Friday, December 06, 2013

Nightmare on Elvis Street

Like most people, I’m intrigued with the dream world, and occasionally, when a personal mind warp warrants further analysis, I’ll post the gist of it on this blog.

With this dream, I was more of an observer than a participant, a rarity for me, but certainly not a rare concept. I’ve spoken with many who’ve had this type of dream. Most often this type of mind-wandering unfolds for the dreamer as if they were watching a movie. With this dream, which I call the Elvis Dream, my role was more like the old Fly on the Wall routine.

In the dream, I become aware of a room, which serves as both a living and dining area, in a small house. The house belongs to a middle aged woman who is hiding in the bedroom, attempting to set up a type of sting operation with the aide of two police officers. Suddenly the front door opens and Elvis Presley walks in, not the often imitated, gracefully aging Elvis in sequined, white jump suit, but the younger, dynamic, rock and roller. 

Elvis, who I intuit has been invited, immediately suspects that something is up. He sees a row of shoes along the wall near the dining table; a black pair, a red pair, and some house shoes. “Looks like a set up,” Elvis says. He then sits in one of the dining chairs where he takes off his shoes and puts on the house shoes. Elvis then gets up and walks into the kitchen where he sees a young girl, about three years old, sleeping on the floor beside the refrigerator. A large rattlesnake is slithering across the girl’s body.
At this point, the police officers come out of the bedroom, guns drawn and approaching Elvis cautiously, as if to make an arrest. 

Elvis, appearing calm, even stoic kneels beside the young girl. He begins to pet the reptile, muttering, more to himself than anyone else, “I love snakes.”

I fear that Elvis will allow the snake to bite the young girl, but instead, like an expert snake-handler he grabs the rattler, one hand grasping just beneath the snake’s head while the other holds the tail. Elvis stands up, holding the snake outstretched over his head, and walks toward the front door.
At this point, I wake up.

Anyone care to venture an explanation of this dream?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Tireing Subject

Brother Bob’s 4th Quarter 2013, Newsletter

Never let my son, David, look at your car tires.

Seriously. At first I thought he just had a sharp eye for details, being able to spot the head of a nail on the surface of the rubber at a glance. However, through the years the number of such occurrences has proven too much for coincidence. Most of my relatives and some of my friends are aware of it and they take pains to avoid his casting a fatal glance at their tires. I’ve even wondered if David has developed some rare form of subconscious telekinesis, unaware of his causing the destructive spikes of metal to materialize, embedded in the helpless treads of rubber.

Out of necessity, I’ve learned to keep my son occupied with conversation whenever we stop and get out of the car, distracting him with eye contact to keep his dangerous gaze from falling where it shouldn’t. However, a few days ago I must have let my defenses down. It was Monday night and after an enjoyable though exhausting day, as I snuggled beneath the covers I heard a soft knock at my bedroom door. It was David. “What is it?” I ask.

“Mom’s car is sitting crooked,” he said. “I think I saw something in one of the tires.”

Begrudgingly, I got out of bed and tiptoed in my PJ’s into the garage. Sure enough Kathi’s car was leaning hard to the left. I walked around the car and found the rear tire on the passenger side half flat. Deciding I was just too tired, mentally and physically to change the tire, I thanked my son for his diligent observation and headed back to bed, telling him and my wife that I would deal with it in the morning. If the tire was flat, I would change it. However, if it still had air in it, I would drive it to QT, put some air in it and deal with it during lunch break at work. The latter proved to be the case.

Due to the sharing of duties in taking my son to work and picking him up, Tuesday through Thursday I get up at the inhuman hour of 5:30 AM in order to get to work at 6:30. That morning, with Kathi’s car still drivable, I headed for the nearest QT to air up the tire. Finding the air machine I pulled up next to it, got out of the car, tripped over my own feet a few times, but managed to find and push the red button, which starts the machine. It’s quite dark at that time of the morning in October but I soon determined that there was no hose attached to the contraption. Compressed air hissed noisily though uselessly into the atmosphere. Rattled but determined, I climbed back into the partially crippled car and drove to the next nearest free air depot. Upon finding the next epitome of commercial convenience, I located the air device. Not wanting to waste my time, infringing upon being late for work, I looked first for a hose. Seeing that the machine did indeed have the proper fittings, I sprang from the car, hit the red button, grabbed the hose, and, feeling a twinge of pain fitted the air hose onto the air stem of the tire. With air now going into the tire, I pulled my hand back a bit to inspect the source of my pain. The metal sheathing around the end of the hose had become frayed, and now red, since I was bleeding upon it. Fighting through the pain, I finished airing the tire and sped off to work.

At 11:30 AM, I met Kathi – we work for the same company – at the car. With the establishment where we’d purchased the tires being a few miles away, we decided to use our lunch hour to remedy the situation. We’d drive over, get the tire repaired and that would be that.

The tire personnel were friendly enough, though so caught up in their work that it was quite difficult to get their attention. With the keys handed over, Kathi and I risked our lives crossing a wide and busy street and later dined on Mexican cuisine while our car was being expertly cared for.

After lunch and back at the shop, Kathi and I reclined with magazines in the waiting area. Two magazines later, exchanging an understanding glance, Kathi and I called our work to report that we might be a few minutes late. If only that would have been the case, my few degrees of lost sanity might still be intact. About an hour later, the shop worker who’d checked us in appeared in the waiting area. “I’ve got bad news,” he said. “We can’t fix the flat. In fact both of the rear tires on your car are shot.”

I wanted to ask him why it had taken him an hour and a half to come to that conclusion, but being the congenial guy that I am I said. “How much will that cost me?”

He quoted me a price that might take a few pumpkin pies off the table. “Go ahead and replace all four,” I said.

Another hour later, the man again returns to the waiting room. I jump up, quite relieved that it’s finally over.

He shakes his head. “We’ve just now put your car on the alignment rack. I see now why the back tires were so bad. The cars seriously out of whack.”

“What does that mean exactly?” I ask. He starts talking about toe-ins and cantors. Apparently my wife’s car is pigeon toed. To make matters worse, the car was manufactured without an adjustment device for the rear of the car. He’d have to order aftermarket parts, specifically designed to compensate for the manufacturer’s lack of foresight. “Just put it back together the way it is,” I said. “We need to get back to work.”
At that point, with Kathi and I being the only people left in the waiting area, Hotel California began playing over the intercom. There had been no music before. With increased trepidation, I paid special attention to the song lyrics: You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.

I ended up having to take one half day of vacation. I barely made it in time to pick up my son, David, from work, arriving a little after 4:00 PM. “Did you get mom’s car fixed?” He asked.

I muttered a soft, “Yes.”

“How about the tire?”

“We got new ones,” I whispered. In a louder voice I added, “Hey, I know you’ve been looking forward to decorating the house for Halloween. How about you and I get started on that when we get home?”

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

What Does it Mean to be Christian - Part II

A few months ago, listening to a Christian radio station as I drove to work, I heard a broadcast that sent a chill through me. The basis of the sermon was that God had turned away from his people once, and He could do it again.
The concept of such a thing stayed with me throughout the day, and the more I thought about it the more frightening it seemed. It occurred to me, as I contemplated a world without God, just how horrible such an existence would be. I cannot think of anything worse. Indeed, being separated from God might just be the true definition of hell.
If you’ve ever experienced God’s love on a personal level, you’re probably shaking your head, yes, right about now. If you have not, or if you’re just not sure, please read on. Perhaps we can change that.
I often hear comments like: “You so called Christians, act like you’re perfect, and then you do this, and that.”
Or a modified version of the above that goes something like: “I could never be a Christian. I’m just not good enough.”
I’m not amazed at this because I used to be right there with you. Here’s some breaking news: Christians aren’t perfect. Nobody is. What’s more, you’re not expected to be.
Another common misconception is in believing that if you’re a good person, God will see that the good things you’ve done outweigh the bad.
In this case, I do want to be the bearer of what some might consider bad news, and explain that it just doesn’t work that way. It’s not a balancing act. No one is good enough to earn salvation based on their own merit. We are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory.
I believe that many of the misunderstandings and misconceptions concerning Christianity actually stem from reading the Bible. The problem arises in reading only pieces of God’s holy word. To understand the Bible, you have to read it in its entirety. I’ll offer some advice that a good pastor once gave me. Start with the New Testament. Read it several times until you begin to understand what the text is saying. The Old Testament deals with harsh times and harsh subjects, and having a reasonable grasp of the New Testament will make it understandable. If you will do this, I believe you will begin to see a pattern. Everything in the Old Testament points to the message of the New Testament: That Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.
There’s another attitude I’d like to address. It’s the old sticking your head in the sand routine. Many people believe that if they just don’t think about it, everything will work out. In light of that, let me offer this. One’s belief or non-belief in God has no bearing upon His existence. With the giving up of Christianity for another religion, or relinquishing belief in anything spiritual altogether, you might experience a false sensation of liberation, but the freedom exits only in your own mind. You are still responsible for your actions and accountable for your sins.
However, I did not create this blog post to be downbeat. There is a path to salvation. I believe in the Trinity, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same, and yet are all able to act independently. God realized our imperfections, and in His love and His grace he created for us a way to salvation. God sent his son Jesus into the world. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. In this way, Jesus experienced all that we experience. He experienced birth as we do. He lived life on earth, along with all of the emotions and problems that we face, except He did it without sin. And He experienced death, but He defeated it through His resurrection.
If you believe in God, creator of Heaven and earth, and in His only son, Jesus who came into this world so that we might have salvation, you are a Christian and you are saved. But you have to be sincere in your belief, and in your faith.
I offer you a challenge, if you’re brave enough to accept. Ask Jesus to come into your life and see what happens.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Wrong Place at the Right Time

Brother Bob’s 3rd Quarter 2013, Newsletter

We all experience uncomfortable situations now and then. It keeps life interesting. However, there are times when we should listen to that little voice inside our heads.

During the month of May, I attended the Oklahoma Writers Federation annual conference. I’d met with my good friends, Chuck Sasser and Dan Case, and we’d picked some sessions to attend. Chuck had chosen one, dealing with the writing of romance. Dan and I, though harboring dubious doubts, went along with it.
As one might expect, the romance genre encompasses various levels of graphic exposition, ranging from prosaic to poetic, depending upon one’s preference of prose, when reading about virtual human encounters. To say that Chuck’s choice turned out to be of the more explicit nature is putting it mildly.

Now Chuck admits to the encroachment of a certain amount of hearing impairment. With us sitting in the back of the room, I suppose it’s possible a good portion of the speaker’s oration hadn’t made it through. Anyway, Chuck sat there with a big smile on his face while Dan and I shifted uncomfortably in our seats. Being the only males in the room didn’t help matters. I realized having to hold my wife’s purse in the lingerie department wasn’t the most embarrassing experience of my life after all.

Available options raced through my head. I didn’t want to be rude, get up and walk out, but I had to do something. That’s when it happened. During a rather climactic moment of the program, while mesmerized participants eagerly waited to hear the next vivid words, the sound of my cell phone, which replicates a Harley Davidson with remarkable clarity blasted through the room. I usually turn it off during the sessions but I’d miraculously forgotten, leaving the device fully functional. Most of you are familiar with the movie scene where the girl whips her head around, her hair following in sensuous slow motion. Well, multiply that by fifty or sixty and add piercing, angry eyes and you’ll have a decent image of my becoming the focus of attention. Grabbing the opportunity, I jumped up and bolted from the room.

I brought the phone to my ear.

“This is Tom Harrison,” the voice on the other end said.

I tried to rid my thoughts of sexual images planted there during the session. Even though I had not initiated attending the class, had not known the extreme nature of its content, I felt like a teenager, who’d been caught looking at dirty pictures. “Pastor, Tom, what a pleasant surprise.”

I belong to a large congregation and having the head pastor call is out of the ordinary, to say the least.

“Is David around?” The pastor asked. “I want to wish him a happy birthday.”

I explained to the pastor that he’d reached my cell phone, and that I was not at home, but was attending a writer’s conference in Norman, Oklahoma. I finished my conversation with Pastor Tom then thanked him for calling. He’ll never know how his impeccable timing rescued me that day.

Thanks, Chuck. Payback is coming.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

What Does Christianity Mean?

What is Christianity?
What does it mean to be a Christian?
Most people, including many who claim to be Christian, simply do not understand the answer to this question. I’ve stated this before but it bears repeating: I’m not new to believing in God, but I am relatively new – within the last four years – to actually getting it, and asking Jesus to come into my life.
But I haven’t really answered the question, have I? Let’s go back a couple thousand years. The book of Acts explains the Apostles actions after the departure of Jesus. At this point, His followers were little more than an unorganized and frightened group of people. However, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, as Jesus had promised, they understood completely the importance of who they were and what they stood for. They were no longer Jewish, in a religious sense, but were followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It was during this time that the Christian Church began to form. Realizing the need for a cohesive and comprehensive statement of who they were and what they stood for, the early followers created a creed. The Apostles Creed, which dates back to a time period shortly after the ascension of Jesus, explains Christianity in perfect detail. It reads as follows:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
The affirmation of one holy Catholic Church declares belief in only one true church. The word catholic comes from a Biblical Greek term, katholikos, which means universal.
That’s it. That’s what it’s all about.
At this juncture, I’d like to make an important point – real Christians are not self-righteous, holier-than-thou individuals. On the contrary, we battle with sin and our sinful nature on a daily basis. Accepting Jesus into our lives does indeed change us, but it does not take us out of the world. We are still very much in the game, susceptible to the same weaknesses, fears, and desires as everyone else. The only real difference is that we have realized this and have asked Jesus for his help.
So, what do you think? Did I answer the question?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Writing Fiction

It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve completed an installment of the newsletter. I am still doing a newsletter, aren’t I? The plan was to send them out quarterly… more or less.
In the spirit of Monty Python, here’s something completely different:
Do you feel as if you’re always in a rush lately? I certainly do. Caught up in this last month, I rushed home from work on the 3rd Tuesday of the month, which, as everyone knows, is the time of month when the now infamous Tulsa NightWriters gather together to socialize and disseminate knowledge. My sweet wife, Kathi, had something going as well so I was alone. I worked briefly on the 4th Detective Elliot novel, threw some clothes in the washer, loaded the dishwasher, and stuck a frozen pizza – a concoction called Marinara Meatball – in the oven. To this point everything was going smoothly. When the oven timer dinged, I pulled out the pizza, sliced it up, wrapped a couple of pieces in a paper towel, left the rest for Kathi and David, and headed out the door for the meeting. With my stomach screaming for sustenance, I maneuvered the sometimes dangerous streets of Tulsa, grabbing a bite of pizza whenever possible when the unthinkable happened. One of the marinara meatballs – and quite delicious I might add – rolled off the pizza and fell between my legs on the car seat. I know most of you have experienced this. Perhaps not with a marinara meatball, but you get the idea. The more you try to retrieve the fallen object – due to the slant of the car seat and the gravitational pull of the planet – the deeper it slides beneath you. And I was wearing Kaki, colored pants, except for the red stripe.
Is it just me, or does it seem a tad too commercial that the Gambling Hot Line has three sevens in the number?
And now for a word from our sponsor:
I’ve received enough feedback, or even worse the lack thereof – you know the feeling when you hand someone something you’ve worked on and their face loses expression and they just sort of nod but don’t say anything – on Footprints of a Dancer to feel the need to talk about it. Footprints of a Dancer, the 3rd book in the Detective Elliot series, definitely differs from Twisted and Buried. Fortunately, or not, that was by design. With the book, I wanted to do something I had not done before. The plan was to incorporate my Christian faith and my love for the paranormal while still retaining the flavor of the Elliot books. I don’t think I succeeded in doing that, at least not completely. That is to say it has picked up some great reviews, but it’s gathered some bad ones too. The other books have done this as well but not to the same extent. With Footprints, it seems the reader either loves it – gets it – or they don’t. Once a story takes hold of me, the characters and the situations just sort of pull me along. I would try to further explain, but in the writing business if you have to explain what you’ve written then you have failed to properly communicate your ideas. However, losing faith at this point is not recommended. With the first three books old Elliot has conquered most of the ghosts from his checkered but interesting past, and he promises to be back soon with a completely different and more down to earth – though not completely  – adventurous story.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pray Like You Mean It

Will God give us anything we ask for?
The sheer number of denominations, from Catholic to Evangelical, gives testament to differing points of view within the Christian community. However, with respect to prayers being answered, the concept seems to be divided into two schools of thought:
1.      God will give you anything you ask for, if you have enough faith.
2.      God answers prayers that He interprets as aligning with His plans for you.
While I’m not new to believing in God, and believing in Jesus, I am relatively new to actually getting it, putting it altogether and understanding the true significance of Christ Jesus. In the past couple of years, I’ve read various books on the subject of Christianity, and listened to numerous Christian radio broadcasts. I’m often amazed at what I read and hear. One radio evangelist claimed he’d not only healed a multitude of believers but that he’d actually raised over thirty people from the dead.
I’m not saying God cannot do these things. God can do anything He wants. The key word is want, and what you want might not be in alignment with what God wants for you. I tend to lean toward the second category listed above, though it’s not difficult to understand where believing in prayer concept number one comes from. In the words of Jesus: And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:13, 14. However, in John 4:14, Jesus says: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Was Jesus actually telling the Samaritan woman she would never have to drink water again, or was He speaking in Spiritual terms? Throughout the New Testament, Jesus speaks in Spiritual terms, and I believe the logic should be applied to the verses in John 14: 13, 14 and others in like manner. To put it in perspective, are cars, money, and big houses important to God? I hope that’s a rhetorical question. For a list of what is important to God, read Philippians 4: 8, and 2 Peter 1: 5-7.
With all that being said, do I believe that God answers prayers? Yes, I do. He has answered plenty of mine. But I’ve also had some that seemed to go unanswered.
In summary, I believe that God answers prayers and that faith is certainly involved. However, I think the prayer request must be for something that God deems good for you, and for those around you.
What about you? Do you believe that God will give you anything you ask for?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect

Have you ever given thought to causal relationships, the trillions of actions and corresponding reactions that continually go on around you?

This seemingly perpetual stream of events is the fabric of fiction. But allow me to illustrate a real-life example. A friend of mine, we’ll call him Mr. C, having decided to walk his Labrador Retriever, stood on the sidewalk outside his house where he saw something rather odd: A deer slowly walking down the middle of the street. Perceiving that the presence of the wild animal had yet to come to the attention of the dog, Mr. C quickly steered his version of man’s best back toward the house to go inside and wait out the ordeal. However, before Mr. C could accomplish his plan of limiting collateral damage, his pickup driving neighbor returned from a jaunt outside the sub.

The deer bolted away from the oncoming vehicle but slowed her rate of escape when she saw Mr. C and the Lab blocking her path.

The previously nonchalant Lab ripped free of Mr. C’s leash-grip, barked at full capacity, gallantly took up the challenge of protecting his property, and charged the renegade deer.

Most of us have been in situations where it seems there’s no easy way out. We are, in fact, defined by our responses to such dilemmas. At that moment, though, I don’t think the deer was overly concerned about character. She did a 180 and ran from the dog.

Alerting people for miles around, the Lab continued in hot pursuit of the delusional doe, chasing the frightened animal back onto the street.

The driver of the pickup, perhaps caught up in a high-decibel rendition of Stairway to Heaven, was completely oblivious to the goings on. He steered the truck into his driveway and hit the garage door opener.

With highly tuned, wild senses alerting the deer to a possible hidey-hole, the animal executed a move that would draw envy from the likes of Adrian Peterson and followed the pickup into the garage.

At the same time, the oblivious driver hopped out of his ride.

Not having time to put on the brakes, the terrified deer knocked the truck driver to the floor, trampled him with her hooves, and ran into the wall of the house, knocking a sizeable hole in the sheetrock.

But it wasn’t over. The deer scrambled wildly to gain its footing on the slick floor of the garage, keeping its flanks just inches away from the jaws of the barking Lab while Mr. C frantically chased both of the animals around the fallen truck driver.

Now there’s a scene.