The moment you get that e-mail, text, or phone call …

and a friend informs you they have an incurable disease. Not one of those 40-50-60 percent chance things, but one of those truly incurable diseases, the ones that no one has survived. Your heart sinks, you search for words, words that would normally be uplifting like; faith, prayers, miracle, support, love, etc. But no matter how heart-felt those words are expressed they seem to ring hollow, empty, and inadequate. You put yourself in their position. Then you get angry. You know your friend is sharing those same emotions as you, but a hundred times over. 

Like a petulant child you want to stomp your feet, shake you fist at the heavens and scream, “It’s not fair, it’s not fair!’

Then a voice comes softly but clearly, “No, it’s not fair, fairness implies justice. I came not to bring justice, but mercy, love, and grace. I play the long game. You are my beloved, you are my beloved through all seasons, even this season of pain and suffering, it is but a moment. You are my child, I’ve got you, promise!”

Peace (and prayers) Poppy

Respect does not even begin to tell the story …

They are called “The Greatest Generation” for a reason.

Let me tell you about the “Sappers.” Technically they were “Combat Engineers.” Combat Engineers has a nice ring to it, unless 77 years ago today you had that title. During the invasion of Omaha Beach on D-day, the sappers job after they landed was to charge up the hill to find the land mines and clear a path for their comrades.

Tom Brokaw, in his book, The Greatest Generation, recorded the stories of some veterans who came back years later to visit Omaha Beach, this is what they said.

” … that hillside was loaded with mines, and a unit of sappers had gone first, to find where the mines were. A number of those guys were lying on the hillside, their legs shattered by the explosions. They’d shot themselves up with morphine and they were telling where it was safe to step. They were about twenty-five yards apart, our guys, calmly telling us how to get up the hill. They were human markers.”

They described the scene as calmly as if they were remembering an egg-toss at a Sunday social back home. It was an instructive moment for me, one of many, and so characteristic. The war stories come reluctantly and they almost never reflect directly on the bravery of the storyteller. Almost always he or she is singling out someone else for praise.

2,500 American soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice that day. 2,500 brave individuals would never see their families and loved ones again. They would never again have the privilege of standing when they heard the line, “Oh, say can you see.” They charged up the beach, knowing the odds were not in their favor. They sacrificed themselves for God, country and comrades. They knew they were part of something greater than themselves. Respect does even begin to tell the story. As someone said, They died fighting Hitler and the Nazi’s so that today’s kids could call anyone they don’t like or agree with, “Hitler and Nazi’s.”

Salute, Poppy

4 Keys to True Bitterness!

lemon

Happiness is for amateurs, anyone can be happy, let me tell you how to be truly bitter.

1- Never live in the moment.
Embrace your past mistakes, hold onto them, coddle them, never let them go or learn from them. Remember injustices (real or imagined) you have received in the past. Project the worst-case scenarios for future events. Imagine conversations and scenarios where you will be treated unfairly. They haven’t happened yet, but they probably will.

2- Never be still.
Always be busy with something that can’t wait, move from one crisis to another. Check your phone frequently, searching social media for articles that support your preconceived ideas. Maintain a level of constant outrage and W.I.N.E. (Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything)

2- Never forgive.
Nurture and fertilize every slight or insult you have ever received, someone must pay for this. If you forgive this may be forgotten and “they” will never learn their lesson.

2- Always believe you are owed something.
Perhaps the most important point of all. Your current situation is not your fault!  The… (government, community, business, job, society, church, political parties, etc.) have treated you unfairly and they owe you!


Tongue firmly in cheek, Poppy

Happiness is not dependent on wealth.

Contentment is not dependent on your social status.

Hope is not dependent on your current situation.

Peace is not dependent on current events.

Of Mosquitos, Poison Ivy, Taxes, and Trust

It’s the middle of May and I just finished doing my taxes. As procrastinators say, “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” Now to be fair (at least that’s my excuse) I knew I was going to have to shell out big time to Uncle Sam. 2020 was an eventful year on so many levels (and taxable events) selling a house, retiring, buying a house, etc, etc, etc. But at the end of the day (a terrible writing cliché) I can’t complain … well actually I can and do.

So Mimsy and I went for a walk. She had clear objectives (biological functions), I just wanted to put things into perspective. It was a good walk, the sun was low in the west and back lit the new springtime growth of trees, shrubs, and yes poison ivy, I was slapping mosquitoes, but the were birds were singing, all in all it was a great springtime stroll.

I thought of taxes, mosquitoes and poison ivy (which I can just look at and break out) and then I thought of trust. Trust is one of those lessons that I have to keep learning over and over again. I like to think I’m a pretty positive person, but there are times when doubts and fears come rolling in and I borrow troubles in the middle of the night that will never appear in the light of day.

Intellectually and theologically I think I have a decent grasp on my relationship with God as a Christian. I understand that I am promised His unending love and salvation by His sacrifice on the cross. I also understand as a Christian, I am not promised a life of ease, pink Cadillacs, freedom from mosquitoes, poison ivy, or taxes (and if you are listening to a prosperity preacher who promises you those things, it’s time to switch channels [editorial comment].

Since it’s a walk both philosophical and biological, I don’t mind asking Mimsy, “So why do I struggle trusting God?” She looks up at me, chuffs, hikes her leg, then turns toward home. I follow her lead. 

You get to certain point when you can’t kid yourself. I know I will have periods of doubt, questions that I can’t answer, but I plan on keeping on walking toward home.

Peace, Poppy

(Though I really want to ask God, poison ivy, seriously?)

Literary Musing (No. 3)

If you don’t like watching sailboats at sunset because they move too slow, then “A Gentleman in Moscow” may not be the book for you. Not that it’s boring or moves slow, but like a well brewed cup of coffee or a 12 year old Scotch, it’s meant to be sipped, sniffed, swirled and savored, not gulped down.

The book opens shortly after the Russian Revolution. Our protagonist, count Alexander Rostov, is hauled before the Emergency Committee of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs and accused of writing a counter-revolutionary poem. Only his connections keep him from being stood against a wall and shot. Instead, he’s declared a “Former Person” and sentenced to life imprisonment in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol in a tiny servants room at the top of the hotel.

From Ron Charles review in the Washington Post:

As prison sentences go, life in the Hotel Metropol sounds a lot harder on the novelist than on the count. After all, Alexander Rostov might be able to pretend that his little attic room can “provide the satisfactions of traveling by train,” but for the writer, the task of describing decades in a single building sounds frighteningly cramped. And yet, remarkably, in Towles’s hands, it’s a wonderfully spacious setting. As he creates it, the Hotel Metropol is transfixing, full of colorful characters: some transitory, others permanent; mostly fictional, some historical. Yes, the novel offers more high tea than high adventure, but this is a story designed to make you relax, to appreciate your surroundings, to be a person on whom nothing is lost. And don’t worry: There’s some gripping derring-do in the latter parts.

In yet another example of “Authors Who Intimidate the Heck out of Me,” the simple act of grinding coffee is transformed by Amor Towles’ prose.

“Even as he turned the little handle round and round, the room remained under the tenuous authority of sleep. As yet unchallenged, somnolence continued to cast its shadow over sights and sensations, over forms and formulations, over what has been said and what must be done, lending each the insubstantiality of its domain. But when the Count opened the small wooden drawer of the grinder, the world and all it contained were transformed by that envy of the alchemists – the aroma of freshly ground coffee.”

If you have read “A Gentleman in Moscow, ” let me know what you think. 

If you haven’t read it, but appreciate a well crafted cup of coffee, 12-year-old Scotch, or sentences and paragraphs where every word is perfectly placed, then add this book to your must-read list.

Read well …Poppy

Literary Musing (No. 2)

I’m only into my second “Literary Musing,” and it occurs to me a more appropriate series name might have been, “Authors Who Intimidate the Heck out of Me,” but we are on this path and will stick to it.

Ordinary Grace was a  Christmas present from my oldest daughter quite a few years back. A present for which I am very thankful, because I wonder if I would have discovered this work on my own (not knowing the author at the time). Ordinary Grace is now firmly in my top 10 most-recommended-books. The official promo copy tells the premise better than I can … 

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

The novel contains a cast of well-developed and complex characters who learn, grow wiser and eventually accept what they cannot change. There is a murder mystery that forms a secondary layer beneath this coming of age story. I’ve read some individual reviewers who state that it wasn’t a good mystery because they figured out “who-dun-it” before the end of the book. It is then that I want to yell, “Good for you sweetheart, but you missed the whole point.”

Points to the author for including this quote from Blaise Pascal on the dedication page. 
“The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.” 

Read well …Poppy

Literary Musing (No. 1)

LarryMcMurtry_LonesomeDove

We have moved twice in one year. It seems more like 3 or 4 moves as we are still searching for lost and misplaced items. Somewhere in the house (I hope) is a beat-up hardcover copy of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. The dust jacket is long gone, the spine is wobbly at best. Sure I could buy another copy or download the Kindle version, but that well-read book is precious to me not just for the content and story (which are superb … more on that later), but for the hand written notes from friends to whom I have loaned the book. The front and back endsheets contain notes, reflections, quotes from the book, all signed by friends. This is especially poignant because if you would ask me what Lonesome Dove was about, I would not say, “A cattle-drive from Texas to Montana,” or “Two retired Texas rangers,” or any of a number of themes that emerge from the book. My answer to what Lonesome Dove is about would be, “Friendship,” the relationship, the philia love between Augustus McCrae and Woodrow McCall.

Larry McMurtry passed away on March 25, 2021 in Archer City, Texas … the same town he was born in on June 3, 1936. As an aspiring writer, he is one of those those authors who intimidates me. His characters are well rounded and complex, the dialogue is genuine and humorous. The environments are real, you can feel the heat, the dust, and the currents of the rivers. To say that Lonesome Dove is a western is like saying the Mona Lisa is a portrait.

If you haven’t read Lonesome Dove, put it on your list. If you’ve read it and would like to digitally sign my wayward copy; drop me a comment. When I find it, I’ll transcribe your comments to join all the others.

Read well …Poppy

King Tut meets 2020 (and what I’ve learned)

I really wanted to write something wise and insightful about 2020. I would like to be that guy, you know the guy who people read and think, “Gee, I wish I was as wise and insightful.”

If you’ve made it past the first paragraph and still looking for something wise and insightful, you might want to jump back to the last site you were on and click on the link that says, “You won’t believe number 12” or “Gut Doctor says to throw out this vegetable immediately.” I got nothing, well pretty much nothing except for this flashback …


It was 1977, Tutmania was in full swing at the Field Museum in Chicago, as “The Treasures of King Tutankhamun” (the boy king of Egypt 3000 years earlier) came through town, breaking attendance records and adding millions of dollars to the city’s tourist trade and Mrs. Poppy and I were there to contribute our few dollars. We were newly married, we were naive, did not have much money, but we were on a mission to see the King Tut exhibit. Mind you, this was pre-internet, pre-GPS, we headed to Chicago without much of a plan, but armed with a AAA roadmap, some cash in my wallet, and cruising up I-55 in a lime-green AMC Gremlin …what could go wrong?


Not having reservations was a big mistake and not arriving until after dark didn’t help. After multiple failed attempts and many “No Vacancy” signs later we ended up at a luxury high-rise hotel on Lakeshore Drive.

We got a room.

It was a fabulous room with an incredible view of downtown Chicago. It also used up half of our budget for the entire trip. We retreated the next morning to a seedy little motel in a less than desirable part of town, but we persevered, toured other museums, and prepared for our date with King Tut.

We got up early and headed to the Field Museum, waited in our first line to get a number and approximate time for the second line (four or five hours later). Don’t remember what we did during those waiting hours, but I’m pretty sure my bladder was a lot stronger back then. Our time finally came and we were ushered in. It was worth the wait. The artistry, the engineering, the craftsmanship, the beauty of each ancient artifact was incredible. And I had a minor epiphany.

Those ancient Egyptians were just as intelligent as we were in 1977 (or now), maybe even more intelligent in some cases. We are all on version “Humanity 1.0,” sure our technology has changed, modern humanity does most things a lot faster, but not necessarily better. Humanity as an aggregate does not change that much over the millenniums. We have our up years and our down years. 2020 seems like a big deal to us now, because we are living it, it’s on our doorstep. I believe history will weigh 2020 as a middling year, certainly not our best and certainly not our worst.

I do believe though that 2020 gave us a little dose of steroids that amplified our personalities and natures. The politicians who were power-hungry and over-reaching in 2019 became just a little more power-hungry and over-reaching in 2020. The first responders who put their lives on the line last year, did so again this year, but with the added threat of an unseen enemy. Those humans who were prone to be selfish and self-centered the year before now had a horde of toilet paper in their basement. Fortunately, I believe those who were selfless and self-sacrificing also got a little boost this year.

Where does this leave us in 2021?

The transition from 2020 to 2021 is just another rotation of our planet, not much will change. A different year, a different U.S. president will not change us. And if you are looking to politicians, celebrities, and social media influencers for guidance, you are looking in all the wrong places, because they will always be working under the same operating system of “Humanity 1.0.”

If you are looking for guidance, if you are looking for hope, look to the One who wrote the software. Over the millenniums, despite our best attempts at self-destruction, we continue to bumble along, covered by Grace … and that won’t change in 2021.

Peace Poppy

Mary’s Reveal Party

I cried and turned away. I could not watch as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took his body from the cross. He was many things to many people; lunatic, traitor, heretic … and to others, rabbi, teacher, savior, but I alone was his mother, he was my son, my baby boy. My sobbing came deep from within, racking my body in spasms as if I were giving birth … and my mind skipped back 33 years.


The walk to the well seemed to grow longer every day. Nazareth was a small village. Everyone knew everyone and everybody knew everybody’s business. The well was fed by the only spring in Nazareth. Drawing water was women’s work and there was no time of day when some of the ladies of Nazareth would not be sitting around the well. It was the center of village news and of village gossip. I put one foot ahead of the other and forced my head to remain erect. It was harvest season, hot and dry. If I could have gone without water I would have done so, but I was drinking for two and this was now apparent to all of Nazareth. The whispers and glances could not be ignored. I was tempted to walk up and say, “Did I tell you about the angel that visited me?” It was a foolish thought, but it made me smile. These days my emotions rolled in like crashing waves on the shore. I was confused, scared, but also comforted and honored by what Gabriel had told me. I was determined to see this through.

Poor Joseph, I know this was as trying for him as it was for me.  I’d seen the men of the village jeer and overheard their crude remarks. I would have understood if he had put me away, but when he told me of his angelic visit, it strengthened my resolve.  I don’t know what the future holds, but we are going to trust God together, and whatever comes, we will deal with it as a family.


We were too poor to own a donkey. Fortunately, one of Joseph’s friends took pity on us and let us borrow his. It was a good thing because there was no way I could walk the 70 miles to Bethlehem, not in my condition.

Joseph was holding the reins of the beast and muttering under his breath about Romans and taxes while I attempted to mount the donkey. It was an old donkey, grizzled around the muzzle and very fat. In my 15 years, I had never ridden a donkey or tried to climb onto one. If I had not been so heavy with child perhaps I could have succeeded on my own, but Joseph had to come and give me a boost. Once on top, I reflected on what a ridiculous sight I must have been and got a case of the giggles. Joseph just looked at me and shook his head.


I thought I was over my nausea, but that donkey rocked to and fro and I felt like a sailor on a storm-tossed boat. Somehow I held it together.

Joseph alternately patted me and the donkey as if reassuring us that everything would be alright. It was a slow plodding journey. I wondered who had the bigger belly, myself, or the donkey.

The only drama on the road was provided by a group of Roman soldiers who came up behind on horseback, yelling at us to get off of the road, then leaving us to travel through a haze of dust. A thick film of grime coated me, Joseph, the donkey, and all our belongings as we pushed through the cloud left by the racing horse’s hoofs. I pulled a scarf across my nose and mouth to keep from choking. I watched as Joseph clenched then unclenched his fists, the muscles in his forearms knotted. If possible my love for him grew even stronger. I knew he would do anything in his power to protect us. I reflected that there were now 3 of us, though one had not yet been revealed.


The sun was sinking below the horizon when we arrived days later in Bethlehem.  The last rays of the sun gave way as the glow of oil lamps and candles spilled from windows and doors onto the narrow streets. I wanted nothing more than a warm, clean bed, and enough water to wash away some of the road dirt. To say things did not go as planned would be a huge understatement. We went from inn to inn looking for a room, but there were none available. The influx of arriving taxpayers had stretched the city’s capacities to the breaking point.

I closed my eyes and replayed what Gabriel had spoken to me over and over in my mind. I knew God would not forsake or abandon us now. I had faith and took renewed comfort from the angel’s message … but I still wanted a warm, clean bed.

We made for the last inn situated on the very edge of town. The donkey could hardly keep his head up and I wasn’t much better. The sun had completely set and most of the cities lights were now behind us. The night sky was inky black, clear, and crisp as only a winter sky can be. Thousands of twinkling stars created a dome that filled the sky from horizon to horizon. The distant hills were dotted with pinpoints of flicking yellowish light coming from the campfires of shepherds as they tended their flocks.

Faint murmurs drifted from the open doorway as Joseph negotiated with the innkeeper, at least he didn’t reappear immediately, that gave me hope. A woman emerged from the doorway and headed towards me. I took her to be the innkeeper’s wife. She was short and stout, black hair streaked by grey. The wrinkles at the corners of her eyes spoke of many years and many laughs. Indeed she laughed as she approached me and patted me on my knee.

“Don’t worry child,” she said, “We are going to put you up in our stable, it’s is the only place left.” She leaned toward me and whispered, “I’ll tell you, our stable is better than a lot of the rooms you would have gotten back there.” as she motioned towards town. She laughed again as she disappeared into the inn.

I heard the clink of coins being exchanged and knew this was where we were going to be staying. 

Joseph walked out, shrugged his shoulders, holding his hands apart as if saying, “What are you going to do?’

“It’s okay,” I mouthed. And it was. I felt a peace flow over me and somehow knew that this was exactly as it was supposed to be. 

Joseph tethered the donkey and began to unload him when the innkeeper’s wife reappeared carrying a pitcher of water in each hand and some blankets slung over her shoulder. 

“You may need these tonight.” she smiled and headed back to the inn.


She was right. I went into labor shortly after she left. 

Joseph was great, he was doing his best though at one point I could see he was getting worried and asked, “Should I get the innkeeper’s wife?”

I shook my head violently, no. “This is our promise,” I said, “This is our covenant.” I don’t know where it came from, but I remember blurting out, “This is the prophecy.”


I cried out in pain, the next thing I knew, Joseph was handing me the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He had dark curly hair, plastered against his olive skin. He was crying, then calmed as I held him to my breast. 

Tears flowed as I have never cried before, not tears of pain, not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy, and tears of humility. By any normal standard, he should not be here, yet here he was. Not just a boy child, not just a Jewish boy child from the house of David … but the Savior of the world revealed, here in my arms.

And the world will never be the same.

Merry Christmas, Poppy

The Death of Michael Brown, My Revelation of the Media, Tomorrows Election and My Faith in America

Our family lived in Ferguson for over 30 years. Most of those years even residents of St. Louis could not have found us on a map. That changed and we became one of the most famous or infamous cities in the nation if not the world.

I first heard of Michael Brown’s death not on the news, Facebook, or any other social media outlet, but in aisle 2 of what was then Ferguson’s Shop N Save. I was wheeling my cart down the aisle when I encountered a very agitated African-American woman who was telling another lady about someone who had been shot in the back 9 times by the police. (This is not about the accuracy of the lady’s account or the now disproven, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” scenario … bear with me.)

There was nothing I really needed in aisle 2, so I just backtracked and went down aisle 3. Of course by that time the agitated lady had circled around into aisle 3 and was still waxing on. After a few moments, she saw me, realized she was blocking the aisle, flashed me a smile said, “Sorry, ” and moved her cart over.

It was an epiphany for me.

By any normal standard … our dress, the contents of our shopping carts, our age, we were not on the same socio-economic strata, we were just two souls looking to buy some groceries. As a beyond mid-aged white male, I understood that I was not the focus of her frustration and anger, it went beyond that and beyond what I could truly grasp.

It went downhill from there.

“Ferguson” became clickbait. It was my first exposure to the lack of accuracy (or caring) by the media. I remember in particular, an article posted by some financial blog (who I won’t mention) whose 15 minutes of fame was claiming that a big part of Ferguson’s problems was the lack of banking facilities, even though there were several within walking distance of my house (I’m not making this up).

The picture at the top of this post is a prime example, a group of NYC students who found the means to fly into Ferguson for a night, tell us of our shortcomings, then fly home the next day to their privileged communities.

What does all this have to do with tomorrow’s election and my faith in America.

It’s simple, if I take an inventory of the people I know and come in contact with, in Ferguson or now in Imperial Missouri, they may not be in sync with me politically, they may not share my tastes in music or food, they may even like Cheese Whiz, but they want good things for their families, they want safety and security, they want fairness and justice and a better tomorrow. They do not want to riot or loot, and this gives me hope.

Peace, Poppy

One last editorial comment … my biggest disappointment has been with the media, who now doesn’t even pretend to be unbiased (on either side). RIP Walter Cronkite.