Friday, May 14, 2010


I could see him in my rearview mirror. Weaving in and out of the freeway traffic like some madman. The closer he got to me, the more aggressive his driving seemed to be. I could hear the anger in his car horn as he tried to get other drivers to move out of his way.

Unfortunately for him, I don’t respond well to aggressive drivers who put everyone around them at risk. Unfortunately for me, my response to them tends to anger them even more. I’m working on fixing that, but it isn’t fixed yet.

So when he drove inches from my rear bumper and popped his horn as much as he was popping the veins in his forehead, I just drove the speed limit. I could see in my rearview mirror that he was fuming. Every pop of his horn seemed to emphasize the epithets and curses that shot from his mouth.

After a few minutes of this, I figured I had made my point and sped up to pull in front of a car in the next lane so that Mr. Angry could pass. He pulled up beside me, rolled down his passenger side window and yelled, “F#CK YOU, A%%HOLE," as he flipped me the finger. Then he sped on ahead.

So yeah, I expected that. But what I didn’t expect was what I saw on the back of his car.

There was a silver fish emblem, you know, the kind that proclaim being a born-again Christian. And there was a bumper sticker that said, “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.” Another one that said, “WWJD.” And perhaps the most ironic sticker was the one that said, “Speed on. Hell ain’t half-full yet.”

And I thought, “So that’s what Jesus would do,” in answer to the WWJD sticker.

Of course, I didn’t really think that Jesus would do that. But I had to wonder how many people, when confronted by Mr. Angry with the Christian bumper stickers, might think that.

And I imagined Mr. Angry, standing before the Judgement Seat and facing his Lord, wondered how he would answer.

Jesus: “So dude, what was up with the angry driving and all the cursing?”

Mr. Angry: “Sorry Lord. I was just in a hurry and the traffic was really bad.”

Jesus: “But you were wearing that WWJD bracelet. That was supposed to remind you not to be such a jerk.”

Mr. Angry: “Yeah, I know. I guess I just wasn’t paying much attention to it that day. Sorry.”

Jesus: “Yea-a-a-ah-h-h. You know, you did that a lot. And speaking of being sorry, you’re not gonna like what comes next.”

Mr. Angry: “Oh Jesus Christ, you gotta be kidding me. You’re not sending me to hell are you? Just because I flipped a few people off? I mean, I’m sorry, okay? I won’t do it again.”

Jesus: “Yea-a-a-ah-h-h. You know, you said that a lot, but you weren’t really sorry. And you wouldn’t believe the number of people who, after meeting you, have asked me if I would really do that stuff. So yeah, for that and a whole bunch of other stuff, you’ll be departing from me now. Sorry.”

Mr. Angry: “Well I got one last thing to say to you.”

But before he could finish his sentence he was gone.

The moral of the story: If you’re going to put your faith on your car, make sure you keep your faith in your heart.

Maybe a better moral would be: Whatever your faith, live by it. Because in the end, you’ll be judged for it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I’ve been using it and eating it for years. It is as much a utilitarian tool as it is a tantalizing treat. Some have said it has no redeeming value, that it’s an empty food not worth the time, money or energy it takes to eat it. But obviously, those are the kind of people who probably think that gruel-covered garden slugs with Tabasco® sauce are mouthwatering delicacies. Others have decried its use as a multi-tool of sorts, simply because it tends to be so disposable after each use.

But consider just some of its many uses before condemning this humble and handy helper.

It makes a great nail holder when you really want to avoid smashing your thumb again.

It works marvelously as a toe-separator when putting on nail polish.

It stands in as a stain-preventer by plugging the tip of an ice-cream cone, thereby avoiding the drips that can ruin your clothes.

It was used as a psychology researcher’s test at Stanford University, to determine the effects of immediate versus delayed gratification.

It serves well as a boredom avoidance device by playing numerous games and challenges with it.

It has been effectively and entertainingly used by a physics teacher to calculate the speed of light.

It has provided comfort as a temporary pillow.

It is a simple but appreciated candle holder, especially of birthday candles on cake.

I’ve watched it used in a good game of checkers.

And those are just some of its non-food uses.

As to its uses in foods, well, no one really knows the many ways it has been used.

But my top two favorites are simply raw or fire-roasted.

And at only twenty-five calories each, I can thoroughly enjoy four of them and not blow any eating plan.

From individually hand-formed to commercially mass-produced, they are good 99% of the time.

And my favorite brand? Kraft® Jet-Puffed® Marshmallows.

Hmmmmmmmm, fire-roasted marshmallows.

Sorry. Gotta go build a fire now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I heard yesterday that the average American male has “less than one” true friend. The kind of friend with whom he is bluntly honest and openly vulnerable. The kind of friend with whom he is free to admit that he is lonely, or afraid, or at the end of his rope, or whatever else might make him appear to be “weak.”

Oh, he has friends with whom to go fishing or to a ball game. Plenty of guys with whom to go out drinking or eating. Men from whom he is free to ask to borrow a tool or to lend a hand with some manly task or another.

But friendship that exposes his raw emotions that might show his fear or loneliness? “Less than one.”

So permit me to share the following worth thinking about:

“A friend is one before whom I may think aloud.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I like to think that I live a life of gratitude. But recently, a wise friend of mine brought to my attention just how much I have to be grateful for.

“So E,” he began, “I’m doing a workshop on gratitude and I was hoping you could help me out.”

“Absolutely,” I told him. “Happy to help any way I can.” Having given a lot of workshops myself, and as a writer with some graphic skill, I assumed it would be along those lines. “Just tell me what you need.”

He said he’d like some help with the graphics side mostly, designing the layout for the handouts and a little help with editing. He didn’t go into a lot of details then, he said he just wanted to give me a “heads up” that it was coming.

Our conversation drifted along hitting this topic and that. Sort of catching up on family news and stuff. Almost all in the form of questions that didn’t require much discussion in the answer.

Did I still like the Toyota? Was I doing any more painting? Any new books of interest I’d added to our library? How was our lawyer-daughter doing? Did I still like our long back yard? How were my workouts going on my gym machine?

It was a real hodge-podge of things he seemed to want to make small-talk about. My answers were, for the most part, very positive. And we talked for about an hour, nonchalantly changing topics almost every minute. But it felt very natural as we were going through it.

Then he looked at me with a very serious expression, and he asked, “How often do you express gratitude for all those things?”

“What?” I asked. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant.

“When you first set up your gym machine, are you grateful you have it?” he said.

“Not really,” I told him. “It’s just there and I use it.”

“Or how about that Calphalon One cookware you always rave about. Do you ever express thankfulness for it and for how well it works?”

“Well, not any more,” I said, feeling a little weird.

“Or when you needed a new blade for your lawn mower, did you appreciate your ability to run up to the store and just buy one? And once you installed it, were you grateful for how much better it cut the grass?”

“Where are you going with this, Vic?” I asked.

“Most of us live lives of unrequited appreciation for what we have,” he said. “We have stuff, but we don’t really appreciate it on a daily basis. Or even a weekly basis. Heck, most of us are happy at the moment we get the thing, but then the thankfulness quickly fades into the background.”

I had to agree with him as I started thinking about all the answers I had given to all the questions he had asked earlier. Then he asked me to do an exercise just before I went to bed that night. For twenty-one minutes, write down everything, big and small, new and old, everything I could think of, maybe even things I hadn’t thought about in years, for which I was thankful.

So I did. And I was amazed.

By the end of the time, or maybe a little over the time, I had written down 287 things. Most of which I did not give much thought to or appreciation for any more. I was shocked, and maybe a little ashamed. There was too much I was taking for granted.

My life of gratitude got a big boost that night.

And I am grateful to Vic for the help.

Monday, May 10, 2010


We sat at the steel table and waited for Jake to be allowed in. John, the pastor who wanted me to meet with Jake, was to my left. Jake was a patient in the mental health institution for the criminally insane and John thought I might be able to “breakthrough” with the patient even though no one else had been able to.

Jake came to the table, looked at me, then at John, then back at me and said, “What time is it? Who are you? Why are you here?”

“It’s okay, Jake,” John said. “I asked him here to maybe talk with you, if that’s all right with you.”

Jake looked at me. “What time is it?”

“About 9:30,” I said.

“No,” he said sharply. “What time is it?”

“Um, it’s morning?” I said hesitantly, not sure what he was really asking.

“NO!” he said even more emphatically, and becoming visibly agitated. “What. Time. Is it?” The visiting room guards became more watchful, as if ready to spring into action if necessary.

I was about to say, “Summer,” when I held back. I looked intently into his eyes, trying to imagine what was locked in his mind and what he was truly asking.

Perhaps a half-minute passed, although it felt a lot longer, before I said, “It’s now, Jake.”

He stared back at me, his eyes relaxed only slightly as did the rest of his body.

“It’s always now in here,” he said, tapping on his forehead. “It’s never yesterday. It’s never tomorrow. It’s never breakfast is over, or lunch is next. It’s only now. It’s always now.” He was still looking, staring into my eyes, as if trying to figure out how I knew his answer. He pointed to my head and asked, "What time do you have?"

"I have now, Jake," I said.

For the next half hour or so, we had a rather philosophical, if not esoteric, discussion about time. Eventually we worked into a rather simple discussion about his treatment.

We left at 11:30.

“In three years,” John said, “Jake has never had that kind of discussion. With anyone. Not me. Not his counselors or therapists. No one. How did you do it?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just tried to answer his question.”

“But how did you know what he was really asking?”

“I didn’t, really,” I said. “But I knew he wasn’t asking what the time was. He wanted to know what the time is. God gave me the answer and I merely repeated it.”

Every now and again I remember that experience. Not for the breakthrough that Jake had but for the answer.

Time is now.

Memories are for what has passed. Plans are for what lies ahead. But today? Today is for living now. It’s the only time you have.