The art of Double Speak

When I was a kid, there were no Ipads or Chromebooks or, well – anything really but books. And in school you had book bags, and you schlogged those books from class to class to your locker and then home again. And back. Moms would wise up early on in the shopping cycle and get heavier duty backpacks that didn’t rip out at the bottoms from the weight of all the larger books. If you had Advanced Placement classes back then, you probably have scoliosis or degenerative disc disease right now, but I digress.

One of the books we were given to read, was “1984” by George Orwell. This dystopian novel revealed a government-centric world filled with what Orwell called, “double speak”. It was a way of saying something, and the opposite-something simultaneously with the expectation people should and then eventually would accept it.

One example of such comes in the form of this quote,

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

I didn’t really appreciate what I was being taught at the time about the technique, but I’ll share what I’m seeing today as a result of the awareness.

I want you to imagine that we’re the CEO of McDonald’s. As of 2015, there were 36,525 McDonalds restaurants world wide. That’s 32 thousand.

Imagine with me – hypothetically – that the CEO (let’s call him Mr. McHappypants) came out with some new kind of program for all the stores. He was really excited about it – and somehow convinced everyone that his McHappypants idea was going to make everyone – burger sellers,  happy. Burgers were going to cost less money – and more people were going to have access to burgers. Win win all around.

What would happen if that idea caused over half of those stores to close? Close to 19,000 stores closed, in a few years, as a result of the one idea?

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You and I both know exactly what would happen. Mr. McHappypants would be relieved of his duties as the McDonalds CEO. There would be a massive shakeup. Investors would demand investigations into possible corruption and lawsuits would be filed.

So, about that.

Last night I was reading this article from CNN Money. I found this one paragraph particularly interesting:

Instead, Obamacare funded the creation of non-profit co-op insurers to provide consumers with alternatives. But more than half of them have failed since their debut in 2014, undone mainly by enrollees’ unexpectedly high medical use. Other insurers — particularly UnitedHealthcare (UNH) — have announced they are pulling out of Obamacare, further restricting consumers’ choices.” (emphasis added)

This isn’t about the whole, “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”, thing. Or the, “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan”, thing. As I write it, I’m not sure what it’s really about other than to point out the Health Care Exchanges – the lynch pin of the entire Affordable Care Act, are going going gone.

The Exchanges Supreme Court Justice Roberts had to bend the law insisting the word “State” didn’t mean what you and I were taught “State” meant – are failing. Have failed. You’ll never believe why. Some of you will, maybe.

Many insurers found enrollees have higher health care needs than expected, forcing them to hike rates.

So, do you remember the math of how this was all supposed to work out?

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The plans were hinged on the McHappypants idea that there would be tons and tons of younger healthier people paying premiums. That we’d all be in the plans together – and the multitudes of younger happier and healthier people paying into the newly created exchanges would offset the costs of the older people with pre-existing health conditions. It was the first time in our history as a nation that the Federal Government forced its citizens to buy a product, or be fined.

The problem with that – is it never happened. Because the fines were unenforceable (I believe intentionally). If you’re a young 20 something – the only way the government can collect your fine is if you receive a tax refund. If you don’t – there’s literally no language in the law collect the fine. Moreover – if you lie on your tax form and say, “I already have a plan”, there’s no way to verify if you’re lying. Ever. So this happened instead.

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CNN writes as a result,

A recent Kaiser study found the benchmark silver plan premiums are projected to rise 10% for 2017, on average, for a 40-year-old consumer in 14 major cities. That’s double the 5% increase for 2016 policies

If you’re reading this, you probably have a policy that’s increased 10, 15, or even 20 percent in the last few years. Your rates never went down. Most of my friends don’t have a plan at all, in fact- they don’t make enough money to purchase one, but make too much money to qualify for the subsidies to get anything. Double-speak is really good at telling you the crap sandwich you’re eating tastes amazing.

Ok. So what’s the suggestion? How do we get out of this mess that is only getting worse by the day? A public plan. Or a “Single Payer” health care system (like the VA).

Adding a public plan in such areas would strengthen the marketplace approach, giving consumers more affordable options while also creating savings for the federal government…” (President Obama)

I’ve made all these graphics and written all these things to warn, and to educate you.

This is coming. It’s the next phase. It was always the intention.

When the plan came out, there were a host of predictions made. My favorite (I listen to all media outlets, not just the “right”) was from Rush Limbaugh. In 2013 Limbaugh (hate him or love him, just read) said this:

Americans had to lose their healthcare plans in order to for Obamacare to work.  There was never any intention for anybody to keep their current plan.  The only way Obamacare could work, as designed by Obama and the Democrats, is precisely because people would lose their plan.  It had to happen that way.  The only way Obamacare could work, the only way Obama could reform the healthcare system the way he wants to reform it is, precisely if everybody lost their plan.

The shift is happening – right now.

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As early as a year ago – former Secretary of State Ms. Clinton was against a “single payer” health plan. Just a few days before the Iowa caucuses, she said that a public option – a single payer plan – would “never, ever” happen. That the ACA was fine. And she would defend it voraciously.

Just before being acquitted essentially of all charges in her email scandal this month, Ms. Clinton had this to say…using new language and terminology….a change of heart maybe?

I’m also in favor of what’s called the public option,

(Huh?)

In addition to this – here’s the ‘solution’ that scares me – and should scare all of you, the most. President Obama made what has probably been the most dystopian suggestion I’ve heard, to date….

he said Congress should help reduce the cost of prescription drugs by requiring drug makers to disclose their production and development costs, increasing the rebates manufacturers must give for drugs prescribed to certain Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and allowing the federal government to negotiate prices for certain high-cost medications.”

The Federal Government will soon have the ability to go to any corporation and force them to reveal private information about their business. Negotiated raw products prices and contracts with suppliers. Salaries of research and development staff. Sales and Marketing practices. All of it. Just short of taking a patented product developed by said companies and making it themselves (for the good of the people).

Those of you who have read the novel, “Atlas Shrugged” just shivered with me. It’s happening….now.

Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” (Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand)

What’s the point of all this? The point is – it’s coming. It will be here, soon. It’s here, already in many instances. There is no point of return.

Double-speak is a powerful tool in the hands of those who craft its verbiage. I’ve found for as many people were were in favor of the ACA – in countless presentations of all of the facts – defend it vehemently to this day. Even as their premiums rise. Even as their plans are cancelled. Even as their deductibles rise from $2,500 to $10,000 and $15,000. Even as they all get ready to stand in line with the Veterans who have been waiting as long as as a year to see their VA doctor, many dying as they waited.

Orwell predicted this though long ago when he said,

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

 

 

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The other side of Father’s Day

When my mother was a younger girl, her father (my grandfather) was abusing her. From stories I could piece together from various people, it was bad. One such story involved the man literally jumping up and down on top of her in anger as she lay helpless on the floor.

Year later, I saw for myself what a piece of s**t he really was to her mom (my grandmother) and Mom. He denigrated “Dee-Dee” (my grandmother) in front of us….incessantly swearing at her and calling her names. One time grandma was at work (I never saw him work, ever) and “Popeye” pulled into the parking lot of the sweatshop to pick her up. He didn’t slow the truck down and stop – and rather made her run to get into the truck as I watched her trip and struggle to open the door and get in. She was in her 60’s at the time.

When I was a little older, my dad came over with me to Grandma’s house when she was alone. He had an envelope that he handed her with some secrecy and said,

“Evelyn – if you ever want to leave here – you call me. These are two tickets to Florida. I will come, pick you up, drive you to the airport and fly down with you to your sister’s house and drop you off at her door. Anytime – day or night – we go. 

When “Popeye” had cancer years later, and his eye was literally “popping” out from tumors – it was my mom who was taking him to his chemotherapy treatments at Stony brook University Hospital. From the backseat I could hear him calling her a “whore” and a “bitch” as she drove him back to his falling apart house off of Bay Avenue in Patchogue.  I remember thinking if my father ever heard him calling her those things, would Popeye  live to see the next stoplight – and why mom never told dad what took place in these car trips.

In the past 45 years, I’ve seen for myself how horrible dads can be to their families.

I’ve met no fewer than 3 other women who were physically or sexually abused by their own fathers. I suspect a few others have lived through that hell, based on some signs I’ve started picking up on but haven’t admitted as much in public.

One dad I know has a special needs son. After his divorce, he told his ex-wife that their visitation agreement was going to change, because the son was over 18 years old now. The dad had plans to travel and experience the world with his soon to be new-wife. His weekends were his therefore, and if the son wanted to visit, there had to be “sufficient notice” going forward.

I’ve watched no fewer than  5 dads leave their wives for another (usually)  younger woman and leave their young kids behind to deal with the tragedy and abandonment of the divorce. Some intentionally torturing their soon-to-be-ex wives throughout the entirety of the legal process via their lawyers. Some moving halfway across the country to get away from them. All of them hit what I affectionately call the “RESET BUTTON”, and started their cycle of brokenness over and over….again……..and again.

Right now, a man I’ve met or known is Facebook chatting with an old girlfriend online, or making plans to meet somewhere after work…packing the cracks of his marriage with the black powder and fuses of infidelity. I don’t know who specifically – but I’m sure it’s happening.  Someone you know – they’re doing it right now. There is a 100% chance of infidelity in your circle of friends, and it’s usually the “perfect dad” or the guy everyone thought would never do it, that’s doing it.  A dad has decided in his heart to sentence his children to a life of wondering, “Why didn’t you love us?

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When I was growing up, I watched every episode of “Little House on the Prairie”, produced by a man named Michael Landon. He starred as the show’s main character, “Charles Ingalls” in the iconic TV series and exemplified everything I thought a father was supposed to be. Every episode I saw was a blueprint to follow in love, sacrifice, and dedication to family. He was everything I wanted to be someday as a dad.

Years later I learned about Landon’s personal life.

He was married no fewer than 3 times. He was the father of 9 children across the 3 different families.  Landon was a heavy smoker, and admittedly an even heavier drinker when not on screen. By all accounts, he was a horrible father in real life. At one point, Landon started sleeping with a much younger makeup artist (Cindy) who would become Landon’s third wife.

Landon’s children dealt with the aftermath of his infidelities in different ways with his son later battling severe alcohol abuse, and his daughter fighting most of her life with the horrors of bulimia as she coped with the loss.

Michael Landon was a piece of s**t father. One thing in public when everyone was looking, and another person entirely when the doors were closed. Just like my grandfather, and so many other fathers out there.

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I have met men that are inspirations to me – “on and off screen” that are the real deal. Men I can look to and say, “I want to be like that guy”.  Guys who were and are real life Charles Ingalls-es.  They make me want to be a better dad…..a better husband.  They genuinely walk the walk…and I’ve learned by watching them. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned. Things I hope my own sons will identify with and embody someday:

a. A father is a keel. “Be a keel” I was told by one man. A keel is the part of the boat that sticks down under the water that no one can see. It serves one inglorious purpose – to keep the boat upright as it sails forward. Fathers and Husbands can’t lose their crap in a storm…whether that storm is an argument, or a family difficulty. “Be a keel” means understanding your role and responsibility is to expect and deflect the pressure of those storm waters, and keep the boat upright. I catch myself in moments whispering, “be a keel” to myself, echoing what another father taught me years ago. In those 5 to 10 seconds of reminder, many an argument or inflamed situation has dissolved backwards into peace and calm – and the sailboat continued on, upright.

b. A father can never love his wife, or his kids, the way they were meant to be loved.  A man I love and respect taught me this before I was married to my wife Karen. He turned straight at me in counselling – in front of her – and told me, “You can never love your wife the way she needs to be loved“. (What?) “Only God can love her completely and fully.” I remember now in very critical moments that they will be disappointed with me – and my job is to apologize to them, ask their forgiveness –  and direct them to Christ as the only person who can meet that deepest need in them. He also reminded me that only God can love me the way I was designed to be loved – and not to seek that fulfillment from my wife and kids. I’m here to serve my wife and kids on behalf of Christ, and be Jesus to them in the overflow of His love for me. These are hard words for men that come from imperfect families growing up as many fathers look for a validation in their wives and kids that only God can ever / was ever supposed to give them.

c. Two different fathers have bought taught me the same invaluable third lesson – keep talking to your children. Never stop communicating with them. Make time to always be talking to them…asking them questions, and getting them to vocalize what is happening in their heads. I think ultimately this boils back down to time investment as well. You can’t talk to your kids if you’re not actually physically there to talk to them. Both of these dads have raised beautiful, successful and independent daughters, and I admire what they’ve accomplished. Their daughters are the kinds of women I want my daughter to be someday, and so I’ve paid attention to how they’ve spoken to them and the kinds of things they say to them, when they are talking. The words we use matter…and can be life giving, or life altering.

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Here are some of the words I use, or try to use now in my own family:

a. “I love you“. Dads can’t say this enough times. Dads need to say this when they least feel like saying it. If you’re a dad and you think you say it enough times…if you’re trying to count in your head right now how many times you’ve said it to your kids today, or this week – you didn’t say it enough times. Every time you tell your kids, “I love you”, you’re placing a deposit in the bank accounts of their souls. The pile of self-worth grows larger and larger and larger. Soon they are swimming in the knowledge of your love for them like Scrooge McDuck swimming through a pile of freshly minted gold coins.

b. “I’m proud of you.”  The blessing of a father is a hallmark moment for a son or daughter. I’ve met and befriended men who are to this day – years after the loss of their dad, looking for someone….anyone, to tell them they are proud of them. My own father before he died had such a moment with me. He sat me down and told me that he had made more mistakes with me than he could count….that as a dad, he had failed as often or more than he had succeeded – but it was critical to him that I understand how proud of me he was…who I had become and was becoming. I can point to this single event and moment in my life as the turning point for me as a man.

c. “I’m sorry. Would you forgive me?”  These are the hardest words for a husband or father to utter. They epitomize failure….embody the realization that we aren’t what was needed in the moment. Saying “I’m sorry”, to one of your kids or your wife though – is critical to the health and success of your family. In vocalizing the words, “I’m sorry” a dad admits to having made a mistake – admits to have experienced a learning moment. These words are proverbial “jackhammers” to our worst enemies as dads – our pride. Most fathers teach their sons to “demand respect” from their wives and kids, the exact opposite of what’s needed.

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Much of life, fatherhood included, is the story of knowledge acquired too late: if only I’d known then what I know now, how much smarter, abler, stronger, I would have been. But nothing really prepares you for kids, for the swells of emotion that roll through your chest like the rumble of boulders tumbling downhill, nor for the all-enveloping labor of it, the sheer mulish endurance you need for the six or seven hundred discrete tasks that have to be done each and every day. Such a small person! Not much bigger than a loaf of bread at first, yet it takes so much to keep the whole enterprise going. Logistics, skills, materiel; the only way we really learn is by figuring it out as we go along, and even then it changes on us every day, so we’re always improvising, which is a fancy way of saying that we’re doing things we technically don’t know how to do.”  – Ben Fountain

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In the end – when my eyes close one last time and my heart beats no more, I want to know that I was a good dad, and a loving husband. When my name is mentioned somewhere, I don’t want to be remembered for being funny, or smart, or a business owner. I want them to say, “He met his wife when he was 19 and she was 17, and he loved her right up until he was gone“, or, “Have you met his kids? He was so proud of them and loved them more than anything…they were his life“.

Every day is a struggle. A realization that I wasn’t given the tools I need and am learning as I go most times. These “swells of emotion” that are rolling through my chest “like the rumble of boulders tumbling downhill” ever present.

But I have resolved to never be a Popeye…

…..to never be a Michael Landon.

To be more like Christ and a little like Charles Ingalls.

 

 

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I was watching, Dad

Dad,

I was watching when you were taking care of all the women that didn’t have people to stand up for them.

Rosemarie, Donna, and Patty next door. She was a widow, and you spent more time in their driveway fixing her car and stuff in her house than you did in our own backyards some summer weekends.

Ethyl across the street. All times you cut the lawn, and the home repair work. How you made us gut and prepare all the snapper we caught when we went fishing and bring it to her because she was on Social Security. How that one tree that fell in her yard almost killed you when it snapped back on your legs when you cut it down with your chainsaw so it wouldn’t damage her house after the hurricane.

Amalia – the little lady from Spain that we drove to church every week because she couldn’t drive herself and was “trapped” in her house. She smelled like old people, and told me my school-spanish was wrong. She was going to teach me “Castillian” spanish – the language of the kings.

Rosealie next door to us. Another widow, whose husband died while we lived there, leaving her  alone in that house.

         >>>(I believe she was mentally disabled, almost like a child, now that I think back)

You checked in on her – helped her move when the state took her property away for the highway project. Bought her junky furniture to help with the move and get some money in her pockets. She was the kind of lady no one would talk to or help because she was different – and you did both of those things.

Widows, all around us. You were the only guy helping, now that I think about it.

How you took care of little Richie Frye because his welfare mom wouldn’t spend any time with him, and just let him run loose around the neighborhood dirty and hungry. We hated him at the time, to be honest. I didn’t get it then – but I get it now. She wasn’t a widow – just single if she was ever married at all. She probably appreciated you picking him up and taking him to the beach with us those times. Weird now that I see it that way. His brother kicked the shit out of me one day – and you still took “little Richie” to the beach. That stung, Pop.

You fought for Mom’s mom, when grandpa was abusive to her- which was a lot. I heard when I was a kid watching you tell her you’d drive her to the airport, buy 2 tickets and fly her down to her sister’s house in Florida and take her away from him…all she had to do was tell you. You handed her a ticket that she never used. I saw the whole thing.

Dad – I have a lot of women in my life now. It’s kind of weird. But they all need my help to one degree or another. And I’ve been helping. I didn’t connect to the why until just now.

It always comes with a cost though.

Sometimes the people you help – that need the help the most, don’t want it or reject what you did after the fact. I see now that it’s because the people closest to them always hurt them. Doing something nice for someone usually comes with a catch. People don’t want to feel obligated. They have enough unwanted obligations. So they push you away.

Sometimes the people you help don’t ever fight for themselves. They let you do all the fighting. And that takes its toll on you. It grinds you down to the point you don’t want to help anymore. You ask, “what the hell am I doing?”.  Sometimes.

Sometimes the most hurtful part is dealing with the people who have been hurting the women who’ve been hurt. They don’t like you standing up for them. It shines a spotlight on how shitty they’ve been to the person you’re helping. They get ferociously offensive, and lash out at you AND the person you’re helping. These are the worst kinds of situations. They take the deepest tolls. It evokes certain feelings…I wonder if you ever felt this way. They are not happy feelings.

Most times I don’t count the cost, and I find I’m waaaay out there – pretty exposed and vulnerable before I know where I am in the situation. I know that’s not a healthy place to be, but sometimes some people – the ones who hurt others –  only understand “crazy”. It’s their native language, and they won’t back down until you speak the song of their people.

I watched you sing those melodies more than once.

I’d like to hope you’d be proud of me – of the man I’ve become/am becoming.  But I get really angry – the way you used to get – when I see someone being mistreated. To a fault most days. I’m not sure I’m built for it the way you were. Or maybe the anger took the same toll on you it takes on me? There are enough genes in “here” from you, that I’m pretty sure it did.

Did you ever regret it? Helping? Did you ever once say, “this is the last time?” Did you ever get in so deep you looked back and thought….”Crap.”

You ended up living in the mountains in the Catskills by yourself with mom….but then she found a widow to help….and you started helping her too, when she was dying of cancer.

I haven’t yet…given up. In fact, I’m really proud of these ladies. (there are men to help/ I am helping. Just a lot of women lately, it seems).

They’re getting stronger….little by little. Small changes that turn into big changes when you take that burden away for a little while. Time to heal, and get back up on their feet and stand, you know? I didn’t appreciate how strong a woman could be, that is, until this latest season of my halfway through life phase.

I hope your granddaughter Abbey will be as strong as these ladies are, someday. God you’d love her, Dad. She’s amazing – the best of all of us.

I kind of get why you did it, now.

Sometimes people just need someone to stand in the gap and say, “I believe in you. I’ll help”.  To people that get forgotten. People other people don’t think will ever fight back. You were kind of a superhero like that, I guess…your other glaring faults and personal kryptonites aside. I could have had a worst example growing up.

Tell Mom, and Ethyl, and Rosemarie…all the ladies that I get it. Tell them your daughter in law and granddaughter – they’re strong like them….so much stronger than I am most days. I’m trying to be a better dad than you. I say, “I love you” a lot more than you did in front of the boys to them. Hug them- tell them I think they’re beautiful and that I believe they can do whatever they set their mind to.

Sometimes I drop the ball like you did – but maybe a little less often than you, and that’s gotta stand for something, right? Maybe your grandsons will do even better than you or I did with their wives and kids. I think that will be true. I know it.

I miss you. It’s hard figuring out what you would do. I have a hard time remembering your face sometimes – or your voice. Tonight was a good touchstone for me though. Remembering the widows.

That was all you, Old Man. And I was watching.

 

 

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Dandelions

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That’s a weird looking picture. Some sort of what-the-hell-hieroglyphic at first.  And it is, in a way most people probably won’t understand. That picture was my Church sermon this morning. A message just for me, as I sat here listening…not talking.

I’m really tired. I have poured myself out into the lives of other people these past few weeks. If I were a battery and you put me in a flashlight, you’d throw me out, type pouring.

This morning as I was listening, I started drawing. Me at the center – and the people I’ve been helping out on the perimeter…lines connecting them back to me with Microsoft-Paint-Paths. And then I heard Him.

Last night as my wife was driving our family home from an appointment, I’d come across something in Pinterest that jumped out at me. I pinned it, and filed it away to look at later. I didn’t understand at the time but God was whispering to me in the car when I saw it and preparing me for this morning. Hiding a clue. A note to a song he was writing.

It’s hard to explain to people, but this is what the conversation that took place between God and I just sounded like:

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Michael – I made you to pour out inspiration into others. That’s why your here

“But Lord, it hurts when the relationships don’t stick, or people take what I give them and just leave.”

Open your computer and draw the connections of the lives you are pouring out into.

“Okay, I don’t understand, but sure.”

Do you have everyone on there?

“Yes.”

What does that look like to you?……think.

“…………….it looks like the dandelion yarn sculpture picture I saw last night”.

(silence)

“Ok, here’s what I see. I’m the middle part of the dandelion. You’re the stalk. Everything I need to pour out into the people you’ve put in my life comes through you, out into them….”

(silence)

“Some people stay with me on the core, and others, well, they float away to seed out into others lives when what they needed from you-through-me-has been transferred”.

Yes.

“Lord it hurts sometimes when they don’t stay. When they go.”

I healed a bunch of guys who had leprosy, and only one came back to say thank you.

“Hmmmm.”

(silence)

(silence)

“Lord, remember how I told you that I wanted a “George Bailey” life? Like the end of that movie, “It’s a wonderful life”, how he sees everyone he’s helped over the course of his life?

Yes.

“This is how you’re doing it, isn’t it?”

(silence)

“I love you Dad.”

I love you too. Be my dandelion.
I am the Vine and you are the branches.
Everything you need comes from me.
As you love one another I am spreading through the wind to the end reaches.
I am your thanks. I am your reward. I am enough. I Am.”

“(silence)”

“(silence)”

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He takes seemingly disconnected things, little puzzle pieces that don’t have any connections at first – and “hides” them in my life like a dad hiding clues to a present for his children. Then, He subtly brings them together with one last piece and I find Him there, in the middle of a pile of things that could never be considered “random” in their totality. Clues hidden in space and time come together and I know that He was doing it all for me…to talk to me.

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“A dandelion?”

Yes.

“I doesn’t sound too manly, God.”

It has the word “lion” in it…(smiles)

“Funny.”

 

 

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Jesus was the same as Buddha and Mohammed and Vishnu

On Saturday.

On Friday there were earthquakes.  When Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross, crap hit the fan. Historian  Julius Africanus in AD 221 wrote in reference to another historian’s observations (Thallus),

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down

Since Christ’s death, Geologists have discovered evidence of an earthquake in Jerusalem as a result of the Dead Sea receding over time. You can count the layers of earth backwards down until you get to around 33AD and see when the earth broke.

Researchers have also discovered using modern star charting software that that afternoon, April 3rd 33AD, “as Jesus expires on the  cross, the moon goes into eclipse“.  That night, it rises a full moon. What we know today as a “blood moon”.

History notes with great detached emotion that this man Jesus was crucified on Friday.

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was hanged [or crucified]. … Since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.” Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a

Christus…was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontious Pilate” (Cornelius Tacitus )

The entire world is in agreement about “Good Friday”. Scientists, historians , and theologians. Each looking to the other with a rare conciliatory “thumbs up” in regard to their respective studies aligning.

This morning when I woke up I realized something. Nobody talks about Saturday. Saturday, April 4th 33 AD was an important day. It was the day Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and Hindu Vedas and Rishis were the same. The day they all shared one undeniable commonality.

They were all dead. Without a pulse. Their respective chests neither rising or falling.

Jesus followers were losing their #!@#$ right about now. Their biggest hope of stabilizing – the guy they’d look up to for working the problem (whose nickname was “Rocky”taken from Petros meaning “a small rock found along a pathway”) had denied he even knew who Jesus was the night before as they beat the hell out of him. Their accountant had sold them out and hanged himself hours prior. It was Saturday, and things were, well – things had been better.

I’ve studied all the major religions of the world, and spoken with its most devout followers. I’ve read through the Quran, the Tipitaka, and the Vedas. On Saturday, there’s a distinct difference between the historical writings of the Gospels – and these books. For some reason, Matthew Mark Luke and John felt it important to note that on Saturday – they were pretty sure that Jesus was a liar. To note they were all doubters. And hypocrites. And cowards. Disappointed power mongers. Greedy wealth managers.

I love the followers of Christ, on Saturday. They’re my favorite characters in the whole of canon. When I read what they wrote, I see the most honest accounting in all of the sacred texts of the world. I see the “most real” reality show of all time. I see myself, and what I would have done.

And I know…I know whatever they are about to tell me next can be trusted.

There’s a point in every friendship when people go from ‘casual acquaintances’ to ‘friends’. It’s a point of confession. When we share something horrifically intimate and unflattering about ourselves.

Think in your head about your closest friends right now – think about that one thing they shared with you about themselves that they haven’t told anyone else. That’s these guys.

Think about the time you had the chance to do the right thing, and you did the opposite. Your plans fell apart and everything you’d been working towards for years went to hell in a hand basket. That’s these guys.

Think about the time your friend just needed one simple thing from you….and you couldn’t deliver despite your hundred promises to the contrary. That’s these guys.

If Good Friday was important, I’d argue that “Oh S**t Saturday” is more important. For me, at least It’s when I first believed the Bible was real, and began a quazi-theological-scientific search for Truth. These confessions of failure were the “Songs Of My People”.

We are not okay. We’re pretty scared right now. We messed up. We may have messed up.

Easter Sunday needs “Oh S**T” Saturday. See, I can’t believe someone who tells me their life is perfect. That they’ve never dropped the ball and live a perfect enlightened life. I see straight past their pretty perfect smiles and perfectly placed masks. But I can believe 12 guys crapping their pants in a hidden room wondering “where do we go from here?”, afraid to move. Freely confessing, “we’re failures”. “We may have f****d up royally”.

I can believe them. These men and women about to see something  ‘tomorrow’ that would shape the lives of over 2 billion people on Earth 2000+ years later.

Sunday. The day Jesus was nothing like Buddha, Mohammed, or Vishnu. Not in the slightest. On Sunday, the question is answered, “which religion is the right one?“.

And I believe everything they said about Sunday, because of  “Oh S**T” Saturday.

(I wonder if Hallmark will start making cards for that now?)

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There’s not enough time

I am 44 years old. 44.7 to be exact, and I’m running out of time.

I have to confess, I’m a little worried about the whole longevity thing. As a “born again” Evangelical, don’t get me wrong – I’m not panicking. (I know where I’m going).  I’m just realizing there are a finite number of breaths left on this earth. An invisible but always present counter that is tick-tick-tick-ticking down. One day, it will have single digits on it face. 9. 8. 7. 6, and so on. And then there will be one. And none.

I have developed a deep appreciation for those breaths. I’m running out of them.

My father died when he was 58. His brother died in his 30’s. Their dad died when my dad was 13. (My son just turned 16). My mom died when she was 58. I don’t have any of the congenital heart stuff or cancer stuff they had, but, well, there it is. That’s almost 20 years under the average life span of the American male. 20.

I have been engorging myself of late.

Before it was crazy popular, I learned how to build a drone that you could fly by staring into a pair of goggles and seeing out through the drone camera as it flew. Parts and pieces that were hard to assemble, because they didn’t come with instructions. I had to rely on people online who had done what I was trying to do before me….who’d made YouTube videos and wrote posts on tech-forums. I got about 80% close on my own, and had to rely on a community of other people to get me to functional where I was flying. That pattern it seems, is intoxicating to me (what I’ll later call, “THE PROCESS”).

It happened (“the PROCESS”) when we built my solar powered battery bank downstairs. The one that powers my office upstairs, and a chest freezer in my garage. We got 80% of the way done, and the rest of the time we were making mistakes and learning from an online community of people who were also making / had already made those same mistakes. It’s working flawlessly now. I use the sun, to freeze steaks. Crazy.

It happened again when I got my first 3D printer. It took me almost an entire year to work out the kinks and get it running. But when I was finished tinkering, and doing all the things that the people on the forums said to do to this particular model – the parts I was able to make were absolutely beautiful. There was a deeply seeded sense of accomplishment. I’d done something only a small handful of people had ever done – I was part of a club, of sorts. Like a “Big Bang Theory” gang, which makes me Wolowitz, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.🙂

I felt the same way when the plants from my hydroponics garden bloomed and started bearing tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. After months of research, and building, and participating in online communities of hydroponics gardeners, I was able to figure it all out.

This last project was probably one of the worst in that sense. I wanted to build a “Rocket Stove” – a very special kind of stove that burns wood completely….with no smoke coming out of the chimney. Just a damp mist of moisture, and some barely warm air with the rest being consumed in a super heated chamber inside. This last project took 3 or 4 revisions before we got it correct. Before it was functioning as good or better than the people we’d been following on YouTube and in the forums. I told my brother Ron at the end of this last project, “…it feels like someone should be walking through this shop door and welcoming us into the club…”.

I think I know how Leonardo DaVinci felt.

If you Google him, do an “image” search. You’ll come across pictures of birds, and crossbows. Pictures of helicopters, and flowers and horses and human anatomy. Hydraulic devices and war machines. I suspect as he got older, he had these same thoughts….”I am running out of time….“, I suppose he pondered. He had to. Just look at everything he was into. I think if someone asked me that , “who would you have lunch with if you could meet anyone in history”, I’d have to go with him. I think he “got” it.

I want to fly. (I have my sights set on a Powered Parachute lesson soon). But I want to be able to drive a vehicle somewhere, power it up, and fly above the earth by myself.

I want to research instinctual behavior. I’m theorizing right now that when we are born, or when animals are born, that we are encoded….digitally….with skills that aren’t learned, but whose instructions are latent in our DNA. I’m interested in how what we understand now as the “digital” and the “biological” are more closely overlapped than anyone ever knew before.

I want to see New Zealand. And Iceland. And walk, “El Camino” with my wife “Karen Camin-as” in Spain. If I’m really honest, I think I’d like to hike to and camp at the base camp of Mt. Everest before those breaths run out, as well and go back to the Himalayan mountains. the big ones, this time.

I want to see an astronaut land on the surface of Mars.

I want to drive a self driving car on a long trip where I don’t touch the wheel hardly, and can see the world outside as I travel. (I think Mr. Elon Musk can help with both of those. )

I want to see the birth of artificial intelligence. Talk to a machine that passes the Turing test. (What will it think? Will it believe in God? )

I want to see images from the Webb telescope. A telescope which will see farther into the universe than the Hubble and answers questions we don’t even know to ask, yet.

Then there are the less “technological” aspirations.

I want to drag a camper up and down the West Coast with my wife when the kids are gone. One of those shiny luxury (but smaller) shiny aluminum Airstreams. Stop along the way and walk into the Pacific Ocean. And eat lots of cheese.

I want to walk my daughter down the aisle, and scare the shit out of her husband to be the night before.

I want to see my huge-heart oldest son holding HIS newborn son and hug him the way he’s hugged me a thousand times on a thousand mornings…in some hospital waiting room.

I want to see my youngest walking up the driveway with a girl he met at school and ask me, “how did you know mom was the one?” in a private aside when she’s talking to my wife who turns and mouths the words, “I LIKE THIS ONE!“.

I am running out of time.

So many foods to taste (everything but Indian), so many songs to hear and books to read. Deep conversations to be had. Answers sought in countless uplifted prayers.

Kisses from my wife. Movies and commercials we both cry at the end of.  Those moments where we can sit together and not say a word. The way her face changes when it’s covered up in hysterical I GOTTA PEE laughter.

Maybe this is what 40 something feels like.  I dunno. I’m growing fonder of the process though. I thought that’s what this post was about, but apparently it’s more than that. It (“the process”) has 4 fantastic phases:

a. I have no idea how the hell to do this. But it would be so cool if I could do it.
b. I have highly overestimated my ability to do this. Crap.
c. Is there anyone else whose ever done this before, and what can I learn from them? 
d. I can’t believe I figured out how to do this. So cool. Now I can do that next thing…

When I die, I want make Jesus laugh when he sees me. I want him to say, “Michael, what’s that all over your shirt?”, or, “how did you rip your pants up like that?”. I’ll have a wrench or a wire or a hard cider in my hand. Wrinkled schematics for something or airline tickets to somewhere in my pocket. I am hopefully out of breath with a huge bewildered smile on my face, the faint smell of diesel fuel or wood smoke in my jacket, with more aches pains and scars than I can count. And lipstick on my cheek.

I am running out of time.

 

 

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No, Trump doesn’t know Jesus. Stop.

Today, Sarah Palin – former governor of Alaska and media pariah endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States. This didn’t shock me. It would take an awful lot to shock me at this point in my life, having seen the political equivalent of “pigs flying” in my lifetime. What did shock me, was this quote harvested from a string of Facebook posts trending as a result of the endorsement,

““Palin’s brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump tower,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Endorsements alone don’t guarantee victory, but Palin’s embrace of Trump may turn the fight over the evangelical vote into a war for the soul of the party,” he said.”

If you’re an Evangelical, and you’re considering voting for Donald Trump…you’re all excited about the prospect of pulling that lever, and telling everyone you know on Facebook and Snapchat….I need to metaphorically slap you in your virtual face. Stop it….you’re embarrassing the rest of us. Damn it – cheese and crackers. WTF.

Donald says the Bible is his favorite book.

He also said this,

Well, Rosie O’Donnell’s disgusting, both inside and out. You take a look at her, she’s a slob, she talks like a truck driver … Rosie attacked me personally because I was very happy when her talk show failed … Another thing that failed, and this was a real monster, everybody was suing her, was her magazine. her magazine called Rosie was a total disaster. So I love it, I gloat over it, I think it’s wonderful, because I like to see bad people fail.

… Well, if I were running the view, I’d fire Rosie. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and I’d say “Rosie, you’re fired” … We’re all a little chubby, but Rosie’s just worse than most of us. But it’s not just the chubbiness — Rosie is a very unattractive person, both inside and out … Rosie’s a person that’s very lucky to have her girlfriend, and she better be careful or I’ll send one of my friends over to pick up her girlfriend, why would she stay with Rosie if she had another choice?”

It just gets better and better.

Donald said he enjoys “a great relationship with God

He also said this, in regards to a man whose plane was shot down over Vietnam – and forced to live in a box  as a P.O.W. so small he has permanent debilitating injuries (John McCain)

“”He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you….

Let’s continue. (clears throat)

Donald Trump said, “I’m leading a very good life…

He also impersonated, mocked, and made fun of a reporter with physical disabilities.

Another reporter – who was wheelchair bound called Trump a “a rodeo clown” in an political opinion piece. Trump said this in response about the man,

I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune,” Trump told NBC News. “Then I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants…..?

At this point – I stopped writing this blog post. I have about 30 more examples of things the man said – and did – that are so diametrically opposed to everything the Son of God taught, as to cause me to pause and cease typing. It physically hurts my head to read the crap he’s said, and not once yet apologized for.

FYI, Trump proudly states he’s never asked God for forgiveness in his life, btw. He said,

I try not to make mistakes where I have to ask forgiveness…why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness, if I am not making mistakes?…I work hard, I’m an honorable person…

(cricket…………..cricket…………..cricket…………)

It was fun for the first few weeks watching him say the things he said…this idea that someone who was an “outsider” was going to change things. I felt that way when Ross Perot came around. When Steve Forbes took a shot at it, I was listening. I even thought Ben Carsen might have had something important to say…maybe even had a shot this time. But in each of those 3 cases though, I could have made a reasonable argument for a possible relationship of those men back to God. They carried themselves in a way and acted as to – at the very least – not embarrass the hell out of me and my faith. Trump calling himself a Christian, was like hearing that Madonna converted to mystical Judaism. That part of your brain developed back in the African Savannah evolved to detect bull**** fires off millions of neurons in direct response to the incoming auditory insanity.  There’s just no way.

Something different…bigger…is going on here, though – and what’s most disturbing is that most of the people who profess to be “Evangelical” are pumping the hysteria wave higher and higher. It’s like some apocalypse zombie movie where the infection spreads, and people lose their (*#&$)(@*#$ minds, one church, one neighborhood at a time. I’ll be honest – it scares me. It’s like going to a movie with all your friends that they wanted you to see, and halfway through it they take off their jackets and they’re all wearing Nazi t-shirts. When the main character makes fun of blacks and Jews, they laugh and look at you as though to say with their eyes, “Isn’t this great!?“.  This is the Trump campaign, I think. Maybe not Nazi stuff – but you get the analogy, right? People I thought were sane – are clearly not. People I thought might be Christians, have me wondering. I take comfort in that though, because Jesus himself said that when it all hit the fan in the end, many of the people who thought they were good, weren’t. Maybe this is the first wave of the last act.

If you’re a self-confessed Evangelical believer in Jesus – as your Lord and Savior – and your’e supporting this guy….please, at the very least – keep it to yourself. Just stop it already. You’re making the stuff we’re supposed to be focused on harder for the rest of us. There wasn’t much credibility in the account to start with after Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker (omg) – and you’re putting the rest of what’s left on a moral VISA card we won’t be paying off anytime soon.

On behalf of Jesus, women, disabled veterans, handicapped people, women, and women – cut it out. (smack).

 

 

 

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