Thus Far


It has been seven years since I moved to Arizona—seven difficult and challenging years. Please don’t misunderstand me, there have been many good things and blessings. But overall, very trying. But this year as it turns out has been the worst. With that in mind I’ll spare you the details of the many challenges that have come my way.

But thank God tomorrow is the new year. So, it is a time to both look back and look ahead. Let me share with you how I did that today.

I read this earlier today: Thus far the Lord has helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12)

The words “thus far” help me look back to the past. On my journey “thus far,” the Lord has brought me through so many things, I’m grateful to be alive another day. I thought back about twenty years in the Army, my tours in Vietnam and Thailand, getting robbed when I lived in NYC, to name a few.

And, that in His mercy and grace, He gave me the strength to do a last-minute plumbing repair job and a few other critical chores this afternoon. I don’t know about you, but plumbing wears me out—praise be to God that he didn’t make me a plumber (although I definitely thank God for them.)

So, the Lord has been the faithful “rear guard” of my past as He promised to Israel and to me: “For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12) The past is covered! (Dear Reader, if you are reading this, the Lord has been your rear guard whether you know it or not. I believe that is true!)

Now, my hope is that if the Lord God gives me (and you) life tomorrow, then we can continue to look forward. No matter what trials and tribulation come our way, we have this to look forward to as promised in our future (in Revelation 3:5):

He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] will accordingly be dressed in white clothing; and I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life, and I will confess and openly acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels [saying that he is one of Mine].

So, I can’t help but be grateful for what has past and excited about what is to come. I hope you share that excitement with me and with what the Apostle John heard and saw as he wrote in the book of Revelation. I leave this with you as we end this year and begin the next. Happy New Year to all and to all God’s Grace and Peace.

And I heard every created thing that is in heaven or on earth or under the earth [in Hades, the realm of the dead] or on the sea, and everything that is in them, saying [together],

“To Him who sits on the throne and
to the Lamb (Christ), be blessing
and honor and glory and dominion
forever and ever.”

(Revelation 5:13)

The Plight of the North Korean People, the US, and the Rest of the World


You need to look at this young girl’s story about how life and death in North Korea are “indescribable.”

 

My Commentary: After seeing the video it saddened me to think about the 70-year plight of the North Korean people. But I’m equally saddened at the state of America and the World.

In my view, Americans (and most of the nations of the world) have forgotten what “freedom” and “one nation under God” really mean. Instead, we abuse that freedom for personal or political gain, self-interest above the common good. A North Korean citizen doesn’t have the luxury of being free; but the benefits of freedom (or rather, freedom abused or forgotten) allow the selfish, self-centered, Entitled, Elite, and Politically Correct to flourish, to hate, and to live to be self-serving and politically motivated for another day—all in the name of freedom and “my rights.”

Not so in North Korea. The question there (and in many other countries that are not truly free) is will I or those I love live to see another day.

Freedom in this country (or any other) is a privilege, not a right, that comes at a great price. The abuse of freedom and lack of leadership (e.g., the Congress, the Senate, and all levels of representative government, the Press, the United Nations, Corporate, etc.) and the lack of courage and resolve to act on behalf of the welfare of all citizens allows self-serving people to jeopardize what little freedom we have left.

Freedom without “one nation under God” (in any country) is not real freedom at all—merely an early or lesser form of North Korea to come.

To close, I offer you some thoughts from “How Should We Then Live?” (1976, 1983, 1993) by Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984):

“Gradually, that which had become the basic thought form of modern people became the almost totally accepted viewpoint, an almost monolithic consensus. And as it came to the majority of people through art, music, drama, theology, and the mass media, values died. As the more Christian-dominated consensus weakened, the majority of people adopted two impoverished values: personal peace and affluence.”

“Personal peace means just to be left alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city—to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren.” (How Should We Then Live, p. 205)

“Here is a simple but profound rule: If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute. Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom in Northern Europe and in the West.” (How Should We Then Live, p. 224)

“If we as Christians do not speak out as authoritarian governments grow from within or come from outside, eventually we or our children will be the enemy of society and the state. No truly authoritarian government can tolerate those who have a real absolute by which to judge its arbitrary absolutes and who speak out and act upon that absolute…To make no decision in regard to the growth of authoritarian government is already a decision for it.” (How Should We Then Live, p. 256-57)

And this final thought: If I tell you—I am a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah and that God is absolute, that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)—and if what I have declared bothers you, then does that make me an enemy of society and the state? You see, the issue at hand is greater than North Korea. God help us.

Pray and speak, absolutely.

Commentary on Haiku 16.17


I got out early on purpose today. I had Moo Goo Gai Pan on the brain. And steamed rice. Simple chicken and vegetables seemed like a great idea. I ate slowly because I still had forty minutes before my next EMDR session.

Well, sort of. These are sessions in between EMDR sessions. For several weeks now, I’ve been drawing a large sectioned chart of my life starting at birth with detailed notes. It is amazing how much I’ve not thought about in many years. It is equally amazing how much trauma, pain, and abuse I’ve forgotten, squashed, not thought about over the last fifty years or so.

Last session we covered Vietnam. This session we got through my life after Vietnam, at the AADA in NYC, and back in the Army again. Language school and Ft. Myer. Thailand, Korea, Ft. Dix, etc. A minefield of poor choices, bad relationships, abuse, and more abuse. I was going to chart more, but I couldn’t. I felt like silly putty in a puddle on the floor. There were good memories, too. A number of good things; but a number of bad things. I felt like the bad outweighed the good.

Most of the people who abused me as a kid, young adult, and adult were supposed to be trusted. Family. Friends. Marriage. Sixty years of abuse is all I can take! Enough already. You will never get approval from anyone who abused you. Family, friends, wives, or other. Doesn’t matter. Add to that bad circumstances. And, well, it makes for a tough time. (These thoughts specifically on “approval” came to me when I read a blog I follow; the one about a family member abuser. But I was thinking about too much to leave a comment. You might say this blog post is my comment.)

Lying here on the floor in my puddle of self-pity silly putty won’t improve anything either. This is where the truth comes in. I learned that I was never ever in my lifetime going to get approval from my mom and dad. You don’t get approval from your abusers. The fact that they have been dead for many years doesn’t soften or change that. It won’t change; I might like it to change, but it won’t.

I can only get approval from one source for free whether I believe it or not, want it or not, deserve it or not, etc. God approves of me no matter what. That is all the approval I need for a lifetime and for eternity. God’s love for me is unceasing and unconditional. Not dependent on me at all.

I’m approved. On my worst day I have God’s approval. In my worst hour, I have God’s approval. No one can love me more than God. No one will love you more. Can you hear this? I hope so, because I wrote it more for me. To remind myself that I am loved and approved forever by a God who is unchanging and true, when everyone we loved (or thought loved us) failed us. I may feel like crap. I may feel beat up. But it can’t change the truth. God loves me, approves of me, and is good.

Part 2: Commentary on Driving to the Airport, Our Blogging Culture, and a New Book


(Continued from Part 1.)

The day she left I started my project. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time but didn’t. This was the time. It became clear to me on the weekend that I could really finish the book before she comes back on Tuesday. I tweaked the final manuscript, designed the cover, and submitted it for approval last night at 19:48. I got a reply from the CreateSpace checkers today. I spaced something really important. I knew the book size was six by nine, but I submitted it eight by eleven. So, an easy fix. And I had to crop some hidden edges on my cover photo.

Changing page size, margins, and making a few tweaks on content worked fine. What wasn’t easy was this! I can’t afford Office anymore, so I’ve been using LibreOffice on Linux. I needed to start page one in my footer on page seven. I wasn’t going to number the front matter. LibreOffice couldn’t do it. Only page one could be different. I spent twenty years solving technical writing dilemmas; it was my bread and butter. I read a few forums that confirmed it is a design limitation. No can do. Then the light bulb went off.

Years ago when I had to assemble huge documents of different page sizes with high page counts, there was an app I used to use. What was it? Then it came to me. “PDF Split and Merge”—known as pdfsam. The Basic version is free. (Scroll down past the ads to get to all download platforms.) And, it runs on Linux with Java. Cool. I was not disappointed. I exported my content into two PDFs making the first seven unnumbered pages one PDF and the numbered pages the other PDF. Then I merged them in the app. Took two seconds to merge. Done.

Anyway, I should get CreateSpace approval tomorrow to publish. The book size change made my page count soar from 268 to 326! Not bad for five days work! Let me explain. I didn’t write this in five days; I put it together in five days. My Preface of my new book explains my thinking here, so I’m not going to rehash it for you here. I’ll just paste in the Preface. (Hope you don’t mind. I’m winding down from my early airport run and the dinner hour is passing me by.) Plus, the Preface shares my blogging culture thoughts from last night.

It seems to me that the blogging community as a whole moves forward and not back. It is not the same as Googling for something or wading through Wikipedia. The blog writing and reading (or following) culture seems to be in a constant state of living in the electronic present.

To me, the electronic present moves along a time continuum that is always now; blog reading makes what just past into the here and now. But seldom does blog reading delve back in time, e.g., a few weeks, months, or years ago.

When was the last time you read a post that was five years old or was a blogger’s first post? Same goes for me; a few flips forward or back in my reader and that is it. I started my blog “Shift Key” on WordPress in 2012. Without taking a peek back, I can’t remember what I wrote five years ago!

I didn’t want to lose it. I didn’t want it sit there unread in the electronic past. So, I decided to bring my blog content into the present by making it available as an “analog” book. I’m deeply appreciative for my readers and followers online. And I love blogging. Yet, I must confess, there are times when I enjoy having a book in hand, to smell, feel, and turn the pages.

Having said that, my bookshelves are fewer in number these days, but you know what I’m saying, some books are keepers. I hope this is a keeper for you.

This volume contains poetry, haiku, and commentary posted on my blog from 2012 through the end of 2016 in date/time order published.

Thank you for reading—here or online.

Well, this post got longer than I intended. We stopped for breakfast on the way home to catch up and just be together. Food was good; coffee was horrible. Company was fine. Now, she is resting, waiting for me, and trying not to fall asleep early now that she is back on Arizona time. I got a lot done while she was visiting the little ones, but I’m glad she is back home. Life is good. So is blogging, writing, thinking, venting. Life is so good.

Part 1: Commentary on Driving to the Airport, Our Blogging Culture, and a New Book


All the people arriving at Terminal 3 pass under the DO NOT ENTER arch to my left here on Level 3 before they get confused by all the airport construction signs and the labyrinth that awaits them below. She has been flying since three this morning. Due to arrive in about half an hour​. With the time change, she arrives
one hour later than she left. That would be eight my time. I left home about six. What a surprise, not a soul in line at the Starbucks drive through! I usually get the same thing; I’ll try something different.

“Grande Caramel Macchiato hot, please.”

I couldn’t help but overhear her comment to her co-worker, “What is this, Macchiato Day?” Then she turned to me and told me she already had her espresso having been at work since three-thirty this morning.

I told her that I usually get a Grande Hazelnut Latte hot. But not today. Going down the 17 to the airport to pick her up. Need something special so I’m extra alert. (I don’t think she saw my two plain donuts waiting for me on a paper plate on the passenger side.) I needed more time because traffic would be heavy on the 17 and the 10. I didn’t want to be distracted by some gooey cheesy egg sandwich and rear-end someone.

When I drove her to the airport last week, it was also during rush hour, but we made good time in the HOV lane. (Been here for years and still don’t know what HOV means! Ah… thanks, Google. It means high-occupancy vehicle lane.) But now I’m driving alone and can’t use the HOV lane, so it will be nerve-racking stop-and-go all the way. I chugged along in the left lane for about an hour with the exit to the 10 and the tunnel coming up.

I worked my way into the middle lane without getting killed. This put me behind the rug man. His old pick-up and trailer were filled with roll upon roll of heavy rugs. But I had to stay alert because only his right rear brake light on the trailer worked. Sort of worked. The rug man limped his load into the right lane as we exited for the 10. I merged left onto the 10 and lost the rug man. Then, a few miles later I was about to enter the downtown tunnel when the rug man came out of nowhere and pulled in front of me. I had to follow him all the way through the tunnel to my airport exit.

Before she left she asked me what I was going to do while she was gone. I replied simply, “Write a book.”

(Long winded is easy when you are from New Jersey. Continued in Part 2. Thanks.)

 

Commentary on “Two Extremes in Two Haiku”


These two haiku posted just before this post, may be good poetry, but not a victory for me. The first haiku was a declaration of my recent slump. I’m weighed down by sadness, loss, unfulfilled dreams, and a stupid illness out of the blue. I have no idea what is next or ahead. (Why on earth would I want to post this? No idea.) The second haiku expressed the joy of loving and being loved, and not wanting love and life to end.

It was then that I remembered a small victory.

In my melancholy opinion, my life hasn’t been made up of big victories. (God may choose to differ.) But rather, a long winding road dotted with small victories.

A few years ago, I received an email telling me that the warranty on my laptop expired. Last weekend, I received another email with a heftier expiration. It said that the manufacturer couldn’t provide any replacement parts. No support. No parts. In other words, if my PC experiences an internal meltdown, I can use it for a bookend. (It appears that my PC runs by God’s grace alone; a new PC is not an option right now.)

Well, I sat there thinking. My PC has expired twice, not just once, but twice. I’ll show them! (Like changing into the Hulk, the nerd in me came out full force.) I should have hesitated, but the nerd in me did not. I wiped it clean and reinstalled Windows 10 (This Pentium dinosaur came with Windows 7). Defragged the disk. Purged the registry. Reinstalled only appropriate software.

The oil and sweat from my hands have eaten away the silver color on either side of the trackpad. The space bar is worn with a high shine where I mash it with my left thumb. The “F” and “J” keys are “thinking” keys. My index fingers have tapped them to a high shine while I wait and think about what to write next. (Like I’m doing this minute.)

Then it hit me. I did it again. Did I trash my Halo game files? Whew! I backed up my game files. I reinstalled Halo: Combat Evolved for the millionth time. (Obviously, not the first time I’ve done this. Mentioned somewhere in an earlier post, I think.) Look, I’ve been playing the original Halo since Halo 2003. I can prove it. (See photo.) Halo

I couldn’t bear to start Halo from the beginning again. I’ve had to do that too many times on too many laptops. Need I remind you of the obvious: I’ve never played Halo to the end. (I know, it is 2016. I know you are laughing. Don’t remind me. I’m an old Galaga shooter who refuses to quit! Note: For those of you who think an old guy like me can’t be an exceptional nerd and part-time gamer, may I remind you that Galaga was released in 1979. And when I was working, I was a tech writer by trade and great with computer stuff. Only God can bring the right work; I refuse to retire. There must be more. But what?)

You see, I was close. Finally, I wiped out the Flood. I was on the last leg. The ship was about to blow up. I ran to the only operable M 12 Warthog LRV and got in the driver’s seat. (With Cortana talking my ear off, of course.) The clock was ticking.

It was the following weekend that I reinstalled the OS. PC was up and running again. I was writing. (Not sure why at this point.) I needed a break. One more try. I fired up Halo. It was time to beat the clock in the Warthog.

Amazing. I did it.

Thirteen years isn’t bad. I finished it. (I watched the credits roll to make sure there wasn’t a hidden Elite or Hunter waiting to destroy my small victory.)

God has designed your race specifically for you. My path, my course is mine. Yours is yours. Be thankful for the small victories. They all count. Life is a gift from God.

I’m trying very hard to accept the fact that I may not get to do the two things I wanted to do most: pastor/teach in a church and write for a living. I may do these things with excellence. But some dreams may not be on the journey the Lord has set for me. The fact is that God provides for me without fail. For example, when I was a soldier for twenty years or when I was a technical writer.

The Apostle Paul said in part, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)

Please listen carefully. The “crown of righteousness” Paul mentioned is a crown of righteousness because of the finished work Jesus did on the Cross; the “righteousness” has absolutely nothing to do with what Paul did or didn’t do. Nothing to do with his (or our) failures or victories (big or small) has to do with the gift of righteousness Jesus has given us by faith. (If you believe Jesus is Lord, it is counted as righteousness for you before God.) The gift of righteousness is His gift to you.

I’m trying to run my race. No idea what I’m doing at this point, but I plan to continue to fight the good fight and finish the race. Why? I may not know what is next, but I’m not dead.

Run your race no matter what. It counts for eternity. Be thankful for the small victories.

Commentary on Turn the Clock Back

Video


Like this 4 minute video. It takes us back to a time when President Reagan was more than willing to speak his mind on God and faith. “Political Correctness” and “Entitled” people were unknowns.

Republicans and Democrats were not in total disarray. It was a time when integrity was expected; lies and deceit were the exception and not the rule.

My understanding is that President Reagan’s church put this 4:47 minute video together as a tribute in honor of his birthday. I’ve taken the liberty to transcribe this video for you here in the event you couldn’t listen to the YouTube presentation as spoken by Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan Tribute – Bel Air Presbyterian Church Video Unofficial Transcription

Someone asked me whether I was aware of all the people out there who are praying for the president and I had to say yes I am. I felt that I believe in intercessory prayer, but I couldn’t help say to that questioner after that sometimes when he was praying he got a busy signal, it was just me in there ahead of him. I think I understand how Abraham Lincoln felt when he said, “I have been driven many times to my knees in the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.”

Now I realize that it is fashionable in some circles to believe that no one in government should encourage others to read the bible, that we’re told we’ll violate the constitutional separation of church and state established by the founding fathers in the First Amendment. The First Amendment was not written to protect people and their laws from religious values; it was written to protect those values from government tyranny. I’ve said that we should be cautious in claiming that God is on our side. I think the real question we must answer is are we on his side.

No matter where we live we have a promise that can make all the difference. A promise from Jesus to soothe our sorrows, heal our hearts, and drive away our fears. He promised there will never be a dark night that does not end. “Our weeping may endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning.” He promised if our hearts are true, his love will be as sure as sunlight. And by dying for us, Jesus showed how far our love should be ready to go, all the way. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Applause – a few words muffled.)

Americans yearn to explore life’s deepest truths and to say their entertainment or their idea of entertainment is sex, violence, and crime is an insult to their goodness and intelligence. We are a people who believe that love can triumph over hate, creativity over destruction, and hope over despair, and that is why so many millions hunger for God’s good news. I’ve always believed that we were, each of us put here for a reason, that there is a plan. Somehow a divine plan for all of us. I know now that whatever days are left of me belong to him. I also believe that this blessed land was set apart in a very special way. Our fore-bearers came not for gold but mainly in search of God and the freedom to worship in their own way. We’ve been a free people living under the law with faith in our maker and our future.

I said before that the most sublime picture in American history is of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. That image personifies a people who know that it is not enough to depend on our own courage and goodness. We must also seek help from God, our Father and Preserver.

We’ll never find every answer, solve every problem, or heal every wound, but we can do a lot if we walk together down that one path that we know provides real hope that we know provides real hope.

The morality and values such faith implies are deeply embedded in our national character. Our country embraces those principles by design and we abandon them at our peril.

My experience in this office I hold has only deepened the belief I’ve held for many years. Within the covers of that single book are all the answers to all the problems that face us today if we’d only read and believe.