2020 #21

James Baldwin

I keep having dreams that James Baldwin is here. In my kitchen, writing. And smoking. We talk all night. They are very linear. Picking up where the other leaves off. As if he is aware.

Maybe it is…because I will be 31 and I still haven’t found how to deal with 30…

He says it’s because I see him.

I think it is this unsettling feeling I get when I see social media jump. Businesses jump. It’s as if everyone is patting black Americans on the back. Saying “there there.” But still, not seeing them or acknowledging that they exist.

I’ve been reading James Baldwin for years. I couldn’t find his books at my local library so I had to buy them.

I see everyone sharing quotes from him and others…but I doubt they’ve ever read. Really, read their bodies of work.

In my dream. He smiles and asks me how I felt during the early days of the pandemic. When everyone was praising frontline workers.

It didn’t feel authentic. It felt like a mob mentality…

He shrugs. Very well. There you have it.

I think, and I might be wrong.

We are here…dealing with something different.

But, when I step back. And I look at the whole experience of 2020

We have something else here

Racism, yes. Conspiracy theories? No. That’s a very privileged point of view…

As if to say “darling, you’re not having this experience, someone must be trying to destroy America.”

We have no sense of self. We have no boundaries. We are entitled. Selfish. Yes, but we have no real understanding of ourselves.

We’ve been spoon fed this ideal about reality. Profit. But no real understanding.

Yes, you can live a life unlike no other.

But we are still not happy.

We have no sense of self. No boundaries.

when our neighbors house catches on fire we set ours on fire. We don’t understand where we begin and end. Boundaries. Every single week there is something else we are running towards.

Where is the real goal? What will you do if you get what you want?

What do you want?

Black Americans

LGBTQ

The women’s movement

These things are real American lives

They exist

Their experiences are real

Daily

They are more than political movements

They are more than flags

They are not profit agendas

They are humans

American men and women

With families and dreams

The system might be broken

But until we face ourselves

And look in the mirror

And figure out how we got here

And what we are going to do with it

And a real sense of direction

It can’t be fixed.

We are removing the humanity from these movements so we can label them and better handle them.

That is what I fear.

——

I’m tired

I feel like I’ve been gutted

I don’t feel like we are really seeing

I feel like we are just doing just enough

To get by

——

But our actions say something else

——

I’m tired

I’ll be 31 this year

I may be quiet

But I’m not blind

I feel myself retreating into literature

We are better

We can do better

Be better.

I’m going to be 31

And I’m tired.

I feel myself running out of time.

I get up in the middle of the night

And James Baldwin is at my table.

30 for 30 (slide away)

I woke up

Trying to write again

The streets are silent

The talk is on the inside

It’s all the same lines

And
everyone smiles at the table

Drink in their hand

We’re all real good liars

Does the future look good?

And we saw the signs on the interstate

We saw the signs but we didn’t mark the time

We keep waiting for music to save itself

But we’d have to touch something that makes emotion

And we’re still numb from the great promotion

Someone said

It would take a sound

only your gut could understand

What happened to soul ?

I took a walk

My shoes wear down from the unpaved road,

The humidity is so thick, sometimes I feel like I could cut it with a butter knife

I try to write,

But my word document keeps freezing,

So I break out a note pad, you know the ones, paper, pens,

I transfer it to a typewriter

Now I can mail it to the Paris Review

Turn on the radio –

I don’t recognize anything I hear

I don’t relate

What happened to soul?

They say Blues won’t pay your bills

But Blues is the only thing that knows the way I feel

This is a mill town

But the mills are all gone

Does that make this a ghost town?

I like old things

I don’t know how to change

When was the last time you heard a sound

That took you by surprise ?

When was the last time you read something that opened your eyes?

I dress everyday

I Pour wine and coffee

When I write

I have to take myself seriously

get up

Get up off the floor

No one else is going to make you-

Sometimes it takes the change

But one of these days

You’re going to have to start again

Into oblivion

Some teenagers asked
Me what you were like today…
they are too young
They don’t remember a world
Before this
It shocked me
And then I realized how many years have passed …
And so here I am
An adult now
Finally ready
I can tell my story

9/11
You were the day
September
Became more than
Just a birthday
I looked at the sky
With fear
The world as I knew it….
changed
the day
A city called New York
Felt like it was
Somehow
In my back yard
And I memorized it’s skyline
It’s buildings
It’s streets

the month,no.
The year
I had nightmares
Of paper towns
And iron cities
With white washed faces….
You were the year
I memorized the quote
On the Statue of Liberty
And
“Conspiracy theories”
Had faces and definitions
I will never see
“the potato chip”
The same

you became
The second date I
Mark on the calendar
Next to my birthday
And every Year
I grow heavy
I sleep less
I see shadows of people
And hear veterans crying

It’s difficult
For me
To remember
Anything else
All I know
Is what you gave us

But
I remember When – everything
All the paths
plans
roads
skies
seas
The past and
The present
Under
The shadow of planes
With the echo
Of collapsing …
Changed.

With faces hollowed out
Wearing our city
We rose
Forever changed
I remember
That.
Forever.

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America

on the American dream
I want you to think
About the good things …
A glass of bourbon
Rum
Vodka
White wine
Hard sole shoes
A good tie
An old type writer
The smell of books

That feeling you get when you are
Walking in a garden barefoot
When you pay off your first vehicle
Second vehicle
And even your third vehicle
Writing your first novel
Meeting a goal
Standing in a good thunderstorm
Letting it soak you to the bone
And how it’s even better
Sensual
When you share it with someone

Some things are good
In solitude
I’m a fan of solitude
Some things are better
With a co-pilot
I don’t understand
We talked a lot
About the
American dream
Growing up
I think it’s different things to
Each one of us
It’s reaching inside
And understanding
What that language
Your language is
And speaking it
It’s being best man
In your brothers wedding
It’s knowing that failure is not
Permanent
It’s human connection
It’s the high
Not living to check things off
Or to escape
It’s living to share
To give
To read each others story
Understanding
That
It becomes a chapter
In our own
The moment we share it
The moment we kiss
The moment we come over
The moment we leave
The American dream
Is being able to do these things
It’s being able to stumble
It’s being able to fail
It’s being able to correct
It’s that struggle
Personal struggle
But it’s ours

I hope
As you grow
You grow
To support
The arts
The expression
I hope you fight
For human connection
For that spirit
That’s strong
Like a blind man’s eyes
That cold fight
I hope you lean in
And are authentic
When it is easier
To be something else
When I was growing up
The world was vast
And mysterious
We stapled national geographic
To our walls
We spread out maps on the floor
Now it’s on our phone
A skype call
A video chat
A letter
Just remember
No matter what America looks like
Or any nation that you
Make your home
You are a piece of it
You represent it
So be good
Be kind
Be open
Be strong
Have courage
Be fearlessly authentic

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These are your days

Write about what you know
That’s what they say
But there really isn’t much that I know
Or much to say

I was homeschooled
I can plumb a house
Build a barn
Irrigation and anything else outside
I can put together a pretty mean 3 point sermon and sell it .
But what once was sincere
Doesn’t mean anything to me .
That’s what I learned ….
People change
We change
That’s all I really know

We grew up
We were young
When we saw the towers fall
9/11 changed everything
Suddenly this evil numbing shadow fell across our lives
It affected our dreams
Our plans …everything changed
Our childhood shifted
And we stopped coloring
We started thinking like adults
And then the storms came
Mother Nature took back what was hers before we built cities
I learned that things don’t matter
What we define ourselves by
Can be gone tomorrow
All we have is our experiences
Our memories
And how we live and treat people

We grew a little older
And they told us to believe in our country, to do as we’re told, that there’s a certain acceptable way and pattern to do things .
We shook our heads
We choose to think for ourselves
We write our dreams on walls
We leave it on scraps of paper

At one point we fell for someone
I still see her skin
Our clothes in the floor
she changed so fast
Slamming cabinets
Crying
Anger
And then she was fine
Only to return again
Her words cut like a knife
And then she left
And I didn’t do a thing
I faded out
I blamed myself
We were just kids
Attempting to be adults
We gave ourselves scars
That never really healed
And now I still react because of it
Much afraid

We act like its a big deal
Like these things define us
But they don’t
Take it all away
What do you have ?
An angry man saying
” they don’t pay you for waiting around ”
An angry woman because he’s gone
A world changing faster than we can see

We are defined by questionable wars
Identity crisis
And vanity
We hunger for nothing
We are taken by everything
Blindsided by knowledge
We are still young
And we’ve been shot through

So here I am all these years later
Older but young
I can’t sleep
I see things
My mind races
But when I talk with her
When I’m with her
I feel close
I feel calm
And I actually rest
I press my eyes closed
And I hope
I hope I bring some kind of rest
For her

Write what you know
What do you know ?

” these are the days that must happen to you .”
– Walt Whitman

In closing

She is fire to my veins
Her touch
Electric
Burning deep
Her voice is a calm
In the midst of the noise

Her smile
Her laugh
The way she is
How she moves

And so here we are
This is us
5 hour conversations
between
sleep and being awake
Her voice is soft
and you can hear her Smile …

I don’t know how this ends
But if it all goes down
Tomorrow
If the world comes apart
As we walk out the door
At least
We were honest
At least we loved
At least we reached across those walls

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Photo link http://pinterest.com/pin/225180050092144026/

People like us

Recently, and by recently I really mean the past 4 years
Ok, two years
Maybe, this year. With the economy in such an….overwhelming place …
I started looking at what the future looks like for … Well, people like us .
The working family .

Now, I’m in business – I deal with people.Their children, their money , followed by more people .

It’s no secret that almost NO American feels safe with the thought, prospect, of retirement … None … Zero … I don’t even feel safe , do you ? . And when I say safe, I mean, do you take great joy in thinking of retirement, or do you dread what it’s going to take to get there ? . See where I’m headed .

None of us believe social security is going to be there when we reach the safe haven of 70+ to retire
And yet hardly anyone is taking matters into their own hands .
You have inflation
Taxes
And dog food to look forward to

I lived on potatoes for months as a child
I promised myself never again

I was talking to a farmer from Michigan recently – great guy , he and his wife got married at the age of forty . They are now in their 70’s . He worked two jobs , she worked for the government – so we know she didn’t make much there . She did all right money wise . But she also had two kids when they met … So she didn’t HAVE any money to save . They pulled together , any raises went to savings and retirement funds . They ate in most of the time … They now have a pretty good retirement. One fund is over 300,000 dollars … However , this is only about 1,300 a month .

So

If you don’t believe social security is going to be there – as it should be . If you truly don’t feel comfortable trusting your future to someone else ?
Then why do it !

If we don’t who will ? . If not now , when ? .
We have to start today, to secure tomorrow .

It doesn’t have to be complicated either.

Roth IRA’s make interest work FOR you
We all know about interest. Except now you can feel good about it and not worry so much about inflation .
Fund these and a 401k as much as possible . But make sure you have a good emergency fund available on the side .
‘Cause believe me
Stuff happens
It’s not a matter of IF
But when. And it will happen .

SAVE
What you can , when you can , for as long as ever you possibly can .
If we can’t predict the future ? We must prepare for it .

Will this keep you from worrying ?
No , this is human nature , it means you’re concerned . Just remember … It ain’t nothing but a thing, Do what you can and breathe .

You and I are told to fear the unknown. To panic . To ask questions …
… We don’t have to fear the future , not if we prepare for it … we can change our way of thinking and live like no one else . A down market is not always a bad thing . Perspective is everything .

Consider how almost every advancement in the past 40 years, took place within a down market . Thus turning things around …. Apple , Mcdonald’s , the ATM , cell phones etc etc. The list goes on . The future doesn’t belong to the faint of heart , it belongs to the brave .
life will beat you down,but don’t give up just yet . We are the brave ones . I just can’t help believing in ..people like us.

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4th of July

Today we celebrate freedom
We’ve heard a lot of opinions on freedom this week .
Where our nation was, where its going .
I remember when tornadoes wrecked the south ……we lost everything . People I knew , couldn’t finish a sentence for weeks …they were trapped in a horrific moment in their mind . They would just stop and stare blankly ….I finally just started taking their shopping list and helping them get what they needed .
We rebuilt …over time …we rebuilt ourselves . That’s what freedom is to me . Being able to see where you are …where you want to be and getting there .

I don’t have all the answers ….no ..don’t mistake this for that .
I’ve been working since I was six
When I was sixteen I got tired of handing my paycheck to my dad and living on potatoes …so I started buying food instead ( maybe he wouldn’t notice ).

Life is not about money
It’s not about things
It’s not about security
Stuff happens
It’s about being free to live the life you choose
I’ve worked out my salvation with fear and trembling
But I struggle with depression
I’m 24 but I feel like I’m 40
I wanted to be in arts
But I’m in business
Life happens
But I have the ability to live and grow
To determine where I’m going to be
Life is out there all around us
To me
It’s about people
Helping people
And taking care of those you love
Living and growing
And never settling
So on this day
When we celebrate freedom
I just couldn’t help thinking about all of us who say we are free
But live in slavery
Slavery to fear
Health
Abuse
Verbal and mental even physical
There’s all kinds of slavery and abuse
Today
I salute those who have broke free from these things that hold us
May we all live free .

Is this serenity or something else?

Sometimes I wonder what leadership is

Sometimes I wonder what holiness is

Sometimes I wonder….

Is it enough to pull at all the loose ends?

is getting myself together all that salvation demands?

a managed  life in the end?

Does God forgive, no matter what, because that’s just what he does?

– wait a minute ? isn’t that legalism –  salvation by works? as in ” God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good and disciplined life”

when we see things that make us uncomfortable but see no need to sacrifice our safety  to stand up to them…..I wonder just what our narcotic is.

Or is is it just Formalism?

Sometimes I wonder about ethics , character , courage ,  leadership, compassion, conviction and passion ….

I just wonder…what  America was like and what we were  intended to BE .

America was intended to BE a shining city on a hill . Unlike anything before .

What a calling and opportunity for us to step up for the hour ….but this isn’t the case..so I wonder .

“The complexity of our times hinders the rise of leadership.

Perhaps we have become too analytical to take decisive action . 
We are being pulled in so many different directions that it’s almost impossible to unite behind a leader .” 

– John Maxwell

cheap grace ” – a non – costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are . That will never change anyone’s life . 

-Timothy J. Keller

is there another way to go?

One where we fight for right and speak out against evil

one where salvation comes in like spring fresh and new , and men are changed

one where we live in the light  with courage and  a boldness which is not our own…

“We are saved by faith alone – but not a faith which is alone” 

– Luther

” Silence in the face of evil is itself  evil ; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak . Not to act is to act. ” 

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.”

Psalm 27

The psalmist says ” In spite of this I shall be confident ”

and I believe

I believe that we all don’t see things the way a “majority elite ” would have us to

I believe that even when voices tell us to let policies and procedure go unquestioned

That detail and information is none of our concern

I believe that when these voices tell us to be afraid of these things

We will question …without fear

Because these voices don’t speak for the rest of us

I believe

We will pray with conviction

We will hear the call and meet the hour – with a standard

as long as there is a sunrise over America …I believe as  Jonathan in the Bible when  he took the philistine camp  …

“perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.”

– 1 Samuel 14:6

I still believe in us , you and I .

in the words of  President Reagan in his first inaugural address ;

I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom. The crisis we are facing today requires  our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And, after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you .

Election 2012

Psalm 100:3

” Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and not we ourselves, we are his people.”

God raises man to positions of authority and power…Abraham Lincoln said he would rather be on God’s side than have God on his…because God is always right.This may seem or feel like a simple form of logic, but I believe in simple answers…if God  raises man to power…than perhaps..we need to check – in with God so that we may KNOW what his spirit is working in us before we get beside ourselves.
I would hate to see history repeat itself. The church in Russia,just before it fell, they were praying and debating on whether Holy water is still pure if a drop of sweat gets in it…seriously. 
My prayer is that we may hear his voice over all others and desire his will over our own. 

We may never be what we were…we’ve come too far…we’ve seen too much…we’re not the same…and his timing might just be upon us. Just pray,pray, pray .

And that’s really, all I have to say about that.