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StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Importance Of Now

Hi welcome to Chic-fil-A. Can I have a name for the order?

The sun is setting here in Arlington, TX. A sunny but chilly day has melted away most of the ice and snow from our biggest winter event of the season. That’s just another weekday for northerners. Our landscape has lost the bright white in favor of our usual pale yellows, greys and dull January landscapes. Texas weather changes so much, many of the live oaks only lose about half their leaves trying to figure out if its winter or summer. The Pin Oaks seem to know what time of year it is. But the Live Oaks each have their own fall schedule, it seems.

Welcome to Taco Bueno, one moment please.

Not much light left now. Just the yellow and orange Western horizon. There is a feeling of peace and, perhaps a little introspective melancholia in the car as the three of us listen to the music and wait for food orders in the drive thru. Katie is at a retreat. Ben home. Mindy, Leia, and I are collecting the food. It’s Saturday night. Everyone gets what they want.

What is it about Saturday night that always brings out the 80s?

Our trip to Taco Bueno was for Ben, my son. He always orders the same thing, a cheese quesadilla and a bean burrito, with plenty of hot sauce. We recognized the voice of the man who took our order because he never gets our order right. Seriously, never. Tonight was no different. I guess you could say it worked out. This time we ended up with 2 extra tacos. Bonus for me.

My wife, Mindy, and I have been feeling an enormous amount of stress and mental fatigue lately. Neither of us have slept well. We have both been anxious all day. Somehow, taking a little drive with our daughter, Leia, to get food helped us. Just being together in the car, going to a few familiar places and listening to music as the sun went down helped take some of the stress away. Nothing grand. But simple and peaceful, together.

After the food run, we settled in to watch the latest Ghostbusters movie. It was wonderful. There were some brilliant lines and nods to the original from the 80s. The music, effects, and general feel of the movie were like the original as well. I felt transported away from 2022. We laughed, alot. We shared a few hours together. It was good.

The upside of dealing with a shitty world is it makes you truly appreciate some of the most basic but definitely blessed parts of life.  It reminds me how very important it is to really be in the now. It reminds me that no matter how much people can be hurtful and cruel, there are always others who are kind and loving.  Spend less time with the former and more time with the latter.

There are many battles ahead. There are people who continue to do harm. And we will fight those battles. But tonight, tonight we have let it all go, even if just for a little while. That little drive took us to a better place. It allowed us to travel on a safer, kinder, more peaceful path. There was a light, several really, that shined down on us to say, we are together and so much better for it.

Don’t let the darkness take over. Remember you are not alone. Open your heart to the grace we receive each day and the loving reminders all along your path that life is beautiful. Keep going, even when you are weary, and you will find little bits of hope and joy along your journey. Just as, one by one, you pass under streetlights on a Saturday night.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack. And, Saturday night that soundtrack is all about the 80s!.

Thinking about those important little moments, I am reminded of a woman I met from my Uber experiences that showed me the importance of now. Here is a #peopleprofiles edition of StreetLights On A Saturday Night from August 26th, 2019.

StreetLights On A Saturday Night

#Peopleprofiles

Janet


And, with her permission…

Janet was 22 when she met Chris. She was a senior at UCLA; While Chris was a first year law student at Loyola. Janet described it as love at first site. She said Chris swept her off her feet. They moved in together just 3 months after they met. They were officially engaged a month later. The engagement last a couple of years because they wanted to wait until Chris was finished with law school. Janet is a California native who grew up in San Diego. Chris is from the Houston, Texas area. They both felt like they were in one of those happily ever after stories, Janet described with a smile. “He was this tall Texan, quick witted, and very charming.” She said.

Chris was welcomed into Janet’s family immediately and he found an attorney position in San Diego. Janet had been working as a waitress while in school back in L.A. But by the time they moved to San Diego, She was pregnant with their first of two daughters, Hannah.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of their other daughter. There is only so much I can learn about someone in a 30 minute car ride!

Janet elected not to work but to spend as much time as she could as a full time mom. Chris was making a good salary, and they were fortunate because Chris’s parents paid off his student loans (contingent upon his finishing law school ). “We were living perfect lives.” Janet stated in a melancholy tone. Chris began working long hours. He also began to drink alcohol more frequently and spent many nights out with some of his colleagues. Things really started to change when Chris got a DUI. His attitude and temperament began to change.  He was under more stress at work and became distant to Janet. When she tried to address it with him, he became defensive and hostile, insisting he was working very hard to support their family, so he was entitled to blow off steam. Things get really bad when Janet discovered Chris had also been using cocaine. Ultimately, she had reached her limit and upon confronting Chris, He again became angry. This time with abuse language directed at Janet, and the kids. Janet described the scene as heartbreaking and horrific. Both the girls were crying and Janet was overwhelmed.
She immediately told Chris to leave that night, to move out. And, so he did. He first moved to a hotel, then to a friend’s from work, and finally into a small apartment. Chris continued to spiral down. His work declined and he was unable to reliably do anything. Janet made the decision to file for divorce six months after he left.  He had only spent a limited time with the girls during that period; and when he showed up one day to pick them up, Janet could easily tell he had been drinking and refused to let them go.

Janet was heartbroken and confused. She just couldn’t understand how he would be willing to throw it all away, their marriage, their children, a great career. Janet made a phone call to Chris’s mother in Houston telling them she was concerned Chris might end up dead. She said she made one more call that night, to Chris. She had to leave a voicemail saying she was begging him to go back to Texas, go back to his parents, and get help.
In the meantime, Janet had to start working. Fortunately, Janet had the support of her family. “My family saved us.” She said graciously. Chris was able to somehow avoid being fired and managed to take an unpaid leave of absence on the condition that he seek help with his addictions and get clean. He did as Janet asked and moved back in with his parents in Texas.

Janet continued to move forward with the divorce but she would occasionally call Chris to check on him. If nothing else, He was still the father of her two daughters and she hoped he would eventually take a more active role in their lives once he got clean. Chris did get the help he needed. He slowly began to face his demons. At some point, Janet was talking with him and began to hear a familiar voice, the voice of the man she fell in love with. This changed nothing. She was still firm on divorce. One day, few months ago, Chris called her. This call was an apology. This call was Chris realizing their relationship was over and he knows it was his fault. Janet said he accepted her request and would be staying in Houston for awhile longer. He then, according to Janet, began joking around on the phone, making fun of himself. He ended the call with talking to both of his daughters. He told them he would be back in San Diego to visit them but would be living Houston near Mammaw and Papaw (guessing on the spelling)

Janet said that phone called put a crack, “a very small crack” in her current expectations of what the future looked like for she and her daughters. So, she started talking with Chris more on the phone. She had not discussed with him the anger and disappointment she had. She did not ask him why he did what he did. But, she began feeling the smallest amount of hope. She began to think that maybe, just maybe, there was a chance this could have a happy ending. Still, when she started thinking of all the painful things he said, his behavior, his addictions, she knew if there ever was a chance they would get back together, it would take a long time. Last month, Chris was killed in a car accident. He was sober. The girl who crashed into him was not.

When I picked Janet up from Terminal C at the airport, she was standing alone and at the end of the curb. She had texted me through the Uber app to let me know she was in a blue coat. When I pulled up and got out to greet her; to put her bag in the back of my car, she had this melancholy look about her. Janet has long flowing dark red hair and very fair skin. She is about the same height as me, 5 foot 8”. I mention this only because she did not appear to want a picture for this story and I didn’t ask. As I introduced myself, she said Christopher is her husband’s name too. I told her he must be an awesome guy to have a name like that. She just gave me a tiny smile with surprising sadness. Once I confirmed our destination, we began talking as if we knew each other; as if we were longtime friends. 

Upon hearing this heartbreaking story, I was surprised to hear Janet speak of hope. Well, maybe not that surprised. She spoke of being at peace. She spoke of letting go. She spoke of the incredible resilience both of her daughters have expressed. She was meeting her sister-in-law in Dallas to drive down to Houston together for the final service for Chris. The girls were already down there at their grandparent’s house. She told me that she believed in God and she believed he has plans for her, and her daughters, but He had called Chris home.

We sat for a few moments outside her sister-in-law’s house as we finished our conversation. When I told her I write about some of the people I meet in my travels as an Uber/Lyft driver, and that I would like to share her story, she seemed surprised.  “I don’t know. This doesn’t seem like a happy story. I think your readers will be disappointed.” She quipped. I told her that her story offers hope. It offers a small bit of light in a very dark place. She told me she would let me write about her, with one condition; she wanted to pass along some wisdom.


“Live for today. Make each day count. We are not promised there is a tomorrow.”

Very wise words, indeed.

Be kind to all you know. Be kind to all you see. Be loving. Be accepting. Be joyful. Be hopeful. Be at peace, my friends.

Thank you Janet

This next song, while not from the 80s, was the selection for the original post.

For Janet and Chris

Here is more 80s on the StreetLights On A Saturday Night Spotify playlist.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy
#StreetLightsOnASaturdayNight

All My Empty Spaces Part 4: Joy

Joy.

Joy, joy, joy, joy…

Slippery little devil. It has taken some time to write this one. Joy keeps getting away. Last year on the 6th of January, I sat down on the couch in front of the TV. Joy slipped under the couch and was gone for months. It showed up again later, playing cards with my kids. But was gone again the next day.

If you see it trying to slip off the side of your screen, stay focused on it. If you can keep an eye on just one of its 3 little letters, it can’t get away. It cant get out of your grasp. Take your eye off it though, and it’s gone.

Anyway, I couldnt very well finish this post without it, so please excuse the delay.

Sunday, January 16th, 2022


Like I mentioned, it has taken some time to finish this post. In fact, I started writing this part of my current series, All My Empty Spaces, before all the others. This perhaps has been the most difficult post for me to write in a long time. Given all that is happening and all that weighs heavy on my heart and soul, I began to suspect I might never finish it.

Joy. A small word. Just 3 little letters. J. O. Y. And yet, so difficult to discuss. Maybe joy should have been a longer word. Something like Hakuna Matata. Oh wait, that one is taken. My point is 3 letters doesn’t seem sufficient for a word that is so complex, so important. It may seem simple. But anyone who hasn’t been stuck on an island for the last 20 years knows that joy is becoming more and more difficult to find and hold on to. These days my personal search for joy has led me to speak more 4 letter words than anything else.

Boiler Plate

I am not a theologian, pastor, or even all that well versed on the bible. I am just a humble servant of God, follower of Christ. Again, I try to follow the simple code, the example that Christ has given, be love, be kind.

I claim no moral high ground, but I stand my ground. I claim no intellectual superiority, but I continually learn, continually teach, and I have little patience or compassion for stupidity and dishonesty.

Chronically fatigued

So, it finally happened today. I suppose I reached a point of despair that gave me the push I needed to complete my thoughts on joy. Ironic, isn’t it. The last 2 days have been extraordinarily difficult. My body has been fighting my mind. I have tried to get up, get out, and get going. But my body has made it very clear, it is on strike. “Hey pal, where do you think you are going? Lay your ass back down!” Every movement requires everything in the tank. This morning in the shower I could barely even stay upright. My continued physical health obstacles don’t make my mental health any better. My depressive brothers and sisters will understand this easily, but I already start the day out with a deficit. Meaning it takes more work, more effort to reach the same state of mental awareness and mental ability as everyone else on any given day. Oh, I don’t want or need any pity. I have come to accept and appreciate my wiring for what it is. Believe it or not, I think chronic depressives have some unique qualities, powers if you will, if they can learn to control them. Empathy is one of those powers.

But here is the rub, I have recently begun to realize that my struggle with joy isn’t just directly linked to my depression or my chronic fatigue. It isn’t completely tied to the pain I endure or the guilt that comes with constantly feeling like a burden. See I can overcome all of that. I can find joy in depression. I can find joy in the most extreme physical challenges. And, I have. Just last night, I sat on the couch and played a game with my family. Have any of you played the online games through Jackbox.TV? The game is played through your computer or a gaming system like the PS4. So you watch the TV and it prompts you through a series of questions or challenges you must answer or complete via your personal device like your phone or tablet. Occasionally you get to choose which answer you like the best from the other players which makes for some hilarious moments. My children are all well versed and talented in the art of sarcasm, so this game never fails to entertain.

In that moment, I felt joy. It was wonderful. In the middle of the game, my body started going nuts like it often does. I was simply sitting on the couch with this very laptop in front of me, playing this game, and I began to sweat. I broke into an all out sweatfest. My head and face started dripping of the stuff. It was soaking through my shirt. My pain level started to spike and my head became hot, achy, and dizzy. I knew I needed to head to bed, get some meds in me. But it didn’t take away the joy I felt by sharing some precious moments with my loved ones. I wouldn’t let it.

Do you ever wonder if the tiniest moments of joy, perhaps from a memory of a loved one that passed away are the most valuable, the most precious? Does joy that is derived from great pain become more precious than the joy one might find on an average day? I mean, I have had some of the most profound moments of joy during or just after some of the most painful or challenging moments of life. Its like that little bit of joy just became priceless. Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting a joy barter system where you get incredible, powerful joy simply by enduring great pain. Yeah, that’s not a thing, at all. But I am saying that when you endure pain or loss, or life challenges, you develop a greater appreciation for the joyous experiences.

Back to the rub. The biggest challenge to find and keep joy is people. Because people suck.

⚠️ CONTENT WARNING ⚠️

CONTAINS anger, frustration, judgy mcjudgerson, some explicit language, occasional bad grammar… well probably more than occasional, if I am being honest. Oh, truthiness, pessimism and optimism in the same sentence, bad humor, and more anger.

There is a war on. It’s a war on truth. It’s a war on civility and mutual respect. Those waging it have no ability or inclination to give any of it. Have you noticed how widespread the phenomenon of never being wrong is? Well, I guess that means it isn’t so much a phenomenon as it is just a nom. Or would it be nomenon? I should maybe look that up but I am in complete free style rant mode write now (get it?) and don’t want to stop. It doesn’t matter anyway because I am probably not using the word correctly in the first place. My word skills aren’t very phenomenal. Maybe I should have used the plural participle in the first sentence?

Well, see? We are already off the tracks. So, hold onto your butts. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride from here on. But seriously, trying to talk sense into those “never wrong” folks is like feeding my dog her allergy med hidden in peanut butter and then she sneezes, leaving tiny little globs of peanut butter truthiness and little bits of medicine in the carpet, on the walls, my fresh clean shirt, and my incredibly handsome face. Her words, not mine…

Yes, the dog.

Ok. Time to change the mood lighting from bright and colorful crazy Christopher rant disco ball lazer show to a little more serious and focused. Let’s say a darkened room with a tactical red or green underlight, like in the cockpit of an airplane, or the bridge of a warship.

This war on truth, civility, and mutual respect is becoming more brutal everyday. It continues to spread and mutate just as Covid 19 has. And like the January 6th, 2021 attack and insurrection on the Capitol, it is championed by the most extreme idiology of hate, but it sucks in mobs of people who wouldn’t otherwise cross a certain line. Those people, at first, are innocent (kind of). They are very misguided and naive, but now they have succumbed to those darker forces. Now they are culpable. And now because they couldn’t possibly be wrong, they are no different than the ones who were telling the lies and calling the shots in the first place.

That leaves us with noone in the middle to hold onto both sides of our torn society. It squashes peace and hope. It conditions love. And it leaves no oxygen for joy. Kindness and “love thy neighbor” become weaponized or signs of weakness.
Christianity has been usurped. Much the same in other religions but as a Christian myself I am focusing my concerns within that demographic. The never wrong effect has found its way into more than just our politics or ideology. It has begun to affect our basic sense of care for each other regardless of our beliefs. We are just meaner and less willing to see each other as good people. If someone does something we don’t like, now we just go for the nuclear option instead of trying to work it out. It’s crazy!


I became naive enough to believe there were places, organizations, and churches that could rise above this. I felt like my own church was saying and doing the true work of a loving, inclusive, kind, and just God. I still do. But like any other church or body of organized religion, it is comprised of people. People are messy, self-serving creatures. And that truth has yielded its ugly head where I have lived, prayed, communed, and connected with God for the last 6 years.

Besides being disappointed by a few folks at my church, there is also a crisis in this country that kills joy.

Patriotic Depression and the search for joy in a deplorable world.

This Christian nationalism bullshit has truly broken me. I care deeply about the health of our nation. And it has never been more in peril. January 6th, 2021 was a day many of us watched in horror as the mob attacked the Capitol. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I knew something like that was inevitable, but horrifying nonetheless.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

The anniversary of the insurrection was just a few weeks ago. Since then, I have been having the strangest dreams. Last night, for example, I dreamt I was at Willie Nelson’s funeral and it came under attack by the Captiol mob. That idiot with the horns on his head, waving a confederate flag was leading it.

First of all, the idea Willie Nelson’s death is scary and sad enough. So, long live Willie! But seriously, don’t you Trump loving idiots go after Willie! And stay out of my dreams!This is what can suck the joy right out of the day before the day even starts.

“You have a republic, if you can keep it.”

That has been a popular Ben Franklin quote as our nation struggles to find a path forward. But in full context, Franklin then said, “All it might take is a man on a fast horse (no, not that man) perpetuating a lie to lose it. Ok, I am going to France until the Constitutional ink is dry. Peace out.”

I might be paraphrasing…

We still feel the need to be better off than others. We still have have this burning desire to punish freeloaders, to hurt, imprison and starve other human beings for simply crossing a border without permission in an attempt to reach safety. We let greed and power rule our morality. Christianity has been infected, poisoned with that greed. And, we are never ever wrong or obligated to apologize to each other.

In the United States in particular, Jesus carries a cross in one hand and an assault rifle in the other. We apparently all get to choose which version of Christ we want. Yeah, I’ll take the 3rd Jesus on the right; the white one with the MAGA hat and lots of contempt for anyone who doesn’t look like me.

Stay angry, good people.

I am reading “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk by John Pavlovitz. He speaks very well about the current crisis of the Christian faith and of the troubled state of our nation. His words resonate with me and have helped me through this dark period. He has given me the focus I need to keep finding joy. I still lose it all the time anyway.

So about joy…

I am trying to fill these empty spaces with those connected heart and soul fillers of peace, hope, love, and joy. But more than my own demons, fellow Christians seem intent on keeping those empty spaces from being filled with anything that might give voice to my questioning their actions, or more importantly the motives behind their actions.

I know the calendar says we just started a new year. As a follower of Christ I have always felt more like Easter marks the start of a new chapter. Spring comes along with the resurrection so it just seems like a more natural transition. Not like January 1st in the dead of winter. Plus these days, January feels more like insurrection, not resurrection.

I have always been skeptical of organized religion. I have always believed in God and have reaffirmed my faith in Christ many times throughout my life. But Christianity is a huge let down, even in places I thought were immune to the hypocrisy and hate. Maybe its just me. Maybe I have given people way too much credit for doing the right thing. Because even now and even a place I have truly loved has offered more of the same hypocritical betrayal. Godly words on a wall inside what is supposed to be a place of love are only worth the actions of those who walk those halls. These days, people fail the tenets of Christianity and do so in the name of Christianity. Proving yet again, organized religion is a joke.

From nakedpastor found on Facebook.

We no longer care enough about each other to standby and support each other in truly difficult times. We are hollow shells walking around hollowed hallowed halls with banners of hope peace love and joy but when tested, those are just slogans on a shirt, written on a wall and not in our hearts. We have become a society championed by hate. And, hate infects us all.

“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silenceAnd the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
Then the sign said, “The words on the prophets are written on the subway walls
In tenement halls”
And whispered in the sound of silence


Think of our shared belief in God and in each other as a large 4 engine aircraft. The engines are named hope, peace, love and joy. The fuel comes from a mixture of kindness, compassion, truthfulness, respect, civility, and the simple understanding that we are ALL connected. We are ALL on this big plane together. But if we can’t produce enough fuel to feed those engines, one by one they start losing power and shutting down. That also means the other engines have to work even harder to keep us flying. It doesn’t matter which engines you wish to use for this analogy because whether you have lost hope, or joy, you, we, are still losing altitude.


Tuesday January 25th, 2022


I have continued to struggle with joy. I have continued to fill those empty spaces with anger, sorrow, disappointment, and confusion. I used to get those booster shots of faith in humanity by driving Uber and Lyft. Meeting people and hearing their stories was always a reminder that people are inherently good. The last two years have been a true struggle trying to find and hold joy. That, as it turns out, isn’t from my personal challenges. It certainly isn’t because I have lost faith in God. It is because I keep getting disappointed by people. Now, more than ever, I am forced to deal with lies, hatefulness, and incredibly selfish people. I am forced to confront those “never wrong” folks.

Oh, how I desperately long for a society that acts like the family it claims to value so much.

And yet, once again, God has seen fit to remind me that not all people are bad. Every time I fall down, doubt myself, or doubt the goodness in people, God smacks me on the back of the head and says, ‘Stop doing that!” He just did it again.

I have seen something I guess I didn’t expect. With the enormous stress and pain my family has endured recently, my negativity has peaked. I have felt bitter and wounded. I have watched people I love struggle with unecessary pain inflicted by others, the never wrongers. But my focus has shifted from anger and negativity. In the midst of all this drama, I have been shown a better path. I see good people rising up and trying harder to spread love and kindness in the face of those who have become misled by hate and fear, and self-serving actions. I see good people, stronger than me,  practicing a little Kindness Kung-Fu, you might say. And that gives me hope. It brings peace. It amplifies love. And I am joyous again. Just like that. Have you ever noticed God gives us grace every day? He gives us just enough to make it through, so long as we open our hearts to it.

645pm, Wednesday January 26th, 2022.

As I sit in my car outside my church, waiting for my daughter to finish her Wednesday night youth meeting, I am finally listening to a song my friend, John shared earlier today. He is quite good at finding the right song for the moment. Today’s troubles are more significant than most by an order of magnitude. Yet, I am strangely at peace in this moment. I am hopeful. I love my friends and family. And I am experiencing a rare kind of joy. I am overwhelmed, not in the pain and frustration my family has gone through recently, but in the response of others. I am reminded we are all connected and kindness is important, even when we work through conflict with others. I, myself have been a self-serving knucklehead at times and someone kind stood before me and showed me I can be better than that. I can DO better than that. I don’t think people are totally bad. In fact, most are good but still capable of doing bad things, making bad decisions. I know I have.

I sat with friends this week. I was given comfort. It felt like rain in the desert.  And, even in the midst of all the “people made” pain I have been in, I have once again found joy.

All this to say I have been letting the wrong voices fill my head and heart. In case any of you didn’t know this, I write as a form of therapy. I write to find understanding and wisdom in the universe that I couldn’t otherwise tap into. When I have my most success in this theraputic process, the light comes on and my own inner voice says, duh!

Find your joy. Better yet, create joy. If people steal that joy, take it right back and leave those negative influences behind. I know that seems simple. But my struggle is proof that it’s a challenge. Look at it this way, if you are passionate about anything that involves people, count on being let down, repeatedly. It turns out, I am passionate about everything, so I am constantly challenged. But, oh man, when the joy kicks in, its that supercharged warm and fuzzy stuff. The occasional disappointments are worth it. Because as it turns out, God made all of us. So we are all very connected. Better to get along and stay engaged, as families are supposed to do.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.

One last bit of music that has brought me joy lately. Below that is a link to a playlist I used as I developed this post. Peace be with you, my friends. Joy too.

All My Empty Spaces Part 3: Peace

Personal peace.

It was just after midnight when Ricardo brought the snacks consisting graham crackers, peanut butter, diet shasta, and a plastic sealed turkey and cheese on white (made by Goodyear). It was remarkably delicious, given it was the first thing I had to eat since breakfast; which comprised of powedered eggs, 1 slice of bread with butter and oatmeal (made by Elmer’s). Ricardo also brought pain meds, dilaudid to be specific. Before he arrived, I had spent 4 hours lying in my bed, helpless and hurting.

This was night 3 of what would end up as 7 nights, 9 days at the luxurious Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth. I think I managed to count every hole in the ceiling tiles and memorized every scratch in the floor. Your mind really starts to conspire against you when you are stuck in a 120 sq. ft. bare grey cold dark room with only the small light from beneath the door and muffled sounds of people passing by in the hallway outside to connect you to anyone or anything. I might as well have been in space, stuck in a capsule all by myself,  but with HBO.

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do”

During the worst of it, I would count down the minutes and seconds until I could hit that button and request more pain meds.

Dexamethasone, cipro, levaquin, vancomicin, Zofran, robaxin, lovenox, dilaudid, and norco were among the littany of drugs that passed through my veins during that horrific experience. I should own stock in pharmaceuticals. When you have become as familiar with hospitals as I have, you have to laugh at some of the operational policies or obstacles. For instance, Harris Methodist ER is dilaudid free. Upstairs in the hospital they are fentanyl free. I am allergic to morphine. It was a fun time educating the doctors on chronic pain management, especially when coupled with other serious health conditions that only exacerbate the pain while in hell (any hospital visit after the first 30 seconds).

If you want to know what moderate to severe chronic pain feels like, I always tell people to take their left hand and using your thumb and pointer finger, gently squeeze your neck just below the base of your skull. Good, now put just enough pressure on that grip so that your neck is depressed about 3/4 of an inch. Ok, next take your other hand and using the same fingers put roughly the same pressure on the front of your neck just below your jaw. Don’t squeeze so hard you choke yourself, stupid. Great! Now hold that position and amount of pressure for 6 years. During that time, you will need to once a day poke yourself in random places all over your body with a thumb tack. After the 3rd year, please increase that poke to at least 3 times a day with each episode lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Remember, you must maintain the pressure on your neck. Yes, I know. Now your arms are burning and your hands are cramped and swollen. You begin developing trigger finger in every finger on both hands; surprisingly, not your thumbs. But now, both hands become unable to fully close or fully open. Sometimes you have to use one hand to pop open the fingers of your other hand because it is too painful to simply open your hand on its own.

Sometimes I wonder which came first, the depressed chicken or the chronically painful egg.

My body and mind have waged war against me for decades now. But in that darkest moment of isolation and pain, in that tiny cold and dark space, confined to my brick hospital bed, I began to think the only peace would be simply opening the IVs in my hands. I had one in each hand so I began considering which side would be more effective.

Ricardo may have saved my life that night. It wasn’t the pain meds or the rubber turkey sandwich. It was simply when he opened the door and let the light of the hallway into the room. It was simply Ricardo greeting me. I was nowhere near reality in that moment, just a surreal flight of agony, feeling the darkness overtaking the smallest little pixel of hope, of life. Hell, I wasn’t even the room.

It was the winter solstice of my soul and it was the moment I went numb. Then the door opened and a kind man came in to check on me, to help me. The following nights got progressively easier. They became more bearable. The overwhelming pain finally began to subside like a retreating tide. We weren’t meant to be alone. Isolation is the biggest threat to peace of body and soul. Take care of yourselves. Make your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being the absolute priority. If you don’t, you won’t be of much help to others. Peace in any form starts from within.

People peace.

Peace is surprisingly difficult and dangerous to achieve. Perhaps that is why we have all developed a tolerance to the lack of it. That word, peace, means something unique for each of us. What does peace look like for you? How can you find it in your own life?

Portions of this post were written a year ago. Other portions, like this paragraph were/are being written tonight, Christmas eve, while I am sitting in the front balcony row of Broadway Baptist Church letting the music and the soothing energy wash away all the conflict within me. Right here, right now, I am at peace. I wasn’t looking forward to service. Too much anxiety and frustration dominated my mind. But this moment of peace is just enough to keep my emotional fits from hitting the proverbial shan. It wasn’t the Christmas miracle I have been waiting for, been hoping for. But, it was just enough grace to get me through the night. Not too much, not to little.

Its all connected. Love, hope, joy, peace, faith. Just like the little trains made of wooden letter blocks. It all goes together. I write these words often. I say them often. It’s a little practice in the power of positive affirmation. And, it works. Take a ride on the peace train and find all the warm and fuzzies as you gaze out at the changing scenery of life from your train window. Choo choo!

Now I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun
Oh, I’ve been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Someday it’s going to come’Cause I’m on the edge of darkness
There ride the Peace Train
Oh, Peace Train take this country
Come take me home again

I have a confession. I cry less than I used to. I have started filling the open spaces in me with anger, resentment, and even vengence. Crying has always been for sorrow or joy. I have had little room for either in an anger driven state of mind. I am trying so hard to change that. I am desperate to change that. It may be working. I am crying right now. For sorrow and for joy. I have tears today for peace. Peace for you. Peace for me. Peace for us. Peace for eternity.

As I sit here in the darkened sanctuary on this Christmas eve, I am finally talking to God. I am finally listening to God again. I am finally seeing his amazing grace again.

Light Of The World

I am a pllot. Or at least I once was. I took my first flight lesson when I was 16. I had my commerical pilot’s license by the time I was 18. That experience gave me a few skills that have been very useful in all aspects of my life, including and especially managing my depression.

Aviation is loaded with acronyms. One of the most familiar to pilots is RTFM, which stands for read the fuckin’ manual. In other words, know your airplane and know the procedures.

Flying taught me how to proceduralize and troubleshoot my life. Needless to say, I have lots of lists. Flying taught me to remain cool under pressure. Flying brought me peace. It brought me closer to God and a much better view of this beautiful planet we share. It took me away from all the chaos and conflict down below. That’s a true realization. We desire peace but actively harm each other and destoy it.

Flying was one of the only times in my life where I found peace, both within and without, but always up high.

I sat upon the clouds watching the world, finding peace only where my demons could not reach.

Gods beautiful creation. Being up there, in the sky was the only time I ever felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I felt complete and all my troubles were lost in the tiny objects below me.

Even after long and difficult flights when I was so tired my eyes burned, taxiing in after landing was always bittersweet.

Let me dance about the sky. Let me burst in and out of the clouds and rest ever so gently above them.

I still occasionally catch a scent that reminds me of the cockpit; the smell of electric devices in a small space, the combo of fuel, oil, carb heat and leather seats with wool covers.

These days you can’t ask to stick your head in the cockpit without getting someone nervous about your intentions. But if any pilot ever catches you taking in a deep breathe through the nose while even close to the controls, they won’t think it strange. Because they know, we know, it smells like home. That is, unless your copilot had Whataburger for lunch.

Flying never failed me, never let me down, ever. Not even that time I flew Robert J. in his Piper Archer to Cleveland, Tennessee, with him picking his nose the whole 7 hours and 52 minutes of flight time, breaking only for fuel in Pine Bluff. Rob was in the Christian music industry and going to Tennessee for a few months for work. He wanted to fly his own plane there but invited me to drop him and return his plane to Fort Worth. He wasn’t sure when or from where he would be heading home. I was solo for the flight back and loved every second of it.

Life is better with a soundtrack.

J.J. Abrams’ movies often have a trademark characteristic or style. He uses an emotional yet calm and soothing piece of music to score actions and images that are chaotic, even violent. While the imagery can hurt, and the intensity becomes almost unbearable to all senses but sound, its the music that carries us though. That is how I might define my life on certain days. The music carried me through the pain and destruction until, yes, finally, morning has truly broken and God has recreated the day. We are reborn each day. Maybe this day will be better. Maybe this day, those who wish harm to me and mine will relent, repent, and fucking relax. Maybe this day my hands won’t just hurt. Maybe this day my hands will hurt from healing.

“Say it’s here where our pieces fall in place
Any rain softly kisses us on the face
Anywhere means we’re running
We can sleep and see ’em coming
Where we drift and call it dreaming
We can weep and call it singingWhere we pray when our hearts are strong enough
We can bow, ’cause our music’s warmer than blood
Where we see enough to follow
We can hear when we are hollow
Where we keep the light we’re given
We can lose and call it livingWhere the sun isn’t only sinking fast
Every night knows how long it’s supposed to last
Where the time of our lives is all we have
And we get a chance to say
Before we ease away
For all the love you’ve left behind
You can have mine…

December 25, 2021

I think it should be said that while those of us who believe in and follow Christ are celebrating these glorious pillars of God, hope, love, joy, and definitely peace on earth, it should be said that we must include everyone in that dream, not just, ESPECIALLY not just Christians. Otherwise peace truly is impossible.

Peace also means loving thy neighbor, even if they make false accusations against you. Even if they purposely hurt you. Even if they do harm to those you love. Even if they are booger eating morons with the IQ of an empty can of bean dip. Yep, I said it. Stupid hateful people need peace too. They need it especially. We don’t hurt each other instinctively. We just don’t. We are all completely connected. So, hurting each other only hurts us too. We must show kindness and sue for peace. Yes, we must be angry at times. We must fight harmful elements of this life. But the fight is always and only for the dream of peace.

So, kindness warriors. Walk softly, but carry a big stick. Practice a little kindness kung fu. And when your enemy is stopped, they are your enemy no more. They are your brother and sister, your mother, your daughter, your best friend. Just like that. Put down the staff and open your arms with love. It really can be that easy. Seriously. Stop the hate. Share. The. Love. Make. The. Peace. Fill the empty spaces not with those things I seem to be struggling with, but with warm and fuzzy, gooey, sappy, funny, extraordinary, love.

Let it fill you up. Let it drip onto your shoes. Its ok. I love the scene in Ghostbusters 2 when the guys convert their packs to spray that love stuff, positively charged emotional slime. Everybody at the end (spoiler alert) is hugging and saying I love you. Doesn’t that seem like a great plan? Doesn’t that seem like the right kind of Christmas miracle?

We can do better for each other.

Dear God,

I want thank you for all the lessons, love, and daily grace you have given me. I want to thank you for the incredible people you have put in my life;
My friends, my family, my children and my wife.

You showed me how to fight depression. You gave me a clear mission to help others, to be a light in the darkness.

Lord, from that moment under the streetlight across from my house, so many years ago, when I was just 12 years old but filled with so much curiosity, but also so much darkness and pain, from that moment you have continued to flicker that light to let me know you are there. I have never doubted your existence since then.

Perhaps I have questioned your motives from time to time. But to be fair, tell me one person who hasn’t. You are the boss, so what you say goes. You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I get that loud and clear, Dude. Is it ok if I call you Dude? It’s totally out of love and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Man, Aretha sure could drive home a message, don’t you think?

My soul is weary, Lord. I have no peace and my hope of finding it is waning.

“Speak, O Lord. Your servant is listening.”

Amen.

Whether you are working toward world peace or the peace of reconcilliation, whether you are coming to terms with your past or looking for peace in your present, remember the peace process always and forever starts by making peace with yourself. So go easy, my friends. Breathe deeply and let it go. Be at peace within and you will come to peace without.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

Life is better with a soundtrack

For a playlist of the music found in this post along with a few other songs I listened to while working on the writing, checkout this link to Spotify.

All My Empty Spaces part 3: Peace – On Spotify

All My Empty Spaces Part 1: Faith

I have a messy mind and my writing is a process of cleaning up the mess.
-Judy Blume

I know I have used that quote before but I love it. And, it truly describes my own mind and process. Actually thinking of putting it in everything I write.

When I was twelve or possibly thirteen, I asked God to prove he was real. I wanted to know if God actually existed. And if he did, I had  a whole lot of questions and gripes, or as my twelve-year-old self would describe it, a buttload of questions.

Yeah, I know everyone questions the existence of God and we all have our own idea of what the answer is. For me, the answer was simply, yes. Yes, God does exist. And that night under a flickering streetlight across from my house, that hot summer night in Texas, God responded to my plea for attention and my need to verify his existence. Right when I cried out was when that streetlight flickered, went out, and came back on constant.

That moment in my early adolescence was also the first time I believe I suffered a significant depressive episode. I certainly didn’t know it at the time.  In fact, I didn’t have a true understanding and awareness of my lifelong pattern of depression, tracing back to that time, until I was 46 and suffering what was by far the darkest and most destructive depression of my life. God answered me and revealed his presence when I was young, and he saved me again in 2017. In fact, I now have an awareness and understanding of my wiring because God cleared the fog and revealed not only the lifelong destructive patterns but also his presence, His grace through every moment of it.

I have depression. I have been challenged with disease and physical pain. I have been close enough to death through my own despair, to have accepted it. I have cried as I knew I was seconds away from death only to find a moment, a flash of joy that turned into an avalanche of love washing over me. In that instant, I could see joy in the pain, because one cannot exist without the other.

For me, streetlights represent hope. A metaphor. And occasionally when one flickers as I go by, its God reminding me He is with me, always. So, when I began to recover from my worst depressive period in late 2017, I also found this new purpose in life. I found a different path. I was driving Uber and Lyft full time then. My driving and interactions with so many people became a conduit for my writing and for me to find ways to reach out to people in need of a safe space. I became someone to actually see them behind their mask to let them know that while depression is a lonely battle, they are not alone. Someone else has seen and felt the way they do and can give them validation, courage, and hope.

This adventure of mine became a way to renew my faith in God and people daily. I still had plenty of my own battles to fight but that faith in people kept me fighting. Becoming fully aware of my disease and learning how to control it didn’t just make it go away. I still and forever will, battle depression. But now I have power over it. Now I can help others do the same.

One of my empty spaces is where my faith used to be, or at least how I defined my faith. The last few years, even after this incredible journey of grace, I found myself questioning my faith. I have finally realized, I wasn’t questioning my faith in God, I just stopped talking to God. Instead, my faith in people is really what has taken a big hit. Humans, what a bunch of fucking idiots. I wonder how we got this far. Will we find redemption? Can we stop putting it off until tomorrow? Driving used to restore my faith in humanity. All it usually took was just one rider who I could connect with to get the lights back on.

My Driving experience came to an end on March 18, 2020. Covid dominated everything we did. I am someone who has chronic health issues meaning I was a high risk individual. I simply risked dying if I continued to drive at that time. Coincidentally, that is when my faith began to crumbIe.

I have spent years trying to cultivate a life of kindness and service. There has always been this inner conflict, this battle in my soul to live a life of love and kindness while constantly mitigating anger and frustration with hateful stupid people. That’s kinda hilarious, don’t you think? It’s like I want to beat someone for being a bully while screaming “be kind” in their face. That isn’t what I was going for when I chose to focus on kindness in my life. Nevertheless, I have finally come to terms with who I am in this regard.

I believe in love and kindness as the way we should all treat each other. I also believe sometimes, in order to bring love to one, you must fight another. I am not a cynic. I am a realist. It is hard to imagine a kind and joyful life when there are monsters roaming the land. So, be kind. Be love. And when absolutely necessary, be a tough ruthless motherfucker.  I don’t think that’s hypocritical. 

I prefer to think of it as kindness Kung Fu.

Letting my anger out used to be a practice in failure. Now I realize I can be kind, find joy, and be seriously combative at the same time (when the situation calls for it). My faith in God is as strong as it has ever been. My faith in people is what has caused one of the empty spaces in me. It has created this void. When I try to fill it with joy, it’s like water pouring into and through a colander. It never holds the joy. It never restores my faith, in people. It just flows through the empty space.

I am not ok. Filled with anxiety, depression, self-pity and self-loathing. I am angry and disappointed. I am tired. I have spent the last 3 years fighting one health issue after another. Staph infections, heart attack, surgery, and 6 hospitalizations in 2019 alone. Here is the real kicker, in the middle of Covid, I became ill with West Nile Virus. that was another 9 days in the hospital. West Nile has left mr with a few lingering symptoms including enormous chronic fatigue and chronic stomach issues. But I have continued to find a way to live and be of service in this life. I realized I cannot remain silent, even if I am not feeling the warm and fuzzies.

So, here we are. How is your faith these days? Are you like me, struggling to hold that faith in other people? I have spent way too much time thinking about this stuff, which is why I finally decided to start writing about it. I need to find a way to start filling those empty spaces with the right ingredients again. Will you help me? Here are some of my rants and ramblings as I work to restore my faith.

Do things happen for a reason? I don’t mean like the reason the chicken got ran over by a car. I mean fate. Do you believe in God? If so, is everything part of his plan? Did God know I would be here hammering these words out with thumbs rata tat tapping on the tiny keboard of my trusty Samsung Galaxy on a late Saturday night? (I finished this post on the laptop in case you were wondering.)

Has God commanded everything? each breath we take? If so, then…. Perhaps we need not bother to take out the trash. It was God’s plan for me to sit my ass down on the couch and watch Criminal Minds instead.

Active or passive? Do prayers work? Do more prayers garner more support from the almighty? Better yet, maybe there is a reward system.  Like those little tkckets that pour out of the skeeball machine at Chuck’s house when you score the middle hole, you can rack up prayer points. Careful though. If you don’t have enough proper prayers when you try to cash in, you get the Godly intervention equivalent of one glow stick, a plastic spider, and a couple of tootsie rolls. If you want God to let you have the lava lamp answer to prayer, you are gonna need A TON of prayer power.

A good example of a beneficiary — George Bailey.  He got over $10 grand, and his own personal angel for the night.

So yeah, prayers do work. And as far as my faith in people? That is a work in progress. But I am trying.

Next up. I need to find some hope to fill another empty space. In the mean time…

Try not to be imprisoned by the way it could have been.

I hope you are feelin’ alright. I’m not feelin’ too good myself. But I am getting there.

Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.

Feelin’ Alright”

Seems I’ve got to have a change of scene
Every night I have the strangest dreams
Imprisoned by the way it could have been
Left here on my own or so it seems
I’ve got to leave before I start to scream
For someone’s locked the door and took the key

Feeling alright
I’m not feeling too good myself
Feeling alright
I’m not feeling that good myself

Boy you sure took me for one big ride
And even now I sit and I wonder why
That when I think of you
I stop myself from crying
I just can’t waste my time
I must keep trying
I’ve got to stop believing in all your lies
‘Cause there’s too much to do before I die

Feeling alright
I’m not feeling too good myself
Feeling alright
I’m not feeling that good myself

Don’t you get too lost in all I say
But at the time you know, I really felt that way
But that was then and now you know it’s today
I can’t get set so I guess I’m here to stay
Till someone comes along and takes my place
With a different name oh and a different face

Feeling alright
I’m not feeling that good myself
Feeling alright
I’m not feeling that good myself

#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy 

#TBT All My Empty Spaces

Ok im back. So lets see now, where were we?

I have been quiet and away from this space for awhile. I thought that I needed to be in a different mindset to post anything. Maybe a bit less confused, sad, and angry. Maybe a bit more “use my inside voice,” he said in a mocking tone. Maybe, a bit kinder. Maybe a bit more positive in the message.

Buuuut then I said fuck it. If I’m ugly, I’m ugly. I reminded myself, once again, that I heal the most when I write. I push back my demons when I write. And, I have much to say.

Actually, I’ve written quite a bit over the last 2 years of our collective misery. But I haven’t found the way to connect the dots, to make it all come together in a way that makes sense. There are too many gaps and holes in my process and thoughts. It turns out, that’s because my life has been very inconsistent. So, I have finally figured out what to do. I have chosen to focus on the gaps and inconsistencies of my journey over the last couple of years, all my empty spaces. And, there are many. At least this will be a way to get back into the flow.

Perhaps we can find some peace. Perhaps we can refocus on hope and joy. I know I am not the only one who has found those qualities elusive.

So let’s get it out there, the good the bad and the ugly. I know we are in the advent calendar, so my music choice for TBT might oughta be something more in the spirit. But, most of this year I have been away from regular posting.  I have been in this writer’s slump.  I have struggled to know which way is up. The world has been confusing, harsh, and even a bit surreal.

Life can hurt. Life can deliver devastation to those who you might think deserve it the least. You become certain the sky is falling at some point. But that seems like tragedy from natural disasters, or traumatic accidents. The real hurtful and devastating stuff is what we do to each other. That which breaks my heart the most is seeing kindness and love crushed by the darkness of anger, selfishness, jealousy, and so many other harmful flaws in our human nature…

Not to mention, stupidity. Pain and anger are extreme power zappers. They will leave us in a fog; a dark and smelly fog of (insert your own expletive).

Whenever I need to clear my head or think through some things, I drive. Although, my metaphoric road has been filled with brake lights in front of me on most days. Still trying to find the warm and fuzzy parts of the journey.

I find myself wondering things like, is the beginning of the end, the middle? Is there a way to reverse the slow unraveling? Do we find joy or create it?

Psalms 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Unfortunately that does not literally mean we will weep through the night and tomorrow everything will be ok. But instead it assures us that there WILL be a time of joy even in the midst of our trials.

I am going to do more driving. I am going to get back to writing and posting often.  It is time to take back control and get back to hope and joy. It is time to refocus on kindness and serving others. It is time to mend fences and forgive. It is also time to goto bed. I worked the midnight shift and as the sun rises, I need to sleep.

This will be a process. Perhaps we can  drive together for awhile and heal together. Our path will become clear under streetlights until the sun rises. But for now…

Be love. Be kind. We are truly all connected. Oh, and life is much much better with a soundtrack.

Today’s #TBT song comes from August 23rd, 1982 (which was a Monday, not a Thursday).  It was written and released by Golden Earring, specifically the band’s guitarist George Kooymans, who got the inspiration from a book by Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity. “Twilight Zone” appears on their 1982 album Cut and pays tribute to the 1960s television series The Twilight Zone

It also happens to be my state of mind these days.

“Somewhere in a lonely hotel room there’s a guy
Starting to realize that eternal fate has turned its back on him
It’s two A.M.”

“It’s two A.M. (It’s two A.M.)
Fear is gone (fear is gone)
I’m sitting here waiting
The Gun still warm (the gun still warm)
Maybe my connection is tired of taking chances

Yeah, there’s a storm on the loose
Sirens in my head
Wrapped up in silence, all circuits are dead
Cannot decode, my whole life spins into a frenzy

Help, I’m steppin’ into the twilight zone
Place is a madhouse, feels like being cold
My beacon’s been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go now that I’ve gone too far? (Oh oh oh)
So you will come to know
When the bullet hits the bone
So you will come to know
When the bullet hits the bone

I’m fallin’ down a spiral, destination unknown
Double crossed messenger, all alone
Can’t get no connection, can’t get through
Where are you?

Well the night weighs heavy on his guilty mind
This far from the borderline
When the hitman comes
He knows damn well he has been cheated

And he says
Help, I’m steppin’ into the twilight zone
Place is a madhouse, feels like being cold
My beacon’s been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go now that I’ve gone too far? (Oh oh oh)
So you will come to know
When the bullet hits the bone”


#kindness #purposefulkindness #drivingawaydepression #WhatAWonderfulWorld #hope #peace #joy #love #streetlights #grace #TheKindnessClub #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack #weareallconnected #findingjoy

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Phoenix

From his Daily Meditation, April 4, 2021, Easter Sunday…

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which allows faithful Christians to trust that, indeed, all will be well. I like to think of the resurrection as God’s way of telling us that God can take the worst thing in the world—the killing of the God-Human Jesus—and change it into the best thing: the redemption of the world.

To believe that Jesus was raised from the dead is actually not a leap of faith. Resurrection and renewal are, in fact, the universal and observable pattern of everything. We might just as well use non-religious terms like “springtime,” “regeneration,” “healing,” “forgiveness,” “life cycles,” “darkness,” and “light.” If incarnation is real, if material creation is inspirited, then resurrection in multitudinous forms is to be fully expected. Or to paraphrase a statement attributed to Albert Einstein, it is not that one thing is a miracle, but that the whole thing is a miracle!

If divine incarnation has any truth to it, then resurrection is a foregone conclusion, not a one-time anomaly in the body of Jesus, as our Western understanding of the resurrection felt it needed to prove—and then it couldn’t. The Risen Christ is not a one-time miracle but the revelation of a universal pattern that is hard to see in the short run.

– Fr. Richard Rohr

Facebook Memories is a great feature. I am constantly reminded of the many wonderful people I have met and posted about, through Uber and Lyft. Yesterday, that reminder was about a man I met 3 years ago, named Winston.

As I drove Winston to his destination, a church in South Dallas, he told me an extraordinary story.

In 2005, Winston Norton suffered a burst aneurysm of the brain. He was taken to the hospital but was expected to die within 24 hours. The aneurysm caused a severe stroke. When the doctors went in to try and fix the aneurysm, they found over 40 more.

The chance Winston would live was becoming smaller and smaller. In fact, he coded (heart stopped) more than once. In other words, he died 3 times that night and once again, the next.

He lived.

Winston had lost much of his bodily function and control. He couldn’t move half his body. He spent 9 months at Baylor University Medical Center. 9 months!

Winston is a man of faith and determination. You can see the trauma he suffered in his walk, but you couldn’t tell from his outlook on life. He lives to serve now, thanking God for every precious beautiful day.

He knows God still has a purpose for him so he works everyday to fulfill that purpose. His recovery/survival is nothing short of a miracle.

He believes it is important to tell his story. He and I both agreed we didn’t cross paths by chance. Winston reminded me how important it is to live in the present, to be humble, and to be thankful for every day.

There are days when we feel lost in life and wonder what our purpose is. Here is the answer. You wouldn’t exist if God didn’t have a purpose for you. You may feel your calling in life very clearly. That purpose can and will change. The important part is to get up and live each day in service and thanks, with love and kindness in your heart and every action. One way or another, God will reveal his purpose for you.

Winston, rise again my friend. Keep inspiring people through your story and your dedicaton to spreading kindness and love.

Winston’s story got me thinking about the mythical bird, Phoenix. Like the Phoenix, Winston rose from the ashes. That led me to a Dan Fogelberg song of the same name that I listened to often in my youth. When I listened to it again today I found a particularly powerful line in the lyrics, “Like a Phoenix,
I have risen from the flames
Like a Phoenix,
I have risen from the flames
No more living
Someone else’s dreams.”

Someone else’s dreams…

In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz describes our lives as dreams. “What you are seeing and hearing right now is nothing but a dream. You are dreaming right now in this moment. You are dreaming with the brain awake.”

We make many agreements with life, with God, with ourselves. In doing so, we submit to the dreams, or the influence of others, in the way we think, we perceive, we act. We live someone else’s dreams.

Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally

Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions

Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best

His book, The Four Agreements, teaches us how to break old agreements and make four agreements with ourselves to create our own dream, free of influence from others. In doing so, we are filled with love and peace.

Our lives are like the life of the Phoenix. There are periods throughout our lives when we die and are reborn. As Christians, we attach this life experience to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each day is a renewal. Each day is an opportunity to become a better person, to give and receive love, to enjoy God’s creation and grace. Each day we rise like the Phoenix.

So RISE! Get up, get out, and feel God’s love. Share that love, so that others may find their way out of the dark, out of someone else’s dream.

Thanks again for the book recommendation Mindy Lee Carlson.

In reposting Winston’s story this year, I am grateful to have met him on the day before Easter. The timing, then and now, is not lost on me. He is risen! Be safe in this extraordinary moment in time. Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.

For the full meditation from last week or more of Fr. Richard Rohr’s writing click the link below.

The Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico