Monday, December 28, 2009

A lesson in irony

"Even in the midst of their denial of the validity of Holy Scripture, the actions of today's scholars, and those that adhere to the relative social moors they advocate, themselves ensure that the prophetic outcome depicted by those Scriptures for their own downfall, the collapse of civilization as a whole, and the eventual reign of chaos by those left behind, will come to be."

If you've followed anything I've had to say, you'll know that I have what would be considered a conservative Christian perspective on life, and how to live it. This isn't to say that I believe myself to be any better, or worse than any other living person. It only says that I believe in God, His inviolate Word, and the redemption of sins through a following of His Son, Jesus. It also says that, by definition, I am flawed. This should be most noteworthy in recent exchanges I've had with my son on Facebook. I made the mistake of believing that the passion of my discourse would be sufficient to make the content believable. In today's vernacular, my bad. For it is quite evident that the amount of information that is imputed into today's youth supercedes it's ability to convince via proof with sheer volume. It must also be understood that I hold no grudges against my son for the content, nor direction that this has lead us. No, in fact, I find that again, God appears, and works, in mysterious fashion. For though I possess a rudimentary knowledge of apologetics, the study of a defense of the Christian faith, I had no real idea of how deep seated it's opposition is in the framework of today's society. For we are bombarded from all sides by not only a belief in secularism, and it's so called rights of integration into society, but rather by a hostile push to remove any semblance of religious belief from the annals of history. A mind set that says that by simply stating that something doesn't, or didn't exists, is sufficient to remove it from fact. A harsh example is the response that secularists take to the role that the Judeo-Christian religion has played in the foundation of this country. Today's scholars simply say, "that's not what was meant" when God, and the moral standard His Word implies, is noted in virtually every single document associated with the establishment of American government. The fact that the Ten Commandments are posted in every government building constructed since the American Revolution appears to have no bearing on what the founders, as well as the laymen constituent had in mind for the direction in which the country should progress. A simple statement associated with "separation of church and state" in an amendment is taken entirely out of context and becomes the basis for the educational direction we travel as well. The sociopathic ravings of a man wallowing in grief over a lost child has lead to our children being taught evolution, to the exclusion of religion, in school as though it were established fact, rather than the hypothesis and theory it actually is. The boundaries established through maintaining a religiously achieved moral standard that enabled this country to become a world power have been overrun with a relative morality that says if enough people do it, it must be right. And this to the exclusion of common sense, or common decency. Few, if any, now days understand the phrase "common grace", that condition that exists that enables the ingrained conscience that natural man has to express compassion to his neighbor. A condition that also must be fortified daily with the power of an ambivalent God to be more than just compassionate, or else the capacity for "satisfying self" takes over. Without it, absolute power begets absolute tyranny. Politicians quit listening to the voters, doctors take lives instead of save them, and scholars begin teaching our children morals based on their own perspective of what right and wrong entail without the benefit of accountability to any higher cause. The supreme irony is this: That when a government constructed that embraces a moral foundation where the rights of the individual to fairly rule itself is overthrown by the very denizens of that creed in lieu of a social environment that trivializes that moral foundation, and the individual rights of those supporting it, and then in fact disavows those morals, it is doomed to collapse from within. Without an absolute moral standard to live by, man has only his own oscillating windmill with which to generate his ethics. This same ethical standard that two hundred years ago said that slavery was acceptable, and abortion was an abhorrence, and yet today says exactly the opposite. Two generations ago the Ten Commandments were taught in school, today they are outlawed. The result? Our children often don't survive the experience. Religion is separated from state, yet judges, instead of enforcing laws, make them, influenced by politicians bent on power. The result? Thugs rule the streets. The common man must protect himself, because the police haven't the manpower to respond, let alone protect. And the tiger eats it's tale by trying to take away his ability to protect himself on the pretext that he is a danger to the government. It is politically incorrect for our children to pray in school, but perfectly acceptable for teachers to teach Adam and Steve, instead of Adam and Eve. Livestock dies, and lively hoods are lost so that we can protect the spotted owl, and the red salmon. Farmers are paid to leave land fallow, yet people in this country go hungry. We spend millions to save baby seals, and yet allow our own children to be murdered. We send thousands "over there" to protect our rights, and further our beliefs, then allow those who take our lives here go free. We are a nation morally, and spiritually bankrupt, and yet we fail to see that we have only ourselves to blame.

The biggest irony? I hold myself, and those like me who profess a stern, conservative belief that God made me who I am, this country what it is, and mankind as a whole accountable to Him, and yet have allowed those who believe otherwise to dictate how and where I express that belief. I have been reluctant to stand up for what I believe for fear of being shunned by my peers, or being branded as politically incorrect. I have sat and watched the pond that I live in turn into a social cesspool, bound for a cleansing beyond prior biblical proportions. He said He was coming back. And then, my friends, will come a "change" you can count on.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Coincidence ?

"An event that might have been arranged although it was really accidental", or another, "the noteworthy alignment of two or more events or circumstances without obvious causal connection".
I've heard it said that in Christian Theology, referring specifically to movements, or actions taken, by the Holy Spirit, that there is no such thing as coincidence. In other words, nothing happens by accident. I have come to accept this as an action of faith. In times of extraordinary travail, God will have already given you the tools to overcome it. Or, at least, to battle it, if the war is yet to be won. Case in point:
The church I attend had a visiting speaker some weeks back. He is the president of a Theological Seminary close to where I live. His topic of speech was Christian Apologetics. That can appear to be a misleading term, as we usually equate apology with "making allowance for" for any variety of reasons. However, in this instance "apologetics" means argumentative defense, or specifically, the field of study concerned with the systematic defense of Christian Theology.
His name was Alex, and he spoke very inteligently about a subject I have heard of a number of times over the years, but never truly appreciated the necessity of. Namely, this "Christian Apologetics".
I am very comfortable with my Christian Faith. For I believe in God. I believe He created the Heavens, and the Earth. I believe He created you, and me, in His image. I believe that He desires a relationship with you and me, and to this end He came in the form of man, born of woman. He was born about this time of year, grew up as you or I would, ministered to us, taught us how to love, how to live, and sacrificed Himself for our salvation.
That, of course, is a gross oversimplification of the gospel message. But fortunately, He left us an epistle of His intent, as well as the Third Party of Himself to help us get through the difficulties of understanding what all that means, as well as life itself.
Here's the challenge though. The more comfortable we get with our faith, the more we associate, socialize, and proffesionalize with people of the same persuasion. Nothing inherently wrong with that, it's just not all we are expected to do. For, if you know anything of the bible, Jesus commands his disciples to "go forth and preach the gospel". Preferrably to someone other than the choir. That often involves folks who want to make an argument against the subject. That's where apologetics comes in. And that's where this particular chapter of my life starts.
So Alex came, and spoke on Apologetics. He could only skip across the surface of the subject during the limited time he had, so what he told us certainly wasn't comprehensive. It gave me just enough of a taste of the topic to realize that I didn't know enough. Oh, I know most of the common material to defend my faith. But these days there are some really well spoken, and knowledgeable individuals out there who like very much to refute the Christian Faith. And on a multitude of different levels. Some call it cultish. Some dispute the time line. Some complain of contradictions in the Scriptures. Some dispute the validity of a belief in God at all. There are a number of alternative theories out there that claim to make more sense than believing that God made the world, the universe, man, and all his friends here on earth. And apologetics covers them all. It's not a new program. It's been around for as long as the Bible has. The disciples had to defend their faith against a religious sect who refused to believe that the Messiah was walking amongst them.
I can tell someone, who knows nothing of faith, "about" what I believe, that's a simple matter of quoting scripture, articles of faith, and witnessing to what God has done in my life. I have fifteen years of experience gained through a passionate study of the Christian Faith. However, I have little in the way of ammunition to actually defend it against an adversary bent on tripping me up and disputing what I believe.
So Alex said what he said, and left what he left...which was an invitation to an upcoming seminar on Christian Apologetics. Ever hungering for more knowledge, or better said, understanding of the Bible, and it's precepts, my wife, and I, along with several others from the church, bought tickets to the two day seminar.
We heard authors, theologians, mathematicians, politicians, clergy, and former atheists who had researched, written, spoken, debated and filmed subjects varying from the lineage of Christ, comparisons to other religions, supposed contradictions in time line of the Bible stories, secular historical reference to biblical accounts, archeological studies of floods, fires, monolithes, and temples, all back up and defend the teachings of Christ, eschetology of the church, validity of bible characters, and in general, meet head on any, and all arguements against the Christian Faith. They even televised a three hour debate against a self proclaimed atheist of world reknown. Topics ranging from the Darwinian Evolutionary Theory to seeds from an off world civilization were covered as possible alternatives to Creation. Nothing heard, or seen, convinced me for a fraction of a second to even question what I already knew to be true. There is a God, He is perfect, I'm not, but I didn't come from a monkey either.
So what's all this have to do with coincidence? Well, I'm not an evangelist, so it's unlikely I'll find myself on a street corner preaching the Word of God. I don't speak at universities, conferences, or seminars, so why the need to know? Fate formulated the answer to that one.
Two weeks ago I engaged in a debate on a well known blog forum with my twenty eight year old son. It started initially as a comment I had made referencing my political persuasion, and some disparity over the current administrations policies. I found out something new. My son no longer carries the same basic political beliefs that I possess. That, in and of itself, really wasn't much of a concern. I've never carried much of a candle for politicians, or their policies. Nor have I been too concerned with how that directly effected me, or my family. To be sure, I believe that some of those policies have the potential to create a clear, and present danger to the stability of this country, but they are still far enough removed from my street to make them little more than a nuisance, at this time.
After several heated parries with each other, we decided that the age old addage that politics, and family, don't mix, was true. Best to just agree to disagree. We sheathed swords, and moved on. Or so I thought. The following day I posted a quote from Cicero, a Greek character, circa 50 BC, referencing the then current state of his country, it's foreign spending policies, welfare system, and politicians. The primary point of posting the quote wasn't so much the subjects in the quote itself, as it was the mirror image it presented with reference to those same subjects as seen as issues today. A "Nothing new under the sun" thought process if you will. What proceded afterwards can only be described as an aggresive verbal assault on several fronts, met by a back against the wall argumentative defensive, or "apologetic" reaction.
I don't know that either side won. If "winning" can be construed as one side convincing the other of their views, I'm sure their were no victors. But many times small battles are fought for the very purpose of testing the opponents resolve. I don't know that I can fully comprehend the strength of my son's possition at this point, but this I do know, he's not the person I knew when he walked out the door some years back. This I know as well, his possition has changed for a reason, and the fear this possition creates in my heart for his welfare angers me.
So here's the coincidence, or lack thereof if you will, from my perspective. Several weeks ago a man spoke at my church. Big deal. He spoke on the subject of defending the Christian Faith. Big deal. My son, and I, engaged in a debate on a subject comprising the corner stone of a foundation in faith. Big deal. His philosophy potentially removes that corner stone from his life. Very Big Deal.
When it comes down to it, I care very little for the religious bend of the President of the United States . Hypocritical as it sounds, although I pray for his salvation, I'm not sure I'd want to spend eternity with him anyhow. My son is a different story.
O Absalom, my son, my son! Please don't let me find you hanging by the neck in the tree of knowledge! And God, if You're listening in, I could use another coincidence or two about right now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Whitehouse VS. Fox News

Manipulating the press is one of the first steps onto the slippery slope of a tyranny. Any ill intending government of the past has always tried to stifle, or control, any natural dissent of the programs they propose. Whether that is through controlling the electoral process, or stifling opposing news coverage, the cause and effect is still the same. When any leadership surrounds itself with "yes men", it can be sure that the lack of opposing counsel will eventually render that leadership weak, and thus, vulnerable to replacement. True leadership depends on opposing points of view, and alternative game plans. Those of us subject to the effects of whatever proposal is at hand must simply survive, or sometimes fight, as the occasion arises, until this natural deterioration from within completes it's cycle, and the waters of human nature again reach their own equilibrium. Shooting the messenger is often paramount to shooting ones self in the's ironic in that the message having already been delivered, the damage is done. The offending appendage may be useless, but so is the body. Any modern format of leadership that believes that propaganda and censorship are viable forms of control in this age of instant messaging, blogs and internet commentaries, carries within itself the seed of ignorance that should bloom out to self destruction given any reasonable amount of time. If nothing else, the proof of weakness is in the planting, and weeds of revolution are sure to soon choke it out.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Dr. William Shedd, an eighteenth century minister, and one of the greatest theologians of his era wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

From this I get the picture of a massive man-o-war idling at a dock, it’s sails furled, it’s decks barren, it’s banners listing in a sultry breeze, it‘s hull riding high from empty magazines.

It’s a peaceful picture. One instilled with a serenity that belies the vessel’s inherent power. It hides the sense of prosperity and impending purpose. It shrouds the mystery and challenge of what tomorrow’s task may hold for it under a blanket of calm.

With that though, is a sense of false purpose. For we know that though the ship be at berth, gently bumping against a dock, with little to worry of save a slow trickle of seawater through idle planks, it is not at the mission it was born to accomplish.

See that same ship riding low in the water with a hold full of shell, a full compliment of hands on deck, the open mouth of the harbor beckoning, canon ports thrown open to the enemy, it's hull knifing towards the heavy swell of the high seas, a brisk zephyr bulging it’s sails, pennants snapping in the wind, spray from a frothing sea drenching it’s decks, it‘s prow pressing forward with purpose, and we can almost taste the brine of adventure on our lips! For this is what she was built for!

Some say they are waiting for their ship to come in,…I’m waiting for mine to go out. I’ve spent too long bumping against the docks of opportunity. Too long with nothing to challenge the ear except the slow drip of a safe harbor leaking through my unused hull. Too long straining against the ropes of domesticity of the era I was born in. Too long waiting for a worthy wind to throw the sails of my skills against. Too long the warrior vessel without a battle to engage.

Last night I sat on my front porch, in the welcome cool of a fall Carolina evening, talking to my brother. The challenges of life have beaten him up pretty good lately. Like a lot of us, a faltering, and questionable economy has plagued him with more month at the end of the money than is comfortable. His son is knee deep in domestic heartache, and the wolves are snapping viciously at the door.

He’s a believer. He knows of, and believes in, the existence of a sovereign God. He knows he’s been saved, and washed in the blood. He knows there is an eternal reward awaiting us on the other side. He just isn’t sure why it has to be so damn tough on this side. So do I sometimes. Deep down we both know God has His Plan, and His Purpose, and we don’t necessarily have to be a party to the specifics. However, it still hurts sometimes to think we might not be as effective in caring and providing for our loved ones as we could be if the winds of fortune would blow our way a bit more often….well, at all really.

Having discussed that very subject to it’s obvious conclusion…He is God, and we are not, we moved on to another often queried subject, vis, what’s with all the "life’s experiences" tossed our way that makes us so unlike the common picture of today’s “metro-man”?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m quite certain I could be beaten. Up, I mean. There are most likely hordes of men out there, older and younger, who could take me in a fair fight. You’re not gonna beat me down though. I have no fear that, in consideration of shear determination, my better exists. I could certainly be incapacitated, but you better make it permanent, cause I’ll always come back. My brother is the same way.

He, and I, were born in the desert, raised in cold wet mountains, have eagerly spent a lifetime facing life’s most physical stresses head on, and come out on top. We’ve never even considered sitting on the fence, have always taken the hard road (even when it made more sense not to), and never sought out the easy way (even when it made more sense to).

We can ride anything, shoot anything, drive anything, eat anything, and fight anything. We’ve spent a lifetime proving it to ourselves, and others. We haven’t always been entirely successful at some things we’ve taken on, to be sure. But I can honestly say, that’s only because it either bored us to tears, or proved itself unworthy of continued effort. We’ve learned to pick our battles, and fight them hard. We’ve learned to walk away, and live to fight a more worthy battle at another time. We’ve learned to be humble, and hard all in the same frame. We love our wives without question, would fight to the death for their honor, yet would not hesitate for a heartbeat to duck tape them to a post if they got in between us. We’d strap on a gun, and face a battalion for the safety and honor of our kids, yet again, not hesitate to lay that same strap on their fannies if they disrespected the code we’ve lived by.

I’ve consoled myself in the knowledge that we, together with our wives, have raised five healthy kids. We have a roof over our heads, wheels on the road, chow in the fridge, lights when we flick a switch, and people who love us. We’re working on being better people to those around us, and trying to please God. We have bunches to be thankful for, more than most in this country, let alone the rest of the world. We live in the best of times, and in the best of places. And yet, for all of this, we feel unfulfilled.

Like that ship, dormant in port.

Oh, their might be some minor challenges that serve to piss us off from time to time. Like seagulls crapping on the deck then flying away, or other boats bumping and scuffing our exteriors, rain squalls dampening powder kegs, or drunken hands lost in port, and wimpy commanders afraid to fight.

Yet the ship itself, tested by trial, built for strength, armed for war, is ready and willing. Praying that it’s defining moment arrives before the ravages of age confine it to the bone heap of yesterdays untested hero’s. Committed through a lifetime of training, and surviving, yet never tried under true fire at sea. Sitting safe in harbor for lack of the Battles’ cry.

God, grant us a worthy cause!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


There was a certain young man, around fourteen years of age, who helped his father along with other brothers in the fields. Now his father owned many fields and raised feed hay as a crop. Some fields contained seed hay, others feed hay for livestock to be sold for winter fodder. The seed hay would be harvested and sold to other ranchers and farmers to seed their fields for grassing.

In the summer when the first yield was ready, the farmer and his sons would gather in the equipment barn and check over the days tools. Each day all of the tools and equipment to be used that day would be thoroughly checked out to make sure it all worked properly. Many of the tools and devices used were extremely dangerous to operate and required the utmost of care to insure they worked flawlessly. These precautions not only helped the work process to go easier, it might very well save a life or serious injury to the workers.

The young man’s responsibility was to drive the tractor that would pick up the bails of hay left in the fields after the combine had cut the stock that then fell to the ground. When the hay had dried sufficiently a winnower would turn the stock into neat rows and the bailer would then collect the rows and feed them through the process of making bails of hay. This process left the bails of hay in neat rows scattered throughout the fields. The young mans tractor pulled a piece of machinery that scooped up these bails of hay on a conveyor belt that transported them to a large trailer that tailed along behind. Other lads would receive the bails of hay and stack them upon the trailer for transport to the hay barns where the feed would be stored until delivery to others in need of it.

The young man checked his equipment with meticulous care. Having done this for several summers prior to this one, it was nothing new. He knew well the necessity of these equipment checks as he had witnessed himself many injuries inflicted on others because of carelessness or faulty equipment. The young mans equipment was flawless…save for one small wrap of wire, gone unnoticed , that encircled the PTO shaft protruding from the rear of the tractor which provided power to the conveyor. This small piece of wire, perhaps no longer than an arm, had become entangled on a previous run around the shaft.

The PTO (power take off) system simply used energy produced by the tractor itself to motivate towed machinery. This system eliminated the need of an additional power source (including the fuel and maintenance required to operate it) and utilized energy that would otherwise be wasted or unused by the tractor pulling it. As long as the PTO is engaged, the shaft turns. In this case that turning shaft ran a set of gears that operated the conveyor belt, which ran constantly.

The errant piece of wire had become wrapped around this “universal joint” connecting the shaft from the tractor to the shaft from the equipment. This joint allowed the continued movement of the shaft even when turns were performed. The joint required that it be free from impediment in order to perform correctly.

So the wire went unnoticed.

As the day proceeded the young man noticed that when making turns in the field his conveyor system would seem to bog down as the turn was made. After several of these struggling turns he stopped the tractor to check for problems. Upon examining the shaft joint, he noticed the piece of wire entangled upon it. Without consciously thinking about what he was about to do, the young man reached down to remove a loose end of the wire. It had a bit of a barb on the very end, which snagged his glove and pulled his hand closer while the shaft continued to spin. As this occurred his jacket sleeve caught in the universal joint and became rapidly entangled pulling his body closer and his arm around the shaft. With the power of the PTO coming from the tractor, a slow chugging but extremely strong motor, it was unlikely that the equipment would bog down before the inevitable occurred.

And it did. Something had to give. Unfortunately the human body, being nowhere near as strong as the old farm tractor, gave first. The young mans entire arm was torn from his body at the shoulder. With the last of his conscious thought the young man screamed in agony and passed out.

The two young men helping to stack the bails of hay on the trailer, friends who worked the fields with the family, rushed to the young mans aide. Neither being old nor experienced, yet both knowing what needed to be done. One ran to the front of the tractor and shut it down while the other tried to assist the young man.

In the adjacent field the young mans brothers and father were about the business of winnowing the cut hay into the rows the bailer would address. As circumstance would have it, the young man was near the fence line between the two fields as the accident occurred. The father and his boys were also near the edge of their field only a short distance from the young man and his crew. They heard his cry of agony and the shouts of his helpers. Immediately they ran to his aide. Father, seeing the dire circumstances and thinking with phenomenal foresight, sent the younger of the brothers back to his tractor that had a large cooler filled with ice water. Upon returning with the jug, at the fathers direction, the brother placed the young mans severed arm in the cooler as the father did his best to staunch the flow of blood from the shoulder.

Another of the lads, seeing the dire circumstances, ran to one of their two pickups parked nearby. He bolted to the farmhouse some quarter of a mile away to make the emergency call. Father picked up his son and placed him in the bed of the remaining truck and followed. Concerned about shaking his son and causing further pain, as well as knowing the necessity for speed, he kept to the main roads rather than cutting across the fields, which might have been shorter, yet rougher.

The winds of providence blew that day for the young man. As fate would have it, only a mile or so down the country road from the farm was the local volunteer fire departments rural outpost. They received the emergency call and responded to the farmhouse within mere minutes of father arriving with his son. Both the young man and his torn appendage were transported to the local hospital where he underwent immediate and critical surgery. Time was against them and the prospect of saving the arm as well as his life seemed slim.

However, the operation was a success, in that the young man survived and the arm was reattached to his shoulder. Modern surgery had done the seemingly impossible. It had reattached the bone, all the muscles, ligaments and various other tissues and tendons connecting arm to shoulder. The only remaining issue were the nerves themselves. Sometimes damage is temporary, at other times permanent.

After a few short days it appeared as though the young man would recover some if not all of his mobility of the arm. The arm itself appeared strong, the young man was right handed and this was his strong arm. The sutures appeared to be taking and it looked as though all would be well. Time would tell about the nerves and their responsiveness.

Time did tell. The nerves were never able to reattach themselves or carry signals required for mobility from the brain to the arm. As time passed, without mobility to exercise or strengthen the arm, it began to wither. Atrophy is a physical reaction that occurs when flesh or muscle tissues goes unused for any long period of time. In this case, though the muscles were fully developed and had been strong and resilient, without the motivation of the signals coming from the brain, they began to wither. What was once a strong and virulent arm was now only a shadow of its former self. It hung limply at the side of the young man. Though it continued to accept the flow of blood and from thence energy, and though he could feel sensations in his fingers and hand to some extent, the arm was lifeless. It could not be willed to move. Nor would it ever again. Though the flesh is willing the spirit is weak.

Without constant communication, encouragement and nurturing of the spirit, the flesh becomes weak and lifeless. It lacks motivation. Without motivation comes lethargy. Lethargy begets sullenness and an idleness of the will. Without will and without purpose, the soul becomes weak, dormant and eventually dies. What once was a useful member of the body, without motivation of the head, becomes useless and lifeless.

A small piece of wire, an overlooked error, an unthinking reaction, a horrendous accident, a miraculous surgery, a small portion of nerve, an overlooked attachment, a lack of reaction, a lifeless result….all parts of a comedy of errors and circumstances with devastating and lifelong reverberations.

What should be remembered throughout the recounting of this incident is that no one single act of forgetfulness nor oversight is responsible for the entirety. The end result is the lesson. A body can be trained, equipped and for all outward appearances be full of life, possessing all the necessary nutrients and attachments to function at an optimum level, but through a severance by circumstance, being cut off from the mind (or the spirit) of motivation, become withered and lifeless. Where does the fault then lie?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


(A scriptural study on fighting sin)

“The greatest saint can stand only as long as he depends upon God and continues in obedience to the gospel”.
From the beginning, God has lain out the consequences for obedience and disobedience to His Word. He freely entered into a relationship with man with the stipulation that there were certain things that man could do and things he could not. The nature of the command does not appear to be as important as the strict following of that command. For there are surely things that He directs us to do that we may never understand. And as His Word indicts, He is quick and severe in His punishment.
From the time that God first breathed life into the body of man, He required obedience and gave both the rewards and penalties for that obedience. In Gen. 2:17; God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge. In Gn. 3:1-19, the serpent convinces Eve that to eat of the “tree” will give her intimate knowledge of God, her eyes will be opened and she will know all good and evil. Eve influences Adam to eat as well and their nakedness is revealed to them as a consequence of innocence lost. God seeks them out, only to find that they have disobeyed Him and are now condemned to bear the curse set on them for disobedience. The Lord also sets a curse on Satan and defines the punishment on man and woman. Man’s separation from God is complete in his disobedience to Him.
But as God is the author of all that exists, consider what His possible motives might have been in creating the tree of knowledge in the first place. Just as He knew that Satan would fall, He knew that Eve could be tempted and that Adam would follow suit. This was no surprise to God. And He had not been second guessed. In order for man to be able to make his own decision, he had to be presented with a choice. God put the tree there in order that man would be presented with that choice and He knew what that choice would be before man made it. With no possibility of battle, there can be no victory.
In the book of Deuteronomy chapter 8:11-13, God admonishes His children not to allow the blessings of the past to interfere with the keeping of His commandments. His concern was that when man became prosperous, and wanted for nothing, that he would tend to forget where he came from and to whom he owed his blessings. In the following verses He again recounts the previous trials that He had led Israel out of. He reminds them of His mercies and admonishes man not to be deceived into forgetting that “for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day”
The wisdom of Proverbs invokes us that we “Do not walk with sinners, nor consent to the ways they propose, for their way is folly.” And that “When wisdom is used, the knowledge is pleasant, the soul is delivered from evil.” And to “Avoid the path of the wicked, do not emulate them or even linger to observe their ways.” And that “The path of evil is ever shifting and changing, one cannot depend on it to remain stable. Remove yourself from this path and remain steadfast in that which you know to be moral and just. Remain true in your relationship with the wife of your youth and desire not for those things that are evil. For your God above records every word and deed that you profess.” Or “Can a man court evil and not be effected? Will he not be burned by the immoral lust of his heart?”
In Proverbs 7:23, a young man, void of understanding, is passing through the streets and is beset by a harlot. This harlot has made her sacrifice to her pagan god and is in search of a victim to overwhelm with her evil wares. She entices him with her body and her bed and leads him, as an ox to slaughter, to do that which is evil and unacceptable to God. The principle here is that a person who allows one who has no scruples to entice them into that which is wrong is not being obedient to God and even though they are deceived, will still suffer the penalty of doing the wrong. For as Proverbs continues, in chapter 9:15-17; “One who submits to the whiles of a harlot lacks understanding, and the foolish woman preaches that unlawful pleasures are sweeter than lawful ones.” And in allowing himself to be deceived, the man indulges in sin two-fold. Once for the ignorance of the deception and once for the sin itself. Each of us has a mind to turn to God and ask for direction. A failure to do so insights no mercy from He that gave us the power to make rational decisions. Proverbs continues to say that “The just man guides his friend in righteousness, but a wicked neighbor leads him astray.” It is the duty of each of us to provide direction for our brothers. It is not enough to simply continue on the correct path if we do not attempt to adjust the direction of others who may be traveling in the wrong direction. To turn away from the brother or sister in need is to turn away from the desire of God in that; “we love each other as He loves us.”
Proverbs 14:27 indicates that “To depart from fear through the fear of God is to obtain eternal life.” This is to say that if we pursue the righteousness of God through a desire to be obedient to Him, He will provide for us eternal life. And the life we lead will be free from the fear that dwells within the heart of man, the fear of death.
To do this Proverbs 19:27 says that we should “Hear nothing that is not truth.” We are all given the ability to reason. Each of us has been given the power to contemplate what we hear. And if we draw on the wisdom of God, we are able to distinguish between right and wrong.
“He who tempts a brother to go astray will himself fall into the pit of evil despair and destruction; and the upright shall continue to be helped and blessed of God.” This in itself is the description of an evil heart. For God will surely judge harshly the man who would go out of his way to bring about the downfall of another. A contrast to this is found in Isa. 33:15-16; “He that despises deceit and abhors all ill-gotten gain, he that does not oppress the poor or take advantage of anyone for gain, or cruelly extort payment from anyone, or does not make any deal or mete out justice with a view of receiving a reward, or listen to any proposal that condones bloodshed, violence, murder or other hurtful things, who does not even desire to look upon any evil, or be found in places where sin is committed, will not witness or hear any brawl or contention, or take part in them, will dwell in high places and be blessed by Jehovah.
So what is seen in these contrasts between an evil heart and that of a just and righteous man is the razors edge between good and evil. The evil heart seeks to hurt and destroy the good in others. It serves its own purpose with no thought as to what that purpose may do to another. From the beginning of man’s existence on earth there has been a distinct difference between these two types of character. If man is to fall within the grace of God and dwell with Him forever, he must look into his own heart and determine whether the seed that has been planted is that of a life saving God or that of the deceiver.
The books of Matthew and Luke tell the parable of the sower of seeds. And in the telling of this parable we see the characteristics of the four sorts of ground that seeds may be sown into:
The highway ground; is referenced to the pathways that led through the corn fields, the ground was hard packed and refused entry of the seed into the soil. Birds could pick the seed up before it could take root. What kind of hearers are likened to seeds sown on the ‘highway ground’?. Those that hear the Word and do not understand it. And it is their own fault that they do not, for they actually do hear it, they just choose not to heed it. Or they come to hear the word but have no intention of using it for good. They come before God as His people come, and sit before Him as His people sit; but it is merely for appearances, to see and be seen, but they mind not what is said. It goes in one ear and comes out the other and makes no impression in between. Such mindless, uncaring hearers are easy prey to Satan. For as he is the great murderer of souls, so also is he the stealer of sermons. He robs these individuals of the content of the word if they are not mindful to prevent it from happening. The word is lost to those as is the seed that is lost to birds who pick it up from ground that is fallow and not plowed or prepared to receive the seed.
The stony ground; here seed is dropped in coarse soil or stones. It may partially grab hold, and may appear to germinate, but has no foundation or healthy root and is easily plucked out by birds or withers and dies from the elements. This represents the case of those that tend to hear the word, and who receive some good impressions of the word, but they are not lasting. These folks are better than the former, yet not as good as they could be and so come short of their heavenly reward. They go so far as to hear the Word, do not turn their backs on it, yet they rest on it. They give it no action. They may be pleased with the word and yet do not profit by it, they are not changed or ruled by it. Many taste the word of God and say they find sweetness in it, but some beloved lust is rolled under the tongue, which it would not agree with, and so they spit it out again. Many endure for a while, yet do not endure until the race is won, and so come short of the happiness that the word promises.
The thorny ground; thorns which are a good guard to the corn when in the hedge, but are a bad inmate when in the field. This intimates that the corn was strewn within a briar or thorn patch that may not have been noticeable at first but began to choke out the corn after a period of time. The corn takes root, but presently is choked out by the lingering remnants of the past thorny occupants. Such is like the individual who hears the word, yet does not let it take hold of him and allows issues from the past to overcome the newfound resolve. These thorns may be the ‘cares of this world’ or the ‘deceitfulness of riches’. The every day issues of the world may close in and prevent the person from focusing on the word and the reward promised. Or riches and the belief in our own ability to persevere without God’s assistance may choke out our resolve to follow the less traveled path and to seek to follow the path of less resistance.
The good ground; this ground is distinguished from the others by the evidence of the fruitfulness of the seed. It is sown in ground that has been tilled and has been prepared to receive the seed. The soil is fertile and the seed protected by a depth established by the sower of that seed. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites, in that they bring forth the fruits of righteousness. As intelligent hearers they hear the word and understand it. They understand not only the sense and meaning of the words, but their own concern in them, they understand it as a man of business understands his business. God in His word deals with men as men, in a rational way, and gains possession of the will and affections by opening the understanding, whereas Satan, who is a thief and a robber, comes not in by that door, but climbeth up another way. The enemy seeks to reduce the soil to an unusable texture. He strips the soil of nutrients and necessary ingredients for life. Fruitful hearers, which is in evidence by the fruit they bear, produce a substantial product in the heart and life, agreeable and likened to the seed of the word received. They then bear fruit, when they practice according to the word, when the temper of their minds and the tenor of their lives are conformable to the gospel they have received, and they do as they are taught. But like different types of seeds of the same variety, and different sorts of soils, some Christians are more fruitful than others. Where there is true grace, yet there are degrees of it; some are able to achieve greater levels of knowledge and holiness than others; all Christ’s scholars are not in the same form. We should aim at the highest degree, to bring forth an hundred-fold, as did Isaac’s ground, abounding in the work of the Lord. But if the ground be good, and the fruit right, the heart honest, and the life in tune with the Spirit, those who bring forth but thirty-fold shall be graciously accepted of God, and it will be fruit abounding to their account, for we are under grace, and not under the law.
The pro-active side of being a righteous man, or exhibiting the militant aspects of Christianity is being prepared for the necessary warfare that is conducted within the spiritual realm. In Ro.6:12-23 we see that by refusing the reign of sin to control our actions we permit the reign of God in the body. Our old relationship to sin is cast off and a new relationship to God is illustrated in our lives. We undergo changes in our acts of obedience which indicate a change in the master we serve. It is through the master served that proves the nature of our obedience and the fruit produced indicates our spiritual state and our destiny. This is the aspect of Christianity that requires positive action. We may be saved, and indeed make it to heaven, but it is not strictly what God has intended for us to accomplish while hear on earth. There is action required to being obedient to His word and commandments. Further reading in Romans, chapters 12&13, reveals that we should contribute to needy saints and make a practice of hospitality. This indicates that there is positive action required of us. We are invoked by this word to step forth and do something. We are to look to our left and to our right and when we see a brother in need, we are to help.
Being the sower of good seeds suggests that we should fight the good fight against evil. Romans 12:21 says “ Never let evil get the better of you; get the better of evil by doing good.” This is a simple fact of God’s principles. Two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time. Where God is, Satan cannot be. This again commits us to positive action. It is not enough to stand by and do no wrong, we must fight evil when and where we find it.
But our actions should be contemplated with prayer and thought. When we commit to a course of action we should consider the possible effects on those we come into contact with through the process. Romans 14:13-21 says “ Let not your actions be a stumbling block to others.” It is not so much what you do that is taken as a sin, but how this action may effect the walk of another. The kingdom of God does not consist of meat, drink, and outward religion, it does however consist of these three things; righteousness, peace and joy. And any man who possess these three things has three great blessings, he is a servant of Christ, he is acceptable with God and he is approved of men.
Because we are men, and each of us has a separate thought pattern and set of desires, it is only natural that differences will arise. But the Word of God gives us direction even in times of confusion. 1Cor. 7:5; “What we owe one another, do not refuse to pay, unless by mutual consent for a season agreed upon for fasting and prayer. Then, regardless of the spiritual blessing either one has received, come together again to defeat Satan.” And in chapter 8:9-13 the gist is, take heed that the action that you commit, even if you are convinced that in Gods’ eyes it means nothing, does not create a problem for your brother. This liberty may cause another to stumble who still believes that the action is a sin and very real. He does not have your knowledge so he will commit a sin if he persists and follows the example set. Here it specifically speaks of idols, but this could be translated to almost anything that might distract one from his walk with God. Fishing may be a problem for some, but not for others. Sports may distract some and create a problem where another may indulge to a lesser degree with no repercussions.
In the first book of Corinthians many of the church supposed they were secure in their salvation because they had repented, were baptized, and had partaken of Christian ordinances. According to them nothing they did could cut them off from Christ- they could partake of idolatrous feasts and still be saved. This is why Paul made the statement concerning castaways, he now shows them that Israel also had sacramental ordinances in the wilderness similar to those of Christians; and that, regardless of their typical baptism, their typical Eucharist, their eating of manna and drinking of that spiritual Rock-Christ, when they joined with idolaters and partook of idolatrous feast, going into sin, that God cut them off and destroyed them. He then warns Christians that God will also cut them off from Christ if they sin.
We should never consider that we are beyond the power of Satan to deceive us. In the second book of Corinthians we are exhorted that “The devil will take advantage of every failure of the Christian using it to get into his life and cause his downfall.” This is a clear warning that at any time, without the benefit of being thoroughly prayed up, we are subject to attack by the enemy of our souls. This preparation against attach is another aspect of being in constant warfare with the powers of darkness. For as Eve was beguiled by Satan to turn away from God, so can we be deceived into turning away from Christ if we allow it to happen.
A perfect example of spiritual warfare is found in Gal.5:16-26, the best antidote against the poison of sin, is, to walk in the Spirit; to be much in conversing with spiritual things; to mind the things of the soul, which is the spiritual part of man, more than those of the body, which is his carnal part; to commit ourselves to the guidance of the word wherein the Holy Spirit makes known the will of God concerning us, and in the way of our duty to act in dependence on his aids and influences. And as this would be the best means of preserving them from fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, so it would be a good evidence that they were Christians indeed; for, says the apostle, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law; nor under the condemning, though you are still under the commanding power of it: for there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
Eph. 4:27; says give no place to the devil. Followed by 6:10-18, wherein we find that our religion is a warfare, for we struggle with the opposition of the powers of darkness, and with many enemies who would keep us from God and heaven. We have enemies to fight against, a Captain to fight for, a banner to fight under, and certain rules of war by which we are to govern ourselves. It is a requisite that a soldier have a good heart, and that he be well armed. If Christians be soldiers of Jesus Christ, they must see that they have a good heart for it, they must be well armed, they must know what the danger is, they must know whom they fight against, and they must know the capabilities of the enemy. They must also know what their duty is, how to wear their armor, how to stand their ground and most importantly what they are fighting for.
1Tim. 5:15 and 6:9-17 admonishes that ministers are men of God, and ought to conduct themselves accordingly in every thing; they are men employed for God, devoted to His honor more immediately. It is ill becoming any men, but especially men of God, to set their hearts upon the things of this world; men of God should be taken up with the things of God. They should arm themselves against the love of the world, follow that which is good, conduct righteousness in their conversation towards men, godliness toward God, faith and love as living principles, to support themselves and carry themselves on in the practice both of righteousness and godliness. They that follow after righteousness and godliness, from a principle of faith and love, must put on the robe of patience and meekness: patience to bear both the rebukes of Providence, and the reproaches of men, and meekness wherewith to instruct those that would contradict the word or pass by the persecutions and injuries that are done to them.
In Heb. 3:6; Each of us personally, are called temples of the Holy Ghost, and Christ dwells in us by faith; all of us jointly, as we are united by the bonds of graces, truths, ordinances, gospel-discipline, and devotions. And in verses 12-14 we are told that by sin and unbelief we can fall short of the promised blessings, fall in the wilderness, and be cut off from God. The born again or saved can also return to an evil heart of unbelief, depart from the living God, be hardened by deceitfulness of sin, and be cut off by God and finally be lost..
Two outstanding facts are presented to us by the word of the gospel:
Christians can backslide, tear down the foundation of repentance that is already laid. Should they ever again be admitted into the church, they will have to build again the foundation of repentance and do their first works again.
Christians can fully apostatize from Christ, completely reject Him and His atoning work, so that it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.
Hebrews 10:26-38 explains that apostasy is the sinning willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth; sinning willfully against that truth we have had convincing evidence of. The sin here is a total and final apostasy, when men with a full and fixed will and resolution despise and reject Christ the only Savior; despise and resist the Spirit,, the only Sanctifier; and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life; and all this, after they have known, owned, and professed, the Christian religion, and continue to do so obstinately and maliciously. There remains no more sacrifice for such sins; no other Christ to come to save them; they sin against the last resort and remedy. There remains only for them a certain fearful looking for of judgment. And a terrible judgment it will be. An eternity without Christ!
As explained in the book of James, the suffering state of Christians in this world may be that troubles and afflictions are to be the lot of the best Christians, even of those who have the most reason to think and hope well of themselves. They must not think it strange if they meet with troubles. These outward afflictions and troubles are temptations to them. The devil endeavors by sufferings and crosses to draw men to sin, and to deter them from duty, or unfit them for it: but as our afflictions are in God’s hand, they are intended for the trial and improvement of our graces. The gold is put into the furnace, that it may be purified. These may be numerous and various or “divers” temptations. Our trials may be of many and different kinds, and therefore we must put on the whole armor of God. We must be armed on every side, because temptations lie on all sides. The trials of a good man are not ones he creates for himself, or sinfully pulls upon himself; but they are such as he is said to fall into. And for this reason they are the better born by him. The graces and duties of a state of trial and affliction are given to us through these temptations. Could we stand strong each time and endure these things, and grow in them as we should do, how good would it be for us to be afflicted, what practice we would gain for our future battles, what grace we would achieve from our affliction.
One Christian grace to be exercised is joy. We must not sink into a sad and disconsolate frame of mind, that would make us faint under our trials; but must endeavor to keep our spirits dilated and enlarged, the better to take in a true sense of our situation, and with a greater advantage to set ourselves to make the best of it. The world may teach man to remain calm under troubles, but Christianity teaches men to be joyful; because such exercises proceed from love, and not fury, in God. By remaining joyful during these times of trouble we show our conformity to Christ and His principles. “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth. “ There is more reason for joy in afflictions, if we consider the other graces that are promoted by them. It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.
Faith is another grace increased by the trials that we endure. There must be a sound believing of the great truths of Christianity, and a resolute cleaving to them, in times of trial. That faith which is spoken of here as tried by afflictions, consists in a belief of the power and promise of God, and in fidelity and constancy to the Lord Jesus. There must be patience; the trial of faith worketh patience. Trying of one grace produces another; and the more the suffering graces of a Christian are exercised, the stronger they grow. Tribulation worketh patience, Rom 5:3. To exercise Christian patience right, we must let it work. It is not a stupid, but an active thing. All men praise patience, but few enough can practice it; it is a medicine which is good for all diseases, and therefore every old woman recommends it; but it is not every garden that grows the herbs to make it with. When one’s flesh and bones are full of aches and pains, it is as natural for us to murmur as for a horse to shake his head when the flies tease him, or a wheel to rattle when a spoke is loose; but nature should not be the rule with Christians, or what is their religion worth? If a soldier fights no better than a plough-boy, off with his red coat. We expect more fruit from an apple-tree than from a thorn, and we have a right to do so. The disciples of a patient Savior should be patient themselves. We ought not to be afraid of going down into Egypt, when we know we shall come out of it with jewels of silver and gold. However, stoical apathy and Christian patience are two very different things; by the one men become, in some measure, insensible of their afflictions and adopt a “it doesn’t mean a thing” attitude; but in the other they become triumphant in and over the battle. We must take care, that in times of trial, that patience, and not passion be set at work in us. Whatever is said or done, let patience have the saying and doing of it. Let us not allow the indulging of our passions to hinder the operation and noble effects of patience; let us give it leave to work, and it will work wonders in time of trouble. When we bear all that God appoints, and as long as he appoints, and with a humble obedient eye to Him, and when we not only bear troubles, but rejoice in them, then patience hath its perfect work. When the work of patience is complete, then the Christian is entire, and nothing will be wanting; it will furnish us with all that is necessary for our Christian race and warfare, and will enable us to persevere to the end, and then its work will be ended, and crowned with glory.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 2 Pet. 2:9 says; “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” 1Jn. 2:15-17 says “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world; be crucified to the world, be mortified to the things, to the enticements and affairs of it. ...If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The heart of man is narrow, and cannot contain both loves; the world draws down the heart from God; and so the more the love of the world prevails, the more the love of God dwindles and decays. The world, physically considered, is good, and is to be admired as the work of God, and a glass in which His perfection’s shine; but it is to be considered in its relation to us now in our corrupted state, and as it works upon our weakness, and instigates and inflames our vile affections; there is great affinity and alliance between this world and the flesh, and this world intrudes and encroaches upon the flesh, and thereby makes a party against God. According to the three predominant inclinations of our depraved nature, the things of the world are distinguished into three classes: There is the lust of the flesh, which is the inclination to indulge in the appetite of fleshly pleasures and all those things that excite and inflame the pleasures of the flesh. There is the lust of the eyes; the eyes are delighted with treasures; riches and rich possessions are craved by an extravagant eye; this is the lust of covetousness. And there is the pride of life; a vain man craves all the grandeur, equipage, and pomp of a vain-glorious life, this is ambition, and thirst after honor and applause; this is, in part, the disease of the ear; it must be flattered with admiration and praise.
So the temptations of the heart, the desires of our fleshly nature, are the greatest enemies that we battle. Because it is within us to be deceived by these desires and we have a strong opponent to support them, we must turn to the righteous nature of God to provide us strength to battle these forces. And though we carry these characteristics of sin within us, we are equipped, if we so chose, to battle this nature. God has given us the power, through prayer, to draw on His Spirit. He enables us through His word and the armaments of His gifts to meet these forces head on. But as Christians we must understand that without Him, we do not have the will, or the means to confront this inclination towards evil. It is through Gods saving grace, His everlasting mercy, and His undying love for us that we are victorious. Without these gifts we are as sheep before the slaughter. The downfall of the strongest of saints is the temptation of his own heart. Yet these same temptations are controllable through constant prayer and supplication to our Lord God. “Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find.” “I can do all things, through Christ Jesus, which strengthen me.”
The evidence of your warfare will be the intensity of the pressure the enemy exerts against you. The battle wages on, but the saint is fortified and strengthened daily. “The prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” By these scriptures we are guaranteed that God will sustain us in times of trial, and that through His sustaining grace we will be strengthened in character by each new onslaught. “Have courage O ye saints, for temptation has been met on the battlefield of our hearts and is defeated, therefore we remain victorious in Christ Jesus.”

Keith Markham
Aspiring Christian
February 18, 2001

(Note: various excerpts and quotations have been taken from the Dakes’ annotated version of the King James Bible, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Holy Bible and the Works of the Rev. C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Just over the horizon lies a bank of clouds. I can’t see them from here, but I know they are there, for the setting sun has cast a shadow behind them that blazes across the evening sky.

Are they storm clouds? Do they harbor an eminent, torrential rain? Do they represent gloom, and despair in the shadow they cast on those below? Will they bring heart ache, and pain? Will they drench the lives of the unprotected souls they hover above? Will they deposit a deluge that will wash away the hopes, and dreams of the hapless victims in their hellish ferocity? Will they ultimately bring death in the darkness they create by their occlusion of the life giving light of the sun behind? Are they headed my way?

Or are they the clouds of hope? Clouds that provide the promise of refreshing rain to a dry, and parched land? Clouds that gently shade the brow of the hot, and weary traveler? Clouds that bring the life giving nectar so necessary to the greenery that replenishes the air we breath? Are they the clouds that hover over the mountain, unseen in the distance, that promises relief from the depths of the valley we trod?

Will they reach me in my time of need? Can I ever reach them?

I don’t know. All I do know, is the beauty of the tapestry they create by the setting of today’s sun. The contrast they provide between darkness, and light. The apprehension, and yes fear, they insight that humbles my heart. The thrill they excite that quickens my blood, and proves I live. The surety that what they are, and what they do is well beyond my control. The certainty that they were created by a Grand, and Glorious God. That Same God who created me. That Same God Who will provide for my needs, in the measure He deems, the nearer they approach, represent they good, or evil. He who will draw them nigh, should I require them. He who will blow them afar, should they threaten me. He who will ultimately scoop me to His breast, however they should overtake me.

Just over the horizon lies a bank of clouds. Shadow, or shade? God only knows. Therein lies my faith.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Summers in North Carolina, where I live, have their own special flavor. The humidity, the haze, the sultry dampness of mornings, and the gentle buzzing of no-see-ums in the evening all lend for a smoothness to the season, that though warm, or even hot at times, makes it appealing.

On the other hand, in the desert, where I came from in my youth, summers are all hard, with sharp corners. There is no softness about them to be felt, or seen. If you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, unprepared, it’s conceivable that the elements can override you. With all modern technology and sophistication set aside, for lack of a few basic amenities, like water and shelter, you can face death. I know, I’ve been there, and as they say, I have the “t” shirt to prove it. Fortunately, for this yarn, I won’t be wearing it.

It is said that there are only two seasons in Arizona, winter and hot. Winter lasts for maybe 3-6 weeks, depending on how the wind blows. Hot describes a place where the suns shines, uninhibited, on the average of 300 days of the year, and rainfall is measured in most places in the tenths of inches.

I was fortunate enough in the summer of ’07 to have melded into the season. The heat starts to rise sometime back in early May, and can build to a crescendo by late July through mid August. It can be “hot” before then, and remain “sweltering” after then, but it is during these weeks of deep summer that the desert chases even the hardiest of creatures into a hole of some sort. If you are human, you try to spend as much time as possible viewing it from behind shaded windows of one sort or another. The natural fauna dig deep holes into the soil, and perceive it from a distance safe enough to keep the blistering rays of the sun from scorching even their tough little hides. If you move into the summer during the “heating up” process, it’s possible to categorize existing in it as “survival“.

I had arrived in Arizona earlier in the year via a set of circumstances that I can only describe as "tension" filled with an over-abundance of "drama".

My brother had called me during the first week or so of February, and informed me that my dad had been diagnosed with “acute adult leukemia”. Dad would never have called himself, but Rio determined that, as bent as my dad was on keeping these sort of things to himself, I needed to know. And rightly so.

Dad had survived several heart related ailments in the preceding years as well as a few other “colds, molds, fits, farts, and freckles”, as he called them. He was cruising past his mid sixties, and though robust enough at the time, was starting to show the effects of several years of failing health. Where the leukemia came from I haven’t the foggiest idea. Where do things like that ever come from? I just know it hit us all pretty hard. Dad was a fighter. With his latest heart surgery a few years prior, we figured he had some smooth years ahead to coast for a while. Fate dictated otherwise.

When Rio called in early 2007, I was a bit remiss to learn that the subject of the call wasn’t that Dad had just been diagnosed with the leukemia, but rather, that it had progressed to the point where it was the, “you need to get out here, or you might not see him alive” line.

At the time, I was knee deep in my bail bond business, and up to my proverbial arse in alligators. I had just diversified by opening a curio shop next door to my bond office, hired a new employee, and was trying to run two businesses at the same time. Busier than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest, as they say. The timing couldn’t have been more imperfect. But what do you do when you get a call like that?

Dad, and I had always been close, if not connected. I talked to him several times a year, but not on a regular basis. Truthfully, holidays were what usually prompted the calls. Special occurrences, like a graduation or a birthday, on either side of the fence, might initiate one. We seldom talked just to “shoot the breeze”. I had talked to him around, or possibly in between, the holidays, a month or so earlier. The leukemia hadn’t been part of the conversation.

My oldest son works for an airlines so the flight cost wasn’t an issue. I booked the first available flight after making some arrangements, and made my way west. Arriving in Phoenix, I was in time to see Dad through his first bout of chemo therapy. The doctors were somewhat optimistic at that point, but I could see a certain resignation in my dads eyes. He had always been a fighter, but I could tell he was getting very near the “enough is enough” stage. There really hadn’t been a period of more than a couple two or three years that he wasn’t under the direct care of one type of doctor or another. In spite of all that, I have to say that he put up a good front. He was genuinely glad to see me and we had as good of a time as could be expected under the circumstances.

I stayed for a couple of weeks. The chemo was successful, and shortly the doctors were saying that Dad had gone into remission. I’ve never really figured out exactly what that means. I’d only be guessing when I say that it has something to do with the cells being stagnant, or static? There, but not growing in numbers? Anyway, he was stable. I spent those few days with him until he was able to get up, around, and back to work. When he got to the point where he could drive again, I blasted back to the east coast, and the businesses that were in dire need of my attention.

From a business standpoint, those next couple of months seemed pretty good, initially. I was able to pump some decent money into the two operations, stash some saving, and even buy myself a used motorcycle.

I would, however, find out later through hindsight, that I had made some decisions that would prove fatal, from that same business standpoint. When Dad’s situation deteriorated again, and I returned to Arizona for a more extended period, my own growth in those areas became cancerous. Another story.

Early April arrived, and I received another phone call from Rio, my brother, two years my junior. I had been in contact with him on a regular basis monitoring Dad’s progress. Everything seemed to be going along smoothly enough. Rio had moved down to Phoenix from eastern Oregon that preceding fall because of work. Economy, and weather, had driven him south once again. Wages were poor in that area of the Pacific Northwest, and a hard previous winter had left him daunted by the possibility of going through another. Dad’s custom building business appeared stable, even growing, and Dad had talked Rio into migrating south, again. It had happened to both of us at various times over the years, that working with Dad bit.

Rio was running the field operations while Dad handled the shop routine. Building custom cabinets was a large part of what he did over the years, and that required a shop environment to facilitate. You need room for saws, lathes and a bazillion other tools required to work with wood. Dad also had his former son-in-law, Tim, working with him at the time. Rio did the rough field woodworking, Tim handled the electrical, and plumbing stuff, and my Dad handled the company books, and cabinet manufacturing logistics.

Rio is a capable handler of men. We have worked together over the years in a variety of different occupations. As kids, we were brought up on a horse ranch on the western side of the Pacific coastal mountain range. Primarily a rain forest, the environment dealt with a lot of mud, and muck. We both fled when we could.

In later years we had worked together building houses, apartments, commercial buildings, and a number of years together with Dad and his custom business. He knows his stuff.

Although I had met Tim on a couple of occasions in previous years, he had been married to my half sister for several, I didn’t know him all that well. Rio gave him good grades on his construction proficiency, and said he made a good work partner. He also indicated that Tim had some pretty rough corners on him. I would later learn that those corners were a bit jagged as well as just rough. Again, another story.

When Rio called me that second time about Dad, he was scared. It wasn’t just, “you need to come out”, it was, “you need to get out here right now!” So I did. Told my “Man Friday” I needed a couple of days out west again, and left.

I got to Phoenix again in time to pick Dad up from the hospital. He had just been shot full of chemicals again, was weak as a kitten though he had improved a bit from the day before. Things associated with leukemia have a way of changing quickly. We took a couple of days to get him settled into his house, with the immediate personal care he needed, then sat down to discuss how things could go.

Rio was up to his arm pits in running a company he wasn’t all that familiar with. Like I said before, he had a working relationship with Tim, but things weren’t running all that smooth. The long, and short of it was, he didn’t have the time to keep Dad’s business floating, which was imperative to Dad’s health for financial reasons, take care of Dad personally, and keep the shop operational, all at the same time. Something had to give.

We’re talking about some serious soul searching time here. I had a business of my own to run, actually two of them, but my Dad was dying. Although the chemo had been successful on two separate occasions, we knew it was only a matter of time before the inevitable occurred. At that particular moment, the doctors prognosis was a matter of weeks, possibly months.

My bond business was getting ready to go into one the unexplainable periods of the year where things slowed down. There didn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason behind it, things just slowed down in the spring. I had an operational manager for the curio shop that should have been able to handle all it required. The fact that he wasn’t, and didn’t, was primarily my mistake in that all errors are ultimately classified as belonging to the “pilot”. Once again, part of that “other story”. The fact remains that I made a decision to once again “head west”. This time it would be for more than a few days.

During the early part of that year, Rio had the opportunity to purchase a motorcycle of his own. It was a nice one, a bit newer and bigger than the ‘98 model I had purchased, but both were big Honda’s, and good bikes. We had always dreamed of being able to ride together, but with the plus or minus 2,000 miles that always seemed to separate us, it had always remained just that, a dream. My intention was, when heading back out west for the extended stay I was planning, that I would take my bike with me. We would make time to fulfill as much of that dream as possible.

One of the “other stories” I keep referring to reached the blister breaking point during those few weeks that I remained in North Carolina preparing to head west for the extended stay. My “Man Friday” turned out to be a bottom shelf crook. I found out that during the time I had spent out in Arizona that first time, he had been dipping his fingers into both my cookie jars. He was selling the curio store inventory literally from under the table, and doing a “one for you, and one for me” routine referencing payments that were being made into my bond business. Money designated for office supplies, and a multitude of other expenses pertaining to running a business, were being filtered through his pockets first. I came back to a mess. Lease payments were behind, my computers were being repossessed, and a local detective was asking questions of me about my employee I couldn’t answer.

A late winter was still locking North Carolina down, the bond business was sluggish, and when they put Mr. Friday in jail, I snapped a lock on the doors.

I loaded my bike up into a trailer I rented, kissed my wife on the cheek, and with my oldest son beside me to help with the drive, put my Crown Vic head on into the eastward flowing jet stream.

And a despicable one it was. We couldn’t have decided to head west at a worst time. It was mid April, and though the upper hemisphere was starting to wake up from the heart of winter, it hadn’t rubbed the sleep entirely out of its eyes. Christopher and I spent 50 some odd, miserable, hours dodging sleet, snow and rain, for 2,252 miles. We spent 12 hours alone just crossing the panhandle of Texas, smack dead center in one of the worst ice storms to travel across the west in 25 years.

Pulling a trailer, loaded with a motorcycle, behind a rear wheel luxury sedan in an ice storm, at an average of 25 miles an hour for a full day, I know took at least two years off my life. My Dad’s grandson, and I, gamely made our way west, plodding along, as we watched cars, trucks, SUV’s, freight trucks, and anything else with wheels fly by, and often end up scattered in a ditch. We made it. All in one piece I might add.

We reached Phoenix to find that my Dad had been in, and back out, of the hospital one more time during the trip. The doctors were not optimistic. This time around Dad had collapsed and had to be med-evacuated to the hospital.

My son stayed for a couple of days, and then flew back to Charlotte. I took up residence at Dad’s house, driving my car, and stowing the bike during the remaining cool weather. I spent several weeks nursing Dad, and moved into his position handling the shop logistics of his company.

Dad’s house had been my grandfathers before him, and though adequate for their purposes, was a bit confining with me in it as well. It became more comfortable for me to take up a temporary residence in the motor home that he had parked next to the house. Once he got back on his feet, and could drive again, we moved the motor home down to the lot adjacent to our shop. By that time I had driven my car back to Charlotte, and then flown back out to Phoenix. Economics, and the weather, made the bike a more practical form of transportation. My wife’s vehicle was experiencing technical difficulties we weren’t prepared to address immediately, so the car was put to better use at home.

I’ve kind of walked you through this process of getting from Alice’s elbow to her….well, if you’ve ever heard that line, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t, it would be lost on you anyway. Suffice it to say that we are now moving through clinical spring into clinical summer, it’s already getting hot, and we are getting very near to where I wanted to go when I started this yarn.

Dad had once again gone into remission. This time it seemed to be holding. The circumstances of his earlier noted collapse had put him in contact with a new bank of doctors. These doctors were a bit more optimistic about the prognosis. They were happy with his progress, given their new treatment, his hair was growing back, and he was getting stronger day by day.

We had relocated the motor home to a slot near the front of the shop, plugged it into the utilities there, and I’d gotten a pretty tight little “home away from home”. My commute to work was pretty short…about ten steps. The drive home didn’t involve a lot of traffic either, and I was saving a ton on mileage. It did, however, have it’s draw backs.

The shop was typical, commercial, square footage associated with construction, and automotive trade businesses. The several shops that were adjacent held a body and fender shop, a painting contractor, an HVAC contractor, and a guy that collects, and tinkers with classic cars. There was a sizable parking lot that the buildings wrap around that was fenced in with a twelve foot chain link fence, locked at the front entrance every night. Phoenix can be a pretty rough town, but I was locked inside the compound. The compound next door had dogs, who made a habit of letting go with their security system soundtrack at the rustle of the smallest rodent, so I was in pretty good shape.

I had all the amenities of home, TV, AC, micro wave, shower, frig, and sleeping quarters. Problem was, my world was real small. I didn’t like being separated from my wife, and kids for the long periods of time that expenses made necessary. It reminded me a lot of the time I spent in boot camp, and the following year before I got married. We talked a lot, almost every night, and Tracy sent me encouraging cards and notes often, but I was still lonesome for home. On a couple of occasions we were able to fly my two younger sons out, one at a time, to spend time with me, and grandpa. They helped out in the shop where possible, and kept Dad busy, and out of my hair for a spell so I could get some work done. Both he, and they, had a blast doing it.

Dad’s “business” was presenting itself as a bit of a bear, to say the least. Rio was finding out that some of his accounting practices left a lot to be desired, and that their was a definite financial black hole that was developing. Plans for upcoming projects were behind schedule, impractical, or non-existent. Tim was turning out to be more trouble than he was worth, his rough, jagged edges, were doing a good job of lacerating the relationship that I had always shared with my brother. Tensions were very high, tempers were very short, and the thermostat was beginning to protest.

Dad had a couple of stepsons that were also bit players, to some extent, in the middle of all this. Kirt the oldest, was basically living on the streets after having fallen from grace a few years prior. He was (is) a pretty smart guy, gifted with lots of talent in lots of areas. He had worked with us as part of a family business at various times over the years, once with me out here in North Carolina. Unfortunately, he has a tendency towards substance abuse, and all the baggage that entails. So invariably, his company tenure has always been a short lived, however many times he comes back. This time around being no different. He had been in the work zone prior to my coming out, but had collided with Rio’s work ethic’s, and therefore, had separated from the basic picture before I came into it. We had contact while I was out there, and while I can say that I shared his company on several occasions, I can also say it was a marginally enjoyable, and hardly productive time.

His younger brother, Kai, lives in the area as well. They had been brought up together, under my dad’s roof, during those years after his divorce with my mother. Both were from my stepmothers former marriage. Kai is my age, Kirt two years older. Both had spent many, many more years directly associated with my dad than had either Rio, or myself. At different points in the past, all six of us (including Tim) had worked together, or separately with different combinations.

In the summer of ‘07, Kai had been employed with a company contracted to the local nuclear power plant providing juice to the valley for several years. His wife was a nursing supervisor for a local hospital, and they had a nice place out in the desert. The two of them had invested wisely, and their full acre adobe enclave out in the desert touted a ten foot block wall perimeter, and several toys. They have a couple of boys who are both successful, upstanding men with families in their own right, and who I call friends, as well as being nephews.

Whatever type of family relationship we might have experienced over the years, some times good, some times bad, the one current to that summer wasn’t our finest hours, singularly, nor collectively.

I was thousands of miles away from home, working in my Dad’s shoes, doing a job I had left behind years before, by design, in an environment that, under the best of circumstance, would have been trying to say the least.

Aside from a visit or two to the hospital when Dad was bedridden, neither of his step-sons offered any practical assistance towards the initial problem. And, without going too far into dirty laundry details, both would have to be listed more often in the problematic column, than the solutions column.

In spite of all the turmoil that the preceding represents, late in the spring, we were able to put together a long weekend that somehow made it all worth while. Dad had progressed to the point where we felt comfortable enough in taking a trip that took him out of the valley, the proximity of the hospital, and his doctors.

We spent a couple of weeks prior to the weekend dressing up the motor home, making sure that it was road worthy, and fit to travel. We worked on the generator, serviced the engine, did those myriad of tasks that are necessary to take a three day trip, and not have to worry about equipment.

Rio, and I, planned to take our motorcycles. Tim was a rider, but didn’t currently have a bike to ride. He went down to the local Harley shop, and reserved a bike for the weekend. We worked on a utility trailer that Dad owned, cleaning it out, and preparing it for a dual purpose. It would allow us to bring some extra gear that was needed, as well as provide for transportation should anything happen to any of the three bikes.

I contacted my son Chris, and he scheduled the flight out. The plan was for the three of us “sons” to ride our bikes, and Chris, the grandson, would co-pilot with Dad in the motor home. We thought about another bike for Dad, he likes to ride, but discounted the danger of that considering the circumstance. Chris was more than happy to sit right seat with grandpa.

As selfish as it sounds, we also contemplated the thought of inviting the other two step-siblings along for the journey, but by vote, unanimously rejected the idea. Short of what we needed for sustenance, and comfort, we wanted a baggage free weekend. There was already enough tension snapping in the air between the four of us who had been working together during those scorching days of summer ‘07. The only blissful member of our troop was Christopher. He was happy as a pig in poop to ride next to his granddad, and accompany the motorcycle gang on an outing like this. The date was set, provisions were made, the bikes were ready, the motor home was ready, and Papa had a suitcase of pills. It was a go.

We had contemplated leaving on a Friday afternoon, once work was cleared out. Logistically though, it would have been impractical to leave then. While the RV could hold all of us, in tight quarters, camping under the stars was the plan. A late afternoon start wouldn’t put us any where near a convenient camping spot. So we decided to leave early the next morning. Even then we didn’t get out of town as quickly as we wanted, but then again, it was the journey, not any specific destination we were headed for.

So, I’m guessing somewhere around 8o’clock the next morning we were wheels up on our trip. Rudy (my Dad), two sons, a grandson, and an ex-son-in-law, all headed west. We didn’t want to outrun Papa on the bikes, so until we were well out of town, the bikes hung back, and followed the RV.

We were generally headed west, towards the Colorado River. None of us were particularly crazy about spending any length of time on a big interstate highway, so we kept mostly to the two, and four lane secondary highways that zig zagged back, and forth across the desert, always heading in the same general direction. We stopped several times along the road, mostly whenever the trail boss decided he wanted to stop. Those of us on the bikes sometimes ranged ahead by several miles, and then, if the RV didn’t show up within a reasonable period of time, we would double back, and pick it up. If it did, we’d slip in behind until another likely passing zone came along.

Dad, and Christopher, appeared to be having a grand time riding along in comfort. They were doing the peanuts in the Pepsi thing. Scarfing on snacks, telling lies, and generally just catching up on stuff. My Dad, and Christopher share the same devious sense of humor, wit, joviality, and fondness for the belly laugh. Dad could tell a joke like nobodies business, and Christopher possesses such a comic personality, that I can only imagine what passed between the two of them through out that weekend.

It was warm enough, while still in the valley, that the only sure way to stay somewhat comfortable was to keep moving. But as we gained some altitude, and got away from the below sea level zone, it gradually dropped in temperature enough to appreciate our jackets. Some clouds drifted through that offered some respite from the sun, as well as the possibility of some scattered showers.

Dad is one of those guys who never strays too far from chow. He is also diabetic to boot, so meal time was an important factor. Whenever the opportunity arose to stop, and either snack, or consume a full blown meal, we took it. None of the bikes we were riding could be considered as “touring” bikes. Though comfortable enough, they weren’t set up for more than a couple hours riding before a break was appreciated, if not necessary.

Late afternoon found us in Lake Havasu City, wherein resides the, block by block, reconstruction of the original London Bridge. We stopped for a long break, parked the bikes, and walked the waterfront streets and shops. Lots of bikes were on the road that weekend so we rubbed shoulders with all kinds of riders. The weather had cooled considerably so we all wore the pre-requisite leather jackets, and chaps, necessary for comfort, and safety. Dad had his digital camera with him, and between he, and Christopher, snapped a boat load of pics. One of the best, taken by another stroller, has the five of us standing beneath the London Bridge. A motley crew we are.

Shadows were growing long, and we needed to find a place to bed for the night, so we saddled up again, and hit the road. While the RV crew maneuvered the motor home out from the park, and onto the highway again, we saddle tramps hit it brisk in search of a convenient pullout. The plan was for Dad, and Chris to stop, and supplement our groceries with what we lacked, while we’d find a likely spot, and then get in touch with them for the coordinates. It took several minutes, and miles, out of town before the area got sparse enough for a likely spot to arrive. By the time it did, the sun was well beyond the horizon, and darkness was coming on fast.

In the desert, with a low horizon without mountains, darkness comes on fast after the sun drops below it. Also, the lack of moisture in the air, as well as the sparseness of vegetation to hold the heat, lends for a quick cooling off. Temperatures can range from hot in the day, to downright cold in the evening. Fortunately, we had thought to bring along a good bit of what we carpenters call “off alls”. Really just scrap pieces of lumber that aren’t big enough, under most circumstances, to make them worth keeping. The trailer attached carried a good pile of it so we had wood for a fire.

By the time the RV ambled down the road, we had located a spot, had one of us posted by the road to signal the driver, with the rest of us clearing an area for the RV to park in. Paying special attention to making sure we weren‘t sitting on any varmints. The four legged kind, the slithery kind, or, God forbid, the two legged kind. While there did appear to be a couple of other “units” located near enough to see, they didn’t appear threatening, nor close enough to be considered a nuisance, for us, or them.

The motor home has a working sound system in it, which we planned to utilize, and we had also brought along some adult beverages. None of us had a particular problem with that, from one end of the spectrum to the other, and Dad’s docs had prescribed a daily dose of red wine for him. This was a tension breaking trip, we were all responsible adults, and we planned on enjoying it.

Dad had a collection of old time country ballads, Chris had brought an iPod with a great selection of all kinds of music, and Rio, and I had some CD’s of some of our favorites, ranging from country to rock. So we set up camp, torched up a fire, turned on the tunes, popped a top, and proceeded to do just that, enjoy ourselves.

Using the kitchen in the motor home, and a grate over the fire, I whipped up some cowboy beans, corn, and steak. It was a simple fare that went well with the tunes, and the toddy. Later in the evening, we turned the music down, gathered around the fire, and swapped fables, and fairy tales till, one by one, we drifted off to bunks. Chris, and his grandfather took up residence inside their ride, while we saddle tramps stretched out on cots we had stashed in the trailer, next to ours. Somewhere in the wee hours of the night a bit of a chill, and a light drizzle drove us into the trailer.

Christopher took on breakfast while the bikers dressed themselves, and their bikes. The light drizzle, coupled with the dust of the day, had left them spotted. A thorough wipe down with some quick detail put them back into service. We pulled dipsticks, and checked tire pressure on all the vehicles while breakfast was in the process. Dousing the fire, and making sure that “what we took what we brought”, left the site looking like we hadn’t been there, which was only right. An hour after first light, and we were back on the road again. The bikes ranged ahead for a good bit with the RV rolling along behind, subject to the hills that pulled, and the flats that let it roll. It was a grand day for a ride.

I love those days of “in between“. In between the leaving, and the returning. Days where you know all you have to do is ride, and enjoy what appears over the next horizon. Days with no place to go, and all day to get there. We rode, stopped, and waited, and rode again. Sometimes we let the RV get a few miles ahead, taking a longer break, then boogied to catch up. Other times, if there was something particularly interesting to see, we would flag it down, and all rest a spell together. Chat for a while, tell some jokes, lie a little more, catch a snack, and then move on.

Those of us on the bikes took turns leading, and following. Most of the trek that day was across wide open areas that had little, if any traffic. The RV was easy to see from miles away, and the number of vehicles we came in contact with could be counted on our collective hands, and toes. I don’t recall seeing a single highway patrol, or otherwise, outside of a couple in the towns we passed through. We took advantage of the open road on several occasions, and opened the bikes up, letting them rip. To coin a phrase, at 110, the lines, they look like dots, and the telephone poles, they look like a picket fence. I mugged my Dad more than once, flying by fast enough to pull the paint off his ride. We had the time of our lives.

Late afternoon found us, once again, behind the eight ball in finding a place to bivouac. I finely blasted ahead for several miles, and minutes, until I found a side road that speared into the heart of the high desert we had been traveling over. It had a cattle guard some fifty feet off the main road, indicating it was probably open range land. Open range means no dwellings expected. The road turned to dirt about three hundred yards in, but was passable. I traveled down it at a safe enough speed to cover some ground, yet not get squirrelly in the sand. Maybe three quarters of a mile back off the road I found a dip the road dropped into that would make a good spot to park the RV so that it couldn’t be seen from the highway. It had a flat spot, and an area big enough to turn it around in, and still make a reasonable camp. By the time I had ridden back out to the road, the first of the other two bikes was just cresting the closest hill. The motor home was less than a quarter mile behind, so I turned the bike to face them, flashing my headlamp a couple of times to get their attention. I then turned back down the dirt path, leading them to the site.

We circled the wagons again, like we had done the night before, but this time we placed the RV so that it helped to block the light of the fire from the road, which could just be seen if you walked up the rise hiding us. I felt pretty secure that we were secluded enough that contact with anybody else was but a vague possibility.

This time, though pushing it, we had gotten situated with plenty of time to forage for some extra wood. We were located up on the high desert with lots of low brush, mesquite, and creosote bramble to collect from. I wanted a bon-fire that night, and the availability of the wood made it possible. We were about as far away from human population as one can get in this great country without leaving the “wheels” behind, striking out on foot. With the coming of darkness, our world got real small.

It’s kind of funny how, during the day, in a area like this, the vastness of it can be so awesome as to make you feel almost insignificant. At night however, with the light of a fire reaching those few yards into the gloom, you feel like you are in a shell, and are all there is in the world. Though the mostly clear sky revealed an inverted bowl of stars, which offered up a half light, the glare of staring into the fire could make the darkness beyond our circle seem completely impenetrable.

Dinner that night was a combination of leftovers from the night before, snackables we had acquired throughout the day, and weenies roasted over the fire. Nobody was up to cooking a complete dinner, and everybody was a bit tired from the events of the day. Especially those of us on the bikes. Ten to twelve hours on the back of a motor cycle, even stopping occasionally, can definitely wear you out. We were all content to kick back, listen to the coyotes howl, with no few varmints rustling in the bushes, tell a few stories, and tip back a couple of beers.

At some point later on in the evening, hard to say what time, Rio, and I took a stroll on down the track we had parked next to. While still technically a road, just beyond where we camped, it turned into nothing more than twin ruts that extended off through the desert. Roads don’t typically go nowhere, so we assumed it went back to one of a number of different possible destinations. Possibly a watering hole for the stock, maybe some corrals or pens of some sort, or was just a cut through to another road that paralleled the highway we had come in on. We took a seat on a small rise maybe a quarter mile back that allowed us to see not only the hollow our camp rested in, but also the main highway beyond.

From that vantage point you could see the big rigs that occasionally traveled down the highway. They came into view far to our left, nothing more than a pinprick of light on the horizon, seemed to take forever to reach the point closest to us, almost a mile away, then forever to fade off to that same pinprick to our right. With the light of the stars shining down on a sandy landscape, and far enough away from the fire for your nights eyes to come back, the world looked huge, and open again. The horizons seemed to stretch for ever on every point of the compass. Who, and what we are, once again appeared to fade into insignificance.

We could see the fire from our camp far below. It was far enough away that it was difficult to make out who was who, but when they moved around, one could be distinguished from another merely by the pattern of their movements. Chris was pantomiming his way through some joke he was telling, as Tim stepped out of the ring of light from the fire to relieve himself. Dad was stretched out in a high tech camp chair with his pickle jar of wine cradled in three fingers, and a thumb, perched on his pinky. A picture I remember oh so well.

Yep, just guys out doing what guys do to enjoy themselves when the women folk aren’t around to harass them about their manners.

Rio, and I sat on that knoll, and talked for the better part of an hour about Dad, the business, us, and life in general, as we occasionally speculated on the source of the rustling just beyond our immediate sight. After a while, I could see Christopher heading out toward the road, and our general direction. I guessed correctly that, having missed us for long enough, he was coming in search of us. We both had flashlights, but he didn’t appear to have one, so we figured we better meet him before he got too far away from the fire. The road was passable enough, but contained a few uneven places where we had stumbled, in spite of the aide of the lights.

We intercepted him before he got too far. After determining that all was cool with us, and the camp, we started back towards the fire.

When we got there I saw that Dad had began to nod off, and appeared ready to shut it down for the night. I jiggled his shoulder, and told him to hit the rack as I settled into my chair. He got up, said his goodnights, and made his way to the RV. It didn’t take long before we heard the rhythmic rumble of his snores.

The four of us “sons” sat around the fire well into the wee hours before finally burning it down, and heading off to our respective bunks. The night was cool and clear, and offered nothing more than the occasional howl of a coyote, and various other desert nocturnal creatures, as a distraction to a sound sleep. Rio, and Tim’s camp cots squeaked, and squawked a few times before they settled down, and I heard the springs of the motor home protest a couple of times before all became quiet in it. As I drifted off, I thought there was no better place to be.

Sometime, well after midnight, possibly closer to that early false dawn notable in the desert, I heard the sound of an engine, and the vehicle it powered, rumbling along the dirt track. It passed by the opening to our clearing that lay several yards away, and continued on up the track. I watched as the tail lights faded up the road, with the headlights bouncing over the rise, wondering who, or what, it might represent. I waited for it to stop, or turn around, and come back. When it didn’t appear again after thirty or so minutes, I settled back into my bedding. But not before I looked over at Rio, and saw him stuff his pistol back under his covers too.

Breakfast the next morning was cold cereal, toast, and coffee. It was quick, efficient, and knowing it was our last day on the road, we didn’t tarry long in breaking down camp. After the camp was squared away, and before we started warming bikes, and getting ready for the road, I walked on back out the same path that we had taken the night before. My intention was to get some pictures of the camp from high up during the daylight, and take a peak over that next rise.
Up on the hill again, I noticed that though the road had looked pretty primitive the night before, once it crossed beyond, and dropped back down on the flat, it was clear. Walking up it in the daylight I also noticed the set of tire tracks that were laid on top of our footprints. Rio was seeking a bush a few feet below me so I whistled at him, and motioned him up. When he got there I showed him how the tire tracks lead on past our location, and on down the road beyond.

After going back down to the camp, and getting our bikes wound up, while Dad warmed up the RV, and got it turned around, and headed back out toward the main highway, Rio, and I rode our bikes on up the track as far as we could before it became impassable for them. We parked, continuing on foot to the top of an outcrop of rocks we could see a half-mile or so ahead.

We climbed up on the rocks, realizing they were a bluff overlooking the deep slash of a valley below. The road dropped over the edge of the bluff, cutting into the slope, continuing far down the valley to our right, reaching a group of trees surrounding a couple of small buildings. I had brought some field glasses with me, and upon training them on the area, noticed that the buildings were a small house, a barn just beyond, with corrals, and fencing attached. An open top jeep was parked under a tree in front of the house. The mystery of the where, and why, of the road had been solved.

So much for our solitude. Thankfully, the jeeps owner was most likely a recluse, who it appeared, wanted no more contact with us than we did with him. I can’t see how he could have failed to see us where we were parked. So I’m also guessing he either didn’t care we were parked on his property, or didn’t see it as enough of a threat to confront.

The valley, civilization, and the inferno of a southwestern desert summer were about 4 hours down the road. Somehow, I think we all knew, that while other trips might be taken involving some of us, or all of us, the time, the place, and the spirit of it, were all unique. I will always savor the sight of my Dad, my son, and my brother, sitting around the campfire. Dad, with pickle jar in hand.

By the time the ‘07 calendar showed that summer had officially arrived, it had already achieved record highs for that time of year. I don’t care where you are, or what the humidity is, 115 degrees is hot. It’s the kind of heat that can force your own breath back into the lungs when you walk from an air conditioned environment into it. The kind of heat that turns any metal surface stove top hot. Door handles burn your fingers, and a gear shift can fry your palm. Motor cycle seats burn your butt, and you better be wearing gloves when you grab a handle of any kind. If your kickstand doesn’t have a large enough “footprint”, it will sink into the sun softened asphalt, where that old axiom of some biker, “keep the rubber side down”, no longer applies.

The business of running the “business” was no good business. The economy sucked, the weather was ridiculous, and some of the clients we worked with were decidedly less than civilized.

Dad’s health was the center point of a myriad of challenges that, though I hate to verbalize it, were getting the best of all of us. The weather created a set of conditions in the shop environment that were near unbearable. It was an older type setting that had a “swamp cooler”, rather than an air conditioning system. Cascading water dribbling over hemp netting added some humidity to the air as it evaporated passing through. A cooling effect was produced by the fan, but the arid air rapidly sucked it dry and humourless again.

Dad had been scrambling for some time trying to balance doctor bills, personal bills, and company expenses. Rio was valiantly trying to make some sense of it all, yet failing. I was cooking in an oven of a shop, was about “done”, and Tim decided that it was time to check out. He erased his name from the solutions column, and joined the growing list on the problem side of the center line.

By the end of August, personal stuff from the Carolina’s had stacked up for me. I had things I had to answer for back there that were in direct conflict with my role at my dad’s side. I had made some priority decisions a few months back that appeared to make sense then, but were quickly changing sides as well.

We had collectively made a business decision that the shop was an unnecessary portion of the whole larger equation. Or rather, having finished the list of cabinet projects that we had, it became evident that it was the first casualty of the overload. The rent for the shop, coupled with the goes-in-to’s of the custom cabinet operation weren’t tallying out so good. At the top of the list was the fact that I couldn’t stay out in Arizona indefinitely. I woke up one day, and said, “this is it”. I was homeward bound within twenty four hours.

I’ve thought a lot about those months I spent out there. A lot of that thinking is wrapped around family squabbles we endured, hideous working environments, and things I rather not say about people I’d rather never see again. However, as any farmer will tell you, out of every crappy situation, something good invariably grows.

In the middle of a scorching, record breaking summer. Surrounded by hardship, and hurt. Thousands of miles away from those whom I love most in this world, confused, and undecided about what my role in the whole affair might best be. I spent more consecutive days with my dad, than I had spent collectively over the preceding 30 years. And smack dab in the center of that, we lived out a dream. We spent three days traveling the high desert plains doing what we loved best, laughing about, and at, life.

My dad died late that October. We’re not sure if it was the leukemia that finally got to him, or the chemo designed to fix it. In either case, he went to see his Maker. But not before he had the chance to spend those few days with His son‘s, and grandsons. And we “Sons of Rudy”, had the chance to see our monarch laugh the way we knew The Maker meant him to laugh.