Freely Giving… Thanks?

beware of dog

The chain was strong, a little rusted, but it was thick and I could see it was strong. What worried me was the length. I stood there with one hand on the chain link fence, the other balancing three meals and three deserts in Styrofoam containers, my eyes were locked onto those of the subject of the “Beware of Dog” sign. His eyes were locked onto mine.

The fence went around a mobile home with a porch, a deck, a carport, and a loft built up over the carport. There were a few cars in the yard so I was hoping someone was home. But the very full dogfood bowl next to the fence possibly indicated otherwise.

He sat there expressionless, (dogs can have expressions so they can be expressionless) his head pushed a little forward and down, his body looked like a spring, if springs were furry and muscley. I reached for the clasp on the gate and those tawny eyes narrowed, I was looking at a furry, musclebound spring with Clint Eastwood eyes. Only Clint didn’t have a gun, he had perfectly bright white teeth.

Those teeth looked strong, I knew from my days as a vet tech that Pit Bulls came in third behind Rottweilers and German Shepard for bite strength, but that the 240 lbs of pressure that I knew that this guy could chomp down with still made my mouth go dry. That and his silence, no barking, no straining at the end of his chain, he just sat and waited for me to make my move.

“Who’s a gooood boi?” had no effect on him, my cutest dog voice left him just as unwavering like a statue just as before.

That chain. A little rusty, it was blending in with the leaves in the yard. There was a large SUV in the yard between the dog and the house, I was trying to estimate if the chain was long enough for the dog to get past the SUV. If not I could get to the front door to try to deliver these holiday meals, meals provided by the Salvation Army to be delivered by me. It would have been easy to move on, to report back my leader that I couldn’t come through because of the dog. He would have understood, I know he would have, but I hated to think that folks would be expecting a meal and get nothing.

I was actually hoping the dog would bark to alert the residents that someone was here and I wouldn’t have to try to get past him. But he just sat there quietly looking like a cannon ball ready to launch (do cannonballs launch?) Not a peep from him though, cannon balls don’t bark I guess.

I reached again for the big double gate that was about 30 feet from the dog house where this guy was chained. Thinking peaceful thoughts I opened the gate and swung it toward me. I was thinking it would be easier to escape if the gate was opened out rather than in, but it grated and stuck on the gravel drive. I had to push it in. The dog was now standing, waiting with the a confident patience. Moving at the speed of a glacier I eased my first step into the yard. No response from the dog.

I took another step and was now completely in the yard and the dog made no effort to approach. I tried to look as non-threatening as a man in jeans and a polo, carrying three large and three small Styrofoam containers can look. With my face passive I tried to walk slowly without looking like I was stalking and I made it to the SUV. I now had a large, gas guzzling (if broke down) symbol of American Rugged Individualism between me and those strong white teeth that were attached to a very strong tan body.

I couldn’t see the dog but I could faintly hear the chain clink as he shifted. A bead of sweat dripped from my forehead and down my cheek, my brain was telling me how stupid this was, it was just a turkey dinner and not worth getting murdered in the face by a Pit Bull for. My heart told my brain shut up and remember what it’s like to be hungry, to be alone and feel like no one cares at a holiday. My feet took a few more steps. My heart quit yelling at my brain because it was too busy trying to pound itself out of my chest.

Each time the gravel crunched under my feet there was a leafy crunch under the dog’s feet. I bent to look under the SUV and saw those tawny eyes staring at me. Dang. I really felt like the front door was farther than the chain could reach, but there were about 5 feet between me and the door that I wasn’t sure of.  My brain told me not to run, running stimulates a dog’s predator response and makes them want to chase. Instinct what battling intelligence as I stepped past the SUV at almost a half jog. This half jog was immediately interrupted by a sweep of leaves, dust, and chain clanging cacophony. I turned to face the noisy dust cloud and out of it emerged those teeth.

My feet backpedaled and I stumbled on the gravel, I bicycled in the air as I fell backwards, one arm whirling for balance, the other trying not to drop those precious Styrofoam containers. Teeth flew at me, now eye level as my mouth snapped shut when my rear bounced on the ground. I scrunched my face ready to feel those teeth sink into it, but that tearing of flesh never happened.

I opened one eye hoping to see only half the horror and saw the dog sitting, tongue lolling, tail wagging. I swear he looked like he was laughing at this great joke he just played on me. The chain though, was stretched nearly taught and I was beyond his reach. A whimpering whine was the first sound he made and I wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t get the chance to murder me, eat the food, or have some human contact. I wasn’t about to find out.

I had managed not to drop any of my containers and I stood, brushed off some dust with my free hand, and tried to steady my nerves as I walked up the porch to knock on the door. I couldn’t hear anything inside, no t.v. or voices. Everything was quietly contrasting the commotion of just a few moments previous. So I was extra terrified when the second dog pounced at me when I knocked.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of fur at teeth fly at me only to bash harmlessly against the inside of the window next to the door. This dog was inside. A little shaky I turned to look at the first dog who’s face was split in a wide, toothy (sharp toothy) grin with his tongue hanging so far down it almost dragged the dirt. His tail was kicking up dust and leaves as it furiously wagged back and forth in laughter.

Two things were obvious; no one was home, and this dog thought he was hilarious. I was walking dejectedly from the door, letting my heart rate come down. The chained dog was looking at me wagging his tail so hard it was wiggling his butt. I really wanted to give him a couple pats but thought better of it, those teeth were still looking pretty dangerous.  I’ve known too many dogs who would bite even with a wagging tail because they really enjoyed biting people. (there are times I can really relate)

I walked a wide parabola around the SUV to make sure I was past the farthest extent of the chain and the dog whined even more as I left. He knew his fun was over.

It was hard to walk past that dog, to try to deliver food to someone in need. The smart thing would have been to go to the next house, but I felt like that would have been giving in to fear. Even though there was a sign warning of the danger of proceeding I felt that my mission was more important than fear.

The next house had something that, for me, was even more difficult to get past. It was a beautiful, brand new, shiny black  Harley Davidson trike. Did I say beautiful, looking into the paint of this bike was like looking into forever. I looked at the $35k bike and then glanced at the single container with some turkey and mashed potatoes, balanced on top was a smaller container with a pumpkin spice muffin and I was like, “I can’t even…”


*just like this one, I didn’t take a picture of the actual bike

My heart sank and I felt a little sick to my stomach. My judgement was on fire. A guy with a $35 thousand dollar motorcycle was on the list for a free holiday meal. Ug

I would have rather faced twenty viscous dogs on extra long chains than have to face this guy with his expensive bike to give him his free meal, prepared with love and care by sweet and generous volunteers. I was getting angry. I was judging. I was forgetting.

I was forgetting that there are no asterisks in the bible. *Feed the hungry… *Care for the poor… *Visit those in prison. The bible doesn’t do qualifiers.

*unless they’re hungry because they bought a motorcycle they couldn’t afford, unless they’re poor because they can’t keep a job because of drug use, or unless they’re in prison for horrible things

I prayed on my way up to the door, asking God to take away my judgement and fill me with the joy of service.  I knocked and I wish I could tell you that this guy told me the bike was a gift, or that he won it in a contest, or that it belonged to his visiting brother. But no, it was his. I kept praying. I prayed as he asked me where I thought he could get a new blue ray player. I prayed as I told him that he could probably grab one at goodwill. I prayed as he told me through broken teeth and a scraggly mustache, “No… I need a new one because the one I have doesn’t have 3-D.”

I sat and chatted with him longer, through the conversation I stopped praying and just listened to a human who needed someone to talk to. We chatted about movies (3-D and otherwise), the weather, a little football talk, and even about his motorcycle… it was really beautiful. I told him how I love motorcycles but that I made a promise to someone amazing (someone who’s no longer even in my life but some promises you keep) that I would never ride again. He thought that was pretty amazing to hold to  my promise like that.

Then I told him about broken promises I had made and how hanging on to this one was sort of making amends for all the others. He asked what changed about me to make me want to keep promises, I told him that God had changed my heart and made me want to give more than receive. He looked a little thoughtful, told me that was pretty cool, and turned to go watch football on his giant t.v..

I turned to go, walked past his beautiful bike and saw my shiny black jeep, with almost as much chrome as his bike.


Isn’t she beautiful?

I knew he and I were the same, I tried to find happiness in shiny cars, alcohol, and pretty women. He looked for it in motorcycles, big t.v.s, and 3-D blue ray players. So, I truly believe that the gift I extended to him had nothing to do with the turkey and stuffing, but more I shared with him that I have a new source of joy, a true source of joy. I doubt his life changed on a dime, but maybe he has something new to consider.

As far as the free meal, a gift must be given freely, without judgment of whether it’s deserved, without hope of reciprocation, without anything but the hope that you make someone’s life a little better, a little easier. It’s not easy for us as humans to give in such a way, but I know that gifts I’ve received, and grace I’ve received was undeserved, and so it’s my job to give in the exact same way.

*But seriously?!?! a $35k bike!

…o.k. I still need work, I have learned to overcome fear, but I still struggle with judgement. To get out of judgement I tell myself  about  2 Cornthians 4:15 and I know that my service has a purpose.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.


And as I was walking the parabola around the extent of the change I was wishing I had paid more attention in math class because I couldn’t remember if I need to add or subtract five feet from y squared to shift the vertex to the right….

given x = y^2

x = y^2 -5 or x = y^2 +5, I must have guessed correctly because I survived to write this story! Thanks y’all and God bless. Fair warning I have a few cloud poems floating around in my head…


Is Something Bugging You?

It was completely my fault, like most things really I guess. I was careless and probably even a little arrogant and because of that I was headed for a fall. Not the farthest fall I’ve taken, but a fall nonetheless. (I just found out that nonetheless is one word, learn something new everyday y’all!)

A seemingly typical morning commute was about to turn into a trial and test that would take all of my mental, emotional, and physical strength to remain clean. I was zipping along the interstate with my music and had my mind on my prayers, usually patience and perseverance, always focus so that I could complete the multitude of tasks that lay ahead of me at the office.

I started that Monday with my usual workout in the gym, a workout that is designed to keep an aging body strong and healthy and also designed to wear out an overactive and energetic mind. This particular session I decided to cut down the rest time between exercises and I was really feeling it. The two cups of coffee I usually enjoy at home while getting ready was just not going to get me through this day.

A creature of habit I tend to have some rituals to help me through the day, I have a particular cup that I like to drink from while doing my pre-gym bible study and my post gym preparation work. It’s an insulated stainless steel job with a plastic handle. That handle provides me with the surety of grip and the extra security from I need in my heart during my half asleep bible reading (sorry God, I swear I’m always awake by the end) and my rushing around work preparation.

On days when I need it (so far every day) I’ll have a third cup on my drive in to work. I’m usually not finished with my second cup so at this point I call in my backup cup. The backup cup is a tall and sleek stainless steel vessel that can keep my third cup hot most of the day, and it has a nice little plastic top that keeps me from spilling as I weave in and around the freeway, trying to survive Austin rush hour traffic.

This fateful day, after overdoing my workout, would require cup number three (O.k. workout or no, I require cup number three.) So before leaving for work I pulled the lid from my trusty backup and poured in the steaming hot elixir of life. By some minor miracle the mug filled to the top when I thought there was only about half a cup left in the mug. I shrugged it off never to look a gift horse in the mouth (or gift pot in the cup?) I grabbed the handle of my main cup leaving two fingers and a thumb free to hold the backup at the base, got my keys ready in my left hand, left and locked my apartment, got to my car, and was off.IMG_6528

The last of the second cup went down quickly as I zoomed past cars and pondered ponderings of life and I was transitioning to the my backup third cup. The shiney stainless steel was cool to the touch, sharp contrast to the contents which would still be steamy.

My first drink brought some surprise as the coffee was hot… but no as hot as it should be. This minor mystery was connected to the minor miracle of the full cup, but I would only deduce that later.

I don’t normally finish cup number three before getting to work, I usually have about half a cup left to finish throughout the day. Like I said though, this day was extra (can a 47 old use that term?) so I was gulping the coffee like it was oxygen after a sprint. The trouble came with the last couple gulps…

You might be thinking that because of the OCD habits I mentioned earlier that I am also a neat freak. Your thinking in this case would be wrong, because my OCD comes out in organization systems and patterns, but not a cleanliness. One of the strongest bits of evidence of this OCD omission is my treatment of my coffee cups. I believe that a vessel that on a daily basis receives boiling hot liquid get sanitized regularly by said liquid and therefore requires no cleaning.

I have always been the opposite of a germaphobe anyway and have been known to break the 5 second rule by surpluses of 10 to 65 seconds depending on what I dropped (and sometimes where, I mean, I’m not gonna eat a donut that I dropped on a wet mens’ room floor at the bus stop… unless it had sprinkles.) Therefore this morning, like every other, my main cup and my backup cup had not been washed the night before and sat in their own filth all night on my counter waiting to be cleansed in the fiery baptism of the dark, life bringing liquid.  What I didn’t know, but was about to find out, is that this particular morning, something else received baptism.

Each gulp I gulped was bringing me closer to the fate that I deserved for my cavalier non-coffee-cup-cleaning attitude. Making sure my lane was clear first I began tipping the backup mug farther and farther back for each drink until finally…

(if you have a week stomach skip ahead about 6 paragraphs but you’re going to miss some amazing imagery and alliteration and an actual Shakespeare reference!)


Actual Artist’s Depiction of the Event

My eyes bulged, a lump, a sort of fuzzy yet prickly lump went to the back of my throat. Because the little slit I was drinking from was too small to spit it all back into; it was with herculean effort and determination that I closed my throat and swallowed that lump. My hopes were that this lump was somehow congealed Almond Milk (because my body is a temple) creamer substitute. My brain told me that Almond Milk doesn’t congeal at the same time that my stomach told me that I’d better figure it out because it was about to send it all back up.

At this point I felt something else in my mouth, likely a portion of the lump, the hairy, maybe wiggly lump. The lump had left something behind. By doing the pbth pbth thing with my tongue (this thing was stringy and not going down now matter what) I was able to get the stringy thing to my lips and grab it and look at it. My stomach already knew what my brain was trying to grasp as the message from my eyes settled in.

Antenna… only one… antenna

Brain flashed back to my invertebrate zoology class from college and reassured stomach with the information that, based on the size of the antenna, it was only a small roach I had just swallowed. However Stomach remembered when Abbess said, “Unquiet meals make ill digestions,” and responded as expected. I felt the roach, coffee, my breakfast, and possibly my toenails all trying to come back up.

My stomach heaved but held.

I’m not really bragging here but if you remember from earlier posts I have leather interior in my car… I really didn’t want to puke all over my leather. My stomach didn’t care so much about the leather as it did the thought of that roach sliding down my throat with its prickly legs kicking their way down.

Another heave, another hold

Everything from my teeth to my tummy was in turmoil as my body battle to rid itself of the unwelcome roach. I was sweating from not only nausea but also the effort to keep from spraying my rich leather seats with the contents of every meal I’d eaten in the last week. I tried not to think of the creepy crawly critter escaping my esophagus, I tried not to think of the stringy antenna I just had to spit into my hand, I tried to get to my happy place. My efforts wavered, I remembered, “My seats are sort of coffee colored anyway right? What’s a little puke?” Then I also remembered that my seats are heated and cooled, which means they have little pores for the air to blow through to the backside. I really didn’t want those pore filled with barf.

I took control. I focused. I swallowed hard and I told myself that it was just a bug, I’d eaten bugs before in the Army, grubs even, and this was no different. In total defiance of my digestive systems rejection of the bug I gritted my teeth, squinted my eyes and I swallowed one last time. I overcame the urge to urp up the roach and the curtain on this comedy of errors was drawn, and the roach was destined for digestion.

What I realized had happened was that I must have left some coffee in the cup from the night before, and the sweet creamy contents were too much for a little cockroach to resist. He (or maybe she, I hope she didn’t have eggs…) must crawled in through the little drinking slit and then couldn’t get out. One thing I know is if it died, it died wide awake.

Welcome back those of you who skipped ahead, and thanks for sticking with me you brave soles with strong stomachs. Now that roach was really hard to swallow and hard to keep down, but sometimes the truth is even harder to swallow. Last Sunday in church was a really uncomfortable lesson; one on divorce and the detriments of the patriarchal society. The lesson looked at what Jesus said about divorce and looked at divorce through the lense of a man setting aside his wife because she wasn’t making him happy, as if a woman’s whole purpose in life was to please a man.

With five older sisters and a daughter of my own I am completely outraged by this concept, but the prickly and wiggly truth that I have to swallow is that my actions have not always shown this outrage. My actions have often shown that somewhere in my core… I agree. Or at least I used to. I used to place my happiness in women, my identity in having a great girlfriend or wife, and my worth. The hairy and ill digestible truth is that I’ve been guilty of objectifying women and reducing them to physical confirmation of my manhood in order to sooth my own insecurities and shortcomings.

This truth wrenched my stomach far worse than that little cockroach. I sat there in church feeling nauseous and shameful. But then came the words, “you are no longer bound to your past, you are not what you have done, and you are brand new.” Now rather than spewing from my mouth I was spewing from my eyes, once again the message of God’s great love.

I’m so blessed to belong to a church where we hit the uncomfortable topics in a safe space. I don’t want to stay comfortable in my faith, I want a shake up and a reminder of what my goal and my path needs to be. On Sunday I was given strong conviction, tempered with a reminder of the Grace that was purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ and I was shaken out of complacency (ok I wasn’t really that complacent because I am never going to be that man again) and placed back on my path.

The truth will set us free, even when it goes down like a stow-a-way roach, it will set us free. Even when the truth makes us sweat and squirm it will set us free. The truth that I have fallen short, that I will always fall short is painful, but the truth that He has forgiven me sets me free.

We need both truths though, to rebound back to our path and grow to what we are meant to be. As in Ephesians 4:15

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

And these truths are much better for me than a water logged roach, although I’ve read that they have zero cholesterol…





These towers shove Babel

That races through the skies

Clouds bearing witness

With their misty eyes

These towers love Babel

The source of  lies

Babels spread

The young girl cries

Photos fly reaching untold eyes, messages of love, lust, loss of trust, words of hate hiding insecurities proving painful sureties that cycles roll on, all take the toll on sanity, of false



He towers above Babel

With infinite love

for us sinful rabble

Understanding but hating our reasons

Still forgiving

These electronic treasons

against His way

I struggle with a few things, one is the actual story of the Tower of Babel, in Genesis 11: 1 – 9 it reads as if God is worried that humans will become too powerful… I think it is more that God doesn’t want us to rely overmuch on our own power, and splits the language of man and condemning me to try to learn conjugations and irregular verbs and try to keep from mixing my English, Spanish, and German… (Creo que das ist nicht so gut.)

God wants us to rely on him. I don’t always do that. I know y’all are probably picking yourselves up off the floor at my admission that I’m human. I try to deal with my anxiety and insecurity by getting noticed for physical appearance. I have done it in person, electronically, and even anonymously… I’m not proud of the things that I have done, sent, posted, but I’m not beating my self up about them anymore either.

It is all from a strange mix of pride and insecurity. I write ‘is’ because I still struggle, but with my recovery group and my work the struggle gets smaller all the time. And now I share with you all because there may be someone out there, someone like me, who needs to hear that God still loves them and wants them back.  (I know I should write him or her there but it’s so awkward!)

For so long I thought God didn’t want me because of my dirt and that I had to rely on myself and my works to feel good about myself.  But now I know that He loves me so much that he sacrificed His only Son to wash away my dirt and let me draw near. That love and grace soothes my anxiety and diminishes my prideful insecurities.

And now with the I-phone X out with its selfie features and functions I will need it even more!

When I’m really thinking I can do anything to ease my trouble or guilt I remember Ecclesiates….

Ecclesiastes 2:11 “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Thanks y’all and God bless