Who? Me? Both Of Us?

Somewhere along the way, Jesus lured me back to life. I won’t do the whole testimony thing here, you’d be bored. But I will tell you how it’s impacted me in the last decade.

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Somewhere along the way, I found a better way to live. I’m so far from perfect that you can’t even measure the gap. But I’m also so much closer to making it as a decent human that I can see the skyline from where I stand. Or kneel. I spend a lot of time praying. I still curse a lot, but I also pray a lot. I only wish they were in an inverse ratio to each other, but I’m working on it.

I have seen what the alternatives are quite starkly. One old shipmate is a face on the national news, indicted on multiple felony counts of a nefarious nature. It could have been me. By the Grace of God it isn’t. But I am bright enough to realize that it very well might have been if only a few things were different in my life. Choices, not very important at the time, were made that put me on the path out of trouble, not deeper into the morass. I consider that a blessing.

Not only do I have a great church family at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, but I had entered ministry work with my wife on an tangential basis years ago. We’ve been feeding the homeless, handing out blankets when it’s cold, and doing mission trips for years. There’s something pretty cool about seeing one of those blankets being used to keep someone warm. We also try to support the church in its work, and have become regular tithers.

Recently, in a move that surprised us, we were selected by our pastor to head the Overseas Missions Ministry. We didn’t ask, we didn’t seek it – heck, we didn’t know it existed. But it turns out it was created with us in mind. We accepted.

I’m not writing this to “rah-rah” what we’ve done. I’m writing this to let you know that no matter what kind of loathsome sinner you are, that can change. I’m proof. (My wife, on the other hand was never loathsome. Just me.)

How do you do it? You open your mind, and your heart, to God. You pray. You go to church and Bible study. You talk with others of your faith, and learn all that you can about how they tackle their lives. You step out and go to places like Haiti. You go out in the cold and make sure your brother isn’t hungry and cold.

Do those things, and do them with a humble heart, and you have a shot at some of the solace I’ve found.

Now, if you’re up for a trip to the Third-world in 2019, and want to do it as the hands and feet of Jesus, drop me an email. (Or, a comment – I won’t publish it) You might just be taking the first step in a road that leads to Christ.

It’s a pretty good road.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Saturdays Are Special.

Most of us in the Western world like Saturday better than the other six days of the week. It’s the day you get to sleep in, run errands, hang around the house, and then camp out for a night with friends, family, or just a good book. You generally don’t have to be anywhere at any specific time, and it’s the day you recreate the hardest.

I, as an overly busy lunatic, seem to schedule something for Saturday without fail. My thought is that if I can get it done before my wife wakes up, it doesn’t count as an interruption to our lives. This last Saturday was no exception, as I’d volunteered months ago to help a friend with the Good Neighbor Meal she was sponsoring.

The drinks trolley

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A week before the meal, I sent her a message wondering what we’d be cooking. Her reply was that she wasn’t cooking anything, but another group had to take the slot – her group fell through. Happens all the time.

Now, faced with a Saturday off, I had to consider my options. One thing weighed on my mind: I’d told others that I’d be there, and some of them might show up for their first volunteer experience, and I wouldn’t be there to show them the ropes. Not exactly leading by example. So I resolved to go, but to cut it short and get some other things done that day.

Saturday morning was cold. Around zero. I knew we’d have a big crowd of people who were hungry and hurting. Consequently, I got there early to help with setup. It was just me and the person in charge of the building for meals at first. We have both worked together for years, so we got going without any adult supervision, making sure the hardest/most time-consuming things were at the front of the list. It’s how you do it after countless meals, knowing that your volunteers will trickle in, but that coffee won’t perk any faster once they are there to make it happen. Got to do it first.

With every plate now in the air, I moved to the stage in the fellowship room, and started sorting the donated clothing. At the foot of the stage, out of sight of the doorway, there was a big fellow curled up in the fetal position. I’d never seen him before, but it was clear that he was exhausted – and frostbitten. Badly frostbitten. I talked to him without touching him, because the last thing he needed in life was another stranger laying hands on him. Life living rough is dangerous, and your personal space is to be defended with whatever you have available. He wasn’t too interested in the sweaters, but he did need gloves. Lost his.

I’m no medic, but I took a look at his hands – they were pretty bad, but not yet infected. He had little interest in seeing a doctor anyway, not the kind of thing guys like him did. I had no gloves in the donations that morning. Good gloves are rarely part of the haul. Lots of old sweatshirts, plenty of jeans for smaller adults, but good gloves and hats are not common. I’d brought a bunch of hats in that morning, but….

“Hang on a minute. I’ll go get you some.”

I grabbed a pair of leather mittens from my coat pocket and came back. They were all broken in and ready to wear. I had some thin inner-gloves that I could wear for the day, I didn’t have far to go to a replacement pair. This poor soul had nothing but what he’d worn in the door.

With my drink cart loaded up, and an able young assistant by the name of Joe *the best name in the whole world* I made my rounds. A great part of what we do is simple kindness and love. Yes, the hot meal and the drinks are a part of it, but being good to your guests, and welcoming them, is where you set the tone. My goal is to never let them be unnoticed longer than just a minute. I try to spot them as they come in the door, welcome them, and get them a cup of coffee, a glass of water, or some milk before they can even take off their coat. I’ve known a lot of them for several years, and I don’t even have to ask what they want. I also know to push the water this time of year, as sub-zero temperatures mask the symptoms of dehydration.

Several times as I served a cup of coffee, talked about the events of the world, or just smiled at one of my old friends, I felt the presence of God in that room. I was full of the Holy Spirit as I made my rounds. No doubt about it, I knew I was in the right place that morning.

As we were finishing up the preparation of the meal (*great crew in the kitchen who didn’t need me butting in*) I looked up from my cart and saw Benjamin. (Not his real name.)

Tears welled up in my eyes immediately. You see, I know Ben from my life outside the meals. I’ve been praying for him for over a decade, as I’ve watched him descend into a spiral from drugs and alcohol. I know the toll it’s taken on his life, and while I would regularly get mad at him for his folly, I would far more often pray for him when he crossed my mind. And he was on my mind often. I know that I could be Ben. Very easily.

Ben offered me his hand and smiled. He was there with a recovery group, and this was part of his service role. I brushed the hand aside and hugged him. All I could say was “I’ve been praying for you for a long time, Dude.” I had hope for him and his sobriety. I know it’s a long road for addicts, but he’d pretty much hit bottom and had checked himself in to be treated.

A few minutes later I was asked to give the blessing over the meal – something that continues to amaze me. I don’t think of myself as a “Holy Joe”, or even a very good Christian most of the time. Yet I am always glad to pray with others.

We all took our places and served our guests. That simple meal of Sloppy Joes (*strangely appropriate*) and green beans was well received. I saw nothing but smiles, and a lot of requests for seconds. Once our guests had been served, I grabbed a plate and sat with some of them. Excellent flavor, a hint of pepper and just enough sauce. I lingered over that glass of milk, and watched the teams cleaning up.

As I got ready to leave, I went back over by the stage. Back in the same place now that the meal was complete, my rough-living friend was curled up in a ball under a donated sleeping bag. All you could see was his head poking out from under the sleeping bag – and those warm mittens.

Man does not live by bread alone…

You may not realize it, but by volunteering to do things like this meal, you commit yourself more fully to Christ, and can even save the lives of others. Please send me a comment if you live in the Twin Cities and you’d like to help with one of our meals. I’ll get in touch with you. Then, you too, can enjoy the blessing that I felt as I walked to the elevator and headed out into the cold. There was no warmer place than my heart at that moment, and I’m glad that I listened to God and went in to help even though it wasn’t my turn. Because, if you’re listening closely enough, it’s always your turn.

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When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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I’m A Native Minnesotan. I Am Challenged In The Common Sense Department During Blizzards.

Monday, the 22nd of January, 2018, there was a blizzard in Minnesota. Like many natives, I put my common sense in a small box and stored it away until midnight. I knew the forecasters had missed the mark, and the Twin Cities were likely to get walloped. (*That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.*) Consequently, I packed my older snow shoes and my winter play clothes into my backpack, and hauled them to work. Worst case scenario was that I’d take the bus with a backpack full of unused winter gear.

Honestly, this was on my route home.

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Looking down from my cell in the sky (some call it “work”) I gleefully begged for a foot of snow in the next 8 hours. Every hour, it got deeper, heavier. Emails and texts started coming in that various businesses and schools were closing for the day. The day had finally arrived, after 15 years of imagining it, I was going to snow shoe to/from work.

The shift ended and I suited up. I very politely waited to put the snow shoes on until I got to the outer lobby. I figured if my wife didn’t let me wear them in the house, I’d probably do well to respect my employer’s building as well.

Once outdoors, I spent the first 15 minutes trying to clean off a lady’s car and get her on the road. Nope, she was stuck in the parking spot. We’d blown past 12 inches and were heading north quickly. Got my warm-up in doing that little task.

I headed down the sidewalk, through the heavy snow. As I moved along, I marveled at all the pretty lights on the cars stalled in traffic. I was passing them, and now began to run into the pedestrians moving to the Minnesota Wild game at the Xcel Energy Center.

As they fought to stay in the narrow goat-paths worn in the snow, I just stepped to the side and kept on cruising through the deep stuff. I got a lot of positive comments on my forethought. The others, the polite ones, said nothing as this lunatic on snow shoes, festooned with a pack larger than most children and a host of blinking lights, moved on past them. It was fun. Pure fun.

Three miles later, after breaking trail through the drifts along West Seventh, it wasn’t quite so much fun. It was a darned hard workout. Especially going over the railroad bridge. Deep snow, and a grade, had me short of breath. I’m in way better shape than a year ago, but it was a challenge after already slogging two miles in the drifts.

When I arrived on my block, I took the alley to the house. I figured I’d grab a shovel, clear the steps, and go inside to change out of my sweaty/cold clothing and put on my polar suit. That changed when I saw the three-foot drift up against the overhead door. It was no better looking into the back yard – it was deep. Really deep.

I fired up the snow blower for the first time in almost 2 years (Been shoveling for the excercise) and began hacking at the snow drifts. They were dense, and hard to cut through.

Three hours later, after blowing snow for more than a few neighbors, I grabbed a shovel and cleaned up the steps and sidewalks. Snow is just frozen water. If you don’t back it away from all the sidewalks, and get it right down to the concrete, the next day’s sunshine will melt it, and turn it into ice. Which is bad. So I did the heavy lifting and cleared it all down to concrete.

Four-and-a-half hours after leaving my desk, I’d completed an epic trek home, shoveled and pushed a snowblower for hours, and made it inside where I put all my nasty gear in the wash, and the shoes on the shoe-dryer.

It was a great day. I was very pleased that I could handle the exertion. Two years ago it would have killed me. Now, after significant weight loss and exercise, it just felt good. A few sore muscles, a lack of potassium in my bloodstream, but a good feeling.

And I got to snow shoe from work to my house after almost fifteen years of planning. I will do it again.

More snow shoe in the near future. The Luminary Loppet was a victory, with a great team of friends.

Now, on to Wisconsin. Lake Superior calls. Time to prove, once again, that I can walk on water.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Welcome to Minnesota.

At this very moment visitors to the great state where I live are climbing into their cars, boarding a train, or flying toward my location. Many of them are coming for the big game (I’d use the name, but the league that controls pointy-ball soccer gets ugly and wants money for the honor of promoting their event) or to see the mirthful glee that is the Winter Carnival.

As a courtesy, and a service, to those visitors, I’m offering this welcome guide. Not the usual tourist stuff that the chamber of commerce types would spout, but a real guide to the metro area and all the wonder that is Minnesota. Yes, I’m including some out-state information as well. Picture it as a guide to survival and fun for our visitors. Locals, hopefully, already know all this stuff.

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Let’s do the basics right away and save visitors a wealth of agony.

1. That clear stuff on every flat outdoor surface is ice. If you don’t have good tread on your shoes, or even if you do, you will likely fall on your backside. If you’re lucky. Don’t try to break your fall with your out-stretched arms. That usually results in a broken wrist. Instead, attempt to fall sideways and settle for a broken rib.

2. If you experience #1, don’t attempt to fall gently into a snowbank. Snowbanks currently have the fluffiness of cement blocks. They are composed of road debris, shards of cars that crashed during the last blizzard, and ice. Lots of dirt as well. They probably will hurt as much as the sidewalk they cover. Which leads me to our next item.

3. Do not attempt to hurdle a snowbank unless you are from a snowy climate. You will find them solid as a rock unless you jump on top to attempt to scramble down the other side. Once on top, it will give way under your weak ankle, and take you sliding into the roadway. Being crushed by a slush-spewing bus is a bad thing.

4. Do not attempt to buy drugs while in Minnesota. I am quite confident that you will stick out in some of the drug neighborhoods as a lovely target with your out of town plates. Besides, you do not have the local accent. If you insist, be advised that you will probably be buying ditch weed at best, something made in a mobile home at worst. Here is the map of places you shouldn’t go to buy drugs. Crime Map

5. Same goes for hookers as for drugs. Really good chance that you just got lucky with an undercover cop. Probably not the way you want your family to envision your weekend with the boys. But if you insist, here’s a list of bail bond companies at the link.

Lest you think all is a hazard in our fine state, I should probably throw in some entertainment kind of stuff for you to enjoy. Yes, I probably should.

Instead, I’ll tell you what’s out there on the “must-see” side, and then what you’d actually enjoy.

If you go to the link for the big game, there are all sorts of sanctioned events.

If you go to the link for the Winter Carnival, there are all sorts of sanctioned events.

Nice, eh? Lots of places to spend lots of money. But you could do all that big-game stuff in almost any city. The Winter Carnival you can do almost every year. This year, for a change, we’re blessed with snow. So go do some snow stuff. If you’re not interested, that’s cool (pun completely intended). But there’s all sorts of activities around here where you can go snow shoeing, cross country skiing, and have some real fun ice fishing. I’d suggest you run a search with winter activities & snow & minnesota & 2018 . Because, if you’re not in the mood for a raging-alcohol-fueled week, that’s the fun stuff around here this time of year. Things like the Luminary Loppet. You don’t have to participate, but being out on the lake after dark and watching the racers is going to be beautiful and fun.

Find yourself a great ethnic restaurant. We (*all Minnesotans who live in the Twin Cities*) have this fabulous idea that we’re a big city. No, we’re not. We’re a larger city on the prairie with some serious suburbs. There is world-class entertainment and dining in the area without a doubt. But, frankly, we’ve milked the Prince and lutefisk things about as far as we can. I hope you find some of our local gems and take a memory home.

If you’re looking for superior food from the Asian side of the planet, there’s a bunch of restaurants in Saint Paul along University Avenue. From about Snelling to the State Capitol, you will be amazed at the variety of cool stuff to eat. Don’t wander more than a few blocks off University unless you’re dead-set (pun intended) on searching out numbers 4 and 5 above. I live here and so I get to make fun of my neighborhood. Keep the “we don’t belong here” scene from Vacation in mind and you’ll do just fine (lANGUAGE WARNING).

During the day you should get a rental car and drive up north of the Twin Cities. I couldn’t even tell you why, but the natives all seem to “go up north” about 40 weeks a year. It is a biological imperative. Don’t do it at night, or you’ll find out why deer are our mortal enemy. Hard on the rental car. Deer, it seems, feel a need to play “Frogger” with cars on the roads once the sun sets.

Last, but not least, ignore any local imbeciles who want to “get even with Philly.” As noted above, we have pretensions of being a big city. I’ve been to Philly. We aren’t even the cheese on their steak.

Enjoy your stay in Minnesota. And then leave. It’s too danged cold for sensible people. Come back in the summer when you can enjoy the swamp-like heat and mosquitoes.

Skol. (That’s old Norse for “next year, maybe.”)

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When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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12 Strong – A Review. Five Stars *****

Just for a change, why don’t you go watch the movie and then come back and read this silly blog. You truly have to see this on the big screen.

No? Well, I figured you’d be stubborn. You are, after all, reading the blog of one of the most stubborn men in North America. Fine. I’ll talk about the movie. It’s worthy of discussion. Let’s start with the trailer for 12 Strong:

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Looked pretty good, eh? It’s even better on the big screen – especially in a theater that has awesome sound. Why? Because nothing sounds like a fighter jet screaming by your location at ground level, or a helicopter sitting on top of you, or being inside a helicopter quite like this movie does. I don’t know how they managed it, but the sound hits you in the chest and makes you smell the kerosene. I imagine it will give some folks a flashback. I just got high on adrenaline when it happened.

The second thing they got right was dirt. I’ve never been deployed as a ground troop. But just getting from point “A” to point “B” in tactical aircraft is dirty work. You will stink. You will be greasy/oily. And you will have dust all over you. It’s hard manual labor being in the military. This movie shows that very well.

The film also shows how flexibility plays into the day when you’re in an intelligence/special ops unit. You might not even be eligible to go, but sometimes you have to go. Either you want it, or Uncle Sam wants it. No matter who’s choice it is, you’re going – or not going. And you get to tell your wife. I suppose now that includes telling your husband. But no matter who it is, it sucks. Not fun. Part of the truth of your life in the military.

Now for the actual review part like the real critics do it. Nah. I’ll just say that it’s action packed, good acting, good insight into the cultural aspects of the unit itself and the Afghans – based on what I know. It is very well done visually, and you will probably duck for cover at more than a few of the combat scenes. I was impressed that they found so many weapons for the movie that would have been present.

It is a tale of heroism, grit, and the American military at its very best. Patriotic movies are not frequently seen on the big screen anymore, but this one will have you waving the flag. There is no doubt who the bad guys are when the screen lights up. Especially that idiot on the end of my row who took two phone calls during the movie. I put him right up there with Mullah Omar.

This movie will also serve as a recruiting tool. If you don’t want to do this kind of mission, it won’t appeal to you that way. But if you’re a youngster with an itch to be the best around, this will drag you into the recruiting office the following Monday. No offense to my SEAL friends, but long before I knew they existed, I was a Green Beret fan as a kid. It was the peak of the Vietnam war, and the SEALS were not talked about much. Besides, John Wayne was a Green Beret. Can’t beat John Wayne. This will be the Green Berets of today’s generation. That’s a good thing in my opinion.

I was never a Green Beret (That’s bleeding obvious to anyone who knows me and my lazy streak.) But the humor, and the smart-aleck moments ring very true given that I’ve been around for a minute or two with other special operators. There is one scene when a helicopter is taking off that made me laugh out-loud. I even knew all the words to the song. I watched the video of that song just now, and it has to go in this review – because it’s the story of these men. Written by Ssgt. Barry Sadler over 30 years before the mission. Some things change very little with time.

Conclusion: Excellent flick. Go see it on the big screen. Waiting for it on Netflix won’t do it justice. Five very big stars on this one.
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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link!

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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