Painting: A New Hobby

I still have stories to tell, and books to write. But I’m really enjoying painting these days. I did this one as a practice painting for a similar one I want to do for my dining room. Just need to work the color scheme out. But I like this one because it was so soothing to just sit and paint circles while the world implodes around us.

I Am A Road Kill Possum

In my time of dying

This sunset of life

I look up at the sky

My breaths shallow

From collapsing lungs

Shattered ribs

I watch the vultures that circle above me

Flying a disciplined pattern

Waiting and soaring

Waiting and soaring

Waiting to consume my flesh…

My blood soaks into the ground

My back legs dangle… useless

One front leg moves, barely

A small victory

In these final moments, as I gasp for air,

My mortality cemented in the annals of time, I wonder- did my life matter?

Did I matter or am I just another dead marsupial splattered on the highways of mankind?

I am among the least of God’s creations

But I am kindhearted

And keep to myself

I eat bloodsucking ticks

And resist rabies

I provide valuable services

With no thanks required

Yet I know my role in the world

No one cares

Fading in and out of consciousness

Breathing increasingly difficult

The vultures come closer

I never saw the machine that hit me

The human operating it didn’t bother to stop.

Why should he?

For I am a road kill possum

A grizzly reminder to the world

That life is nothing but a blip in time

Here today, gone tomorrow

An imprint of my carcass

The only monument

But look now

The vultures have arrived

Oh, Death.

Why bother with me?

Their beaks, sharp as a cutting stone

Rip into my flesh

I am helpless to resist

And now I’ve done my part

In the circle of life

I am immortal

Confessions Of A Former Literary Assassin

A few years ago I thought I was smarter, more clever and just generally a higher level human being than most everyone else. I was writing for an obscure literary website that specialized in destructive criticism of writers who wanted their pieces critiqued. It was a bloodbath, to be honest. Giving a smartass like me a platform to criticize some unsuspecting writer’s work was a perverse pleasure and I held nothing back as I set about the task of showing an aspiring writer how ridiculous, silly, immature and dumb their writing was. 

This site operated the same way as a vampire coven—invite your victim into the site, befriend them, ask them to share something they’ve written, offer constructive criticism and then, after trust was gained, rip their work to shreds and gleefully explain to them that it was for their own good. 

The website was born from an old AOL chat room for writers. The woman who started the platform was notorious for upsetting people, especially poets, in the chat room. She was finally kicked off but started her own site. If you had her respect you were safe from her literary onslaughts, but if you were arrogant and thought you were a good writer or poet she would unleash hell on you. Hell being her team of pitbulls (me) and a few others. 

As I got older and went through many trials and tribulations, failures and other maladies, my heart changed. I no longer took pleasure in criticizing anyone’s writing efforts. God knows how difficult it is to plot out a story and put it on paper, or write a poem. It requires so much time and effort. I think I became a literary assassin in order to make myself feel better about how much my life sucked at the time. It was just too easy, to be honest. And it felt good for a time. 

That site doesn’t exist anymore and I have no idea what happened to all the people who used to write for it. That’s probably a good thing. I have written and published four books since that time and I have discovered something that I was unable to see ten years ago. I discovered that I’m not as smart as I thought I was. I am not as good a writer as I thought I was, and I really don’t know much of anything. I had so many people heaping praise upon me that I started believing the hype. 

I had a lot of ideas and knowledge but I lacked clarity, self awareness and wisdom. Nobody cares how smart you think you are or how good a writer you think you are. Truthfully, a few years down the road you’ll probably be disgusted at the way you used to think and the things you used to write. 

Also, be kind to each other. It doesn’t cost anything but can end up costing you everything if you’re mean and hateful. Trust me.

The American Christian Church Has Failed

hip Jesus

Let me state from the outset that I’m sure your church isn’t one of the churches I’m going to talk about. Every time I get on this soapbox and start railing against the church someone will dutifully inform me that they know what I’m talking about but in their church, it is different. So, with that being stated and acknowledged let me get to my point.

The American Christian church has failed. We aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus gave us. Instead of preaching the Gospel we “love on” people, coddle them, make them fell welcome, get them to fill out that visitor card, give them a gift and after they’ve proven they were saved by grace we get them a membership so we can “grow the church.”

ministry hipster

That in itself isn’t a problem, or is it? This could be argued as doing the Lord’s work but it could also be stated, with evidence, that the American church is a business competing with other churches for the most members and just like American businesses gobble up the smaller businesses, so does the church. These days, in order to compete, a church must change its name to sound less threatening. (Yes, Evangelicals, I’m talking about you). It’s not just the name change either. Nope, it goes deeper. It seems we all need to be entertained at church. Gone are the days where the choir and congregation sing hymns from the hymnal in reverence. What we have these days are dazzling light shows and songs that don’t flow. Actually they’re more like chants than words. It’s not that the music isn’t good. The singers and musicians are top notch but it’s the fact they are putting on concerts instead of putting their congregations in a worshipful mood. And seriously, people, casual dress is appropriate at times but this is getting ridiculous. I went to an Easter “production” last week at a Pentecostal Holiness church that has changed it’s name to an acronym and I was appalled at how lax everyone has become. My mother would have never let me dress in shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops for a church service even if it was for a rehearsal but not only were the kids dressed this way, so were their parents. There is no reverence anymore. We’re just grooving through life, being hipsters for Jesus. Even the ministers have gotten in on this casual act and they dress like metrosexuals going to a Miley Cyrus concert. Are you in such desperate need for new members that you think you have to relate to the unbeliever? Is that what’s going on?

Or maybe this is some sort of cultural rebellion. The way I was raised was strict by today’s standards. My parents made sure I was dressed appropriately for church, as were most other kids my age. We didn’t bring coffee into the sanctuary and there wasn’t this rock band atmosphere. The preacher wasn’t afraid to step on your toes either. The preachers of yesterday called sin by its name and if you were offended then you weren’t living right. You needed to repent and get yourself together so Jesus wouldn’t be ashamed of you. We can’t do that anymore, can we? We change the names of our churches to stuff like Elevation, Fire, Etc. We’ve made these churches our little hip clubs and we’re so accepting of the world that we entertain the most ridiculous things, such as Vaping For Jesus. I kid you not. I know of a church that has an active vaping ministry. They all get around each other, blow giant clouds of raspberry scented smoke bombs and talk about Jesus.

I remember a verse—Come out and be ye separate.

rock band

We’re not separate anymore, are we? Well, we are as it relates to how great our church is versus the one down the street. The one down the street split from yours over some doctrinal difference, or some ego issue. I think a lot of you so called ministers call yourself into ministry instead of thinking God called you. If God called you to ministry then you wouldn’t be turning His church into hipster coffee dens and compromising the Gospel of Jesus so as not to offend potential members.

You don’t see other religions compromising for the benefit of what others think. I live in an area where there are Jewish temples, Islamic centers, Hindu temples and others. I don’t see the Roman Catholics doing that either and they have some serious issues facing them. I never see those people compromising their values in order to reach out to humanity. In some ways, these other religions are more Christ like than your typical Baptist church. These people have great faith; they’re just missing out on Jesus. I think a lot of Christians are also missing out on Jesus. You’re serving yourself instead of God.

groovy preacher

Jesus, Jennifer And Bob Ross- The Year In Review

For the first time in many years I can honestly say that this has been a great year for me. 2017 will go down in my history as being the year that everything changed for the better. I went through seven years of hellish stuff to arrive at this point and I feel great emotionally and spiritually.

As I look back I can clearly see how I got here. Well, to be honest, I was dragged here. Being a father myself I understand how Jesus feels about us. There are times I shake my head and shrug my shoulders at the stupid things my kids do. But then they do something amazing and I’m the proudest father ever. I wouldn’t hurt either of them for anything but I will let them fail sometimes in order to help them grow. It has been proven in my life that Jesus loves us so much that he allows us to do stupid things sometimes in order to learn from our mistakes and make the necessary corrections. This is where I am right now. Jesus allowed me to go through some really terrible things over the last seven years just so I could end up exactly where I needed to be in 2017.

Getting away from the Charlotte to Greensboro region, or as I like to call it, “The I-85 Corridor Of Doom,” was what I needed to help me evolve as a person. You should never hold yourself back just because you’re used to your home turf. Sometimes the very thing you need in life is just outside your comfort zone. What I needed in my life was Jennifer, even though I didn’t realize it for a long time. But when I did it was like God suddenly downloaded to my brain a prosperous plan for the rest of my life. Thankfully, I listened. We’ve been married almost a year now and I can truthfully say that it is great being married to a person who is your equal in every way, who doesn’t have a hidden agenda, a mental illness, a personality disorder or anything crazy going on inside her head. We fit together perfectly and we have the same dreams and goals. We love each other fiercely and are loyal to our bond the same as Jesus is to His people. This partnership we have is built on trust, loyalty, mutual respect and love. It’s not that sappy type of new love that fades as quickly as the winter sun. It’s so much deeper than that and I know what I’m talking about because I have been in countless shallow relationships over the years. Always listen to your mind over your heart. If you do this you will have fewer troubles in life.

The same week Jennifer and I got married I got the best job I’ve had in years with a company owned by amazing people. These things happened so fast that I was hardly able to put it all into perspective. That came later in the year when life started to settle down a little bit and I was able to look back and ponder these things.

That leads us to Bob Ross.

Bob Ross was an American painter who was too good a person for this world. So he ascended into Heaven to paint landscapes with a two-inch brush while hanging out with Jesus, the angels and other amazing people like Martin Luther, Tom Petty, George Jones and Johnny Cash. His soft, soothing voice, and his reassuring tone while he painted magical landscapes calmed my spirit on those days when I felt frustrated. When I watch a Bob Ross video I can drown out every negative vibration that tries to invade my soul. During the blazing hot days of summer I would come home, exhausted by the unrelenting sun, take a shower, plop down on the sofa beside Jennifer and watch Bob Ross create a masterpiece in thirty minutes, all while making it look easy. This is just about all I need in life. Give me my wife, my kids, my sanity and some Bob Ross videos and I’m as pleasant to be around as anyone you’ll meet.

As much as a great year this has been for me, I’m positive 2018 will be even better. We are on the path to financial freedom, there will be no more debt in our lives, and because of that we’ll be able to do more instead of being a slave to credit companies, finance companies and banks. Hopefully I’ll feel like writing again. I have so many books I haven’t finished yet. I just haven’t felt like it, to be honest. I think it’s because I’m working on the same MacBook Pro I’ve had since 2010. There’s a lot of negative energy associated with the past and maybe I need a new laptop to flush out the past and get the creative flow that I used to have going again.

The way I see it, everything happens it its due time. The universe is a giant clock and its timing is perfect. Maybe I’ll start writing again and start painting at the same time. The one thing I won’t do is hold grudges, anger or hate towards anyone. I have learned that the more loving, kind and forgiving you are, the healthier and happier you will be.

Happy New Year, everyone.

How The Grinch Saved Christmas

The story is wrong. We have all been misled. Dr. Seuss would have us believe that the Grinch was so full of hate and anger that he decided to steal all the presents, decorations, ornaments and even the roast beast from the peaceful Hoos in order to stop Christmas from coming.

But let’s look at this through a different point of view and see what we find, ok?

I submit to you that the Grinch was not full of hate but instead was full of righteous indignation. The Hoos were self absorbed, greedy, selfish consumers who had to have the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos from huge shopping malls and big box stores. They were so full of greed that they used other holidays as the gateway to plunder stores for useless junk, fighting each other for high definition televisions, smart phones, computers and other stuff that they didn’t need. They used their credit cards to pay for everything and didn’t give a second thought to how this might hurt them down the road when they lose their jobs or some calamity befalls them. No, they just kept on consuming and living with greed, making fun of the introverted Grinch, who they didn’t like because he was different.

And why was he different? Because of how he looked? No. They didn’t like him because he reminded them that their greed and lust for useless stuff was unnatural. The Grinch was a minimalist and lived at or below his means. The Hoos hated him because he didn’t live in a huge Hoo house with a big mortgage, didn’t have two car payments, credit cards and closets full of clothes, suits and shoes. The Grinch lived modestly with a little dog and preferred to be by himself.

It stands to reason that being an outcast with a moral code might lead someone to teach the majority a lesson. And so, the Grinch, with moral justification, took all the stuff the Hoos held up as status symbols. This wasn’t because his heart was too small. It was because he knew corruption leads to even more corruption and progresses until there is nothing left but a society of self centered, overly sensitive, entitlement minded assholes.

His plan worked like a charm. The Hoos woke up on Christmas morning to no presents, no high definition televisions, no tablets, Xboxes, Play Stations, expensive jerseys from their favorite football teams, pretty panties and all the other junk they didn’t think they could live without. The book tells us that didn’t matter, that the Hoos were happy anyway and sang songs of joy and peace as the Grinch was attempting to dump all their crap over a cliff.

The book lied, as did the movie. What really happened was that they were in such a state of shock that they were forced to face their sins. They wailed and moaned for hours until they realized the true meaning of Christmas wasn’t about giving and getting a bunch of stuff. The stern but morally superior Grinch shamed them to repentance. Only then did he ride back into town and return all their stuff. I personally think he should have dumped it all but his heart was too full of love for these miserable Hoos and he made a lapse in judgment. But that’s just my opinion.

After this the Hoos went out in the community and fed the homeless, gave to the poor and forgave each other of different political beliefs. They lived in peace until the next Thanksgiving when the greed set back in and Facebook debates caused division and hate again.

We should be thankful for the grinches in our lives. Though they talk tough they are usually the moral compass when we lose sight of what is really important- taking care of each other without expecting anything in return. It’s what Jesus would do.

PERSPECTIVE

Living Life- Avoiding Debt, Part Two

Student loan debt in the United States is more than a trillion dollars. Some of it belongs to parents and some of it belongs to students. Regardless, it’s an epidemic that has surpassed credit card debt. That is astonishing. As much as Americans love their credit cards, student loan debt is bigger than that. Student loan debt sticks with you forever. You can’t bankrupt it. Yet, these young adults put themselves in bondage every year because they believe the lies told to them by the government, banks and lenders. Student loans are a huge scam but you’ve been led to believe you have to have them because college is so expensive. And you need to have that degree, right?

Wrong. Well, mostly wrong. College tuition grows every year. Do you know why? It’s directly due to the easy-to-get student loan. These schools are operating a scam. They know these government backed loans are guaranteed so they continue to raise their tuition rates because of the unlimited amount of money the government will allow kids to borrow.

These high school kids are being lied to. They are also being led down the road to debt slavery. They are being led to believe that having a degree from any given institution of higher learning will lead to a good paying job that will have those loans paid in no time. This is a lie, a big, fat one. I’ve known countless college graduates with no jobs or low paying jobs. I even know people with advanced degrees who are dead broke, suffering under debt of all kinds, not just student loans. The world we live in has conditioned us to thinking debt is normal but it is the leading cause of the stresses we face daily.

If you’re a kid who wants to go to college, do things the smart way. Go to a community college or trade school. They are cheap and well worth the effort. You can get a good education and learn how to do something worthwhile that will make you good money in less time than it takes to go to a big time four year university that sells useless degrees for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I’ve never known a broke plumber or electrician but I’ve known lots of broke English and philosophy majors. They might be “educated” but they’re still stupid for falling for the scam of “higher education.”

The problem is that these kids dream of the “college experience.” They are willing to be in perpetual debt prison for the experience of attending a university. There are football games, basketball, keg parties, getting hammered, lots of cheap sex and all the rest of it. This is meaningless. A few years out of school no one you meet will care about what school you went to. Is being a slave worth the memories of the college years? I doubt it.

Don’t be a slave. Free your mind and free yourself.

LIVING LIFE—AVOIDING DEBT. PART ONE

Financial-Stress

I don’t care what you think or what you’ve been taught—debt is evil. There is never a good time to go into debt. When you go into debt you become a slave, whether it’s a small credit card, car loan or mortgage. Debt is why so many Americans are tired, pissed off, and “just over it.” It doesn’t have to be this way. There is no law that mandates you get a credit card, finance a car or put yourself in financial bondage for fifteen or thirty years to “buy” a house.

Unless you inherit a lot of money, you’re broke. When you’re broke you do stupid things like thinking you can leverage your way out of debt by using credit. This always fails. There isn’t a single millionaire that I’m aware of who made their fortune by leveraging their income by utilizing credit. It just doesn’t happen because millionaires have discovered what the rest of us haven’t; you become wealthy by making your money work for you, not the other way around.

I learned this the hard way. Prior to 2010 I was your typical American consumer. I had two car loans; a mortgage, a second mortgage, a few credit cards and a slew of other debt that made a 200K combined salary meaningless. A series of events separated me from all of that and I spent the next six years learning how to survive off of tips, tents, beater cars and the kindness of strangers.

sleazy car dude

Seriously, I was that guy. I learned quickly that the system we live under is scamming us. I also learned that having credit of any kind is a bad thing. Here it is seven years since my life changed and I haven’t used, needed or wanted a credit card. I did have a car loan for a short time but then I lost a job and three months later I gave the car back to the finance company because I was broke. This is what enlightened me to the fact that financing a car is the dumbest mistake you could ever make as it relates to money. Have you ever considered that the reason cars are so expensive is because it’s so easy to finance one? Most of you don’t even consider the overall cost of a vehicle when you go to buy one. Most car salespersons ask you how much do you want your monthly payment to be. This is a trick to make you look at the here and now and not the overall cost of the vehicle. When you look at a conventional seventy-two month loan you end up noticing that you pay for that car double and sometimes triple what you should have.

This is a scam but you just shrug your shoulders as if that’s just the way it is. No, it isn’t. The way it should be is that you live your life in such a way that you can pay for whatever you need with cash. It takes vision and discipline to do this but it can be done. It can be done with just your income if you live smart. But that’s the problem; hardly any of us live smart. That’s okay, I used to be an idiot too so I’m not judging, just trying to help.

But back to the point—you should never finance a depreciating asset, such as a car, RV or boat. It’s just dumb to do that. And leasing is an even dumber idea because you are renting a product that you have to spend money maintaining. It’s the illusion of ownership with the reality of a scam. There is also the fact that nobody cares about your new car. When you sit at a traffic light I promise you that no one around you looks upon you with admiration because of the vehicle you’re driving.

car guy

If you want to build wealth for the long term and be able to afford to buy whatever you want, avoid financing at all costs. A few years ago I bought an old car for $500 and a handgun. It was ugly but it served its purpose. When I was able to get a better car I sold that car to someone who truly needed it for $200. She was happy and it brought me joy knowing I had done something for someone who had been in the same situation I had been in. Sometimes just getting a break in life means everything. I’ll do the same with my current car when the time comes to get rid of it.

I am someone who did everything the wrong way for the first forty years of my life and I had nothing to show for it. All I had was debt, knowledge and wisdom. Now, however, I’ve discovered the secret to financial success, which is really, really simple. It begins with the desire to be free from the creditors and taking control of your own life. It is a behavioral modification that, once you make that decision, you will see the results in every aspect of your life.

And you will be free.