us when He asked The Almighty Father to “forgive” us, as He hung there on The Cross, in our place.  It is a powerful, powerful message, indeed.  So, lying there at 12-something, my mind began to race, drifting back to that ill-advised tweet.  Why could I not just let that go?  Why could I not have met her hate with love?  What is wrong with me?  Nothing like having a pity party at O-dark-thirty!  But, seriously, it was bothering me.

I laid there, relaxed, and began to collect my thoughts.  This is important.  It’s important I resolve this, once and for all.  Why am I so tempted, feel so compelled to intervene?  Why do I have this propensity for engagement, particularly on behalf of others when I see them as being or having been wronged?  This, I must answer.  Then, out of nowhere, it hit me.  I am hurting!  This is about me!  No, no, no…  That cannot be.  After all, I am the tough, broad-shouldered, thick-skinned guy, the one who charges in to defend the innocent, the weak, the oppressed.  I’m not the one who’s hurting.  I don’t have open wounds.  What scars!?!

Wow… All these years fighting other people’s battles, and I’m the one who needs saving.  I was the one who needed to be defended.

(More on this to come – I assure you – in my Your Life Matters series.)

You know, I’ve had epiphanies before, but this light bulb was brighter than any I had ever seen.  It shone all around.  It illuminated and made clear that which had been buried in the farthest, darkest reaches of my mind.  It was troubling, but it was also liberating.  To think that while I was, my entire life, defending others, I was at the same time, exacting revenge and justice, vicariously.  To realize I had been harboring such resentment all these years.  Now, I could exhale.

Still, there is much work to be done.  While, as one of my new friends so articulately wrote, I have “named” that which ails me – now, the real trials begin.  I must now survey each of my wounds, each scar, and assess them.  I must confront my affliction.  I must ensure I have forgiven those who have injured me.  I must ensure I have forgiven myself.  If I truly want to “love” like Jesus, like I have, as Miss Ortega sings, “Never Been Hurt,” I must take up this yoke.

Friends, I apologize for this diversion from the path I asked you to accompany on.  I must admit, though I told you it was a journey and I, for one, was prepared to go wherever it might take us, I was surprised by this.  It truly was unexpected.

[Incidentally, I do recommend Miss Ortega’s song.  You can find it on YouTube.  I will attach a link later – but… I am tired.  Blessings, my friends.]

 

 

Sir John Dalberg-Acton, aka Lord Acton, famously posited, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Moreover, he added, “Great men are almost always bad men.”  To be sure, Lord Acton’s claim is bearish, even to the pessimist.  In these remarks, the baron affords us very little hope – might we call it an “eye of the needle(s)” chance – of rising to power without forsaking our virtue.  Well, if he is right, the obvious question is:  Why?  Why is it so difficult for one to attain power without succumbing to – its power?

It’s a common theme, is it not?  We rise, and we fall.  Countless authors, artists, composers, filmmakers, etc., have captured the torment, isolation, and exile that hounds the mighty, the powerful, amidst their nosedive into the abyss.  Given the fact – can we call it that? – this is so common, why have we permitted history to repeat itself?  Why do we acquiesce?  Is power simply too powerful for man to bridle?  Is it the ‘bronc that won’t be broke’?  Or, is it, perhaps, that we haven’t taken the right approach?  What do we need to control, or check power?  I submit, wisdom.  But not just any wisdom.  Source matters.

I found an answer, where I often do:  my Bible.

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.  [James 3:13-18]

Rays in Repose

Rays in Repose

[I captured this radiant, yet tranquil image not far from my home on April 3, 2016.  In this case, beauty was effectively the “backyard” of a populous residential area.  The backdrop for “Rays in Repose” is the outskirts of a swath of yet-to-be-developed woodlands and a somewhat undisturbed creek.]

I have always been fascinated by imagery, in all its forms.  My mother instilled in me and, hence, I came to share her appreciation for God’s ‘handiwork’ – all the splendors He hath created.  I have often heard her say, “Give me my tall trees and running brooks…”  Oh, it took a while for me to realize how much I appreciated these things – years, in fact.

It might have been different had technology been as advanced in my teen and young adult years as it is today.  When I was a young boy, I wasn’t the one taking the pictures.  That was what the adults were supposed to do.  And, while I often relished the images I observed at any given time and place, I had yet to develop the profound sense of nostalgia I have today.  Heck, I didn’t even keep up with the pictures the adults did take.  Consequently, I have only fuzzy memories of The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore.  Enough! I’m getting ill just thinking about it.

Oh, the regret.  Even once I began to recognize my particular appreciation for imagery, for the arts in general, I was in the “throes of adolescence” and, thus, completely averse to any and all things “uncool.”  So, sporting about bulky cameras or camcorders was simply out of the question.  I wasn’t about to be caught dead resembling a tourist – as if the locals couldn’t pick us out of a crowd, regardless.  Thank goodness some of my friends had some sense.  If not for one of my dear friends, I would have no evidence of my having been part of a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.  What an honor, by the way!

To make a long story short, I  believe I would have thousands of images in my portfolio today, if only I’d had my do-it-all device (a.k.a. cell phone) back in the day.  If I could have carried, inconspicuously, this modest device and had it ever at-the-ready… yeah, well, water under the bridge.

The bottom line is, those images are lost.  It’s time to move on.  And, that’s exactly what I intend to do.  Beginning with “Rays in Repose,” I am adding my own, personal gallery to this blog.  I am no professional, so don’t think for a moment I will be renowned for my works, but I owe it to myself, if no one else, to do this.

We have often heard, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  In “Vogue” Madonna lyrically boasts, “Beauty’s where you find it.”  I think she was on the right track, but I would submit beauty is everywhere, yet only rarely beheld.

Thusly, from this day forward, I dedicate each and every photograph I take and share to all the worthy images never to have been, nor ever to be captured.  I hope you enjoy.

 

Your Life Matters – Pt. 1

If you haven’t already read “about” me anywhere else, you may not know I am both a veteran of law enforcement and my Marine Corps.  I will always feel privileged, honored to have served in those capacities, and thankful for having been physically and mentally able to do so.  There are many things which define me, and anyone who knows me – even those with whom I have had very little contact – will tell you “He’s a cop alright,” or “You know he was in the military.”  I know they will say that, because they’ve said it.  The tip-off, they say, is in how I “carry” myself, how I present myself.  But I digress.

The point is, people do tend to judge the proverbial book by its cover.  First impressions are everything, we’re told.  Well, let me stop you right there.  I’m living proof that’s not completely true.  The front I put on every day, is just that – a front.  I expend vast amounts of energy not revealing myself.  Most of who I truly am is bound up inside of me.  If I seem “calm, cool, and collected,” and “squared away,” it’s because I had to learn to “maintain my bearing,” as a police officer and jarhead.  Now, I’m not suggesting that’s not who I am, a proud public servant – it most certainly is – but it is only part of who I am.  The rest of me – the other me – I unleashed only a few days ago.

I introduced myself to… myself, after I started reading a stirring personal account written by one of my newest friends.  Again, she can tell her own story – which she has done – but thanks, in part, to her and others, I finally relented, and let God take – have control.  Thus, I embarked on my mission, that which I believe He has set before me.  [I am all in Father] S0, you might ask, “What’s this ‘mission’ God has supposedly charged you with?”

Thanks for asking!  Well, I stated in On With It, Then my mission is to reach you, convince you Your Life Matters, and point you to One Who loves you more than anyone.  That’s the short of it, but if you want the full answer, I must ask you to accompany on that journey I mentioned.  Coming?

I accepted Jesus Christ as My Lord and Savior at the age of nineteen, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, He had called me to serve others.  Now, I realize, He calls each of us to be servants, but I mention this because I had a distorted view of what my “calling” was back then.  I didn’t fully understand God’s plan for me.  [Note to self – You still don’t]  Anyway, I was only 19 and a newcomer to Christ; consequently, my early sense of service was rooted in delusions of grandeur.  Yep, God had placed me here to “save the world.”  Had I possessed a more comprehensive understanding of The Bible and Christ’s teachings, I likely would not have been so misguided early on.  Unfortunately, the “soil” in which the seed of the spirit was planted – me, was fertile; yet, I lacked wisdom.  So, as the “weeds” grew up around me, they obstructed my view and muffled the sound of His voice.  It was difficult for me to grow straight and strong.  Yes, I grew, but askew of what I now believe was His intended path.  I only thought I knew which way He wanted me to go – no, I was certain of it.  I was to be a dashing superhero.

Of course, this didn’t help:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day – gorgeous day, in fact – I was sunbathing with friends at one of our “regular spots” nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada’s, a place we locals dubbed “Slick Rock.”  Slick Rock, or more formally, Three Rivers, was a nice place for adults to unwind, swim, and soak in a few rays.  That said, the waters of the river abruptly transitioned from shallow and tranquil to deep and treacherous.  Since I had been training hard subsequent to my enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps, I was in remarkably good shape.  I was also an avid and seasoned swimmer, so when I heard a desperate mother screaming for help, I didn’t hesitate in diving into the rushing waters to retrieve her struggling child.

The boy likely would have drowned, had I not intervened.  I know that.  My friends knew that.  Yet, there was virtually no acknowledgment from the mother.  Did that bother me?  Perhaps.  Frankly, I think I was more surprised than anything.  Moments earlier, she was screaming frantically for help, and now that I had likely snatched her boy from the jaws of death, my reward consisted of an indifferent “Thank you,” and half-hearted wave?  No, I didn’t feel I deserved more.  That’s not why I did what I did.  Still, it did feel somewhat inadequate.  In the movies, after all, she would have utterly squeezed the life out of me with a giant bear hug and kissed me on the cheek, tears streaming down her face.  Right!?!  But, alas, this was not Hollywood.

Truth be told, I didn’t need any recognition for what I had done, but I was perplexed by the mother’s reaction, or lack thereof.  Oh, my friends literally bowed in acknowledgment of my wondrous act of heroism.  I, encouraged them by accepting with a bow in return, and we had a few good laughs.  But, still, that woman’s inexplicable response confounded me.

I tried to rationalize the woman’s behavior.  She was in shock.  That’s it.  Or, maybe she hadn’t yet processed the gravity of the situation.  Perhaps, she was embarrassed, or angry with herself for not having learned to swim.  No, you know what it was, she was caught up in the moment, angry with her son for scaring her, but equally thankful he was alright.  She was focused on him.  Sure, that made sense.  Or, you know, maybe, just maybe, that’s how people treat “heroes” in real life.  Oh, now, I didn’t actually consider that at the time, but little did I know how true it can be.

As the lady – her son’s hand grasped firmly in hers – walked toward the parking area, the boy looked back at me, as if to offer a thank you of his own.  I waved, and in that moment I knew, God had placed me there, at that moment in time.  He had done so because I could and would rescue the boy.  And, sincerely, the gratitude I saw in the boy’s eyes spoke volumes – was more than enough thanks.

That, of course, is not the end of the story.  Well, yes it’s the end of that story, but not mine.  On the contrary it was just the beginning.  You see, there was a downside in all of this.  Remember I said, “this didn’t help.”  It actually made things worse, for this experience ultimately narrowed my perspective.  That day ended with we me feeling all the more assured God was calling me to be superhuman; when, in fact, He was calling me to be a humble servant.

[This is an ongoing series, Your Life Matters, set in order (i.e. Pt. 1, Pt. 2, etc.)  The next installment will be Your Life Matters Pt. 2]